Sunday, August 10, 2008

Eight: Return of The Preview

About 13 months back, I wrote a preview of 7 books I was eagerly awaiting to on the date 07.07.07. As I took out the multi-creased sheet of paper (on which I maintain my to-buy list) from my wallet today, I realised I have managed to tick off most of those seven books and have a longer list now. Of which, I will list down 8 titles - which should have come out on 08.08.08 but I am getting late for most things these days.  

Sea of Poppies (Amitav Ghosh): Books like these often get crushed under the weight of the expectations. Not only is his existing bibliography super-impressive, even the future (that starts with this one) tends to become awe-inducing with the blurbs that promise a trilogy on the maritime and narcotic history of the country. Currently, this Rs 599 tome is up there in all the bestseller lists, getting fabulous reviews and priming me up to steal my mother-in-law's copy! If the book is really as good as everybody is making out to be, I will seriously consider changing the name of this blog to Sea of Poppies. After all, what do I write that does not sound like ramblings induced by an ocean of opium?

The James Bond Collection (Ian Fleming): Recently, I finished reading two books called James Bond: The Official Biography and Devil May Care. The first book is a fictional re-construction of Bond's life in between Fleming's novels using hints given in them. And the second is a novel by Sebastian Faulks commissioned to commemorate Fleming's centenary. It is supposed to take off from where Ian Fleming's last novel left off. Having read these two, I realised that I have not read any of the Bond novels. Gasp! So, here is an opportunity to pick up all fourteen of them at a discount.

Six Suspects (Vikas Swarup): I just loved his first book - Q&A - which was a super fast account of a penniless, illiterate waiter winning the quiz show Who Wants To Be A Billionaire? What I loved in the book was how certain hugely fantastic plot devices were merged together in a pseudo-plausible manner in the best traditions of a Manmohan Desai blockbuster! This book (which I picked up today - Yay!) has taken off from another very recognisable part of our social history. The son of the UP Home Minister is killed at a party to celebrate his acquittal from a case, where he was accused of murdering a waitress at a private party. This sensational murder has six suspects - a Bollywood sex symbol, a senior bureaucrat, an American tourist, a petty thief, a tribal leader and the UP Home Minister (yes, the father of the victim). Even if the sleuthing is non-existent, it will still be a cracker of a story.

Ghanada Shomogro 2 (Premendra Mitra): Yes, the second and final part of the omnibus edition is now out. I spotted it on a recent visit to Calcutta but the book was obviously selling like hot kachoris and the only copy left in the shop was rather badly soiled. I had bought the first part at the Calcutta Book Fair last year and gulped it down immediately afterwards. Ghanada's tall tales have a charm that is quite undimmed by age and the second volume would contain all the stories I remember reading in the magazines before they got anthologized. For all those deprived souls who have no clue what I am going on and on about, a quick primer is available here.

We are Like This Only (Rama Bijapurkar): India's best known market researcher is probably an unfair description of Ms Bijapurkar, who has written knowledgably and accessibly on consumer behaviour in the Indian context for quite some time now. For those who think all these are jargon best left for Power Point presentations and may want to dismiss her as an academic-type, let me quickly provide a link of her writing on Sarinomics. If you are suitably impressed, I will try to explain to you why she thinks SEC classification needs calibration, especially with HPI. But to do that, I will have to first read her book.

Ogilvy on Advertising (David Ogilvy): If Piyush Pandey is the most famous face of advertising in India, then it would be appropriate to point out David Ogilvy founded the agency he is the Chairman of. He is particularly famous for quotable quotes like "The consumer is not an idiot. She is your wife" and writing whole books full of them. This is one of them, which not only has millions of pictures of his landmark advertising campaigns, but also tells curious onlookers (like yours truly) how they were thought of. I first read this book when I was in b-school and this was one of the books which convinced me to take up Marketing. Actually, who am I kidding? Prasanna Chandra's book on Basic Financial Management convinced me to take up Marketing!

The Falcon's Malteser (Anthony Horowitz): As is obvious, the name is a play on the famous book and film which epitomises the genre of American detective fiction. This book is a sort of a spoof on that genre, starring a bungling detective (Nick Diamond) and his precocious younger brother. Together, the Diamond Brothers make up a spoof on the American Private Eyes of yore, not unlike Tracer Bullet. I read the second novel featuring this duo recently, of which I had seen a very impressive TV series on Star Plus in the early days of cable television. That book called South By South East is yet another spoof and was quite a page-turner. Though it was meant for teenagers, I was hooked enough to finish it one sitting. And now, I am planning to pick up the first one of the series. When I see the quality of production and distribution that is bestowed upon these novels, I am invariably depressed by the neglect of children's fiction in Bengali. Or for that matter, any regional language.

The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction: While on the subject of regional fiction, Mukul Kesavan called this book the best produced paperback in Indian publishing history. Even if that is not true, I presume that he was driven to the hyperbole by the lurid tales of love, passion, aggression, whisky and masala dosa. Every language has pulp fiction, which is devoured on train journeys and lazy afternoons and yet, they are sneered upon quite regularly. James Hadley Chase in English, Swapan Kumar in Bengali are two favourites of mine. Instead of picking up a Business Today at airports and pretending to look intelligent, I pick up a Hadley Chase to keep me hooked till I reach home. Swapan Kumar and his detective Deepak Chatterjee ("who always had revolvers in both his hands and a torch in the other...") kept me entertained for very long periods as a teenager. It would be interesting to see if tales from the land of Rajinikanth and Quick Gun Murugan can command the same degree of attention.
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