the housekeeper and the professor

Still on the theme of math-infused narratives, my former PW HOD introduced me to a book that he found fascinating although he did not fully comprehend the mathematical aspects of it. We had spent much of our acquaintance working together (and sometimes politely disagreeing) to improve the teaching of PW in our school, so, I wasn’t sure whether our taste in books are altogether compatible. But it is rare enough to find a fiction work that wasn’t based on an eccentric, real mathematician so, I was sufficiently intrigued to search out this one.

Title: The Housekeeper and the Professor

Author: Yoko Ogawa (the version I got was translated from Japanese by Stephen Snyder).  It was first published in 2003 but the English language version came out in 2009.

Plot: A young, single mother was hired to be the housekeeper of a mathematics professor with anterogarde amnesia, which left him with only eighty minutes worth of memory at any time. (This was the same condition made famous by Drew Barrymore’s film Fifty First Dates, except that Barrymore’s character had 24 hours memory running time.) Despite this, they became acquainted, re-acquainted and re-acquainted as the professor formed enduring connections with both his housekeeper and her young son and they with him.

Initially, when I saw the word ‘amnesia’ jump out of the blurb, I almost put the book back on the shelf. Continue reading

raffles place ragtime

My sister suggested that I join NLB’s Book Lovers’ Club since it would be fun to meet a group of people to discuss books.  While I like books, in general, I think a lot depends on the book too. The first session was on the book ‘Why Men Don’t Have a Clue and Women Always Needs More Shoes’ by Barbara and Allan Pease. I can review the book in 3 words.

Dont. Read. It.

The book was a collection of male-female cliches that were only harmful in being boring. The group spent two hours discussing such scintillating stuff such as why men put the toilet seat up – I didn’t know until then that it had something to do with men peeing differently – nor did I care very much actually. If someone puts the toilet seat up and I want it down, I will just pull it down; what is the problem?

To be fair, the NLB facilitator did try to enthuse everyone and draw them into discussion; he even had powerpoint slides summarizing the book in case someone didn’t read it – incidentally, only 20% of the group finished the book. I guess that says a lot about it.

I was unsure about ever attending another session but I was curious about the next book which is ‘Raffles Place Ragtime’ written by lawyer Philip Jeyaratnam, son of opposition politician/lawyer the late JB Jeyaratnam. So, I checked it out at the Central Library today. It was quite thin so, one hour was enough.

Plot: The novel centred around Vincent and Connie – the former, an ambitious, rising corporate star who was engaged to the latter mainly for the advantages of allying himself with someone from an influential family. With such auspicious motives, the relationship was doomed to fail as both contemplated how to remove themselves from the kiasu rat race and do what they find personally meaningful. [Spoiler] For Vincent, this meant hooking up with a heartland girl who had a disconcerting habit of referring to herself in the third person and for Connie, this involved a sudden, probably transient, desire to help other people like the elderly begging at the sidewalk whom she finally deigned to notice after a major recover-from-breakup shopping spree. [End]

Incidentally, ragtime is an original musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity in the States before jazz came into the picture in 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or “ragged”, rhythm.

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