Book Review: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

So, this book has turned out to be quite different from what I was expecting, at least from what I was expecting from Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert became famous for her book Eat, Pray and Love, which also inspired a movie starring Julia Roberts. Having watched snippets of the movie, I never really felt like reading the book as the story did not seem to appeal to me. However, this book is quite different from Eat, Pray and Love and The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert traverses a different genre altogether. Releasing tomorrow, the book is a delight for readers who are philosophizers at the same time, or just like ‘thinking’ about different things.

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Image Source: Bloomsbury Publishing

The protagonist in this book is Alma Whitaker.  Alma is an independent, intelligent woman. Born into a family whose fortunes were built because of botany, Alma’s curiosity is encouraged as a child. She is let loose in the family estate and her five year self goes about collecting botanical samples and studying whatever she can find. There is no topic on which Alma does not have an opinion. However, she is still not quite free as she rarely ventures out of her home. Later, she remains at home because of a sense of duty towards her father, after the death of her mother.

Alma is a brilliant character. There is no question to which Alma does not want an answer. She spends her time in the most productive manner (although missing out on some of the things that life has to offer) and she is mostly self sufficient. Her entire quest seems to be the pursuit of knowledge. It’s like how she says towards the end of the book “All I ever wanted was to know this world”.

When it comes to the book, it revolves around some theories. One of them is the theory of the German mystic Brohme as illustrated in his book ‘The Signature of all Things’. His theory states that God created everything in nature, leaving behind his trace on everything, to show mankind how it can be used. That is why plants resemble some parts of the human body and how they are beneficial for the human body is indicated by the same.

Another theory is the theory of Natural Selection (yeah, the Charles Darwin one) wherein there are strong creatures and there are weak creatures. The fittest survive and hence, everything has to adapt to stay alive.

The author pits the two theories together, both of them belonging to opposite schools of thought and serves a philosophical treatise on nature, mankind and the pursuit of knowledge. Yet, Alma is not satisfied with both explanations. The book neither attempts to answer a specific question nor take a stand. But what it does is offer possibilities, of how the logical and the illogical can both co-exist. Sometimes, there are just no explanations offered by nature and we are free to derive our own reason (or lack of it). But what is important is the pursuit of knowledge and the happiness that its pursuit can give to a person.

I am not sure whether this is a feminist novel although the main character Alma is one. I love how she is so self sufficient and yet so aware of her body (even though she needed to have let herself loose a little bit more). At the same time, Gilbert steers clear of some of the controversial aspects of Darwin’s theory. There are some feminist school of thoughts that do not quite like evolutionary psychology (since it stresses much on man and woman being essentially ‘different’ and hence, not equal, along with giving justifications for promiscuity and the ‘rape gene’). However,  it is fascinating how Alma refuses to accept things on face value and goes down to the depth of everything. She comes to conclusions based on science and logic and can’t help but try to account for things in nature that do not seem to have an explanation.  However, she admits that there are some things that can’t be explained. At the same time, she is very much humane in the way she is aware of her bodily needs and her need for love and affection.

The book is fiction and philosophy, both rolled into one. The writing style is interesting and retains a style typical of that period of time. However, it is also contemporary at the same time. Please read this book if all you expect from the book is that it makes you think.

About the book: The Signature of All Things | Elizabeth Gilbert | Bloomsbury Publishing | Fiction | 499 pages | Rs. 599

Note: I was provided with an advanced uncorrected proof of this book by the publishers, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Book Review: Hitched – The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage by Nandini Krishnan

The question of marriage hovers threateningly over every woman in India, as much as she may want to avoid it. Every single person in our society thinks it is their duty to make sure every single girl gets married (either that or sympathize with the parents of an unmarried girl). With more girls stepping out of homes and giving equal priority to a career and family life, it gets increasingly difficult to find a suitable boy. Hitched : The Modern Woman and Arrange Marriage is a collection of stories about real life women (and some men) and how they have maneuvered the difficult lanes of arranged marriage. It is also something like a how-to with different women giving advice.

