Posts Tagged ‘books read’


image: penguin india

I’m more familiar with literary movements that swept the US and Europe than the ones closer home. The first that I heard of the Hungry generation was in this book (they figure in Jeet Thayil’s The Book of Chocolate Saints too). The Hungryalists, as they were known, were a revolutionary band of poets who originated in West Bengal. They questioned the rigidity of form and exclusivity imposed by upper-class poets, the bourgeoisie. They rubbed shoulders with Allen Ginsberg when he visited India. In fact, shocked by the legal action slapped on the Hungryalists for obscenity by a few righteous literary leaders of that time, he did his best to help the Hungryalists by writing to various people in positions of power that he knew in India. The poets received recognition and support from the international community while back home, they faced harsh and unforgiving judgments.

Much of the poets’ work was destroyed. However, Chowdhury has featured what could be found through her research and interviews in the book. She has interspersed the account of the literary movement with copies of translated poems and reproduced letters exchanged between the poets and others. Their passion and urgency are still intact in these letters. Even at the worst of times, despite the persecution, their love for poetry held them strong. Chowdhury has written an engaging narrative with prose that ebbs and flows, rich in lyricism, apt for the subject.

Title: The Hungryalists
Author: Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Random House India, 2018
ISBN: 9780670090853, 0670090859

© Anuradha Prasad 2019


Thank you, twenty-eighteen. It was nice knowing you and let’s not meet again.

Natural Disasters: One that involved getting stranded in the Kerala floods and many, many poppadums

My-Made Disasters: Two…three…four??

I peered through
lennon frames, rose-colored,
looked past and over
red flags waving.

Extrication Rate from All Disasters: 100%

Love: That stretchy feline, Rosa, uff!

New Things, Fun Things: Learned French poetry and music | Went on a writing retreat to Pondicherry | Conducted a workshop on blogging | Volunteered for art things | Learned the flamenco

Overdose: Family things…what with Sunshine all tied in knots and hospitals.

Call Out to the Universe: Whatever happened to courtship? Come back, we miss you.

Books Read:

There was a good mix of short fiction, novels, poetry, and a trickle of non-fiction.

Read the first two of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggles series: A Death in the Family and A Man in Love. He sure knows how to work magic as he goes into inane details and still keeps you hooked. Srabani Basu’s The Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan narrates the story of Noor, who was the first Indian woman to win the George Cross. Enjoyed reading Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Misfits Manifesto that came after her TED Talk. Resonations aplenty.

What’s a short fiction marathon without Anton Chekhov? It began with A Dreary Story. It was good to go beyond Lolita and read more Nabokov in Nabokov’s Thirteen. Margaret Atwood was as always brilliant in Wilderness Tips, each story is a condensed novel, full and rich. Japanese authors continue to amaze me with their easy style and complex ideas and strangeness; there was Yukiki Motoya’s The Lonesome Bodybuilder Stories, Haruki Murakami’s Desire, and Granta’s Japan edition. Granta’s India: Another Way of Seeing was an interesting collection. Speaking of seeing, Raymond Carver’s Cathedral was an interesting read on the ways we see and the ways we don’t. Hemingway’s Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories was another revelation in style. I dipped into Grace Paley and Lydia Davis who redefine storytelling while Kate Chopin defines it in The Awakening and Other Stories. Letters of Sylvia Plath so far has not been as interesting as Woolf’s diary. Also reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Flappers & Philosophers, more of Zelda and Fitzgerald’s relationship in it.

On the novels front, I finished Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. Is it just me or were Don and Betty in Mad Men inspired by the protagonists from the novel?


image: vanity fair

Yoko Ogawa explores the darker side of sexuality in Hotel Iris, while Emily Fridlund took on the question of healthcare and negligence in History of Wolves. In Aminatta Forna’s Happiness, the foxes and those who exist on the periphery of society come to focus. Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere brings up motherhood and the various ways it is expressed. In Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees single mothers are made, by accident and by choice. John Barth’s The End of the Road follows Jake Horner’s life and his ‘cosmopsis’ while shining light on societal issues, all of it laced with black humor. A love story unfolds against the Yom Kippur War in A.B. Yehoshua’s The Lover. Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick is a memoir interwoven with contemplation of womanhood and feminism. Andre Sean Greer’s Less was brilliant as Less runs away from heartbreak and sets off to travel, epiphanies and mishaps abound. Anne Frank is brought back to life in Philip Roth’s The Ghost Writer when an upcoming writer visits an award-winning writer and encounters a woman who could very well be Anne. Meanwhile, a man lies dreaming in Lavie Tidhar’s A Man Lies Dreaming, which weaves a fictitious alternative history where Hitler is a low-brow detective in London after the fall of the Nazis.

