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July Reads

Read List:

Pankaj Mishra – Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond Slightly misleading title, but interesting read nonetheless. I knew of Pankaj Mishra as a travel writer, and I had assumed that the book would be about stuff like mall culture and consumerism, but this dealt more with the ramifications of Western culture. Yes, this is a travel book, and the articles are interspersed with blogish anecdotes and observations. But that in no way subtracts from it the sheer persuasiveness with which Mishra etches the impact the West has had on people in Kashmir, Mumbai, Kabul, Nepal and Allahabad, just to cite a few examples. Pretty revelatory at times, the chapters on Kashmir made me feel ill – small wonder that when the articles were printed in a journal in the USA, Mishra’s family was paid a friendly visit by agents of RAW ( Research and Analysis Wing, India’s intelligence agency) for his “anti-Indian” ideas. Brrr.

Ramesh Menon – The Ramayana What can I say? The guy totally rocks. He makes Ravana a virile Love-god, the kind of person who “took virgins to bed and then a week later, when he was done with them, they would exit from his inner chambers looking ten years older.” ( I am paraphrasing from memory here, so bear with me ) Menon isn’t the top of his form here, but his version of the Ramayana is completely meaty, without deviating into creepy Ashok K Wanker “The-One-Against-Dark-Lord”-territory. He includes the Uttar Ramayana as well, and the main story of the exile is followed by a section on the other characters of the epic. Now I only have Krishna: The Dark Blue God to pick up, and I am done with all of Ramesh Menon’s works.

Harry Potter: Books 5,6 and 7: Read the three of them on three consecutive days, with the last the day it was released. Totally loved the series.

Cerebus Vol 2: High Society: I had bought Cerebus vol 1, 3 and 4 before on eBay.( At a quite decent price too, as far as signed editions go. ) But because Volume 2 was missing, and because I hated to read it on scans, I finished book 1 and hung around looking for a good deal. Which I managed to get, from my Brady Deal, and carted all the remaining volumes back t India from my US trip. High Society is the transition book, that took Cerebus from being a Conan-The-Barbarian parody to a Serious Work Of Socio-Political Relevance, which reached its creative peak with volumes 3 and 4. In High Society, Cerebus The Aardvark leaves his uncouth barbarian life and checks himself into a hotel in the city-kingdom of Iest. The book progresses from Cerebus’s shady dealings in order to get himself wealthy to, eventually, running for the post of Prime Minister of Iest. The book has everything going for it and does not disappoint. At all. Though I have a mild headache from trying to wrap my head around the heavier themes in it. Onto the two volumes of Church and State, the next two Cerebus books, where the aardvark runs for Popehood.

Neal Stephenson – Zodiac Sangamon Taylor, the protagonist of Zodiacis to ecology what Spider Jerusalem is to journalism. Irreverent, unscrupulous and completely jacked-in to his profession of choice, Sangamon is happiest when he’s pissing off CEOs and PR managers of Big Corporations that spew industrial waste into the swamps and the rivers of the US of A. It took me quite sometime to get into the book ( which is why I had stopped in the middle of it the last time I started reading it, sometime in 2004) because the actual story does not begin until about the middle of the book. But Stephenson lays his subplots and his characters wisely, and the book chugs merrily along, culminating in a major feel good ending.

Robert Rodi – What They Did To Princess Paragon Interesting premise, slightly flawed execution. ‘Princess Paragon’ is one of the three flagship characters of Bang Comics, all three of whom are in the process of being revamped by the company for the nineties. Nigel Cardew, a British writer has already reworked Moonman as a brutal murderer and another writer/artist is taking over Acme Man. This leaves Brian Parrish, who’s getting the short shrift at Electric Comics, Bang’s rival, to come and lay the groundwork for the Greatest Reboot Ever – he makes Princess Paragon a lesbian. Needless to say, it infuriates fans. A lot. Jerome T Kernacker, who has memorised all 149 issues of Princess Paragon takes it on himself to avenge his heroine’s honour. How he does that, and what becomes of Brian Parrish is something that Robert Rodi writes well, but does not really manage to carry off towards the end.

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7 thoughts on “July Reads

  1. I read “Temptations.. ” recently too. :) I initially found Pankaj Mishra to be trying too hard to make his first book sell after reading his “Butter Chicken in Ludhiana”. However, I changed my opinion of him after reading many of his articles in New Yorker. He is fairly objective and forward-looking in his writing. But, he mostly writes about the North.

    “Inspite of Gods” is really good. Check it out.

    What was the book you were raving about when you were here in LA? The one your colleague gave you??

  2. Temptations of the west felt a bit… biased is probably the word. Mishra’s political leanings never showed through in any of his earlier work, but this time, well it did. Not to say it is any less of a book for that.

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