Bitty Ruminations 76

So this morning, I get a fit, and it is brought on — I think — by my nearing the close of the book I am reading. As pleasurable as it is to notch up another scalp, the bibliophile’s answer to compulsive womanising, something happens when there are fewer and fewer pages to be turned. A giant (and hopefully invisible) question mark begins to hover over the head: What next? Fiction? If so, what? Something new? Something I’ve been dying to re-read? And for answers, I look towards the bookshelf, which even the most meticulous organising cannot really organise any longer. And after about fifteen minutes of helpless staring, I make up my mind. This just will not do. I have to separate the books I haven’t yet read (along with some I want to read again at some point) — and this makes me go through shelf after shelf, a rag in hand to wipe away not just the dust behind and above books, that rises in a fine-talcum cloud when I quickly fan through the pages, but on the borders of the covers of the bigger books over which smaller books have rested. Who says readers don’t get enough exercise? And this goes on till a second bookshelf becomes necessary. That will be the bookshelf I stare at in the future, the next time that giant (and hopefully invisible) question mark begins to hover over my head. And till I run through that pile, no more Flipkarting. And someone behind whispers, “Famous last words.”

PS: And guess what? Today turns out to be World Book Day in some parts of the world. Talk about cosmic coincidences…

PPS: I must admit I am a bit freaked out.

34 thoughts on “Bitty Ruminations 76

  1. As much as i know i wouldnt be getting a straight answer to this, i must ask, who are your favourite writers? :)


  2. I love arranging, rearranging and staring at book shelves. It’s therapeutic to me. [ I sometimes forget which books I own]

    Do you have a ‘system’ for arranging bookshelves? Do you buy used books? Do you get ever rid of books or are you a hoarder? Is there any collection you are proud of? If you own any Vintage Classics from Random House, do you like those gorgeous covers but find their generic red spines boring? :D

    One question I’m quite sure I know the answer to : have you more books than you have time to read? :-)

    Julian Barnes on being a bibliophile (“I still buy books faster than I can read them. But again, this feels completely normal: how weird it would be to have around you only as many books as you have time to read in the rest of your life”)

    Re: no more Flipkarting, well, they’ve raised the minimum price limit for free shipping to Rs.500 today, so indeed no more Flipkarting.. :D


  3. Such vivid description of the bookshelf! I hope you have more question marks in the future, as it turns out to make for an interesting read for us :-) Read on BR!


  4. Has your reading of films influenced how you read books, and vice versa? I did not think about books critically enough – but after having lived on the movie blogs for a while, thinking and debating about auteur theory , dominant themes , techniques etc . I find my book appreciation more keen and purposeful. There was an interesting discussion a while back on Jai(Jabberwock)’s blog, where I thought a novelist had used a technique popularized by a film director in his book.
    For this I have to thank you, Jai and other bloggers I follow and the fellow commentators.
    A related question – do you think, for you, the process of writing a book review and a movie review can be fundamentally the same, or similar?


  5. >>”And till I run through that pile, no more Flipkarting. And someone behind whispers, “Famous last words.””

    Here’s some comforting philo gyan for when you do succumb :
    “How needlessly mean to buy only as many books as one actually has time to read” – Alain de Botton


  6. BR, You don’t have a Kindle yet? Or are we speaking of “sorting” metaphorically. Or do you prefer to have a hardcopy in your hand? (I must admit I miss the feeling of flicking through the pages.) There’s a reason I ask this, and it is directly linked to your line, “And till I run through that pile, no more Flipkarting. And someone behind whispers, “Famous last words.””

    With a Kindle, those famous last words will come and go more frequently than they do otherwise. Trust me, I know this from personal experience.

    BTW, I would love to read book reviews from you often. You’re probably the only Indian chronicler of pop culture whose opinion I seek out as often as I can. And your Harry Potter reviews have always been a great read. (I especially liked the one where you defended HP and the virtues of pop culture as mere entertainment.) I know this ultimately comes down to time constraints, but even if you do a Bitty post on the latest books that wound up from your dusted-up shelf, I’d be happy to read it.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. You know what Rangan, I will make a confession here. I have printed each one of your blog posts and bounded them nicely into individual books. So I have books with titles such as Bitty Ruminations 1, Bitty Ruminations 2 and so on till 75. 76 came today and my printer/binder will give me bound copy tomorrow. I face the same dilemma. Which blog posts of yours I am yet to read, which blog posts of yours I would like to re-read, which Rumination I am yet to ruminate and which one I will love to re-ruminate and so on. I do not flipkart – I do not need to. All flipkart can offer and more is available on you blog for me.


