M K Chakrabarti echoes the uneasiness I’ve often heard expressed in India about Monica Ali’s Brick Lane: “The truth is, London?s East End Bangladeshis do not live in a hermetically sealed community. No immigrants in London do. The world is too globalized, too interconnected, too interdependent to allow for that. The rest of British society constantly impresses itself upon the immigrant experience, and Ali knows it, though she avoids its implications.” (Link via the Bookslut. That woman always gets to everything before I do.)
* “The world of best sellerdom is full of books that might be wildly popular even if their pages were blank.” Janet Maslin in the New York Times on the unbearable lightness of being on the bestseller list.
Tariq Ali’s tribute to Abdelrahman Munif, who died on January 24, gives me another reason to read Cities of Salt again. Ali once asked Munif why he’d chosen that phrase as the title. “Cities of salt means cities that offer no sustainable existence. When the waters come in, the first waves will dissolve the salt and reduce these great glass cities to dust. In antiquity, as you know, many cities simply disappeared. It is possible to foresee the downfall of cities that are inhuman. With no means of livelihood they won’t survive. Look at us now and see how the West sees us.”
The Babu’s a big fan of Sara Suleri’s Meatless Days, which she wrote in the year dot before disappearing into the wilds of academia, so he was thrilled to hear that she’s come out with another book. But the list of contents took him aback for a moment–they sound more portentous than promising:
Boys will be boys
Love demands patience
Ask of Kohakan’s heart the reality of existence!
There is a wilderness within the wilderness
My golden town, Kasur!
Give birth to your own world, if you are among the living!
Why ask about Mir’s religion and beliefs? He has long since drawn a line on his forehead, sat in a temple, and renounced Islam
There are many brothers here, but few friends
You are with me, as it were, when no other can be there
The pious keep going to report to the authorities: That Akbar actually names God, in this very age!
Don’t trouble me, you perfumed wind, take to your road! You have frivolity on your mind while I sit here in despair
We are the lover, they the impatiently disdaining: Dear God! What kind of business is this, anyway?
Long live, you purest land!
The point of the tongue
Some reviews have been enthusiastic. Not to mention gushing. I guess I’ll plonk down my Rs 300-Rs 400 after all: “As I started reading Boys Will Be Boys my heart stilled. This was vintage Suleri: the voice I had grown to love in Meatless Days.”
Man with shellshock reviews Catch-22. Lobotomised manic-depressive reviews One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Nubile nymphet reviews Lolita. Welcome to the world of the special interest reviewer. This isn’t to knock William Schofield: he does a better and more honest job than the crew over at the NYT.