387 Short Stories : Day 293 : New and Second-Hand by Altaf Tyrewala

Engglishhh by Altaf Tyrewala

Today started with missing home, which I do almost every single day. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of Bombay. Not a day goes by when I do think about the sea. And not to forget all the places where I shopped for books and soaked myself in those places.

Today’s story, “New and Second-Hand” by Altaf Tyrewala just brought back those memories – of school and college, when I would scrounge the streets for great literature and not to forget the very famous store, “New and Second-Hand Book Store” at Dhobi Talao (after which this story is named and dedicated to) which shut in 2011.

“New and Second-Hand” is a story of decline of a bookstore. It is the decline of literature and it is most vividly and bitingly told by Tyrewala. The language hits the spot. He speaks of a time gone by and that which is slowly declining. For me, growing up and being a Bombay boy meant to a large extent books being sold on pavements and those shops that one went to every weekend. The story is of a bookstore owner and how he knows that it is all going to end, given the times he lives in. He is bitter, lonely and loves books (contrary to what he says). He wants a companion and has given up on finding one. He lives in despair in Bombay, waiting for the bookstore to be sold.

The story is brilliantly told and I urge all of you to read it. It is a beautiful ode to the city and the times that were. I could not help but cry.

My favourite parts from the story:

“Reading used to be a step away from renunciation. Now it is another excuse to pick up unattractive lovers.”

“Such are the incidental joys of browsing. It takes a particular sort of personality to delight in the unexpected find, to take relish in stumbling upon something while seeking something else. I am sad to report that such a personality, receptive to serendipity, is now on the wane.”

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387 Short Stories : Day 255 to Day 292

Day 255: 21st of August 2014: Zelig by Benjamin Rosenblatt
Day 256: 22nd of August 2014: A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell
Day 257: 23rd of August 2014: Theft by Katherine Anne Porter
Day 258: 24th of August 2014: The Ledge by Lawrence Sargent Hall
Day 259: 25th of August 2014: Birthmates by Gish Jen
Day 260: 26th of August 2014: Beautiful Monsters by Eric Puchner
Day 261: 27th of August 2014: Paramour by Jennifer Haigh
Day 262: 28th of August 2014: Light Bulb by Nancy Pickard
Day 263: 29th of August 2014: When They Are Done With Us by Patricia Smith
Day 264: 30th of August 2014: The Don’s Cinnamon by Ben Stroud
Day 265: 31st of August 2014: I Want to Live! By Thom Jones
Day 266: 1st of September 2014: Wild Plums by Grace Stone Coates
Day 267: 2nd of September 2014: Blood-Burning Moon by Jean Toomer
Day 268: 3rd of September 2014: Resurrection of a Life by William Saroyan
Day 269: 4th of September 2014: All Boy by Lori Ostlund
Day 270: 5th of September 2014: Raw Water by Wells Tower
Day 271: 6th of September 2014: The Hollow by James Lasdun
Day 272: 7th of September 2014: Foster by Claire Keegan
Day 273: 8th of September 2014: The Dungeon Master by Sam Lipsyte
Day 274: 9th of September 2014: A Good Marriage by Ed Kurtz
Day 275: 10th of September 2014: Soldier of Fortune by Bret Anthony Johnston
Day 276: 11th of September 2014: Phantoms by Steven Millhauser
Day 277: 12th of September 2014: Dog Bites by Ricardo Nuila
Day 278: 13th of September 2014: To the Measures Fall by Richard Powers
Day 279: 14th of September 2014: The Call of Blood by Jess Row
Day 280: 15th of September 2014: Missionaries by Bradford Tice
Day 281: 16th of September 2014: Straightaway by Mark Wisniewski
Day 282: 17th of September 2014: Galatea by Karen Brown
Day 283: 18th of September 2014: Closely Held by Allegra Goodman
Day 284: 19th of September 2014: Navigators by Mike Meginnis
Day 285: 20th of September 2014: The Last Speaker of the Language by Carol Anshaw
Day 286: 21st of September 2014: Pilgrim Life by Taylor Antrim
Day 287: 22nd of September 2014: North Country by Roxane Gay
Day 288: 23rd of September 2014: Man and Wife by Katie Chase
Day 289: 24th of September 2014: From the Desk of Daniel Varsky by Nicole Krauss
Day 290: 25th of September 2014: Quality of Life by Christine Sneed
Day 291: 26th of September 2014: Buying Lenin by Miroslav Penkov
Day 292: 27th of September 2014: The Hare’s Mask by Mark Slouka

Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul & Illustrated by Wendy McNaughton

Lost Cat by Caroline Paul Title: Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology
Author: Caroline Paul and Illustrated by Wendy McNaughton
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
ISBN: 978-1608199778
Genre: Pets, Lifestyle, Non-Fiction
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

All one needs on dreary days is a book which warms the cockles of the heart and leaves you spellbound, more so if it is a true story, and a true story of a cat at that. It is about cats and animals in general and the love one has for their pets. It is beautifully penned – simple and straight from the heart. “Lost Cat” is a true story of love, loss, and the meaning of life, written by Caroline Paul and illustrated gorgeously by her partner, Wendy McNaughton.