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The author, Nandini Krishnan (Image Source)

The author has spent a lot of time in talking to women from different backgrounds and religions and with different expectations of the kind of life partner they wanted (and luckily got). It also features stories of women who have not been very successful with arranged marriage which they ventured into for entirely wrong reasons. The author tries to put rest all the worries that a girl might have when contemplating arranged marriage.

What the book says seem very authentic and a reader would connect as it indirectly comes from the mouth of various couples that the author has interviewed. It’s also witty as it talks about funny first meetings and strangely behaving prospective grooms.

The book will make you laugh at some places and encourage you at another. It may seem at some point that women take marriage as something you can’t avoid and make your best with whatever you get. That is because of the wide spectrum in which the author has conducted her interviews, with only one thing in common- they are all modern women who are independent and don’t wish to compromise their happiness any longer for the sake of ever complaining parents-in-laws or the pressures of conforming to standards of society.

About the book: Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage | Nandini Krishnan | Random House India | Non Fiction | 253 pages | Rs. 299.

Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publishers, Random House India, for review.

Book Review: Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Revenge Wears Prada : The Devil Returns is the sequel to the very popular book ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, based on which a movie starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway was made. Revenge wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger tells the story of Andrea after she leaves Runway (and Miranda, the ‘devil’).

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Image Source

The sequel starts with Andy’s marriage to Max Harrison, a suave businessman belonging to one of those old rich families in New York. Andy has now started a wedding magazine with none other than Emily and they have become almost best friends. However, the freedom she enjoys in her work seems to come under a threat as somebody from the past comes back in to her life. Her wedding day starts with a dream involving Miranda Priestly and a note sent by her mother-in-law-to-be asking Max not to marry Andy.

This book is all about Andy, nowhere is it about Miranda Priestly. I mean, yes, she does come back, as the chief editor of Elias Clark who is interested in acquiring Andy and Emily’s business. But the story is more about the implications of this and its effect on Andy and her family rather than Miranda taking revenge.

There are bound to be comparisons with The Devil wears Prada, especially since the book has enjoyed so much popularity. And so, when you compare the two, Revenge wears Prada falls short.

The book is still funny, especially the titles of each chapter and Weisberger’s tone remains cheery and smart. But Andy keeps on thinking way too much about every little thing and running away from important issues. There was strangely not much of a connect between the two books as the characters seem so much different. I felt as if all the characters had essentially changed into somebody hard to recognize. After reading Devil Wears Prada, could you have imagined that Andy would start a wedding magazine, of all things?

The book is still entertaining, yes, but it is too much about Andy and less about Miranda. The brilliant character of Miranda Priestly that Lauren Weisberger created in Devil Wears Prada is almost wasted in the sequel.

About the book: Revenge Wears Prada | Lauren Weisberger | HarperCollins | Fiction | 320 pages | Rs. 299

Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publishers, Harper Collins.

Book Review: He loves me not by Vrushali Telang

He loves me not by Vrushali Telang is the story of Jimmy Cooper and Mehroo Nasarwanji, childhood friends (sweethearts doesn’t exactly seem to be the right word). I thought it was a chick lit and was looking forward to reading it as I was in the mood for one. However, it’s not really chick lit, it’s more of a contemporary novel, that everybody is writing (and reading) these days.

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Image Source

Honestly, the book doesn’t really start out very well. I don’t really know what irritates me about this novel, it’s like I expected that I would like this story but it fell short. Mehroo is a sad female who doesn’t quite have much self esteem or anything to go for her, really. She constantly obsesses about Jimmy deserving someone so much better. It is quite annoying especially when Jimmy is such a good for nothing guy. He is your typical guy next door who does not quite realize the value of  everything important in life.

