Saturday, 30 April 2011

Libraries in pics

Ruins of the Nalanda University:The site of Nalanda is located in the Indian state of Bihar, about 55 miles south east of Patna, and was a Buddhist center of learning from 427 to 1197 CE. It has been called "one of the first great universities in recorded history."

The Mitchell Library in Glasgow

The Geisel Library San Diego

Seattle Library.Where's the rain?

Salt Lake City Library in Utah

Zurich Library mind bogging design!

Books to read in the most amazing places in the world and free to all the citizens. Aren't we lucky?

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Lured by the cover (just look at the old car!) and by the possibility that our next Literature class may be on World Cities I picked this book up. One of the first suggestions in the class when we discussed the topic of books on cities was Pamuk's Istanbul and I can see why it topped the list. I still have his 'Museum of Innocence' on my TBR pile but this was irresistible when I saw it in my library. So as always my own books are languishing in an ever growing stack, while I delve into another borrowed one. This book has pictures of the old Istanbul that Pamuk grew up in and his memoir interweaves the political with the personal, so rich in its detail that I need to savour it slowly. He paints the picture of the dilemma of the city with empathy, as it struggles with both Westernisation and the traditional Islamic society. As the chapters are in a chronological order it also offers a fascinating glimpse of his childhood in 'Pamuk' apartments. A book that is more than a travelogue it gives a wonderful insight into a city that had the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire at its heyday. I am relishing reading it.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Tagore's 150th anniversary. Victoria and Abdul- a book.

The 150th anniversary of Tagore is celebrated all over Britain and Sampad in Birmingham a wonderful South Asian Arts company has a superb programme that tempts me to take a trip down to the Midlands in May. The programme covers all aspects of the Arts as shown here: "International Speakers, Dancers and Musicians gather to celebrating a great man in the setting he inspired." They include Deepak Chopra, Aditi Mangaldas, Bhavan, Sonal Mansingh, Wajahat Khan, Sangetta Datta, William Radice, Vandana Shiva, Anisur Rahman, Dharambir Singh, Debashish and Rohini Raychaudhuri.More info at:
The feast of programmes continues later on in the year as Pandit Ravi Shanker: Celebrating his 10th Decade is performing at the Edinburgh Festival and at Birmingham in June/ August.

A friend mentioned the book 'Victoria and Abdul' and I looked it up on Amazon. An intriguing subject that I am sure will make this book worth reading. I am going to order it from Amazon, especially as I read somewhere that the author actually interviewed members of Abdul's family in India!

Friday, 8 April 2011


I was given a bookmark as a present, almost like a piece of beautiful jewellery, but I prefer my staid old cardboardy ones. They are stiff and often picked up at the library, at a bookstore or when I've been abroad somewhere. If I lose them I can always replace them easily. The old fashioned ones often have book blurbs on them to read. I must admit I like the social media ones that are shown above. How about you? Do you like these fancy ones that have beads and semi-precious stones on them or like me do you use a simple cardboard bookmark?
btw I have finished reading Manu Joseph's 'Serious Men' I enjoyed the book but must agree with a fellow tweeter that the 'science was overly simplified and cringe-worthy for most part' in the book, more so as the scientist was supposed to be heading for the Nobel Prize for Physics. Joseph's keen observations of life in modern India were splendid. Like Adiga he has gone for the frustrations of the dalit protagonist against his brahmin boss and done it with humour.Reading about a South Indian protagonist was also refreshing as I've seen few before, apart from characters in R.K Narayan's books.

The weather is mild, the kids are all out of school and Easter chocs and cakes are in all the stores. I was in Lidl this morning and a lady was excitedly showing me the silicone bunny cake mould she was buying. 'Making a bunny cake this afternoon for the wee ones,' she said and I shared her joy. It is the simple things in life that makes one happy, the bunch of daffs swaying golden in the breeze, the trees sprouting leaves, the pink haze of the cherry blossom already dotting the black tar pavement in some streets. Having spent twenty years of my early life in Madras where the seasons change never more than the temperature getting hot and hotter or the sudden downpour of the monsoon, it is wonderful to see the infant buds here defiantly blossoming as the winter fades away. Spring marches on.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

In 1993 Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her citation reads: Toni Morrison, "who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality." The book 'Beloved' is dedicated to 'Sixty Million and more', beautifully written on the subject of slavery. It is a harrowing tale, not an easy read at all, yet it was compelling. What kind of mother would cut her child's head off with a hacksaw? Toni Morrison based the novel on a newspaper clipping of a true story of Margaret Garner, a young mother who having escaped slavery, was arrested for killing one of her children (and trying to kill the others) rather than let them be returned to the owner's plantation.This powerful fact is fictionalised in breathtaking prose. The last pages summed it up for me. The words that stood out for me were: 'Everyone knew what she was called, but nobody anywhere knew her name...They forgot her like a bad dream...Like an unpleasant dream during a troubling sleep. This is not a story to pass on.'
How easily mankind forgets history and repeats the same mistakes again and again? Slavery forgotten or treated like an unpleasant dream. The book had much more than that of course but what a powerful message? If you've not read it I urge you to find time for it.

I have to move on to something that is a lighter read. My library had Manu Joseph's 'Serious Men' and as it has been referred to as a 'bitter comedy' I've chosen that for my next read.

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