  8. Think we should give Br a break!-Picking his brain over films is his occupational hazard,lets leave him to enjoy his bookshelf, without having to blog it!


  9. Try M.F.K Fisher’s passage ” Love and Death among the Molluscs” – it should prove as wittily enlightening as your own prose.


  10. Mihir Fadnavis’s comment above should, by far, be the best I have read on this blog. Hits the nail and so succintly sums up what Rangan’s writings are about. Mihir’s comment is so loaded with sub-text that ….. well …. sub-text!


  11. Adarsh: I’ve talked about this before, and it’s never an easy answer. Among older authors, Thomas Hardy is a favourite, and among newer ones, I just love Jonathan Franzen. “Freedom” was one of the rare books that lived up to every bit of the hype. (It’s loss from the bookshelf, thanks to a colleague misplacing it, was one of the great calamities of 2012.) Another book that did it for me was Jerry Pinto’s “Em and the Big Hoom.”

    Nidhi: The only system is to devote each shelf (as far as possible) to a genre, and within each shelf, the attempt is to group all books of an author as much as possible. I hate searching. As for your other question, I’m a hoarder. I don’t know why, but despite being fairly certain I’ll never read a book again, I cannot give it away. The memories attached, I guess.

    Rahul: I think that “critical” outlook is a constant across books, music, movies etc. And I think the principles behind book reviews and movie reviews are the same: convey your personal experience of the work with a lot of back-up reasoning. But with books, you can flip back to a page if you want to relook at something, whereas with films, you have to keep it all in the head. That’s a big difference.

    Balaji Sivaraman: Nothing against technology as such, I still prefer to read books — just as I keep listening to my cassettes and CDs :-)

    Speaking of “Book Reviews,” I like what the phrase acronyms to, but no, I don’t read enough to do regular reviews.


  12. “Nothing against technology as such, I still prefer to read books — just as I keep listening to my cassettes and CDs”

    Jonathan Franzen would certainly approve of that. You being twitter-phobic to boot :)


  13. Great to hear that you love Jonathan Franzen and his ‘Freedom’. I read it about a year ago and am still in awe of it.

    Have you, by any chance, read Dennis Lehane? Films like ‘Mystic River’ and ‘Gone, Baby, Gone’ are based on his works, which are damn good in my opinion: in particular, his detective series featuring PIs Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro are among the best in the genre. You may give them a shot.


  14. Thanks Mr. Rangan for writing a book about Mr. Mani Ratnam’s work. I waited four weeks for my friend to come back with the book from India. First thing I asked him at the airport “Did you buy the book?”

    It is so amazing to realize how much thinking involved in making a movie. Damn, Chicago cold, shoveling snow, then I come inside the house, have a hot chocolate, picked up your book. Forgot the snow.

    Say hello for me, a Besant School Alumni, to Mr. Ratnam. He took me down the school memory lane.

    As to books, check this one (I plan to) by Mr. Joe Queenan, WSJ Columnist “one for the Books”. Calls himself book-worm. Consumed about 6000 to 7000 books. Amazon link:



  15. Nikhil R

    Ishiguro fan here. I’ve read all of his novels except The Unconsoled (abandoned it because it was so bizarre! The first 50 pages were mind-bending. Plan to return to it soon).

    I’ve read this metaphor somewhere and completely agree with it – reading his books feels like being gently led by the author to the edge of the cliff and suddenly being pushed off it. He doesn’t do wonders with his writing style but he is a master of narrative, no?

    I think his best works are Never Let Me Go and The Remains Of The Day. TROTD uses an unreliable narrator to perfection. I love how leisurely it is for the most part so when the import of the narrative hits you at the end, you aren’t prepared for it. And NLMG.. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve recommended and gifted this book to friends. Everyone has interpreted it differently, and used it as a metaphor for different real-life situations. Mark Romanek’s film version is pretty good too. The actors especially Mulligan and Garfield are perfect for their roles.

    Sorry for hijacking your thread, BR!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. “As pleasurable as it is to notch up another scalp, the bibliophile’s answer to compulsive womanising, something happens when there are fewer and fewer pages to be turned…”

    That’s exactly how I feel when I am nearing the end of a superb book. :-). Quite recently that was for the Game of Thrones series. Felt like I was leaving behind a loved one.


