Splainer

Saturday, March 26 2022


Dive In

 

It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study.

That’s poet Ross Gay in his book ‘The Book of Delights’. Over the course of one year, Gay sets out to write about something small that delights him. What emerges is a series of observational essays (or essayettes—some are just a page long!) that delight in the joys of the everyday.

 

Patterns emerge—Gay ruminates often on certain themes, heavy ones like racism and grief, but also the joy of gardening, and a warm sense of humanity. This is a book that encourages us to pay attention, and to look for the delights—because if there's one thing to learn from this book, it's that they are everywhere!


Editor’s note: This excellent newsletter is part of 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 receive one weekend every month as a splainer subscriber. PS: splainer does not make any revenue if you buy from Champaca. This isn’t about money.

 

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We Recommend

War and its Many Versions

While the world grapples with another crisis, for many of us readers, comfort lies between the pages of a book. While books allow us to escape to a different reality, for some it helps to come to grips with upending events. In today’s world, we want to remind ourselves that there have been many wars—and that every war has many narratives. We’ve put together a collection of books that help us grapple with this idea.

 

Another History of the Children’s Picture Book: From Soviet Lithuania to India

If you were born in the 80s, you might have had a glossy copy of ‘Folktales from the Soviet Union’ standing tall in your bookshelf. From the 1970s, Indian children read hundreds of fairy tales, science fiction, and contemporary adventure stories from the Soviet Union. These were available to them in English translation and in many vernacular languages. Diverse in content, and featuring startling, colourful art, these books were commonplace in all Indian bookstores. Tapping into India’s love for Soviet literature, this is an exhaustive guide by Giedre Janeviciute and V Geetha—of the history of the children’s publishing industry of the Soviet and India’s role in the same. It is also a gentle nudge to all readers to look at a history of children’s books that goes beyond the USA and the UK. With an extensive archive of images, history, research, and analysis, this treasure trove of a book from Tara Books is also a celebration of the global impact of the Soviet children’s picture book. 

 

Notes from a Defeatist

Joe Sacco is known for ‘cartoon journalism’ or using graphic novels to tell journalistic stories. This book is a collection of war stories: "When Good Bombs Happen to Bad People," a history of aerial bombing that specifically targets civilian populations; "More Women, More Children, More Quickly," in which Sacco relates his mother's harrowing experiences during World War II in Malta; and, most personally "How I Loved the War," Sacco's impassioned but sardonic reflection on the Gulf War, the surrounding propaganda and media circus, and his own ambivalent feelings as both a spectator and commentator.

 

Black Earth City: A Year in the Heart of Russia

This witty yet deeply moving tale of Charlotte Hobson's year travelling around Russia takes us to the heart of a country that we are continually interested in, yet struggle to understand. Hobson's characters are wonderfully quixotic. She drinks with derelicts, hangs out with gypsies, and watches investigators go about the grim business of exhuming purge victims and giving them the Christian burial they have been denied for seventy years. This book is a great mixture of history and whimsical fun.

 

Chernobyl Prayer 

This is a powerful work of oral history on the Chernobyl disaster. Through the hundreds of people she has interviewed for this book, Svetlana Alexievich brings to life the many voices of despair, death, anguish, and the terrifying future of nuclear war.

 

Writing The History of Memory

This book by Stefan Berger and Bill Niven questions history's objectivity. How does memory impact the writing of history, and does that become what we consider the truth? This is a thoughtful exploration of collective memory and oral narratives across time. 

 

Rumours of Spring

While we may seek comfort in thinking that the war is happening many miles away from us, this book is a good reminder of the stories that need to be heard from our own soil—stories of strife, rebellion, struggle for identity, land and the war within. This is the unforgettable memoir of Farah Bashir's adolescence in Srinagar in the 1990s. Bashir recounts life with her dear grandmother, close family and friends over seasonal food, shifting culture, and disappearing adults, as violence suddenly envelops the Kashmir valley.

 

Tibet: Reports from Exile

This book is a collection of essays and articles compiled by Blackneck Books, an imprint of TibetWrites, which brings to us the creative work of Tibetans, whether in memoirs, novels, or poetry. These writings span across decades, bringing us a glimpse of the Tibetan struggle for freedom.

 

The Seasons of Trouble: Life Amid The Ruins of the Sri Lankan Civil War

Award-winning journalist Rohini Mohan’s reportage is an evocative account of the many lives that remain in shambles in the aftermath of the three-decade long civil war in Sri Lanka that instilled deep fear and hate among millions in the multi-ethnic country. In 2009, when the army finally defeated the Tamil Tigers guerrillas, more than 40,000 people died, including many civilians. But what became of the people who managed to survive? This is a searing account of three lives caught up in the devastation and shows how war continues long after the cessation of hostilities. Wars may end, but is there ever an end to the war within us?

 
Book of the month

‘Walking With Nanak’ by Haroon Khalid

This month, we’re travelling through time and place, in a book that is an unusual combination of a popular history, myths and legends, and some fiction: ‘Walking With Nanak’ by Haroon Khalid

 

Haroon Khalid is a travel writer and journalist based in Pakistan. ‘Walking with Nanak’ was first published in 2016 by Tranquebar, an imprint of Westland Publications. Amazon acquired Westland five years ago and recently announced its closure, much to the dismay of the reading community. We are very glad to bring one of Westland’s many stellar non-fiction titles to you, and urge you to pick up as many of their titles as you can.   

 

In ‘Walking with Nanak’, Khalid is fascinated by the personality and mythology around Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion. He sets out on a personal quest to understand “Nanak the son, Nanak the father, Nanak the philosopher, Nanak the poet and Nanak the wanderer,” rather than ‘Nanak the Saint’. We read of Nanak’s movement in its socio-historical context, exploring its strong anti-caste origins, and its syncretic traditions that are deeply rooted in the regional cultural landscape. Multiple examples from Sufi poetry and Nanak’s teachings establish this context, and we are introduced to accessible contemporary scholarship on Sikhism and the geography and preservation of Sikh monuments in modern Punjab. 

 

Khalid is hopeful of the future in the spirit of Nanak’s deeply democratic message of equality and fraternity, which has contemporary resonance in the region and the world. 


Read this unique story with us in the Champaca Book Subscription. We’re very glad to bring you one of Westland’s titles that deserves space and attention, and hope you will read along with us.

 
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In today’s edition

From Our Shelves 

  • Everyday is Women’s Day

 

Life at Champaca 

  • This March we open up our store and hope to see you there soon, for a cup of coffee and a new book!
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