Lost Cat - Image 1

One fine day, Caroline was in a plane crash and life changed completely for her and her partner. She was at home for the longest time with her two cats Tibby and Fibby. Fibby was the feisty one and Tibby the silent, scared cat. Tibby disappears one day and returns home after a while. Caroline was relief beyond words and yet in some way Tibby had changed. It is then that Caroline started wondering: Where did Tibby go? What had happened to him?

Lost Cat - Image 2

This is where the book begins. Caroline decides to use modern technology to find the tracks of Tibby. She wonders what happened. She and Wendy are distraught. “Lost Cat” is the story of what happens after. The book seems to be a book for children, but it is for adults. It is about the places we go to when pets disappear, when they are back and what happens when we try to find out more about their behavior and life.

Lost Cat - Image 3

The illustrations are adorable. Wendy McNaughton has done a wonderful job of bringing their story to life through these drawings. “Lost Cat” is a story that will make you smile, make you cry, make you feel a lot more and will immediately want you to go and hug your pet – dog or cat or hamster.

Lost Cat - Image 4

Here is the adorable book trailer of Lost Cat:

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99: Unforgettable Fiction, Non – Fiction, Poetry & Humour by Khushwant Singh

99-unforgettable-fiction-non-fiction-poetry-humour by Khushwant Singh Title: 99 : Unforgettable Fiction, Non – Fiction, Poetry & Humour
Author: Khushwant Singh
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
ISBN: 9789383064755
Genre: Anthology
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Writers live on forever. There is this immortality which is attained when you write a book. The concept of death is then cheated on and rightly so. When Khushwant Singh passed away, there was this surge of emotions in the country and outside of the country as well. India had lost its beloved writer. I started reading Khushwant Singh when I was in school. It began with his jokes (in those days, we called them non-veg jokes). We were boys, driven by testosterone and Mr. Singh’s jokes just added onto what we were experiencing as teens. As I grew up, I realized that the man had written a lot more than just jokes. Those were just additions off-handedly thrown in for teenagers like me.

I experienced a portion of “Train to Pakistan” in the eighth grade and since then I have not stopped reading him. This according to me is one of India’s finest novels – written about the time of partition, when nothing was certain and yet all what the residents of Mano Majra wanted was peace and calm. I then moved on to his short stories, starting with “The Mark of Vishnu” and then my most favourite one, “The Portrait of a Lady” and the stories never stopped being read. His columns about the world and the way it was, clubbed with humour just had to be the thing to make me stop feeling gloomy.

And then there were other books and stories I read written by the man. And then one fine day, just like that he passed away. What he did leave behind is this body of work that speaks volumes about the man he was and the writer that we all loved. Aleph Book Company has published his body of work, parts of it, samples of it, across 99 pieces, each for the year he lived – 99 pieces of sheer joy for the reader to take in. This collection has everything in it that he ever wrote (well not whole of it but mostly covers all forms of writing) – from fiction to short stories to columns to jokes to poems and stories from his life.

“99” was published on Khushwant Singh’s birth anniversary. The book provokes thought and a whole lot of entertainment. “99” takes you to a place where you want to read more of Khushwant Singh. This book is perhaps the best tribute paid to the man who entertained us with his writing, made us relate to his characters, made us see Delhi in a different light, and also made us contemplate about death as much as he reveled in living. Read “99” if you love what Mr. Singh has written over the years. Read “99” if you want to know what he wrote and want to start off with his writing. Read “99” to see and understand what great and simple writing is all about. It is but true: Writers do live on through their writing and there is no better example than this.

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The Mockingbird Next Door : Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills

The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills Title: The Mockingbird Next Door : Life with Harper Lee
Author: Marja Mills
Publisher: The Penguin Press
ISBN: 9781594205194
Genre: Non-Fiction, Literary Life, Women Writers,
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

When “To Kill a Mockingbird” released in 1960, it created a sensation. The theme was bold, ahead of its time and reflective of the society and its prejudices. The book was a hit like no other. It won the Pulitzer and many other awards. There was a movie made, which was a runaway success. There was a lot of talk around the book and it still continues to hold the same position in people’s hearts and lives. It is a beloved classic. It is a book most people swear by. It is the cornerstone of American literary fiction. Right after that, the author, Harper Lee did not ever write another book. There was just this one.

