Monday, June 13, 2005

The reading experience (June 1-13)

Reading has been very scattered the past two weeks. Too much else happening that’s been taking up too much time, and there have been days when I just haven’t had the energy to read late into the night.

So here’s a quick list of what I have managed to get through:

First 160-odd pages (or ‘Part 1’) of Shantaram. As compelling as I’d expected, and a fast read, but so much energy goes in just holding the thing that I haven’t yet managed more than 35-40 pages a night.

Quite a lot of non-fiction, which is unusual for me, but it’s an area I need to brush up on. Finished Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat (often overweeningly silly, blinkered and patchily written but not without its points of interest). Also Bernard-Henri Levy’s Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, which was especially fascinating for its portrait of the monstrous Omar Sheikh, who masterminded the Pearl kidnapping and murder. Levy’s intense, claustrophobia-inducing book took me back to those dark days in early 2002 when I was working on graveyard shifts for TheNewspaperToday.com and we were all waiting with a mixture of fascination and revulsion for the videos of the killing to be released to the press. The six months post-9/11...what a time that was for a journalist working overnight on a 24-hour website while a new story was breaking in the US every half-hour or so.

Still reading Steven Pinker’s excellent The Blank Slate, about the nature-nurture debate, given to me by Amit Varma a couple of months ago. Riveting though this book is, it requires such concentrated reading that I haven’t been able to get through it once and for all, what with the reviewing obligations that crop up intermittently.

Have started on Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul; am a big fan of the man’s fiction, especially Snow, and am keen to see what he does with this memoir. Love the early passages about his memories of a childhood spent in his familys’s five-storey house with its unused pianos and untouched Chinese porcelain figures.

A Bunch of Old Letters - a new print of a selection of letters edited by Jawaharlal Nehru, most written by or to him. I’ve been opening this book at random, reading whatever catches my fancy but I did go through the complete correspondence between Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose between October 1938 and April 1939, when the decisive parting of ways between the two men occurred. A very interesting look at a clash of ideologies that still casts a shadow over the country. Isn’t it such fun when great men scrap (even when they continue signing off their letters “Yours affectionately” until the very end).

4 comments:

  1. An erstwhile reader5:21 PM, June 13, 2005

    Jabberwock,

    You make me want to tell the boss to go take a hike so that I can go back home at 6.30 everyday and read books. So many books discussed in this space... many I haven't even heard of before.
    I seem to have used the easiest and stupidest excuse ever - lack of time, to stop doing somthing which had been my mainstay before I started working.
    Still, its never too late, I guess. Thanks.

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  2. If you want toothsome non-fiction, by a legendary globe-trotting journo, coincidentally a great writer, read Ryszard Kapuscinski. Books: start with The Shadow of the Sun and The Soccer War. And if you think this is just my dubious pro-non-fiction op, you have seen the review of his Angola book in Imaginary Homelands.

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  3. Let us know what you think of Istanbul...I just finished My Name is Red and plan to start Snow soon.

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  4. From various extracts of Levi's book he comes across as the ultimate anti-islamist and anti-pak using plenty of lurid comments to support his beliefs. I plan to read it soon.

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