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Archive for July, 2012


Gold
Chris Cleave | Sceptre | Rs 350

Written by former columnist of The Guardian, this book tells the story of three Olympic sprint cyclists in the run up to London Olympics 2012. Cleave who has previously written, Incendiary and The Other Hand, is a consummate storyteller. So, it is no surprise that Gold touches a nerve. “I try to write stories,” he says, “about love, pity, pride, compassion and sacrifice.” He hits the pedal from the word go and lives and breathes the life of his characters to essay a story about two women cyclists, their common love and a child that fights to survive cancer. Melodramatic in part, yet utterly believable.

(The above review first appeared in the Saturday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 21 July 2012)

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Six Meters of Pavement
Farzana Doctor | Rupa | Rs 295

In Six Meters of Pavement the author integrates the life of three characters to tell a story about loss and redemption. In it we meet Ismail Boxwala, a middle-aged Toronto resident, who can never forgive himself for causing his daughter’s death, his neighbour, Celia and a young bisexual woman Fatima Khan around whom the plot is built. Kicked out of her home for her ‘perverted’ lifestyle, Fatima approaches Ismail to mediate with her conservative Indian parents. This book, her second novel after Stealing Nasreen, won Farzana Doctor, a Canadian writer based in Toronto, the 2012 Lambda Literary Award in the lesbian fiction category.

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I Heart New York
Lindsey Kelk | HarperCollins | £ 6.99

This picture perfect teen novel encourages young women a change of scene to overcome their love troubles. In this case the heroine moves from London to New York to re-invent her life. While in England she does pretty little in New York she hits the web with a daily blog about her sex life. It gets her the attention she craves and of course, a job with a magazine. In between we are treated to sightseeing trips in and around New York. This is Kelk’s third book in the series after I Heart Hollywood and I Heart Paris.

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Content is Currency
Jon Wuebben | Nicholas Brealey Publishing | Rs 595

In Content is Currency, web strategist Wuebben explains the fine art of content development and marketing by utilising Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing (SMM) techniques. “From what I’ve seen in the business world 80 per cent of businesses know only limited amount about the web and mobile content and how it affects them, no matter what they may think they know,” he says in the opening chapter of the book. Each of the chapters offers an overview of a ‘content type’, industry trends, best practices, how-to advice and case studies. Useful for any business, you may be engaged in.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 15 July 2012)

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Dom Moraes: Selected Poems
Ed. by Ranjit Hoskote | Penguin Modern ClassicsRs 499

In the introduction to the first-ever editorial selection of Dom Moraes poems, Ranjit Hoskote proposes a new reading of Moraes’ career as journalist, anthologist and editor, regarding him as an early but unrecognized trans-cultural artist. Hoskote emphasizes the less familiar Moraes, the non Romantic, who offered fierce testimony to the 20th century dramas of betrayal, slaughter and heroism as in this poem titled “Typed With One Finger”:

“Travel with me on the long road
into loneliness, where the hours
offer pardons to those still afraid.
Bursts of white and blue flowers
will surprise you in summer, with
denials of what is called death.”

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Bring Up The Bodies
Hilary Mantel | Fourth Estate | Rs 399

In her sequel to masterful Wolff Hall, for which she received the Man Booker Prize in 2009, Mantel takes a hard look at Thomas Cromwell, Secretary to King Henry VIII. In her telling Cromwell’s fortunes were closely tied with King’s second wife, Ann Boleyn, Queen of England (1533-36) who was subsequently beheaded. In Mantel’s controversial re-telling of the story, many of the events that led to English Reformation were instigated or manipulated by Cromwell. “I am not claiming authority for my version; I am making the reader a proposal, an offer,” says Mantel adding that Cromwell is “still in need of attention from biographers.”

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared on Saturday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 7 & 14 July 2012)

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Sky Train
Canyon Sam | Tranquebar | Rs 350

When Canyon Sam first paid a visit to Tibet in 1986 it had just opened its doors to foreign visitors. That was when she started to record women’s oral histories. Twenty-five years later she returned to meet some of the women again. The book at hand is the result of these encounters. In it, through the eyes of the women, Sam recounts the gory days of the Cultural Revolution, its aftermath and the changes wrought by the Chinese in Tibet thereafter. The book won the Pen American Centre Open Book Award in 2010.

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The Clockwork Man
William Jablonsky | Westland | Rs 225

The Clockwork Man is a journal of a robot, Ernst, who’s not human but a machine created by a master clockmaker just before the break out of WWII. It is divided into two parts: the first corresponds to his ‘youth’ in Germany and the latter with his resuscitation 100 years later in present day Milwaukee, US. While in his first avtaar the Clockwork Man is a family man, in the second he emerges as a superhero that grinds criminals and saves the innocent. Through all this the writer looks at crime as inevitable and always present aspect of human existence.

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The Woman Who Flew
Nasreen Jahan | Penguin | Rs 399

To many, Taslima Nasreen is the best-known writer from Bangladesh. Yet few know of her peers, among whom Nasreen Jahan stands out as one of the most important writers of our time. Nasreen Jahan writes in Bangla and reads very little in English. She’s a prolific writer with more than 50 titles to her name. In this book, she paints a candid albeit grim portrait of contemporary Bangladesh, through a story of a young woman who moves from a small town to the megacity and finds herself divorced and thrown into conflict with traditional patriarchy. The book won her the Philips Literary Prize in 1994.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 8 July 2012)

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Sarojini Naidu: Her Way With Words
Ed. by Mushirul Hasan | Niyogi Books | Rs 395

In modern day slang, you could say Sarojini Naidu had the gift of gab. In the tumultuous years that she worked closely with Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru (roughly from 1914-49) they called her “India’s Nightingale”. In this work, Prof Hasan takes a fresh look at Naidu by collating essays by PK Ghosh, Bina Roy and VV John, on her life as an orator and freedom fighter and a poet. The book also includes her essay on Gokhale and a selection of her poems introduced by the late British poet, critic and literary magazine editor, Arthur Symons.