There is this enigma surrounding Harper Lee. She is eighty-eight years as of this year and no one knows much about her. I always wondered about the writer of this great book. What would she be like? How does she spend her days? What does she do? Does she still write? “The Mockingbird Next Door” by Marja Mills is the way to find out more about Harper Lee and it is one of the most heart-warming reads of the year for me.

Marja Mills was on an assignment. To find out more about Ms. Lee. It was nothing short of a surprise that the citizens of Monroeville, Alabama reached out her and helped her with it. Adding to it was Ms. Lee and her sister Alice’s support in letting Marja Mills know more about their life and themselves. I enjoy literary biographies. I love them. However, this book is not just another literary biography. In fact, I do not think it even belongs in that genre. The book is conversational. It is about Harper Lee’s life – her past and present. It is about the lady who gave America its most widely-read classic and yet no one seemed to know more about her life, till this book was out.

“The Mockingbird Next Door” is also about Mills’ life and her journey with the book and the sisters. It is about compassion, love, friendship and perhaps puts an end to all the speculation on Ms. Lee’s life. The book is an easy read and yet there are so many profound and relevant questions it raises: What is the nature of privacy in today’s world? What does it take to hold on to what you have? Most avid readers would love to know the reason why Harper Lee did not write a second book and this book delves into it with great detail and empathy for the writer.

“The Mockingbird Next Door” speaks of an era gone by and of the times we live in. It is a read which you will not forget and it will most certainly make you want to reread “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Marja Mills leaves you stunned with her eye for detail and interactions with the Lee sisters. I am in awe of this book. Do read it. You will not regret it.

Here is the book trailer and the author speaking about the book:

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387 Short Stories : Update: Day 237 to Day 254

A long round-up of 387 short stories, which will soon come to an end on December 31, 2014. I will for sure miss it.

Here is the list this time round:

Day 237: 3rd of August 2014: Ping by Samuel Beckett
Day 238: 4th of August 2014: The Burning Baby by Dylan Thomas
Day 239: 5th of August 2014: The Enigma by John Fowles
Day 240: 6th of August 2014: In the Hours of Darkness by Edna O’Brien
Day 241: 7th of August 2014: Weekend by Fay Weldon
Day 242: 8th of August 2014: Structural Anthropology by Adam Mars-Jones
Day 243: 9th of August 2014: Flora by David Rose
Day 244: 10th of August 2014: The Pensioner by William Caine
Day 245: 11th of August 2014: Broadsheet Ballad by A.E. Coppard
Day 246: 12th of August 2014: A Hedonist by John Galsworthy
Day 247: 13th of August 2014: The Song by May Edginton
Day 248: 14th of August 2014: Seaton’s Aunt by Walter de la Mare
Day 249: 15th of August 2014: The Christmas Present by Richard Crompton
Day 250: 16th of August 2014: The Olive by Algernon Blackwood
Day 251: 17th of August 2014: Bedbugs by Clive Sinclair
Day 252: 18th of August 2014: My Wife is a White Russian by Rose Tremain
Day 253: 19th of August 2014: The Rain Horse by Ted Hughes
Day 254: 20th of August 2014: More Friend than Lodger by Angus Wilson

The Lunar Chronicles : Cinder: 1 by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer Title: The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder: 1
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 9780141340135
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tales Retold
Pages: 400
Source: Product Manager
Rating: 3/5

I have never been a fan of fairy tale retellings. Something just does not seem right in them. Something always seems amiss. More so, because of the different perspectives that are always trying to battle it out in the novel. It just does not seem right. However, when I heard of “Cinder” and how everyone was raving about it outside of India, I decided to give it a shot.

“Cinder” is the first volume in “The Lunar Chronicles” and the debut of Marissa Meyer. For a debut novel, it sure has got all the attention and acclaim which has surprised everyone. Now to talking about the book. “Cinder” is a retelling of “Cinderella”. It is set in the future. The story unfolds in China and Cinderella is Cinder, the cyborg. The world is where humans, androids and cyborgs co-exist. Earth is now a different place. Though some things still remain the same. There is the step-mother, the step-sisters and of course, the prince, Kai. Their love is forbidden, but of course.

And then there is the twist in the tale – the ruthless Lunar people want to take over Earth and everything then depends on Cinder (as usual, the heroine will save the day) to make things alright. There is a secret running throughout the book, which you will guess soon enough.

Meyer’s writing is fast-paced. You literally turn the pages and get absorbed in what she has to say. Moreover, at some point you distance yourself from the original fairy-tale and become a part of Meyer’s story. To me, that was enough to go on and start reading other books in the series and they are all inter-linked with different fairy tale characters making an appearance in each of them. “Scarlet” is about Little Red Riding Hood and “Cress” about Rapunzel. There are other two books as well, to be released next year.

All in all “Cinder” is a book meant for teenagers and adults alike. For people who have already discovered their fairy tales and for those who could also do with a retelling or so.

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