Friday, January 18, 2019

Review of the Latest Books from Very Popular Authors: Bill Clinton & James Patterson, Frederick Forsyth, John Grisham, Tom Clancy and Mike Maden

The President is missing: Bill Clinton and James Patterson

The novel opens with the commander in chief, President Duncan, preparing for a House select committee. His staff has strongly advised him against testifying. “My opponents really hate my guts,” Duncan thinks, but “here I am”: just one honest man “with rugged good looks and a sharp sense of humor.” Facing a panel of sniveling political opportunists intent on impeaching him, Duncan knows he sounds “like a lawyer” caught in “a semantic legal debate,” but darn it, he’s trying to save the United States! Although Congress insists he explain exactly what he’s been up to, he can’t reveal the details of his secret negotiations with a terrorist set on destroying the country.
As a fabulous revision of Clinton’s own life and impeachment scandal, this is dazzling.  The transfiguration of William Jefferson Clinton into Jonathan Lincoln Duncan should be studied in psych departments for years. Both men lost their fathers early and rose from hardscrabble circumstances to become governors. Both men met their brilliant wives in law school, and both couples have one daughter.
But then we come to the curious differences: Rather than shrewdly avoiding military service, President Duncan is a celebrated war hero. Rather than being pleasured in the Oval Office by an intern, Duncan was tortured in Iraq by the Republican Guard. And rather than being the subject of innumerable rumors about extramarital affairs, Duncan was wholly devoted to his late wife and now lives in apparent celibacy.
Even incidental details provide weird echoes of the Clinton era: Duncan’s closest adviser is a woman publicly branded by a crude reference to oral sex.
But onward! After all, this is, at least partially, a James Patterson book, and soon we’re crashing through his famous two-page chapters.   The whole 500-page novel takes place in just a few days as a terrorist named Suliman Cindoruk plots to activate a computer virus devised by a beautiful Abkhazian separatist with a hard, agile body and a “voracious appetite for exploration, in the world of cyberwarfare and in the bedroom.” Her virus has infected every server, computer and electronic device in America.
In a matter of hours, the country’s financial, legal and medical records will be erased; the transportation and electrical grids will crash. Hungry and Twitterless, without access to porn, fake news or Joyce Carol Oates’s cat photos, America will be plunged into the Dark Ages.
Only one handsome man can stop this, but it’s not easy for the president of the United States to slip out of the White House and foil international terrorists, particularly with those congressmen hot on his tail, intent on impeachment. Fortunately, Duncan gets some makeup help from an actress who is “one of the twenty most beautiful women on the planet.” A little beard stubble, some quick work with an eyebrow pencil and — voila: The leader of the free world is ready to go underground and defend Western civilization.
And as we zoom through these chapters, it’s easy to tell which author is holding the reins. Sometimes, the pages spark to DEFCON 1 with spectacular shootouts, car crashes, Viper helicopters and a pregnant assassin code-named Bach who “is known only by her gender and the classical-music composer she favors.”
Nayakgiri Comments
Title does not make sense. We always know where president is as it is narrated by president himself.   So we always know his whereabouts. When we pick up a thriller we expect lot of action. Clinton lacks that action and speed. For eg thrills are limited to giving us Cabinet members questioning each other over Skype. President Duncan spends an awful lot of time consulting with world leaders. He lectures at us about the proper function of government and the responsibilities of NATO. Several segments read like little admonitions to  current president.

The Scope of the Novel is cramped. Author’s over belief in pervasiveness of IOT (Internet of Things) is futuristic. There’s no thrum of national panic, no sense of the wide world outside this very literal narrative. And so much of the plot is stuck in a room with nerds trying to crack a computer code. That struggle feels about as exciting as watching your parents trying to remember their Facebook password: “Did you spell it with an O? Did you try a capital letter?”

