Tag Archives: harper collins india

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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Aspyrus by Appupen

Aspyrus by Appupen Title: Aspyrus
Author: Appupen
Publisher: Harper Collins India
ISBN: 9789351365884
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 168
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I love graphic novels. They are something else like I have always maintained. There is something about them that takes your imagination riding, even though it is all there in front of you. It is saying what it has to and yet it is not. Appupen’s graphic novels are different. There are many layers to it (at least for me) and one has to reread and reread the novel to make sense of it.

Aspyrus - Image 1

“Aspyrus” is the sequel to “Legends of Halahala”. Actually it is the third part in the series, the first being, “Moonward”. It is a silent graphic novel, with only images for most part of it. The first part was the setting of Halahala. Then came the absurdities of the land in the second book. The third book, “Aspyrus” is about dreams and a dragon-monster who controls the world through the dreams people create and symbolism against consumerism and where it is headed. It is about a dystopian vision of the world, through images and how Aspyrus rules and dominates the world of Halahala.

Aspyrus - Image 2

The book is about dreams and longing and desire and how individuals succumb to them. It is allegorical in nature and like I mentioned, I had to read it again and reread it to get a sense of it. The artwork is spectacular, the blues and the greys add to the atmosphere, the subtle puns in almost every frame lend to the much-needed wit and sarcasm. The illustrations are just right. The plot is perfect. The only problem I had (which got sorted with re-readings) was initially to make sense of the book. I recommend that you read these three in order, to make sense of the wonderful world that Appupen has created for readers. I can only now wait for the next instalment.

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The Americans by Chitra Viraraghavan

The Americans by Chitra Viraraghavan Title: The Americans
Author: Chitra Viraraghavan
Publisher: 4th Estate
ISBN: 9789351362593
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

A lot has been written on the migrant experience. It has been written from various points of view. Sometimes, it is a man’s voice and sometimes it is a woman’s voice, journey and careening their way through an unknown land. I have also managed to read quite a few books on the topic. So when I picked up, “The Americans” by Chitra Viraraghavan, I was apprehensive. However, one hundred pages into the book and I could not stop reading it.

“The Americans” is about different people and how their stories merge together, at a point in the United States of America. This is what I loved about the book – the entire concept of six degrees of separation and how it was rolled in beautifully in the narrative.

There is an old man trying to find his way in a new land, on a vacation albeit. There is Tara, a single woman who visits America to look after her niece, as her sister is struggling with other issues. There are eight other stories that merge with these two and to me that was the highlight of the book. I am also somehow fond of books with short chapters and this one was written in that manner, which made me cry: Hurrah!

Viraraghavan has an acute sense of surrounding and nature to her writing. The book is set in 2005 and one can see that she knows America inside-out as she of course studied there and that has definitely helped in the research of the book.

The writing is lucid and heart-warming in most places. For me, what worked the most were the journal entries (or so they seemed) of books read by a teenager and her view of the American life. “The Americans” is a thought-provoking book on what it means to cross borders – physically and emotionally and sometimes what it takes to perhaps not cross them.

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The World of Oliver Jeffers

How to Catch A Star

I just discovered the world of Oliver Jeffers and I can tell you with assurance that this is a world you would not want to get out of, once you get in that is. I have read eight books in the past two days – I agree that they are picture books, but they are books nonetheless and they have this immense power to transport you to another world or perhaps more than world – with their simple storytelling and illustrations.

Oliver Jeffers’ books have this touch of fantasy and reality attached to them. It is almost like he makes you see what he wants to, without letting go of the innocence element. And according to me, perhaps adults have a lot more to learn from his books – about the nature of being a child again than children themselves do.

The book I started with was, “How to Catch a Star” – an endearing tale of a boy who wants his own star by his side and guess what! He actually manages to get one. How does he do that? Well, you have to find that out for yourself. I could not stop smiling at the end of this book. This is what Jeffers’ books do to you – they make you smile and that is enough, sometimes more than enough.

Lost and Found

The second one which I lapped right after this was, “Lost and Found” – a story of an unlikely friendship between a boy and a penguin. This is about how friendships are forged in the most unlikely places and how sometimes you just have to do what you have to, to make them work. Another picture book (well with text as well) to warm the soul.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy

“The Incredible Book Eating Boy” is for all readers and the non-readers as well. It is delightful. It is adorable and it is about books and a boy who eats them and what eventually happens to him. This for the most obvious reasons has to be my favourite of all the eight books.

