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.

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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!

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‘The Last Defences of Mankind’ Comics Adaptation

Anomaly1sPlease go read Nitin Veturkar’s comics adaptation of my story ‘The Last Defences of Mankind’. This is the first of many comics we plan.

You can also read the original story on this very blog here.

Notes on Kaminey

I have no inclination to do a proper review of Kaminey this late, and, looking at the sheer number of reviews out there, you don’t need another review, and neither do I. These are just notes. Some spoilers ahead.

  • It’s a very good movie, but not a brilliant one. Could’ve been plotted more tightly. I don’t think it should’ve been shorter, but that more things should’ve happened in the same amount of time. Apart from the scripting, I don’t have any major complaints. The music was used well, the camera was used carefully and lovingly, the editing was appropriately intense. (Also, could someone tell me where I could find the song that was used in the climax but wasn’t on the OST? That was nice.)
  • The film crashes into the climax rather than leading up to it. The climax felt dissociated from the rest of the movie. Which brings me to …
  • The plot of the movie did not feel inevitable like a good pulp story should. You should never have to doubt why this happened in this way. With Kaminey, right in the first half hour, I was wondering why some things were happening as they were. If pulp feels arbitrary (which it always is), it makes it too easy for the house of cards to fall. All of which is a roundabout way of saying – lazy plotting. Not very lazy, but I expect better from Bhardwaj.
  • The characters were fine. They made me think about their motivations. Again, not always brilliant (Amole Gupte, for example, does a lot of good work with a character who’s barely sketched out beyond formula), but worth talking about.
  • Shahid Kapoor did a really good job with his dual role. There were moments when his innate Shahidyness showed through (mainly in Guddu), possibly due to his training in the Bollywood star-based cult of personality, but Bhardwaj managed to turn him into the actor whose potential I saw back in Jab We Met.
  • One of the best parts of the movie for me was the homosexual/homoerotic relationship between Charlie and Mikhail (played by Chandan Roy Sanyal as a weird, sensual and rather scary guy). I liked the ambiguity about whether these two were in an actual relationship or had a mutual unrequited love for each other which they couldn’t express due to being Indian manly men. This mirrored the escape route Bhardwaj seems to have left for the insecure straight male who wants plausible deniability and will insist they were ‘just bros’.
  • I admired the directorial choice of leaving Guddu mostly ineffective right to the end. Someone else might have shown him doing something, but, apart from a couple of half-hearted kneejerks, he remains a sap.
  • Sweety (Priyanka Chopra) was the most interesting character in the movie. Shady, playing her cards very close to her chest, fiery to a fault, her brother’s sister to the core. She should’ve been given more screen-time.
  • The choice of interval was odd. It might’ve made more sense a few minutes later, just before the daybreak scene. But I think it was a legitimate experiment on Bhardwaj’s part, just one that didn’t quite work for me.
  • The plot was not a difficult one to understand. As my cousin said to me when we were talking about the movie afterwards, this might be the new Matrix in that it might become fashionable to say that it was a difficult movie but you managed to understand it. It’s not. If you didn’t understand what was happening, you’re a moron. Understanding it doesn’t make you unusually smart. You just had to pay attention.
  • It should be silly to feel good about something that is only right and should be ubiquitous and normal, but I felt happy seeing the words “based on an idea by Cajetan Boy” at the beginning of the movie.
  • I’m going to watch the movie again, sometime. I’m not in a hurry to do so, but I think I should. In spite of what griping I’ve done, it had the unquantifiable ‘It’ factor.

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?!

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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.

‘Secret War’ Teaser Image

Here’s a teaser image from the webcomic project I’m currently working on with artist Nitin Veturkar, tentatively called Secret War.

These are the uncoloured ink roughs for the first chapter frontispiece (click on image to embiggen):

SW_inks_mail-clean-scaled

I’ll be uploading some development sketches in the near future.

Comments are welcome.

Book-Haul 27/6/2009

I was so close. For the first time in forever, I was going to leave a bookstore with my spendings safely within budget. But then I saw a damn book. Looking at the cover, it was merely interesting. But then I opened it. And there. Fuck you, budget.

This book, as any of you following my Twitter feed at the time would realise, was The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. This is a gorgeously illustrated mix of prose, picture book, graphic novel and silent film stills. Can’t comment on the quality of the writing yet, but it’s worth the price I paid just to sit looking at it.

Here are the other books I bought. All of these (except the Bradbury) were bought at Landmark’s discount tables, where you get brand-new books for lunch-money prices. Sometimes they are slightly scruffy or something like that, or discounted for silly reasons – for instance, you might find Book 4 in a series of 7 with the other 6 nowhere to be seen in the entire shop. But most of them are just inexplicably cheap.

The Lynne Truss Treasury by Lynne Truss (author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which, oddly enough – to me, at least – I haven’t read): Three novels and a shitload of columns (656 pages, as per Amazon). So a lot of bang for my buck, although the customer reviews are not particularly encouraging. We shall hope.

Inner Circle by T. Coraghessan Boyle: Stylistically, this guy has probably been the biggest influence on my writing, and I’m not even that big a fan of his. Maybe I was just at a very receptive stage when I read him. Also, this book was originally on the discount table for Rs. 199, and I skipped it (because I already have two collections of his I need to reread). Today I got it for Rs. 99. So good things come to those who etc.

Just Enough Liebling by A. J. Liebling: Gigantic collection of columns about food and sundry. Browsed, liked the style, bought.

Masterplan by Scott Mills: Landmark, I firmly believe, bought a whole bunch of Top Shelf comics at the same time that I did – at last year’s big sale, when Top Shelf sold off what seemed like half their catalogue for $3 each (that’s TPBs, not single issues, by the way). Now Landmark seems to be moving these books from one store to another hoping someone will take them off their hands. Bring ’em on, Landmark. I’m right here.

Reasons I Won’t Be Coming by Elliot Perlman: A collection of character-based short stories that seems fascinating.

Truth: A History and a Guide for the Perplexed by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto: About the decline about the fundamental quest for knowledge. Bought on the basis of a lovely narrative about an old Sudanese ritual.

Million Dollar Baby: Stories from the Corner (a.k.a. Rope Burns) by F. X. Toole: Liked what little I saw of the movie. This is the original short story collection it was based on. Stories seem punchy, heartfelt.

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen: Psychological thriller. Bought based on the darkly funny first page.

The Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman: One of the most disparaging views on this book was by someone who compares it unfavourably with The Da Vinci Code after telling us how she’s been a voracious reader for over forty years. So there are two possibilities. One, she doesn’t like Dan Brown (the sane option, which would mean I’ve got a turd on my hands). Two, she likes Dan Brown, in which case I’m probably safe.

Ardor – A Novel of Enchantment by Lily Prior: Supposedly a weird little romantic fairy tale with Dahl-level naughtiness. I’m so there.

The Fundamentals of Drawing Portraits by Barrington Barber: I now have 2 more books about drawing (2) than I do sketchbooks filled with drawing (0). Iz doin it rong, I believe.

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury: Now I don’t exactly consider Bradbury the pinnacle of style in SF. But this seems to be more about ideas, on which I can probably trust him. This is going to be my first read from this batch.

Be Cool by Elmore Leonard: I had to start on Leonard some day. This is supposed to be one of his weaker works. So if I like it, I can probably assure myself that it’ll only get better.

Also, a note: I am extremely glad that no one from the fantasy community has looked at the word ‘Scientifiction’ and thought, We gotta get ourselves one of those, and made up the word ‘Fantastifiction’. I googled it and there are some who use it, but they all seem to be morons of the kind we need not give a fuck about.

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.