Saturday, February 28, 2009

India focus at London Book Fair

More than 45 leading Indian writers, translators, critics, academics and industry professionals will be coming to the London Book Fair, to take part in a varied programme of events based on themes of cultural and linguistic diversity, designed to enable better market understanding through contemporary literature between India and the UK. This is the first time such a wide variety of authors has been showcased in this way, and the event will bring together the largest representation of Indian writers ever assembled at a publishing trade show.

Writers including Javed Akhtar, Amit Chaudhuri, Namdeo Dhasal, Ramachandra Guha, Jaishree Misra, Daljit Nagra, Anita Nair, Bhalchandra Nemade, Nandan Nilekani, K Satchidanandan, Shankar, Vikram Seth and Pavan K Varma will take part in a series of ten seminars and readings at the Fair, as well as additional events in London and around the UK. These events will highlight the richness and diversity of contemporary Indian literature, with over 15 Indian languages represented across a total of 40 events.

The British Council is hosting the following seminars:
- Imagining India: the world of fiction
- Home and the world
- Literature of identity
- Literature of conflict
- India writes
- India translated
- Literature of the cinema
- Bestsellers and popular writing
- Literature of ideas
- Battle for the Indian reader

Susie Nicklin, Director Literature, British Council, said: “Many people in the UK feel they know India and her writers, which is not surprising given their justified success in this country; many readers in India feel they are au fait with British contemporary literature. In fact, all of us will benefit hugely from this opportunity — a major part of an ongoing British Council programme – to discover more about each other’s literary cultures and societies.”

Book retail legend dead

TN Shanbhag, founder of the Strand Book Stall, died on February 27. He was 61.
Shanbag started Strand book stall, or really a kiosk, in 1948 in what was then Strand Cinema in Bombay. A pioneer almost in the trade, his stall soon acquired a name for itself.
This was followed by a number of celebrities becoming to the stall, which grew in and stature.
He is the only retailer to have been awarded the Padma Shri for selling books!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Publishers' meet in Delhi

A day-long round table by organised by the German Book Office (GBO) in Delhi saw a number of participants - including most of India's leading publishers and printers, engaged in rather spirited discussion over the future of publishing in India.
The usual divide between the multinational subsidiaries and independent publishers was a part of the story. The meet looked at whether publishing was local or global - and there was this realisation that while publishing had to be essentially local, the main tasks for publishers was to find the next big author who could transcend boundaries and languages.

Among the participants were Juergen Boos, President, Frankfurt Book Fair, who has been visiting India fairly frequently in recent times. Another interesting participant was an old India hand, Richard Charkin, executive director, Bloomsbury, in the past with Macmillan in India.

Among the Indian publishers present were Mike Bryan (Penguin), SK Ghai (Sterling), VK Karthika (Harper), Urvashi Butalia (Zubaan), Thomas Abraham (Hachette), Renuka Chatterjee from Westland, Pramod kapoor (Roli), PM Sukumar (Harper).

New graphic story collection in March

An Indo-Swiss collaboration will see 19 contributors, both Indian and Swiss being published in a joint book in March.
The book, which reportedly has most of India's top graphic novelists writing, is being published by the Swiss Arts Council.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Random to launch 2009 catalogue

Catalogues are becoming the next big thing for the publishing sector in India.
Random House India, whose catalogue was released last year during the World Book Fair in Delhi, is launching its 2009 catalogue in Delhi on Friday, Feb 27.
Last year, the publisher had its first major season with a number of big books published.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kindle 2 is here