The Heart and the Bottl The fourth and the fifth then were, “The Heart and the Bottle” and “This Moose Belongs to Me” – both uncannily about letting go and finding love in places, one did not expect to. These books mind you are for kids and that is just fantastic about them – they teach without being preachy and at the same time, your child and you (hopefully) will appreciate the illustrations and stories that Oliver has to tell.

This Moose Belong to Me

The sixth book which I read was, “Stuck” – a story about a boy and his kite which is stuck in the tree and what he does to get it back. It is hilarious, fantastical and almost a laugh-out loud book. Oliver Jeffers has this quality to him – his books can make a dull day all bright and happy and that should be reason enough to read them.


The seventh book which was a treat was, “The Way Back Home” – self-reflective of the title, a friendship on the moon between a boy and an alien and the need to go back home for both of them and how they manage that. The universal theme of home made me yearn for my own. It was simply beautiful.

The Way Back Home

Last but not the least (he has for sure written more and I cannot wait to get my hands on all of them) was “Up and Down” – the continuation of the story of the boy and the penguin in “Lost and Found” another adorable story, well told.

Up and Down

Oliver Jeffers’ books can be read anytime – over and over again. I most certainly will. Like I said, it just warms the soul. The illustrations are just perfect and so are the stories – meant for all. It just makes you see the child within you which is so needed in times such as these.

And what I found is even better: A trailer for the movie Lost and Found. Can’t wait to watch the movie now.

Books Source: Publisher

Conversations in the Nude by Mihir Srivastava

Conversations in the Nude by Mihir Srivastava Title: Conversations in the Nude
Author: Mihir Srivastava
Publisher: Harper Collins India
ISBN: 9789350296738
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 178
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

It is a strange concept if you hear of it the first time round. I did not find it strange though. To me, it felt just as normal as eating, when I thought of it. It is about being sketched in the nude. That is what this book is about – aptly titled, “Conversations in the Nude” by Mihir Srivastava.

I had my designs on the book from the time I heard of it and I could not wait to get my hands on it. “Conversations in the Nude” might start on a quick note, but after a while, you just have to stop reading, close the book and think a little.

I had to do that only because the book is intense and at the same time, there were moments I thought the author was trying too hard. I was proved wrong eventually, but the thought did cross my mind. Some readers could also be quick to judgment – but I think it is about opening your mind and reading the book – after all it is about sketching nudes and Mihir’s experiences around them.

The people the author meets are spectacularly different – from a wrestler to a hermit who has renounced the world (and not so) to friends who want to pose and people who hesitate and yet decide to pose to celebrities as well. For me, while reading the book, what stood out the most was the different reactions Mihir had to face, as and when he propositioned people to pose nude for him. I think that in all totality, reflects the times we live in and how we behave and think when confronted with situations that have the so-called high moral ground attached to them.

“Conversations in the Nude” does not try to make a statement. It just says what it has to – both from the perspective of a writer and that of an artist. That is what I loved most about the book. Mihir is caught sometimes – between perception, judgment and also opinions of others. Maybe that is what actually allows him to sketch the way he does.

The sketches in the book are another story. I saw them while reading the book and also looked at them without going through the text. There is this rawness to the sketches which perhaps defines the entire book. There would also be I assume a certain nonchalant attitude to have to be able to sketch the way Mihir does – the sense to abandon all emotion and desire and sometimes also giving in.

“Conversations in the Nude” is a different book. It is a book which must be read without prejudice. It is an experience that will make you look at things differently – the body, the mind and maybe even the soul.

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Book Review: The Cripple and his Talismans by Anosh Irani

The Cripple and his Talismans by Anosh Irani Title: The Cripple and his Talismans
Author: Anosh Irani
Publisher: 4th Estate, Harper Collins India
ISBN: 978-93-5029-603-5
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 232
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

“The Cripple and his Talismans” by Anosh Irani is a unique book. Of course I have read of books that have magic realism as the central theme and all of that, yet somehow this book seemed interesting and different from what I had read in the past. There was this urgency in the book that made me want to know what happens next and at the same time, a sense of stability that allowed me close the book after a couple of chapters and mull over what I had just read. It is almost confusingly therapeutic and disturbing when a book does that to you.

