The book-meme, which has been going around the blogosphere for quite a while, finally hit the internet backwaters of this blog ! During another bout of my all too frequent abscence from blogging, I was tagged by the GreatBong .
Total number of books I own: It would be difficult for any book-lover to answer this question – books are one possession that you really don’t keep a count (moreover, you can never own enough books). Most bloggers seem to get away by saying ‘oh hundreds or thousands…..’ ** – and I will take a similar refuge – except that most of the books that I left behind in Kolkata (certainly in three digits) have now been claimed by my dear sister (something about possesion being nine tenths of the law etc. ) – so that has reduced my own collection somewhat.
Last book I bought: Two books really – and they were actually bought by the aforementioned sister @ Kolkata and sent over to me here – Rahul Bhattacharya’s ‘Pundits from Pakistan‘ (an excellently written and detailed coverage of the Indian cricket team’s historic visit to Pakistan in 2003-04 with perspectives from both on and off the field – click the link to read the review by Jai Arjun) and Samit Basu’s ‘Simoqin Prohecies‘.
Last book I read: ‘The Simoqin Prophecies’ – Samit Basu borrows heavily from mythology, folk-tales and pop-culture (both eastern and western) to concoct a delighltful yarn that involves evil rakshasas, power-hungry banars, good-natured vamans, proud human beings (with and without magical powers), the mystical ravians, knights (that don’t say ‘nih’!) and a whole bewitching array of quaint characters (did that sound too book reviewer-ish ?) . Among others, there are references to Monty Python, LoTR, James Bond and (my personal favorite) a sly dig at JK Rowling. While the book sometimes satirizes the science-fiction-fantasy genre (as well as movie plots) – the overall theme is more of a homage.
The novel, however, is not just a series of in-jokes – it has a fairly gripping plot-line which I do not want to get into here and would strongly recommend that you find out. The best part of the story is that there are no a clear-cut heroes and villains – which may explain why some reviews I read were disappointed by the ending. However I thought it was extremely appropriate in the context of the shades of grey world we live in.
I am eagerly looking forward to the sequel (you can read the prologue here).Note – the book jacket claims that it is the first Indian science fiction fantasy novel – I hope that means in English because at least in Bengali, three generations of Rays have produced some magnificient works of sff.
Five books that mean a lot to me: Hmm……that’s really tough. If I make a subtle distinction between simply having enjoyed a book and those that ‘mean a lot’ , then the latter list would have to be include the body of work by some authors rather than particular books.
Anyway, here goes my attempt:
In no particular order ( book or sets of books):
1. Satyajit Ray’s Feluda, Prof. Shanku and the short stories (Ek dajon gappo etc.) series: Ray took up writing for children in order to revive the ‘Sandesh‘ magazine and they turned out to be so popular that he kept going at it until his major source of income used to be from the sale of books. Thank god for that – Bengali literature, especially children’s literature is all the more richer.
The Feluda series used to be (and perhaps still is) the regular staple of not only Bengali children but many adults as well. I remember waiting with baited breath for the Puja-special edition of Desh magzine which would chronicle the latest exploits of Feluda (Prodosh Mitter) – a self-employed sleuth of middle-class Bengali origin, a bachelor, in his late 20s-early 30s with a keen sense of observation and a thirst for knowledge and an excellent physique (uncommon for most Bongs !) – joined by his innocent and somewhat naive but faithful nephew, Topse (‘good name’ : Tapesh Ranjan Mitter). From the third novel onwards (‘Sonar Kella’ – later made into a film) the duo is joined by the venerable Lalmohan Ganguly, who writes pulp-thriller novels in Bengali under the pseudonym Jatayu and can always be relied on a few good laughs. While the Feluda novels are quite popular, IMHO Ray’s best writings are in the short-stories. Published in quanta of a dozen (mostly with a couple of Feluda shorts at the end), they almost always dealt with ordinary people – their hopes, aspirations, fears and most of all their fantasies. More often than not the stories would also venture into a supernatural world. It would take a whole different post to deconstruct his stories but I sincerely believe that Ray is the true successor of Tagore in the genre of Bengali short-stories (Tagore having practically introduced short-stories to Bengali literature which had been dominated by novels and verse till then).
Okay – so now you know where the inspiration for the nomenclatures in this blog comes from ! (except for the title – which is a common enough term used to describe the typical Bengali addas and also the name of a movie made by the unsung but no less taleneted Ritwik Ghatak).
2. PG Wodehouse – would be difficult to pick any one- but I somehow enjoy the Blanding Castle stories more (just a wee little bit more though) compared to Jeeves and Wooster – especially the one that involves Psmith visiting the Castle pretending to be a poet (whoever visited Blandings without pretending to be someone else ?) and everyone is trying to steal a necklace (‘Leave it to Psmith’ is the title – thanks google!). The description of Rupert Baxter, Lord Emsworth’s stern but efficient secretary throwing flower-pots in the middle of the night dressed in lemon colored pyjamas is quintessential Wodehouse – had me rolling on the floor first time I read it. A close second would be ‘Right Ho! Jeeves’ that contains probably the best piece ever written in humorous, if not all, of English literature – the normally docile newt-loving Gussie-Fink Nottle giving a speech at Market Snodsbury Grammar School, after having imbibed far too much through a series of unfortunate miscommunications.
If all this sounds greek to you – do not waste a moment and get your hands on this.
3. Jonathan Livingston Seagull – I read this at a rather impressionalble age of 16 – the desire to do something outside the flock still remains.
4. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – A trilogy of five novels – ’nuff said.
5. Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman – It’s tough not to be attracted by Feynman’s unconventional, idiosyncratic and often irreverent way of approaching life, science and everything else.
Surely someday Ron Howard will be compelled to make a movie out of this – wouldn’t that be a tragedy!
As I said, it was a difficult choice so here goes some honorable mentions: Padma Nadir Majhi by Manik Bandopadhay, books by Asimov (particularly his short-stories), Clarke (the Rama series more than the 2001 Odyssey), LoTR, and the collected works of Sukumar Ray.
For a more wholesome list of books I thoroughly enjoyed reading (and re-reading in many cases) check out my profile.
I am supposed to tag other bloggers – almost all the blogs I read have already been tagged – so I guess I will tag Rahul Tyagi (who may have been tagged already but is presently enjoying himself in India at the moment and may not realise it) and a certain Mr Barat who does not have a blog as such (am I breaking any rules here ?) – but I hope this will help in dragging him out (Mr B: if you are reading this – come over to the dark side). He has one helluva collection of books and I would be extremely interested in his meme.