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Monday, 4 June 2007

More bedside books

I know, dear readers, Friday is supposed to be "bedside books" day. But last Friday I was busy preparing for the "Finding the Thread" event and didn't manage to post anything to Antilles at all. Let me try to make good. Georgia Popplewell of Caribbean Free Radio hasn't written for the CRB in ages, but perhaps her contributing this list--of books she's taken on her nearly-three-week sojourn in Tobago--is a sign that she'll soon reappear in our pages.

Having returned from another trip only the day before, I had only a few hours to pack for my move over to Tobago, so among the many rapid decisions I was forced to make was selecting the 18 days' worth of reading matter I'd be taking along. On account of the volume of reading I do daily on the web, my rapidly worsening ADD, and my aversion to clutter, I've begun to limit myself to reading one book at a time (which I'm aware marks me as a weak-minded philistine), so when I'm at home it's unlikely that you'll find more than one tome at either my actual or metaphorical bedside at any given time. In a borrowed bedroom, however, you sometimes don't have a choice. Here are the books that made it over to Tobago in a box on the back seat of my car, and which now sit on my bedside table:

- Ruchir Joshi's The Last Jet Engine Laugh, which I'm in the middle of right now. One of the two or three best meals I had during my visit to Delhi last December was taken in the company of Ruchir, who also introduced us to the joys of masala peanuts, so I was curious to see what sort of novel this slightly mad, generous-spirited human would produce. So far it's a highly entertaining read, beautifully written, occasionally baffling. Set partly in the year 2030, one of its sub-plots speculates on the fate of Indian independence leader Subhash Chandra Bose, who may or may not have died in a plane crash over Taiwan in 1945.

- Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française. I'm yet to read a bad review, and I'm also fascinated by the circumstances of its creation.

- Modern Baptists by James Wilcox. I first read about this book, which was first published in 1983, in a 1994 New Yorker article which hailed it as a work of comic genius. 13 years later, I've finally got myself a copy.

- Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger. Weinberger is on the Global Voices board of advisors, so he's sort of a colleague, but I'm also deeply interested in the ideas the book explores, which have to do with how shifting to the digital space changes how people think, organise and categorise. I'm also behind on my reading of the key texts on new media (which, after all, is the field in which I currently make a good part my living) so Miscelleanous is partly meant to kick me (backwards, it's true) in that direction. Ethan Zuckerman described the experience of reading the book, by the way, as ". . . a little like drinking a mojito - smooth going down, but deceptively powerful, and slightly staggering when you get up to buy the next round." As it so happens, I love mojitos.

Plus several weeks' worth of New Yorkers and a couple of books on photography, the other pastime that keeps me from reading more, notably Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure.

Thankfully, the house where I'm staying has a decent selection of books in case I exhaust the supply I've brought (highly unlikely) or feel in the mood for something else, but there are two books I wish I'd put in that box in the back seat of my car:

- Maryse Condé's biography Tales from the Heart, which I picked up last week at the Calabash Literary Festival after hearing Condé's husband and translator, Richard Philcox, read an excerpt. The only Condé work I'd read previously was La vie scélérate, which didn't bowl me over, but the biography sounded interesting, and I've found myself wishing, lately, to re-connect with the French Caribbean.

- And A Matter of Taste: The Penguin Book of Indian Writing on Food, because you should never leave home for 18 days without a book of essays, and because it might inspire me to do some actual cooking while I'm here.


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