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Archive for the ‘Chatter’ Category

I’m making my way back to book blogging by linking to my review of Empires of the Indus on the Lonely Planet website. Do read!

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Hiatus

It’s been a while — longer than it should have been. I initially thought, when starting this blog, that I’d write a little something about every book I read this year. Sometime in April, that began to seem unfeasible. Work — a lot of it — has gotten in the way. I’m not complaining, because too much work is something to be thankful for if you work freelance as I do.

Then, in late April, I said goodbye to Papa, my grandfather, who died peacefully after an illness. He’s together with Grana again now, after she decided to overtake him in going “upstairs” last October. But we, down here, are orphaned.

None of this seems to explain why one didn’t write blog posts, but somehow, it was easier to just read and not write. I read a lot — have discovered Barbara Vine’s and Jill Paton Walsh’s crime fiction, read a delightfully post-modern novel translated from the Hindi with the unlikely title The Perplexity of Hariya Hercules, been wildly amused by the scandale of Colette’s Claudine novels, finished up with Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy, and quite a lot more. I might write about some of these. Or I might not. Anyway, I’m back. And I did miss book-blogging.

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And the second of my two reading challenges for 2010! I loved this one for its gorgeous representative picture as much as for the idea. This is from Dreadlock Girl and is called the Orbis Terrarum Reading Challenge. The point is to take eight months to read eight books from anywhere in the world other than your own country. I have to say, much of what I’ve ever learned of the ways in which people in different parts of the world live and think  (and lived and thunk) came from reading fiction, so this is, in my opinion, a fine idea. It isn’t necessary to put up a definite list, but I have some ideas already (not in the order I’ll read them).
1.  Europe — Germany — The Magic Mountain — Thomas Mann
2.  Africa — Egypt —  something by Naguib Mahfouz
3.  South America — Argentina — Fictions — Jorge Luis Borges
4.  Asia — China — Monkey — Wu Cheng En
5.  Asia — Japan — The Tale of Genji — Murasaki Shikibu
6.  Another one from Latin America — maybe Roberto Bolano
7.  Australia — True History of the Kelly Gang — Peter Carey
8.  And I want one from the Caribbean or from the Pacific Islands. Might be difficult to manage, but let’s see what I come up with.

Also, my personal bonus reading for the sake of understanding the world will be The Adventures of Amir Hamza, in translation by Musharraf Ali Farooqi. From my neighbourhood in the Indian Subcontinent, yes, but I’m throwing it in, nonetheless–I can never read enough about the subcontinent and it will provide contrast and something to keep coming “home” to. It’s a fat, fat book, so I don’t anticipate finishing it all at one go, but promise to have it done by the end of November when the challenge ends.

I’ll keep track of reading for this challenge here, in a list below to be updated as I finish books, and will tag relevant posts as “Orbis Terrarum 2010” (see tag cloud on the right). Amir Hamza might get more than one post to himself. I can’t see myself shutting up about him with just a thousand words or so of blogging.

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I’m guilty of having far too many unread books in my cupboard (and far too long a mental “to be read” list) and have been hunting around for suitable reading challenges to sign up for to motivate me to finish up some of them. Melissa of the Betty and Boo Chronicles started a memoir-reading challenge back in December, and that seems like a great idea–especially considering the little pile of memoirs/autobiographies/travelogues I have sitting in my cupboard, the ones I look at out of the corner of my eye every few days, before I grab a detective novel instead. Melissa suggests reading four memoirs this year, but I’m determined to make things harder for myself, so, um, let’s make it a minimum of 12 memoirs in 2010, shall we?

This is my signing-up post; I’ll also use it to keep track of my progress. Posts on books read for this challenge will be tagged “Memorable Memoir 2010” (see the tag cloud on the right) and will be listed here.

1. Istanbul: Memories and the City — Orhan Pamuk

2. Renoir, My Father — Jean Renoir

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It’s here–the day has come. I have finally joined the ranks of those who order books online. Thus far, strident opposition to netbanking and credit cards rendered me incapable of using online booksellers’ websites for anything other than browsing and reading customer reviews. Then, everything changed, a couple of months ago; I got a netbanking pin, discovered the joys of forgetting one’s netbanking password, and trying every possibility until it turns out one will just have to change it at the ATM, used Firefox to gloat over the balance in my savings account, and, eventually, decided I was going to experiment with ordering books online. Or rather, with ordering one, and only one, book online. I’m much too devoted to Blossom, Bangalore’s (and maybe even India’s) best book shop and second-hand book-buying in general to actually buy new books — in the plural — and that too, online!

So I ordered a copy of The History Boys, the play by Alan Bennett, from Flipkart, which is an India-based (in fact, as I understand, a Bangalore-based) online bookstore that people seem to be swearing by. I am most impressed. The ordering process was easy and secure, I got a confirmation email immediately and a promise that the book would be delivered within 2-3 weeks, even though it wasn’t in stock; free shipping and a 20% discount on the marked price. And, exactly two weeks later, another email confirming that the book had been despatched from Delhi, with details of the courier shipment. It got to me today, making it a total of 11 working days for delivery: nicely packed, in a cardboard box with backing for the paperback book, and a discount voucher entitling me to 20% off on an unlimited number of books on Flipkart, provided they’re ordered within the next week.

So, very nice, I say. Especially for books that are seriously hard to find. Otherwise, I am sticking to the joys of browsing and finding random books at Blossom–I would never have found the hilarious current read, The Miracle Game by Josef Skvorecky, on the Flipkart website–but that is another blog post. For now, yes, Flipkart is all everyone is saying it is, but no, I am not converting to online buying. Not even if online bookshops develop the technology to smell like piles of real-life books.

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My first Bookmooch!

I’ve been stupidly busy working on an over-long assignment and haven’t been reading. But today, I was delighted to receive what is a great incentive to finish this work as fast as possible–my first Bookmooch parcel! Bookmooch is a service that lets users list books they want to get rid of and request books from among those other users want to pass on. The site works on a points system–you gain points for listing books and sending books and have to give up some points when you ask for somebody else’s books. Really simple, very useful idea–and I must say I love the quirky little “reading people” in the illustration on the homepage (as above). I listed a couple of books as an experiment and almost immediately received a request for one of them (R. K. Narayan’s Swami and Friends), which I agreed to send out (getting Bookmooch points in the process). Browsing led me to a book I wanted from a user who was willing to post books to India–and, because I’d agreed to send a book out already, I had enough Bookmooch points to ask her to send across The Ampersand Papers, by Michael Innes, a Golden Age detective novelist I’m quite fond of.

Unfortunately, this sort of exchange doesn’t really work out as sustainable in the long term for me, primarily because used books here in Bangalore are so very cheap and postage isn’t. I spent Rs. 180 to send my parcel out — that’s nearly double the cost of any one of the Michael Innes novels I’ve picked up at Blossom Book House on Church Street. I think I’ll save Bookmooch for stuff that’s really hard to get hold of–and no, I don’t think this foray was wasted, because somebody in the UK will get a book they want and I got one I’ve never come across before. Whee!

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