The Fox By Frederick Forsyth
The novel’s two main characters could hardly be more different. Sir Adrian Weston is a 70-year-old retired senior British intelligence official who remains influential because Prime Minister Marjory Graham trusts him. Sir Adrian is the novel’s brains, conscience and hero.
The other lead character is Luke Jennings, an 18-year-old who sports an unruly mop of blond curls and suffers from a severe case of Asperger’s syndrome. At the outset, Luke lives with his parents in a modest house in a London suburb where he spends most of his time in the attic on his computer. Luke has somehow developed an inexplicable ability to break through computer defenses. That gift is the spring of Forsyth’s novel.
One day, astonished American security officials discover that their most secret databases, long thought impregnable, have been hacked by an intruder who stole nothing, just looked around and withdrew. An intensive investigation identifies Luke as the culprit.
In a White House confrontation, the president — Donald Trump — demands that Luke be handed over for trial and imprisonment. But Sir Adrian insists that the boy can be more useful in London by gaining access to supposedly impenetrable databases in Iran, North Korea and Russia. Luke proceeds to break through those nations’ most elaborate defenses to extract priceless intelligence, often about nuclear plans.
Forsyth’s story includes scathing descriptions of several world leaders. In his discussion of North Korea’s nuclear capacity, Forsyth describes the nation’s leader, Kim Jong Un, as “fat, ugly, insisting on a bizarre haircut” and warns that his “ruthlessness is total, his obsession with himself absolute.”
Sir Adrian warns the prime minister that the supposed North Korean denuclearization is a scam — that if they have destroyed one nuclear facility they have simply hidden another one elsewhere. She asks why Trump would fall for such a ruse. Because, he says, he “lusts to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. So the desire to believe is triumphant.”
Forsyth is even less flattering to Vladimir Putin, whom he describes as “a cold-eyed little former secret- police thug” and mass murderer who has colluded with Russian gangsters and oligarchs (often the same people) to make himself possibly the richest man in the world. Forsyth also portrays Putin as determined to return Russia to the prominence it enjoyed under Joseph Stalin.
Sir Adrian warns that Putin will try to dominate Europe not with nuclear weapons but with Russia’s vast resources of natural gas and a complex series of pipelines capable of supplying most of the continent. He tells the prime minister: “Russia has now pinned all her hopes on swamping Western Europe with her natural gas and thus becoming, through our energy dependence, our effective masters.”
 The pipelines are controlled by computers, so perhaps England can call upon its secret weapon, Luke Jennings, to foil the plan.

Putin sends Russia’s most lethal sniper — known only as Misha — to England to eliminate the troublesome teenager. Forsyth compares Misha to Vasily Zaitsev, the legendary Russian sniper who in snow-blanketed Stalingrad in winter 1942 was credited with eliminating hundreds of German soldiers.
But can Misha find Luke? Or can Sir Adrian protect the boy and preserve world peace? The outcome is exciting, surprising and satisfying.
Luke’s ability to defeat computer codes is never clarified. He’s called a “cybergenius” with a “bewildering” skill, but his genius can’t be explained because it’s a gimmick, pure and simple. But it’s one we accept because he’s on our side, it’s fun and the rest of the book is so deeply rooted in reality.
Nayakgiri Comments
In 1971, Frederick Forsyth, then a freelance reporter in need of cash, published his first novel, “The Day of the Jackal.” His tale of a plot to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle won international success and established Forsyth as one of the world’s premier spy novelists.

Now, at age 80, Forsyth has published his 17th novel, “The Fox.” It is in one regard an odd tale, but it’s also ingenious, expertly written and a serious look at international conflicts that threaten the future of the world.
As a teenager and young professional I thrived on these international plots, venues, conspiracy theories, spies, high tech, twists and turns in plots. As we turned mature we felt sense of being driven by megalomanias ambitions intertwined with individual aspirations and rightful place in scheme of things. Forsyth catered to that.  Later when we actually travelled to places learned hard realities of life all that heroism is lost for mundane achievements. But then as master went into kind of reclusion with an occasional novels like Afghan and Kill list in post-cold war era , I missed him a lot till The Fox.
Forsyth is supremely well-informed about world affairs, politics, diplomacy, weaponry and the mysteries of spycraft. In “The Fox,” as in all his novels, he lays them out in brilliant detail. Young Luke is the icing on the cake.

