January 1, 2019
by Neelima

Readers can’t Digest-Week 214 (26-Dec to 1-Jan)

1. Amos Oz, Author Who Chronicled Israel’s Struggles, Dead at 79 and

2. Former Irish Times critic Eileen Battersby dies following car crash

3, From Trump to #MeToo, publishing made headlines in 2018

donald trump GIF by Election 2016

4. Mamamia website apologizes for ‘cruel and humiliating’ treatment of author Roxane Gay

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5. From Jan 1, Books, Movies And Music From 1923 Enter Public Domain

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December 31, 2018
by Neelima

Eyesores, Desire and Renunciation @ BYOB Party at the Takshashila Institution in Nov 2018 (Part 6)

A couple of gems sparkled: Chokher Bali by Tagore (Tagore adorns the posters of The Takshashila Institution), Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.

Image result for chokher bali amazon bookLakshmi spoke about the unputdownable Chokher Bali (translated as eyesore), a powerfully written emotional narrative. This fast-paced love triangle captures the protagonist Mahendra’s quandary as he is besotted with his wife Ashalata but Binodini, a young widow, also captivates him. Tagore is a master of human emotion and a master of the complicated structures of human relationships. It’s on the Epic channel in Netflix too though Lakshmi emphasizes that nothing could beat the book as Tagore’s writing is subtle and more focused on undercurrents than any melodrama or stereotype. Farewell my friend is another book by Tagore that was rated highly during this BYOB party.

Image result for latitudes of longingIndira Vijaysimha was enamored by Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup. This series of lyrical love stories brings together geologists, clairvoyants, turtles and a yeti and spans across the emotional and geographical faultlines of the Andamans, Myanmar and the Himalayas. “The book feels like a response to Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement and it reminds me of Dorris Lessing’s trilogy in terms of the scale of things. Life is so fragile, one moment a mountain stands tall and the next moment, it falls into the sea,” she said.

Click on this link to read a very interesting interview with the author.

You can read an excerpt of the story here.

Image result for siddhartha hermann hesse amazonSajal Raj Gautam talked about the classic quest novel Siddhartha. The book talks about how Siddhartha leaves a life of privilege to discover himself – the classic enlightenment story. More about Herman Hesse, the Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1946 here: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/1946/hesse/auto-biography/

More books in Part 7.

December 27, 2018
by Neelima

Hail Long Sentences! @ Link Wanderlust

The short sentence has earned a great deal of appreciation- it’s rational; brevity thy name is wit. But long sentences are necessary and provide the kind of pauses, akin to breath control in music, and tensions of a high-wire act that are required to make a narrative interesting.

A phraseologist like Sinatra overlays the meter with something like confiding speech. He is all about the lyrics—you can hear him enunciate every syllable—and it feels as if he is saying as well as singing them to you, stretching out and twisting the pitch of words as we do in speech. Sinatra sings in sentences.

You can break down a long sentence into a poem.

Think of a long sentence as a poem and it will always be clear, because each part of it will unravel in little musical phrases, with all the different parts coloring one another without it ever feeling discordant.

Cheers to all the long sentences that ignite beauty in our lives! Read In Praise of the Long and Complicated Sentence: Frank Sinatra. Now there’s a guy who could string together a lotta words by Joe Moran.

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December 25, 2018
by Neelima

Readers can’t Digest-Week 213 (19-Dec to 25-Dec)

1. Fifty-fourth Jnanpith Award for 2018 goes to Amitav Ghosh, the first writer in English who has received the award

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2. Pair of James Joyce’s glasses sells for €17,000 at auction

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3. Meghan Markle cookbook Together makes shortlist for André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards

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4. Sudha Murthy, Ruskin Bond, Snigdha Poonam among winners of this year’s Crossword Book Awards

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5. Dream Job: The writer paid to put millions to sleep

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December 24, 2018
by Neelima

Confessions, Feminists and Talking Points @ BYOB Party at the Takshashila Institution in Nov 2018 (Part 5)

Image result for the confessions of saint augustineSamarth talked about some high philosophy when he got the book The Confessions of Saint Augustine by Augustine, Edward B Pusey (Translator), a spiritual self-examination originally written in Latin and traces Augustine’s restless youth and his spiritual voyage. Augustine was one of the most important exponents of Christianity. The School of Life showcases his work here, good if you are looking for an overview. Samarth talked about the time-space continuum and the principle of singularity that Augustine espoused. Unlike the Greeks who believed in nothingness, Augustine believed that God existed out of time and space and therefore there is no ‘before’ God.  He is believed to have sown the seeds of the autobiography genre.

