(Introducing an occasional listing of new releases; some of these were sent to me for review, some I go out and buy. ‘Inbox’ will come out once a month, and is intended to be an indicative rather than comprehensive listing of what’s crossed my destop and is in Delhi’s bookshops. As and when desktop clutter builds up, ‘Inbox’ might come out fortnightly or even weekly, or as and when laziness dictates.)
First Proof: The Penguin Book of New Writing from India
Penguin, Rs 295
“The future looks good (though we are constantly, casually told otherwise.” The fiction’s not half bad, but it’s the non-fiction that stands out.
The HarperCollins Book of New Indian Fiction
Edited by Khushwant Singh,
HarperCollins, Rs 295
The focus is sharply on short stories; pretty motley assortment, with a couple of decent pieces from Githa Hariharan, Amitava Kumar, Manjula Padmanabhan and others.
New Writing 13
Edited by Toby Litt and Ali Smith
Picador, special Indian price 4.99 pounds
The one where the editors got into trouble for confessing that submissions from women “were disappointingly domestic”; some great work here, though.
India In Mind
Edited by Pankaj Mishra
Picador India, Rs 275
“The reactions [India] evokes are complex, ranging from awe and wonder to repulsion and rejection. They tell us as much about the traveler as the world he describes.” Levi-Strauss, Forster, Ackerley, Naipaul, Chatwin, Jan Morris, Pasolini, Mark Twain and other travelers come together in this anthology.
Chasing the Monk’s Shadow
Penguin Viking, Rs 495
“An Indian woman with a China craze, a Chinese monk with an Indian obsession; we had the same schizophrenia, the monk and I.” Mishi Saran follows in the footsteps of Xuanjang (earlier spelled Hieun Tsang.
Surface by Siddhartha Deb
Picador India, Rs 495
Cynical, burned-out journalist travels into the neglected heart of darkness of the North-East and discovers a web of illusions and half-truths in this disturbing and brilliant second novel.
Shakuntala, by Namita Gokhale
Penguin/ Viking (Rs 300)
Shakuntala’s reincarnation tells her story with the legend as the backdrop.
The Heart Has Its Reasons
Krishna Sobti’s Dil-o-Daanish in translation lacks the punch of the original, but her examination of the three-cornered relationship between Kripanarayan, his Hindu wife and his Muslim mistress retains its original sharpness. This isn’t in the same league as Mitro Marjani or some of her other classics, but read it for the flavour of pre-Independence Delhi.
My Days in Prison
Penguin, Rs 195
A journalist from the Kashmir Times uses the true story of his jail term—he was unjustly accused of being a spy—to examine the dark underbelly of the beast we call Indian democracy.
Mantras of Change: Reporting India in a Time of Flux
Penguin Viking, Rs 375
Well-turned essays on India from a seasoned reporter, but not enough to make this stand out from the perennial crop of Whither India and Understanding India books. Lak’s well-liked, though, so expect this to sell in thousands, if not in lakhs.
Al-Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged The World
Abacus, special Indian price 4.99 pounds
“…The story of this network is the story of the upheavals that have taken place in this troubled region for years.”
The Year Before Sunset
Hugh and Colleen Gantzer
Penguin, Rs 250
The twilight of the Raj, seen through the eyes of a priggish but remarkably horny Philip Brandon; the Gantzers offer some moving insights into the Anglo-Indian community in this sweet but slight book.
Penguin Viking, Rs 475
According to marketing whizzes, this is the next big Asian bestseller. According to me, this is the best revenge anyone could perpetrate on the British Raj: turn it into a soap opera populated by ham actors and force the resulting pishpash down the throats of a credulous public.
The Geographer’s Library
Jon Fasman, Hamish Hamilton
Alchemy, intrigue in the fragmented states of the erstwhile Soviet Union, the dark tales behind 15 obscure and fascinating objects, a dashing but slightly foolish journalist and murder most foul: pretty much what you’d get if the Titanic bulk of The Da Vinci Code collided with The Rule of Four.
Sharon and My Mother-in-Law: Ramallah Diaries
Granta, special Indian price 4.50 pounds
With irony, humour and anger, Suad Amiry speaks of what it’s like to be a Palestinian living on the West Bank.
Picador, special Indian price 9.75 pounds
Short stories linked by a common thread tell tales of losers, drifters and survivors; Winton hits perfect pitch every so often.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Jonathan Safran Foer
Extremely gimmicky and incredibly tedious, IMHO, but don’t let that dissuade you from reading the wonder boy who’s been dubbed one of the great talents of his generation.