The story is a coming of age novel of both the characters, Jimmy and Mehroo. But much of it centers on Jimmy. The author tried to connect with the target segment of ‘young’ people by writing about hip lifestyles and at the same being sarcastic about some of the aspects of it. I liked some of the jokes she made, especially the one about Fifty Shades of Grey and about faking sexy. But, she seemed to be in a hurry to finish the novel.

The story does justify Jimmy’s coming of age to some extent but when it comes to Mehroo, the book is sadly deficient. At the start she’s such a depressing person and suddenly she’s changed into this soul who’s so much at peace with everything around herself. I suppose, most of us have been Mehroo at some point or the other in life, but how you come out of it to be a stronger person is what was lacking in the book.

On the whole, it’s a fast read with some very witty dialogues, a sarcastic view on ‘wannabe’ behavior among the rich and the upper middle class and endearing parsi characters. It also illustrates the disconnect between parents and children and how we desperately try to fit in. However, the author failed to develop Mehroo as a worthy character.

About the book: He loves me not | Vrushali Telang | Ebury Press – Random House India | Fiction |  232 pages | Rs. 199

Note: A copy of the book was provided by Random House India.

Literary Events in September

I have always wanted to know about any literary event happening in the city and searched for one place where I would come to know about it. To my dismay, I have never found such a resource. Hence, I will try every month if I can collect news about any literary events or book launches or anything remotely ‘bookish’ that you, my dear readers, may want to know about. Here are some of the Literary Events in September, happening in India :

Literature Festivals

1. Bangalore Literature Festival | 27th-29th September 2013 | Crowne Plaza @ Velankani Park,  Electronics City, Bangalore (Official Website | Twitter | Facebook)

The festival promises to be interesting with a mix of young and old authors attending the event, like Ramachandra Guha, Ashwin Sanghi, William Dalrymple,  Aditya Mukherjee, Kishwar Desai, David Davidar, etc. Heavy weights like Shobhaa De, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Farhan Akhtar and Prasoon Joshi, will up the celebrity quotient. Check the full list of speakers here.

2. Pune International Literature Festival | 20th-22nd September, 2013 | MIT Campus, Kothrud, Pune (Official Website | Twitter | Facebook)

The entire schedule is up on their website and it looks quite interesting with lots of workshops, panel discussions, and even a blogger discussion.

There are also some book launches scheduled during the fest.

Fitness On The Go 

Flipkart|Amazon

 

Abhishek Sharma

20 September 2013

3:45-4:45 P.M.

Pune Lit Fest

It Started With A Friend Request

Flipkart|Amazon

Sudeep Nagarkar

21 September 2013

10:00-11:00 A.M.

Pune Lit Fest

Legacy

Flipkart|Amazon

Sudha Menon

21 September 2013

12:30-1:30 P.M.

Pune Lit Fest

He Loves Me Not

Flipkart|Amazon

Vrushali Telang

22 September 2013

11:15 A.M.-12:15 P.M.

Pune Lit Fest

Book Launch/Book Reading

1. Bankerupt by Subramanian Ravi (Penguin India) | Crossword Kemps Corner, Mumbai | 20th September, 2013 | 5 pm

Pre order a copy of the book on: Amazon

2. Scandal Point by Fahad Samar (Harpercollins India) | Park Hotel, New Delhi | 24th September, 2013

There’s a contest for an invitation to attend the book launch.

Buy a copy from: Flipkart | Amazon

3. The Dream Chasers by Vipul Mitra (Random House India | Crystal Hall of Hotel Sea Princess, Juhu, Mumbai | 26th September, 2013

Buy a copy from: Amazon

4. Ghanta College by Clyde D’souza (Random House India) | Kemp’s Corner, Mumbai | 28th September, 2013

Pre order from : Amazon

5. Mad Girl’s Love Song by Rukumini Bhaya Nair (Harpercollins India) | Oxford Bookstore, MG1 Mall, Bangalore | 20th September, 2013 – 6 pm (Book Reading)

