Category Archives: Literature

May 2010 in Books

Trying something new. I forget too much of the stuff I consume, and I think I need to note things down so I can remember them better. Will hopefully be doing this every month for books and films.

Reading this month was sadly light. There are tons of books lying around which I am yet to read. Usually I tend to at least consume a fair number of comics per month, but that didn’t happen this month either. Will be trying to change that in June.

Terry Pratchett – Going Postal: Reread, for the fourth time, if I remember right. Still my favourite Discworld book. By this, the 33rd book, Pratchett is like a well-oiled machine, and Discworld runs pretty much on its own steam, but in this one, he shakes things up properly, introduces a new main character, employing different tricks from his bag, even restructuring the presentation to an extent. Moist von Lipwig is a find, the best new character Pratchett has created in a while, the charming cad who has more depth than just that. In both this book and its sequel, Pratchett essentially compresses the timeframe for a major societal change into a few days and makes the whole book come together better and makes the story flow smoother. I could have said I reread this in anticipation of the upcoming movie, but really, I just love this book to bits.

Warren Ellis – Frankenstein’s Womb: A very short, pleasant read. A history lesson mostly to do with Ellis’s new obsession – the hyperconnective tissue of culture. Much like Do Anything, except further back in the past (and obviously not featuring Jack Kirby’s robot head). With some rather marvellous artwork to boot. Well worth a read, and perhaps a couple of rereads. Beautiful artwork.

Warren Ellis – Two-Step: An old pop favourite. Amazingly fun cyberpunk-ish action thriller/romantic comedy, with Ellis channelling both his inner juvenile and Garth Ennis (one might argue they’re the same). Conner and Palmiotti’s artwork is heavily inspired by the MAD practice of inserting as many background jokes into panels as possible. The combination works out to be a heady kinetic romp with plenty of hidden jokes to go over later. Apart from some unpleasantness with a couple of male rape jokes, this one’s a keeper of a book. Sadly overlooked among Ellis’s more famous creations. Take a look at it here. (Link mildly NSFW. In short, there’z boobies.)

Tomorrow: May 2010 in Movies.

Book-Haul Diwali 2009

So after keeping my emotions about books in check all through this year’s Landmark Sale, I decided to make a visit on the last day of the sale, hoping that the available selection would have been reduced, and I wouldn’t end up bankrupt as I usually do. I did just fine. Went over-budget by only 50%, which is good because my usual is around 200-300%. This continues my couple-of-months-long streak of not splurging on books till I read enough of the ones I have.

So, as usual, here’s a short, mostly uninformed set of opinions on some of the books I bought. It’s essentially an annotated list, but I’ve linked to stuff this time so you can take a look for yourself.

***

I decided to get myself some comedy, for one thing. So it was extremely fortunate that there was a Robert Rankin book on sale (The Toyminator, sequel to the rather awesome The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse), and one by Jasper Fforde – The Fourth Bear. This one isn’t part of the matching hardback set I talked about some time ago – it’s a paperback, but I haven’t read this book, and I can always give this copy away when I get the matching set.

I also saw Eoin Colfer’s Hitchhiker’s book, And Another Thing …, but I decided not to buy it just yet because looking at it just made me sad.

I found a lovely hardback of Good Omens for Rs. 149, with this sort of flippable dust cover, so you can choose the white angel cover saying ‘Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman’ or the black devil cover saying ‘Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett’. It was a pity I couldn’t find more copies to give to other people.

I bought a couple of books for a friend – a second copy of Daniel Kehlmann’s Measuring the World (I haven’t yet finished reading the copy I own, because a friend ‘borrowed’ it fairly quickly), and Death by Chick-Lit by Lynn Harris, which, of course, I’m going to read before I give to my friend.

Which reminds me, I got one ladlit book (for myself) – Love and Other Near-Death Experiences by Mil Millington – and chose not to get one by Mike Gayle because that dude sucks at endings.