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is going for a hardsell. He appeared on Comedy Central’s Daily Show with John Stewart. to promote the Kindle 2, unveiled to eagerly awaiting audiences. And despite the hosts' less than charitable comments on the price and user-friendliness of the gadget, explained its positives.
While many salivated over this week's arrival of "the iPod of the book world," supporters of open e-book standards are not sure that Kindle’s format is not only bad for readers but, in the long run, possibly for Amazon too. “Either Amazon will succeed in locking people in, at which point it will become a kind of mash-up of the worst elements of the Recording Industry Association of America, Microsoft and the mafia, or they’ll fail,” said Cory Doctorow, open source advocate, science-fiction author and co-editor of the blog Boing Boing.
David Pogue of The New York Times’ ran through a long list of Kindle 2 pros and cons, lauding its screen and battery life and shooting down the notion that it will replace good ol’ paper and glue. He offers as good an explanation as any for the reason books are here to stay: “Nothing ever replaces anything.”
Steven levy of the Wired said, "Overall, Kindle 2 addresses the key problems with the original, boosts performance and points to some interesting directions. Now we're a little bit further down the road toward e-book Nirvana."

OBIT: Christopher Nolan

Irish author Christopher Nolan, best known for his prize-winning autobiography, Under the Eye of the Clock, died Friday in Dublin. He was 43 and lived in Sutton, near Dublin.
Nolan, mute and quadriplegic since birth, produced a highly praised volume of verse and short stories at 15.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bespoke publishing for kids

UK's specialist children's publisher Egmont will launch a dedicated customer publishing business, providing bespoke book publishing. The firm believes that CanDo, an in-house customer publishing business, is a natural expansion for the business and will build on the successes it has already enjoyed in developing publishing programmes for such brands as Mr Men, Thomas the Tank Engine, Winnie the Pooh and Ben 10.

The seven-strong team, headed by Gillian Laskier, group sales director at Egmont, will look to grow the profile of such promotions as the Mr Men/Little Miss 'free for every reader' book promotion with The Mirror and on-packs offers like the current Weetabix promotion with Shaun the Sheep.

Q&A sales likely to jump

Vikas Swarup, author of the book on which Slumdog Millionaire is based, is also likely to be rubbing his hands together in glee. For not only has the film won eight Oscars, it has ensured that the Swarup's book will on sale across the world.

Swarup's Q&A, the tale of how an 18-year-old boy from the slums manages to win one billion rupees on a television game show, was ticking along at a perfectly average rate before Boyle filmed it for the big screen as Slumdog Millionaire, selling some 35,000 copies since publication three years ago, according to book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan.
Vikas Swarup is currently the Indian deputy high commissioner in South Africa. Swarup's debut novel was a bestseller and has been translated into 40 languages.
Swarup is on record saying that while the film "differs from my novel in some significant ways, but manages to preserve the soul of my novel."

Oscar winning writer makes cases for equal rights for gays

Thw winner for the best original screenplay for Milk, writer Dustin Lance Black made an impassioned plea for equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. Black praised the protagonist of the rights film, Harvey Milk, - played by Sean Penn (who won best actor for the role) - who was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.

"No matter what everyone tells you, God does love you ... very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours," he said.

Black described Milk's story as "life saving" and told of his own childhood growing up in a conservative Mormon home before moving to California. "I heard the story of Harvey Milk and it gave me hope ... to live my life, it gave me the hope to one day I could live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married," he said.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rushdie no fan of Slumdog

Salman Rushdie is the latest to join a chorus of figures who have problems with Danny Boyle's Oscar winning film, Slumdog Millionaire. He told an Atlanta audience that it "piles impossibility on impossibility."

Rushdie made his remarks during a speech to more than 1,000 people at Atlanta's Emory University on Sunday ahead of the Oscar ceremony. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says author was unhappy about several scenes of this Bombay-based film, including one in which characters wind up at the Taj Mahal — 1,000 miles from the previous scene. Rushdie is from Bombay and has explored the city in detail in his novels.

“Again, the problem with this adaptation begins with the work being adapted,” he said. The author criticized other Oscar winners adapted from books, including The Reader and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Rushdie attacked “bad social adaptations,” when people cave in to fear and censor themselves or others. He urged people and society to honour essential truths.

“Wishing to create better understanding between peoples, they can seek to prevent the expression of opinions,” he said. “Seeking to calm the violent hotheads in their midst, societies can try to appease them, and so give the violent hotheads the notion that their violence and hotheadedness is effective.”