The book is available on Gutenberg as well. If you want an Existential Comics approach to Augustine, check this out.

Image result for why we should all be feminists amazonSmitha came upon a podcast by Chimamanda Adichie on Why We Should All be Feminists. She was impressed by Adichie’s words:

I would like to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently…

The book adapted from this TEDx talk is a twenty-first take on feminism and contemporary sexual politics. Here’s an excerpt from the book: https://www.feminist.com/resources/artspeech/genwom/adichie.html

When the dangerous waters of feminism led to the inevitable gender debate, Abhaya recommended reading Nivedita Menon’s Seeing Like a Feminist, a history of feminism in an Indian context.

Image result for sapiens amazonSowmya, our host at Takshashila, talked about the inescapable Sapiens by Yuval Harari, such a favorite non-fiction. “For me, there is life Before Sapiens and life After Sapiens,” she said. Harari has covered civilization fairly accurately, she says. Some readers did not see eye-to-eye on some of Harari’s claims, particularly the idyllic life of the hunter-gatherer. This is a myth as survival was not a question of luxury; it was hard work and painful and often a losing battle. Almost every reader in the group had an interesting takeaway from this book. It’s become the talking point of 2018.

More books in Part 6.

December 20, 2018
by Neelima

Listening and Reading @ Link Wanderlust

It’s exciting the places that reading can take you. What happens when a reading researcher delves into the authenticity behind listening to audio books. Is it as good as reading a book? Can the ear replace the eye? Well, they are both good, there being a lot of ‘overlap’ except when it comes to intent- sarcasm works better with a voice.

“Writing is less than 6,000 years old, insufficient time for the evolution of specialized mental processes devoted to reading. We use the mental mechanism that evolved to understand oral language to support the comprehension of written language. Indeed, research shows that adults get nearly identical scores on a reading test if they listen to the passages instead of reading them.”

It’s interesting that listening may not aid learning that much because when you read for a test, you try to understand it and that only happens when you reread. Also, paragraphs are markers that audible books can not provide.

Read Is Listening to a Book the Same Thing as Reading It? by Daniel T. Willingham for a brilliant analysis.

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December 17, 2018
by Neelima

Bastar and Holocausts @ BYOB Party at the Takshashila Institution in Nov 2018 (Part 4)

Image result for the burning forest amazonKrishna had intended to talk about My World and Welcome to it by good old James Thurber, humorous writer and illustrator extraordinaire but he decided that a discussion on The Burning Forest by Nandini Sundar was more important instead. The book talks about the loss of lives of security forces, Maoists, human rights activists, lawyers and ordinary people in Bastar. The story of Bastar is unknown to most people and this book is an eye-opener if you want to know more about the history of the Salwa Judum. Newton, a movie that has delved into this subject, was mentioned. There was disagreement about state property and double standards when it came to tribals. Another book about Bastar that was discussed was Woodsmoke and Leafcups: Autobiographical Footnotes to the Anthropology of the Durwa People by Madhu Ramnath. Here the author focuses on the communal narrative of the Durwa people. Sometimes you need to step out of the world you know to understand that there are many worlds outside the narrative that don’t need to go extinct.

Image result for the boy in the striped pajamas amazonAda talked about a well-known YA Holocaust fiction called The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. The story revolves around Bruno and his newfound friendship in devastating times. “We don’t have YA books that explore complex subjects this way in India,” Ada said. The mention of the Holocaust sparked off an intense debate on the many pogroms that have affected so many parts of the world. Be it Auschwitz where even the bravest soldier feel the shivers or the mass graves at Cambodia, be it the slaughter of the Native Americans or the Armenians or the eradication of aborigines across the world, human atrocities are common fare. “It’s just a question of who markets their stories better,” a reader said wryly.

This is a link I stumbled on while writing this post. It’s an interview with Lang Leav, who was born to Cambodian parents who were on the run from the Khmer Rouge. Worth a listen.

More books in Part 5.