Buy from: Flipkart | Amazon

6. Mothers, Lovers and Other Strangers by Bhaichand Patel (Pan Macmillan) | Oxford Bookstore, Connaught Place, New Delhi | 30th September, 2013 – 4 pm

Buy from: Flipkart | Amazon

7. Mom in the City by Kausalya Saptharishi (Random House India) | Multipurpose Hall, India International Centre, New Delhi | 30th September, 2013- 6.30 pm

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Buy from: Flipkart | Amazon

Giveaways/Events/Workshops

1. Online discussion with Samantha Shannon, author of The Bone Season  on Goodreads on 19th September, 2013 (Link)

2. The Missing Page – Book Treasure Hunt (organized by Oxford Book Store in association with Random House India) on 21st-22nd September, 2013 | 11 am – 5 pm

3. Treasure Hunt (Part of the Grand launch of ‘The Signature of all Things’ by Elizabeth Gilbert, organized by Bloomsbury Pub and The Telegraph) at Botanical Gardens, Shibpur, Calcutta on September 21st, 2013

4. Participate in the Book Buying Habits Survey and you stand a chance to win a set of 4 of upcoming books: The Lowland, The Dream Chasers, Ghanta College and Marriage Material.

5. Workshop on Writing (organized by Fablery) at Hall A, United School International (USI), USO House, USO Road, New Delhi. (Near Jawahar Lal Nehru University-JNU) on Sept 28th, 2013 (4 pm)

I hope to make this a regular feature, subject to time availability. If you like this, do leave a comment below. I would love some feedback!

Also, if you are an author, publishing house, PR agent, or know about any more events, do write in to me at booksandalotmore@gmail.com.

Note: Information about these events have been collected from various sources like publicists, publishing houses and the internet. I am not responsible if there is any change/cancellation of the event.

Book Review: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon is an interesting book. It caught my attention when I read somewhere about Shannon being the next J K Rowling. It also led me to interview her and she was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, in the middle of her graduation and the book release. The Bone Season also got a mention in another piece on this website, called August Book Releases. I was extremely delighted when Bloomsbury sent me the book! And now, I have finally finished reading it!

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The Bone Season is part of a seven book series with Paige Mahoney who is the main character. Paige is a dreamwalker and she has the ability to delve into the minds of other people. In the dystopian world that Shannon has created, all clairvoyants are outlawed and their abilities are termed as ‘unnatural’ which leads to persecution. However, Paige gets abducted after an accident one day and transported to another city where Rephaites, creatures from another world, reign supreme. It is also a place where, seemingly, clairvoyant abilities are prized, although for entirely different reasons. But still, Paige is not truly free and is assigned to a ‘Keeper’ called Warden.

I love it when authors use a lot of musical references to set the scene. Samantha Shannon has used a lot of interesting songs in the background to set the proper mood. These are the ones that Warden plays on his gramophone. You can find the playlist on her blog. This is one of my favorite songs. 

The relationship between Paige and Warden is interesting but I wonder how that’s going to turn out in the next book. I am still not sure about the intentions of certain characters in this book who profess to be ‘good’. Sometimes, things seem to be too easy for Paige (of course she’s a prodigy but yet). There are so many things that I would like to say about the plot and the characters but I would then be giving it all away, which would completely destroy the whole experience of reading The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon.

Through this book, Shannon also explores the true meaning of freedom. Which is better? Living in a world where there’s always a risk of being hunted down? Or living in a world where you are essentially free to walk anywhere and yet, there are boundaries you cannot cross and self-respect goes for a toss when you are essentially a slave to the whimsies of another race of people. Another theme Shannon explores is the politics of ‘protection’, or the heavy price of ‘being protected’ by another race.

The Bone Season is neither Harry Potter nor is Samantha Shannon another J K Rowling. You can’t really compare J K Rowling with anybody. However, Samantha Shannon creates her own unique space with this book. The magic is in the world that she creates. It is fascinating yet an equally frightening dystopian world and Shannon brings out human fallacies very well.  

