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Book Nook - 25-06-2018

Monday, June 25, 2018
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 [email protected]

The Witch Of Aiaia
Madeline reimagined  Homer’s Iliad for the the modern reader in her wonderful, The Song of Achilles, that won her the Orange Prize in 2012. It is clear with her new book that the former Latin and Greek teacher has a way of modernizing mythology without diluting the essence. Circe retells Odyssey (mixed with other Greek epics) from her point of view, and turns her into a feminist heroine of our times.

Circe, meaning hawk, was so named  because of her yellow eyes. One of the daughters of Helios, the Sun God, she is mocked by her family of beautiful people for being ordinary and with the thin voice of a mortal. When she meets a fisherman, Glaucos, and falls in love, she first uses the power of herbs-- or pharmaka-- to turn him into a god, so that she could marry him.  But once he acquires the strength and status of a god, he shuns Circe. When he turns his attentions to a beautiful nymph, Scylla, a hurt Circe uses her newly acquired witchcraft to turn her into a monster (of Scylla and Charybdis fame!)

In punishment, she is exiled forever to a distant, uninhabited island, Aiaia (which later becomes the dumping ground for rebellious daughters of the gods).  But far from being devastated by the prospect of a lonely future, Circe hones her powers. To keep her company and give her news of the outside, the mischievous god Hermes flies in. When vicious sailors marooned on the island attempt to rape Circe, she turns them into pigs. Thus the name of the Witch of Aiaia travels far and wide.  It is here that Odysseus finds her, when he is returning from the Trojan War. He stays back with her longer than he intended, but when he leaves to return to Ithaca, he does not know Circe is pregnant. The fiery goddess Athena tries to steal away her son Telegonus, because he is destined to kill his father.

Circe protects her son fiercely, is kind enough to give shelter to Odysseus’s wife Penelope and son Telemachus when they have to leave Ithaca, and finally she fights her own battles and wins. In the course of the unputdownable novel, characters from mythology like  Apollo, Daedalus and his son Icarus, Ariadne and the Minotaur, Jason, Medea and others make brief appearances. Circe who was a footnote in male-dominated mythological stories is a full-blooded and fascinatingly strong character in this book.

As she says of the story about her and Odysseus that is commonly narrated, “Later, years later, I would hear a song made of our meeting.  I was not surprised by the portrait of myself: the proud witch undone before the hero’s sword, kneeling and begging for mercy. Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”  So Miller tells a story Circe deserves!

By Madeline Miller
Publisher: Little Brown & Co
Pages: 400

Excerpt of Circe
WHEN I was born, the name for what I was did not exist. They called me nymph, assuming I would be like my mother and aunts and thousand cousins. Least of the lesser goddesses, our powers were so modest they could scarcely ensure our eternities. We spoke to fish and nurtured flowers, coaxed drops from the clouds or salt from the waves. That word, nymph, paced out the length and breadth of our futures. In our language, it means not just goddess, but bride.

My mother was one of them, a naiad, guardian of fountains and streams. She caught my father’s eye when he came to visit the halls of her own father, Oceanos. Helios and Oceanos were often at each other’s tables in those days. They were cousins, and equal in age, though they did not look it. My father glowed bright as just-forged bronze, while Oceanos had been born with rheumy eyes and a white beard to his lap. Yet they were both Titans, and preferred each other’s company to those new-squeaking gods upon Olympus who had not seen the making of the world.

Oceanos’ palace was a great wonder, set deep in the earth’s rock. Its high-arched halls were gilded, the stone floors smoothed by centuries of divine feet. Through every room ran the faint sound of Oceanos’ river, source of the world’s fresh waters, so dark you could not tell where it ended and the rock-bed began.

On its banks grew grass and soft gray flowers, and also the unnumbered children of Oceanos, naiads and nymphs and river-gods. Otter-sleek, laughing, their faces bright against the dusky air, they passed golden goblets among themselves and wrestled, playing games of love. In their midst, outshining all that lily beauty, sat my mother.

Her hair was a warm brown, each strand so lustrous it seemed lit from within. She would have felt my father’s gaze, hot as gusts from a bonfire. I see her arrange her dress so it drapes just so over her shoulders. I see her dab her fingers, glinting, in the water. I have seen her do a thousand such tricks a thousand times. My father always fell for them. He believed the world’s natural order was to please him.

“Who is that?” my father said to Oceanos.

Oceanos had many golden-eyed grandchildren from my father already, and was glad to think of more. “My daughter Perse. She is yours if you want her.”