I had first heard of Anosh Irani when I encountered him in one of his sessions at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013. Before that I am surprised that I hadn’t heard much about him. Maybe I was too busy exploring other writers. However, once I got to know about The Cripple and his Talismans, I had to read it. It seemed too intriguing and inviting. At the same time, it was first published in 2004 and only published in India now, in 2013 by Harper Collins. So that is in brief about what dragged me to reading this book.

“The Cripple and his Talismans” is like the title suggests, about a cripple. A man in search of his lost arm. He wakes up one day and his arm is missing. Along the way on his so-called conquest to find his arm, he meets a variety of people – a woman who sells rainbows to a coffin maker to a giant, to a homeless boy riding the trains, which all lead him to one person – an underworld don at that, and the only one who can tell him about the clues along the way and explain the dilemma he is in.

All the action takes place in Bombay and that to me was the crux of the story. The city, its smells, the places make for the crux of the tale. To a very large extent, while reading the book, I was wondering about how Anosh now lives in Canada and all his books are set in the city he was born and grew up. To me that says a lot about the writer. More so, this being Anosh’s first book, it is quite experimental and adventurous for a first book and the same time, it is very-well written.

The journey of the man in search of his missing arm is often hilarious, sad, and at the same time human and absurd. Anosh mentioned about this book that it came to him in a dream, almost a vision, where he saw a basement, and arms hanging from the ceiling and he knew that he had to write this book and he did.

“The Cripple and his Talismans” is not an easy read. It demands a lot from the reader. The writing is simple and yet the situations aren’t. The characters jump off from every page and take the reader unaware. The writing radiates, teeming with the city’s boisterousness and energy and its laziness sometimes on a Sunday afternoon. To read something like “The Cripple and his Talismans” and not get affected by it, by its sheer magnitude, insanity, and almost a shock-like quality is not a possible feat.

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Book Review: The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph

Title: The Illicit Happiness of Other People
Author: Manu Joseph
Publisher: Fourth Estate
ISBN: 978-9350293645
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Manu Joseph is definitely the most promising writer on the Indian Literary scene as of now and well-deserved of that place in my opinion. Serious Men made a great impact in the literary world and rightly so. It was a sweeping novel of family, doubt, and loss in an emerging India, full of hopes, aspirations and the need to get somewhere. Manu Joseph writes with a keen eye to details. He knows what he wants to convey to the much-eager reader and he delivers to the maximum.

“The Illicit Happiness of Other People” is yet again another example of his genius. The reader should not compare it to Serious Men. It may be the same writing style, but of course, the plots are radically different.

“The Illicit Happiness of Other People” is set in Madras in the early 90s when technology was well on its way to invade the country and the lifestyle changes were crawling up unaware to the Great Indian Middle Class. Ousep Chacko is an anarchist. He is a family man. He is an alcoholic. He wants to know what happened to his first-born seventeen year old Unni Chacko, the highly talented comic book writer and illustrator. Why did he do what he did? What compelled him to? The only clue he has on hand is his son’s comic strip and he has to string and make sense of his son’s life through that and meeting people he doesn’t know existed in Unni’s life.

While this plot is unfolding itself, we have his second son, Thoma who hasn’t shown as much promise as Unni and is often ignored by his father. All his father wants is answers about Unni’s life. The other angle is that of his wife, who is suffering in silence. Unni’s cartoons reveal more than what Ousep wants to know and that reels the story in a completely different direction, with the arrival of a stranger who will change things for the three of them.

The book is beautifully written and heart-breaking to a large extent, with the right doses of humour thrown in. I must admit that it took me sometime to sink into the book at the beginning, but when I did, I could not stop myself from reading. The story is infectious and grows on you. Just when you think that the writing and characters have become predictable, there is a sense of comfort; Joseph surprises you by pulling an unexpected rabbit out of his wordsmith hat.

The writing and the characters reach out to you in ways you can never imagine. Your heart goes out to Ousep and yet there are times you wish he didn’t do things that he does. Thoma as the recluse is brilliantly etched and the mother, though silent plays a crucial part in the book. The highlight of the book for me was when it all made sense, when the book looped in. Characters searching for happiness and fulfillment in a book are most tragic for the reader. It almost holds a mirror sometimes. You then know the ulterior motives of characters. They just want happiness after all, so much so that they start despising others for being happy.

I cannot stop raving about this book. Nothing is out of place and nothing is flawed in the writing. Whoever says that Indian Writing has not yet reached its pinnacle has to read this book to probably take back their words. I would recommend it to whosoever I meet.

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