And thus, I wait anxiously for the second book in the series.

About the book: The Bone Season | Samantha Shannon | Bloomsbury Publishing | Fiction | 463 Pages | Rs. 499.

Note: A copy of the book was provided by the publishers, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Book Review: The Competent Authority by Shovon Chowdhury

The current status of our chaotic country seems to be an extremely fitting time for this book to be written. With our country riddled by dishonest, utterly inept politicians, a failing bureaucracy, a police willing to act only at particular instances, a media perpetually high on steroids, shrewd spiritual leaders (better to call them businessmen, no?) and people divided by stupid things like caste and religion, the book ‘The Competent Authority’ by Shovon Chowdhury is a commentary on the prevailing social and political conditions in India.

With 452 pages and a small sized font, at first this book seemed to pose a challenge to me. Lately, things have been hectic and I have found it hard to sustain the energy to write on this blog, after a long day and the commute in the metro. However this book is anything but boring.

The book The Competent Authority is a witty take on life in the year 2050 in a scenario when cities like Delhi and Mumbai do not exist (at least not in the same form we know them today) because of a war with China (they got nuked). Bengal has declared itself to be a Chinese protectorate and India is controlled by a bureaucrat known as the competent authority, with the PM only being a figurehead(Oh well, not that it is quite different in real life too). The competent authority is invisible to the public and is a megalomaniac with a desire to go down in history as the one who successfully spurred economic growth and reconstruction. Not satisfied by the ongoing reconstruction efforts which have managed to do little ‘re-construction’, the competent authority wishes to ‘re’-start the ‘re’-construction process completely. This, he aims to do so, at great cost, even if you disregard the whole madness of his scheme. Essentially, this is a story of how he is stopped from carrying out his mad plans.

There are many interesting characters who join him, especially Ali – an Al Queda member who isn’t much of a terrorist, Banani – a school teacher who is not as helpless as her husband seems to think, Pande – the epitome of the paunchy Indian policeman or Pintoo – a character without whom the book would be incomplete. Actually, the book would be incomplete even if one of the other characters were to be removed.

The writing is funny and simple, neither compromising on the laws of language (or the ‘literary’ quotient, if you may choose to call it so) nor becoming obtuse to the reader. At the start, one may get a little confused when so many characters are introduced at quite the same time. However, the author has listed all the characters in the book at the start, describing them in a short and funny way.The Author has made fun of everybody, whether it be spiritual leaders running a business in the name of faith, bureaucrats, Bengalis, communists, capitalists, dynasty politics, right wing fundamentalism and even Honey Singh (Yey!).

This is a satire but at the same time, the book becomes sensitive at certain places, giving time to the reader to meditate and take it all in, the whole meaning of life, hidden somewhere in between the different layers of sarcasm, speculation and irony. Extremely poignant are two scenes, one in which Gandhi talks about himself and what’s he done, to Chatterjee, who’s been sent into the past to save Gandhi. The other scene has one of the central characters losing his hand. The book also leaves you with a positive message, albeit a little cliched.

About the book: The Competent Authority | Shovon Chowdhury | Aleph Book Company | Fiction | 452 pages | Rs. 495.

Note: A review copy of the book was provided by the publishers, Aleph Book Company.

Debut Author Interview #3: Shovon Chowdhury and The Competent Authority

I had started the Debut Author series so that the readers of the blog could get to know about the authors also, apart from new books. At the same time, it is important to talk to debut authors who are unique just because they bring something new to the table. I have been trying hard to talk to interesting debut authors and I hope you are liking this feature till now.

Today, we learn more about Shovon Chowdhury, new author on the block. Chowdhury does not seem to be one of the new (and typical Indian MBA/Engineer) authors who ‘write’ books to satisfy a particular segment of the population.

