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Friday, July 03, 2015

From “A Dream Book”
By David Harsent

Deep reaches of sleep until the unforeseen
moment, like fugue, like petit mal, some kind of sign,

a touch from a joker’s finger, to let him know what’s right,
what’s wrong with the dream-within-a-dream. A sudden, slight

shift in the order of things and all the past undone.
He left what was left of himself in her care that night.



They went to the river and dropped their clothes on the bank.
She struck out. He followed in the long, slow vee of her wake.

She could sound and surface, bringing back with her what
other lovers had dumped: hotel bill, gimcrack ring, a four-square shot

from the photo booth. Later, they dipped their bottles and drank.
She looked at him and laughed. “You think you’re safe? You’re not.”



In this, her fool is deaf and dumb and twirling a pink parasol. In this
he’s doing a chicken dance. He turns away and puckers up for a kiss.

He’s their stalker, familiar, spy, his slippy grin is all
lipstick and green teeth. Words to the wise, or coffin-laugh, or catcall.

In this, he watches from cover, maestro of the deadfall.
He goose-steps them out of the tunnel of love and into the house of glass.

The Trial of Bahadur Shah Zafar

Running with Scissors

Running with Scissors is a 2002 memoir by American writer Augusten Burroughs. The book tells the story of Burroughs's bizarre childhood life after his mother, a chain-smoking aspiring poet, sent him to live with her psychiatrist. Running with Scissors spent eight weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
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"Yes." "So?" "Golly." "No." "My goodness." "Really?" and "Right". These are just a few possible reactions to a book. The reaction you are supposed to have to Augusten Burroughs's memoir Running With Scissors is "Wow!" But you might also think, "Oh, God."

Burroughs's first book was Sellevision, a satire on American home-shopping TV. In his new book he has successfully merged two other popular American television modes or genres: the confessional and the sit-com. Basically, if you took The Jerry Springer Show and had it worked on by the scriptwriters from Friends , you'd get Running With Scissors . Or if the Farrelly brothers had bought the rights to film Dave Pelzer. Or if Roseanne had read Douglas Coupland. As a pitch it's, like, totally out there, totally now - know what I mean? Really, really gross, but, like, so funny as well. Like last year's hot shocker, The Sexual Life of Catherine M , the book's veracity is irrelevant.

Burroughs grew up in Massachusetts in the 1970s, and he renders American period detail with a peculiar intensity. His mother's friend Lydia, for example, wears high heels and a white bikini, and sits by her pool, "smoking menthol cigarettes and talking on her olive-green Princess telephone". Clam-shells are used as ash-trays. There's a lot of Chanel No 5 and Donnie and Marie, and Burroughs occasionally rises to poetic effects that are reminiscent of early, faux-naïf David Byrne -"She is walking through the kitchen and out the other door of the kitchen. Our house is very open. The ceilings are very high. There is plenty of room here." Fa fa fa fa fa, fa fa fa fa fa.

Burroughs's mother writes dreadful poetry. His father is a university professor with psoriasis and "the loving, affectionate and outgoing personality of petrified wood". Burroughs himself is the kind of child who "liked to boil my change on the stove and then shine it with metal polish", and kept his hair "perfectly smooth, like plastic". He's a self-confessed nerd: "I would have been an excellent member of the Brady Bunch."

His parents are not at all happy: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? "was the closest thing I had to a home movie", he writes. The parents divorce when Burroughs is 11, and his mother starts taking baths with broken glass, writing backwards with a glitter pen and discovering she is a lesbian. She abandons Burroughs to be reared by her psychiatrist, Dr Finch. Burroughs recalls the excitement and anticipation of seeing an actual doctor's house for the first time: "I imagined walls hung with exotic and expensive tapestries, polished marble floors, columns that stretched for hundreds of feet. I saw water fountains out front with hedges trimmed into the shapes of zoo animals."
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Augusten Burroughs was born into an unhappy family. His father was distant and unappealing: ''He had psoriasis that covered his entire body and gave him the appearance of a dried mackerel that could stand upright and wear tweed.'' His mother was crazy: ''Gone were the days when she would stand on the deck lighting lemon-scented candles without then having to eat the wax.'' And ''the closest thing I had to a home movie,'' he writes, was ''Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?''

As he puts it: ''Unfortunately, my parents loathed each other and the life they had built together. Because I was the product of their genetic fusion, well, it's not surprising that I liked to boil my change on the stove and then shine it with metal polish.''

