Month: July 2005

  • Business Standard column: Books Do Furnish a City

    (First published in Speaking Volumes, Business Standard, June 28, 2005) Somewhere on my bookshelves, there’s a collection of modern verse that cost me Rs 15, three plates of papri chaat, one back massage and a paper on Jane Austen. It’s a thick volume, dense with marginalia in four different sets of handwriting. It started with […]

  • Business Standard column: The authorised version

    (First published in Speaking Volumes, the Business Standard, June 21, 2005) One way of reading the two great epics of this country is to see the Mahabharata and the Ramayana as piercingly, ferociously honest family autobiographies. With the Ramayana , there are many versions, so many that the true story is impossible to lose permanently: […]

  • Play ‘Honky Tonk Women’ when it’s my turn, ok?

    At funerals, inevitably someone will look at the body laid out and whisper, “He looks so peaceful.” Or, “She looks as though she’s sleeping.” But this is not true, even when the dearly departed has died peacefully, of natural causes, in his sleep, whatever euphemism you want to use. Once you’ve seen the body of […]

  • The Argumentative Indian

    Spent the last week reading Amartya Sen’s collection of essays, The Argumentative Indian, written over the last decade. Sunil Khilnani reviewed it for the Business Standard: “His present collection is a bracing sweep through aspects of Indian history and culture, and a tempered analysis of the highly charged disputes surrounding these subjects: the nature of […]

  • Identity theories

    At Slate, Robert Alter examines Umberto Eco’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana: “Our general cultural assumption, however, not only since Freud but at least since the Romantic movement, is that a vital connection with the past is essential to an integrated sense of self in the present. Eco does not question this view. For […]

  • The instant celeb factory

    Rana Dasgupta slums it in the tiny ghetto we call the books pages. His analysis, in this essay in Tehelka, is measured, and echoes the dissatisfaction that us Babus have heard over the years from reviewers, authors, editors and publishers, which makes me wonder what’s going on–we know what’s broke in the Indian media, so […]

  • Fine and Mellow

    Haven’t bought any of the Lady’s biographies, but Julia Blackburn’s With Billie sounds like it might be a keeper. From the New York Review of Books essay: “In the spring of 1947, Jimmy Fletcher heard from his bosses at the Federal Bureau of Narcotics that it might be a convenient time to visit Billie Holiday […]

  • We wish

    From The New York Daily News: “Norman Mailer yesterday undertook a cultural suicide mission, dive-bombing not only The New York Times but also a group of Asian-American journalists incensed over his strike on Times book critic Michiko Kakutani.The 82-year-old novelist – who in an interview with Rolling Stone called the Japanese-American critic “a one-woman kamikaze” […]

  • Barnes on O’Connor

    Julian Barnes on the “respectful forgetting” that has settled over Frank O’Connor: “I first came to Frank O’Connor by way of a possessive pronoun. The fiction shelves of a secondhand bookshop in Dublin proposed an antique orange Penguin: author’s name in white, title in black, no strident capitals on the spine, and the cover taken […]

  • Kharms and the man

    The only reason why I know the name of Daniil Kharms at all has to do with the brief and clumsy courtship between India and the Soviet Union. Its side effects marked both the Babu and the Partner, since one of the ways in which the glorious friendship between the peoples of these two ancient […]