Shovon2-credit-Shyon Chowdhury

Image Source

Shovon Chowdhury is at his witty best when he answers some of the questions I pose to him. Do read my review of his latest book ‘The Competent Authority’ before reading this.

1. Tell us something about yourself.

I was born in the UK, and came back to Calcutta when I was 10, because my parents wanted me to be an Indian citizen. So I’m a reverse immigrant – the opposite of Jhumpa Lahiri, or Shilpa Shetty’s husband. I didn’t run away. They made me run back. I had to take a crash course in Bengali. I think I know Hindi as well, but other people don’t always agree. 

We’ve lived in Delhi for the last twenty years. I know it has its problems, but I’m very fond of it. When people complain about Delhi, I always think, they should have lived in Calcutta under Jyoti Basu. It was a place were you couldn’t breath without Party permission, and anyone who did any actual work was viewed as an enemy of the people. Also they painted the tip of the Shahid Minar red, lending a whole new meaning to the term ‘erecting a monument.’

2. What inspired you to write this book?

The news, mostly.

3. Is the Competent Authority based on a person in real life?

I’m not supposed to talk about that. I could be arrested for sedition, or under Section 66A of the IT Act for ‘causing inconvenience’. But he’s real, alright. Who do you think comes up with all the procedures for spectrum allocation? Who was in charge of disbursing Rs 70,000 crores in Maharashtra for irrigation, leading to a 0.1% increase in irrigated area? Who declared Section 144 for 30 days in the town of Thiruvananthapuram, to prevent Dengue? Who do you think makes sure Durga Shakti Nagpal’s transfer orders are properly drafted? He’s all around us.

4. The ending seems a little abrupt? Will we ever come to know what Banani manages to do? Are you going to write a sequel?

I always wanted to end it that way, from day one. Don’t ask me why. I know it’s very simple, but sometimes, life is simple.

I think that’s it for Banani. But you shouldn’t worry. She looks like a delicate flower, but she can take care of herself.

Regarding the sequel, yes, but it’s more of an equel. It describes events that happen at the same time, in Calcutta. That’s where Sanjeev Verma the mining magnate disappears to. I caught a lot of flak for poor writing and loose ends, because he vanished suddenly. I was hoping people would miss him. Apparently some people did. Next time I’ll add a footnote.

I thought Calcutta under Chinese rule might be a fun place to visit. Both parties are equally horrified. Plus there’s the Kolkata Knight Riders under Chinese management, and the lamentable imitation of a Royal Bengal Tiger.

5. What happened to Ali?

He’s roaming the villages of Bengal, spreading the songs of Bob Marley.

6. Was this book difficult to write?

Not at all. I finished it at least six times.

7. The book has released at quite a fitting time. We have Loksabha elections coming soon and everything seems so wrong with the world. Was this release date deliberate?

I took eleven years to write it. The timing had nothing to do with me. I was still messing about with it, because it needed improvement. David just snatched it away from me and sent it for printing. It’s like an exam. At some point, they take away your answer script.

His answers are much like his debut novel, The Competent Authority- witty, playful and yet say a lot. Order a copy now and read this book!

The author on social media-

Follow on twitter: @shovonc

Blog: www.shovonc.wordpress.com

Guest Post: The Tragic Pitfalls of Bibliomania | In Public Interest by Abhiroop Banerjee

Biblio – of or that relating to books 

Maniac – A person who has an obsession with or excessive enthusiasm for something (Syn: lunatic, madman).

When my mother brought home a copy of Gulliver’s Travels one hot June evening many years ago, it was simply meant to keep me out of mischief during the summer holidays. Little did she realize then that she’d just doomed her 6 year old to lifelong lunacy of another kind, one that eventually turned him into an incorrigible bibliomaniac. Today, it seems to be a lost cause as he spends his afternoons drifting through time and space with the phantoms from his latest novel, looking up occasionally with glazed eyes at an unfamiliar world, his office work desk.

