The Cursed Child

 

Kindle Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildI finally got my hands on a Kindle copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and just like all other titles in the series, this book is really difficult to put down even when it’s written in a different format, a stage play.

The story happens 19 years after the defeat of Voldemort. Harry is now working for the Ministry of Magic and raising three children. Meanwhile, his eldest son, Albus, has been accepted at Hogwarts, but finds himself getting sorted into an unexpected house and surprisingly befriends the last student people expect him to get along with: Scorpius, the son of Harry’s school nemesis, Draco Malfoy.  Continue reading “The Cursed Child”

John le Carré has been Federised

Federer makes an appearance on John le Carré’s new novel, Our Kind of Traitor.

le Carré, author of numerous espionage thrillers, rehashes the historic 2009 French Open finals between Le Fed and the Swede Robin Soderling, and in this snippet from the upcoming novel’s extract, Perry and Gail, two Oxford academics, go to Paris to watch the French Open championship match. Does it mean that he has been a fan of the Swiss all along?

Note: Pictures were added for dramatic effect 🙂

“The stadium is erupting.
First Robin Soderling, then Roger Federer looking as becomingly modest and self-assured as only God can. Perry is craning forward, lips pressed tensely together. He’s in the presence.

Warm-up time. Federer mis-hits a couple of backhands; Soderling’s forehand returns are a little too waspish for a friendly exchange. Federer practises a couple of serves, alone. Soderling does the same, alone.
Source: Rolandgarros.com

Practice over. Their jackets fall off them like sheaths from swords. In the pale blue corner, Federer, with a flash of red inside his collar and a matching red tick on his headband. In the white corner, Soderling, with phosphorescent yellow flashes on his sleeves and shorts….

… the match has begun and to the joy of the crowd, but too suddenly for Gail, Federer has broken Soderling’s serve and won his own. Now it’s Soderling to serve again. A pretty blonde ballgirl with a ponytail hands him a ball, drops a bob, and canters off again. The linesman howls as if he’s been stung. The rain’s coming on again.

Soderling has double-faulted; Federer’s triumphal march to victory has begun. Perry’s face is lit with simple awe and Gail discovers she is loving him all over again from scratch: his unaffected courage, his determination to do the right thing even if it’s wrong, his need to be loyal and his refusal to be sorry for himself. She’s his sister, friend, protector. A similar feeling must have overtaken Perry, for he grasps her hand and keeps it. Soderling is going for the French Open. Federer is going for history and Perry is going with him. Federer has won the first set 6-1. It took him just under half an hour.

The manners of the French crowd are truly beautiful, Gail decides. Federer is their hero as well as Perry’s. But they are meticulous in awarding praise to Soderling wherever praise is due. And Soderling is grateful, and shows it. He’s taking risks, which means he is also forcing errors and Federer has just committed one. To make up for it he delivers a lethal drop shot from 10 feet behind the baseline…
… But suddenly Perry isn’t watching the game any more. He isn’t watching the smoked windows either. He has leapt to his feet and barged in front of her, apparently to shield her, and he’s yelling: ‘What the hell!’ with no hope of an answer.
Rising with him, which isn’t easy because now everyone is standing too and yelling ‘What the hell’ in French, Swiss German, English or whatever language comes naturally to them, her first expectation is that she is about to see a brace of dead pheasant at Roger Federer’s feet: a left and a right. This is because she confuses the clatter of everybody leaping up with the din of panicked birds clambering into the air like out-of-date aeroplanes, to be shot down by her brother and his rich friends. Her second equally wild thought is that it is Dima who has been shot, probably by Niki, and tossed out of the smoked-glass windows.
Source: TheGuardian.co.uk
But the spindly man who has appeared like a ragged red bird at Federer’s end of the tennis court is not Dima, and he is anything but dead. He wears the red hat favoured by Madame Guillotine and long, blood-red socks. He has a blood-red robe draped over his shoulders and he’s standing chatting to Federer just behind the baseline that Federer has been serving from.