  17. Nidhi,
    I think you should give ‘The Unconsoled’ a chance. You have to submit to its bizzareness and trust Ishiguro’s craft to hold your fall off the cliff :-). Had approached it with a lot of trepidation having read a lot of online comments on how people were thrown off by it, but decided to give it a try nevertheless, and even though it’s far from my favourite Ishiguro, I would recommend all those who have loved Ishiguro’s other works to give “The Unconsoled” a chance. And my personal favourite is “The Remains of the Day”. I know that his style is perceived to be rather stiff & formal but I think it suits his characters who tend to live in deep denial of their own selves.

    PS: Apologies to BR.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Nikhil R, Nidhi , interestingly, the writer that I was talking about earlier on this board was Ishiguro.The discussion I was referring to is here


  19. I raced through Freedom in 2 days. Franzen’s writing is compelling in the way train wrecks are, but I couldn’t help but wonder, were Franzen not breathing the rarefied air atop the pyramid of literary darlings, would this book have been showered with critical hosannas to the extent it was? I mean, he resorts to not 1, not 2 but THREE love triangles to drive his plot, his excavation of American family dysfunctionality is fascinating but hardly original and he trades in archetypes (sexy rockstar, exotic Asian, spoilt heiress) relentlessly.

    It didn’t help that I hated the character of Patty Berglund.


    A shallow, silly, whiny nag who jeapordises her marriage and relationship with her children because of a decades long sexual itch she needed to scratch.


    My perfect ending would have been for Walter to step out of his house and find her selfish ass frozen solid on his doorstep instead of the “reconciliation by way of resuscitation” tack that Franzen resorted to.


  20. “Quite recently that was for the Game of Thrones series. Felt like I was leaving behind a loved one”

    Know exactly how you feel, Jerina. For me Game Of Thrones was like “dragon crack”. You finish inhaling one 1000-page tome and have to reach immediately for the next. Then you finish 5 books, discover the story is nowhere near it’s end, there’s 2 more books to go, realize George R.R. Martin takes an average of 6 years between books and is in his mid-60’s and you go:


    Liked by 2 people

  21. I know it is near-blasphemous to say this to book lovers, but I have managed to get around this problem by moving my reading experience to my iPad. I now have the 3 folders which BR was referring to – books to be read, books which have been read but I want to re-read and books which have been read and can be put away. Also, with failing eyesight, the the iPad is so much easier to zoom in and read. Only with graphic novels, the iPad is not the optimal size and it is better to read a physical copy.


  22. Nikhil R

    In Ishiguro’s defence, I tried reading The Unconsoled as a holiday read…with lots of chattering friends nearby… who all wisely brought lighter books along for themselves. :D I’m going to read it soon though.


    Interesting discussion on Ishiguro. I interpreted the ending to be bleak. The book is about lost opportunity and mistakes made. Haven’t seen the film yet, but you guys have given me a good reason to.

    BR, I swear this is my last comment on this thread.


  23. Sorry Doctor BR, it’s way off topic but TOTALLY agree with the KayKay or whatever iteration thereof: “ABSOLUTELY.FREAKING.HATED.HER!” and the rest of the book too.


  24. I also love Thomas Hardy and like Kay Kay, I am terrified of what will happen to me if God forbid the unthinkable happens and I don’t get to find out how Game of Throne ends. Also have a reading suggestion for you – Arjuna! (Big Surprise!) Did the copies make it to you in one piece?


  25. On the subject of books, I recently discovered a book of memoirs by Antoine de St. Exupery, he of The Little Prince fame. It’s called Wind, Sand And Stars and it really is inexplicable why this book isn’t more famous. It’s the most adventurous book I’ve read and one of the most exhilarating reads too. Maybe you could google it and give it a try..


  26. Ohh, I had this “what do I read next” moment just this afternoon, as I was half-way into Pather Panchali (yes, yes, terrible, I’m only just reading it!)… For some reason, all the books I had piled on the bedside table – which I was so keen on, just a few days earlier – did not appeal. Did the book shelf scan, and picked up a “contemporary tamil short fiction”, translated by vasantha surya, and am I glad or what? As someone who has never cared for translated works (I always thought I wouldn’t be privy to the author’s original thoughts – only to the translator’s version) I’m surprised how much I’m loving the book! Will be nice to hear your thoughts on Tamil fiction (translated into English), Baradwaj. Any favourites? Any suggestions?


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