His mother was a diva from Georgia, and she had aspirations as a poet. In practical terms, this meant sending self-addressed stamped envelopes to The New Yorker and sitting around the house with shampoo devil horns while listening to Anne Sexton. Her frustrated artistic nature also led her to make decoupage art out of clippings from The Atlantic Monthly.

So Mr. Burroughs's mother spent much of her time under the intensive care of her psychiatrist, Dr. Finch. Then, at age 12, the author found himself officially foisted onto the Ripley's-Believe-It-or-Not Finch family. His mother wound up making the doctor her son's legal guardian. And Augusten moved into a household even nuttier than the one in which he started. (On his Web site, www.augusten.com, Mr. Burroughs emphasizes that he has not made any of this up, though he has changed names and other details.)

''Running With Scissors'' is a bawdy, outrageous, often hilarious account of what in fact sounds like a seriously unhappy story. During the course of his memoir, Mr. Burroughs writes of being sent to a mental hospital (but only as a way of getting out of school) and of being sexually initiated by the 33-year-old man who lived in the Finches' barn. He also writes of such twisted domestic goings-on that some of this story might have been imagined by William Burroughs. This family's scatological method of fortune-telling would be right at home in ''Naked Lunch.''

More here/

Tales of the City

Tales of the City refers to a series of nine novels written by American author Armistead Maupin. The stories from Tales were originally serialized prior to their novelization, with the first four titles appearing as regular installments in the San Francisco Chronicle, while the fifth appeared in the San Francisco Examiner. The remaining titles were never serialized, but were instead originally written as novels.

Tales of the City has been compared to similar serial novels that ran in other city newspapers, such as The Serial (1976) (Marin County), Tangled Lives (Boston), Bagtime (Chicago), and Federal Triangle (Washington, DC).

Characters from the Tales of the City series have appeared in supporting roles in Maupin's later novels Maybe the Moon and The Night Listener.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Dragon Rider

Dragon Rider (original title: Drachenreiter) is a 1997 German children's novel by Cornelia Funke. Originally translated by Oliver Latsch, Dragon Rider was published in 2004 by The Chicken House in the UK and Scholastic Inc. in the US, using a translation by Anthea Bell.[1] Dragon Rider follows the exploits of a silver dragon named Firedrake, the Brownie Sorrel, and Ben, a human boy, in their search for the mythical part of the Himalayas mountain range called the Rim of Heaven.

More here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Far From The Tree

"Parenting," writes Andrew Solomon in Far from the Tree, "is no sport for perfectionists." It's an irony of the book, 10 years in the making and his first since The Noonday Demon, that by militating against perfectionism, he only leaves the reader in greater awe of the art of the achievable. The book starts out as a study of parents raising "difficult" children, and ends up as an affirmation of what it is to be human.

The project grew out of Solomon's desire to forgive his own parents, who, while they effortlessly accepted his dyslexia as he was growing up – his mother campaigned for his rights in the face of educational prejudice – flunked the same test when it came to his sexuality. (An early sign that he was gay, writes Solomon, with the dryness of tone that makes the book so enjoyable, is that "when I was 10, I became fascinated by the tiny principality of Liechtenstein".) They didn't throw him out of the house, but neither did they disguise their disappointment. Years later, he got to thinking about how parents deal generally with children whose identities fall outside of their own – what he calls the child's "horizontal" as opposed to "vertical" identity – and the result is a fascinating examination of the accommodation of difference.

Religion, race, language and nationality are the customary verticals passed down from parent to child; horizontal refers to traits in a child that are foreign to the parents, either inherent, like a physical disability, or acquired, like criminality. "Vertical identities are usually respected as identities," writes Solomon. "Horizontal ones are often treated as flaws." Chapters follow on families coping with autism, dwarfism, schizophrenia, Down's syndrome, disability, deafness, child prodigy, transgender issues, criminality and children born of rape, and the first lesson of Solomon's research was the non-transferable sympathies of each group. Participants in the book who had shown extraordinary humanity in their own difficult circumstances bridled at the prospect of being lumped in with what they saw as less deserving special interests.

"Deaf people didn't want to be compared to people with schizophrenia; some parents of schizophrenics were creeped out by dwarfs. The prodigies and their families objected to being in a book with the severely disabled. Some children of rape felt that their emotional struggle was trivialised when they were compared to gay activists."

