February Reading

My reading this month was determined by reviews, the Delhi Book Fair, and Delhi Comic Con, as will probably become clear.

Jhangir Kerawala, The Adventures of Timpa: The Red Hooded Gang, Operation Rescue, The Golden Horn, The Legacy of the Gods: The Timpa comics were inspired by the Tintin series, but set in Calcutta. Timpa is a teenaged? possibly? boy who solves crimes with the help of his very trusting policeman father and a grumpy grandfather who always seems to get things wrong. I’m writing a longer piece on them elsewhere, but for now know that I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Mridula Koshy, Not Only The Things That Have Happened: My review should be appearing in The Hindustan Times in the near future. When Koshy’s book of short stories came out a few years ago most of the Indian critical establishment was raving about her style. I somehow managed not to read If It Is Sweet but I think I will have to. At the level of the individual sentence Koshy is better than most writers I can think of. Not Only The Things … is a book whose plot sounds potentially very annoying and Indian Literary Fiction-y, but it manages simply by being playful and nuanced and gorgeously written to avoid that awful fate. I really, really liked it.

Roma Singh, The Magic Feather: Part of my bookfair loot. I talked about it here.

Francesca Xotta, Owl Ball: See above.

Dr Zakir Husain, Samina Mishra, Pooja Pottenkulam, The Bravest Goat in the World: See above.

Mark O’Connell, Epic Fail: An exploration of bad art gone viral. I wrote a column about Epic Fail here. It’s clever and personal as well as being very funny, and I really enjoyed it.

Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time: A reread, in honour of current events. I wrote about it here.

Gwyneth Jones, Divine Endurance: I can’t remember when I last bounced off a book so badly. I’ve enjoyed Jones’ writing, both fiction and nonfiction, before, and while I was wary of a book by a British author set in postapocalyptic Asia I was quite looking forward to engaging with the set of issues that that raised. But I could never enter the book even that much; it’s possible other people will enjoy this, but to me it felt like running repeatedly into a brick wall.

Anjali Purohit, Ragi-Ragini: I wrote about this for the column and will post it on the blog soon. Ragi-Ragini is a fictionalised memoir disguised as a recipe book, but the memoir parts do not only tell the story of “Ragini”, but (second-hand) that of her mother; and the whole is interleaved with poetry that traces the life of yet another woman. It’s a bit stilted or overwritten at times but it is also doing a number of things and it’s a lovely, warm book about female communities and some of the recipes look quite tasty as well.

Gail Carriger, Etiquette and Espionage: Reading the first pages of Carriger’s new series (set in the same universe as her Parasol Protectorate books but some years earlier) I had a sense of deja vu; surely we’d already seen our young heroine, a Disappointment to her Family, have a dessert-spillage related incident as our introduction to her? It’s possible that the series will pick up, but I found this first book weak. Plus, it is almost criminal to have 19th century fictional boarding schools for girls and boys to teach them things like espionage and hand-to-hand fighting (and curtseying) and not make use of that fantastic 19th century school story genre that already exists for you to play with. In short, I was underwhelmed.

Christian Morganstern, Sirish Rao, Rathna Ramanathan, In the Land of Punctuation: I loved this, and wrote about it here.

Vidyun Sabhaney and Shohei Emura, Mice Will Be Mice: I first discovered Sabhaney’s work in Blaft’s Obliterary Journal last year. Mice Will Be Mice has a more conventional narrative than her piece in that (about an exploding donkey); a lab experiment goes wrong, there are giant mice, there are some funny visual jokes and the solution is surprisingly simple. There isn’t much to it that I can see, but I enjoyed it anyway.

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