Tag Archives: book reviews

A Book of Simple Living: Brief Notes from the Hills by Ruskin Bond

Zeeshan Husain reviews Ruskin Bond’s A Book of Simple Living (Speaking Tiger, 2015), a book which touched him in ways more than one.

Publisher : Speaking Tiger Books LLP

Ruskin Bond is a popular name in urban middle class India. Each one of us has read at least a short story or two by him during our school days. A Book of Simple Living (2015) is a feather in his crown. If following the conventions of one’s society is a sign of adulthood, then better be a child. This is what Ruskin Bond’s argument is. To paraphrase the title- the book conveys that simplicity is ultimate sophistication. In A Book of Simple Living as well as many other works, he remains steadfast to this belief, which is also his philosophy of life.

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Book Review: The Poet as A Persevering Witness by Dion D’Souza

Dion D’souza talks about E.V. Ramakrishnan’s Tips for Living in an Expanding Universe (Poetrywala, 2018) and shows how it has acquired even more relevance today.

In Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977), the protagonist Alvy Singer, having found out as a child that our universe is expanding, decides to give up mundane activities like his homework. What’s the point, he demands petulantly, if it’s just going to blow up one fine day? (The universe, that is, not his homework.) And suppose one could travel into and back in cinema time (as the older and heartbroken Alvy does in the film) and slip the boy a copy of EV Ramakrishnan’s Tips for Living in an Expanding Universe, would that in any way serve to ease his anxiety? I doubt it. But what I can vouch for is the fact that Alvy’s excuses for not turning in his assignments would have been more innovative than the standard go-to of an unruly pet’s voracious appetite.

But, man of wavering faith as I may be, why, in this particular case, do I doubt? To put it simply, the vision of a capricious universe that Ramakrishnan offers us is not very reassuring: one where “nothing is permanent, only sorrows and stories” (‘Local Gods’) and “the end [is] always imminent/but the narrative, like a coroner’s/report on a mass suicide, drags on” (‘To a Writer in Exile’). Reality and identity are in a state of flux; and violence, disease or a natural calamity can at any moment rip through our fragile and illusory sense of order and stability. However, this is a vision we must face up to of necessity. (And have now been forced to…thanks, 2020!)

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Sita’s Sisters: Texts of resistance and resilience

Dr. Sutanuka Ghosh Roy explores Sanjukta Dasgupta’s Sita’s Sisters calling it a poet’s exhortation of womanhood.

  • Page: 80
  • ISBN: 978-93-87883-89-5 ( Paperback)
  • Edition: (2019)
  • Published by  Hawakal Publishers, Kolkata-India.
  • Price: INR 300. $11.99

             Sita’s Sisters is the sixth book of poetry by Sanjukta Dasgupta, former professor, head and dean, faculty of Arts, Calcutta University. She is a poet, critic and translator. She is the recipient of numerous national and international grants and fellowships and has lectured, taught and read her poems in India, Europe, USA and Australia. She is a member of the General Council of Sahitya Akademi New Delhi and Convenor of the English Advisory Board, Sahitya Akademi. Her published books include Snapshots (poetry), Dilemma (poetry), First Language (poetry), More Light (poetry), Her Stories (translations), Manimahesh (translation), Media, Gender and Popular Culture in India: Tracking Change and Continuity, SWADES—Tagore’s Patriotic Songs (translation), Abuse and Other Short Stories, Lakshmi Unbound (poetry) 2017.

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Scream to the Shadows: Retro Horror Tales from Asia

Tan Kaiyi reviews Tunku Halim’s latest work, Scream to Shadows calling it a collection of tales full of shocks and gore!

Scream to the Shadows is a retrospective collection of Tunku Halim’s career. These 20 spine chilling tales give a great introduction to one of the leading horror writers in Asia. Over a span of two decades, Tunku has written dark stories in the form of novels and short stories—most notably Dark Demon Rising and the Rape of Martha Teoh & Other Chilling Stories

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Witnessing Partition: Interrogating colonialist and nationalist historiography

Dr. Meenakshi Malhotra talks about Witnessing Partition by Tarun K.Saint, which according to her, is a valuable addition to the corpus of Partition literature

In his book ‘’Witnessing Partition: Memory, History, Fiction’’(2020), Tarun K. Saint attempts the ambitious literary enterprise of a sweeping account of the major literary writing generated by the partition of 1947, when two separate countries, India and Pakistan were created. A moment which should have been a joyous celebration of freedom from colonial rule, turned into a tragic moment of violent and acrimonious division.