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The Devil Colony
James Rollins | Orion | Rs 350

This sticky thriller on a tribe of Israelites cheated out of American future takes its cue from the author’s interest in the Mormon belief that that Native American clans originated from a fleeting lost tribes of Israelites. “While modern DNA emphatically disputes this, pointing to an Asiatic origin for early American natives,” he says there is no reason to disbelieve the Mormons, either. Many people would disagree with Rollins particularly since there was much friction between Mormon settlers and Native Americans in the mid-1800s, including massacres and wars. But for those who like to dwell on conspiracy theories, The Devil Colony is a thriller worth Delhi’s summer sweat.

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The Valmiki Syndrome
Ashok K Banker | Random House | Rs 250

In his introduction to the book, Ashok K Banker bemoans the fact that we seem to be neck deep in culture dedicated to the cult of self-help. “Dharma,” he says “was not a ‘concept’ created to teach the corporate executives the importance of business ethics. Yoga was not intended to be taught as an alternative to aerobics. Bhagwatgita is not a management textbook.” So what is The Valmiki Syndrome about? “It’s a set of stories. Call them parables,” says Banker. All of which answer one basic question: Is all life just about getting richer, sexier, leaner, fitter, faster, higher, stronger? Or is it something more?

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 1 July 2012)

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The Best Thing About You is You!
Anupam Kher | Hey House| Rs 399

“I have found, that unhappiness is a great leveler,” says Kher in this pocketbook of schmaltzy advice on happiness, unfulfilled relationships and regret. Remember Rudyard Kipling? Arthur Miller? Francois de la Rochefoucauld? Never mind if you don’t. Kher brings them – and many others – on board, through a sprinkling of quotes here and there, while flitting between dispensing self-absorbed truisms and reflecting sporadically on his life as theatre and film actor. This is Brand Anupam – a modern day celeb guru of hope and love – beaming at you beatifically and saying, “In time of change, we all seek the same old wisdom but from new-age gurus. That is why we need life-coaching books in stores.”

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Wild Child
Paro Anand| Puffin Books| Rs 150

In this collection of 10 tender stories, the author gets under the skin of teenagers to talk about contemporary life and events in modern day India. Things we often skim over, hoping the horror, hurt and humiliation would fade, disappear. A 10-year-old boy gets his nose rubbed in the dust by his classmates for being Muslim in post 26/11 Mumbai. He returns home to ask his parents, “Why didn’t you tell me about religion before, were you ashamed?” A girl breaks down in a class when a teacher decides to discuss the issue of domestic violence. How can she tell that her father beats her mother? In Paro Anand our children are not mute spectators. They have a voice.

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Offshore
Gaurav Rastogi & Basab Pradhan| Penguin| Rs 499

Offshore business model, argue the authors, is not going anywhere it is the future of work. But, unlike automotive industry that judges its profits and solidity by numbers of car units sold, or telephone companies that count monies by number of minutes clocked, offshore companies work in ‘abstract’ terms. Terms that cannot be counted except maybe for two things, increase in employee headcount and two, increase in billings. If our business outsourcing companies are to grow, new revenue models need to be invented. It cannot suck the benign tax regime in India forever. In fact, the tax holiday is expiring, say the authors. Looks like its time for our BPO and IT industry to roll up its sleeves.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 22 January 2012)

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A Mysterious Death at Sainik Farms
Rukmani Anandani | Rupa | Rs 195

“Ugrasen couldn’t sleep… He tried to puzzle it out” – is how Rukmani starts off her story. Like Chetan Bhagat, the author does not shed any sweat over the language. But she does weave a challenging and chilling mystery. And in detective fiction this is what matters. Rukmani’s detective, a Tam-Bram named Ganpati Iyer with “a typical south Indian moustache” and a love for quoting couplets from Kural sets out to solve the murder of a rich Punjabi businessman living in Sainik Farms. The story holds together well, and the end, includes a surprise.

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October Coup
Mohammad Hyder | Roli Books | Rs 295

Hyder’s account of the last days of the Hyderabad State before its annexation to the Indian Union proves that that truth has many faces. In February 1948 Hyder was appointed as Collector of Osmanabad district. As a civil servant of the Hyderabad State it was his responsibility to maintain law and order in the district. In this memoir he recounts the border incursions and campaign of violent raids by armed militia manned by the then Congress party workers. He also recounts his encounters with the Arabs and Pathans and most importantly the dreaded leader of the Razakars, Qasim Razvi. Fascinating account.

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Treasures of the Thunder Dragon
Adhi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck | Penguin | Rs 499

Between 1999 and 2006 Adhi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, made several journeys to different parts of her beautiful country. On her journeys, she says, she experienced, “enthralling landscapes, breathless climbs and knee-crunching descents. But nothing was more rewarding than the encounters with the people…and the generosity with which they shared their lives and homes.” Bhutan or the Land of Thunder Dragon (Druk Yul) as it’s also known, is often described as the last Shangri La. In Wangchuk’s account it emerges as a land deeply steeped in Buddhism and in love with nature and its animals.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 24 June 2012)

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