Culture & Conversation

Posts from the ‘Books’ category

Another middle class man chauffered through the streets of New Delhi

Delhi: capital of capitals

Writing about a city which has been the subject of not just modern literary narratives but of the subcontinent’s centuries-old erudite Urdu and Persian poets such as Ghalib, Mir and Amir Khusrow, could not have been easy. With diverse characters — from rich businessmen to aspirational, middle-class youth working and call-centre agents, Dasgupta manages to foreground, in original ways, Delhi’s transformational and often contradictory modernity.

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The Nobel enigma

Almost an unknown in the English speaking world, Patrick Modiano recently won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work which is inspired by disappearance, memory, and the German occupation of Paris. Pour que tu ne te perdes pas dans le quartier, his most recent book, is an enigmatic, puzzling look at childhood memories with a surprising ending.

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Clinging to the Rock

In Michael Crummey’s novel Sweetland, the crusty hero clings to the old Rock with an irrational tenacity. Sweetland is populated with vivid, distinctly drawn characters: Queenie Coffin, a chain-smoking agoraphobic who sits by the window of her house reading romance novels, the wild Priddle brothers, Irish twins who make piles of money in Fort Mac and then come home to drink it all away and the aptly named Loveless and his unfortunate cow.

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Lots of sex, little love

Before she committed suicide herself, Quebec writer Nelly Arcan wrote a book about a protagonist who decides to commit suicide by age 30. Arcan, known for her struggle with depression, has written a book as painful as her life.

The four-generation NYC family dynasty, Russ & Daughters

The house that herring built

For four generations, Russ & Daughters has been the only surviving appetizing store in New York’s Lower East Side selling Jewish deli appetizers. A testimony to the changes of the neighbourhood, the store’s cast of characters include Lobster the strong armed fish salesman, counter staff preaching for Jews for Jesus, and gefilte tofu. A book which is a delicious romp into history.

Reykjavik mayor Jon  Gnarr in pants, not a dress

From clown to mayor

If Rob Ford is politician who strove to be mayor and won, but became an international late-night clown, Jón Gnarr is the anti-thesis, a clown who ran as a joke, but then shockingly won the mayorship of Reykjavik.NDG City Councillor Peter McQueen reviews How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World.

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The land that time remembers

There isn’t a hint of social realism or documentary in the collection. Ms. Rutenberg’s travels were clearly motivated by the search for startling images. Nor is there a trace of cliché. Even the much-photographed Percé Rock looks fresh, shot from a distance across textured strips of ice and open water, against a background of a cement-coloured sky and a few lonely clouds.

Mohandas Gandhi with India's to-be first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru

Gandhi in the first person

Instead of focussing on Gandhi’s role in the Indian Independence Movement, Gandhi en guise d’autobiographie delves into his spiritual life, his search for truth, and fight against hatred. Gandhi in his own words if he were alive.

US Virgin Islands in 1918

Magical, historical Virgin isles

Magic, myth and history are interwoven in a tapestry of predominantly female voices, in the story the story of a US Virgin Islands sea captain, his tantalizing daughter, his pregnant social climbing wife, and his equally pregnant oseah mistress.