Dec 27, 2010

Perdido Street Station

Oi Mosquito!

I forgot about this wee blog mate.

But Perdido street station is brilliant enough to power the valiant resurrection of Books, Coffee, whatever.
Why must you read this then?

a) China Mieville wrote this. He is a man Samit Basu worships. Samit Basu is a man we worship. This makes China SuperGod. We don' argue with that.

b) It's edgy. With science, magic, thamaturgy, drugs, freakish moths, exotic khepri, sentient machines and more.

c) The semi dystopic and unreally awesome world China describes will make your head spin. It might also make the weak amongst us miss buses and submission deadlines.

I don't want to get into details about the plot at all since that is something you'd best be delving into yourself.

Rating: 5/5
Aztec, Espresso :)

Cheers and happy hols,

Aug 1, 2010

May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss

Arnab Ray

This is one of those books, that you happened to pick up because of the wacky cover, giggle, open, flip through and then not put down till you're incapacitated with laughter.
Quite the same scenario here.
This book is by a fellow blogger The Great Bong  and is really worth your time.

A breath of what might be hallucinogen induced air, this non fiction has all the components of our Bollywood pot boiler seeing how it is greatly influenced by one.
Expert deconstruction of the great Mithun Da starrer Gunda and other gems like Loha and Gupt make this book priceless.

Other Indian ready-to-eat mixes also tossed up are Management Institutes, SMS-ese, Soap operas, Reality Shows, News Channels, NRI's, The Great Indian Weddings, Call Centers and their praiseworthy flagellation.

The language is engaging; the writing is snide, witty and humorous and the content while having no apparent connection flows into each other. 

At no point is the book jarring, and the chapter about the Sexual Frustration is supremely imaginative.

One very singular point about this book is that it has been written entirely with the Indian Audience in mind, other nationalities won't really get the awesomity of the book simply because they wont understand it.
My personal opinion is that Arnab Ray probably didn't pause to think at all about the implications of narrowing his book down to a desi audience at all and I'm supremely glad he didn't. 
This might one day considered to be a work of art and we don't want it to be compromised due to the publishing and editing team's statistical crapola. And come on, he has 1/6 of the world population as his target audience and that is quite blinding!

You have to read it! 
(If you are an Indian, that is)

Rating 4.5/5

Vanilla Frappe!

Jul 16, 2010

3 Cups Of Tea

Greg Mortenson

How much difference can a person make? If ‘Three Cups of Tea’- an account of Greg Mortenson’s life is anything to go by, plenty.
When American mountaineer Greg Mortenson blunders into the Pakistani village of Korphe after a failed attempt at conquering K2, his life changes. As he begins to see the impoverished village in Pakistan through a non-mountaineer’s eyes, he promises to set up a school for the children of the village, and thus begins his journey across Pakistan.
From learning to handle Balti culture to corrupt Pakistani middlemen, from writing 580 letters to American celebrities for donations to traversing war-hit South Asia in a Land Cruiser, the journey is a painstaking and a path-breaking one, and you can almost picture schools sprouting, like dots on a map, across Pakistan as the story of Greg Mortenson’s work is recounted. As the story weaves through, and is shaped by, extraneous events like the emergence and eventual overthrow of the Taliban, the 9/11 bombings, and the launch of the war on terror, the book offers an interesting, if not in-depth, look at the geo-politics of the region as seen by the people inhabiting it. As an Indian, a few viewpoints jar- India always referred to as the ‘Hindu country to the East’, references to the Indian army being the first to shell Pakistan, and to shell indiscriminately- but it must be kept in mind that these opinions are meant to be biased- they are simply an account of sentiments from the other side.
Where the book fails is with the personal- as a reader, I didn’t warm to Greg Mortenson. I respect what he has accomplished immensely, but that didn’t translate into the emotional attachment one associates with biographies. Perhaps this is a deliberate effort to focus, as Greg Mortenson does, on the mission and to spread it, and to stay away from hyperbole. Commendable though the intention might be, the narration leaves you wanting. At one point in the book, Greg Mortenson wonders how much distance matters- would a high-ranking official sitting in the Pentagon be as affected by orphans in Pakistan and demolished schools in Afghanistan as someone who has witnessed such events? The book has not managed to bridge the distance- the horrors that the author talks about do not seep into the heart.
Three Cups of Tea is a gripping story that could have done with a better narrator. it isn’t great literature, but despite its flaws, read it for an inspiring tale of what human resolve can do, and how anyone armed with it can make a difference.

Rating 3.5/5

Soy Latte!

Mar 12, 2010

A spot of bother

Mark Haddon.

Sometimes, you pine for books. You could spend years wanting them and never being in the financial league to acquire them. This is where we send up a loud cheer for second hand books :)

I found this one at a poky old sale. I'd been wanting it ever since the Curious Incident of the dog in the nighttime, and reading it has been immensely satisfying. First off, its not really in that league.But its nicely written, spectacularly funny sometimes and gives you a nice peek into someone else's head, which is what i believe every good book should do.

The book begins with George, an old married guy who finds a lesion on his hip. This sort of makes him wack-o and unhinges him progressively through the book. Its compounded with his daughter's impending wedding to a guy he doesn't exactly deem suitable, his gay son's boyfriend and his wife's affair with David. In the end, the book is about how all of these come to a head and how all the characters deal with their frustrations and anxieties.

A spot of bother is a good Sunday sort of read, where you don't expect Die Hard sort of action. and come away feeling satisfied. Its one of those relaxed reads, where you feel nice about the ending, cheer for the people and don't get pissed off at the guy for writing the book. Which is so much more than I can say for some of the crap I've been subjected to in the name of fiction.

