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Mar 272014
 




1,227 Quite Intersting Facts

I picked up 1,227 Quite Interesting Facts on a lark.

It was lying forlorn in the new books section of my local library casting a beseeching “Pick Me Up” look in my direction.

I’m glad I picked it up because the book is a cornucopia of interesting ‘facts.’

Now I have no way of knowing the veracity of all the items listed in the book but the few that I checked are true.

You can open any page and start reading. Most items should take just a few seconds.

The book covers a wide variety of topics including arts, science, literature, language, humans, animals, insects and the environment.

Here are a few of the interesting ‘facts’ cited in the $15.95 book:

* Wow! The amount of sperm produced by a single human male in a fortnight is enough to impregnate all the fertile babes on Earth. [p.255]. Now I really understand what people mean when they say, “Little drops of water make a mighty ocean.”

* Meow! Four million cats end up on the dining table every year in Asia. [p.106] Since cat food is not a hot favorite in India or the U.S., I can’t vouch for this ‘feline delicacy.’

* Don’t tell this to your girlfriend but Kangaroos have three vaginas. [p.3] Good Lord, one vagina is more than most men can handle.

*Contraceptive pills work well for gorillas too. [p.192] Does that mean they’ll work on Salman Khan and Narendra Modi? ;)

* Apparently, a single edition of the New York Times contains more information than an average 17th century Englishman would have been exposed to in his entire lifetime. [p.92] I wonder what the 17th century Englishman would make of the humongous library that the Internet is. Continue reading »

Jan 132014
 

Andalucian Friend Review by SearchIndia

Ever since Stieg Larsson and his weirdo creation Lisbeth Salander came to the attention of the world, Swedish crime writers have hit the jackpot with the English language crowd via translations.

Swedish screenwriter (for TV shows) Alexander Söderberg is the latest Scandinavian to hop on the crime fiction bandwagon.

New Kid on the Block

The other day I picked up Söderberg first novel, The Andalucian Friend, from my local library on a whim.

The 446-page novel lacks the class and depth of Larsson’s novels.

The language is mediocre. Was the translation outsourced to an Indian, I wonder? ;)

The book takes its sweet time moving into third gear.

But the story is still fairly riveting.

Multiple threads run through the book but they are decently connected.

Arms smuggling, drugs smuggling, turf wars, police corruption and betrayals intersect with the interests of criminals belonging to different nationalities (Swedes, Russians, Germans and Spaniards) and operating in multiple countries in Europe and South America.

And of course, there’s always an innocent woman (with a teenager son in this instance) caught in the crossfire.

Throw in some romance involving the innocent woman and one of the bad guys and, voila, you have a spicy curry.

You’ll have to be a bit patient with this book because the plot takes some time to get into top gear.

Once it does, the bullets start firing, the drug intake increases and the book finally starts to provide some rewards for the time you spend on it.

I expect a sequel is in the works.

If you don’t expect too much from The Andalucian Friend you won’t be disappointed.

Jan 062014
 

99 Classic Movies for People in A Hurry - Review by SearchIndia.comOne stumbles upon the oddest books at the library.

Earlier today, I scooted over to the local bibliothèque to return the Se7en DVD when I happened upon 99 Classic Movies for People in a Hurry ($9.95).

People in a Hurry?

Ha ha ha!

Now if you show me someone not in a hurry in our present times, I’ll gladly show you my crown jewels.

Since I’m loath to ever leave a library empty-handed, I picked up  99 Classic Movies for People in a Hurry.

The book presents succinct summaries of the great movies.

Each movie’s description takes just four little boxes (three, if you exclude the title box).

I have no complaints with the selection of movies in the list since the legendary ones like Casablanca, Yojimbo, Citizen Kane, The Third Man, Some Like It Hot, Delicatessen, Terminator, Sunset Boulevard, Star Wars, The Shawshank Redemption,  etc are all to be found.

But I was not too happy with the quality of many of the descriptions for the movies.

Many seemed to have been written in a hurry! ;)

I will admit though that writing such short summaries of great movies is a daunting task.

99 Classic Movies - Casablanca

No, not a single Indian movie figures in the 99-classics list.

Now don’t tell me you’re surprised not to find Chennai Express or Rowdy Rathore in the company of Star Wars and Gone With the Wind!

99 Classic Movies - Forest Gump

Be it Bollywood, Kollywood or Tollywood, India is the trash capital of the world where movies are concerned!

