In “If You Sing Like That for Me”, set in New Delhi, seven months into her marriage a wife determines to fall in love with her husband because she’s seen her own parents’ marriage broken by futile hostilities. We know from the beginning that her effort lasts only a few hours and comes to nothing: the girl unlocks something in her husband, they make love passionately, and then he spills over in talk, confiding his inner life to her – which turns out to include her on his checklist of achievements, somewhere between a promotion and a foreign car. He had wanted a wife with an MA, but his mother didn’t approve of women who worked. “I was willing to change my requirements. Because I believe in moderation.” The young wife wakes in the night, in the last sentence of the story. “I was cold and tried to wrap myself in the sheet, but it was not large enough.” … [Read more...] about A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma review – beautiful, sad short stories
There's also understated comedy in those sections where Birju becomes a kind of pilgrimage site for the growing south Asian population. Descending upon the Mishra household are travel agents, petroleum engineers and sweetshop owners who think they can heal the young man; pious nationalists who celebrate Mrs Mishra's care for her son as an example of how Asians are as devoted and family-oriented as Americans are selfish; holy men and hucksters. This isn't all bad – the Mishras get company and free dinners – but it also means they're barely one step up from being a freak show. The outsiders are "like tourists visiting a temple to see an exorcism". … [Read more...] about Family Life review – Akhil Sharma finds a coming-of-age story in a calamity
In a crowded literary prize calendar the Folio has tried hard to show its distinctiveness. It is, for example, a prize decided by writers and critics only, drawn by lots from an academy of 234 people who are “immersed in the world of books”. Unusually, it also lists the books that did not make the shortlist by revealing the 80 titles that were read by judges. … [Read more...] about Akhil Sharma wins Folio prize for fiction
Freediving, Canary Islands Freediving is the older, low-tech alternative to scuba diving, using breath control and body positioning techniques to swim underwater. Much Better Adventures runs small group trips (two or three people) to learn the skill on El Hierro, the second smallest and most remote of the Canary Islands, which has world-class diving in the Mar de las Calmas marine reserve. The course includes 10 90-minute practical sessions in natural pools and open water, and 5½ hours in the classroom. Students will achieve AIDA 1 and AIDA 2 freediving certification, and by the end of the course should be able to hold their breath for two-plus minutes, swim underwater for 40 metres and dive to depths of 16-20 metres. It is suitable for anyone who can swim for about 10 minutes. Students stay in a seaview apartment in La Caleta. • £908 for six nights, including self-catering accommodation, tuition and equipment, next departure 17 February then six more dates until … [Read more...] about 20 of the best learning holidays in the UK and Europe
At odds with this is the inescapable fact that Allen has given women better roles than pretty much any film-maker of the modern era. Allen’s Oscar record speaks for itself: two best actress winners (Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine); four best supporting actresses; and six more nominations for women, not to mention mature, female-centred films such as Hannah and Her Sisters and Interiors. You can see why, until recently, women considered it a great honour to be cast in Allen’s movies. This apparent contradiction takes some unpicking. Allen’s female characters increasingly conform to a very limited palette: the brassy, neurotic broad (Kate Winslet is another one in Wonder Wheel); the hooker with a heart of gold (Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite, say); and, in some cases, the youthful woman drawn to an older, Allen-like figure - the latter a trope that chimes disturbingly with his real life, including his current marriage to his … [Read more...] about Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning women: how did his direction affect them?