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Bhaunri and Daura : Twin tales of mystique from Rajasthan

Vibrant and Dusty- A Book Review of Bhaunri: A Novel and Daura: Excerpts from the Confidential Report on the Collector of a district in Rajasthan by Pallavi Narayan

The covers of Bhaunri and Daura, with the silhouette of a tribal girl on the former and a tree with roots and flowering branches on the latter, are inviting. The earthy colours of claret and mustard on both bring to mind the rolling deserts of Rajasthan, which is where the narratives are based. Indeed, the descriptions of rural living are minute and bring the reader right into the homes of the characters in Bhaunri, and into the tehsildar’s bungalow in Daura. While the novels are not intertwined, they speak to each other, taking the reader through the timeless vistas of Rajasthan and then plunging into a roiling mass of emotions.

     Flashes of iridescent colour, the swish of lehengas, the sweat of day-to-day living, the thirst that the desert induces in the subconscious take due precedence in the rendering of the characters. The portrayal of the landscapes is bound into quiet, controlled prose. Mystical experiences are brought alive by a lone flute amongst the dunes swaying with camels in its sway; a smattering of kohl that transforms beckoning eyes into that of a jadugarni, a female magician. Seemingly everyday occurrences are granted significance in the wee hours between day and night. The fineness of the prose is undercut by the intensity that the female protagonists bring to the novels.

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One foot on the ground – Unfolding a journey of dreams and happiness

Rakhi Dalal talks about Shanta Gokhale’s autobiography, taking us through her life at large, highlighting the many milestones she created in this journey.

Publisher: Speaking Tiger ( 2019)

An eminent translator, writer, editor and columnist, Shanta Gokhale’s name needs no introduction. In 2016 she received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for her overall contribution to the performing arts. She has also received lifetime achievement awards from Thespo, Ooty Literary Festival and Tata Literature Live. One Foot on the Ground – A Life Told Through the Body is her autobiography, published in 2019 by Speaking Tiger Publications. It has recently won the Crossword Book Award for English Non-Fiction (Jury).

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In Praise of Negative Reviews

“STARTLINGLY SMART,” “REMARKABLE,” “endlessly interesting,” “delicious.” Such are the adulatory adjectives scattered through the pages of the book review section in one of America’s leading newspapers. The praise is poignant, particularly if one happens to be the author, hoping for the kind of testimonial that will drive sales. Waiting for the critic’s verdict used to be a moment of high anxiety, but there’s not so much to worry about anymore. The general tone and tenor of the contemporary book review is an advertisement-style frippery. And, if a rave isn’t in order, the reviewer will give a stylized summary of sorts, bookended with non-conclusions as to the book’s content. Absent in either is any critical engagement, let alone any excavation of the book’s umbilical connection to the world in which it is born. Only the longest-serving critics, if they are lucky enough to be ensconced in the handful of newspapers that still have them, paw at the possibility of a negative review. And even they, embarking on that journey of a polemical book review, temper their taunts and defang their dissection. In essence they bow to the premise that every book is a gem, and every reviewer a professional gift-wrapper who appears during the holidays.

It is a pitiable present, this one that celebrates the enfeebling of literary criticism, but we were warned of it. Elizabeth Hardwick, that Cassandra of criticism, predicted it five decades ago, when she penned “The Decline of Book Reviewing” for Harper’s magazine. It is indeed some small mercy to her that she did not live to see its actual and dismal death. Hardwick would have winced at it and wept at the reincarnation of the form as an extended marketing operation coaxed out by fawning, persistent publicists. In Hardwick’s world reviewers and critics were feared as “persons of dangerous acerbity” who were “cruel to youth” and (often out of jealousy) blind to the freshness and importance of new work. Hardwick thought this an unfair estimation, but she would have found what exists now more repugnant. The reviewers at work now are rather the opposite, copywriters whose task it is to arrange the book in a bouquet of Wikipedia-blooming literary references.

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