Federer is a bit perplexed about what to say – they clearly haven’t met before – but he preserves his on-court nice manners, although he looks a tad irritated in a grouchy, Swiss sort of way that reminds us that his celebrated armour has its chinks. After all, he’s here to make history, not waste the time of day with a spindly man in a red dress who’s burst onto the court and introduced himself.

But whatever has passed between them is over, and the man in the red dress is scampering for the net, skirts and elbows flying. A bunch of tardy, black-suited gentlemen are in comic pursuit and the crowd isn’t uttering a word any more: it’s a sporting crowd and this is sport, if not of a high order. The man in the red dress vaults the net, but not cleanly: a bit of net-cord there. The dress is no longer a dress. It never was. It’s a flag. Two more black-suits have appeared on the other side of the net. The flag is the flag of Spain – L’Espagne – but that’s only according to the woman who sang La Marseillaise, and her opinion is contested by a hoarse-voiced man several rows up from her who insists it belongs to le Club Football de Barcelona.

A black-suit has finally brought the man with the flag down with a rugger tackle. Two more pounce on him and drag him into the darkness of a tunnel. Gail is staring into Perry’s face, which is paler than she has ever seen it before.
God does not sweat. Federer’s pale blue shirt is unstained except for a single skid-mark between the shoulder blades. His movements seem a trifle less fluid, but whether that’s the rain or the clotting clay or the nervous impact of the flagman is anybody’s guess. The sun has gone in, umbrellas are opening around the court, somehow it’s 3-4 in the second set, Soderling is rallying and Federer looks a bit depressed.
He just wants to make history and go home to his beloved Switzerland. And, oh dear, it’s a tiebreak – except it hardly is, because Federer’s first serves are flying in one after the other, the way Perry’s do sometimes, but twice as fast. It’s the third set and Federer has broken Soderling’s serve, he’s back in perfect rhythm and the flagman has lost after all. Is Federer weeping even before he’s won? Never mind. He’s won now. It’s as simple and uneventful as that.

Federer has won and he can weep his heart out, and Perry, too, is blinking away a manly tear. His idol has made the history that he came to make and the crowd is on its feet for the history-maker, and Niki the baby-faced bodyguard is edging his way towards them along the row of happy people; the handclapping has become a coordinated drumbeat.”

Read the rest on The Telegraph.

The Great Book Loot of 2009

I buy more books than clothes, thanks mostly to very limited closet space. And although I updated my fashion haul this year, raiding book stores still remained my de facto activity on shopping weekends in spite of the great book blockade annoyance of 2009. Here are my favorite books for the year that was:

  • Open: An Autobiography (Andre Agassi) – The only male winner of tennis Golden Slam (all four majors and one Olympic gold medal) shares his struggles and triumphs in the sport he hated, his depression and fall in the rankings, and how it all came together for him as he completed his career grand slam and finally met the woman of his dreams in this controversial but wonderful retelling of the story of one of tennis’ greatest and most colorful players. Freebies for Federer fans: Agassi has only good words for the reigning GOAT.
  • The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) – Not your ordinary young adult fiction, The Hunger Games is about the brutal tradition of sending youths to an annual tournament where victory is achieved through merciless killing of all other participants.
  • Outliers: The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell) – The central idea for this book is that successful people do not reach their potential by themselves. Instead, Gladwell argues that success is often a result of a combination of right timing, help from family and community, and thousands of hours of preparation. In fact, to be truly primed for success, a person should have logged in at least 10,000 hours of preparation or practice in the field of their specialization, whether it is in technology, sports, or music. Moreover, a person’s cultural background and family history plays a great role in one’s success, which makes you realize that your background may either be a help or a hurdle towards reaching your potential.
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffeneger) – This might as well have been titled The Time Traveler, as it is mostly about the chrono-impaired man who jumps from one period to another within the span of his and his wife’s lifetime. He meets her first when she is 9 and last when she is 80; he only lives to his early forties.
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson) – I’m still reading this tome, a chocful of compressed bits of information about how the universe and the earth came to be, and how the forces that shaped the cosmos for millions of years allowed you to be here in the first place.
  • The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follet) – This is just a runner up, but for those who wish to have an idea of how those majestic cathedrals that date back to the medieval times were built, and how their builders went about their business of…well, building…this book is a good place to start.