(This appeared as my book recommendation column in BLInk in June.)
about these great words by Nora Ephron (author of, among other
things, Heartburn, a book
that will make you hungry and
make you want to read it all in one go, so read with a snack):
“Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel like I’ve
accomplished something, learned something, become a better person.
Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about
later on.” The complaint I hear most often is “I don't have time
to read!” Which is not true, the correct statement is: “I don't
make time to read.” You should. It'll fix (almost) anything.
Welcome to Tsundoku, a weekly books recommendation column, where I
break down books into the three parts that really matter: what
everyone's talking about, what's happening in the world, and what old
book you should read (or re-read) next.
Water cooler: Nope,
not Arundhati Roy's Ministry
Of Utmost Happiness
because I presume by now you've read enough reviews of that to make
up your own mind whether or not you're going to read it. I? I'm still
on the fence. A quieter buzz this month formed around a surprising
fictional memoir, Meena Kandasamy's When
I Hit You: Or, A Portrait Of The Writer As A Young Wife.
It's thinly veiled fiction, so thin, in fact, it was only later that
I realised it was a novel. Kandasamy is a poet, so her prose sings in
places where you'd expect a story like this to sag. The unnamed
protagonist of Kandasamy's book takes a lot of abuse from her
communist-leaning husband, he beats her with whatever he has on hand,
he rapes her and refuses to let her moan or make any noises at all,
but worst, he cuts her off from everyone she knows by forcing her to
give up her phone, her social media and replying to all her email
himself, signing it with both their names. I read the entire thing on
my phone with one hand over my mouth, it's gripping, you can't look
away and by the end of it, I was slightly breathless, as though I had
escaped this man myself. What is compelling is how you feel the
narrator grow slowly more and more isolated, her whole world is
reduced to just her flat, just her husband, this juxtaposed with
flashbacks to the life she used to lead, the lovers, the travel makes
for a claustrophobic and terrifying read. When
I Hit You: Or, A Portrait Of The Writer As A Young Wife
by MeenaKandasamy, Juggernaut, Rs 499.
of Arundhati Roy,
when Paresh Rawal suggested we tie her to a jeep so that people could
throw stones at her? He then deeply regretted making that remark (one
assumes) and tried to erase everyone's memory of it by deleting the
same tweet. More recently pictures of the Spain-Morocco border
passed off as India's by the Home Ministry had several people asking
questions. The internet has a long memory as far as some things are
concerned, and all of the above would know that too if they read
British journalist and author Jon Ronson's book So
You've Been Publicly Shamed.
From the PR executive who tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don't
get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!” before she got on a flight,
only to get off at the other end with her name trending and her job
gone, to the charity worker who mimed shouting and a middle finger in
front of a sign saying “Silence and Respect” at a war cemetery,
there are people out there who know what it's like to be on the other
side of a baying Twitter mob. Ronson talks to the people behind the
tweets, and tries to understand what made them say what they said.
It's worth a read when there's a different thing to outrage about
each day: pick your battles. SoYou've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson, Pan Macmillan, Rs 140
keeping with the environmental theme of this week's paper, a story as
relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1982, Anita
Desai's Village By The Sea
is the story of a little village in Alibaugh, due to get a new
factory. Besides that, it's also the story of Hari and Lila, siblings
and children to a drunk father and a sick mother. Hari goes off to
Bombay to seek his fortune at twelve, Lila stays behind, and gets
some help from a local naturalist who is bemoaning the loss of
biodiversity that will inevitably happen when the factory goes up.
But, we're made to understand that the factory also signifies hope
and jobs, and while you're rooting for Hari and Lila and their
family, you also feel a little sad for the world they will lose.
Isn't that always the way? Village By The Sea by Anita Desai, Penguin, Rs 299.
(I've used affiliate links here so if you buy through the links above, I might get some money.)
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