Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Assassin's Song by MG Vassanji and "Girls Gone Mild" by Wendy Shalit and...The Winner is!!!

Category: Fiction

Format: Hardcover, 336 pages

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Pub Date: August 21, 2007

Price: $34.95

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.

Imagine coming into the world with your destiny already shaped for you, not by God, but by man. Imagine being told you cannot be a doctor, a teacher or a lawyer, but that you have to be a spiritual leader whether your heart wants to or not.
Imagine being so good at cricket that one of your country's best coaches wants to coach you for free, but you're not allowed because your destiny does not lie in sport but in saving souls. What kind of burden is that for a child to bear? And yet it happens all the time. In Nepal you have the kumaris (little girls selected to be incarnations of the goddess Durga); in Tibet, Dalai Lama's successor is a young boy and in certain Sufi- Ismaeli communities the spiritual guardianship is passed down from father to son.

Karsan Dargawalla, our protoganist, is heir to the 700 year old Pirbaag Shirne which is the resting place of a mysterious, medieval Sufi known as Nur Fazal. Nur Fazal apparently came to India in the 13th century while running away from the Mongolian warriors and was given shelter by the Hindu King of Gujarat at the time.

The story opens in 2002 with Karsan returning to his childhood home in Gujarat after the Hindu-Muslim riots where thousands of Muslims died. He has returned to write a history of his ancestors. In flashbacks we learn about his childhood and how he escapes and defies his destiny by moving to Harvard, where he renounces his legacy as spiritual heir of Pirbaag and lives the life of a regular person. Interspersed with his story are vignettes of the 13th century Sufi mystic, how he came to be in India and a lot about Sufism as well.

This is not hyperbole, MG Vassanji has created a masterpiece. The Dargawalla family is at the crossroads of several interconnected strands of history, mythology and contemporary politics, which allows for the author to take the reader through (albeit fleetingly) many significant moments of Indian history with a particularly poignant, moving description of the Gujarat riots which forms the nucleus of this novel.

As I read, Icould not help but wonder why MG Vassanji is not a bigger name in India and in the rest of the world. He is one of Canada's most celebrated writers ( two-time winner of the Giller Prize for fiction) and almost as well-known in this country as Rohinton Mistry and yet, very few people outside of Canada have heard his name.

According to the author, "The Assassin's Song" is not based on any real mystic, but inspired by the arrival of mystics known as pirs, in India around the 13th century. The pirs practice of worship was based on no single affiliation and both Hindus and Muslims would count themselves as followers. At Pirbaag which is where the story is based, mornings began with bhajans, temple bells and the call for prayer from an adjacent mosque. The followers cremated their dead (Hindu) and then raised graves over their ashes (Muslim). In this way they seem to have borrowed equally from both, the Hindu and Muslim traditions.

M G Vassanji has brought to life a world that very few of us know much about and so I count myself lucky to have been able to enter this world through his writing.

This is a thoughtful book , one that will make us ask ourselves questions like - do we control our destinies? What is more important, duty or passion? Must tradition and modernity always clash or can they exist side by side? Do we have to be religious, can we not just be spiritual?

Vassanji is a very enjoyable writer, not so much for the beauty of his prose but for the pearls of wisdom and simple truths that dot the pages of his books, "The Assassin's Song" is no exception.

M.G. Vassanji has won the Giller Prize twice, for The In-Between World of Vikram Lall (2003) and The Book of Secrets (1994).

Will he be third time lucky? I think he will!


Category: Family & Relationships - Parenting; Psychology & Psychiatry - Adolescent Psychology

Format: Hardcover, 352 pages

Random House

Pub Date: June 26, 2007

$32.00 Visit the official Website!

This is not a review

Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Brittney Spears and Avril Lavigne are just four of many celebrities young girls look up to; Abercrombie and Finch, American Eagle and Hollister are three clothing companies that every young girl longs to fill her closet with, but to look at the music and lifestyles displayed by these singers or to look at the catalogs of any of these clothing brands, you get the distinct impression that with the offer of these sexy and seductive clothes they are pressuring our tweens and teens into growing up much faster than they should.