Solomon spoke to some 300 families in the course of researching the book, a rebuke to everything shoddy and dashed off in the culture, and the density of his empirical evidence decimates casual assumption. What unites most of his interviewees is a political sense of injustice in the way they are perceived by the mainstream. "Fixing is the illness model," writes Solomon. "Acceptance is the identity model."

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How does it feel to be the mother of a teenage dwarf who’s desperate to start dating? What if you love the daughter you conceived when you were raped but can’t bear to be touched by her? And, as the father of a happy, yet profoundly deaf son who’s forgotten how it feels to hear, how do you deal with your memories of the times you played music together?

“Parenting is no sport for perfectionists,” Andrew Solomon rather gloriously understates toward the end of “Far From the Tree,” a generous, humane and — in complex and unexpected ways — compassionate book about what it means to be a parent. A lecturer in psychiatry at Cornell and the author of “The Noonday Demon,” a National Book Award-winning memoir about his journey through depression, Solomon spent 10 years interviewing more than 300 families with “exceptional” children. That is, children with “horizontal identities,” a term he uses to encompass all the “recessive genes, random mutations, prenatal influences or values and preferences that a child does not share with his progenitors.”

He developed what seem to be genuine relationships (entailing multiple visits, unsparing communication and significant follow-up over a number of years) with families of individuals affected by a spectrum of cognitive, physical or psychological differences: “They are deaf or dwarfs; they have Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia or multiple severe disabilities; they are prodigies; they are people conceived in rape or who commit crimes; they are transgender.” His interviews yielded nearly 40,000 transcript pages and his “anti-Tolstoyan” conclusion that “the unhappy families who reject their variant children have much in common, while the happy ones who strive to accept them are happy in a multitude of ways.”

Bookending this immense core of material are intimate accounts of Solomon’s own experiences: first, as the son of parents who lovingly helped him overcome his dyslexia, but struggled (as he did) with the idea that he was gay, his own “horizontal identity”; and then finally, and very movingly, as an awkward and awed new father himself.

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All children are different, but some are more different than others. The majority of expectant parents spend the nine months of gestation buoyed by the conviction that their child, when it is born, will be the most remarkable infant in human history.
Most will find their belief vindicated – more or less. To dispassionate onlookers, the newborn infant may resemble a howling orange in a black fright wig, but to parents euphoric after the dangerous adventure of childbirth, the fact that their offspring displays all the vital signs of normality is enough to make it seem miraculous.

For a significant minority, however, the experience of bringing a child into the world is not one of triumphant relief but the beginning of a recalibration of expectations that may last for the lifetime of the parents, or the child. “Parenthood abruptly catapults us into a permanent relationship with a stranger,” writes Andrew Solomon, “and the more alien the stranger, the stronger the whiff of negativity… Loving our own children is an exercise for the imagination.”
Solomon is an academic and journalist whose previous books include the prize-winning study of depression, The Noonday Demon. The title of his new book is taken from the adage that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but his interest is in the apples that have fallen elsewhere – “some a couple of orchards away, some on the other side of the world”. His book explores the experiences of families who have had to deal with difference, and have learnt over time to accept, accommodate and sometimes even to celebrate it.

The range of difference he explores is – like his book, which runs to 900-odd pages – immense. He writes about children who are dwarfs or deaf; who have Down’s syndrome or multiple disabilities. He also considers differences that are not apparent at birth – autism, schizophrenia, children who are transgender and those who have committed crimes – and he includes two categories in which the child is physically and mentally “normal”, but possesses a trait that disrupts the family dynamic: children born of rape, and musical prodigies.

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Warning: Andrew Solomon’s new book, about the parents of children with serious medical problems, would make the world’s worst baby shower gift. From dwarfism and Down syndrome to schizophrenia and autism, Solomon delivers a compendium of news you don’t want to expect when you’re expecting. Although some of the conditions startle, the book is no lurid freak show. On the contrary, Solomon forcefully showcases parents who not only aren’t horrified by the differences they encounter in their offspring, but who rise to the occasion by embracing them. In so doing, they reveal a “shimmering humanity” that speaks to our noblest impulses to nurture.

