Friday, 3 October 2014

Book Marks: Fantasy Killings, Indian Detectives And Cairo Noir

Author Hilary Mantel wrote about killing Margaret Thatcher and some people weren't happy. Never mind that Maggie's no longer here.

James Poulos wonders what drives people to create such scenarios, and argues that assassination fantasies expresses (I think) our urge to turn to murder. But the "artist" should, he says, bear in mind that what they visualise can become reality, especially in such trying times as these: human with a feeling intellect should bash out a dramatized act of butchery without feeling some sickness over the possibility that it might be acted out in real life. At the very least, even an accidentally copycat killing makes your dark imagination feel complicit in a curse—a sensation experienced every day by people who desperately try not to visualize the crash of the airliner they’re on. For artists, that moral sensibility, superstitious or no, ought to be cranked to 11.

Coming next year: the adventures of Mumbai-based detective Ashwin Chopra by Vaseem Khan. The detective's début in The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra will have him paired up with an unusual partner: a baby elephant.

Hāthī Mērē Sāthī would've been more apt.

The report goes on to say that "If successful, Khan's creation could be joining a number of other well-known Indian crimefighters: Inspector Sartaj Singh of the Vikram Chandra novels 'Sacred Games' and 'Love and Longing in Bombay,' HRF Keating's Mumbai man Inspector Ghote, Byomkesh Bakashi of Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay's series, as well as Satyajit Ray's Calcuttan PI, Feluda, who was accompanied not by a baby elephant but by his younger cousin Tapesh."

Hmm, no mention of Tarquin Hall's Vish Puri (beware, web site has audio on by default)? Is it because Puri's a private eye and not a policeman?

Seems noir is making a comeback in the Middle East.

"The genre has long been popular in the Middle East though often considered too lowbrow for local and international scholarship," Jonathan Guyer writes in The Guardian. "Mid-century paperbacks – shelves of unexamined pulp, from Arabic translations to locally produced serials, along with contemporary reprints of Agatha Christie – languish in Cairo's book markets. Writer Ursula Lindsay quips: 'Cairo is the perfect setting for noir: sleaze, glitz, inequality, corruption, lawlessness. It's got it all.' "

Almost excited to see if any of these reaches our shores.

Peter Foges considers Martin Amis's Zone of Interest as the latter's tour de force and delves into Amis's exploration into Nazi evil.

"However since he simply could not fathom Hitler's depravity even after plowing through every book and interviewing every 'expert,' he found himself stuck," says Foges. Until he encountered the words of Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi:

"One must not understand what happened," wrote the most morally eloquent of the Holocaust's survivors. "Because to understand is almost to justify. ... There is no rationality in the Nazi hatred; it is a hate that is not in us; it is outside man."

Ellora's Cave, a publisher of romance and erotica, is suing a blogger for reporting its troubles on a blog post and is apparently also demanding the real identities of those who commented on that post.

I thought it was a pretty familiar story; lots of such cases have happened elsewhere, but most of these generally backfired. And it seems this phenomenon has a name: the Streisand effect which, according to the Wiki, is where "an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet."

One of my favourite book people sums up why an editor of a book magazine doesn't want to feature a certain book - not just because it's a "self-published indie" volume, I hope.

He also admits there could be lots of "interesting, engaging, informative, moving, timely and/or newsworthy" books out there that are being ignored - "and that's a tragedy. But it's not a tragedy that I can solve by reading 25 pages of every one of the 300,000 self-published books that would land in our office if we opened the door."


  • Here's how to diagram a sentence. This is an old technique to visualise parts of a sentence that has fallen out of use. "But, like fresh apple pie made from scratch, sometimes sticking to the basics is best. Diagramming a sentence creates a clear visual that helps you analyze what you're writing."
  • Who has heard of this book critic called Ed Champion? Not many, until he threatened a writer over a perceived slight. A background on him and the incident is one of several related articles on Salon, and his story has gained some traction. Over at The Daily Beast, someone wonders if Champion is now the most hated man in books.
  • I heard That Book by Mr Bak Kut Teh Who's On The Run has finally been published. Like many others, we had the honour of being offered his manuscript but thought his chances of being published would be better elsewhere. While you wait for its arrival (if ever), how about some of the 15,000 titles Harlequin just made available on Scribd?
  • And because we can never have too much Anthony Bourdain, here's Hollywood Reporter's profile on the man who "could save CNN". They expect so much of him since Kitchen Confidential.


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