Wendy Shalit
, 23, author of "Girls Gone Mild", has succeeded in convincing me that if you're the mother of a young girl ( I have two) by the age of 6 she's going to want a "Babyz Nite Out" doll garbed in fishnet stockings and a hot-pink micro-mini and aim to ape her. By age 10, she'll be wanting to wear a thong and at 13, she will be greeting her friends with the affectionate (not to my ears),
"Hi, Slut!" and by 16 will be having "unwanted" sex. Unwanted because, according to studies Ms. Shalit has read, young girls are having sex not because they are enjoying doing it,but because it's considered good to be bad.

All is not hopeless however, Shalit also tells us that some young women are sounding out a rebel yell against popular culture, reclaiming their self-respect and self-worth and are returning to modesty. She also wants us to know that many of our young women are engaged in a sexual revolution and choosing to stay virgins until Prince Charming comes along.

While it is reassuring to hear that young women are thumbing their noses at those companies wanting to sell them sleazy clothing, do you believe that the return to modesty is indeed a movement or are things only going to get worse before they get better?
I happen to think that our society is too deeply immersed in the culture of hypersexuality...even magazines and clothing stores catering to our preteens cannot seem to help themselves. I looked at the latest issue of "Cosmo Girl" (for 12-17 year olds) and there is a detailed "kissing guide" in the issue. I'm no prude, OK, but do you really want your 13-year old to learn how to make her lips the ones he'll never forget!?!

And what do you think of the new reality show "Kid Nation" on CBS?

40 Kids have 40 days to build a brave new world without adults to help or hinder their efforts. Can they do it? These Kids, ages 8-15, will turn a ghost town into their new home. They will cook their own meals, clean their own outhouses, haul their own water and even run their own businesses including the old town saloon (root beer only). Through it all, they'll cope with regular childhood emotions and situations: homesickness, peer pressure and the urge to break every rule they've ever known.

Is childhood no longer in fashion? Why do we as a society feel compelled to push our kids in adulthood before they are ready?


And now, onto the winner of last week's book giveaway "The End of the Alphabet". My daughter picked Pour of Tor's name out of the hat. Congratulations, Pour of Tor, please send me your address and I'll make sure to have your book in the mail before the end of the week.

Thanks to everyone that played. There will be more book giveaways in the future, so please continue to watch this space!


Asha said...

I love reading about Vassanji's books, interesting!:)
Girls forced to grow up fast; you only have to look at US Southern states' Beauty pageants!! Those 6yr olds look like hookers!

Lotus Reads said...

Oh, Asha, don't even get me started on the beauty pageants for it reminds me of the sad life of JonBenet Ramsey, but it is an excellent example of how we as a society are pushing our girls into becoming little women much before they are ready to come out childhood. It's so unfair!

Heather (errantdreams) said...

The second book you detail reminds me how grateful I am to know a particular friend and his family. I'm continually amazed by how how well his teenaged son and daughter have turned out---how completely not like that they are.

Lotus Reads said...

Heather, I am so glad to know that this friend of yours has been able to keep his teenagers on the straight and narrow...it is no small task these days. The media wields so much authority over your kid whether you like it or not. I wish I knew some of his parenting secrets!

jenclair said...

The Vassanji novel sounds intriguing. Another one to add to the list!

I'm afraid that I agree with you that "our society is too deeply immersed in the culture of hypersexuality" and that magazines are terrible culprits.

What a terrible burden to put on young girls!

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Jenclair!

I have read three of Vassanji's earlier novels, and this one is my favorite!

Today's magazines for girls are the pits. I can only think that the contributers do not have children of their own, either that or they are those sexually liberated parents that Shalit talks about.

I agree with you...it's a terrible, terrible burden to put on young girls.

tanabata said...

I wasn't too crazy about 'The Book of Secrets' but 'The Assassin's Song' sounds very good! Thanks for the thoughtful review, as always. :)
BTW, I've been wanting to put a label cloud on my blog but haven't tackled it yet. Any tips would be appreciated.

Tara said...

I have *so* much anxiety about this topic - little girls growing up too fast. Their little eyes are just drawn to all that flashy and trashy stuff. Bratz girls are disgusting. My little one used to be on board with me, saying "we don't like those girls do we Mom?" and now it's "I think I like those girls a little bit." I am dreading all the outside influences to come and all the time I'll have to say "No, I don't that's an appropriate thing for you to wear/do/play with" - which I'm already saying. Let kids be kids. They have the rest of their lives to navigate that part of life.

Id it is said...