“Far From the Tree” is massively ambitious and, also, just simply massive. It’s exhaustive and occasionally exhausting, but more often inspirational about the “infinitely deep” and mysterious love of parents for their children. Motivated in part by his difficult experience negotiating his homosexuality, Solomon, the author of the National Book Award-winning book on depression “The Noonday Demon,” spent a decade interviewing more than 300 families, compiling 40,000 pages of transcripts about 10 widely varied conditions. “It would have been easier to write a book about five conditions,” he acknowledges in his introduction. “I wanted, however, to explore the spectrum of difference.” So he visited juvenile criminals in Minneapolis and a congenitally deaf village in Bali. He interviewed victims of horrific incest and family abuse. He spent time with women who bore children conceived in rape and even with child prodigies — whose gifts, paradoxically, force them to face issues similar to those of children with severe disabilities.

Solomon stresses a common dilemma: All the parents must navigate the “tension between identity and illness,” or “between cure and acceptance.” So, for instance, should a deaf child be encouraged to learn sign language and join the deaf community, or, contrarily, to learn to read lips and speak so as to better assimilate? Should the parents of a dwarf help their child feel comfortable with his size, or submit him to limb-lengthening operations? Are the parents of a profoundly disabled child within their moral rights to administer growth-inhibiting medication, so they can still lift their “pillow angel” by hand to change her diapers rather than having to hoist her up at adult size with an elaborate medical crane? At what point should parents allow their male child to wear a dress to school or allow him to take puberty-delaying drugs, so as to make his eventual sex-change surgery easier?

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Hey, hey, hey…

With drumbeats
With the warmth of the heart
With the unseen string of love
We wrap the Great Siem of the hills

With Cherapunji, with the wet sky
The way the generous clouds
With the monsoon rain
Embrace our Luit

The Krishna cowherd plays the flute
The Khasi cowherd plays the sharati
Both the flutes made of bamboo
Both divulge the same music

The leaves of the tall pine trees are green
Our baniyan trees are of the same hue
Blei or the moon, in the valley or in the hills
On the autumn night pours the same moonbeams

Digging the red earth
The Khasi farmers work day and night
Even in farms of the valley, a thousand Rongmons
Embraces the same farmers…

[In a world increasing becoming insular, Bhupen Hazarika was our ‘great uniter’. This is the basic translation of a song from his Asomiya film ‘Pratidhawni’ (1964), where he recounts the similarity between the Khasi culture of Meghalaya and the Assamese culture of the valley. What’s in a name, he says, in essence, we are all the same. Siem is the traditional Khasi king.]

Monday, June 22, 2015

Last night, the murder was postponed, as the assassins
Could not find their knives and blades, or anything with
A sharper edge; all they found were pens with dry nibs and
Broken pencils, which had no use to them, as
They were the ones who destroyed, not built

And, today morning, they will merge themselves in the officer goers
In buses and trains and autos, in private air-conditioned cars, and
They will hover around you, like sycophants around a movie star
And all they want is a blade, any instrument, really, with a sharp
Edge, to drill your head, or to twist your heart, for meaningless pain

At dusk, the assassins will hide behind the neon signs, behind each closed
Window, each bolted door, each shop that dazzle under the florescent
Light; hurry, hide everything with sharp edges, hide everything, hide your
Pen with which you sign your cheques, your fingernails, your molar teeth,
Your prickly ambitions, your sharp desperation, your very existence

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Making Crime Pay

A truncated version of the story appeared in the 21 July 2015 edition of Sakaal Times, the English daily published from Pune, India. You can check out the story @ http://www.sakaaltimes.com/NewsDetails.aspx?NewsId=4871952086545797164&SectionId=5171561142064258099&SectionName=Pune&NewsTitle=Making+crime+pay

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Suddenly crime writing has become the ‘it’ genre in Indian writing in English. Dibyajyoti Sarma explores the whys and hows

Crime has always been a part of our lives. Open a daily and the first thing you notice are the crime stories. Thus, it is not surprising that writers should tackle crime in their works. What is surprising, however, is that Indian writers, especially in English, did not actually tackle the subject until recently. And suddenly, (perhaps S Hussain Zaidi’s books on Mumbai gangsters, starting with ‘Black Friday’ was a starting point), in the last four-five years, there has been an avalanche of crime writing in India. There are the bestselling authors like Ashwin Sanghi, Ravi Subramanian, Kalpana Swaminathan, Zac O’Yeah, Tarquin Hall, Mukul Deva, and Pune’s very own, Salil Desai. There are publishers like Westland, Fingerprint, Amaryllis dedicated to crime writing. Early this year, there was also an event, Crime Writers Festival, in Delhi, on January 17 and 18.

