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Book Nook - 24-10-2016

Monday, October 24, 2016
By Deepa Gahlot

There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to

The Amazing Mr Gaiman
If there’s any reader out there who has not read Neil Gaiman’s wonderful fantasy stories, graphic novels and children’s fiction, they have missed something!
Gaiman started his writing career as a journalist (“backed awkwardly away from journalism because I wanted the freedom to make things up” as he so eloquently puts it), then moved to fiction, but this collection of his non-fiction, intriguingly titled. The View From The Cheap Seats, is not just a great read, but like an introduction to the world of sci-fi and fantasy writing, because a lot of the pieces here are warm and humorous tributes to the masters of the genre—like HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Ray Bradbury, Samuel R Delany—writers who have inspired him and some who went on to become his friends.

There is of course, a lot more in this splendid collection; every bookworm will relate to his memories of libraries, and every nerd will hang on to his impressions of comics, graphic novels, the world of film and TV, and music—nuggets from his amazing and prolific career.

The book is wise, funny, amazingly gracious (writers seldom pay such tributes to other writers). A lot of pieces in this collection are forewords to books, keynote addresses at events, or homages to writers who passed away.

Besides being a very readable and inspiring book, The View from The Cheap Seats, has an invaluable cultural history of sorts. The fact that his journalistic writing can be as powerful as his fiction is proved by the piece he wrote about a refugee camp in Jordan. If such a variety of fine writing, does not induce writer’s envy, what will?  Read, keep, dip into the book from time to time and refuse to lend it.

The View from The Cheap Seats
By Neil Gaiman
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 544

Excerpt of The View from The Cheap Seats:
The things I’ve done that worked the best were the things I was the least certain about, the stories where I was sure they would either work, or more likely be the kinds of embarrassing failures people would gather together and talk about until the end of time. They always had that in common: looking back at them, people explain why they were inevitable successes. While I was doing them, I had no idea. I still don’t. And where would be the fun in making something you knew was going to work?
And sometimes the things I did really didn’t work. There are stories of mine that have never been reprinted. Some of them never even left the house. But I learned as much from them as I did from the things that worked. Sixthly, I will pass on some secret freelancer knowledge. Secret knowledge is always good. And it is useful for anyone who ever plans to create art for other people, to enter a freelance world of any kind. I learned it in comics, but it applies to other fields too. And it’s this:

People get hired because, somehow, they get hired. In my case I did something which these days would be easy to check, and would get me into trouble, and when I started out, in those pre-Internet days, seemed like a sensible career strategy: when I was asked by editors who I’d worked for, I lied. I listed a handful of magazines that sounded likely, and I sounded confident, and I got jobs. I then made it a point of honor to have written something for each of the magazines I’d listed to get that first job, so that I hadn’t actually lied, I’d just been chronologically challenged . . . You get work however you get work.

People keep working, in a freelance world, and more and more of today’s world is freelance, because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They’ll forgive the lateness of the work if it’s good, and if they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as the others if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

When I agreed to give this address, I started trying to think what the best advice I’d been given over the years was. And it came from Stephen King twenty years ago, at the height of the success of Sandman. I was writing a comic that people loved and were taking seriously. King had liked Sandman and my novel with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens, and he saw the madness, the long signing lines, all that, and his advice was this:

 “This is really great. You should enjoy it.”

 And I didn’t. Best advice I got that I ignored. Instead I worried about it. I worried about the next deadline, the next idea, the next story. There wasn’t a moment for the next fourteen or fifteen years that I wasn’t writing something in my head, or wondering about it. And I didn’t stop and look around and go, This is really fun. I wish I’d enjoyed it more.

It’s been amazing ride. But there were parts of the ride I missed, because I was too worried about things going wrong, about what came next, to enjoy the bit I was on. That was the hardest lesson for me, I think: to let go and enjoy the ride, because the ride takes you to some remarkable and unexpected places. And here, on this platform, today, is one of those places. (I am enjoying myself immensely.)

To all today’s graduates: I wish you luck. Luck is useful. Often you will discover that the harder you work, and the more wisely you work, the luckier you get. But there is luck, and it helps. We’re in a transitional world right now, if you’re in any kind of artistic field, because the nature of distribution is changing, the models by which creators got their work out into the world, and got to keep a roof over their heads and buy sandwiches while they did that, are all changing. I’ve talked to people at the top of the food chain in publishing, in bookselling, in all those areas, and nobody knows what the landscape will look like two years from now, let alone a decade away.

The distribution channels that people had built over the last century or so are in flux for print, for visual artists, for musicians, for creative people of all kinds. Which is, on the one hand, intimidating, and on the other, immensely liberating.

The rules, the assumptions, the now we’re-supposed-to’s of how you get your work seen, and what you do then, are breaking down. The gatekeepers are leaving their gates. You can be as creative as you need to be to get your work seen. YouTube and the Web (and whatever comes after YouTube and the Web) can give you more people watching than television ever did. The old rules are crumbling and nobody knows what the new rules are.

So make up your own rules.

Someone asked me recently how to do something she thought was going to be difficult, in this case recording an audiobook, and I suggested she pretend that she was someone who could do it. Not pretend to do it, but pretend she was someone who could. She put up a notice to this effect on the studio wall, and she said it helped.

So be wise, because the world needs more wisdom, and if you cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and then just behave like they would.
And now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.

Also Received
The media is often full of stories of shocking medical negligence. It’s about time a doctor called attention to what plagues the noble profession.

According to the synopsis: “In November 2014, eleven women died in a sterilization camp in Bilaspur. In June 2016, a seventy-five-year-old man from Kolkata was left to die because he could not afford a bribe of Rs 50 at a government hospital. That same month, a gang that duped women into selling their eggs for surrogacy was busted in Pune. The medical profession in India is plagued by scams and malpractices: poor health care, commissions from needless treatments and tests, exploitative drug companies. How then do patients trust doctors, hospitals or medications? And how does a doctor work effectively and honestly in a deeply troubled system? Dr Kamal Kumar Mahawar examines the roles of the government and the judiciary, and policy-making in medicine. He explores how the Indian Medical Association’s code of ethics are out of sync with modern times. Analysing the connections between power and knowledge and exposing the dangerous ways in which they play out in medicine, the book asks an all-important question: is it possible to be an ethical doctor today?”

The Ethical Doctor
By: Kamal Kumar Mahawar
Publisher: Har per Collins

Even today, with unusual career choices, middle class parents still want their kids to go for safe and lucrative professions like medicine and engineering. This novel follows the career path of one such hapless youth.

The synopsis states: In India, as far as Indians know, there are two categories of students:  

1) Students who study by their own choice

2) Students who study by Manjoo Mausi's choice Our Abhishek Patel, the 2nd category student, is the son of 'Ahmedabad ke famous' Dr.Patel.

When he doesn't meet the cut to be a doctor, he is forced to pursue Software Engineering at Bangalore, by the 'Bahot Scope Hai' mantra. However, Abhishek wants to become a chef, and decides to start-up his 'Thepla' restaurant chain. But hey, can one do this in India? Can one even dare to pursue unconventional careers? Is it really cool to start-up? Does one even know how many Manjoo Mausi's one will have to deal with?  And, of course, 'Log Kya Kahenge'?”

C+ Doctor Thepla
By: Anand Bhate &
Sarita Raghuvanshi
Publisher: WriteIndia
Pages: 268

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