In Janwillem van de Wetering’s Outsider in Amsterdam, a murder is solved and in Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam, secrets take a deadly turn as does a young girl’s anger at her father’s lover in Bonjour Tristesse by Francois Sagan. A story is spun over a love that can never be in Alessandro Baricco’s Silk. More murder and mayhem in Pierre LeMaitre’s Irene, that ends with an unexpected twist. Keigo Higashino’s mystery thrillers filled in between the literary reads; there was Malice and Salvation of the Saint. A school boy competes to win an audience with Hemingway in Tobias Wolff’s Old School and learns a thing or two about being who he is to write his best as does Kugy in Dee Lestari’s Paper Boats but it gets a tad sentimental. In Irving Stone’s Lust for Life, Vincent van Gogh struggles to create art and dies in its quest.


image: smithsonian

Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry is narrated in three parts: a love story, a story within a story, and an interview on Desert Island Discs. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah is a commentary on the seduction of America and the layers of racism that Ifemelu encounters. Among Indian authors, there was Sudha Nair with The Wedding Tamasha and Priyamvada & Co; both are stories about families and love and loss. Ajay Sachdev with Operation Al-Nagrib, a thriller about a counter-terrorism team trying to prevent a terrorist attack masterminded by the still-alive Sheikh. Radhika Oberoi recreates the events following Indira Gandhi’s assassination in Stillborn Season: A Novel. Jugal Mody’s Toke was hilarious, what with Vishnu and Shiva and their stash. As the author says, toke, toke, toke.

I ended the year with Fran Ross’ Oreo, a funny and brave and jewel of a read. It’s a tightly knit commentary of -isms and light of wit. Recommended.

I got to listen to a lot of poetry and picked up a few collections at the Bangalore Poetry Festival, among them Shikha Malaviya’s Geography of Tongues. Gili Haimovich, Alvin Pang, and Ulrike Almut Sandig were part of the Beyond Shores segment. I also got my hands on a copy of Poetry at Sangam House with some remarkable poems, which included translated work of poets writing in regional languages. Ulrike Almut Sandig’s Thick of It opened up a whole new world of seeing and being.

Screen Things I Binged On:

  • I, Tonya: The real-life story, shot as a mockumentary, of a competitive figure skater who sabotages her rival.
  • Short Cuts: A series of interconnected stories build up to a climax as LA is hit by a quake – not the big one, but shake, it does, the many lives.
  • American Hustle: How I loved the wife.
  • A Poet in New York: Dylan drinks himself to death.
  • The End of the F**** World: Alyssa and James, a pair of oddballs, fall in love.
  • SKAM: A high school series whose highlight was the chemistry between Isaac and Even.
  • Raw: Not for the faint of heart. Cannibalism runs in this family.
  • Revenge: Starts with objectifying a woman’s body, the same body that gives her the strength to hunt her assaulters down.
  • Gloria: An older woman looking for love and living life to the fullest.
  • Wild, Wild Country: A revelation of how the cult-like Rajneeshpuram worked and the hypocrisy of Americans.
  • Killing Eve: Villanelle is super creepy.

image: bustle

  • Collateral: A well-made mini-series with excellent performances; about immigrants and the fear of terrorism.
  • Molly’s Game: A skier, after an accident, runs a high-stakes poker game.
  • Zodiac: An account of the Zodiac murders and tracking down the killer.
  • Becoming Jane: A biographical account of Jane Austen and the possible inspiration for Elizabeth and Darcy.
  • In the Fade: A woman tracks down the people behind the terrorist attack that kills her husband and son.
  • Wind River: A murder mystery set in Wyoming.
  • The Americans: The final season. Miss the Jennings already.
  • The Shape of Water: A fantasy thriller. The apartment scenes with their aqua are spectacular.
  • Ocean’s 8: I’ll take Clooney any day.
  • Get Out: The horror of racism.
  • Perdida: A girl gone missing, sex trafficking, old secrets resurfacing.
  • Fight Club: Why, why did I wait so long to watch this? A brilliant commentary on consumerism.

image: drafthouse

  • The Motive: How far will you go to write?
  • The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society: There were many faces from Downton Abbey (which by the way is being made into a movie).
  • Barry: About Barack Obama as a student in Columbia.
  • The Angel: About Ashraf Marwan who spies for Israel and may have just diverted a whole lot of casualties.
  • 22 July: A terrorist attack in Norway in which students at a camp are targeted.
  • Operation Finale: An account of how Adolf Eichmann was captured in Argentina.
  • Fugitiva: A woman runs from her abusive and influential husband, and keeps trusting the wrong men along the way.
  • Battle: SKAM’s Lisa Teige as a dancer who chooses to enjoy dance over discipline and competition.
  • You: There’s a writer and a bookstore and John Stamos. Hard to resist. For the next round, I’m getting the book first, on which season two is based, Hidden Bodies.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

Life took an unexpected turn this year. I turned social. What’s left of it is experience. Jepson says, ‘Everything is an education in writing’. Ready to shed skin, settle back into myself, and write.

Books (contd.)

