The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paperback Pickings

Pleasures sharp and brief

literary taste (Rupa, Rs 95) by Arnold Bennett, first published in 1909, is a handy little primer on how to like the classics. Bennett is responding to the problem of the interested reader, who nevertheless finds that the “classics do not afford...a pleasure commensurate with their renown”. The little book offers a brief and sharp pleasure, because of Bennett’s characteristic dryly amused tone. But for the new reader, the “canon” and the critical principles gently touched on may seem rather dated.

sustainable development: Promoting progress or perpetuating poverty' (Profile, £ 14.99) edited by Julian Morris attempts to shift the emphasis in the term “sustainable” by arguing that the needs of people alive today are as important as the long-term needs of the environment. The essays by seventeen expert contributors put the book on the side of the participation champions: sustainable societies are built by people who have a stake in conserving the environments they live in. The essays range from theoretical issues to specific area and topography related problems, and discuss global governance and resources.

A far Horizon (Penguin, Rs 295) by Meira Chand falls easily into the fashionable new slot of historical novels in English by Indian writers. Chand, though, is not a new writer, she is six novels old. This tale of Calcutta with its White Town and Black Town, intrigues in Murshidabad and the Black Hole in Calcutta is typically set off by an Eurasian named Sati, possessed by Kali. It’s the perfect recipe, serious history mixed in with a rousing tale.

arms and the woman (Rupa, Rs 195) by Deepti Menon is an affectionate rendering of the experiences of an army daughter and wife. Like most amateur occasional writing, the funnny bits really are fun, but the grave reflections tend to bore.

Ji Pradhanmantriji, Vol 3: the diaries of Shri suryaprakash singh (Penguin, Rs 195) retains in Monisha Shah’s English version of Purushottam Agarwal’s adaptation of Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay’s TV serial, Yes Prime MInister, the slightly mixed up laughter cues born of deadpan British wit overlaid with a Hindi TV sense of humour. It’s not so bad. “How could I make the theatrical community feel that I was really one of them'” wonders the PM. “‘Surely,’ murmured Mathur acidly, ‘you don’t want them to see you as a hostile, self-righteous, nautanki-baaz drunk'’” As long as this is on screen.

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