Slumdog Millionaire won eight Oscars on Sunday, including best picture.

The debate is on

Reading e-books is the future, an ex-colleague who claims to be an expert in the subject, assures me. It is already about a per cent of the market in the US and UK, and the growth figures are phenom, apparently. It uses an electronic paper display and downloads content over Amazon Whispernet using the Sprint EVDO network and can be used without a computer, and Whispernet is accessible without any fee.
Well, Forbes sheds light in a new article, 'Why Kindle Should Be An Open Book'

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Book on Gavaskar released

A book on former Indian cricket team captain, Sunil Gavaskar, smg, was released on February 21 in Mumbai. The book was released another former captain, Rahul Dravid at the Cooch Behar Room, Cricket Club of India (CCI).

The book has been written by Devendra Prabhudesai, Media Officer, Board of Control for Cricket in India and published by Rupa & Co.
The book has 560 pages and i priced at Rs 395.

About SUNIL M GAVASKAR- or SMG as he is known-was the individual who taught Indian cricket to believe in itself. An epitome of discipline, dedication and determination, he is a hero for millions, not only in India but the world over. He has been a mentor and trendsetter for those who are seeking to follow his footsteps on the cricket field and an inspiration for those who seek excellence in other walks of life. The fortitude and self-belief that enabled him to scale every conceivable peak in his chosen profession continues to inspire youngsters. SMG is a comprehensive account of the remarkable life of the greatest opening batsman in cricketing history.The book takes the readers through SMG’s formative years, and subsequently, his battles for his country. It attempts to analyse the different facets of the man – his impeccable technique, his hunger for runs, his monumental concentration, his ups and downs, and above all, his resilience in crises, on and off the field. From his being declared the ‘Best Schoolboy Cricketer’ in 1966, to his record-breaking centuries, the book takes a close look at his achievements, many of which were unprecedented in cricketing history. The teenaged prodigy of the 1960s has evolved into a Guru of the game in the new millennium. SMG maps Gavaskar’s life from its middle-class beginnings, and proceeds to give readers an insight into the mindset and methods of a legend.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Oddest Title of the Year!

The bookseller is running a contest on the Oddest Title of the Year.
The finalists are:
Baboon Metaphyics
Curbside Consultation of the Colon
The Large Sieve and its Applications
Strip and Knit with Style
Techniques for Corrosion Monitoring
The 2009-2014 World Outlook for 60-milligram Containers of Fromage Frais

Go here to vote:
The prize was founded in 1978. The winner will be announced on March 27.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bhupen Hazarika unveils own statue!

A rare honour for anyone, Dada Saheb Phalke award winner and music maestro Bhupen Hazarika unveiled his life-size statue on the banks of the Dighaliphukuhuri tank along GNB Road, Guwahati, Assam on February 16. The fibreglass statue has sculpted by noted Assamese sculptor Biren and installed by the All-Assam Students’ Union (AASU).

For over a half a century, Hazarika has played pied piper to the people of his state, and his voice - through songs, poetry, wrting, lyrics and tunes have reflected the passing of time for his people. Besides his other contributions, he is one of the leading author and poets of Assam and has to his credit more than one thousand lyrics and more than fifteen major books on short stories, essays, travelogues, poems and children’s rhymes. He is an extremely popular journalist and editor of popular monthlies Amar Pratinidhi and Pratidhwani.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Rushdie, Lahiri, Deshpande in Commonwealth Writers’ Prize shortlists

The shortlists for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book and Best First Book from Europe and South Asia were announced today, 18 February 2009. Shashi Deshpande, Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Chris Cleave, David Lodge, and Philip Hensher are among the six contenders for the Best Book award.

