Those who followed Barack Obama’s campaign may snigger at this book—what’s to know that’s not yet heard, seen or written about the man? This new book won’t really surprise them. Renegade: The Making of a President, by journalist Richard Wolffe, who covered the 21-month-old campaign for Newsweek magazine, has all the familiar stuff. But reviews in the US recommend this book for fans who want glimpses into moments of raw emotion. Obama is a man whose mask hardly ever slips. The book also has some interesting titbits: For example, did you know that Obama’s reading habits have shifted from non-fiction narratives to academic studies on world financial systems and the history of Afghanistan?
By Richard Wolffe, Crown, 368 pages, Rs480.
This is an anthology of writings that do not take the usual journalistic or academic routes on the India-Pakistan conundrum. Fiction, interviews, reportage and light-hearted observations by contemporary writers make it of interest to all kinds of readers. An interview with author Nadeem Aslam illuminates not only how his Pakistani identity has shaped his creative impulses, but also Pakistani nationalism outside Pakistan. Lounge columnist Mukul Kesavan, in an essay titled Bad Manners, writes how liberal Indians unwittingly look down upon their Pakistani counterparts at events such as the Jaipur Literature Festival. The collection also has a short story from Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders and an extract from Sonia Jabbar’s memoirs about Kashmir, to be released by Penguin later this year.
Edited by Ira Pande, Oxford University Press, 375 pages, Rs495.
The scholar on Islamic studies, Musharraf Ali Farooqi, who’s also part of the Urdu Project (www.urduproject.com), an online resource for the study of Urdu language and literature, earlier translated the Islamic oral epic The Adventures of Amir Hamza. Farooqi’s new seminal work of translation is the book of fantasy tales of which The Adventures of Amir Hamza is a part: Tilism-e-Hoshruba, written between 1883 and 1893 in Lucknow by two Urdu storytellers, Syed Muhammad Husain Jah and Ahmed Husain Qamar. They tell the story of Amir Hamza in an Indian setting, a fantasy tale populated by witches, sorcerers, fairies, demons and cow-headed creatures.
Translated by Musharraf Ali Farooqi, Random House India, 447 pages, Rs495.
Highs and lows
J. Randy Taraborrelli, a best-selling author and American TV personality, reconstructs the bad, the ugly and the moving in Marilyn Monroe’s life. Not that it hasn’t been done before, but some lives beg fresh interpretation and Monroe’s is one such. Taraborrelli reveals that contrary to what her fans believe, Monroe’s mentally ill mother was very much a part of her life. So were two other women: her aunt and her legal guardian, who influenced her immensely. He also dissects, in great detail, Monroe’s own mental illness and her many romantic relationships.
By J. Randy Taraborrelli, Onyx, 544 pages, Rs995.
Bernard Beckett, a professor from New Zealand, was on a research fellowship to study DNA mutations when he wrote this fictional portrait of a dystopian society. Going by its storyline, Genesis is somewhat of a tribute to Aldous Huxley and Arthur C. Clarke, but Beckett’s end, say reviews in the UK and US, make it refreshingly engaging—and shocking. Anaximander, the book’s 14-year-old hero, is questioned by four examiners on her long-dead hero, Adam Forde. As the session progresses, she discovers links with Adam, the dark secrets of the academy that runs the society she lives in, and some horrifying truths about a world where the 21st century is history, and whose events are catastrophic.
By Bernard Beckett, Penguin India, 185 pages, Rs425.