July 8, 2019
by Neelima

Mind and Maverick @ BYOB Party in May 2019 (Part 7)

Image result for lolita book amazonSudeep spoke about Lolita by Nabakov, a book he has mixed emotions about. He appreciates that Nabakov succeeded in taking up such a challenge- turning the abhorrent actions of a pedophile into beautiful text and elaborating on obsession, lust and delusion. “Russian authors have always delighted me,” Sudeep said. The subsequent discussion about ‘Lolita’ covered a book called Reading Lolita in Teheran by Azar Nafisi and the realization that pedophilia is a staple in many cultures in the world. Read this essay about why reading Lolita can be so difficult.

Image result for The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science amazonBut Sudeep was more taken by a book about meditation called The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science by Culadasa John Yates, Immergut Matthew and Jeremy Graves.

“It’s as comprehensive a book on meditation as you will ever find.  The book provides a step by step guide to meditation and incorporates Buddhist teachings, neuroscience and cognitive psychology. Some things the authors mention include the importance of daily meditation, how to stabilize attention, settling distractions and building attention, challenges a meditator faces.”

You can listen to Culadasa to get a brief introduction to the subject of how to calm your mind.

Ralph fancied a book about how to get inside your customer’s mind. Since in India, a large number of entrepreneurs are into the services industry, this topic sparked off a long discussion about the effectiveness of  UI, communication secrets, climbing the ladder, etc.

Image result for Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual WorkplaceAri picked a non-fiction book on similar lines called Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace by the successful Brazilian entrepreneur, Ricardo Semler. “Semler’s company is the most democratic, the kind of place where future bosses are interviewed by existing employees. When he inherited the company from his father, he decided to give the employees more of a say. They arranged the office with the decor they desired. They even decided on their own salaries. I genuinely feel that micro-level practices like these will benefit larger companies.”

You may want to hear a Ted Talk by Ricardo Semler.

And with that, we come to the end of the BYOB Party in May!

July 3, 2019
by Neelima

Readers can’t Digest-Week 236 (26-June to 3-July)

1. Melvil Dewey’s name stripped from top librarian award

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2. Suzanne Moore of the Guardian wins Orwell prize for journalism

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3. Poet hitting a language barrier with Amazon

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4. The Writer Who Lost Her Book Deal After Calling Out A DC Metro Worker For Eating On The Train Is Suing The Publisher For $13 Million

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5. Judith Krantz, the romance novelist with more than 80 million copies in print, dies at 91


July 1, 2019
by Neelima

The Fabulist and the Feminist @ BYOB Party in May 2019 (Part 6)

Ayush spoke about Foxy Aesop by Suniti Namjoshi published by Zubaan, a feminist publishing house. The story playfully creates a dialogue between Aesop and a feminist narrator who disagrees with him on many counts. Ayush read out a beautiful passage from the book:

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“A few weeks ago when I was at the Temple of Hera I heard an old woman beseeching the goddess. Noisy there.Other worshippers were imploring the goddess for whatever they wanted – children, no more children, money, even more money and so forth, There were street sellers selling fast food, flowers, bribes for the goddess—offerings, whatever the supplicants thought would work. Somehow the cries of the old woman got through to Hera. Perhaps the old woman had a penetrating voice? Who knows? She did not look particularly meritorious.

“Well what do you want?”inquired Hera. “Health. Wealth. Beauty? Whatever it is I will give you a little as you have been going on at me for a long time. “

“O glorious goddess Hera,”the old woman said plopping on her knees, “What I would like is a measure of luck.”

“Granted,” said the goddess, “From henceforth, whenever you go outdoors,if it is raining, it will stop raining.”

“I am grateful,” replied the old woman. “But please couldn’t I be a little luckier than that?”

The old woman was pushing her luck but the goddess was patient.

Every time you go out, you’ll find a few coppers lying on the ground,’ the goddess told her.

“Oh thank you,” cried the woman. ‘And might I have a tiny bit more of luck please?

‘Now what is it?” asked the goddess. She sounded exasperated.

Aesop pauses and looks at me. I nearly intervened to warn the stupid woman , but then thought better of it.

I frown at Aesop for calling the woman ‘stupid’.

