Banker’s Ramayana elicits strong responses. Outlook’s Letters page doesn’t allow for permalinks, so I’m afraid you’ll have to scroll down to locate a) reader’s responses to Krishna Prasad’s review b) Banker’s response c) Krishna’s rebuttal. It’s worth the hassle.
“Droll, with its connotations of pathos, gallantry and humour in the face of adversity, is a word well-suited to the small, darkly dressed and markedly eccentric Lambs, with their hearts of gold and tongues dipped in vitriol.” For years the Babu knew the Lambs only as the bowdlerisers of Shakespeare. It’s good to have a different perspective.
“Like Marquez, also a working journalist, Jha takes the dregs of the day and turns it into more lasting prose. But while the Latin American writer has used magic realism to give epic form to the unwritten history of his nation, Jha’s ambitions are more personal and private. He writes of the tyranny of fathers and of the secrets held in silence within the walls of our bedrooms.
The result is not always spectacular.” Amitava Kumar on Raj Kamal Jha’s If You’re Afraid of Heights. If you’re looking for a compelling reason to read this intense but often somnambulistic writer, try this.
“As he joined the long queue at the service store, for cigarettes, Meo recalled his penultimate infidelity (the ultimate infidelity, of course, had been with Russia).” Yes, yes, I know, it isn’t polite to reach into an entire novel and pull out just one line. But the last time the Babu read a line like this was in…a bad Soviet-era novelette. This one has a better pedigree: it’s from Martin Amis’ Yellow Dog. God help us all.
John O’Hara is one of the genuinely strange cases in American literature. Large in physical size and larger than life in temper and appetites, as a writer he was a miniaturist. His best work, as Geoffrey Wolff correctly judges, is to be found in his short stories and in his first novel, Appointment in Samarra, which is almost short enough to be called a novella. Yet like his contemporary and rival Ernest Hemingway, another gifted miniaturist, he could not resist the temptation to write the flabby, overlong blockbusters that publishers and the mass readership prefer. These books — A Rage to Live, Ten North Frederick, From the Terrace, Ourselves to Know — did little to enhance his literary reputation and a good deal to harm it, but they made him rich.” The Babu, if he possessed a hat, might take it off in order to salute Jonathan Yardley, one of the few great commentators on books and writing still left.
* “We are compliant, all of us, in the looming extirpation of creatures as neutral toward us as starfish, as friendly as marmosets and as downright helpful as beavers. So what justifies the exceptional treatment given the bad-boy alpha predators?” David Quammen ‘s new book examines the predator-extermination conundrum.