Bookworm: Items on Display

Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, to the confusion and disillusionment of the desi crowd over at the Lounge and from the reading I’ve been doing lately, at large. One of our writers and site’s moderators, based in Washington was at hand during Hamid’s readings at Barnes & Noble, and read the book. The vote was unanimous: it just wasn’t up to par. So why has it been shortlisted? Everyone else, it seems, is wondering the very same thing.

Is it the theme of the novel? The overdone Muslim living in America-fallen in love with an American-now looked on with suspicion-in a post 9/11 world-thing again? It might be. The literariness of things which so concerns us, doesn’t seem to concern the English community as well. Oh well. I suppose beggars can’t be choosers. Or something like that.

Fortunately, we’re not discussing Hamid’s latest attempt at an international bestseller coming a few years (but not enough, it seems) too late.

My last post ended with the intimation that this one was going to be about book clubs. Well, it is and it isn’t. Blogs are so hard to classify sometimes, don’t you think?

Book clubs are, to put it quite simply, non-existent in countries like ours where government officials refuse to allow now exonerated politicians to enter their countries, and instead deport them elsewhere, even when the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise. It seems some things just don’t change. But I digress. Book clubs aren’t evident here, and if they are, they’re mostly private gatherings (although I confess: I haven’t heard of any local or national or domestic, for that matter). But the whole “this thing isn’t here either. Screw the country!” is getting a little old for me. I like to switch things around a lot, which is something the readers of this blog will become accustomed to over time. Although, if you’re ree-eeally interested, check out my space (shameless self-promotion, I know. I’m a horrible human being, let’s move on).

So granted, there aren’t book clubs and let’s get down to the dirty stuff: we at know what you, as readers and possibly, budding writers want – a place to discuss everything. We provide it. Interested? Good. Frankly, I was hoping I raked your interest much earlier in the blog, but as mentioned before, beggars really can’t be picky.

Fortunately, Dawn provides an escape with its rather well-worked, although concededly poorly edited, weekly – Books & Authors. They’ve got book reviews, interviews with authors, the whole shebang. And if it weren’t for this thing, my Sundays would be largely boring and banging-head-on-the-wall days. Fortunately for both of us, it exists. So if you haven’t subscribed to Dawn yet, do. I’ll admit the newspaper in itself, is paltry compared to the hardcore news The News provides, but it’s plethora of extras is well worth it, especially if you’ve got an internet connection and can skedaddle off to their website.

So that’s one problem down.

Dawn’s extras are miles better than the ones The News provides. Sorry, The News fans (of which, I used to count myself as one. Things change…or I’m more open to the good stuff), but it’s true. You, Us, Instep, The News on Sunday…can you really compare yourself to ScienceTech (or whatever it’s called), Young World, Books & Authors, The Review, Magazine, Images etc? I mean seriously, can you? It’s not just the amount of pages on display here, it’s the content they’re stuffed with. I love the SWOT (I’m in love with the acronym) column that appears each Sunday at the very end of the Magazine. And of course, there’s the Gallery, a review of artistic ventures in the country. So really, if you need to be aware of anything literary or artistic, consult Books & Authors and the Gallery circulations. They’re decent.

Also, all those Lahore-walay out there, there’s an excellent bargain book store on MM Boulevard, right next to the Telenor building, called Readings. Of course, if you’re an Islamabad resident, you’re well aware that what it lacks in literary activities, it makes up for with its variety of old book stores. I found a treasure in a book store in Jinnah – in the Vogue furniture store line – Rilla of Ingleside (the last of the Anne series, which I own). So they are all over the city, although I haven’t been able to find any in its most youth oriented district – F-11. But who knows? One might spring up. There are three in the F-10 area and of course enough to write home about in F-6, F-7 and F-8. I lived half my life in the latter two.

Anyway, aside from domestic chatter, I’m off.

Next post (whenever that might be): writing strategies, or to be more specific, how to get the work done, instead of staring at an empty page all day. Having been there and back again, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. But more on that next time.