Editor’s note: We feature the brilliant recommendations of our partner, the Champaca Bookstore, in the Read section twice a month. FYI: Champaca is an independent women-run and -founded bookstore and children's library in Bangalore.
‘Oblivion and Other Stories’
Do you believe the perfect short story exists? Short stories can be simple, sweet and sometimes leave you with a sting. At Champaca we love reading short stories from different parts of the world, and more so from India.
‘Oblivion and Other Stories’ by Gopinath Mohanty and translated from Odia is a collection of twenty short stories that hold a mirror to Odisha of the 1930-70s—a state caught in the tussle between nature and development. In these stories, we meet different characters grappling with various circumstances—a child waiting for his father to come back home with new clothes, an elderly concubine, a feudal landlord on his deathbed, young boys waiting to pocket gold off corpses floating down a river, a grandmother trying to comprehend the frenzy of a cricket match and an Indian family of Chinese descent struggling to make sense of life post the war of 1962. These are stories about poverty, rural-urban divide, feudalism and yet tales of hope.
‘Oblivion and Other Stories’ is our August pick for the fourth edition of Champaca Book Subscription—where we are reading and curating boxes around the annual theme of ‘Reading India’. Join us and be part of a community of book lovers!
A fine collection from our shelves
Are you reading with us in the Champaca Reading Challenge? We’ve put together a list of prompts designed to help us, and you read widely and more diversely. This month, we’re reading books that have birds on their cover! We love picking prompts that encourage multiple possibilities. For this one, judge the book by its cover and not the content! The birds may be relevant to the plot, or not — you’ll have to read to find out! Read on for our recommendations.
‘Tits, Boobies and Loons’ by Stu Royall: This book is a compilation of all the weird and wonderful monikers some poor feathered friends have been tarred with- bestowed on them clearly by people who hate birds, and probably need to go to therapy instead of naming them!
From the go-away-bird and the common loon to the sad flycatcher and the sombre tit, Tits, Boobies and Loons: And Other Birds Named by People Who Clearly Hate Birds is a work that makes us wonder why such disturbed ornithologists even went into this line of work. Nevertheless, it's a fun read for all fans of birds, language and rude words. Or anyone who secretly considers themselves a bit of a red-rumped bush tyrant.
‘Girl Meets Boy’ by Ali Smith: Girl Meets Boy. Then circumstances change. This is a story we know from time immemorial. But Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy is a novel about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, a story of puns, doubles, reversals and revelations. A modern-day interpretation of Ovid’s myth of Metamorphosis, ‘Girl Meets Boy’ is set in Inverness, Scotland and centres around two sisters Anthea and Imogen who live with their grandparents. Anthea struggles to be normal while Imogen is uptight.
Flash forward. As adults, Imogen who now owns the house invites Anthea to stay with her. Not wanting the strait-laced life, Anthea instead chooses to get into a relationship with a non-binary person. Funny and fresh, poetic and political, this is a tale about queer relationships, siblings and the modern world.
‘Delicate, Edible Birds: And Other Stories’ by Lauren Groff: This is a collection of nine short stories of vastly different styles and structures—the stories together spanning a century and each a slice-of-life story about different American women. In Sir Fleeting, a Midwestern farm girl on her honeymoon in Argentina falls into lifelong lust for a French playboy. In Blythe, an attorney who has become a stay-at-home mother takes a night class in poetry and meets another full-time mother, whose charismatic brilliance changes everything. In The Wife of the Dictator, that eponymous wife grapples with isolation.
In Delicate Edible Birds, a group of war correspondents fall sudden prey to a brutal farmer while fleeing Nazis in the French countryside. Lucky Chow Fun is about the darkness within even that idyllic small town. Weaving these stories together in Delicate, Edible Birds are the motifs of crime, love troubles and change—in some of these stories, enormous changes happen in an instant. In others, transformations occur across a lifetime--or several lifetimes.
Life at champaca
While we waited for the monsoon to give the Champaca flower in our store a fresh lease of life, we spent our mornings and evenings at Champaca, working on the launch of our new subscription, Reading India. We are excited to curate and read unique stories from this landmass we call India and home. In July, from book launches to heritage walks and a Constitution themed weekend, we have an exciting line-up of events for you — check them out here! If you’re in Bangalore, we invite you to come to our lush, leafy store, attend the events and browse through our shelves with cold ginger ale or a hot cup of coffee, as per the whims and fancies of the ever-changing Bangalore weather!