December 5, 2016
by Neelima

Dressmakers and Doctors @ BYOB Party in Delhi in October 2016 (Part 2)

While history can not hide the truth, books can make the truth bearable.

51eV2VYLGfL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg (333×499)Nidhi spoke about The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. The story revolves around the life of Kamila Sidiqi, a woman who lives through the Taliban regime, faces the loss of the men in her life and is forced to find a way to make ends meet. This is a true story of entrepreneurship. “I like books that tell us about people find a way. There is sadness in the world, that’s a given, but how do people live through it? In this book the protagonist is bombarded with restrictions and yet there is only so much that oppression can do to the human spirit,” Nidhi said.

This reminded Eklavya of a book called In the Land of Invisible Women by Qanta Ahmed. This is another book that talks about how life thrives in spite of restrictions. The author is a Western trained doctor who in a strange twist of fate is offered a job in Saudi Arabia. Her observations are delightful and reveal much about this much misunderstood kingdom.


Aadit, a youngster, talked about the book Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. Aahan, a ten year old, spoke affectionately about his favorite illustrator, Quentin Blake. The book he mentioned was The Boy in a Dress by David Williams. He is also busy creating a Pani Hotter (the transposition of alphabets is intentional) series. He spoke at great length about how his collaborative effort includes a bit of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, an array of Greek Gods and a Chinese dragon. You can read more of what this youngster writes here:


With this, we come to the end of our Delhi chapter this 2016.


December 1, 2016
by Neelima

Why Vitriolic Book Reviews are Turning Kind @ Link Wanderlust

In Death of the Hatchet Job, D J Taylor talks about how once upon a time book reviews were not kind. They were the stuff that every writer dreaded as there were no limits to how badly a writer’s efforts could be torn to shreds.

“I should point out that this was an era in which wounding disparagement was, if not absolutely routine, then a frequent feature of newspaper books pages.”

Of late, book reviews are more sober. Dislike is never expressed per say. It’s revealed in a cat and mouse game, almost apologetically.

James Lasdun, for instance, seems almost to weep over the fact that the new Don DeLillo novel isn’t the masterpiece he so urgently desires, writing: “I have to confess, reluctantly, that I found this section (which occupies two-thirds of the book) hard to like.”

The history of book reviews reveal some highs and lows when it comes to surgical strikes on novels. Right now, may not be the best time to do the hatchet job.

“It is a bad time to be a critic; that here in the age of instant online opinion and internet trolls, what used to be called “critical authority” is much less sanctified than it used to be, and that in a world of declining print circulations and concertina-ing arts pages the best option is a modest thumbs-up.”

So if you get a sugar coated review, is it the merit of the book or the reflection of the times? Not hard to answer if you recognize book reviewing for what it truly is- a blood sport.

joel do not want i dont like this dont want rt podcast


November 28, 2016
by Neelima

Ashoka and Ashokamitran @ BYOB Party in Delhi in October 2016 (Part 1)

There was one more BYOB Party in Delhi while Jaya was there. This was co-hosted by Anu Singh Choudhary.

Jaya spoke about John Keay’s India Discovered, a book she has mentioned before. The book is not about history, something we know little about. It’s about how history was pieced together. It all started with a Sultan in Delhi who found a pillar with inscriptions on it. He was unable to understand it and later on more and more people began stumbling on these inscriptions in other parts of India. It took the British to decipher the Brahmi script and a Sri Lankan text to piece together that the Piyadasi mentioned in the inscriptions found in different parts of the subcontinent actually referred to Ashoka.

Anu who blogs at spoke about the books by Ashokamitran, a highly influential writer from Tamil Nadu who has written over two hundred short stories and two dozen novels. While Jaya started the session with history, Anu delved into how memoir revealed the social, historical and cultural aspects of an era.

The book she discussed was Fourteen years with Boss where the author spoke about his experience working at the legendary Gemini Studios of Madras with his boss S.S.Vasan. There is no linear structure in the book as it is a compilation of essays that he wrote for the Illustrated Weekly. It was a time when entertainment and the politburos of power intersected and it was Ashokamitran’s job to manage the PR aspect. In those days, stories were not fed to the media but writers tried to understand what existed. Ashokamitran’s memoirs capture with subtle humor minute details of how an institution like the Gemini Studios was built, and talk about the insecurities the entertainment industry nurtures. Nothing is missed by his steady gaze- no actor, director, producer, director or extra is let off that easily. Ashokamitran captures the 1950s with such immediacy that it does not feel dated. He is now in his eighties.

Another novel by Ashokamitran that Anu mentioned was Mole, an English translation of Otran, a comical look at an International Writing Program in the American Midwest that he had attended. His humors, sharp tone and acute observations bring the 1970s in America alive. “He kept me engaged in a chapter where the theme was a lost watch. It seems irrelevant today to even talk about a watch, but he kept me intrigued with an entire chapter,” Anu said.

