Prep for Jaipur Literature Festival 2015
Or you could just fake your way through the festival
3) The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
It is the longest book (at 832 pages), and Catton is the youngest author ever to win the Man Booker Prize (at age 28). The plot follows Walter Moody, a prospector who travels to the fledgling West Coast in the hope of making a fortune. Instead, he stumbles into a tense meeting between 12 local men, who draw him into a complex mystery behind a series of unsolved crimes.
Cheat: “It’s the type of book that you devour quickly without delving into the nuances and details. I especially enjoyed how her writing conformed to a 19th-century setting. It's refreshing to read straightforward character descriptions, along with old-fashioned rundowns of their physical attributes.”
The Zee Jaipur Literature Festival is around the corner. But before you get there you should at least attempt to catch up on books by some of the marquee speakers (because that would be nice). On the off chance that you can't, we hook you up with a cheat sheet to glide through the festival.
1) Wild Swans: Three Daughters Of China by Jung Chang
Few books ruffle as many feathers as this paperback. It's a family history that spans across a century, and seen through the eyes of Chang's grandmother, mother and Chung herself. It follows the lives of these women living in Mao’s China. Twenty two years after its publication it still tops reading lists, and Chang will be at JLF to talk about her experience writing it, her life back then and how her family was affected by it all.
Cheat: “What struck me was the courage with which she tells the stories of her parents’ torture, her own brainwashing as a member of the Red Guard, periods of forced labour, and subsequent disillusionment. What really worked for me was her calm dispassionate approach of the subject.”
4) 3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri
Described as a “compelling collection of poems that examine human consciousness, from birth to dementia, in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless,” the Pulitzer Prize drove Seshadri’s work to the top of virtually every reading list.
Cheat: “Modern poetry is often quite dense and leaves one gasping for explanation. Expressed simply, Seshadri weaves an engrossing tale. My favourite was 'Thought Problem' because it triggers introspection about our place in the world.”
5) The Pike: Gabriele d'Annunzio - Poet, Seducer And Preacher Of War by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Few subjects are more enticing or more repulsive to the biographer than Gabriele d'Annunzio. Winner of the Samuel Johnson prize, the book capture's his story in full - like when he declared war on his own country and was forced out by a naval bombardment. And it does all that without any judgement.
Cheat: “It's rare to find such a vainglorious subject written about with such objectivity. My favourite part was about his affair with the actress Eleanora Duse and near-voyeuristic details of his debauchery. Insightful."
ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival is on from January 21 to 25. Jaipurliteraturefestival.org
2) The Sleepwalker’s Guide To Dancing by Mira Jacob
With depth, heart, and agility, debut novelist Jacob embarks on a deftly plotted journey that ranges from 1970s India to suburban 1980s New Mexico to Seattle during the dot-com boom. A brain surgeon, Thomas Eapen, has bizarre conversations with his long-gone relatives, which eventually throws light on the family's painful past. Not without some unexpected humour, though. The author has spent 13 years bringing literary fiction, non-fiction and poetry to Brooklyn. She currently teaches fiction at NYU. And she’ll be at JLF talking about how she got there.
Cheat: “I was truly touched by her flair for recreating the messy sprawl of family life. Moving forward and back in time, she balances comedy and romance through precise descriptions of her characters. She also tackles the much-flogged immigrant experience very well."