It has been a while now. I did a fair bit of reading in June and July and practically none in August. What I remember of what I read is –
I started with Mindy Kaling’s book of personal essays ‘Is everyone hanging out without me’. The book’s title had always rather fascinated me and I had waited for a while to get my hands on this book. It was duly ordered online during an India trip and I began to read it in the flight back. Except I was so tired and sleepy that the book slipped from my hands and as can only happen when you are travelling with a toddler, the book was forgotten in the plane. So I had to wait for a trip to the library to get another copy. In the end, I need not have made so much effort. The book is nice but not brilliant. The problem is that the essays are all mostly about Mindy, which is ok except that she has not been in the comedy business long enough to have super-interesting stories. She has some funny stories about her childhood, as we all do. She tells it a damn sight better than most people. A few essays were quite entertaining indeed but I as read further, I had the vague feeling of ‘is this it?’ Maybe I should have paced my reading over a few months
This was followed immediately by Anne Fadiman’s At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays, a collection of essays on various topics of interest to her, ranging from Coleridge to the postal system. Reading this, I realised that what was lacking in Mindy Kaling’s book. Fadiman retains the personal interest angle in her essays by narrating relevant parts of her life in them. She also includes a reasonable bit of research into her topic, making the essays both entertaining and interesting. Maybe I prefer regular essays to personal essays. When I say ‘regular’ I am trying to differentiate these from the other end of the spectrum a.k.a essays that read like text books. Any author recommendations on this front are most welcome.
The Sis had just finished Tess Gerritsen’s Silent Girl and suggested that I give it a shot if I wanted to read a thriller. I spent all free time in two days reading it, gripping as it was. In the end, I was left with the hollow feeling of the book not having been entirely satisfying. Since that is my usual reaction to page turners when I finish them, I suspect I will try one more.
I had borrowed ‘A Bali Conspiracy’ in Shamini Flint’s Inspector Singh series, in order to do some apt reading during the Bali holiday. I had somehow assumed that this book would a breezy read, with some light local mystery being solved by a bumbling and cheerful policeman. It turned out to be a story on the Bali bombings and more serious than funny and overall only an average read. In the end I did not even read the book in Bali since I got distracted by the hotel’s copy of Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling and ended up browsing through it in Singapore.
Galbraith (J.K. Rowling’s psuedonym for her new mystery series line) introduces us to an English detective, Cormoran, who is hired by a recently deceased supermodel’s brother to investigate her death. The police believe it is a suicide but the brother believes otherwise. Cormoran is just in the process of exiting from a relationship that extends beyond loss of companionship and is happy to have the case to work on. Assisted by his earnest temporary secretary, Robin, he sets about solving the case. J.K.Rowling knows how to write and I was delighted to see the birth of a character and a series with much promise. The ending reminded me vaguely of an Agatha Christie I had read long ago but that did not take away from the pleasure of reading rest of the book.
I had picked up Yann Martel’s ‘Beatrice and Virgil’ on a whim and the book itself was whimsical. Very well written, it combined a strange little story about an author taking a respite from writing in a new city, and excerpts from a play being written by a stranger the author meets. It all ties up with the holocaust and is strangely mesmerizing, I am not quite sure why. It is the kind of book you read to remember that not everything in life is straightforward and there is plenty of joy to be had from delving into a creative universe.
The library had been promoting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’ Americanah and I read the book, impressed by the author’s unapologetic rant about the non-American black experience in America. I could understand a lot of what she tried to say. After all prejudice often expresses itself in similar ways no matter what the reason for the prejudice. The central love story is just an excuse for the author to get her views going and the story wraps up quite abruptly. Still, an interesting book.
Another discovery from the library was Banana Yoshimoto’s The Lake. I had not heard of her at all, but apparently the author’s nom de plume was a good one since the name really stood out as I browsed the book rack. A quick google later, I borrowed the book. The tale of two troubled young people finding love in each other was told slowly and I enjoyed the pace and the settings. It is always nice to read something that is set in a country you have heard so much about but whose culture continues to perplex you.
June and July were such good months when it came to reading that August was bound to come up a cropper just to even out things. The month began with William Thackersay's Vanity Fair which I ready half of but could not get beyond. I could not really see the point in trying to finish the book. So it has been, with nothing interesting yet having crossed my path.