Bookworm, the PYB (pretty young bibliophile), brings you the buzz on books
happy birthday, hobbit: “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” Thus began JRR Tolkien’s tale about the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit of Bags End, who turned 75 last month. The Hobbit, written for children, follows the tale of Bilbo, a “respectable” hobbit who leads a comfortable life and never goes anywhere till he meets Gandalf the wizard. Gandalf introduces him to 13 dwarves who take Bilbo on an adventure of epic proportions. Published on September 21, 1937, The Hobbit has sold some 100 million copies worldwide. According to The Guardian, HarperCollins is publishing some of the sketches done by Tolkien while writing the novel to mark the diamond jubilee of its publication. It includes sketches of Bilbo smoking his pipe (that hung almost to his toes) in the circular hall at Bag End, of Lake Town and of Hobbiton-across-the Water.
Tolkien fans have even more to look forward to. The movie based on The Hobbit, directed by Peter Jackson, will now come out in three parts, the first of which, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will be released on December 12.
The other two, The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again, will release in 2013 and 2014 respectively. Jackson has used material from the appendices of The Lord of The Rings trilogy to “tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins.” While Tolkien fans are overjoyed at having more time to spend with all things Middle Earth, others have expressed doubts about the wisdom of dragging out The Hobbit into three films.
the ‘beautiful’ book: The 2012 shortlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction was announced on October 5 and a book based in Mumbai is being billed as the favourite to win this £20,000 prize. The book in question is Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum [Penguin India, Rs 499], by Katherine Boo.
It’s set in Annawadi, a slum near Mumbai airport, where the Pulitzer-Prize winning American journalist observes the lives of three people — Abdul, who found his fortune recycling rich people’s waste, Asha, who works for the Shiv Sena and is set to become a slumlord, and the crippled Fatima, whose sexual appetite is infamous.
Adopting the storytelling style of narration and treating her interviewees as “characters” in a novel, Boo writes about the Mumbai slum not as a foreigner, rather as an empathetic observer. In his review in The Guardian, author Amit Chaudhuri describes Behind the Beautiful Forevers as “a small classic of contemporary writing”, while William Dalrymple says in The Observer: “If Boo manages to avoid Dickens’s sentimentality — she is admiring but unromantic about her characters — she shares his ability to create a complete pen portrait of an individual with just a few lines of description and a snatch of dialogue.”
The shortlist also includes Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis, The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane, The Better Angels of our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity by Steven Pinker, The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain by Paul Preston and Strindberg: A Life, by Sue Prideaux. The winner will be announced on November 12.
The longlist included Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton: A Memoir [Jonathan Cape, Rs 799], which chronicles 10 years of his life in hiding after the Ayatollah Khomeini declared a fatwa against him in 1989 for The Satanic Verses. The memoir is written in the third person by Rushdie about Mr Joseph Anton, the alias he picked inspired by two authors — Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. Ten years of desperation, frustration, boredom and despair along with infidelities, secret lovers and marriage breakdowns is packed into this 650-pager.
booker 2012: Around 2.20am IST on Wednesday, Hilary Mantel was named the winner of the 2012 Man Booker Prize for her novel Bring Up the Bodies [Fourth Estate], which is the sequel to her 2009 Booker-winning Wolf Hall. While this makes Mantel the first woman and the first Briton to bag two Bookers, the announcement was greeted in Twittersphere with grumbles of a cop out by the Booker judges. For Bookworm, of course, the hero remains Jeet Thayil and his heroin-powered debut novel, Narcopolis, which was on the Booker shortlist. Thanks, Jeet, for making India count.
Picture puja: Amadpur. A half-hour rickshaw ride from Memari station, which is a two-hour train journey from Howrah, which in turn is two-and-a-half hours by plane from Mumbai. But none of that seemed to have deterred photographer and photo editor Chirodeep Chaudhuri. Every year, for the past 12 years, he travelled back to his ancestral home in Amadpur to spend time with his family during that one time in the calendar when every Bengali just HAS to be home — Durga Puja.
If the initial visits just meant looking at rural Bengal through the eyes of a visitor, a bit of inspiration from Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali and a lingering look at the Amadpur negatives later, the defining details of the Amadpur way of life grew larger than life, leading to the book A Village in Bengal: Photographs and an Essay [Picador India, Rs 2,499].
The author begins the book with a beautiful narrative of how the collection of photographs came to be, before taking the reader through a series of black and white prints of Bengal, complete with the village pukur [pond], Durga Puja, adda, children, family meals, thakur dalan....
Chirodeep brings to life the very Bangali festivities and family life through pictures rather than words, as the pictures have no captions. Together with Baha saris and billowing Anarkalis, this slice of Durga Puja will make for a nice Puja gift this season.