Rating: 4/5
Vanilla Frappe :)

Feb 24, 2010

Tips for Writes by Laura Miller + Rushdie's work on display at Emory

A word to the novelist on how to write better books

Salman Rushdie's life and work on display at Emory �|

Novelist Salman Rushdie spent years in hiding after his book 'The Satanic Verses' garnered him 
international attention and death threats from the Muslim world, but now the author is the subject of a very public and personal exhibit at Emory University.
The Salman Rushdie Archive opens Friday at Emory's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library and gives the public an upclose view of his life and career.

The following excerpt has been taken from For the complete article click here

Feb 23, 2010

LA Times announces 2009 Book Prize finalists

LA Times announces 2009 Book Prize finalists | Jacket Copy | Los Angeles Times

This news post has been taken from LATimes blog: Jacket Copy

2009 LA Times Book Prize Finalists
"The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience" by Kirstin Downey
 "Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits" by Linda Gordon
"Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic" by Michael Scammell
"Louis D. Brandeis: A Life" by Melvin Urofsky
"The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst" by Kenneth Whyte

Current Interest 
Columbine" by Dave Cullen
"Zeitoun" by Dave Eggers
"Strength in What Remains" by Tracy Kidder
"Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sharon WuDunn
"The Healing of America: The Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Healthcare" by T.R. Reid
Heroic Measures" by Jill Ciment
The Man in the Wooden Hat" by Jane Gardam
Blame" by Michelle Huneven
"A Short History of Women" by Kate Walbert
"A Happy Marriage" by Rafael Yglesias

Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction
"An Elegy for Easterly" by Petina Gappah
"Tinkers" by Paul Harding
"American Rust" by Philipp Meyer
"In Other Rooms, Other Wonders" by Daniyal Mueenuddin
"Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned" by Wells Tower
Graphic Novel 
"Luba" by Gilbert Hernandez
"GoGo Monster" by Taiyo Matsumoto
"Asterios Polyp" by David Mazzuchelli
"Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe" by Bryan Lee O'Malley
"Footnotes in Gaza" by Joe Sacco
"Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science" by Richard Holmes
"Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line" by Martha A. Sandweiss
"Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance 1950-1963" by Kevin Starr
"Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940" by Amy Louise Wood
"Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic 1789-1815" by Gordon S. Wood
"Bury Me Deep" by Megan Abbott
"The Hidden Man" by David Ellis
"Black Water Rising" by Attica Locke
"A Darker Domain" by Val McDermid
"The Ghosts of Belfast" by Stuart Neville
"Apocalyptic Swing" by Gabrielle Calvocoressi
"Dearest Creature" by Amy Gerstler
"What the Right Hand Knows" by Tom Healy
"Practical Water" by Brenda Hillman
"]Open Interval[" by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
Science and Technology 
"The Day We Found the Universe" by Marcia Bartusiak
"The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom" by Graham Farmelo
"Cold: Adventures in the World's Frozen Places" by Bill Streever
"Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human" by Richard Wrangham
"Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science" by Carol Kaesuk Yoon
Young Adult Literature 
"The Rise and Fall of Senator Joe McCarthy" by James Cross Giblin
"The Lost Conspiracy" by Frances Hardinge
"Charles and Emma: The Darwin's Leap of Faith" by Deborah Heiligman
"Marching for Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary" by Elizabeth Partridge
"Tales from Outer Suburbia" by Shaun Tan

Feb 22, 2010

The Enchantress of Florence

Salman Rushdie

This book is like a tempestuous love affair.
It's challenging for somebody who isn't used to Rushdie's mystic style but once you tap it, it's like entering a fantasy land filled with delightful surprises at every step.
A majestic read, set in the historic era of the Mughals of Akbar and Florence of Lorenzo de' Medici , Rushdie weaves an intricate tale around these times and their offspring.

The story begins with the arrival of an exotic and mysterious visitor to Sikri - Mogor dell'Amore (Mughal of Love) - who claims to be in the possession of a secret of biblical proportions. He reaches the royal court with the help of Skeleton, a prolific prostitute. Afer much historical by-play it is revealed that the mysterious Florentine is Akbar's great uncle.

Enormous uproar ensues and it is here that Akbar's character gains an even more layered complexity. Sometimes whimsical, sometimes petulant and most of the time passionate; Akbar is a man lost between imagination and questions. The flickering Jodha and Qara Koz (the enchantress of Florence) grip him alternately and lead him down the by lanes of Renaissance history. A world of Ottomans and Machiavelli, of Amerigo Vespucci and Vlad Dracula and of Genghis Khan and Medicis. 

In reality, the title of this book is a smoke screen. The book has little to do with Qara Koz. It has more to do with the comparisons drawn by Akbar and Machiavelli between their respective domains. Of their anguish which has no outlet, and their doubts which can only be answered by themselves. Rushdie has tried to evolve a theme through them. He has dared to make them question religion and boundaries, almost willing us to question ourselves and leave us wondering. 

As Rushdie picks his way through the chess-board of medievalist times he touches upon many threads. He flits on to art and dreams, seduction and longing, families and fate, destiny and defeat, kings and armies, friends and power, riches and rational thought. Its as if he envelopes a short medieval history of nearly everything.   

This novel is like a perpetual dream which doesn't end properly. Fragments are left niggling in the corner of your mind long after you've put the book down. Connections which you keep trying to make, ideas you suddenly grasp. It's like a whiff of something divine, this masterpiece. 

5/5. Yes, at the risk of sounding like an infatuated teenager, you must read it.

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