Visual Friday: Five Must-read Books About Planet Earth

April 20, 2018 by Neelima | 0 comments

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By InstaScribe

April 19, 2018
by Neelima

Pronouns @ Link Wanderlust

The pronoun dons an important role in grammar. It shows you the who and this gives agency to whoever it is you are talking about. Stephanie Golden has been a copyeditor for many years and she’s overseen many changes in the way language has been used from simplification to a vocabulary that keeps feminism in mind. Yet, she was pleasantly surprised by the Chicago and Associated Press decided to accept the use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun.

“Paula Froke, the AP Stylebook lead editor, gives two reasons for embracing ‘they’: ‘recognition that the spoken language uses they as singular’ and ‘the need for a pronoun for people who don’t identify as a he or a she’. The first ‘they’, as in ‘Everyone can decide which personal pronoun best matches their identity’, is what people have been doing for centuries anyway; most of us already use it without thinking. But the second usage, which raises fundamental questions about identity, society and the nature of reality itself, has met furious resistance.”
Altering language is one way of tackling gender biases at the grassroots. It may sound odd in the beginning but over time it can become the norm and what’s the harm if it uplifts people whose identities have been quashed because of the pronoun they don’t belong to? Read We need the singular ‘they’ – and it won’t seem wrong for long by Stephanie Golden.
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April 17, 2018
by Neelima

Readers can’t Digest-Week 180 (11-April to 17-April)

1. Three judges for the Nobel Literature Prize have resigned

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2. Malala’s father strikes memoir deals in multiple territories

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3. Forthcoming biography of Formula 1 driver Kimi Räikkönen generating big buzz

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4. The Fall of Gondolin, ‘new’ JRR Tolkien book, to be published in 2018

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5. James Comey’s memoir to launch next week

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April 16, 2018
by Neelima

Translations and Collaborators @ BYOB Party in March 2018 (Part 3)

Image result for Six Acres and a ThirdAmruta loves translations and she often mentions how difficult it is to get a good translation. There are several translations available but most of the books have a transliterative approach. “A good translation is the second original,” she said. The BYOB Party at IISc had heated debates about the effectiveness of translation. Fakir Mohan Senapati’s classic Oriya novel Six Acres and a Third is a brilliant translation. This relevantly unknown author changed the course of Odiya literature. To understand the scope of his writing, Amruta offered a comparison that every Indian could identify with – Fakir Mohan Senapati is to Odiya literature what Tagore is to Bengali literature. The plot of the story is layered and revolves around an evil landlord Ramachandra Mangarag. What makes Senapati’s novel ‘s style close to that of magical realism, although it is a realist novel, is the alternating perspectives he uses, including that of the horse, the villager and the foot-soldier. He uses the second person to bring the reader into the conversation; so reading this classic becomes exciting and far from the tedious experience that many people described reading classics engendered. His satirical verve makes the story a joy to read. The book talks about British colonialism; the naivety of the general public; the problem of power, wealth and ownership; linguistic relevance and Oriya cultural presence.

It was also interesting to read about this unknown literary genius and the reason behind his name is a story in itself. If you wonder how Senapati became Fakir, read this review in The Hindu.

Apurba was greatly saddened while reading The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed. This autobiographical account of Kashmir in the 1990s tells the tale of a Gujjar village, the relevant absence of religious fundamentalism until much later and how jingoism is irrelevant to ordinary people. In fact, everyone is merely trying to lead a simple life. The army man too is trying to do his job. Even militancy grows like a tumor; the way it changes one’s mind is a cumulation of various causes and effects. The discussion veered to the presence of violence and the people who really suffer, ordinary people who do not want to lose their families to futile violence. Here’s a brilliant review of this book by Kamila Shamsie.

You can read an interview with the author here.

More books in Part 4.

Visual Friday: Write and Wrong – Ctrl C

April 13, 2018 by Neelima | 0 comments

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By InstaScribe

April 12, 2018
by Neelima

Nursery Rhymes @ Link Wanderlust

In her essay Nursery rhymes: How murder, theft and fake news found their way into the tales we tell our children  Flora Watkins explores how the good old nursery rhymes that children are taught are verbal missiles of sorts, complete with murder, lust and cruelty.

“Indeed, after analysing nursery rhymes in the late 1940s, the writer Geoffrey Handley-Taylor pronounced that about half had ‘unsavoury elements’, including murder, cruelty to animals, decapitation, physical violence and ‘stealing and general dishonesty’. “

Many nursery rhymes are dissected. Humpty Dumpty is supposedly a riddle whose answer is ‘egg’; Lavender’s Blue is a tale of seduction, Ring a Ring o’ Roses is not about the plague as is commonly taught and Hey Diddle Diddle is probably just a nonsense poem. This is not to discourage you from reading rhymes to your children or in classrooms but to make you aware of the connotations of these lyrics. If you are a nursery rhyme buff, it would be a good idea to read this story, if only to make you more aware of the stories we tell our children.




