Sunday, 13 April 2014

Steve Martini

OK for this one, I need to thank Preeti Zinta in Dil Chahta Hai – no, actually the quizzing scene (yes, that’s another topic coming soon) – for introducing Steve Martini.

I am a late laggard in practically every area but especially in the case of arts. I usually watch a movie only once the buzz gets out loud and then, maybe I get around to watch it (now on DVDs).  But I never watched Dil Chahta Hai when it was in the cinemas, not even when it was a huge hit.  Finally someone gave me the file for this – he’d seen it a 1000 times on DVD.

Anyways I distinctly remember someone asking a question on what book is Priety Zinta reading in some song from Dil Chahta Hai.  So when I finally saw the movie on mylaptop I froze that scene to see which book was she reading and who the author was.

And yes, as a late laggard I had not been reading Steve Martini either.

But the next time I was a book store I picked up a copy of Steve Martini, and it was hard not to fall in love with his writing.

Steve Martini writes in first person most of his books, and the ones I like are about Paul Madriani a lawyer and all books needless to say are about crime.   But reading Paul Madriani talk about his life and observations in first person is like watching an italian stand up comedian like Jay Leno talking openly about serious stuff or bitching about people he don’t like.

One of the best advice you can give anyone touring the US and doing the sightseeing bus tours is to get on a bus with an African-american guide and that will take care of the entertainment quota.  (the problem is no one then wants to get down at any stop since the tour guide is too hilariously entertaining). Barring African Americans, the next interesting group would be the Italians who also make for fairly fun folk to be talking to. You can spot them with those ultra=active hands making gestures (they speak more with their hands sometimes) and a lot of Heys!

Italians can talk about stuff really interestingly.  Perhaps it’s the food, but more because of the language itself.  Read Liz Gilbert as she talks about what a lovely language Italian is, where even the origin of words are so beautifully poetic that one doesn’t need to find any other descriptor as the word by itself would be worh a 1000 pictures.

So, when Paul Madriani talks about stuff there are like a 1000 similes and metaphors to every gesture he observes. And as he’s writing in first person he’s brutally frank not afraid to pull punches on the different folks he bumps into, not afraid to make value judgements – and when he does its too hilarious.

And that brings alive the books.  His partner Harry Hinds is an old fogey who’s cynical but also knows right from wrong and doesn’t mind going on the edge to confront those he disapproves (which includes everyone from the judges to the police, and the prosecutors and the media too). As Steve Martini writes, Harry would wipe the sweat off his forehead before offering that arm in handshake to the police officers. And his normal response to the media cameramen and announcers who block their court entrance is to swing his suitcase between their pants as he is pushing his way through.

But there are parts where Steve martini makes a comment about different facets of life, sometimes about law, sometimes about crime, racial hatred, even architecture – where he’s really saying it for the rest of us, and it really hits hard.  Sample this one when he talks with regret as he looks at a young boy who’s coping with the broken marriage of his parents:

As I watch him disappear up the escalator, I want to spit at the self-indulgence of my generation. My guilt as a father simmering deep inside, vapors of shame. We are a society that sheds spouses and takes on new lovers faster than a raja can work through his harem. We dissolve entire families on a whimsy of lust. We pursue bald ambition as if it were the true religion, leaving ourchildren to come home to empty houses, to fix their own meals, to cope with the crippling insecurities of adolescence, while we engage in an endless chase after the grail of possessions. And we have the audacity to wonder who killed the innocence of childhood”

or sample this one about the corporate hunger for Mergers and acquisitions:

"Mergers and acquisitions is the place where lawyers capitalize on the laws businesses buy from Congress, the ones designed to ensure that wealth remains concentrated in as few hands as possible, usually by wiping out small investors. Talk to lawyers working in this field and they will tell you that corporate management getting rich when their companies go broke is just part of the normal business cycle. For people who believe the world is changing too fast, they should take comfort in the fact that a lot of money in America is still made the old-fashioned way, by stealing it"!

The plot and the characters and the dénouement are forgettable – but Steve Martini is really worth reading for the engaging and Italian style of talking about people, events and life!

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