What gives? Why is this sudden fascination for crime writing in English? “Crime fiction has always had readers,” says Delhi-based international publishing consultant Jaya Bhattacharji Rose. “Indian writers are slowly coming into their own with this genre. So, there is a coming together of events that make it possible for publishers to commission crime stories and have a ready market too.”

Author Jerry Pinto agrees that the publishers have a major role to play. “I think the increase in crime writing has something to do with how many more publishers there are and how much risk they are willing to take. I think the number of publishers is directly related to the large number of writers and books,” he argues.

Author Mahendra Jakhar, whose debut novel is already a bestseller, believes India’s interest in crime fiction has to do with how the young Indian readers are exposed to western crime writing. “The growth is due to the increase in readership and the readers looking for diverse and engaging stories. Suddenly, the youth is exposed to diverse forms of media, and they are more than hungry for Indian stories that connect to them,” he argues.

This is the reason why in his novel, The Butcher of Benares, he brought in the elements of mythology, Hindu symbols, Vedic astrology and astronomy, Naga Sadhus and Aghoris, along with the history of 1857, to make it an authentic Indian mystery.

This does not mean what India crime fiction is a new, nascent genre. It is not. While the classic crime fiction found its niche in the western world in the years between the two world wars, with the publication of those pulp magazines and cheap paperbacks (with writers like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James Hadley Chase, and Erle Stanley Gardner), Indian writers too, especially in the local languages, had dabbled with the genre. In Urdu, Ibn-e-Safi, who created the inimitable detective Imran, continues to be a publishing phenomenon. Again, we all know about Bangla detectives Byomkesh Baskhi and Feluda.

However, aside from a few stray examples like Kalpana Swaminathan and S Hussain Zaidi in the recent years, there was no visible genre writing in English.

What changed? Author Salil Desai believes the recent development is the fallout of the success of Chetan Bhagat. It made young Indian readers seek out stories they can relate to, stories that are not necessary literary, but which speak to them.

Jaya Bhattacharji Rose does not completely agree. “I am not sure if you can compare the two kinds of Indian writing in English. These are two very distinct genres and readership. The only points of similarity are probably both rely heavily upon conversations to move the plot forward,” she says.

Bhattacharji Rose also refuses to distinguish between literary writing and pulp writing. There is no comparison, she says, “except for the immense satisfaction they give to the readers. You have to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate literary fiction and crime fiction. Also, crime fiction is not pulp fiction, at least not always to my mind.”

Yet, there are great crime writings, which are genre unto themselves. Jakhar argues, as he mentions Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, the works of Ian Rankin, and also, works of Shakespeare and Dickens.

Jerry Pinto does not like to think in categories. “I think of books as either good or bad. So there are some literary books which should be called pulp and some genre fiction books which are well-written and then there are the classics that brook no question,” he says.

Media professional Sapna Sarfare, an avid reader of crime fiction, says the reason she is attracted to this genre is simple excitement. “The thrill and twists and turns found are incomparable. Life usually is not filled with the same devilish craziness found here,” she says.

On Indian crime fiction, she feels we are still not digging into the serious crimes. “Abroad, crime fiction delves deeper into human psyche. For example, Ian Rankin’s Detective Rebus, who is a complex character you can connect to. We are still on the ‘whodunit’ formula. I think we have a scope to explore further,” she says.
True. The locale, where the crime takes place, plays an important role in crime fiction. Sherlock Holmes is nothing without London. The same way, Kalpana Swaminathan’s Tamil heroine, Lalli, lives in Mumbai, so does Jerry Pinto’s characters (in Murder in Mahim). Zac O’Yeah makes downtown Bangalore his playing field, while in Tarquin Hall’s stories, crime takes place in Delhi.

This is the reason why Pune-based author Salil Desai cannot imagine his stories without the city in the backdrop. “Pune has a particular kind of atmosphere,” he says, “It is a big city, yet it has a small town vive, where tradition and modernity coexist. It is ideal for my kind of a murder story.”

Pune indeed has its fare share of murder. Desai mentions the Joshi-Abhyankar case. “I found the city perfect for the kind of police procedures I wanted to write. The way my lead character, the inspector, speak, is essentially Puneri,” he adds, “For a good crime fiction, you should know the lanes and bylanes of the city. I know the city very well and it helps me in my work.”