The Reckoning by John Grisham
In 1946, months after returning home to Mississippi from fighting in the Philippines, decorated war hero Pete Banning strolls into the local church and shoots pastor Dexter Bell dead. Even when facing the electric chair, he won't say why he murdered his old friend.
Did it have something to do with word that in Pete's absence his wife, Liza, was seen with Bell, who was known for straying from his marriage? Liza, who three years before her husband's shocking return had been traumatized by a notification that he was missing in action and presumed dead, is in no condition to answer any questions. She is in the state mental hospital, where Pete, head of a prominent farm family in Clanton, got her committed for iffy reasons after his homecoming. Brutally tortured by the Japanese, he himself appears to be in a reduced mental state. This being a Grisham (The Rooster Bar, 2017, etc.) novel, we spend a fair amount of time in the courtroom, first with the insistently tight-lipped Pete's trial and then after Bell's widow files a wrongful death suit against Pete's family that stands to wipe them out. As usual, Grisham does a solid job of portraying a Southern town at a particular moment in time, touching upon social issues as he goes. But the book never overcomes the hole at its center. It's one thing to create a character who is a mystery to those around him, quite another to reveal next to nothing about that character to the reader. After a while, Pete's one-note act becomes a bit of a drag.
NayakGiri Comments:
Grisham' entertaining wartime novel is not lacking in ambition or scope, but the spark of imagination that would grease its pages is largely missing. The courtroom drama is missing for long uninteresting sequence of events. War stories in Phillipines are predicatble as its not Grisham territory. There is whole lot of narrative on typical southern life in USA in those days of slavery and racial acrimony.  I was introduced to Grisham as a pass out college student. For me film The Firm came ahead of reading the novel. I was just recruited off campus the  story of yuppie stuck in fraud kind off stuck. Later Grisham’s novels were bread and butter for reading experiences be it daily home or travel. I was hungry at international airport reading Playing for Pizza. That was foodie in Grisham which was great to read . Over recent years the quality  of writing has really gone south. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Happy Makarsankranti

डवा पतंग द्या थोडी ढील 
घ्या थोडा लहानपणीचा फील

मित्रांना भेटा आनंद लुटा 
जीवनाच्या हायवे वर सुसाट सुटा

नेसा काळी साडी किंवा घाला शर्ट 
वाईट बोलून कोणाला करू नका हर्ट

करू नका कोणी चुळबुळ 
सर्वांना मिळेल तिळगुळ

आठवले कवी चे नाव नाही 
ओतला रोशेष सारा पण 'भाईंची ' सर नाही

Happy Makarsankranti

Sunday, January 6, 2019

पुलंना भेटलेला माणूस

 मे महिन्याचे अखेरचे दिवस  होतेहे वाक्य आमच्या घरी एप्रिल पासून जून पर्यंत कधीही ऐकायला मिळू शकते. म्हणजे 'पूर्वीसारखे  पुणे आता राहिले नाही हे वाक्य जसे पुण्यात कुठेही आणि कधीही  ऐकायला मिळू शकते तसे    कारण एक की लहानपणी आम्हाला  आणि मग राष्ट्रभाषेत सांगायचे म्हणजे बीस साल बाद माझ्या कन्येला  मे महिन्याच्या सुट्ट्या लागायच्या . जसे म्हणतात की कोल्हापुर अंबाबाई चे दर्शन घेतल्या शिवाय तिरुपती बालाजी यात्रा पूर्ण होत नाही तसे कोकण महाबळेश्वर ला गेल्याशिवाय आमचे मे महिना पर्यटन पूर्ण होत नाही  . तेंव्हा गाडीत बसल्यावर प्रवासाची सुरवात  ह्या वाक्यानेच होते. पु यांनी म्हैस मध्ये  'अशीच' सुरवात केली आहे. ' आजच्या आपल्या  अध्यक्षांनी त्यांच्या साहित्यात   'असेच' म्हणले आहे' जसे  मिसेस बेचालवर आणि कंपनी त्यांच्या वार्षिकोत्सवाच्या भाषणात म्हणतात 'तसे'.
पु यांना जसा प्रश्न पडतो की ते कोकणात दर वर्षी का जातात तसा  आम्हाला ही प्रश्न पडतो कि आम्ही कोकण महाबळेश्वर ला का जातो. प्रश्न 'पडतो' म्हणजे नानू सरंजामे यांचे नवनाट्य  बघताना मास्टर शंकर म्हणतो तसा नाहीशंकय्रा त्याच्या वडलांना विचारतो की "पडदा कधी पडणार . म्हणजे दांडी वरून धोतर पडते तसे ". आमच्या मते सरंजामे एकच ज्याला झोपायसाठी ट्राम चा आडवा बाक पण पुरतो  आणि जो हिमालयाची उशी करून झोपतो तो . जो आप्ल्या अंग रक्षकाच्या  जीवावर हजारो कोटी चे साम्राज्य हेलिकॉप्टर मधून शेळ्या म्हणजे तीन चार कर्मचारी  हाकून   सांभाळतो तो नव्हे. पडतो म्हणजे अण्णू गोगटे होतो असे सुद्धा नाही. पडतो म्हणजे पुण्यात दुपारी एक ते चार ह्या वेळेत पडतो तसे म्हणजे आंतु बर्व्या  च्या भाषेत सांगायचे   तर अजगर होतो    असे  पण नाही.  प्रश्न पडतो म्हणजे विध्यार्थ्यांना फोडायला गेंड्या च्या कातडीची की  वेताची छडी चांगली असा पडतो तसा . पु लं प्रमाणे आम्हीही  आमचा शब्द पडून दिला नाही . आमचा प्रश्न म्हणजे ह्या सुट्टीत पांचगणी महाबळेश्वर ला जावे कि दापोली ला हा . आमच्या घरात यावरून भांडणे  होतात. भांडण म्हणजे जसे नळावर दोन काकू भांडतात किंवा बेळगाव वरून महाराष्ट्र आणि कर्नाटक भांडतात  तसे. शेवटी सगळे स्थिर स्थावर झाल्यावर मध्ये गाडी जेंव्हा कात्रज चा घाट ओलांडून शिवापूर फाट्यावर येते तेंव्हा N H वरून आमच्या स्वप्नां मध्ये अजूनहीम्हैस म्हैस” अशी आरोळी येते ..

