Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
I am a fan of Margaret Atwood. Her Blind Assassin is the book that I first read and especially enjoyed the lyrical prose. The next book that I enjoyed is her Negotiating with the dead which talks about the writing process. I just finished reading her Curious pursuits: Occasional writing. As with Negotiating with the dead, many pieces in the book are about writing. There are also a few obituaries, several autobiographical essays, and even one or two movie reviews.
One measure of success of such books about books, for me at least, is the number of books that I go looking for after the reading. In this case, here is a partial list of books and authors that I now want to read thanks to Atwood’s recommendations: Anne Sexton: a self-portrait in letters, Northrop Fyre, Jonh Updike’s The witches of Eastwick, Susanna Moodie’s Roughing it in the bush, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Ernest Buckler, Antonia Fraser’s The Warrior queens, Thomas King (One good story, That one), Marquez (The general in his labyrinth), Anne of Green Gables, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Grimm (unpurged), Hillary Mantel (An experiment in love), She (Haggard), Doctor Glas, Dashiell Hammett, Elmore Leonard (Tishomingo Blues), Ursula Le Guin, Tuds Terkel (Hope dies last), Robert Bringhurst (The classical Haida mythtellers), Orhan Pamuk (Snow), The island of Doctor Moreau, and George Orwell. Thus, the book is quite a hit for me.
Atwood has thought deeply about certain things: writing process, science fiction, Canadian literature. The writing conveys these thoughts; and, conveys them in style. Atwood’s writing style is something that I enjoy (and would love to emulate). There are also a few laugh-out-loud funny passages and several humorous pieces. In addition, there are a few personal pieces which I liked a lot: for example, her difficulties in reading Virginia Woolf when she first encountered Woolf is something that I have also experienced.
Needless to say, strongly recommended!
A very satisfying read; strongly recommended. Here is the complete review page for the novel.
The book has set me thinking about the deity called “Betaraya” (The hunter king) who is worshiped as Veknateshwara in parts of Krishnagiri district and the similarity of this deity and his stories to that of Vittal. There are also several references to pastoralist siddhas which reminded me of the stories of Thirumular and Idaikkadar.
Having known about the haridasa view of Vittala, knowing about the Varkari version as well as knowing about the other influences (Veera Saiva, Buddhist and Jain) was truly wonderful. I especially liked the section about the violent reaction against claims of Vittal as a Jain god and but acceptance of Vittal as Buddha and I found that the reasons that Prof. Dhere gives for the reaction are quite convincing. A similar explanation was given by Sri Chandrasekhara Saraswati of Kanchi regarding Amarasimha’s impartiality in his Amarakohsa when it came to describing the names of Hindu deities and his appropriating the names of Jeena to Buddha.
Finally, all these days, I was wondering as to why Haridasa’s blurred the distinction between Buddha and Jeena by describing Buddha as standing naked. After reading the book, I can see why.
On the whole, a nice book for anybody interested in religious studies. Strongly recommended.
A must-read and strongly recommended: Sanjay Subrahmanyam does a fabulous job of summarising what the book is all about in the last two paragraphs:
… In adding one more to the many contested portraits of Vasco Da Gama, this books has intended to make an implicit plea for a rather more nuanced, indeed ironical, look at the history of `European expansion’, … No dramatic shifts of paradigm have been proposed, merely the careful sifting of mass of tangled materials, to which the continuing research of other historians will doubtless add over the years. For the task admits of no easy solutions, with perhaps the greatest of our burdens being the historian’s classic sin: anachronism.
In a recent essay, a well-known Portuguese historian (…) begins by quoting Spinoza: `Concerning human actions, I have tried not to laugh, not to weep, not to detest them, but to understand them.’ To the reader of this volume, I hope the message that I have conveyed has been somewhat different, and rather less `Christian’: concerning past human actions, to laugh when they are ridiculous, to weep when they are tragic, to detest them as they were often detested by those who were their victims, for how else would we ever come close to understanding them?
Sister Devamata’s Days in an Indian monastery and Kiran Nagarkar’s Cuckold. Recommended.
Here is Pais on Whittaker’s book on the history of relativity:
His treatment of the special theory of relativity in the latter volume shows how well the author’s lack of physical insight matches his ignorance of the literature.
Pais has good things to say about the first volume of the book though:
This work covers the period from Descartes to the close of the nineteenth century. Colleagues more knowledgeable on this period than I, confirm my impression that it is a masterpiece.
Of Gibbs he wrote:`[His] book is … a masterpiece, even though it is hard to read and the main points are found between the lines’. A year before his death, Einstein paid Gibbs the highest compliment. When asked who were the greatest men, the most powerful thinkers he had known, he replied ‘Lorentz,’ and added, ‘I never met Willard Gibbs; perhaps, had I done so, I might have placed him beside Lorentz’
From Abraham Pais’ Subtle is the Lord…: The science and life of Albert Einstein. I first read the book sometime in 1991-1992. I am reading it again and my comprehension of the details is much better this time around. Enjoyable and strongly recommended by the way (and, an Oxford lives paperback is available for about 400 rupees)!
This is the first time I have read Subrahmanyam though I have heard about him sometime back. I enjoyed the book — though the reading is a bit slow due to the foot notes, quotes and unfamiliar ideas. Recommended. And, I have already ordered his Mughal history book and connected history volumes.
The first bookstore that Jabberwock remembers is not even a bookstore! I grew up in a home which stacked lots of books and I started reading the abridged 2000 word vocabulary words before I got introduced to children’s magazines such as Gokulam, Poonthalir and Amar Chitra Katha; growing up with two more siblings, there were elaborate procedures and rituals as to who got to read which magazine in what order. But the feeling that Jabberwock describes is something that I have also experienced, even if the person who brought the magazines was my father on his trips to and from the nearby town!