Literary Reporting

Platform of New Ideas Turns 50 Mail Today, October 11, 2009
She was just ten when her parents, Raj and Romesh Thapar, started a journal named Seminar from a Mumbai flat with a kitty of Rs 15,000. That was in 1959, and Mumbai was the intellectual-cultural hub Delhi couldn’t aspire to be back then. Seminar would capture the intellectual debate of the country between its pages, representing voices across the ideological spectrum, one issue at a time.

Your Bucks Start Now Mail Today, November 16, 2009
A record advance of Rs 13-14 crore for Vikram Seth’s sequel to A Suitable Boy slated for release in 2013. A Rs 97-lakh, seven-book deal for historian Ramchandra Guha. Another seven-figure advance for the New York-based debutante novelist Sarita Mandanna. A bidding war for Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s novel, and big bucks being rolled out for Aravind Adiga’s next novel based in Mumbai. With money like that doing the rounds in India’s publishing industry, did anyone utter the word ‘recession’?

Reading sowed rebellion seeds in this Somalian Mail Today, January 2010
Who would have imagined that Ladybird BooksRapunzel and The Magic Porridge Pot would one day spark a rebellion that would lead to a murder and death threats – in that order? For Somalia-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was named among 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2005, these books had a transforming effect on her life.

Militancy to revisit Valley? Mail Today, January 2010
Anger and disillusionment in Kashmiri youth could lead to a serious escalation of militancy in the state, fears Basharat Peer. The Anantnag-born author of the much-acclaimed book on life in the Valley, Curfewed Night, feels it could be worse than the situation in 1989. “People continue to be killed in ones and twos in Kashmir,” said Peer, who was in Kashmir before arriving in Jaipur for the literature festival.

Rushdie to pen his life after fatwa Mail Today, March 2010
Living in the shadow of fatwa is decidedly unpleasant, but the story promises to make for a riveting read. Acclaimed author Salman Rushdie is now contemplating a book that could be one of the most anticipated stories of the future: The story of his life with a price on his head for ‘blasphemy’, following the publication of his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, in 1988.

Fatima claims aunt Benazir had a split personality Mail Today, April 2010
At 27, Fatima Bhutto isn’t busy typing out status updates on Facebook, which she insists she loathes. Instead, she has spent the last six years writing a “love letter” to her father in which she has resurrected him, 14 years after his assassination, and held her aunt and uncle responsible for his tragic end. In the Capital for the launch of her third book, Songs of Blood and Sword (Penguin), Fatima made it clear that she has no love lost for her aunt, Pakistan’s slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and her husband Asif Ali Zardari, the country’s President.

Sorting out Pakistan’s problems is clearly a job for giants: Daniyal Mueenuddin Mail Today, April 10, 2010
The biggest surprise for Daniyal Mueenuddin, the Pakistani ‘farmer-writer’ who was made an overnight celebrity by Oprah Winfrey, was the drive past the American embassy in Chanakyapuri. “In Pakistan, you can’t come anywhere within a mile of the American embassy. There are all kinds of guns and guards everywhere you go,” he says, as the countdown starts for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize  2010,  which will be announced on Monday.

Literary Storm in a Wine Glass
Mail Today, April 25, 2010
It’s a book with no literary merit whatsoever, but it has become the biggest whodunit of the year. Hindutva, Sex and Adventure, the bombshell Roli Books dropped on the Foreign Correspondents Club in February, is slowly detonating and shows no signs of being defused just yet. Not only has the book caused a storm in many a wine glass at the Club by its less-than-veiled attempt to sully the reputation of the much-venerated Mark Tully, but it has also snowballed into a slang-fest over the identity of the author, who has taken recourse to writing under the frustratingly cryptic pseudonym, John MacLithon.

Pakistan floods are entire world’s problem: Daniyal Mueenuddin  Mail Today, August 30, 2010
One of the most poignant sights of the flood-ravaged areas in Pakistan, says acclaimed author-farmer Daniyal Mueenuddin, is that of children playing in the wreckage that has been left behind.

Failed artists novels are about pictures (Covering Orhan Pamuk) Mail Today, January 22, 2011
I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well. Though I drew my last breath long ago and my heart has stopped beating, no one, apart from that vile murderer, knows what’s happened to me. If the opening lines of My Name Is Red (2001), startled you into reading further, Orhan Pamuk achieved what he set out do: making you, the reader, identify with the cultural problems of the 16th century, through the story of miniature painters in Ottoman Turkey and Mughal India.

Mountbatten cheered his wife’s affair with Nehru Interview with Alex von Tunzelmann Mail Today, January 25, 2011
She was 45, and he was 57 when they had a rather dramatic meeting in Singapore on March 18, 1946. As the crowds at a YMCA canteen knocked Edwina Mountbatten, wife of the future viceroy of India over, Jawaharlal Nehru rushed to her defence. “Your wife, your wife, we must go to her!” Nehru said to Edwina’s husband, Lord Louis Mountbatten. Within a year, their paths would cross again, with Mountbatten coming to India – and Edwina and Nehru falling in love.

Middle America’s battle with the demons of Iraq Interview with David Finkel Mail Today, January 30, 2011
A 29-year-old war widow in Kansas who keeps arranging the spice jars in her kitchen cabinet alphabetically to bring about a semblance of order in her broken life. A soldier who needs to have 23 pills a day to contend with a spectrum of mental health issues after a 15-month stint in Iraq. And another who says he can’t control his dreams — or nightmares — and battles the sense of despair at not being able to save a fellow soldier from burning to death every night. These are just some of the snapshots of the war that rages half a world away from Iraq in Middle America. “We’d like to believe that the war in Iraq is over, but it isn’t,” says David Finkel, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist atWashington Post who wrote The Good Soldiers, an account of the ‘Rangers’ posted in Iraq for 15 months when George W.Bush announced a US ‘surge’ there.

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