The Dog Ate My Homework Dept: Apologies for the long silence, and thanks for the hundreds of letters asking whether I was still alive. (This doesn’t mean you, Person Who Added “because if your dead, maybe I can have your blogspot”.)

The Babu realises he owes everyone an explanation (scroll down for today’s links if you’re not interested), so here goes.

First he took the cats (three, one tom, two queens) to vet on Friday. One cat objected to the car ride and bit his hand, greatly reducing his ability to type except with his toes. Vet says bring the tom back on Sunday to be neutered, he has way too many hormones bouncing around. Also the small queen.

By Sunday, the Babu’s hand is looking pretty good, he’s flexing his muscles in a blogging sort of way as he shoves cats into new cat cages. New cat cages promise much, deliver zero, as we discover at vet’s office, where Beagle Boy (she was named before we figured out her gender) contemptuously dismantles her cage and streaks around the place, spitting as she goes. Beagle is not a biter, but she is a scratcher. By the time she is reincarcerated, in vet lion-safe cage this time, the Babu and the Partner are looking like inept would-be suicides who tried to find veins through wrong side of the wrist. Vet does vicious things with scalpel to protesting cats, plus gives us both tetanus shots.

The Babu resolves to run away and live to blog another day, preferably Monday.

Sunday night is not pretty, what with two cats recovering from anaesthesia, telling us that they were sure they went off to the vets with more bits than they’ve returned with, and one cat (the unvetted one) saying, “Torturers! Torturers!”

Early morning, we hear howling sounds emanating from walls, do rapid headcount among cats. All present, accounted for, and one at least has thrown up in the Partner’s favourite shoes.

Sound emanating from small non-Babu household kitten who has fallen off the roof down an air shaft running through middle of house.

Babu’s partner, more athletic than the Babu, does heroic rescue attempt, emerges with one blinking but miraculously unhurt kitten and badly sprained back caused by trying to do pull-ups on drainpipe.

Babu says there, there, and Monday blogging goes down the drain. Monday evening, kitten is restored to one non-Babu household frantic mother cat, who expresses gratitude by reopening punctured vein in The Babu’s right hand. Much blood is spilled. Three Babu-household cats sit around looking joyous–“this,” they say, “is wot happens to Torturers. Ha!”

By Tuesday the Babu has a football for a hand and a feeble moaning hunchback for a Partner.

On Wednesday the Babu, who has long hair, discovers at just the wrong moment that the cats have hidden the hair dryer, and freeze dries tresses in Delhi cold and fog and sleet.

On Wednesday evening the feeble moaning hunchback has a feeble moaning–and coughing–bronchial Babu for company.

Thursday passes by in a blur. The Babu thinks this may have something to do with him having ingested cat painkiller medicines instead of human painkiller medicines, and is aware of a vague desire to chase his tail and cough up hairballs.

Friday he spends under quilts. The three lumps underneath it are cats that have now forgiven him, sort of, taking into account the fact that he has suffered much. This doesn’t prevent them from playing an energetic game of Cup Hockey at night, breaking a glass bowl, and generally telling the world that like Arnold, they’re back.

Saturday, he rises from the dead, knowing this will not last. Next Sunday, he and the Partner have to take the unspayed Queen in for spaying. The horror, he says hollowly, staring at his mincemeat hands, the horror.

If you read Bengali: Taslima Nasrin has put her banned books–Amar Meyerbela and Dwikhandita–online.

Put a few good men into corporations, and they become dull, soulless, humourless drudges given to tossing the word “defamatory” around for no good reason. James Wood responds to assertions that he was accusing the Man Booker group of whispering in the ear of this year’s Booker judges. (From Maud Newton.)

“Pullman sets out to undermine and attack the Christian faith. His blasphemy is shameless. This production is in poor taste, given the timing and the content. Teachers should steer clear.” As the National Theatre produces His Dark Materials on stage, Philip Pullman is under attack from narrow-minded bigots with a penchant for weak logic.

On October 3, Michael Moore posted this message on his website: “I have written a new book, and this Tuesday it’s being released. It’s called, “DUDE, WHERE’S MY COUNTRY?” Because its content is likely to upset more than a few people, the publisher has “embargoed” the book until midnight Monday (which means no store or media outlet or anyone has access to a copy of the book until then). They have taken these measures because I have written a book that seeks not to defeat the Bush people next year, but to have them removed from Washington right now.” Moore has the last laugh.

Yet another bastion has fallen in India as the ICHR chief is axed, victim in the latest round of the ideological wars between the Hindutva rightwing and independent academia.

In a related vein, Vijay Tendulkar is under fire for offering, only slightly in jest, to shoot Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. He was responding to a question put by someone in the audience. Modi, incidentally, is the man who did nothing to stem the riots in Gujarat last year and has done nothing to aid riot victims since then.

Rhizopods! Bashi-bazouks! Abecedarians!

The Babu has no idea why Indians love Tintin and Captain Haddock so much (any more than he understands the Indian preoccupation with TS Eliot), but someone’s compiled a list of Favourite Haddock Curses. Including billions of blue-blistered barnacles, but naturally. (Griff, thanks for the link.)

“For most people, Ms Joshi points out, India has no role to play in the story of the novel, which begins and ends with Europe’s Flaubert, Balzac, Austen. Quite the contrary. My book argues that India created a novelistic form that was new, and it did so in two ways–through its consumption patterns in the 19th century and later by producing its own novels.” Nina Martyris explores the worldview of this outstanding critic.

“I have not seen the unpublished book, but I hope it’s not made public. In my opinion, his last published novel was a travesty. It was tragic and was only printed because publishers wanted to cash in on his success. His talent as a writer had been completely exhausted by then.” Is the recently discovered Patrick O’Brian manuscript an unsung gem, or just an outtake?

The Big Grumble: It is possible to make programmes promoting books that are so demeaning they do more harm than good. Far from easy, but possible – and The Big Read has pulled off this amazing feat of debasement.

“While everyone complains about the demise of books, it seems to me that there are more than ever: books by serious writers and modern-day hucksters (be gone, Dr. Phil!) and 15-minute celebrities like Jessica Lynch and Simon Cowell, books touted on Oprah and Today and Good Morning America, in Time and Newsweek – books so varied and numerous and needy, all of them jostling for attention, that there’s only one sane response from someone charged with covering it all: to turn on the TV, flip to Average Joe and curse the day I learned to read.”

Newsweek interviews the man with “the most famous literary bite since Dracula”. “I’d be walking down the street and on the newsstand it would say, up by the publication title, MARTIN AMIS IS S–T. It’s like watching

your child being ragged in the schoolyard. What’s truly galling is when you wake up and it is in your head, when what should be in your head is what you’re writing next. But if you answer back, you’re accused of whining. You can’t win.” (Link via ArtsJournal.)

“He lost touch with reality,” said Saad Hadi, a journalist who was involved in the production of Saddam’s novels. “He thought he was a god who could do anything, including writing novels.” The Telegraph on Be Gone, Demons!, yet another failed novel by a certain ex-dictator we know.

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