http://www.thehindu.com/books/into-shakespeares-world/article2073422.ece

One day, Paul Collins, author of strange biographies such as interesting, droll failures who didn’t change the world and lover of old and odd books, decided to move with his family from San Francisco to the book town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales. He felt overcome by a powerful feeling to relocate, buy a house there and write. But he also wanted to move his library there, some few thousand books.

Collins doesn’t cram his books with everything he finds out, so it doesn’t feel geeky. The narrative is airy, light, slimmed-down, not thick and intricate. Yet, once you get over the disappointment that he isn’t telling you everything he knows, you feel grateful that he lets you finish his book. He’s a cool literary detective, laconic and terse with sharing his deep and wily knowledge of the case he’s investigating, parting with the facts — often amusing new trivia — just when you think he’s rambling on. Take his new book,The Book of William: How Shakespeare’s First Folio Conquered the World, where a reader, even a Shakespeare scholar, can discover things about the creation of the First Folio and its ensuing bibliographical history that is obscure, hidden, surprising. Research that isn’t wide or common knowledge; details he pursued and teased out.

, “reclining on a velvet pillow, where it luxuriates like a monarch…a stout, unadorned leather binding…

Collins is an impassioned literary detective who chases after details, and ends up finding so many, that his telling becomes rambling marginalia. So, this isn’t just a bibliographical history of theFirst Folio, but also a witty, intriguing and finely detailed peek into Shakespeareana.

Collins points to Samuel Johnson’s own food-stained Folio copy, remarking: “Books bear a tangible presence alongside their ineffable quality of thought: they have a body and a soul.”

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-literaryreview/article2078122.ece

The author cleverly portrays Ratnesh to be a seedy, uncouth, unpleasant scoundrel and a hardened opportunist. Amit on the other hand, is well to do and well connected with Indian diplomats and people of influence. However, he too turns out to be disappointingly shallow and calculating.

It’s one thing to weave in the history of a tourist’s background as part of the story, but to guess at their circumstances and stereotype people from different nations comes through as a bit insular and parochial.

This is yet another book that portrays today’s modern Indian women as hesitantly liberated. There is a tendency to dabble in the swirl of western lifestyle until incident catalyses their return with the swiftness of a boomerang. Seetha’s problem seems to be her loneliness in a lifestyle she is only getting accustomed to, and a lack of kindred spirits to help her along in the process. The women in the diplomat party are clearly people not in her league. The IT scene tends to produce a plethora of fine, sensitive, educated people who travel in groups and are willing to create a ready ecosystem in which a fresh contractor from India can survive. Not so for Seetha.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-literaryreview/article2078120.ece

Regional language literature has always been a vast reservoir of wealth waiting to be explored and, no matter how much of it is translated into English, only the tip of the iceberg emerges. Hindi writing, in particular, holds an embarrassment of riches that is just begging to be tapped.

Translator and daughter Ira Pande returns with Shivani’sApradhini: Women without Men. As the title suggests clearly, the book revolves entirely around women and twists in circumstances that often make ordinary women rebel against the parameters of acceptability set down by society. And step shockingly out of line. Told lucidly and laced around her true life journalistic investigations, the stories inApradhinichill the bone with their stark simplicity and brutal honesty. There is no attempt to sensationalise the author’s encounters with prison inmates, no indulging in maudlin emotions either, merely a threadbare account of the lives led by women in the shadows of crime.

Also featured here are stories about tricksters in the guise of innocent women, the ambiguous life of a madwoman and the tragic results of excessive irreverence. An entire story is dedicated to the hardships faced by the author’s mother and the magnanimity of spirit that survived all odds.

The author has a sharp ear for unspoken words and a keen eye that reads between the lines. Without saying anything concrete, she conjures up the horrors of Indian prisons and the plight of rural women who continue to be at the receiving end of immense social injustice. Domestic violence is depicted, terrifyingly, as a casual and regular occurrence; it is the outer limit of endurance that is the deciding factor of fates. Author interviews and a body of information etch the persona of the late Shivani very satisfyingly.

This book is to be read at the reader’s own peril. A bleak and joyless journey, one capable of evoking deep emotions…. Of these, guilt is likely to ride highest; that such a parallel world exists so close to the familiar one we recognise and yet one is helpless to do much about it. A compelling book but one that could make one a prisoner of one’s own conscience.