Books, precious.

Six books in seven days is not too bad. Books, as in proper non-graphic-novelly books.

Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys.

Twice-22 By Ray Bradbury. A collection of short stories collecting two previous short-story releases- The Golden Apples of the Sun and A Medicine for Melancholy. I have read some of these stories before, “The Fog Horn”, for instance, but I just can’t get enough of re-reading Bradbury.

Carl Hiassen’s Skinny Dip. Entertaining as always. I loved the fact that I could figure out that the cover art was by Charles Burns.

Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. Now an interesting thing happened. There are these book exhibitions happening at the Institute of Engineers from time to time, but of late I have been skipping them because of three reasons – one, the way they price their books is completely random – mostly it seems to be based on the thickness of a book, and not whether it’s good or bad;two, the books are completely unarranged. Which is good for your book-hunting impulses, but at the end of a terrible day at work, one hardly has the impulse to tilt one’s head sideways and walk from one end of a hall to the other trying to filter the white noise of titles ( 90% of the listed books are stuff you find at Abids on Sundays for 10 or 20 rupees, and I swear the next time I see five copies each of Alexandra Ripley’s Scarlertt and Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale in a stack of 100, I will scream.) ; three – if you get books for cheap, all the restraints, all the mental promises you’ve made not to spend any more money on books, all of these are forgotten. So yeah, I try my best to ignore these sales, even though I pass the Institute of Engineers every evening on my way home.

Now this evening, it was drizzling, and traffic was suckadelic. Traffic is always suckadelic and it nearly always rains in the evening, but it was even worse this time because I was on riding pillion on a bike. So there, we decided to park the bike at the I of E and check out the book-sale. We gave each other 10 minutes. Now as I went up, the sign said “Last day of sale”, which was good, I told myself, because I would not be able to come back for second helpings if I saw something interesting, and because they were only taking cash. So off I went, nonchalantly checking around. Truth be told, I wasn’t looking too hard, because most of the good stuff would already be sold. Saw a book of Marilyn Monroe pictures, priced at 195, but decided to skip it. Too high a price for photos, especially after I had downloaded a 140 MB package called “The Ultimate Marilyn Monroe Photographs Collection, Ever” just a couple of days back.

And then I saw the familiar logo of Fight Club staring at me, with Brad Pitt grinning and Edward Norton looking sullen and “Chuck Palahniuk” written in bold on top, and I said “hallelujah!” and went and checked out the price, which turned out to be just right. Sixty rupees is not a high price to pay for this book, yeah? Then at the counter, the guy tells me, buy one book, get another free. GLUCK! Ten minutes were almost up, so I ran a bit and looked around for something good that would cost me 60 Rs, but alas, the only ones I could see were Terry McMillan and long-read Stephen Kings and the odd Steve Martini here and there. Finally, just picked up the Marilyn book, and asked the guy to price something.

“Pay 150”, he says. Woah! Has to be the first time I paid lesser for two books than I would pay for buying one of them. Began reading Fight Club right that night, during dinner, and finished it the next morning. Yummy. Can’t believe how faithful the movie was – except for the nip and tuck there, which added to the goodness of it. Seriously, it would take guts to make a script out of this book.

Bollywood Uncensored: What You Don’t See On Screen And Why by Derek Bose. Pretty interesting reading on the peculiar quirks of Indian film censors. I liked the attention Bose paid to the banned documentaries of the seventies and eighties, with a neat comparison chart of what happened to those documentaries. ( Some were allowed to be telecast on Doordarshan by High Court and Supreme court, and others were shafted by DD anyway, when they aired these post-midnight.)

Tim Dorsey’s Hammerhead Ranch Motel, that I finished on the train ride to Madras day before yesterday. One sitting. Another writer in the crime/comedy genre, and a thoroughly loony one at that. For the most part, the storyline hops around from one oddball occurrence to the other, and as pages turn and timelines mesh, a completely zany series of events transpire – the climax, naturally, happening at the Hammerhead Ranch Motel. A dancing chihuahua who meets a tragic end when he jumps off a weather-plane, a trivia-spouting schizophrenic who kills people by literally making stuffing of them. From what I have read about Florida courtesy of Hiassen and now Dorsey, the state seems to be full of lunatics and corrupt officials and fugitives on the lam from the other states.