The next day, my father found her by her fountain-pool in the upper world. It was a beautiful place, crowded with fat-headed narcissus, woven over with oak branches. There was no muck, no slimy frogs, only clean, round stones giving way to grass. Even my father, who cared nothing for the subtleties of nymph arts, admired it.

My mother knew he was coming. Frail she was, but crafty, with a mind like a spike-toothed eel. She saw where the path to power lay for such as her, and it was not in bastards and riverbank tumbles. When he stood before her, arrayed in his glory, she laughed at him. Lie with you? Why should I?

My father, of course, might have taken what he wanted. But Helios flattered himself that all women went eager to his bed, slave girls and divinities alike. His altars smoked with the proof, offerings from big-bellied mothers and happy by-blows.

“It is marriage,” she said to him, “or nothing. And if it is marriage, be sure: you may have what girls you like in the field, but you will bring none home, for only I will hold sway in your halls.”

Conditions, constrainment. These were novelties to my father, and gods love nothing more than novelty.


Short Takes
Neel Sinha’s Goals Of Glory tells the amazing story of Aizawl Football Club and its Coach. According to the synopsis, “In 2016, Aizawl Football Club was relegated to the second division of I-League and the coach of Mumbai Football Club, Khalid Jamil, was sacked. They joined forces and became champions of the league in 2017! This is one of the most fascinating turnaround stories in Indian sports. How did the underdogs achieve such an amazing feat?

“In Goals of Glory, Neel Sinha tells us not just about this wonderful victory but also traces the evolution of the ‘beautiful game’ and its support base in Mizoram in the past four decades. The book explores the interesting coincidences which brought together the winning combination and leaves us with an inspiring story of determination, passion and grit which conquered all odds.”

Goals Of Glory
By Neel Sinha
Publisher: Pan Macmillan India
Pages: 260


In her book, The Multi-Hyphen Method, Emma Gannon tells the reader how to “work less, create more.”  According to the summary, “In The Multi-Hyphen Method award-winning blogger / social media editor / podcast creator, Emma Gannon, teaches that it doesn't matter if you're a part-time PA with a blog, or a nurse who runs an online store in the evenings - whatever your ratio, whatever your mixture, we can all channel our own entrepreneurial spirit to live more fulfilled and financially healthy lives.

“The internet and our phones mean we can work wherever, whenever and allows us to design our own working lives. Forget the outdated stigma of being a jack of all trades, because having many strings to your bow is essential to get ahead in the modern working world. We all have the skills necessary to work less and create more, and The Multi-Hyphen Method is the source of inspiration you need to help you navigate your way towards your own definition of success.”

The Multi-Hyphen Method
By Emma Gannon
Publisher:  Hachette India
Pages:  280

A 5 Day weekend sounds like a great idea and this book by Nik Halik and Garrett B. Gunderson shows how it can be achieved. “The strategy is to build multiple streams of income that don't require you to work 8 to 5 in a company where you have little control of your time and compensation.“The core money parts ― Keep More Money, Make More Money, and Grow More Money ― focus on ways to tighten your finances, increase your income, and develop passive investment strategies. The goal is to build regular, independent cash flow until they match your standard of living. Then you're no longer captive. Your independent income is enough to sustain you ― to free you.“The Personal Freedom chapters are Purpose, Choice, Productivity, Simplicity, Adventure, Peace, and Generosity ― ways to live your life to the fullest. In Power UP! you Strengthen Your Mindset, Build Your Inner Circle, Fortify Your Habits, and Amplify Your Energy ― tools to support and realize your new goals. In Push the Boundaries, Nik Halik shares his remarkable journey and challenges you to achieve your own 5 Day Weekend®. New York Times bestselling author, Garrett B. Gunderson, offers his savvy financial expertise.”

5 Day Weekend
By Nik Halik & Garrett B. Gunderson
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 319

Jonathan MacDonald’s Powered by Change is about how to design your business for perpetual success. The summary states, “In a business environment where change is the only constant, the stark reality is that it has never been harder to see what's happening around us, interpret information efficiently or develop successful strategies. This is down to both the increasing speed of change and the prevalent mindset about change, where change is seen as the enemy.

“Powered by Change presents a radical new methodology for using change as a fuelling mechanism to generate outstanding business success: the Windmill Theory.

“The Windmill Theory enables leaders and organisations to think and act in a way that capitalises on a constantly changing environment. Constructed of four blades working in perpetual harmony with one another, it creates an empowered business that turns the winds of change into business success.

“Filled with examples and stories from around the world, from global corporates to start-up ventures, Powered by Change delivers some astonishing insights and clear, actionable steps to achieve the ultimate competitive advantage.”

Powered By Change
By Johnathan MacDonald
Publisher:  Hachette India
Pages: 237

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