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Monday, July 26, 2010

The Blurb: 20th July

Book News Tuesday 20th July 2010

Melbourne Writers Festival
The 25th Melbourne Writers Festival is only a few weeks away. The festival dates are 27 August to 5 September. The festival will feature over 300 writers from around the world. Debates, readings, performances, film screenings and workshops are just some of the events to enjoy.
Go to for program details and to purchase tickets.

Rudd’s Way November 2007 to June 2010 by Nicholas Stuart
Rudd’s Way by Nicholas Stuart is now in bookstores. Rudd’s Way is the first book about Kevin Rudd, following his departure as Prime Minister. Rudd’s Way examines the way Kevin Rudd operated. It presents an in-depth critical examination and analysis of the way Kevin Rudd’s government worked and why Labor eventually decided its leader had to be removed. The book examines the key events and crucial moments leading to Rudd’s downfall.
The book offers a revealing picture of the way Labor has already changed the country.

Printed book, a fast read. A recent study has found it is quicker to read a print version of a book than it is to read on Apple’s iPad or Amazon’s Kindle. While electronic book readers are stampeding the market, printed books are quicker and some believe more relaxing to read.
The Nielsen Norman Group recruited 24 participants, who enjoy reading and frequently read books, to conduct a readability study. The study tested each participant’s skill of reading. Each participant was exposed to an iPad, a Kindle, a PC and a printed book.

The study required participants to read a short story. On average, the story took 17 minutes and 20 seconds to read. Study results found the iPad measured at 6.2% lower reading speed than the printed book. The Kindle measured at 10.7% slower reading speed than the printed book. The study was unable to determine which tablet offers the fasting reading speed.

Interesting fact
Melbourne boasts more bookshops per head than anywhere else in Australia

Review of “The Pleasure Seekers” by Tiushani Doshi, rrp $ 30, 314 pp.

Isn’t it one of the great joys of reading that via our imaginations we can become immersed in a new culture with all its sights and smells and sounds, its food and music, its beliefs and attitudes….without leaving home? We have spoken before on this program about the recent emergence of novels in English from the once “Asia Minor ”. The Middle Eastern writers have long been around as have authors from equally-exotic Anglophone places such as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Thanks to Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth and Rohinton Mistry, we have lately come to enjoy the life of contemporary India. Today’s novel again takes us in to the life of a family in the subcontinent.

Here we follow the life of Babo Patel from Madras in Tamil Nadhu, from 1968 until 2001, quite a history when one plots in the events that affected India so dramatically in those decades. The cover blurb accurately observes that this book by first-time New Delhi-based novelist Dashi is about “the quirks and calamities of an unusual clan in a story of identity, family and belonging”. Social observers remind us the Australian family is in the midst of change of a pace never before seen, and so Dashi takes us on the journey of change of this aspiring middle-class Indian family….not all that different in many ways to some of ours!

In the first half of the novel, young adult Babo is off to London for work and study. Raised a Jain [ non-smoking, vegetarian, non-drinking, pacifist, celibate,etc.] he is quickly captivated by the wiles of a still-swinging London, and before long falls in love [ for life, as it turns out] with a Welsh girl, the lively Sian. In spite of the sly manipulations of his parents back home, he marries Sian – but only on condition the newlyweds agree to live back in India for two years where Babo will learn his father’s business. Once in Madras Sian proves quick [and amazingly tolerant ] to immerse herself into the local way of life. She and Babo, however, still manage to maintain an almost independent, ‘nuclear’ family life with their two daughters. What seems to keep Babo in balance is his continued query: “ Is that all there is?”

In the second half, Dashi focuses even more sharply on Babo’s family though inevitably his hapless brother, Chotu, takes on bigger role. While our attention is always on these interesting and very human characters, Dasi never lets the reader forget the social milieu in which they move – or the historic events [assassinations,etc. ] that are constantly plaguing India. It is this subtle blending of these dimensions that create the novel’s lasting impact: this is a narrative of “ Mother India” at the end of the millennium.

What about the title – “ The Pleasure Seekers”? Dashi dedicated her first book to her parents ….” The first pleasure seekers”. Now, Babo and Sian are ‘in love ‘throughout the novel, and generally there is great joy in their love-making. But this is not about HEDONISM, pleasure for its own sake. The REAL “pleasure “ derived by these characters is usually OTHER-centred. The only really miserable character is Babo’s father, Prem, who is a caricature of the work-obsessed patriarch. By contrast, I must mention the wonderful Ba, the grandmother, the de facto matriarch, to whom though she lives miles away all turn when in trouble. She is a saintly, perhaps mystical figure, helping all and surviving every disaster. She is the loving heart of the Patel clan……but I have probably given too much away.

I find anything to do with India quite enthralling, but this is a gem of a novel: beautifully polished, not a word wasted and written in the most fluent of prose.

Read this book.

FOUR out of 5 [I have to wait for The Book OF My Life for a 5.]

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