I have been spending some time at the bookshop recently and discovering interesting treasures there. Though I want to implement a book-buying ban on myself, I find it extremely difficult to do that, whenever I visit the bookshop. As soon as I enter the bookshop, it lifts my spirits and takes me to a different world. And, uncannily, every time I go there, I discover a few treasures which are impossible to ignore. I saw these treasures when I went to my favourite place (=bookshop) recently and inspite of trying to talk myself out of it, I couldn’t resist buying them. So, here are the treasures and what I think about them.
(1) A Single Swallow : Following the Migration from South Africa to South Wales by Horatio Clare : The book is what the subtitle says. I read snippets here and there and it looks quite fascinating. While touching on the swallow’s migration, Clare also touches on the history and geography of the region through which he is travelling. It reminds me of Simon Winchester’s ‘The River at the Centre of the World : A Journey up the Yangtze and back in Chinese Time’ which attempts to do the same thing, but in a more serious tone. The lighter tone of the book reminds me of other classic travelogues set in Africa – Paul Theroux’s ‘Dark Star Safari’ and Tim Butcher’s ‘Blood River’. I am also intrigued by the author’s name – how many people have we heard of, whose first name is Horatio? I can think of just two – Hamlet’s friend Horatio and Horatio Alger, the American author. Can you think of any? The author’s parents must be really interesting people!
(2) We by John Dickinson : It is from the genre of science / dystopian fiction. I haven’t heard of this writer before. I read the blurb on the back cover and the first page of the book and after that I couldn’t take my mind of it. I don’t read much of science / dystopian fiction and maybe this will remedy that.
(3) Rip Kirby : The first modern detective – Complete comic strips 1946-1948 by Alex Raymond: I have read Rip Kirby comics when I was in school. They were good, but at that age I preferred more action in comic books and so the sophistication of Rip Kirby’s detection wasn’t very attractive to me. But in later years I learnt to love Rip Kirby. I didn’t know that Rip Kirby comics were so old. I also didn’t know that the creator and illustrator of Rip Kirby comics, Alex Raymond, was American – I was under the impression that most American comics of that era involved superheroes. I need to do some research into the history of comics now. The book also cost me a bomb – I must be one of those idiots who spends a fortune in comics and graphic novels – if you want to know more about it, you are welcome to write to me
(4) Days and Nights in the Forest by Sunil Gangopadhyay : One of the early classics by one of India’s famous literary icons, who wrote the original in Bengali. The blurb says that this is the first time it is translated into English, which is a shame. There are so many Indian writers, who write in their own language, who are so brilliant, and it is a shame that most of them are not translated into English. A few of them should have won Nobel prizes – shame on the Nobel committee! Also, irrespective of what Salman Rushdie says (he was quoted as saying that Indian fiction in Indian languages is not good or is irrelevant and the only fiction from India of good quality was that written in English – this from a chap who doesn’t know any Indian language!), I will stick my neck out and say that fiction from India written in regional languages is way more superior to Indian fiction in English (can these ‘Indian’ writers in English write anything other than the ‘immigration experience’ these days? Where are the ‘English writing’ equivalents of S.L.Bhyrappa, Girish Karnad, Kalki, L.S.Ramamirtham, Pudumai Pithan, Jeyakantan, Sundara Ramasamy, V.S.Khandekar, Thakazhi Sivasankaran Pillai, Qurratulain Haider, Vaikkom Muhammad Bashir, Rabindranath Tagore, Sunil Gangopadhyay and Premchand?). I am really looking forward to reading this one. The title in English looks long-winded, but the Bengali title is lovely and beautiful – ‘Aranyer Dinratri’. It is so true that translation kills the music of a language.
(5) Modernism : The Lure of Heresy from Baudelaire to Beckett and beyond by Peter Gay : This is the kind of book which I avoid – because it is nonfiction, because it is interesting, because it is tempting to buy, but also because it might end up on my shelf for quite a few years without me reading it. But just one look at the first page, a bit of browsing between the covers and I couldn’t resist it. It talks about modernism in the arts and literature and in other spheres of life. I suspect that it might end up on my list of favourites.
(6) Twilight : the graphic novel – Vol 1 by Stephanie Meyer (adapted and illustrated by Young Kim) : I thought that I would never read the ‘Twilight’ series by Stephanie Meyer. Because the size of the four volumes put together was intimidating. But also because I have heard different readers saying that the prose is not tight and needs a lot of editing (that is a damning condemnation for a published book) and some readers and fans of vampire novels complaining that the character of Bella, the heroine, is not great. I saw the first part of the movie version and I liked it. So, when I saw the graphic novel version, I couldn’t resist it. The illustrations are excellent and they are closer to a Manga comic rather than to a regular graphic novel. I also liked the fact that the illustrator, Young Kim (pun unintended – her first name is Young), is a Korean living in Korea, and so this graphic novel is a collaboration between two people living and working in different countries. Way to go, Kim! I suspect that Stephanie Meyer fans and ‘Twilight’ readers – both those who love it and those who complain about it everyday but continue reading it many times – will love the graphic novel version. I also suspect that aspiring readers of ‘Twilight’ who are intimidated by its size might want to dip into the graphic novel version like I am hoping to. Looking forward to reading it.
(7) Dancing Image by Arvind Appadourai : It is a slim novel by a writer I haven’t heard of before. The thing which attracted me to this book is an interesting and exciting place near my home which is a manifestation of an interesting idea, which was way ahead of its time – there is a artists’ village a few kilometres away from my place, on the seashore, where forty years back, people who didn’t want to pursue conventional careers and a conventional life and thought that art in its myriad forms was their calling, bought some land and settled down and painted and sketched and sculpted and made pottery and did all the things that most of us only dream of. They still do. This novel is set in this artists’ village (it is called Cholamandalam) and it is about a fictional character who discovers his calling in the arts and abandons a safe and secure life for the bewitching attractions and uncertainties of art. It reminds me of Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Moon and Six Pence’ where the main character, who is based on Paul Gauguin, does the same thing. I am really looking forward to reading this book. I got the book both in Tamil (the language in which it was written) and English (translation) and it will be fun to compare and see which one reads better. The shameful thing from my side – I have to really kick myself for that - is that I have never been to Cholamandalam – it is one of the things I keep postponing to tomorrow. I will have to remedy that soon.