Bottom line, I’d say 99 Classic Movies for People in a Hurry is kinda interesting but kinda unsatisfying.

Not worth the $10.

Nov 072013
 

Soon after I read Brotherly Love, the poignant story of two brothers Subhash and Udayan, in the New Yorker (June 10, 2013), I became eager to read Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland from which the short story is excerpted.

Fast forward three months.

I’ve read The Lowland.

Lowland is a Delight

Death – Not the End

Spanning four generations and over six decades, The Lowland is set both in India (Tollygunje area of Kolkata) and the U.S. (Rhode Island, Brooklyn and California). Continue reading »

Sep 092013
 

Americans abhor complexity.

Simplicity is the lodestar of their lives.

They like neat categories into which they can pigeonhole people, ideas, religion, food, sex and attitudes even if such categorizations make no sense.

If you’re a Muslim, you’re either a terrorist or sleeper-cell terrorist.

If you’re Black, you must be a criminal or surviving on government benefits.

If it’s an Indian restaurant, then it must be serving Naan, Tandoori Chicken and Mango Lassi (most Americans have never heard of South Indian cuisine).

If you’re an Indian, then you must be speaking either Hindu or Hindi (a lot of Americans are clueless about the difference between Hindu and Hindi and the rich variety in Indian society).

If you’re against large-scale government spying by the NSA, FBI and NYPD, then you must be a supporter of terrorists.

If you’re an Indian-American writer then you must be an immigrant fiction writer.

But the American love of neat categorization does not sit well with foreigners, particularly those of Asian origin.

Jhumpa Lahiri - The LowlandJhumpa Lahiri
(Image: Random House)

Recently, Jhumpa Lahiri (whose new book The Lowland has just come out) was interviewed by The New York Times.

Here’s an interesting excerpt:

What immigrant fiction has been the most important to you, both personally and as an inspiration for your own writing?

I don’t know what to make of the term “immigrant fiction.” Writers have always tended to write about the worlds they come from. And it just so happens that many writers originate from different parts of the world than the ones they end up living in, either by choice or by necessity or by circumstance, and therefore, write about those experiences. If certain books are to be termed immigrant fiction, what do we call the rest? Native fiction? Puritan fiction? This distinction doesn’t agree with me. Given the history of the United States, all American fiction could be classified as immigrant fiction. Hawthorne writes about immigrants. So does Willa Cather. From the beginnings of literature, poets and writers have based their narratives on crossing borders, on wandering, on exile, on encounters beyond the familiar. The stranger is an archetype in epic poetry, in novels. The tension between alienation and assimilation has always been a basic theme.

I have yet to get access to Jhumpa’s The Lowland but as a New Yorker subscriber I got to read her short story Brotherly Love (June 10 & 17, 2013) a few months back.

Part of The Lowland novel, Brotherly Love is about two brothers Subhash and Udayan in Kolkata during the Naxalite era.

I found the short story poignant and can’t wait to lay my hands on the novel.

Related Jhumpa Content:
The Lowland – Jhumpa’s New Book Delights
The Namesake Review – Lovely Movie
Sep 032013
 

In the business of life, every tiny episode is a test, every human encounter a lesson. Look and learn.
- the Five Star Billionaire Walter Chao

Drowning in a Svedka stupor, I’d be hard pressed to tell you how I stumbled upon Tash Aw’s new book, Five Star Billionaire.

How does it even matter?

The book is what counts.

And it is a gem.

Five Star Billionaire Book Review

Mumbai on Steroids

Indians awed by the frenzy and chaos of Mumbai would be stupefied to learn that Shanghai is Mumbai on steroids.

A giant city that inspires gigantic dreams but mercilessly crushes the spirit of even the most daring souls, always one step ahead of its residents.

To this pollution-filled megalopolis of gleaming skyscrapers, vast construction holes in the ground and 23-million striving individuals, come four young Malaysian migrants (two men and two women) with a desperate yearning for wealth, happiness and, above all, a new beginning in life.

Five Star Billionaire is the account of these migrants churning within the grinding mixer of Shanghai, a heady brew of high aspirations, betrayals, pretensions, passion, failure, revenge and ruthlessness.

Tash Aw has created four memorable characters, set them in the world’s most happening city and painted them in dazzling hues.

Five Star Billionaire has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2013.

Most U.S. libraries carry Five Star Billionaire.

Reserve your copy today.