I missed out on buying Best New Horror 15, because I thought I already had a copy. Turned out I had Best New Horror 12. But anyway, I’ve got way too many anthologies at home which I still have to read, and also, Landmark had something like five copies. It’ll stay. Speaking of horror, I got Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, which I’d been craving for a while. I also got Transgressions 2, which has a story by Joe Hill’s dad.

The find of the day originally seemed to have been Eagle Annual: Best of the 50s (featuring Dan Dare, apparently ‘the Greatest Comic Strip of All Time’), but it turned out to be more of an interesting artefact than something of actual reading value. Still, cheap!

I tried to renew my old allegiance to sci-fi by buying Black Man by Richard Morgan and Spook Country by William Gibson. (Proof I’m a bad sci-fi fan? I’ve only read the first 30 pages of Neuromancer – I got bored and stopped.)

Assorted weird books that stood out from the (rather large) pack – Lost Souls by Michael Collins, Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer (a memoir centred on a bookstore), The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen (a holistic memoir, it seems), The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson, The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes (New Victoriana), Rain Dogs and Love Cats by Andrew Holmes (bought due to the Tom Waits connection, and currently reading) and The Insatiable Spider Man by Pedro Juan Gutiérrez (nothing to do with Peter Parker).

Also bought my first Jeanette Winterson (Tanglewreck) and Simon Spurrier’s first (Contract).

Finally (did you notice how I reserved it for the end, didja, didja?), I got Electric Feather, mainly because I wanted to finish reading the Samit Basu story excerpted here. I finished this book last night, by the way, and it was quite interesting. I’ll be writing a review soon. All in all, I’m glad I got it. You can read Ruchir Joshi’s introduction here on Nilanjana Roy’s blog.

And that’s all for this shopping spree. I don’t have the usual feeling of shame and huilt at overspending, which makes me happy. And these’ll last me for a while, don’t you think? Yeah, right!

McSweeney’s Book-Haul

I’m writing this post essentially to test out the capabilities of Windows Live Writer. I’ve heard a lot about it, and looking at the interface, I can see why people like it.* It’s simple, intuitive, and lets you concentrate on the writing part of the whole thing.

* I know! Praising a Microsoft product without reservations. Who’d have thought?!

***

Around half a month ago, The McSweeney’s Store had a garage sale of sorts. What they did was take out everything in the attic – the old books, the slightly chuffed ones, the ones nobody wanted for that price – and offer them on sale. I bought those on a friend’s credit card (fully intending to pay her later, of course), and she then announced that they were my birthday gift from her. Another friend of mine who was coming over from the US brought them here for me. One of these had a torn dust-jacket, the other two were simply slightly chuffed.

McSweeney’s #13: This was the comics issue of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. This was edited by Chris Ware. There are some text pieces in this which verge on, but generally manage to avoid, the hissy ‘comics are literature’ tone. The comics themselves seem to be excellent, ranging from 1842 to 2004 (when this was printed). I haven’t read the whole thing, but it is a lovely-looking hardcover. 263 pages of salty goodness.

Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon: One of my favourite writers writes a whole non-fiction book. Reading Chabon’s non-fiction is always a pleasure. It feels like chatting with an extremely clever, interesting acquaintance. (His fiction, by the way, can be slightly too fluffy or fatiguing at times, but only because he’s always ambitious.) I’ve started on this one, and every reason I like the man’s writing is coming back to me.

Curious Men by Frank Buckland: This guy, it seems, is one of those old English oddities. Except that this one was interested in other oddities. This book is made of 12 essays culled from the thousands of pages written by Buckland. I’ve read a couple of these, and though they are slightly dry at times, they are never less than interesting.

So these are my latest literary conquests. There’ll be more, and you can rest assured I’ll bore you by talking about them.

NovelRace

Twitter hashtag :: Facebook page

It started with Samit Basu calling for a wordcount race on Twitter. The motive was simple enough – to tell each other, “Write, bugger, write.” And perhaps to point and laugh when you’re ahead.

