Daily Archives: September 26, 2010

Oprah’s Book Club

So while a majority of the world’s readers criticise Oprah’s Book Club, I am all for it. I really am and there are times I love keeping track of what she picks and what is in store for me to read. I started watching Oprah only because of the Book Club and I am quite proud to say that. People may dis her and the club all the time, however I remember at one point she used to distribute the book chosen as the Club book to everyone in the studio audience, and that is a lot. To give people a chance to read.

Not that only that, she and her team have also distributed books to schools and children alike. I will always support someone who wants to instill the habit of reading in others. It is beyond a noble act and she must be commended for that.

Coming to her picks, while I agree that initially her books were all fluffy and made no sense, yet people read and that is what matters at the end of the day. So this post is dedicated to what Oprah (according to me) does best…Makes people read…Thanks Oprah!

The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief by V.S. Naipaul

V.S. Naipaul has never captivated me as a reader. He may be a great writer and all of that; however there have been times when he just has not done it for me. I am all for travel writers and what they want to achieve by writing about a particular country and this one is no different.

It almost reminded me of “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad and honestly one must get away from using that as an analogy and yet I cannot help it. The Masque of Africa struck a chord with me in some places and some places, it just didn’t manage to. The outside perspective has been handled well though in certain places.

Naipaul’s journey across the Dark Continent started from Uganda where he lived for a short while in the 60’s, then to Nigeria to Gabon via the Ivory Coast and then to Ghana, and finally to South Africa. He has met people along the way – doctors, lawyers, teachers, queens, chiefs and friends of friends. The idea of course is to get a glimpse into the African belief and he does.

The complexities and conflicts of their own culture are touched on well, though at times the pondering is far stretched. The sensitivity is commendable though. Africans negotiating their cultural worlds within the modern realm of things and how certain rules can be broken and some cannot.

V.S. Naipaul as one can see during his journeys is dry, irked by the way they behave at times and also sometimes enraged at their humour and yet somewhere down the line he knows them like no one else does.

My favourite part is how people speak so candidly about what they go through and their beliefs. About how a particular race forces their beliefs on them without giving much scope to what they follow and believe.

Naipaul has paid a lot of attention to details right from Uganda to South Africa and how people behave, what they eat, how they see the world, their perceptions and what they decide to adopt and what they wish to leave behind.

This book is a must for people who probably will never visit Africa and see it for what it is. It certainly did inspire me at some level to pay a visit to this country and realize how unseen it is.

The Masque of Africa, Naipaul, V.S, Picador India, Rs. 595

Some of the Whole by Abhijit Bhattacharya

Buy Some Of The Whole, Abhijit Bhattacharya, 8122311482Ok here is the deal: I think a lot of people are  writing these days (including me). There are writers more than you can remember or name at any given point of time. To a certain extent it is largely ostentatious, how everyone is on the bandwagon of writing. There are times I also eat my words and this is one of those. A friend of mine casually called me one day and asked if I would like to review a new writers’ work. I jumped at the opportunity of reading and reviewing (I always do).

I received a call later from the author and we discussed books, his book, Raymond Carver and Haruki Murakami (I think.). I received the book in my email account and read it. “Some of the Whole” is real. It is at times raw and at times fantastical. The stories do not bore you (New writers tend to do that. I mean we have read it all right?). It is a collection of 10 stories based across Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi. They all have the element of loneliness in a big city and sometimes the hope that lies only to be found.

The stories are to the point. There is no beating around the bush, and yet the element of surprise will not fail you. Almost like  when you bite into a lemon and know that the feeling of sourness will flood your mouth and yet it shocks or surprises you nonetheless. My favourite story in the whole lot has to be “Where is the Love” for its sheer brilliance in writing. Here is a sample:

Love becomes a habit after some time. It becomes mechanical. Like smoking. You start smoking because you get a high out of it. But, after a few months, or years it becomes a routine. One does not enjoy it; neither do they get a kick out of it. It becomes a pure custom.

It is because of such simple prose that I enjoyed the book. Every title is taken from a song, and that according to me is quite unique (even if done earlier, it does not matter). The sum of this whole and its parts  is a treasure to read. Do not miss it.

Some of the Whole, Bhattacharya, Abhijit, Cedar Books, Rs. 199, Available at all book stores.