Sunday, January 29, 2012

The best books on Bombay

Back in the late 1980s, I'd be stumped when asked to recommend one book that would provide an insight into Bombay's present and past. I usually settled for Gillian Tindall's City of Gold, a competent though workmanlike history. In the mid-1990s, Sharada Dwivedi and Rahul Mehrotra produced their breakthrough volume, Bombay: The Cities Within, and recommendations became easier. The quintessential Bombay book of the noughties for most people was Suketu Mehta's Maximum City, but I preferred to gift Arun Kolatkar's Kala Ghoda Poems.
Now Katherine Boo has written a must-read book about the city, and I use the phrase 'must-read' very sparingly. The book is titled Behind the Beautiful Forevers, and you can read my review of it in Caravan magazine here.

10 comments:

as any fule kno said...

I would add Gyan Prakash's 'Mumbai Fables' to your list.

jaimit said...

the "honey gathers". nice review dude. especially the honey gathers para. I forgot about that tale. Its pretty apt.
I just checked on the internet. its not yet released. they are taking pre orders on flipkart. Mid feb is it...
also arent you supposed to put in a small disclaimer that you have reviwed it from a copy given by the publishers, or something.
though it still is a fantastic and i presume balanced review.

Girish Shahane said...

Thanks, Jaimit. Book reviews are generally based on publisher's copies, so there's no disclaimer needed. The publisher gives the copy to the magazine, which then asks a writer to contribute a review; that way, there's no direct connection between publisher and writer, and therefore no conflict of interest.
However, the text I got came with a rider that changes could be made, and so I shouldn't quote from the book (I got a PDF file, which included an interview with the author; not sure if the interview will be appended to the retailed book). I said I couldn't really review a book at length without quoting from it, and Caravan appears to have sorted the matter out with the publisher.

jaimit said...

Fair point.
Its just that i have been seeing these disclaimers a bit on the internet.
I last saw it (link below)- on amazon. see the first review by N Hawkins. While I dont think its mandatory; possibly on your blog, it would help build a bit of trust.
http://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Minds-Brains-Influence-Relationships/product-reviews/1451611552/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

Girish Shahane said...

I think in the case you point to, there's a direct connection between author and reviewer, Jaimit.
years ago, I reviewed a show by Manish Nai, an artist I admire, and one whose career I've followed for some time. I've also bought a couple of his works in the past. So I put a disclaimer in the Art India review, saying 'the reviewer owns works by the artist reviewed', which people laughed at, because I think it was the first time any such disclaimer had appeared in the Indian press.
I'm very conscious of conflicts of interest, I believe. Like, in the Business Standard article I linked to in my previous post, I mention 'an art prize', not 'The Skoda Prize', because I'm paid by the Skoda Prize, so when I'm wearing my independent journalist hat I'm careful not to publicise the award.

Girish Shahane said...

Your point, though, is well taken. We need to be conscious of these issues; and if there hadn't been a tradition of reviewing publisher-provided copies across the world, it would probably make sense to add a disclaimer. It's just that since the practice is universal, almost every review would carry such a disclaimer.

seana said...

That was a very beautifully written article, Girish. I'll look for the book. It isn't out here till the 7th, but it's already got thirteen reviews on Amazon, apparently largely excellent.

jaimit said...

Ofcourse. u r easily amongst the most balanced and fairest writers i know. hence after ur review i even pre ordered from flipkart. its cool.

The Cydonian said...

Awesome review; great writing in the book, as evidenced in this excerpt. Loved the Bhishma allegory as well. Off to buy the ebook version now...

Girish Shahane said...

Seana, Jaimit, Cy, thanks a bunch