Nostalgia works.

November 24, 2016
by Neelima

Fear and Productivity @ Link Wanderlust

If there is one film maker I remember for the fright value, it’s Hitchcock. What is fascinating about him is that the primary tool that spearheaded his talent was fear. Read the book review by Dennis Drabelle of the story of the making of Hitchcock in Alfred Hitchcock: ‘A superb fantasist of fear’:

Ackroyd reminds us what an outsider Hitchcock was. Raised Roman Catholic in Protestant England, he was perennially unhappy with his appearance, especially his spherical figure, and beset by multiple fears: of heights, policemen, imprisonment and, simply, other people. Even after he was well-established in a job with quasi-dictatorial powers — movie director — he “still did not like to cross the studio floor in case a stranger came up to him.” Such a cluster of neuroses would send many of us running to a shrink, but instead Hitchcock harnessed them to his talents. He was, Ackroyd sums up, “a superb fantasist of fear.”

While there are many articles like this one on how to harness your fear, not many writers know how to make stories out of them. What frightens you the most? Can you make a story out of it? That looks like a prompt for the day.

Star Wars fear afraid yoda fearful


November 21, 2016
by Neelima

Hindi and Mythology @ BYOB Party in IIIT-Delhi in September 2016 (Part 4)

rag-darbariProfessor Dheeraj talked about a Hindi book called Rag Darbari by Shrilal Shukla who won the Sahitya Akademi Award for this book: a satirical story of the loss of moral values post independence. He shows rural life in India as it was in the 60s and 70s.  It has also been adapted as a televised series starring Om Puri, but it doesn’t seem to have made its way to the ubiquitous Youtube yet. You can listen to the author speak here:

Most of the students were more familiar with the Hindi writer Munshi Premchand only. Reading Hindi does not seem to be very much in vogue at the student level.

sitas-sisterAlthough reading Hindi is not in vogue, mythology is. Khyati is a mythology buff and recommends books by Kavita Kane such as Sita’s Sister and Menaka’s Choice. Kavita Kane likes to study overlooked characters like Lakshman’s wife and the desirable apsara Menaka. If mythology interests you, you might want to check out A.K.Ramanujan’s work, a student advised. For more commercial spins of ancient times, Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi is a good read, said another.

The famous retelling of Illiad by Madelline Miller called Song of Achilles was discussed. It’s a brilliant retelling of an age old epic in lyrical prose.

a-thousand-splendid-sunsAs it is with almost every BYOB gathering we’ve had so far, Khaled Hosseini was not forgotten and his beautiful and relevant prose was discussed. Both The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are favorites.

Anand talked about Paper Towns by John Green. Anand liked the intellectual nature of the love story mystery. This book has won the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery.


Some other books the students at IIIT Delhi talked about included Sherlock Holmes and there was even a diversion to the nature of Indian geography. All in all it was a session that brimmed with life and curiosity.

November 18, 2016
by Neelima

World Book Tour – Nigeria


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November 17, 2016
by Neelima

Shakespeare and Prison @ Link Wanderlust

I came across an enlightening video featuring Margaret Atwood where she explains how Shakespeare could help prisoners.

“People are very conflicted about what prisons are for,” Atwood states at the beginning. “Are they to punish people and make them have the most horrible awful life possible? Or are they to open up other chances for them, or possibly a combo?”

So while Shakespeare may have disappeared from school textbooks, the Bard does carry appeal for a certain section of the population- convicts. Someone in prison identifies better with the psychological landscape of Shakespeare’s characters, particularly in his tragedies.

This story Why Shakespeare Belongs in Prison explains how literature has actually benefited the lives of prisoners.

“Shakespeare’s tragic figures are very much imprisoned by both their circumstances and their choices,” says Scott Hayes, an associate dean in the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Liberty University and a seasoned Shakespearean actor and director. “Prisoners connect deeply with that sense of imprisonment. The consequences of choices made by Shakespeare’s characters are tremendous, and the prisoners truly understand and connect to the power our choices have to reap tragic consequences.”

And Shakespeare has found his way to Indian prisons too. Read this to understand the appeal of Macbeth in Karnataka, India.

November 15, 2016
by Neelima

Readers can’t Digest-Week 109 (9-November to 15-November)

1. Leonard Cohen, influential singer and songwriter, dies at the age of 82

Sony Music Canada poem lyric video leonard cohen almost like the blues


2.Publishers react to Trump presidency

Election 2016 trump donald trump whatever idk

3. Rising paper prices hit print book industry

shocked shopping expensive money

4. Sharjah Publishing City: World’s first free trade zone for the books industry

books mike tyson television celebs

5.Italy’s eighteen year olds to receive €500 ‘cultural bonus’

excited awesome yay screaming yelling