  • Patty Yumi Cottrell’s Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
  • Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence
  • George Orwell’s The Animal Farm
  • Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X
  • Scott F. Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned
  • Natalie Goldberg’s The Long Quiet Road
  • Julie Buntin’s Marlena
  • Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen and Moon Shadow
  • D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love
  • Isabel Hugan’s The Elizabeth Stories
  • Emma Cline’s The Girls
  • Dot Hutchinson’s The Butterfly Garden


  • Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park
  • Elif Bautman’s The Idiot
  • Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy
  • Anais Nin’s A Spy in the House of Love
  • Bod Dylan’s Chronicles Vol. 1
  • Lalita Iyer’s The Whole Shebang: Sticky Bits about Being a Woman
  • Rochelle D’Silva’s When Home is an Idea
  • Nicole Krauss’s Forest Dark
  • Bob Dylan’s Tarantula
  • Gili Haimovich’s Sideways Roots
  • Lauren Elkin’s Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London
  • Ivy Pochoda’s Wonder Valley
  • Patti Smith’s Devotion
  • Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

 Screen (contd.)

  • Tallulah
  • Tiny Furniture
  • Notes on a Scandal
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Dirty Pretty Things
  • Following
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Thelma & Louise
  • Trainspotting
  • Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight
  • Annie Hall
  • Heathers
  • Fargo


  • Endless Poetry
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist
  • Fatima
  • A Woman, a Part
  • Blue is the Warmest Colour
  • The Beguiled
  • À Bout de Souffle (Breathless)
  • Up in the Air
  • Choker Bali
  • Angry Indian Goddesses
  • Manifesto
  • Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold
  • Lady Bird
  • Wanted, Top of the Lake, Mindhunter, Unabomber

Miscellaneous Stories

People adored: Many

People un-adored: Also many

Crimes committed: One, could easily be three

Nature of crime: Classified

Kittens rescued (and loved): Four

Squirrels rescued (spoils of Rosa’s hunts): Two

Fun things: Horse riding

Indulgences: Caffeine. Blueberry cheesecake is a close second with stiff competition from churros.

Contemplations: Why fall in love when you can fall asleep?

Stuck on:


Still laughing:


© Anuradha Prasad 2017


Loved the narrative voice in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and reading Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep was like reading a movie. Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary offered more than a glimpse of the writer’s intense writing process. James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man didn’t really capture my imagination until the later pages. There were two books about genocide, a nonfiction Elie Wiesel’s Night and fiction, Edna O’Brien’s Little Red Chairs that moved between Ireland, London and Bosnia. Jack London’s The Call of the Wild evokes the inherent wildness in us. Orhan Pahmuk’s A Strangeness in My Mind takes us into the life and mind of a boza seller who married the wrong girl and loved the right one. Vivek Shanbag’s Ghachar Ghochar, a translation from the Kannada, promised Chekhov-like writing, and came with a live ant (!) Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was about how a woman turns vegetarian, taking it to the extreme, and the way she affects her husband, brother-in-law, and sister.

Andre Breton’s Nadja is surrealism personified, and Katie Daisy’s How to be a Wildflower is a vibrant treat. The insights in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own are still relevant, and the honesty and courage in Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water has made her one of my favourite writers. Read Neruda’s Selected Poems, and 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair aloud in Spanish and English to taste the textures in their entirety. Sarita Mandanna’s Tiger Hills brought alive Coorg, and there was a whiff of Gone with the Wind in its pages. Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi made me realise that this was the first book of fiction I have read that was set in Australia. I read Vita Sackville-West’s Joan of Arc the first week of May; the same time in the 15th century, Jeanne brought about the fall of Orleans. It was on May 30 that she was burnt at the stake.

Stories on screen –



© Anuradha Prasad, 2017


Writing Takeaways:

  • Own your work, suspend judgment, share it, let it go
  • Acknowledge sources of inspiration
  • The wheels are always turning even when the page is blank
  • Don’t make it about other people


Here are just two of the fabulous writing/creativity books acquired and added to a book collection that urgently requires a book shelf and desperately needs to be read –

  • Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (While Goldberg is Zen-sparse, Lamott’s writing is meat and potatoes – love them both)
  • Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit

Reading Highlights:

The number of books read this year has plummeted as my attention span has gone off on an unannounced jaunt. Quite possibly with my Muse. What I enjoyed –

  • May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude
  • Joanne Harris’ Five Quarters of the Orange
  • Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl
  • Julie Orringer’s How to Breathe Underwater


  • Ruth L. Ozeki’s A Tale for the Timebeing
  • Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet
  • Andrew Miller’s Pure

Screen Highlights:

  • Shirley Valentine
  • The Diving Bell & The Butterfly
  • Downton Abbey

Books on their way right now (have waited a long time for these two. got lucky and found them at 70% off…ohhh joy!) –

  • The Diary of Frida Kahlo
  • The Big New Yorker Book of Cats

Best Day Out:


  • A vineyard tour (great company, good wine and life in soft focus!)

People Adored: Nil

© Anuradha Prasad