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If you listen real close, you can hear me gritting my teeth.

It’s end of the month, and I am broke. In fact, I am beyond broke – uber-bankruptcy would be the right word.

Hence, not a good time to enter Landmark Book Store, Nungambakkam, Chennai.

But the flesh is weak. I sauntered up to the manga section which, strangely, is located somewhere in the middle of the children’s section while the rest of the graphic novels are just next to the entrance. Quite a few of the usual Del Rey suspects – Negima, Azumanga Daioh, xxxHolic and all – but the first one my eyeballs locked onto was vol 1 of Crying Freeman. The next moment, I was a crying Freeman myself, having observed the 594 INR price tag at the back of the book. Glanced wistfully at the pages – Ryuichi Ikegami’s artwork embellishing Kazuo ‘Lone Wolf’ Koike’s story about an assassin is something right up there in my Wish List, but no, goddamnit. I wasn’t spending any money today. No freaking way. Returned the book to its place. Went to the normal graphic novel section and winced harder at the sight of the hardbound edition of Jessica Abel’s La Perdida. The art was terrific, but again, flipped through the pages and kept it back.

Found out that Landmark has also begun stocking Los Bros Hernandez’s Love and Rockets books, at a stunningly low 295 Rs each. Amazing! How can Fantagraphics books afford to be so cheap, inspite of a cover price of 14.95$?? My friend opined that it was probably a mistake – and promptly picked up volume 1. I tried asking around to see if they had Palomar and Locas, the complete Love and Rockets collections from the two brothers. They didn’t. Oh well. I read the first volume of Oldboy – the manga in the store, which left me marvelling at the apt storytelling choices Park Chan-wook opted for while making a movie out of it.

And then I made my way to the sci-fi/fantasy section, and promptly regretted the decision.

Day Watch was out – the English version of the second book in Sergei Lukyanenko trilogy. Priced at 698, by the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth! And Ramesh Menon’s Bhagavat Purana, which has got to be the thickest standalone book I’ve ever seen. Should be about 1300 pages. 995 Rs. After I was done with the soft-sobbing-while-being-curled-into-foetal-position in the corner of the section, I called retail therapy. In other words, Krishna of Bookworm – who cheered up a so-far-dreary day by not only having both books in stock, but also using the magic words “twenty five percent discount” in the same context.

Update: Chandru was in Chennai yesterday, and he bought Crying Freeman for me. What can I say – the flesh is weak. Oh right, I already said that.

Update 2: Chandru also bought La Perdida. *Sigh*

Update 3: There is an eBay seller who’s put up five Crying Freeman volumes and nine of Wounded Man, another of Koike-Ikegami’s collaborations. And he’s shipping internationally too. Hrmmm.

* * *

It’s official. If Samit Basu is channelling Neil Gaiman in his user-friendly, accessible-fantasy-writer-prone-to-bouts-of-mythology in his work, Sarnath Bannerjee is channelling Grant Morrison in his cheery outlook to writing. The guy most remembered for the mess that was Corridor, has come up with Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers, his second work, and this is what he says about himself – “I am always at the fringe. I am the fringe of literature. I am at the fringe of art- its a very comforting space.” and about his work – “It’s a dark mysterious story which lot of it is me. It’s reality slipped into magic and magic slipping into reality with ease. Despite all the movement in space and time, the narrative is much more linear and much more rounded off.” How very novel. If you haven’t been reading Morrison’s semi-coherent interviews for the last couple of years, that is.

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12 thoughts on “If you listen real close, you can hear me gritting my teeth.

  1. Many thanks for indirectly introducing me to Blankets. I met Amit Varma the other day, and he told me you’d introduced him to it. Immense astonishment and joy comes.

    • Anytime, my friend. You should probably check out Craig Thompson’s earlier Goodbye Chunky Rice. I have seen the reissued version at multiple Landmarks.

      • The artwork in Blankets is something I can empathize with. Amit and I were talking the other day. I believe that, if Thompson had lived at the turn of the last century, he might have become an artist. Contemporary art often seems like it lacks, or consciously rejects, the idea of visual narrative- an element that is clearly present in the graphic novel.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “Mess that was “…???

    Come on. Thats a bit harsh isn’t it ? Corridor wasn’t all that bad. Really. I know, the usual comparision starts off with the stuff ‘saar’ is used to readin , but come on, it was worth the effort. As long u dont expect much. I really enjoyed the first book.The characters were so real .And when u hav enlightening stuff like : “Universal death rate: One death per person”, “It all comes down to chewing your food well” .. ..

    I remember his last interview on CNBC couple of yrs back, where he kept explainin the “importance of shopping for fish” in the life of a bengali “….
    – sai

    • Re: “Mess that was “…???

      Well, ok. Let me defend my opinion.

      Corridor was very carelessly written and drawn, in my opinion. For a country where the concept of a “graphic novel” is non-existent, it was a novelty when it came out. Probably if Sarnath had stopped trying to be at the fringe of literature, and gotten himself a style that’s less whimsy, it would have worked. It didn’t work for me. A couple of nice one-liners and characters with interesting names doesn’t quite cut it.

      If it worked for you, great, Sai. But I have the same problem with both Samit (Basu) and Sarnath Bannerjee, they are taking advantage of the absence of a particular genre and recycling ideas and techniques that have been around for decades. Again, not a bad thing, but does not endear them to me.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: “Mess that was “…???

        Well I guess with that kind of a sound defense it is really hard to argue, isn’t it  :)
        … I m not applauding Sarnath or anything, but I jus felt that the book sank without the basic degree of appreciation that it deserved. Not jus for being “the first graphic novel”, but a little more than that. That’s all…

        (btw, sorry for the double post. mistake happened :))

  3. Anonymous says:

    “Mess that was “…???

    Come on. Thats a bit harsh isn’t it ? Corridor wasn’t all that bad. Really. I know, the usual comparision starts off with the stuff saar is used to readin , but come on, it was worth the effort. As long u dont expect much. I really enjoyed the first book.The characters were so real .And when u hav such enlightening stuff like : “Universal death rate: One death per person”, “It all comes down to chewing your food well” .. .. :)

    I remember his last interview on CNBC couple of yrs back, where he kept explainin the “importance of shopping for fish” in the life of a bengali “….
    – sai

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