पु लं ची ओळख करताना एक पात्र म्हणते “आजचे आपले अध्यक्ष महाराज हे फार विनोदी आहेत . ते तुम्हाला वाक्या वाक्या ला हसवतील तरी श्रोत्यांनी त्यांच्या वाक्या वाक्याला हसून सहानभूती दाखवावी . आमच्या वाक्य वाक्यात पु आहेत” . मिसेस  बेचालवार म्हणतात  “अमेरिके च्या माती च्या कणा  कणात  शेक्सपिअर आहे”. त्याच अमेरिके मातीतून हे लिहिताना  सांगतो कि आमच्या  घरातील प्रत्येक क्षणा क्षणात पु लंनी दिलेली उपमा आहेहे आम्ही आमच्या गळयातील शिरा शिरा ओरडून गर्वाने सांगतो

जेव्हा दसरा येतो तेंव्हा बोरटाके गुरुजी ची 'साधू संत येति घरा तोचि दिवाळी दसरा . तोचि दिवाळी दसरा तोचि दिवाळी.. चूप... दसरा अशी आरोळी यायलाच पाहिजे .
कोणी डिग्रीचे पेढे घेऊन आले कि बगुनाना सारखा "हल्ली काय कॉलेजात कोणीही  जाते " हा आमच्या पुणे ३० (मधली आळी, शिवाजी पार्क आपापल्या प्रमाणे समझावे ) ह्या पत्त्या चे नाव राखून  हिणकस टोमणा मारतो .
घरातील मावशींनी केरसुणी आडवी ठेवली कि आमच्या मनात   हा प्रश्न की   “ हीर नाही मोडत?”.
घरात कुठल्या हि फळाचा वास सुटला की म्हणतो  'त्या फळाची वाचा फुटली  ' जशी खुनाच्या किंवा एसटीत फणसाला वाचा फुटते तशी.
घरी नॉन व्हेज जेवायला केले की 'शेवटी काय बगुनाना सर्व धर्म सारखे  ....आम्लेट "
कोणी सकाळी असंबद्ध बोलले की " काय सकाळी सकाळीच का ?"
फेसबुक किंवा सोशल मीडिया वर कोणी आपण काल  काय खाल्ले किंवा आपण कुठल्या विमानतळावर आहोत हे सांगते तेंव्हा भिकाजीपंतांचे 'कुंभार (झुकेरबर्ग ) हो गाढवास तोटा नाही " हे वाक्य कानावर घुमते.
जास्त कोणी अध्यात्मिक बोलायला लागले तर गुरुदेवाचे "यू  आर  यू  इन इन द यू इन थे आय " आठवते
जेव्हा कॉलेज मध्ये आम्ही जेव्हा गर्दीतील काही सुंदर चेहेऱ्यांना प्रभावित करण्यासाठी निवडक पु साहित्य  वापरायचो  तेव्हा समेवर सुबक ठेंगणी असायची
कॉलेज मध्ये कोणाला  चिडवायला त्याचे किंवा तिचे  नाव घेऊन ' तो अमुक असला  म्हणून काय झाले? त्याला का मन नाही? त्याला का भावना नाहीत? . सामान्य भाषेत सांगायचे म्हणजे तो असेल तर रेडा आणि  ती असेल तर म्हैस. पण पुलकित भाषे चे परिमाण वेगळे आहे.