The shortlists:
Best Book Award
Chris Cleave (United Kingdom) The Other Hand Sceptre
Shashi Deshpande (India) In the Country of Deceit Penguin
Philip Hensher (United Kingdom) The Northern Clemency Fourth Estate
Jhumpa Lahiri (United Kingdom) Unaccustomed Earth Bloomsbury Publishing
David Lodge (United Kingdom) Deaf Sentence Harvill Secker
Salman Rushdie (United Kingdom) The Enchantress of Florence Random House
Best First Book Award
Sulaiman Addonia (United Kingdom) The Consequences of Love Chatto and Windus
Daniel Clay (United Kingdom) Broken Harper Collins
Joe Dunthorne (United Kingdom) Submarine Penguin
Mohammed Hanif (Pakistan) The Case of Exploding Mangoes Jonathan Cape
Murzaban Shroff (India) Breathless in Bombay St. Martin's Griffin

The judging panel for the Europe and South Asia region was chaired by Professor Makarand Paranjape (India). He was joined by judges, Dr Durre Ahmed (Pakistan) and Dr Alex Tickell (UK). Professor Paranjape commented, ‘What distinguished this year’s entries was a preponderance of well-established authors including Salman Rushdie, Philip Hensher, Shashi Deshpande and Jhumpa Lahiri in the Best Book category and some very talented new voices such as Mohammed Hanif and Joe Dunthorne in the Best First Book category. Though most of the short-listed authors either live in the UK or are British subjects, they are actually quite diverse in their origins.’

The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, a much valued and sought-after award, aims to reward the best Commonwealth fiction written in English, by both established and new writers, and to take their works to a global audience.
The two Europe and South Asia regional winners that emerge from the shortlists will be announced on 12 March 2009. These two winners will then enter the final phase of the competition and go on to compete head to head with the other six finalists from Africa, Canada and the Caribbean, South East Asia and the South Pacific for the overall Best Book and Best First Book award. The two overall winners, chosen by an international panel of six judges coming together in New Zealand, will be announced on 16 May at the Auckland Writers' and Readers Festival (AWRF).

Each of the regional winners will receive £1,000 and in addition be invited to take part in a week-long series of community events and public readings alongside the final judging in New Zealand, culminating in the announcement of the two overall winners for Best First Book and Best Book. The overall Best Book winner will receive £10,000 and the overall Best First Book winner will receive £5,000.

Sahitya Akademi awards announced

23 litterateurs in all major Indian languages, were awarded the prestigious Sahitya Akademi awards for 2008 in Delhi. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 50,000 and an engraved copper plaque. The Akademi, which picked up writers from all major Indian languages, however, did not award any English work this year as no book was found eligible for the honour.
Well-known critic in Malayalam language, K P Appan, who died in December last year, won the award for his collection of essays in Malayalam titled Madhuram Ninte Jeevitham.
The Hindi language award was presented to prominent novelist Govind Mishra for his work Kohre Mein Kaid Rang.
Kashmiri critic Ghulam Nabi Aatash won the award for Bazyaft, a collection of essays, including a commentary on some of the past Kashmiri writers. Besides another critic Hiro Shewkani, a Sindhi writer, also won the award.

ASSAMESE Deou Langkhui (Novel) Rita Choudhury
BENGALI Ghumer Barir Mato Chand (Poetry)
Sarat Kumar Mukhopadhyay
BODO Birgwsrini Thungri (Novel)
Bidyasagar Narzary
DOGRI Cheten Di Rhol (Poetry)
Champa Sharma
GUJARATI Fatfatiun (Short Stories) Suman Shah
HINDI Kohre Mein Kaid Rang (Novel) Govind Mishra
KANNADA Halla Bantu Halla (Novel)
Shrinivas B. Vaidya
KASHMIRI Baazyaafat (Criticism) Gh. Nabi Aatash
KONKANI Ghanaghai Niyatiche (Novel)
Ashok Kamat
MALAYALAM Madhuram Ninte Jeevitham (Essays) (late) K. P. Appan
MANIPURI Edu Ningthou (Poetry)
A. O. Memchoubi
MARATHI Utsukatene Mee Zopalo (Novel)
Shyam Manohar
NEPALI Kehi Namileka Rekhaharu (Short Stories)
Shri ‘Kirat’
ORIYA Asaranti Anasara (Poetry)
Pramod Kumar Mohanty
PUNJABI Sudhar Ghar (Novel)
Mitter Sain Meet
RAJASTHANI Pagarva (Short Stories)
Dinesh Panchal
SANSKRIT Rasapriya-vibhavanam (Poetry) Om Prakash Pandey
SANTHALI Manmi (Short Stories)
Badal Hembam
SINDHI Sirjan Jo Sankat Ain Sindhi Kahani (Criticism)
Hiro Shewkani
TAMIL Minsarapoo (Short Stories)
Melanmai Ponnusamy
URDU Pencil Aur Doosri Nazmein (Poetry) Jayant Parmar

