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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Went to the 'World Book Fair' today. Was thinking of writing about the Fair since I could not make it to the real one going on in Calcutta right now. But it turned out to be a conglomeration of stalls from various publishers in different halls of Pragati Maidan, each separated from the other by miles of dark roads. That did not stop me and my wife from picking up some cool bargains though!
So, instead of the Fair experience, I thought I will just write about some of the really diverse books I have read over the last couple of weeks.

Karl, Aaj aur Kal
Cyrus Broacha writes exactly the way he speaks. In a manic rush and with no connection to what has been said in the previous sentence. Which makes him the ideal candidate to write about two Bombay boys who become reluctant superstars of Bollywood. And Cyrus' Bollywood is populated by people like megastar Yusuf Khan, who insist on being called Rohit in every film. Even when he is playing Chenghis Khan!
This book is sure to get clobbered by every reviewer in town for the completely chaotic narrative, with jokes and one-liners thrown by the dozen with no apparent connection to the plot. But when you are writing about a kid growing  up in 70s who is so besotted with Amitabh Bachchan that he signs his name as Anthony Gonsalves, you don't need a plot. You only need a fat sidekick called Kunal!

If I Could Tell You
Soumya Bhattacharya writes a weekly column in Hindustan Times (called Dad's the Word) centred around his daughter, Oishi. So, his novel - where the only named character is the narrator's daughter, Oishi - naturally evoked questions about its autobiographical nature. Having read the novel (and interacted with the author briefly), I can say it is anything but!
A failed author. A failed father. A failed husband. The book is a bit of horror-story and gut-wrenchingly real, especially if you have a young child who trusts you much more than you do yourself. I found it to be very well-crafted but don't have the courage to read it again.
The real Oishi asked at the Delhi book-reading, "Why is the story so sad?" Yes, why?

Ken Jennings did something unthinkable in 2003. He remained undefeated for 74 games (!!!) on the American game-show called Jeopardy! He immediately became a pop icon ("appearing on both Leno and Letterman within a span of one week") and was commissioned to write a book. By his own admission, Jennings wanted to churn out a quickie with inspirational quotes, life wisdom and a parroting of his record-breaking run. I am so glad that he didn't.
What he has written instead is a history of world Trivia, though the focus is more on USA. He recounts the adventures of ultra-competitive college quizzes. Interviews trivia book writers. Meets game-show hosts. Travels to trivia championships. Details out his entire 25-second thought-process to answer a tough question in half-a-minute (Quiz addicts would just love this!). And he peppers the book with trivia questions (with answers at the end of each chapter)!
Are those the only reasons I loved the book? Not really. I loved it because there are so many things - on a superficial sort of way - that I have in common with him!
I also read the Acknowledgements first in every book. I would also rather find a 'four-star trivia' any day than money. I was also born in 1974. And I also have a trivia-addict friend, whom I can jam with!  
If you don't have a friend like that who will ship you the book from USA, you can buy the book here. Actually, you must!  

Imagine the most famous works of fiction in tweets - the whole story in about 20 - 30 of them!
So you have @BigMac getting really pissed about his wife's obsessive hand-washing. And the Prince of Denmark going by the handle of @OedipusGothplex tweeting things like "Why is Claudius telling me what to do? He is not my real dad. In fact, he killed my dad."
Apparently, some new ones are being added by the two undergraduate students (whose names together are more than 140 characters) who are the creators of the series. The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter are next in line. You can read them here. I just loved this one (by @NotoriousHP): "SNAPE KILLED DUMBLEDORE WTF WTF WTF?"
And you could try it for home-grown classics as well!
@Jatayu: No recog for this great poet! RT @BMullick_Poet: Oyi Kanchanjunghe, Dekhechhi tomar roop Uttar Bangey!
@RupaMehra: Looking for a match for Lata. Any suitable boys?
@HariK: @RyanO, @Alok_Gupta OMG the results come out today! Hope I get 5+.
So on and so forth...
While on the topic of Twitter - I bought Sidin's Dork today - which is the most-publicised book on Twitter! 

Other books bought recently:
* All That You Can't Leave Behind - Soumya Bhattacharya
* Munnabhai MBBS: The Screenplay - Abhijat Joshi & Rajkumar Hirani (no rolling credit to M K Gandhi)
* All Marketers are Liars - Seth Godin
* The Dord, The Diglot and an Avocado or Two - Anu Garg (on strange origins of words)
* Superfreakonomics - Levitt & Dubner
Finished the first two. Will do the rest over the next week.


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