The book I am reading currently, and some shocking news

by Ahalya on November 2, 2009

First up, APOLOGY. For all those who haven’t got the book you so rightfully won, there’s been a delay with the courier, I promise you they will be with you soon :/ I hate delays myself so I know how angry you must be feeling. A thousand apologies.

Second apology, I haven’t been updating the site. My computer broke down (I know! Sounds lame, I know :/) and I couldn’t log onto the blog admin from the laptop.

ANYWAY! Here we are, a fresh month stretching ahead of us and lots of books to read through it. And here is the shocking news: the British Council Library in Mumbai is moving to a new location. And it will take me a bus and two trains to get there. Suddenly nothing seems worth all that effort. Although the Library is offering home delivery (did they read our comments???) I have a sinking feeling they will not deliver books beyond Mumbai city-limits and I live a lightyear away from city limits. So I am not very happy with this news.

Julian Barnes (1982)

Julian Barnes (1982)

And now to the book I am reading. A very interesting read called Before She Met Me, by Julian Barnes (first published in 1982). I picked up this relic in BCL. It is a very slim read – 151 pages, but by golly this guy can write alright!The book is about a rather silly man, a historian, who leaves his wife for a woman who has spark and spunk, and several ex-boyfriends.  So, historian that he is, he gets rather obsessed with her past, and since she was a very small-time actress she does have some past that isn’t worth talking about. Sounds sordid, but it isn’t, the book is refreshing and engrossing, offering the reader a deep look into the mind of a person jealous and possessive beyond reason. I find myself smiling (and maybe even nodding my head) at the way he describes how much he longs for his new wife. It is heart-numbingly peculiar and to tell you the truth — disgusting — there is no other word for it. But what I am marvelling at is not this jealous husband, but the words Julian Barnes uses to bring to life this crazy fellow. A sample, this is Graham, the historian, telling his crazy writer friend (‘frank but not honest’) about what he feels about his new wife:

“I always clear the table after dinner. I go through the kitchen, and scrape my plate off into the kitchen bin, and then I suddenly find myself eating whatever she’s left on hers. Often, you know, it isn’t anything particuarly nice — bits of fat and discoloured vegetables and sausage gristle — but I just scoff it. And then I go back and sit down opposite her, and I find myself thinking about our stomachs, about how whatever I have just eaten might easily have been inside her…. what an odd moment it must have been for that food…. And that sort of makes me feel closer to Ann…”

Maybe I have typed in the wrong passage and this may have put you off the book, but I would still urge you to read it for the way the writer explores the mind of an ordinary man struck with a powerful emotion.
There, that’s my job done 🙂 What are you reading? Anyone participating in Nanowrimo this year?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Aditya November 7, 2009 at 11:46 pm

About BCL, think they are actually moving to a location more centrally located, and you really cannot blame them because of the astronomical rents. One of my biggest problems with them was that they did not have any American works, which I did not find out for a long time… pretty stupid of me.
Will read ‘Before she met me’… what you wrote about it somehow reminded be of ‘Leaf by Niggle’ by Tolkein. I normally like such bittersweet works – but some of them simply have bad taste – the best example of this, according to me is ‘God of Small things’. Just finished reading a really dreary but hilarious book ‘Little People’ by Tom Holt. Don’t know how he manages it, it’s a pain to read at times, but very insightful, and funny.
Reading Quirkology right now. Don’t really agree with half of it, sort of like Freakonomics for psychology.
Didn’t know they started calling it Nanowrimo, was Nanoblogmo as far as I knew. Not participating. Although Novels have been published, I tried following some of the works over the last couple of years – most of it is meandering faff, and a lot of people use a strange language “wat” and “dat” which really makes it a pain to read, so I don’t take it too seriously, although a few have gotten published.

And please, blog more often! Can you write a post about which bookshops to buy books from in the city? There are some hidden gems, I’m sure I haven’t come across. Strand has lost it’s charm now – feels kind of empty, and sad to go there, and they don’t stock great books anymore. Crossword is really only for showcase books – I found the one at Sion horrible, the one at Vashi was more of a novelty store, and the one at Mulund was actually pretty good. They all stocked different kinds of books! I wonder what their process is. Discovered one place called Granth in Juhu, pretty awesome collection (beats Strand in how versatile and contemporary they are). But I don’t know where else to go! I am sure a lot of readers will be greatful.


admin November 8, 2009 at 12:12 am

Hey Aditya, you are a sight for sore eyes! Thanks for your encouragement, you’ve done me a world of good! By the way, I have three words for you: Ashish Book Centre. They are close to McDonald’s opposite VT station, and while they maybe very small they are quite efficient in getting books for you, and usually slap on a discount on par with Strand, which is a good thing. A bookstore, my friend who lives in Bandra swears by, is Danai off Linking Road in Khar. It is one of those stores that has a book lover owner and carefully selected books. I haven’t been there before but I trust my friend’s judgment, so maybe worth a visit? I don’t like any Crossword, the staff doesn’t know books and I don’t care much for their attitude as a chain of bookstores if they do not add books other than current hot reads. I have ordered stuff from Granth, but some books I wanted weren’t in stock, they didn’t offer to get it for me and I was pretty upset. One book store I could have spent a few hours in was the Oxford Book Store in Delhi. They have several sections on several subjects, esp women authors and indian authors, and wildlife etc. In fact, I itch to go there again. And let me tell you about another Delhi gem. Globe Book Depot that stocks books only on military history!!!! Can you imagine that??!!! Only fighter planes, war tactics (I assure you I do not approve of war or violence or fighter planes in any way, I am just pointing out the nicheness of the store) and the owner offered me tea and knocked off two hundred bucks from the total bill! I got a book on the use of insects in warfare, and some books on India, which were excellent. But, coming back home, I think in Mumbai we are starved for good bookstores. And just to make us feel more miserable, there is this bookstore in Hay-on-Wye, a teeny bookloving village on the border of Wales that only sells Charles Dickens, and another that is in an old castle. I assure you if I were to open a bookstore ever, I would ask you for your advice!
About BCL, i am a member and I got a letter from them, they are increasing the fees, reducing the number of books I can take at one time, and removing late fees, so people can sit on the books for ever, and they very smugly are offering a refund in case people are not happy. No scope for customer feedback, improvement eh? ‘Here you go, here’s you refund’! This is not good. Try the American Library near Churchgate, I was a member when I was in college, but they didn’t have new books. I think libraries have to update their collections constantly. Ah well. Will keep you posted about other book stores, thank you once again for inspiring me to write 🙂


Aditya November 12, 2009 at 11:03 pm

Hey great. Thanks for the reply. Will visit Ashok Book store as well as Danai. Asking a friend to go to Globe book store in Delhi, check it out, and pick up interesting reads for me. Finally, I got some fresh places to go to! Will keep you posted.


Elvichar November 16, 2009 at 6:32 pm

I convinced myself to start with Dostojewski’s “Brothers Karamasow” again – exhausting as rewarding. This time I plan on finishing it. Along with that a handbook about men and women from an Austrian psychologist. It’s not possible to read more than a couple of pages a day – it’s too much truth too take!


Aletha May 26, 2010 at 11:24 am

Am not sure if this place still exists in Mumbai on Princess Street (metro cinema furtado lane)- First and Second hand books- they had books stocked to the ceilings, is what I remember, and they knew their books, and could pull stuff out like rabbits from a magician’s hat. Another little place was Smoker’s corner right at the end of DN Mehta lane ( opp Khadi). But am not sure if these folks are still there! This was way back in the 90s.


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