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Paperback Pickings

Limits to an adventure

That old ace in the hole (Fourth Estate, £3.99) by Annie Proulx is another landscape novel from the author of the bestseller,The Shipping News. The strange conflict of interests in the vast, featureless yet intriguing Texas panhandle, set off by a scout for hog farm sites in an area hostile to the very idea of hog farms owned by multinational corporations, initiates an unlikely but touching drama of affections and loyalties which Proulx depicts with her sensitive touch. Her novel draws on the strengths of the picaresque form, the adventure of new places and the interaction with local eccentricities, yet builds itself on a moral and emotional logic that manages to question the ethics of global capitalism.

American POwer and the new mandarins (Penguin, Rs 375) by Noam Chomsky was one of the most powerful statements against the American entanglement in Vietnam. Yet the essays in the collection, all of them written in the late Sixties, have gained a powerful relevance all over again with the USís latest assault against Iraq. This is Chomskyís first political book in which his characteristic use of cold facts help, as usual, to sharpen the moral indictment of the USís policy abroad and hypocrisy at home.

One hundred shades of white (HarperCollins, Rs 295) by Preethi Nair is a well-written novel, spanning two continents, with a third and a fourth shimmering in the background. That is to say, it has everything absolutely right, with a staple tale of Indian mothers and daughters, tied in by the magic of cooking, and the attractions of a portmanteau oriental philosophy of facing the hardest truth and letting go for a deep inner peace none can buy. In spite of the pat formula, by now put firmly in place among the successes of the world of English language publishing, the story is grippingly told, and does very well for a two-night-one-day train journey across the breadth of India.

Romain Rollandó the story of a conscience (Rupa, Rs 195) by Alex Aronson is a precise and analytical study of Rollandís intellectual development and questing spirit, but it loses out sadly in the form that is granted it by the publisher. The reprint, dated this year, does not even record the date of first publication, let alone any previous editions, if they exist. Reprinting unusual but illuminating texts in a handy format is an important function for any publisher, but ignoring essential bibliographical information devalues the exercise.

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