So here’s where we are right now. Finish a novel (‘novel’ here would mean anything – screenplay, play, graphic novel script, non-fiction or, of course, fiction – exceeding 60,000 words) by October 31st. Meet on Twitter, update, heckle each other, make a tally every weekend, and bitch. Everyone is welcome.

As Samit says, there’s no real group objective beyond going “DAMN, he/she is 5K words ahead again!”

It’s all being done up on Twitter. You can follow the updates and contribute using the hashtag #NovelRace.

Current participants: @samitbasu, @mohaps, @allVishal, @TinyToots, @decemberschild, @thedilettante, @adityab, @sidin, @angadc, @kokobano, @allabtanimation, @rads, @shaaqT, @writefly, @RexTR, @iyermatter, @fubar69, @shesturningblue, @paytfor, @ibanov, @nushkush, @radhika_rayan, @pinkandpop, @sheetalVyas, @vimoh, @FallingDownFast, @flyingfootage, @ArchisM, @captainblubear, @vasudhapande, @triya, @rehabc, @SatsJo, @drqanungo, tired, Mahendra Waghela, Pallavi Kosunam, Rahul Varshneya, Nithya Ravi, Baisali Chatterjee Dutt, Henna Achhpal, Meghna Hazarika, Monica Khatri.

Anyone who wishes to join should give a shout-out to Samit (@samitbasu) or me (@adityab).

Updates will be posted as (usually after) they occur.

June 10th: Participant list updated. Rules edited for clarity.

June 10th Update 2:

Note from Samit Basu:

Perhaps we should also add that this is far less structured than things like NaNoWriMo. There are no rules, no one’s checking your work, what you do with your finished book afterwards is entirely up to you. Also, no real rules as far as eligibility is concerned – you just need to want to finish your book/screenplay/play/comic, it should be a full-length piece that would serve as a first draft that you could show publishers after editing. Thassall.

Even the wordcount guidelines we’ve set up are, like the Pirate Code, just guidelines. Don’t ask us whether your work is eligible. It is. Write it.

June 10th Update 3:

Click here to visit the Facebook page. Join to participate or watch.

Also, a note: This is not a contest. There is no Panel of Judges. The prize is a shiny new finished novel.

Eligibility: Anyone who wishes to join. Yes, even if you’ve already started the novel. Jump in as you like. Start today/start in July – it’s all good.

Non-Twitterers should join and update on the Facebook page.

Further updates once daily.

Why Booksales Are the Devil’s Work. Also? Debit Cards.

NB: I am offering my copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Book 1 for sale. Refer to third paragraph from bottom for details. Sold to the James Hetfield wannabe against one bottle of beer.

I was standing in line at the Landmark check-out counter this evening with my bucketload of books. And this guy rushes to the counter in the other line, plunks down one book (which was *shudder* a Jeffrey Archer) and pays in cash, and I think, money looks very expensive when you see it in pieces. There’s three hundred-rupee bills, and it seems a lot to pay for one book.

My conquests, on the other hand, came to around ten times that. But that was okay, because I was paying by card. So I didn’t actually have to see the swathes of money disappear from my account and reappear across town in somebody else’s.

But, while that gave me pause, I finished my shopping anyway. You know why? Because I was getting them cheap. When my friends talk to me about books, it’s sort of like when men taunt women about buying things they don’t need just because they got them cheap. Actually? It’s exactly like that.

Over the last year, at a variety of booksales, I have bought books that I didn’t need because (a) they were shiny-new, (b) ooh look how much they’re cutting the price – never mind that the books had been rotting in the store till I saw them and would continue to do so if I just left, and (c) it’s still fucking worth it. You buy ten books at the price of four. You like five. You hate two. You give/throw them away. You don’t read three. You’re still up one book.

So essentially, I’m unrepentant. Sue me. So what if I always have less money for food, drinks, clothing and computer peripherals? Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about rent. I’d have been homeless by now. Saving is for wusses. Books are where it’s at.