What I mean is irritating goddessesis not a good idea,” Aesop explains. He continues, “Anywaythe old woman persisted, ‘Could the coppers turn out to be gold please?’

Oh you are a greedy woman!” scolded Hera . ‘Just for that I’m taking away the luck I’ve given you. Instead, when you step out, it will always rain.’

Sorry great goddess, said the old woman humbly and disappeared into the crowd.  But I’ve heard since that she has done well for herself. She’s much in demand as a rainmaker.”


Image result for if on a winter's night a traveler amazonSuniti Namjoshi has worked in the capacity of officer in the Indian Administrative Service and has also held several academic posts in India and abroad. You can learn more about her feminist perspective here.

Ayush also spoke about the multi-layered book If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino. The story talks about the search for the complete story. The reader’s search for the story leads to a number of narratives-  a detective adventure, a romance, a satire, an erotic story, a diary and a quest.

Another book that was discussed during the BYOB Party was The Art of the Good Life  by Rolf Dobelli, a book of 52 shortcuts for better decision-making skills. This book seems to be a non-fiction favorite and has made the rounds several times.

More books in Part 7.

June 28, 2019
by Neelima

Visual Friday: Diverse Women Writers – Zora Neale Hurston

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June 27, 2019
by Neelima

Checking Channels: Slowdown with Tracy K. Smith

There’s a new Poet Laureate in town —Joy Harjo. Tracy K. Smith, the previous Poet Laureate, has done a beautiful job of her laureateship. One of her endeavors is Slowdown, an audio podcast featuring a poem a day. Smith has some impressions to share and she connects her thoughts to the poem that she shares. It’s a simple thought-provoking exercise and Smith talks about issues of contemporary importance. This program has been produced in partnership with the Library of Congress and the Poetry Foundation.

For your daily dose of poetry, listen to the podcast here.

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June 26, 2019
by Neelima

That’s the Word for It: Eructation

This fancy version of the burp came into use in the fifteenth century. Eructation is a medical problem for some and mostly it’s an expression of a satisfied stomach.

The word has been used in books in interesting ways:

“Slang, too, is the wholesome fermentation or eructation of those processes eternally active in language, by which froth and specks are thrown up, mostly to pass away; though occasionally to settle and permanently crystallize.”
― Walt Whitman

“Here at any rate is Ignatius Reilly, without progenitor in any literature I know of—slob extraordinary, a mad Oliver Hardy, a fat Don Quixote, a perverse Thomas Aquinas rolled into one—who is in violent revolt against the entire modern age, lying in his flannel nightshirt, in a back bedroom on Constantinople Street in New Orleans, who between gigantic seizures of flatulence and eructations is filling dozens of Big Chief tablets with invective.”
― John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces


June 25, 2019
by Neelima

Readers can’t Digest-Week 236 (19-June to 25-June)

1. Carnegie medal goes to first writer of color in its 83-year history

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2. Nicholas Sparks sorry for ‘appearing intolerant’ of LGBT pupils at his school 

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3. The Odds Are Ever In Our Favor: Suzanne Collins Publishing ‘Hunger Games’ Prequel

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4. Blackwell’s marks 140th anniversary with signed copies from Obama and Galbraith

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5. Thousands petition Netflix to cancel Amazon Prime’s Good Omens

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June 24, 2019
by Neelima

Orphan Trains, Wars and Atheism @ BYOB Party in May 2019 (Part 5)

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We got talking about the bestselling book Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. The book talks about the real life orphan trains that ran between 1854 and 1929.  These train carried destitute children from the east coast to the midwest where they would be put up for adoption. The story chronicles a ninety-one-year-old protagonist with a hidden past. Kline explores the many dynamics of adoption and foster care in the early twenty-first century. The book was Kline’s fifth and a book that took the book club world by storm.

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Another interesting book discussed was The Forever War by Hugo, Nebula and Locus Award winner and MIT faculty Joe Haldeman. It’s an interesting sci-fi book that explores the premise of what the US would do if it picked a never-ending war with aliens. A conscript from Vietnam himself, Haldeman chronicles the story of Private William Mandella who is to fight in a thousand-year conflict. Time dilation causes a strange predicament for when Private Mandella returns the Earth will have aged far more than he has.

