of UK, books and India

Some pics from the UK....

If the layout on your computer looks anything like the layout on mine, the first three are images from the rowing regatta at Henley-on-the-Thames. The next handful are from the Portobello Road Market, at Notting Hill. And the last speaks for itself....
By the way, on books: 1. I was really all set to encourage everyone I know to read Such a Pretty Fat. And then, in the last five pages, the author is mean to a homeless person. No, this will not ruin the end of the book for you -- it's a well-written memoir about a woman struggling with her weight and body image -- unless, of course, you can't stomach people who are mean to the homeless and disadvantaged. 2. I packed along Cassandra and Jane, thanks to a friend, and plan to update you soon on how this "Jane Austen story" reads -- Hint: it's been an excellent travel companion! 3. I am continuing my love affair with all things Lonely Planet. And, it turns out, all things Moleskine.
Oh, and 4. There's a new book club book! It looks as though this meet will take place sans moi, however the hosts have an excellent invite I just have to share (hopefully they don't mind):
Hello friends,

See, when you come to Bangalore, and stop at a traffic light, some boy will run up to your car and knock on your window, while holding up a bootlegged copy of an American business book, wrapped carefully in cellophane and with a title like:TEN SECRETS OF BUSINESS SUCCESS! or BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR IN SEVEN EASY DAYS!
Don’t waste your money on those American books. They’re so yesterday.
I am tomorrow.
(from White Tiger by Arvind Adiga)

So begins, pretty much, last year’s Booker Prize winner, and your next selection for The Little Book Club That Could, the date for which is Yet To Be Set.
I know what you’re thinking. Another Indian won another Booker Prize? What hold does the sub-continent have on Booker Prize committees? I’ll note that last year’s panel had a British-Sikh comedian (aside: WTF?), and my people are not known for their reasoning or diplomatic skills (“Choose White Tiger, or I will slit your throat…”).
And while I am as befuddled by the appeal of The God of Small Things as the next reader, I will say that India, with its rocketing economy, teeming population, ancient, varied, strange, vibrant, and gorgeous cultures, its place in the Information Age, its new global stature, to go along with its old global stature, is an ideal place to incubate and produce compelling pieces of art. We may add Arvind Adiga’s White Tiger to the list.
The story of Balram, the servant driver from the Darkness of India, and his ascent and adventures as a “social entrepreneur” left me conflicted. The book is written in a charming, sardonic, underdog voice, which is greatly appealing. Adiga says he’s inspired by the Black American 20th century novel, epitomised by Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and the voice of those in the lower places, those that know the score, the reason for their Hell, and are enraged by it.
Adiga is no Ellison, but he captures, or imagines the reality of one foot soldier in the Army of the India’s Servant Underclass. Scores of men, women and children from the “Dark”-er states of India drive the cars, serve the tea, and till the fields of those in the Light. This book is an antidote to the elephants and ashrams and spices we’ve come to expect from the sub-continent. It casts a light on the side we never see.
Or, at least, I think it does. We really have no way of knowing. The book’s authenticity rings true, but that might have more to do with my overeducated, liberal ear than whatever might be the case. Does the poverty described in the book fall into the same exoticism trap the rest of country seems to fall into? Can we survey the country without seeing saris and dance numbers, without hearing strains of the sitar and thumps of the tabla? My fear is that I’m trumpeting a book that might be adding a brick to the edifice it professes to break down.
I hope you read the book and bring your thoughts. To confuse you further, A. and I will serve a selection of delicious Punjabi dishes and their accompaniments. Please let us know if you’ll join us.


TSS said...

Looks like it might be in August, so I expect you'll be there. I hope.



'Nuff said.

Trish said...

ah, but T, you forget that everything I write is absolutely brilliant :)

and, seriously, Moleskine has a travel notebook that's pocket-sized and filled with maps of London -- I look oh-so-slightly less like a tourist when I'm sitting on a bench flipping through notebook pages to figure out where I am!

TSS said...

Full disclosure... since I've discovered Moleskine, I've filled five of those little things with inane chatter and thoughts. My datebook is a Moleskine. My journal is a Moleskine.

I am, therefore, a hypocrite.