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Archive for November, 2012


The Last Love Letter
Minty Tejpal | Hachette| Rs 395

“Somewhere, the fairytale romance of marriage wore off and the female character wanted her own identity. Female empowerment is good, but it has its issues,” says Tejpal of his debut book, The Last Love Letter. He’s not fibbing. He is in every page of the book, his own man. Written in a first person narrative, the thinly veiled autobiography, takes the reader through his two divorces and the twists his career took. Women in the book are an addiction and a necessity. But rarely equal. In the end, Tejpal comes across as a man who wanted things on his terms. When that did not happen, things fell apart.

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Once Upon A Hill
Kalpish Ratna | Harper Collins | Rs 499

The story of Andheri’s Gilbert Hill is somewhat akin to the story of Delhi’s Aravali Range. Where there were hills once, we have modern townships and garbage. In Kalpish Ratna, Mumbai’s geological feature – a stand-alone hill once part of a range that stretched from Andheri to Versova – get’s a voice. In a topography that has been completely erased by relentless quarrying, the consequences are there for everyone to experience. Change in rainfall patterns and flooding, is just one part of the story. “Gilbert Hill is the still point in the flux of opportunism and greed,” says Kalpana Swaminathan and Ishrat Sayed aka  Kalpish Ratna. We agree.

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The Fix
Damian Thompson | Collins | Rs 399

In The Fix, Thompson looks at the modern world through the prism of Aldous Huxley’s ‘negative utopia’ – where everyone takes a state produced drug called ‘soma’ that produces intervals of perfect spiritual pleasure. Rest of the time they’re mostly shopping or having recreational sex. “The awkward truth is that acceleration of technological progress can’t be divorced from the fast production of addictive substances and experiences,” says Thompson, arguing that it is not the experience of pleasure, but experience of desire that continues to tantalize us. In other words, there is an addict in each one of us.  What’s your fix? Food, binge drinking or sugar?

(The above reviews appeared in Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 16 September 2012)

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The Outsiders
Gerald Seymour | Hodder | Rs 350

Reporter-turned thriller writer, Seymour does not keep political autobiographies at home. “They seem to me to be self-justifying, weak on facts and often an ego trip trying to recall the days when the black car was at the front gate,” he says. What does he read? He says no one can beat Charles Dickens’ opening lines in A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” In this book a M15 agent chases a Russian gangster across continents while trying to crack a multi-billion dollar world of international organised crime. There is action, suspense and two innocent lovers caught in the middle of a bust. A Seymour, vintage.

(The above review appeared in the Saturday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, 8 September 2012)

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Classic Satyajit Ray
Transl. by Gopa Majumdar | Penguin | Rs 399

In this collection of 49 stories you will not meet Professor Shanku or Feluda. But you will encounter the macabre, the supernatural and the ordinary. Just as his films, Satyajit Ray’s short stories have captured the imagination of generations of readers who have coveted his wit and skill at story telling. Mostly available to Bengali readers, these have now been translated into English and collated by Penguin as a ‘classic’. Included in the collection are time-tested favourites such as: Khagam, Indigo, Fritz, Bhutto, Patol Babu: Film Star and The Hungry Septopus. Pity the paperback version of this book, is typeset in eye-taxing tight-knit typeface.

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Beautiful Disaster
Jamie McGuire | Simon & Schuster | Rs 350

EL James’ Shades of Grey appears to have opened the floodgates to a new trend in adult romances where ‘cruelty’ is the new ‘love’. In Beautiful Disaster, two young adults (Travis a bad boy and Abby, the bad girl) given to emotional violence, possessiveness and control mania are thrown together into a vortex of emotional-interdependence. Some have denounced the book as a story about ‘domestic abusive hero’ others have hailed it as gritty and unconventional. The book comes with fair amount of wordy slugfests and graphic sexuality. It’s for you to figure, how you read it.

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The Book of Emotions
Salman Akhtar | Roli Books | Rs 250

In this pocket book on emotions, Akhtar, a clinical psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in Philadelphia, gives us glimpses of the many shades of what a human heart is capable of.  Writing of people given to self-flagellation he says, “They lack the healthy capacity for indignation that most mature and well-adjusted people possess.” While talking of courage he reminds the reader of the hanging of Dara Shikoh, shunning of Mirza Ghalib and hounding of MF Husain, all of whom had the courage to ‘think-out-of-the-box’. And on hope, he quips, “Hope is a petrol of life’s automotive and the best antidote against suicide.” Simple, lucid, readable.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, 9 September 2012)

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Owning Our Future
Marjorie Kelly | Collins Buisness | Rs 350

Most of the great political struggles can be reduced to simple question: who will own land, water and other essentials of living – and to what end? Both capitalism and socialism/communism support concentration of the power of ownership in the hands of an oligarchy. Marjorie introduces us to a mixed-ownership pattern as a way to the future.  She calls it ‘generative ownership’. This ownership is mostly private, but its purpose is to serve public good. To support her argument she provides examples of various ‘generative’ initiatives across the world, from community-owned wind facility in Massachusetts to foundation-owned pharma company in Denmark and a farmer-owned dairy in Wisconsin. Read to find out what makes these models work.

(The above review appeared in the Saturday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 1 September 2012)

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