Listen to Joe Haldeman here.

Image result for hitch 22 amazonJoshua expounded on a memoir called Hitch 22 by the renowned atheist and philosopher Christopher Hitchens. “He’s the kind of writer whom you want to emulate as he is so erudite. He inspires you to read as he is well-read himself. He wrote Hitch 22 after he was diagnosed with Stage 4, esophageal cancer. He has touched on some controversies like support for  America’s actions in Iraq, something he regretted later on. The reason for his support could be that wanted an end to fanaticism and since he visited all the conflict zones he talked about, he wasn’t just intellectualizing about crucial policy issues. He was against totalitarianism in any form.”

Joshua advised us to savor the poetry and philosophy of Hitchen’s many debates, especially this one with Stephen Fry. Hitchens was also an ardent supporter and friend of Salman Rushdie.

In the memoir, Hitchens speaks effortlessly about his childhood, the relationship he had with his mother, his philosophies and misgivings. It is a book that offers much.

The subject of atheism led to the idea of a new kind of World Order, a world with new Gods. The book American Gods by Neil Gaiman came to mind.

More books in Part 6.


June 21, 2019
by Neelima

Visual Friday: Diverse Women Writers – Jhumpa Lahiri

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June 20, 2019
by Neelima

The Teller and the Tale @ Link Wanderlust

Image result for girish karnad

Found this speech by the late Girish Karnad, theater colossus– the First A.K. Ramanujan Memorial Lecture. He speaks about the litterateur and translator AK Ramanujan himself.

“He was among the first of Indian thinkers to take a serious look at oral tales, lullabies, proverbs, songs, in fact, at the richness of the world of women. He was a much-acclaimed translator from Tamil and Kannada”.

Karnad speaks about the Ramanjuma the collector of oral folklore, the translator and ethnographer. He collected Kannada proverbs and swear words and he translated Vachanas, poems composed by eleventh-century poets. It was while he was studying abroad that he realized that Indian folklore had such deep roots.

“Oral tales are narrated on different occasions in different contexts, but the context that had been totally ignored even by Indian scholars until then was the kitchen.”

This is such a delightful read! Karnad talks about the kitchen where the women weaved their stories for children of different age groups. He talks about folktales as symbolic of women’s agency, something that was lost in translation and in prose. Reading this story was the highlight of this speech for me….

“A housewife knew a story. She also knew a song. But she kept them to herself, never told anyone the story or sung the song.

Imprisoned within her, the story and the song were feeling choked. They wanted release, wanted to run away. One day, when she was sleeping with her mouth open, the story escaped, fell out of her, took the shape of a pair of shoes and sat outside the house. The song also escaped, took the shape of something like a man’s coat, and hung on a peg.

The woman’s husband came home, looked at the coat and the shoes, and asked her, ‘Who is visiting?’

‘No one,’ she said.

‘But whose coat and shoes are those?’

‘I don’t know,’ she replied.

He wasn’t satisfied with her answer. [So they had a fight.] The husband flew into a rage, picked up his blanket and went to the Monkey God’s temple to sleep……

All the lamp flames of the town, once they were put out, used to come to the Monkey God’s temple and spend the night there, gossiping. On this night, all the lamps of all the houses were represented there—except one, which came late.

The others asked the latecomer, ‘Why are you so late tonight?’ ‘At our house, the couple quarreled late into the night,’ said the flame.

‘Why did they quarrel?’

‘When the husband wasn’t home, a pair of shoes came onto the verandah, and a man’s coat somehow got on to a peg. The husband asked her whose they were. The wife said she didn’t know. So they quarreled.’

‘Where did the coat and shoes come from?’

‘The lady of our house knows a story and a song. She never tells the story, and has never sung the song to anyone. The story and the song got suffocated inside; so they got out and have turned into a coat and a pair of shoes. They took revenge. The woman doesn’t even know.’ The husband, lying under the blanket in the temple, heard the lamp’s explanation. His suspicions were cleared. When he went home, it was dawn. He asked his wife about her story and her song. But she had forgotten both of them. ‘What story, what song?’ she said.”

–The Flowering Tree by AK Ramanujan

Reading this lecture is a cathartic experience.