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Paperback Pickings
Silkworms in a violent world

Trespassing (Penguin, Rs 395) by Uzma Aslam Khan is a rather self-consciously complicated book about silkworms, Pakistani society and America, with patches of self-consciously exquisite prose, described by Tariq Ali as “silken”: “Everywhere she looked, each caterpillar nosed the air like a wand and out passed silk. They sashayed to the left and swivelled to the right. They bobbed and undulated, dotting the air in figure-eights. They worked ceaselessly for three days and nights, with material entirely of their own, and with nothing to orchestrate them besides their own internal clock. Each, a perfectly self-contained unit of life.”

 

Fifty key figures in management (Routledge, Rs 395) by Morgen Witzel is a text-book about mighty management men (there isn’t a single woman). The chronological sweep of this inventory of “influential people” begins with Lao Tzu (6th century BC), goes on to Machiavelli (15th-16th century) and finishes with Bill Gates (1955-). “Management,” Witzel declares, “is the most important phenomena of modern civilization.”

Mapping mars: science, imagination and the birth of a world (Fourth Estate, £ 8.99) by Oliver Morton is a readable, absorbing and eccentrically researched on the human imaging and imagining of Mars. “It’s the embodiment of a process, a process that forges links between far-off Mars and the cartographers’ drawing board point by point, feature by feature. It embodies links of reason and technology that runs though the cameras of now-dead spacecraft millions of kilometres away, and through the minds of the men who designed and controlled those cameras.”

Collected Stories, Vol. 1 (Penguin, Rs 250) by Shashi Deshpande is an interesting gathering of stories by an Indian novelist and short-story writer, originally published in literary journals, magazines and newspapers. These stories are mostly about men and women trapped in relationships and situations not of their making.

The best of Laxman: the common man seeks justice (Penguin, Rs 200) is another in the endless series of cartoons unfailingly churned out by R.K. Laxman in The Times of India. From financial crises to the woes of householders, from political instability to rampant corruption, Laxman’s cartoons capture the entire gamut of contemporary Indian experience.

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