April 10, 2018
by Neelima

Readers can’t Digest-Week 179 (4-April to 10-April)

1. Debut author Weike Wang wins PEN/Hemingway for her book Chemistry

julianne hough dwts GIF by Dancing with the Stars

2. The Rathbones Folio Prize Shortlist Is Announced

all the best good luck GIF by George Ezra

3. Fury as Man Booker bows to pressure to list Taiwan as Chinese province

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4. Publisher of ‘Things Fall Apart’ faces collapse as court orders its sale

hurting break up GIF by Barbara Pozzi

5. Amazon is Shutting Down Its Crowd-Sourcing Platform, Kindle Scout

donald trump rnc GIF by Election 2016




April 9, 2018
by Neelima

Nuclear War and the Periodic Table @ BYOB Party in March 2018 (Part 2)

There was a bit of doom and gloom in the BYOB Party.

Image result for Has Man a Future?amazonArchit got the famous book Sapiens by Yuval Harari. We’ve talked about the book many times. It made sense that the book he bought with it was Has Man a Future? by Bertrand Russell, one of the world’s most eminent philosophers of the twentieth century. The book was written during the Cold War when the world was on the brink of nuclear war. What struck Archit as scary was that book is relevant even today.  Even today, disarmament hasn’t turned into a collective objective with guns entering classrooms and nuclear warheads raising their heads in political banter. The possibility of a nuclear war is not exaggerated.

Image result for sapiensamazonAlthough Sapiens means Wise, the term is at best ironic. In the book, Sapiens, Harari explains how man evolved and hasn’t become wiser. He seemed to have been better off in the pre-agricultural era when he was a hunter-gatherer.  This was the only time in recorded history that he was aware of the food that he ate and the true nature of his surroundings. An argument grew around this- can anyone know everything? Doesn’t the very reason for stratification and division of labor stem from the fact that knowledge is shared property? Since there is a discrepancy in the time required for evolution to occur and the lightning speed of the human brain, inequality is the norm. Human beings have always tipped the scale and so this whole idea of an equal society in pursuit of happiness is silly. Sapiens is an important book simply because of the arguments it encourages. Part 2 of the book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, is equally horrific in the way it lays bare mankind’s stupidity.

Amrutha talked about a six-part sci-fi story set in a dystopian world where only Korea remains, the rest having being destroyed by nuclear war,  and mentioned how human beings are reborn as their prehistoric ancestors. Can anyone tell me which book this is? All my google searching didn’t help.

Image result for the periodic table primo levi amazonRitu was spurred to get a copy of a book she read long ago when she was young and later again when she was older. The book called The Periodic Table by Primo Levi is a series of short stories which tells the author’s own story- his experience being an Italian Jewish chemist during the World War era, a particularly unfortunate time to be Jewish.  Each story in the book is named after a particular element, which very cleverly becomes heavier and heavier towards the end of the book.  The book begins with so much promise but towards the end, the author must face the concentration camp. Although the ending is sad, it feels like dusk, Ritu says, beautiful and filled with color but with the heaviness of the ending day.

Amrutha read this book too and wondered how teachers could make a subject like chemistry so boring. “You need to include one of these chapters in the school curriculum,” she said. That’s a nice thought.


April 6, 2018
by Neelima

Visual Friday: Poets who Write Prose

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By InstaScribe

April 5, 2018
by Neelima

Bibliomancy @ Link Wanderlust

When Books Read You, a Defense of Bibliomancy by Ed Simon is an interesting read particularly if the art of divination interests you. Tarot and palm readers, IChing followers and those who believe in omens and signs will have a special liking for this article as books have also been recorded as being used to predict the future. Books initially existed as scrolls and later on they were bound with a cover. This act of binding itself separates the book or the word from the rest of the world. The alphabet is after all the predecessor of the spell, magic and religion.

“Charles [Stuart King] turned to a book during what he assumed was the height of his political, military, and personal misfortunes; and with an affinity for superstition matched only by his belief that his very divine touch could cure sickness, Charles asked Virgil what his fortune would be. Letting the cracked leather spine hit the dark wooden surface of some Oxford desk, and with his eyes closed, the King pointed to some random line of Latin on some random page of Virgil. He did not like the fortune which had been caste.”

The author of the essay mentions rhapsodamancy, where poetry plays the role of prophet. Unlike throwing sticks and dice, words begetting futures makes the reader a participant of the book; if his or her future resides in the book, then the reader is more pertinent than even the author, giving additional weight to the phrase ‘death of the author’.

Read the essay here. You may want to check out the Bibliomancy Oracle on Twitter as well.