Deep introspection and careful scrutiny of individuals suffering from this insidious malaise has revealed some truly alarming symptoms. For the savvy readers of Books and a Lot More, I present an exclusive list of results from the ongoing studies for my research paper, The Tragic Pitfalls of Bibliomania. Remember, even one of the following common symptoms is a sure sign of full blown BM!

  1. You may have turned into a crusty old book snob. “People who read Chetan Bhagat are absolute philistines. Second only to Dan Brown fanbois. Why, those clods are sub-human.”Cartoon 1
  2. You never have any extra cash/credit. This may result in you becoming a biblio-bandit. Ebooks are stupid, of course.
  3. You have those crummy, free bookmarks lying around everywhere.
  4. At some point in your life, you have been a Howard Roark wannabe.
  5. You waste 30 minutes on the potty every day, setting up your imaginary bathroom library.
  6. Being asked to lend a book can cause respiratory problems and, should you actually agree, cause you to lend grandiose sentiments of renouncement and detachment from worldly possessions to the simple act of lending a book to a friend.
  7. You’ve never quite forgiven your mother for giving away your almighty stash of Nagraj and Champak to the raddi walla when you were 13.
  8. You buy books from a bookshop 12 miles away because the one nearby puts a tiny rubber stamp on the flyleaf. You have no issue, however, buying cheap library discards with rubber stamps on every centimeter of the flyleaf.
  9. You’ve begun dreading the arrival of the Sunday paper because there’s just too much good stuff to read and you’re not even done with Saturday’s.
  10. You start carrying a book everywhere, including to your own birthday party. Which you’re hosting.  For your imaginary friends.  And the Flipkart delivery man. Cartoon 3
  11. You pause a movie just to make sure you get the name of the book which somebody in the scene is reading.
  12. Multitasking is being able to turn the pages with your chin while holding a book with one hand and hanging on to the Metro rod with the other.
  13. You start living as far away from your office as possible, just so you can read during the commute.
  14. The biggest fear in your life is breaking up because then they might want their books back. The rascals.
  15. Your steamiest fantasy is cuddling up with her and reading Dostoevsky. Together.
  16. You have a regularly updated list of fictional people you want to date. You have actually gone on dates with them. Fictional? Ha, why you can still smell the filter coffee from your last date at the coffee house, in Malgudi.
  17. You actually start believing that you are smarter than the guy on the street because you managed to finish Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes.
  18. You have researched perfume that smells like old books.  And have prepared an ad for the matrimonial section seeking a girl who sleeps on a bookshelf and will fetch her grandfather’s collection of Jughead Double Digests as dowry.  That dowry is cool.
  19. Moving house is impossible because your book rack is heavier than the truck.  Actually, your book rack is your house. Cartoon 2
  20. You wish Indian Railways would add a Library Coach to their trains. You also wish for waterproof books that you can read in the rain and biscuit packets with tiny short stories printed on them because you read biscuit packets (and whatever looks like text on the last 10 Rupee note you have after the other day’s ruinous trip to the bookshop).

Intensive research into what is now a worldwide epidemic has failed to reveal a cure. Bibliomaniacs are a part of society. They could be anyone. They are everywhere. Some are known to be armed with paperbacks and camouflaged by spectacles. Or not. That is the most diabolical aspect of bibliomania. A regular guy walking down the street in front of you could suddenly bend down without warning, pick up a crumpled wrapper and start… reading. There is, simply, no way to know.

The list above is meant to be used as a quick check list to see if, holy printing mistakes batman, you too are a *shudder* bibliomaniac.

Are you one then?

Issued in public service.

About the author of this post: Abhiroop is an avid follower of current events and enjoys debating issues of such burning importance as to whether the graffiti on Delhi walls that forbid sundry passers-by from taking a casual leak on them should also be in Arabic, Gurumukhi and Roman scripts. He lives in New Delhi and has a not so secret affection for cows.