Because I had coupons for Premier Book Stall left over, went and picked up Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and Pratibha Ray’s Yagnaseni: The Story of Draupadi. Began the second book, really well-translated ( it was in Oriya originally, I think). If only Ashok Banker could write half as lyrically as Pradip Bhattacharya can translate, I would be a happy man.



I wish it would rain, so I could go out and sing “Singin’ In the Rain”. D-uh, I am happy! My deadline just got postponed by a week, so I can calmly write all the stuff and go ahead with actually testing it all before committing any of it. Trust me, that’s so comforting, I can think of other things right now.

Like going to the Book Fair tonight. Or of kicking some alien poo-poo in Halo. Getting a cable connection at home. Thinking of things to buy with my up-and-coming credit card. And not thinking about the seven things I gotta do. Heh.

I got into this semi-argument with Navs today morning, on YM. He has been reading Stardust, not the film rag, but the Gaiman novel, and in the first chapter or thereabouts, there is this love-making episode. Pretty innocuous one, too. But Navs felt that it was Out Of Place. “An adult comic book with a love-making scene? What is this – Harold Robbins or something?” , and “It’s ok if the story merits it, but a scene out of the blue! I wasn’t expecting it.” and “If I wanted a sex scene, I would rather read Playboy or Nancy Friday.” and “Ian Fleming never wrote more than a line whem it came to Bond’s sexcapades.” and words to that effect.

Hmm. Now I had a slight problem with that. Frankly, I just couldn’t see why he had a problem with it. I mean, look at this, this is the scene in its entirety.

She said nothing. Dunstan pulled her toward him, wiping ineffectually at her face with his big hand; and then he leaned into her sobbing face and, tentatively, uncertain of whether or not he was doing the correct thing given the circumstances, he kissed her, full upon her burning lips.
There was a moment of hesitation, and then her mouth opened against his, and her tongue slid into his mouth, and he was, under the strange stars, utterly, irrevocably, lost.
He had kissed before, with the girls of the village, but he had gone no further.
His hand felt her small breasts through the silk of her dress, touched the hard nubs of her nipples. She clung to him, hard, as if she were drowning, fumbling with his shirt, with his britches.
She was so small; he was scared he would hurt her and break her. He did not. She wriggled and writhed beneath him, gasping and kicking, and guiding him with her hand.
She placed a hundred burning kisses on his face and chest, and then she was above him, straddling him, gasping and laughing, sweating and slippery as a minnow, and he was arch-ing and pushing and exulting, his head full of her and only her, and had he known her name he would have called it out aloud.
At the end, he would have pulled out, but she held him inside her, wrapped her legs around him, pushed against him so hard that he felt that the two of them occupied the same place in the universe. As if, for one powerful, engulfing mo-ment, they were the same person, giving and receiving, as the stars faded into the predawn sky.
They lay together, side by side.
The faerie woman adjusted her silk robe and was once more decorously covered. Dunstan pulled his britches back up, with regret. He squeezed her small hand in his.
The sweat dried on his skin, and he felt chilled and lonely.

(c) Neil Gaiman . Reprinted without permission, but I am sure he wouldn’t disapprove.

I found this very descriptive, yes, and also very “literary”. Nothing titillating or vulgar about the whole thing. And yes, isn’t it infinitely better than saying – “Dunstan kissed her full on her burning lips. They made tender love in the moonlight. And as the stars faded in the predawn sky, they lay side by side.” ???

Again, I don’t see why it’s wrong to have a love scene in a fairytale, adult or otherwise. (try reading Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty series, with its graphic s&m scenes and you will know what I mean) Besides, it’s hardly plausible to see characters in any book behave like Disneyfied nincompoops – or to read an author who is descriptive when it comes to explaining the internal working of a Walther PPK, but coughs away certain aspects of a character’s daily(????) life because he wants to preserve the sanctity of Holy Humanity as laid down by Her Late Royal Highness Empress Victoria.

Hmm, or was it Navs pulling my leg?