Monday, 30th October 2017

E- paper

Paperback Pickings

Beyond popular notions

  • Published 15.01.16

Beyond popular notions

WE ARE ALL STARDUST: SCIENTISTS WHO SHAPED OUR WORLD TALK ABOUT THEIR WORK, THEIR LIVES AND WHAT THEY STILL WANT TO KNOW (Speaking Tiger, Rs 399) by Stefan Klein, translated by Ross Benjamin, tries to dispel the popular notion that all scientists are absent-minded geniuses who are inept in everyday life. Klein, a science writer and journalist, interviews scientists such as Alison Gopnik, Jane Goodall, Richard Dawkins, to name a few. These renowned people, who have given us remarkable insights, talk to Klein about moments that inspired them. Klein's questions to the scientists often seem to be direct challenges or disagreements. But they reveal his deep understanding of the subjects. The book seems more like a collection of conversations than interviews.

WILD ANIMAL PROHIBITED: STORIES/ ANTI-STORIES (Harper Perennial, Rs 375) by Subimal Misra, translated by V. Ramaswamy, is a collection of stories, mostly about the history of violence and degeneration in the Bengal of the 1970s and the 1980s. Misra chose to step aside from conventional narratives and introduced film language into Bengali fiction. Misra says in the preface that his readers would be dismayed. This is partly true - the trail of blood and vanished individuals from the Naxal years and a rotting body in a sack, the stench of which poisons an entire city, are not for the faint-hearted reader. Misra's works are more about language than about narrative. Ramaswamy writes in the translator's note how language proved to be a barrier while translating these stories and how several stories had to be dropped because they could not be translated. The images will haunt readers long after they have put the book aside.

ANIMAL MADNESS: HOW ANXIOUS DOGS, COMPULSIVE PARROTS AND ELEPHANTS IN RECOVERY HELP US UNDERSTAND OURSELVES (Speaking Tiger, Rs 450) by Laurel Braitman will make the readers take animals seriously. It talks about the minds and histories of various animals that are at times as intense and dramatic as those of humans. "Every animal with a mind has the capacity to lose hold of it from time to time," writes Braitman. The book has a straightforward message: exotic animals should not be kept in zoos. In the case of pets, it is our busy-ness that becomes their cage. Dogs and cats enjoy being around people. Braitman insists that unless we consider the possibility that animals can be mentally ill, we are unlikely to be of help to them.