The Babu has packed his bags yet again and is off to do one of those long trips distinguished by his complete inability to find working Internet connections. Peter Griffin, recent creator and sole proprietor of Zigzackly (go visit; he has an uncanny knack for archiving brilliant links in the five minutes he spends away from Real Work), will be taking over Kitabkhana over the next week. He’s going to do a far, far better job because: a) he has a conscience and updates regularly b) he’s beaten me to every single truly juicy books link this far c) he’s a very funny man. Enjoy.

I leave you with these links until the Griff fills in the gaps:

Only Elmore Leonard could make Michael Dirda gush.

H Masud Taj on living in two languages: “I learnt to write Urdu from right to left, and English left to right. One direction cancelling the other and soon my scripts were going where no script had gone before. Poetry led to calligraphy in both the scripts and explorations of calligraphic space led to architecture (each time the poet, calligrapher, architect paused to catch his breath he received a new label). I still tend to browse publications backwards which sometimes means, in bilingual Canada, encountering undecipherable French before reverse-engineered English (Da Vinci would have approved).”

Vajpayee to book banners: Tut-tut. I don’t know, I was hoping for a little more in the way of positive activism from the country’s prime minister. Silly me.

“When I was a boy we used to meet at the Naaz cafe on a rooftop in Cumballa Hill. He would look beyond the chairs and tables to the open sea, a cigarette in his long fingers, and smile his kindly smile, contented with this time and this place. He had the gift, given only to a few people, of being happy with small and humble things.” Dom Moraes on the late Nissim Ezekiel.

Brief aside to Indian editors: it’s perfectly okay to mention Arundhati Roy without mentioning her size (she gets called “petite” a lot), her looks or what she’s wearing (one paper says a “rani pink” dupatta, another mentions a red or hot pink ditto: the dupatta got about the same space as the quote from her speech). She’s having fun at the World Social Forum: everyone’s favourite soundbite was: “Debating imperialism is like debating the pros and cons of rape.”

Sandipan Deb defends a taste for fantasy and plugs The Simoquin Prophecies, being widely touted this season as “India’s first SF-fantasy novel”. (The SF variety, not the other kind.) “You know how grown-up men look slightly sheepish when caught with a novel with a name like The Druidmoon Testament? That?s because most people they know think that reading something called The Druidmoon Testament is a symptom of some weird eccentricity.

Whereas I think Philip Pullman?s His Dark Materials trilogy is the greatest story ever told.

So I am a man of strange tastes.”

NB: Of course The Druidmoon Testament doesn’t exist; even fantasy writers wouldn’t stoop that low, titlewise.

* Edward Albee, bless the man: “There’s all this talk of the Sturm und Drang and the pain of writing, but I’ve never experienced any of that. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I enjoy writing.”

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