Month: November 2005

  • Bibliornithology

    The best season for intellectual birdwatching is just after the rains, as the first signs of winter—garam chai and the city’s patented smog, the colour and consistency of snot—appear. The only equipment you need as a fledgling bibliornithologist is a sharp pair of eyes, useful for spotting the discreet notice in the papers that says […]

  • The BS column: Umberto and the Tiger of Malaysia

    Suspended by a 130-foot long cord, a giant pendulum swept back and forth across the halls of a basilica in Bologna, recreating Foucault’s famous experiment. Perhaps the most famous of the assembled watchers there to testify that the world still rotates on its axis, as Foucault proved 154 years ago, was Umberto Eco. This was […]

  • Last Word: Get Ripped

    Don’t tell me about the success of Fair and Handsome skin whitening cream for men. Don’t send me any more news stories about the growing industry in whisky facials or cucumber under-eye treatment for the metrosexual Indian male. And don’t tell me about the hordes who’re flocking to cooking classes, getting in touch with their […]

  • Speaking Volumes: The One About Pinter

    The audience had been queuing for an hour in order to hear Harold Pinter speak at Edinburgh. This was 2002; the Iraq invasion was in progress and phrases like “freedom-loving people” and “axis of evil” were the common currency of the day. Pinter had just recovered from major surgery for cancer of the oesophagus, and […]

  • Last Word: Jobs for the girls

    Among the film star posters and portraits of goddesses on the wall of her room, Mumtaz has an unusual exhibit: a picture of the women drivers who handle Maruti’s factory cars. Mumtaz has spent her entire life in Delhi’s slums, but her parents are determined to build a better future for her. They want her […]

  • How to spell "hypocritical"

    The Indian Express reports on the mini-controversy surrounding a new Ambedkar book: “In the early 1950s, the Dalit community in Mumbai was gripped by the news that their leader, Dr B Ambedkar, was marrying an English woman, Francis.It was believed that, on a particular day, he was arriving in the city with his new English […]

  • The NYT’s Top 100

    The New York Times lists its 100 Most Notable Books of the Year. Murakami, Nadeem Aslam, Marquez, Mantel, Ishiguro, Rushdie, E L Doctorow, Zadie Smith, McEwan… and several surprises. The Babu reckons he’s read most of the fiction list, which is a terribly depressing thought–makes him feel solidly Middlebrow Bourgeois.

  • The end is nigh

    (Note to self: what exactly does “nigh” mean? Ah. Still, don’t see myself using it in a sentence any time in the nigh future.) Philip Hensher writes in The Telegraph about the importance of endings:“First lines are great fun. But they aren’t really as important to a novel as the last lines. From a terrible […]

  • Teacher 101

    How do you handle unruly New York teenagers in a classroom? Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes), who started teaching in 1958, reveals the secret in this excerpt from Teacher Man: eat their sandwiches. Damn. Wish I’d known this when I had to handle nursery school kids for a mercifully brief period in my early career. Though […]

  • Next time, Alex, just call me

    Alex Beam writes: I have been e-mailing secondhand bookstores in India, trying to buy the New Delhi edition of Vikram Seth’s 1993 novel, ”A Suitable Boy.” I read somewhere that the Delhi edition used much lighter paper than the subsequently published London and New York volumes. I thought that owning one would provide the necessary […]