It was the day after Terry Pratchett had died, and Srishti thought it would be a fitting tribute to start on a book by this great. Good Omens is a collaboration between Neil Gailman and Pratchett. (You must read this article I dug up on the beauty of collaborating geniuses.)
Since Srishti found the movie Dogma interesting, a friend advised her to read this book. Incidentally, it deals with a typical Bollywoodesque situation of what happens if one of the babies in a baby swapping situation turns out to be the Antichrist, or to make the immediacy of the book more relevant what happens if the world is about to end next Saturday.
Talking about Terry Pratchett led us to Douglas Adams. “There are so many references to British pop culture when you read Adams that you have to be a real insider to understand the humor,” said Abhaya. Reading science fiction implies knowing a lot more than what’s in the book and conversely learning more about popular culture when you step into unchartered terrain.
Dan Brown’s Inferno is the latest hard cover add to Srishti’s collection. We had never seen a Dan Brown hard cover version before, considering that he is the kind of author whose paperback shows up in the most unlikely places.
“I can’t wait for the movie—a book better than The Lost Symbol. It all started with the success of Da Vinci Code, though Angels and Demons is one of his best works yet.”
In keeping with the woman’s fiction theme, Abhaya came across a well-known speculative fiction writer called Vandana Singh. Her book the Woman who thought she was a planet and other stories is a short story collection of speculative fiction. “Imagine being able to talk to the long ago Kings of India and never knowing when you are going to meet them again,” he said.
“Reminds me of the movie Midnight in Paris where Woody Allen goes back to the 1920s at the stroke of midnight,” says Srishti. Reminds me of a well-known ad. If you can remember it, please mention in the comment section.
Says Abhaya, “I think the more technical stories were the ones that didn’t work—for instance, the story Infinities is good but the mathematics involved didn’t seem to gel. Singh’s forte is when she creates ordinary characters who glimpse alien and strange worlds as they enter various dimensions. This book demands rereading as each story has a lot to offer the second time round.”
My Lawfully Wedded Husband by Madhulika Liddle is a collection of stories with a dark twist in the end. The trouble for Abhaya were the twists themselves. “The stories were overwritten. I felt that some of the stories would actually work better if they were edited down to half the size. The stories would work for television drama but for reading…”
By the Sabarmati by Esther David is again a short story collection– twenty one stories focused on the experience of women in Ahmedabad. “Evocative story telling– she empathizes with her characters and gives voice to ordinary women.” Incidentally, Esther David’s Sahitya Akademi winning novel, Book of Rachel, is out of stock in India.
Suron ki Baradari by Yatindra Misra is a Hindi book with a lovely mix of anecdotes narrated by Bismillah Khan to the author over a series of interviews. Bismillah Khan is very much revered and loved shehnai player in India. Abhaya talked about his humility and compassion; he was a simple unassuming genius whom it was impossible to pull into debate as his music spoke the loudest of all.
Another Hindi book, Abhaya picked up was Suron ke Sadhak by Shambhunath Misra. It wouldn’t be the kind of book that you get online. “A forgettable book- unless you have a deep fascination for three page biographies of Indian musicians,” he said.
As the book pile grows, we will come back to this book club in Part 2.