If you’d like to be featured on this website as a guest author, please write in to me at booksandalotmore@gmail.com. Your contributions should preferably be about books, although other topics are also welcome.

Cartoons courtesy jasonlove.com

Debut Author Interview #2 & Book Review: Supriya Dravid – A Cool Dark Place

A Cool Dark Place by Supriya Dravid is a very interesting novel. Essentially, it is about Zef and her family. No, wait. It’s about Zef’s family and how she comes to terms with her family and it’s history. Like they say, you can never truly escape your past. It’s about Don, her grandfather who’s charming and at the same time, notoriously selfish in the way he wants to hold on to his daughter, who is Zef’s mother. It’s also about her relationship with Gravy, a man she’s always thought of as her father. Most of all, it’s about finding yourself through the past as memories keep traveling back and forth.

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Supriya Dravid says, “I’ve been writing all my life. It is the only thing I don’t fear. I wanted to write this book as I was coming out a tough relationship, and I wanted to create another future that I would be happy to look forward to. And this book was just that. It gave me something to wake up for, and gave me a new drive to live, breathe and engage with these characters at all hours of the day – when I was awake and even in my dreams. I wanted to create this parallel universe that I could escape into and this book did just that. Even though the book has a dark tone, it was a happy preoccupation for me.”

Zef, the main protagonist (No, wait, that would be Don, he manages to be omnipresent, much to his daughter’s annoyance) is a young girl with a family which undergoes a series of tragedies. Mostly created because of one man that is Don. The book starts on a somber tone with Gravy’s death and her mother is severely heart broken. This is when the both of them really start talking and her mother walks into the past, narrating bits and pieces to escape the void that has been created by Gravy’s suicide. But wait, let me not give away the whole book because there’s a lot of things that both the reader and Zef discover as the story moves on.

I asked Supriya, “Zef is an interesting character but we learn more about her family than her. You haven’t really shown us her life apart from that with her family. Was that deliberate?”

She answers, “Yes, that was deliberate. Mostly because the book is not about Zef, it is about her family as seen through her eyes. It is about how she makes sense of her world through the chaos that descends in their lives, and its impact on her. The madness that ensues does not allow her to escape her family’s past – at least for the moment.

I loved the characters in the book. They are all eccentric and endearing at the same time. I really liked Zef’s mother. She loves with no holds barred. That is primarily her philosophy of life. Gravy is a sweet character about whom you learn a shocking secret. Zef’s grandmother is another curious character in the book. But the one guy who beats them all is Don, Zef’s grandfather. I think he is the reason Zef narrates this tale.

“Yes he is so bloody psychotic, isn’t he? Some aspects of Don’s life are loosely based on my maternal grandfather. But a lot of it is also imagined and inspired by many other interesting people I’ve met”, says Supriya Dravid.

I wonder if Supriya Dravid will write a sequel to this book. I sure would want to see Zef again, but this time with her future as the main theme of the book rather than the past.

“The thought did occur to me and a lot of people have asked if I will do a sequel. To tell you the truth, I haven’t really thought of Zef’s future. A lot of it has to do with allowing the reader to imagine the impact on what she has learnt and what she has chosen to keep as a secret will have on her future. I think some stories should not be meddled with any more. I want to let it lie (for the time being at least). They need to breathe and exist just as they were meant to be. I’d like to explore another story with a different tone, texture and a narrative that stretches and terrifies me at the same time.” says Supriya.

Dravid’s writing is beautiful. There is a natural flow in her words and her descriptions are profound. There are some books you read just because you want to appreciate the beauty of the written word and this is one of them.

Random Trivia: Supriya David’s favouri authors and books are Dom Moraes, DBC Pierre, Jim Carroll, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, Truman Capote

About the book: A Cool Dark Place | Supriya Dravid | Random House India | Fiction | 256 Pages

Note: An advanced review copy of the book was provided by the publishers, Random House India.