Speaking of which, today’s haul:

2 copies of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s MirrorMask picture-book. Two different editions, both hard-back. One 7×7, one 10×10. I’m going to give one of these to a friend. But I’m deeply conflicted about the one I should keep. The larger version is, obviously, larger. (L: 1, S: 0) But the smaller version looks more compact and readable for me as an adult, and it has a dust jacket with a rather lovely texture. (L: 1, S: 2) But the smaller one’s cover lists the authors as ‘Creators of the National Bestseller Coraline’, which is not sodding true, and the larger version lists them as ‘Creators of the Bestseller The Wolves in the Wall’, which is. (L: 2, S: 2 minus a very large number) And the larger one would be more readable for my niece. Which shouldn’t really be a consideration because, when she learns to read (years in the future), I’ll give her a separate copy which she can tear up to her heart’s content. So I think I’ll keep the large version and give the small one to my friend, who is an adult, and who’d, I think, like something that wouldn’t break if you sat on it (which is more of a danger with adults than with tots).

I also bought three SFF collections.* Also very cheap (one was for 125, against an original price of more than Rs. 1000). One’s a Best of Fred Pohl (refer to this). I’ve read tonnes of his stuff from the school library, but this is only my second buy, I believe. The first was a novel whose copy was so old that it disintegrated at touch.

* I buy a lot of collections. Because theoretically, it takes less time to read short stories than novels. But only in theory. In practice, I find myself choosing the novels.

One book that I didn’t buy, but which I very much wanted to, was a copy of Jasper Fforde’s Something Rotten, one of my favourite funny books. But I don’t have the rest of his Thursday Next series, and this copy wouldn’t fit in the set when I buy it.** So, in spite of being a hardback at a mere Rs. 200, I forsook it for the eventual, more expensive, matching set.

** They had this copy, and the copy that fits in the set looks like this. Also (psst, psst), that one was a US edition. With, as we all know, spelling mistakes.

And, wonderful person that I am, I bought another copy of the first Hitchhiker’s Guide book. In spite of having a boxset. Well, you see, the boxset is like this: Commemorative Editions of Books 2-5, which consist of a photograph of the first edition cover for each, and matching spines. But Book 1 is a film tie-in edition, with a film tie-in cover, and lots of extras – photos, interviews, notes on the making, all that, including in-depth thoughts on how the Arthur-Trillian romance was the right thing to do (to be brief, it wasn’t) – all of which I didn’t really want. So I had a boxset that didn’t match. You can see my predicament? Today, on the other hand, I found a copy of the first book, which was, wonder of wonders, a Commemorative Edition. With cheesy cover with needless embossing, no extras, and (this is where you can almost hear me having an orgasm) a matching spine!

So I’m going to sell off my copy of the film tie-in edition of the book. Anybody wants to buy it? Make me an offer. Note that this is only Book 1. It’s more-or-less pristine (‘like brand new’ in sales jargon), it has a new cover with a still from the movie, and it comes with lots of nice extras (mainly about the movie) which you might like (but which I didn’t). I’d prefer someone from Pune, of course, but we can work something out. My email ID, as also given in the sidebar, is: adibidi (at) gmail (dot) com. If nobody makes an offer, I will probably give this away to one of my non-H2G2-educated friends.

I think that’s quite enough ranting about booksets. I’m not usually that anal about matching editions. I’ve got a hundred different editions of Stephen King books, for example. And I actually avoid the matching cover editions of Michael Chabon books, because the matching design is printed on paper that gets dirty real fast. But I prefer sets of books which are supposed to be sets – such as trilogies (Samit Basu’s books – which I have signed editions of, by the way – for example, or the Alexander trilogy) or series (Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books, Bone***).

*** This actually only comes in one edition, but I wanted to mention it because I also have signed copies of these books. And I got to meet Jeff Smith. It’s been almost five months and this still makes me break out in a grin.