Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Only Time Will Tell – My Review

Two things are actually quite clear from this novel -
1. Jeffrey Archer is undoubtedly the master of impersonation!! Half his novels – including Sons of Fortune, A Prisoner of Birth and this one – are based on the same Impersonation formula which has ruled Bollywood for decades!
2. This book is obviously an outcome of the immense success J K Rowling has had with Harry Potter. The idea of making a series instead of a standalone novel, the break-up of the book into different part’s of the protagonist’s life, and even the name of the hero – Harry Clifton – are an indirect ode to the fabulous Potter series.
But that does not mean Only Time Will Tell is not brilliant!
It is great to see Archer at the top of his form once again – after the forgettable Prisoner of Birth and False Impression. Only Time Will Tell has been announced as a five-part compilation, and i’m already waiting for the next instalment of Harry Clifton’s life.
In choosing the location for the story, Archer picked his own hometown – of Weston-Super-Mare, and he has absolute grasp over the region, its culture, its history and all the quirks that are so peculiar to British Life. Since the book begins at in the 1920s, there are even more of them! Archer is masterful in guiding us through the life of Harry – from when he is five years old to when he turns 20 and the book ends.
Jeffrey-Archer-Only-Time-Will-TellOnly Time will Tell is bound to be a masterpiece – and not just in scope. The story and its characters are brilliantly sculpted – like in all of Archer’s books, but the real mastery here is the multiple narrative that the author chooses over a linear variant like he normally prefers. Each part of the book is told through a different character, and they all weave in beautifully. It is immensely satisfying to step alternately into the shoes of Harry, Old Jack Tarrant, Hugo Barrington, Emma, and Mrs. Clifton in turn, and to the author’s credit, the story never slackens – even when the narrator changes.
There is something magical about all novels written around the sea and ships, and this one is no different. Life near the docks has its own romance, and every page in the novel bears testimony to that. There are a few twists and turns that are predictable – especially to Archer fans who’ve gobbled up everything written by the master. But still the book doesn’t bore us and makes us read through at a go.
The story of the first part begins at the end of the first world war and at the start of the second. That gives the second book a completely different premise and in Archer’s hands, it is bound to shine – as did all his earlier novels of the period. I’m already looking forward to the second one, and hope it comes out soon – and not like Harry Potter which came out once a year!
Welcome back, Mr.Archer!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Worry drives the world!

In Freakanomics Steven Levitt writes an analysis on parenting, and asks a very valid question – if parents were not constantly worried about their kids, who will buy all those millions of ‘must-have’ products that are being made?
I’m convinced that the driving factor for the whole world’s economy is ‘worry’. Unless people start worrying and start being afraid for things which were normal till then, the economy does not move forward.
Worry about mosquitoes has resulted in Good Knight and All Out becoming ‘Consumer validated SuperBrands’! Worry about hairfall and dark skin is now the driving force behind our personal care industry. Imagine if no one were worried about getting fat. Where will all these companies go? If we were not worried about ‘pesticides in our food’, our burgeoning organic food industry would be dead fish! Worry is the actual reason behind people thronging our places of worship like never before. And worry is what our finance minister is counting on when he forecasts a 9% growth rate for the coming year :)
Take for example the proliferation of mobile phones. While having a mobile certainly made sense for people who are on the move, the sheer number of phones and connections being sold every single day is absolute nonsense! We are worried about our existing provider not having signals at a certain region and hence we take in a second SIM card – with a dual SIM phone – or two separate phones! We are worried about the whereabouts of everyone at home, and we keep buying phones for everyone at home till all plug points are occupied with dangling chargers. And then come in accessories. Some intelligent guy discovered that he could goad people into buying radiation deflecting chips, and there came an industry. Worry about the phone falling out of the pocket and cracking has resulted in an ancillary industry making pouches and screenguards! The list is endless.
worry2But then, this has not happened overnight. If Darwin were around, he would certainly have published a paper on this – the complexity of our worry is directly proportional to our intellectual evolution. Monkeys only worried about food. Early men were no different. Then they started worrying about their friends and family, and society was born. Worry about safety led to homes, worry about public opinion led to clothing. Worry about knobbly knees made wheels, and the rest is history. In the vedic times people worried about evil and the result was righteousness. Worry about religious identity resulted in catastrophic global wars – and in today’s terrorism. Worry about Bin Laden resulted in George W Bush.
I am also convinced that the sole purpose of the advertising industry is to identify and propagate new breeds of worry. If parents are worried that their kids might not do as well as the neighbour's, they buy Horlicks. If we are worried that our ankles will give out in sixty or seventy years, we buy Nike. Worry about upcoming diabetes results in sugar-free sugar which is ten times more expensive, and worry about the cable TV conking off while watching cricket sells more satellite TV connections.
Stephen Levitt is absolutely right! We grew up fine without diapers and all those terribly costly baby products. But we won’t think of not buying them for our kids. Now we have Mamy Poko Pants, which are twice as expensive as Pampers, but nah – nothing but the best  for our little bundles of joy! Worry.
If everyone stopped worrying for a month, Wal-Mart and StarBucks would be out of business, and we would be thrown into the great depression – worldwide this time!
I wrote this only because I was worried that I haven’t written anything for a while.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Does this sound familiar??

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No idea if this is a real experiment or not, but makes for some mighty interesting reading! Thanks, Mr GVLu for sharing!