What the future holds? Will India ever produce bestselling writers like, say, Ian Rankin? Jaya Bhattacharji Rose has the last word. “I see no reason why not? Give this space some time to mature in India and you will notice a notable difference in the tenor of writing.”

Quick takes/


Jerry Pinto


Are you a crime writer?
“I don’t think of my writing in genres. Altaf Tyrewalla was editing Mumbai Noir and asked me if I would write a story for it and the first of the Murder in Mahim stories started there. The second was written for my friend Gauri Vij when she was editing Time Out. And then, Ravi Singh, my editor and publisher at Speaking Tiger suggested I work on a book. To be a crime writer, it takes pretty much the same thing it takes to be any kind of writer: the desire to do a lot of hard work for very little financial reward and simply for the joy of having some stranger come up to you and say, ‘That was a good one. Looking forward to your next’.”

Mahendra Jakhar


Being a writer
I started as a crime reporter with The Times of India in New Delhi. I worked there for almost six years but the world of reporting bored me. I wanted to tell stories and use my imagination. I started to write stories and finally shifted to Mumbai. I wrote film scripts for Mahesh Bhatt, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Hansal Mehta and wrote various TV shows. Still, there was an urge to tell bigger stories that did not fit into the prescribed structure of movies and TV shows. So, I turned to writing novels.

Finding a publisher
I had no clue about the world of publishing. I started my search on the net. I found Red Ink Literary Agency, who signed me and agreed to represent me. We sent out the manuscript of The Butcher of Benares to various publishers and a few refused and a few loved it. Finally, we decided to go ahead with Westland. The book got a tremendous response and has sold out the entire first edition. The reviews included both bouquets and brickbats but I’m happy with it.

Being a crime writer?
Crime writing is both an art and a craft. So, first one needs to have an idea, a plot, and characters. Then comes the craft to structure and design it. The biggest challenge is that so much have already been written all around the world that it is not easy to come up with something that is original.

Salil Desai


Starting early
I have been writing short stories for a long time. When I started working on my novel, it naturally became a crime novel, as I was very fond of crime writers like Conan Doyle, Christie and Chase, and also Randel and Rankin. When I started writing in 2008-09, I was ahead of this wave. My first book, The Body in the Back Seat came in 2011. Around this time, the trend of crime writing started. I was one of the first writers.

Indian crime writing
While influenced by the western crime writing, I believe Indian authors have found their own voices. They have developed their own nuances and have created a sense of Indian authenticity. I believe in a few years time, there will be a whole new generation who will read only ‘Indian crime novels.’

Sonia Raikkonen
My new book, The Murder of Sonia Raikkonen, featuring Inspector Saralkar, is about the murder of a Finnish tourist in Pune. As the story progresses, the mystery becomes a ‘why-dun-it’ instead of the regular ‘whodunit.’

Friday, June 19, 2015

Review in Reading Hour

We are confident: ‘Pages from an Unfinished Autobiography’ is an interesting book. Hence we decided to publish it.

But how do you promote a book when the author is so reticent about publicity? Imagine that, in this day and age, when it is essentially the job of the author, and not the humble publisher to promote a book. After all, the credit goes to the writer, not the publisher.

This Bangalore-based wonderful magazine ‘Reading Hour’ published a judicious review of Dibyajyoti Sarma’s ‘Pages from an Unfinished Autobiography’ in its January-February 2015 issue (vol 5, issue 1), and the author did not inform us about it at all. We finally found the review, and it’s a very good one.

The reviewer, Shruti Rao, understands the book and its foibles too. She says some of the poems “pale in comparison with their more powerful siblings”. This we agree. Some poems could have been edited out. But Mr Sarma insisted that they be included. He wanted to document everything, the sacred, the profane.

Rao also is smart to understand the tonal inconsistency of some of the poems. They have the ring of translation from another language, she says. This is true. Mr Sarma started writing poetry in Asomiya and some of the poems in the volume are actually his own translation of his Asomiya poems.

Finally, Rao writes: “Sarma’s poetic eye looks as much inwards as outwards. The poems, though autobiographical, and nostalgic for past memories, also throw a radio signal out to the world. Is anybody listening? They ask, and you realise that through the impenetrable fortress wall of someone else’s private life, you have been listening in rapt attention.”