Friday, November 25, 2005

Riot - Shashi Tharoor

The characters in this book are all as two dimensional as the paper that riot is printed on. The divorced non Indian couple, the foreign social worker who has an affair with the Indian, the smart south Indian, his repressed wife and aiyo, the hindu communalist, the muslim who forces his children on his wife, the hard drinking swearing surd well you get the picture. The telling of the story from various point of views is also not that innovative, well not really the same story since each point of view progresses the story rather than looking at the same item from a different point of view. The story is also told in a slightly non linear fashion with two timelines being followed. What saves this book however is that the writing is quite good and full of some memorable quotes (A large percentage from Oscar Wilde) and has a lot of themes regarding India that the author will return to in his later writing, notably in India from Midnight to the Millennium
It concerns the pointless death of a foreign woman social worker killed during a Hindu Muslim Riot during the Ram Janmabhoomi foolishness. And her parents journey to find out more about the circumstances in which their daughter died and the work she was doing. Adding to this cast of characters is the IAS officer the woman is having an affair with , his wife and daughter, his Punjabi Police Inspector friend -whose English abuses seem out of place. Would any self respecting sardar say sisterloving or ban****?
And other sundry characters involved in the riot.
Tharoor also tries to highlight the complex issues that India faced and still faces over the babri masjid issue. But people like me who have already formed their opinions about this matter are unlikely to change their opinions (the people of both communities who participated in the reprehensible acts are a bunch of fools and bastards. At least the politicians had an excuse they did it for votes.)
Tharoor can’t resist mentioning to of his pet topics, the greatness of St Stephens college (which of course cant compare to St Stanislaus even though the latter is just a school) and The Great Indian Novel.
Tharoors writing is of course quite good and that makes this book a worthwhile read

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
This book deals with the factors that make certain events tip. The event could be anything from why some people become chain smokers to why Paul Revere’s message was spead or why people watched sesame street or why the ya – ya sisterhood book after a quiet start suddenly tipped and became a bestseller.
The author has an interesting hypothesis and has plenty of real life examples and experiments to prove his point. The book is worth reading if not entirely convincing. This is mostly to do with the fact that most of these factors are analyzed after the event and the theory can therefore be retrofitted to suit the known outcome.
There is however an interesting example about a company where everyone is called Associate, there is no defined management structure and in no plant are the number of employees allowed to exceed 150. And the company is a multi million dollar one. Now could this be done for a software company?. Theres no reason to believe it couldn’t!.
Useful tidbits of information like connectors, maven and salesman which you can certainly identify from your own circle of friends are also present here. Well written and informative but not persuasive.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Life And Times of Scrooge McDuck - Don Rosa

It is relatively easy writing about how a character came to be as he is, In the case of Scrooge McDuck you know he’s an honest miser,loves adventure is a cantankerous mean old geezer, so to show his life history its relatively easy to come up with situations that would have made him as he is. It is however far more difficult(im tempted to say nay impossible) to do this as well as Don Rosa has done in his 12 issue comic series describing Scrooge McDuck – His life and times.
On a purely factual level, Rosa tried to incorporate every known fact about Scrooge , written by Carl Bucks, give it a timeline of sorts and write the history of Scrooge. However Rosa’s efforts, his research and indeed his love for this character makes this book rise well above everything. It just shows. The book would have been worth buying just because Rosa loves the characters so much. Writers like these must be encouraged.
I had issue 9 of the series bought from Happy Book Stall and when I read it the first time it was simply too good. I hadn’t expected this from a Disney. In time and during the course of many trips to the raddi-wala shops I managed to pick up two other disney’s one a cornelius coot history where scrooge declares himself king to avoid paying taxes and another regarding scrooge celebrating some anniversary and every Disney character from the duck world I knew was there in the story and a few other I didn’t know. Of the Disney books I had these were the best. It was then that I noted the similarity among these books. Their writer was Don Rosa. There began an unsuccessful attempt to hunt down the other parts of Life and Times. Google searches showed collections but not in English and much as I loved part 9 I was too old to learn a language just to read all the parts. Till about 6 months back when the book was collected in English!
Back to the Book
Scrooge takes us around the world for his various adventures and we learn the incidents that made him who he is today. You can’t help but laugh at some of the statements the characters make throughout the course of Scrooge’s laugh either because you know how untrue its going to turn out or because you know how true its going to turn out
Sample the following
Do you want to end up with a coal bin with the dang stuff?-Uncle pothole talking about money tells a young scrooge
He’s broke. We beagle boys wont have to bother about robbing him again- Blackheart Beagle to the beagle boys referring to scrooge
I shudder to imagine the kid that would come home from that unholy union –Dabney Duck To grandma duck referring to donalds parents

And Scrooge’s comments that bring out a guffaw
“Who needs self respect when you have money HAHAHAHAHAHAHA hawwwwwwwwwNUTS”

And a few sentimental moments as well
Like when scrooge goes to meet his mom in part 9, or the lock of goldies hair(I vaguely remember reading this issue) or scrooge’s first and second  meeting with his illustrious nephew

And action and adventure,see scrooge destroy soapy’s casino
This book has it all.
Part 9 will always be the best for me since I only had it for a long time. Among other things the last sequence is amazing(warning a character dies) and it has the gags to make you laugh.
But the entire books is a gem , one scrooge himself would have been proud to own

Saturday, November 05, 2005

State of Fear - Michael Crichton

Its nowhere near as good as Andromeda Strain or Sphere. In fact it has an unbelievable(As in bad) plot. It doesnt have the pace or the suspense of his earlier novels and most of the novel seems forced. And this is still money well spent. Do you like the environment? do you want to preserve it? do you think the industry-politico-underworld nexus are slowly destroying our environment?. Read the book some eyeopeners here. Not that I believe everything in the book is true but like the author says everyone has an agenda except me.
The problem with the book is similar to Da Vinci Code. The author had a statement to make and the the fictional part of the book is written around this statement. So while the statement may be an astonishing one, the fictional part of the book suffers. In this case its the whole Does Global warming really exist question with an impressive array of charts to prove that it may not. Other facts!? regarding the environmental issues that may cause people to reconsider their stand on some issues.
This book though is redeemed by The author's statement at the end which clearly states where he stands (like mike carey as opposed to a scott adams!)
Maybe crichton is right about the some of the issues he raises. But i remember reading about Carl Sagan and his arguments regarding the industries reaction to the ozone layer problem. The industries said it couldnt be proved, that the proof show no signficant impacts etc etc and they stalled for years. And his point was if you werent sure about something so important wouldnt you choose the safe option?

english august

Its been a long time since i read the book and now when im actually typing this up. I only remember being totally disappointed with this book which seemed to be completely pretentious and mostly boring.