Sunday, October 31 2021

Dive In


In ordinary life, the time that certain events deserve is not given to them, because the world is always ongoing, because things are always happening, because as soon as one thing is over you have to face the next, and on and on and on. And certain moments actually deserve more time than the world can give them. And that this is one of the things that literature specifically can do, to give those moments the time that they actually deserve.

We love this quote about the power of literature by Anuk Arudpragasam, author of ‘A Passage North’, a book in which we travel with a young man thinking about life in post-war Sri Lanka, and the meaning of life, love and loss. It’s on the Booker Shortlist for 2021. 


Early in October, in an event with Champaca, Arudpragasam spoke with Deepak Unnikrishnan, the author of ‘Temporary People’, about Arudpragasam’s writing process, and how literature can give certain moments, like the war, the time and attention that they deserve. You can watch the recorded conversation here.

Editor’s note: This excellent newsletter kicks off splainer’s partnership with the wonderful bookstore Champaca. Founded by Radhika Timbadia, this women-run enterprise epitomises all the values we advocate: integrity, independence, a genuine investment in quality, and great care for their customers (read more about their philosophy here). In a world ruled by Amazon, we need more Champacas! We’ve come together to champion each other’s businesses, and help serve each other’s patrons better! Do let us know what you think of their newsletter—which you will receive one Sunday every month as a splainer subscriber. PS: Splainer does not make any revenue if you buy from Champaca. This isn’t about money.

Big Story

Spooky reads for spooky season 

This October, at Champaca, we looked through our crime, mystery, and horror shelves, and put together a list of some of our favourites. Here, you’ll find everything from classics to contemporary fiction, short stories to translated works. Whether you’re looking for something truly scary, or just a fun mystery to keep you company, we’ve got you covered!


No list of crime and horror recommendations is complete without this classic by Daphne Du Maurier. Our unnamed protagonist is haunted by the spectre of her husband’s late wife. Featuring a gothic mansion, a sinister housekeeper, and a relationship to rival ‘Gone Girl’!


The Aayakudi Murders

You might have grown up with ‘Marmadesam’ on Sun TV in the late 1990s, a series of mysteries written by Indira Soundar Rajan, the stalwart of Tamil pulp. Soundar Rajan wrote screenplays and monthly stories in magazines using stories from Tamil Nadu, and his work has reshaped the genre of horror in Tamil television. In this book, we have a small farming village of Aayakudi, to which a journalist Rajendran travels to encounter the grisly supernatural and murder and intrigue. The translation that keeps the flavour and air of the context and language intact is brought to us by the wonderful Blaft publications. 


The Haunting of Hill House

An investigator of the supernatural gathers a group of people to stay in Hill House overnight, hoping to prove, one way or another, if the house is haunted. What follows is a story of suspense, as we watch the characters unravelthough whether that’s the house’s fault is anyone’s guess. Authors Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Carmen Maria Machado all name this novel by Shirley Jackson as the scariest book of fiction they’ve ever read!


Black Light 

‘Black Light’ is a collection of stories about the strange, the weird, and the unsettling. Vivid and wild, they are full of images that linger, as the author explores the darker parts of life. In this collection, Kimberly King Parsons writes of relationships and comings-of-age, following women characters in their darkest moments. 


In The Woods 

Tana French’s crime novel takes us deep into an Irish forest, and deep into its protagonist’s mind. When Rob Ryan was twelve, he and his friends went into the woodsand only he came back. The other two were never found. Decades later, the body of a young girl is found in the exact same woodsnow a detective, Ryan is called to investigate, and past and present collide. This is perfect for anyone who likes their crime to get under their skinits eerie atmosphere lingers long after the book ends.


The Ghosts of Meenambakkam

Dalpathado is at the Meenambakkam airport when he runs into the nameless narrator, who is mourning his dead daughter. Ashokamitran’s novella takes place over that one stormy night. Taut and powerful, ‘The Ghosts of Meenambakkam’ is a novella about loss and love, and is as much about what is said as what’s between the lines. 


The Honjin Murders 

This is a translation of Seishi Yokomizo’s classic Japanese locked room murder, first published in 1946. One night in 1937, a family celebrates the wedding of Kenzou Ichiyanagi and Katsuko Kubo. The next morning, both bride and groom are found dead—inside their room, with no signs of forced entry. The reader is given the facts—can you solve the case yourself? 


Club You To Death 

This is Anuja Chauhan’s first book in the crime genre: a murder mystery set in the Delhi Turf Club. When a personal trainer is found dead at the gym, ACP Bhavani Singh arrives at the scene to solve the crime. Soon he finds himself having to navigate posh Delhiites, complicated interpersonal conflicts, and secrets that seem to spread deep. Full of tongue-in-cheek humour, this is perfect for readers who aren’t looking for too much of a scare!

Headlines that matter

‘Entangled Life’ by Merlin Sheldrake

In ‘Entangled Life’, author and biologist Merlin Sheldrake writes about his quest to understand the vastly understudied field of mycology. Fungi are neither plants nor animals, they can solve problems without a brain, and are in complex relationships that influence our lives and have impacted human history in significant ways. You don’t need to be a scientist to be fascinated by this world below our feet—the depth of knowledge and the range of ideas that we are introduced to is surprising and entertaining as we dive in to explore this hidden kingdom.


To complement your spooky explorations, read about the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis as it conducts a very precise and macabre operation. It parasitically compels an ant to leave the nest to climb a tall stem and clamp its jaws to the underside of a leaf, from where mycelial threads emerge from the feet to bind the ant to the plant. The fungus then digests the ant! In a similarly grisly story, the fungus Ophiocordyceps sinensis parasitises the Swift Moth Caterpillar in the Indian Himalayas. Its demand in the international market as an aphrodisiac has changed the fortunes of many high-altitude villages. These are just some examples of the surprising ways in which fungi inhabit our world.


‘Entangled Life’ has amassed many prizes—it won the Wainright Prize for Global Conservation, the Nautilus Book Awards Grand Award, as well as the Gold award in the Ecology and Environment category. It has also inspired the Spring 2021 couture collection by Iris van Herpennot many books have influenced fashion, but as you discover the colours, shapes, and smells evoked in ‘Entangled Life’ you can see why!


This November, ‘Entangled Life’ is our Book of the Month, in our Champaca Book Subscription



In today’s edition

From our Shelves

  • We bring you two translations from our poetry shelves! 


Life at Champaca

  • Sign up for the Champaca Book Subscription before November 5th to receive 'Entangled Life' in the mail.

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