Note : Awards in MAITHILI and TELUGU to be announced; No Award in ENGLISH

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bid for autographed Slumdog book online

The success of Slumdog Millionaire now sees an autographed version of the book auctioning on the net.
Online marketplace eBay is starting an auction for the book autographed by the film's star cast. Vikas Swarup's Q and A is open for bidding with a minimum starting bid of Rs 270. The auction, which began on February 16, is on till February 28. The amount collected from the bid proceeds will go to Plan India, an NGO working for child rights.
The bidding amount has witnessed a 10-fold jump in auction price and currently bidding is at Rs 2,600. According to eBay, 19 bidders have so far bid, while the auction site has been visited by over 280 people.

Book launches this week

February 21
Rana Dasgupta
Harper Collins

February 21
Bankruptcy to Billions: How the Indian Railways Transformed
Sudhir Kumar & Shagun Mehrotra
The launch is at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, so I guess invites are necessary!

Sahitya Academy for Bearys

If you are not from coastal Karnataka, you may not have heard of the Bearys. Well, they figure here as after a more than a decade long struggle, they have Karnataka State Beary Sahitya Academy.

M D Abdul Rehman, an advocate, is the first president of the Academy, which is based in Mangalore, recently in national news for the activities of the Sri Ram Sene. "Beary" is Tulu for "trader" or "businessman".

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

OBIT: Alfred Knopf Jr

Alfred A. Knopf Jr., son of publishing legends and a publisher himself, died on February 16. He was 90.
Knopf (June 17, 1918- February 16, 2009) died of complications from a fall in mid-January.
Knopf was the only child of Alfred Knopf and Blanche Wolf Knopf, publishing pioneers and giants. He left his parents' company, Alfred A. Knopf Inc., in 1959 to co-found Atheneum Publishers along with Simon Michael Bessie and Hiram Haydn. Later, the company merged with Charles Scribner's Sons to form Scribner Book Companies, which was acquired by Macmillan Inc., and Knopf became a senior vice president. Knopf retired in 1988. (Agencies)

Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity - Sam Miller

Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity
Sam Miller
Pages: 293
Price: Rs 499

It is not usual for someone who has described Delhi as “provincial and mean-spirited and matlabi in the early 1990s to end up writing on the same city, now “hometown”, a “dizzyingly complex city undergoing rapid and unpredictable change”.

Well, Sam Miller, is not your usual Dilliwala. For one, he has arguably come up with a book that is perhaps the first since Narayani Gupta’s Delhi Between Two Empires to bring the streets and smells of Delhi unfamiliar to the reader. The city has not lacked chroniclers – right from its heyday during the Sultanat period to more recent like Ghalib, Zauk, Ahmed Ali, Khushwant Singh and William Dalrymple amongst many. And the only one perhaps to chronicle in such detail the post globalisation city.

But a city that has grown exponentially in the last two decades – and as Miller points out – has changed not just physically, but ethnologically and demographically as well – this is chronicle in the grand tradition of western travel writer. Miller decides to give his 21st century Delhi a thorough look as a flaneur – someone who wanders aimlessly through cities!

