Friday, June 22, 2012

the best exotic mexico hotel

My supper partners on the last half of my cruise were an extremely pleasant Scottish couple now living in the south of England.  Let's call them Gary and Alice.

When I told them about my life in Mexico, Alice laughed:  "You're living in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."

It was the first time I had heard mention of what is now a movie.  She summarized: "It's about a group of retired Brits who go out to India for their golden years.  Lots of adventures.  I am reading the novel on the ship.  You really must get a copy."

One of the joys of my Kindle is the ability to immediately follow up on book recommendations.  In this case, purchasing a book while cruising across the Mediterranean.

But immediacy of purchase does not resolve procrastination habits.  What was once a tottering tower of books on my reading table at home is now a full inbox of works unread.

After catching up on my magazines and newspapers, I started reading Alice's recommendation.  Originally entitled These Foolish Things -- before adopting the movie's title as its own.

If a novel does not catch my attention within the first paragraph, I will usually abandon it.  This book I did not abandon.  Because the author, Deborah Maggoch, took me by the hand and led me through a tale of loneliness and abandonment filled with bittersweet resolutions.

Her mood settings are almost poetic.  Thrifty with words; prodigal with meaning.  Ravi, an Indian doctor practicing in England, returns home:
Exhausted, Ravi drove home to Dulwich.  Walking up his path, he paused to breathe deeply.  It was seven in the evening; somewhere a bird sang.  Beside the path, daffodil blossoms had shriveled into tissue paper.  Spring had come and gone without his noticing.
If you think the shriveled daffodils may be symbolic of a home life that has "come and gone without his noticing," you would be correct.

But Ms. Maggoch also has a fine sense of wry wit.  As in this description of Ravi's wife.
Ravi wasn't an adventurous man.  She put this down to his job.  At work he coped with the victims of chance. its random brutality.  Many years ago she had tried to get close to him by reading books about Hinduism.  "Surely it's all about predestination?" she said.  "If somebody's going to be knocked down by a lorry, that's their karma."  Ravi had looked at her, puzzled, as if she were talking a foreign language.  He wasn't an Indian Indian.  He was a doctor."
Or her description of the relationship between the widowed Evelyn and her daughter, Theresa.
The past she remembered bore almost no resemblance to Theresa's version; the events might be the same, but it was like seeing a foreign film -- Serbo-Croat or something -- that was vaguely based on them but all in black-and-white and somehow depressing.
Ms. Maggoch has a jeweler's eye for the essence of relationships.  We recognize the archetype without discarding it as mere cliché.

If the book was a workshop on developing novel characters, it would be a good read.  But it is a novel with characters who should be doing something.  And there is very little doing here.

There are some fine tales of cloistered Brits breaking through their self-created restrictions.  And that does pass for adventure.

But, about half way through the novel, the narrative wanes.  To resuscitate it, the author trots out a series of sex scenes that are as tedious as they are unnecessary. 

The poetry in the earlier part of the novel simply gives way to pointless coupling.  And for no good purpose.  No pointless existential life experiences.  Just pointless writing.

The book is not without its charm.  I even found one character, the widower Norman, who rose to the level of Alice's original recommendation.
[B]eing British, he was treated with a deference that had long since vanished in his own country.  Here, he was still somebody, and that was good for a fellow's ego.  All his most intoxicating experiences had happened abroad, in places that smelled of dung and cheap perfume.  It was the smell of adventure.
Maybe that is why I like my adventure in Mexico.  It makes me feel as if I am still somebody.

This morning I am sitting on the patio watching the summer rains stir up the mud in the drained laguna -- whipping up whiffs of methane.  The smell of dung and cheap perfume.

It is the smell of adventure.


Felipe Zapata said...

Saw the movie a few weeks ago. It's good, and the movie title is far better than the original book title. I always wanted to visit India.

Steve Cotton said...

I almost went to India on my cruise.  If I had known it was going on to Singapore, I would have obtained a visa for India.  because I did not have one, cruising on made no sense.

Andean said...

I just read the reviews of the book and saw a preview of the movie. Looks worthwhile to watch. India is certainly colorful.
There has never been a lack of adventure, in any of my travels. No doubt it's what makes the world go round. 

Steve Cotton said...

Apparently, it is making the rounds of Cineopolis down here.

Mcotton said...

Your are still somebody.  God never took the time to make a "nobody."

Steve Cotton said...

Anyone who has ever met me knows that a lack of self-esteem is not one of my issues.

Cineguy said...

And here I half-expected you to "photoshop" your face into that movie poster!  Sounds like the movie was better than the book--I really enjoyed it. 

John Calypso said...

Just saw the movie and am writing a Blog review as we speak - weird how we are writing about the same thing at the same time when there are so many options ;-)

Laurie Matherne said...

"The smell of dung and cheap perfume. It is the smell of adventure." Maybe it's just me, but that sounds depressing. 

Mommy with Commuter Husband said...

Perhaps I will skip the book and just take in the movie.

Steve Cotton said...

 I hope to see it soon.

Steve Cotton said...

We find our adventures where we can.  Norman eventually ended up paying for his.

Steve Cotton said...

I have noticed how often that happens here in blogdom.  Our own popular culture.

Steve Cotton said...

 That would have been a good idea.  I wish I had thought of it.