Saturday, August 23, 2014

It's unusually ha-ha with Pinto's "Em and the big Hoom"

Jerry Pinto's "Em and the big Hoom" (2012) is a beautiful book that takes a brutally honest look at the world of a Goan boy living with a mentally ill mother in Mumbai. Em (the mother) and big Hoom (the father) are among the endearing yet eccentric characters that populate the world of a vulnerable narrator who has to cope with his mother's attempts to take her own life.

Pinto's first (and only) novel was about two decades in the making and the central character is based on his mother. The book provides insights into a serious illness, the lack of support for caregivers in India and how society wishes away the mentally afflicted.

And yet, the novel is also darkly funny and any reader would find it difficult to resist the charm of Em's imagination and utterances. Pinto is a master craftsman with dialogue and is perhaps the best contemporary Indian writer.

Read it. Love it. Recommend it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Just finished reading: 'This Is How You Lose Her' and 'The Accidental Prime Minister'

"This Is How You Lose Her" is a collection of short stories in English by Junot Díaz, a Dominican American writer. Most of the stories in this collection deal with men's infidelity and though Diaz's writing is powerful and evocative, the stories get repetitive and the women more hysterical. The occasional use of the Spanish language could put off a new reader (I'm not complaining; it's one of the reasons I read it in the first place).

Sanjaya Baru's "The Accidental Prime Minister" may have got the cash registers ringing in India, but I just read it and failed to understand what the fuss was all about. Manmohan Singh's daughter had protested against its publication but she need not have bothered about any revelations by the PM's former media adviser. Baru paints a very sympathetic picture of Singh as an honest and committed statesman who was let down by some within the Congress party. Singh's first term was outstanding but his second was a disappointment. There are a few interesting snippets from political life but on the whole, Baru's book is highly over-rated.

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