The tales are old. Yet there’s a freshness in the retelling. Miller is not that taken up by south Delhi, describing it as, “the haunt of the junior diplomat and the senior journalist; of expatriate aid workers and retired mandarins. This is Anglophone, blinkered, comfortable Delhi with its large pockets of well-hidden poverty, away from the main roads, away from the unprying eyes of its more affluent residents, who travel to their offices and golf clubs and sports centres in smart new cars (with chauffeur, of course – except on Sundays) ... The rich of South Delhi live in flats and they know their square footage. The shrunken, nuclear household is gradually becoming normal. Servants and grandparents will have to live out.” (page 223)

But it is in discovering the other parts of the city that Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity adds great value. Starting from the usual suspect – Connaught Place – he decides upon the spiral route to cover the city – and perhaps covers ground that any previous raconteur of the city. Black and white photographs by Miller supplement the text, while each chapter is charmingly introduced by the diagram of the particular spiral he orbits in. The footnotes suggest the text to be for a non-Indian reader, but they are often informative for just about anyone.

The observations avoid the usual firangi pitfalls. Cows are an ignored species, and bargaining is not part of the text. The tone is of an insider – helped perhaps his ability of speaking Hindi and being married to an Indian. The humour is understated, self-deprecatory, and very humane. This is not an elite look into the exotica, in fact, Miller is fairly savage about some parts, Vasant Vihar he describes it as a “transit camp”, while “walking through Gurgaon was a soulless, dispiriting, lonely experience… there’s a sense of anomie that overwhelms them, a sense of purposelessness now that they have achieved a major aim of their lives – a smart new flat in Gurgaon”.

Foreigners do have repeat cameos – the incident of the Israeli lady who spat on the author makes for particularly unintentionally funny reading, one of the many in fact. His look at Indians from other parts of the country is kinder, and he notes the shift from a Punjabi-dominated city to a more widely inclusive one – especially the emergence of Chhath as a major festival in the city. He discovers the Embassy of Nauru (read the incident with its guard to really know how low-level a PJ can get!), demystifies some of the Malcha Mahal urban legends, has some chilling moments in an abattoir, visits a ‘computer-in-a-hole’, gets ‘decapitated during his walks, finds a monument he desperately tries to save from being razed to the ground, in vain.

He meets a cross-section of people – some he gets mystified by, others he mystifies. Having learnt the word cheenti the day before he finds ants traveling up his trouser – at which he “danced about, spinning around like dervish, and trampling their ant-hill, destroying their great city, beneath my feet. I saw a young man in torn clothes watching me as if I was mad. Chinta, I said distracted from my discomfort by my delight at being able to use the Hindi word for ant, which I had learnt one day earlier. ‘Chinta-chinta,’ I repeated playfully, pointing at the ground, my shoes and my ant-afflicted leg. He shook his head sorrowfully, before loping off. A few seconds later I realised that I had used the wrong word. Chinta means worry or anxiety; the word for ant is cheenti. I looked ahead and who I had so embarrassingly misled as the nature of my affliction was still there in a distance, way ahead of me. So I went tearing after him, thinking I could catch him up and explain what I had really meant. I soon thought better of the plan, slowing down to catch my breath, to protect my bad knee, and to save myself from further humiliation.”

His visits expand the horizon for most of us with areas we are fairly unfamiliar with. He discovers two Gandhi Museums – both of which claim to house the watch he was wearing when he died. His first introduction to the city had been through the Merchant-Ivory film, The Householder, and recognises the Zeenat mosque from the image. His effort to identify the exact locations of the scene see him being rebuffed a number of times, and it is tribute to his perseverance that he is finally able to locate the house and room where Leela Naidu melancholy had played out nearly half a century ago.

And perhaps it is this quality of dogged pursuance that is perhaps the most valuable asset of the book, for it is safe to say that apart from a handful of the city’s citizens, few can claim to know the city as well. Not to be missed.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Books. Well, it's obviously a whole parallel world for bibliophiles. A little inexplicable for the rest. Well, we want to cater to the first group. By bringing what is hopefully the best in Indian literature to you.