आम्ही अजून  पण किस्से सांगू पण जसे एखादा पक्का पुणेकर 'बाजरी ला लागलेली कीड' सांगणाऱ्या  व्याख्यात्याला म्हणतो ' त्याकरिता एकदा भेंटू  आपण " तसे आपण भेटू एकदा

हे झाले याला कारण एक संध्यकाळ १९८४ ऑक्टोबर  ची. वेळ साधारण  ची . स्थळ टिळक स्मारक मंदिर पुणे ३० . प्रसंग एका आरोग्य दिवाळी अंकाचे प्रकाशन . माझी आई त्या प्रकाशनाशी संबंधित असल्यामुळे पु यांना स्वागत करणाऱ्या लोक मध्ये दस्तुरखुद्ध आम्ही जाऊ शकलो. ते आले, बॅकस्टेजच्या खोलीत बसले. आणि आमच्या देवाचे पाय धरायला धावलो. आमचा सखाराम गटणे झाला. चेहेऱ्या वर आमच्या एका रिटायर्ड जज चे गांभीर्य आणून आम्ही त्या बालवयात पु यांच्याशी एक दोन जुजबी वाक्ये बोललो. त्यांनी पण आमच्या  बालसुलभ धाडसाचे कौतुक केले. स्वाक्षरी दिली .आशीर्वाद दिलातेंव्हापासून आमच्या डोक्यात पु चढलेचढले म्हणजे जसे  नारायणाच्या अंगात लग्न चढते तसे आणि आम्ही भक्तच झालो...
सॉक्रेटिस ला सूर्य पाहिलेला माणूस म्हणतात तसे आम्हाला  पुलंना भेटलेला माणूस म्हणतात (हे आमचे नाव फक्त आम्हालाच ठाऊक आहे .   कारण की ते आमचीच ठेवले आहे).
पु लंनीच सदू  आणि दादू मध्ये म्हणले आहे की  सॉक्रेटिस मानव आहे , सर्व मानव मर्त्य आहे . म्हणून सर्व मानव सॉक्रेटिस आहेत आहेत . चुकलेच आमचे लॉजिक . पण पु म्हणतात तसे आपण फक्त नावाचे मानकरी . लॉजिक ठरवणार तो वर बसला आहे (१२ जुने २००० पासून) 

With the hype and the buildup created around P. L. Deshpande Marathi Biopic, its my turn to play tribute to Pu La in my own style. Normally I don’t succumb to any commercial buildup like this movie for but when it comes to Pu La everything else just fades away. It must be the same feeling for all his fans all over world.  I am not an authority to judge his greatness as a Writer or an Artist or a Musician or as an Actor, or as a Narrator, or as a Director of Television, or as a Poet, or as a film/drama Director , as a Dramatist, or even as a as a Fan. I had heard a criticism that Pu La glorified middle class experiences and his style was trash. But that’s the same criticism done by elitists to anything that touches chords with popular choice. For me more than all these facets, I love him as a person. He is a perfect role model to search happiness in everything. He makes you believe that life is beautiful and that this spirit has helped me even in the most severe downturns, forget every other normal and happy occasion.  I wish I were a fly on the walls of his drawing room where he enjoyed sessions of musical and literary happiness with his family, friends and near ones. But I have one thing to be proud of that I am someone who has met Pu La…..
(  to read more of such post….)

Monday, December 31, 2018

Year of Crossroads

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
----------Robert Frost

There is a time in everybody’s life when life offers two choices: One right and One Wrong. This is the time to trust your instincts, use available information and experience, assess your abilities, respect your spirit, follow your conscience and keep faith in universal scheme of things. Year 2018 has led us to this crossroad as an Individual, Punekar, Maharashtrian, Indian and as a Global Citizen. We need to take this call in 2019. And it has to be right else we will be going back in time and be labeled either unfortunately as people who took wrong decision or gloriously as people who made right choice.

As a Global Citizen, every country is at steps to take a call where one needs to think beyond Nationalism and think as a part of very closed, interlinked world sharing same concerns.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Take Highway Exit No 18

As we buy planners, calendars and resolve to be resolute on resolutions, there is a sense and sound of a busy highway with endless variety of vehicles running at break neck speed to an observant listener   nearby. Each one has his/her own vehicle trying to reach the destination earlier than others throughout the year. Holiday Season is a small detour to take an exit on this Highway of life, to sit back for few precious moments. It’s the time to refresh with the stimulants, relieve all the pressure and join the fun, observing the endless movement of life. Happy Holidays and 2019.