In addition to us pushing them into early adulthood, the US food makers do more than their bit in imposing early puberty on our youngsters by pumping hormone fed meats into their diets! Between them and us our youngsters have practically lost out on what is termed childhood... a pity!

Heather (errantdreams) said...

Lotus: Well I can only speculate on his parenting secrets, but part of it might be a lack of access to typical media while growing up. They're a military family and spent a lot of time overseas until recently.

Partly I think it's just that the parents are so incredibly sweet, upright, and loving. I've never met a nicer couple in my entire life. They treat their children with a great mixture of firmness, love, and respect.

All speculation on my part, but it's really wonderful to spend time around them. :) For me, they've been an inspiration in that they're the one great example I've had of a long-term, loving marriage. They've got teenaged kids and they're obviously still totally in love with each other!

Dana said...

Another interesting book. I thought that I am beginning to sound like my parents did 'way back when'. When I was your age and such..... But kids do want to grown up so fast.

As regards that new reality show, What were their parents thinking or do you think all they saw was $$$? What parent would let their 8 year be somewhere where there are no adults HUH??

Sanjay said...

Lotus, Another great post and not one but two wonderful reviews (although you called the “Girls gone mild” a non review  :-)
I have not heard about MG Vassanji till I read your reviews but I will put this on my TBR read and will soon read his earlier works too..

What I love about this book based on your take of it is how he deals with something outside of the usual immigrant story which a lot of Indian writers in the West talk about.

The burdens that a child has to bear is sadly true not just of Karsan the protagonist or the kumaris, but of countless children whose parents will often map out what the child should do often with the best of intentions. I think sometimes with this process truly creative sides of ones personality sadly never get to be nurtured and flower.

The incredible richness of Hinduism (I cannot recall who said this recently.) is due to is promiscuousness,that is.. its ability to borrow and assimilate elements from other cultures. But this is true of Islam as well to some extent particularly in India. This is a fact that is often lost here. I think Vassanji and you via your review have brought this point out really well.

The questions you raise are so very relevant and there is no one answer in my opinion.
Does his protagonist come to the conclusion that a lot of these are not necessarily mutually exclusive? Or would that give away the ending of the book? 

I will certainly be reading this book, thank you for introducing us to what seems to be a remarkable book written by a really good writer.
I have read about Wendy Shalit’s book and articles by her. I think she taps in to a lot of the sentiments of parents who at times feel overwhelmed by the messages of popular culture which so often is about sex and conforming. It is nice to see some taking a sensible stance and not becoming a part of the herd.

Perhaps the 40 kids and their parents on the CBS show may not reflect most parents. Maybe some of them even think this is just kids having fun? But the kind of reality these kids will “star” in is hardly a reality. Kids growing up without parents, or in a war zone or in famine, poverty or as child soldiers or even working in fields are already living a reality that is far too real and a part of their world way before their time unlike this manufactured reality on TV.
Sorry about the rant.
Congratulations to Por of Tor on the win.

Gentle Reader said...

Re: Kid Nation, what kind of parents would let their kids participate in this? Sounds like the producers are hoping for a video version of Lord of the Flies...

And re: Girls Gone Mild, I have a daughter and I'm scared to death of what she'll be exposed to next in our hypersexualized culture.

I ask the same question you do, why do we push our kids into adulthood far too early?

starry nights said...

I have never read a book by Vassangi.But after reading your review I think I will. I agree with you that ids are not being given a chance to be kids. I do hope this being bad is good feeling slips away and girls begin to dress more modestly and I have seen the magazines and some of the stuff in them even grown ups are embarrased to read.

Lotus Reads said...

@Nat ~ Hello and you're so welcome to the review! Nat, I cannot take any credit for the tag cloud. Sanjay did it for me, all I did was to send him a copy of my template with some specifications. I'm pretty useless at this kind of thing. I hope he'll have some tips for you.

@Tara ~ Yes, it is those outside influences, namely friends and the media that we have to worry about. I was pretty shocked to see how sexy those Bratz dolls are...where is the need for that? I remember my first doll was a Raggedy Ann...we've come a long way, haven't we?

@Id ~ Excellent point!!! It's true, girls are maturing physically at a much faster rate than they used to and yet, emotionally they haven't quite caught up. I am sure all these messages about having to be a woman, when they still think like a girl must be so bewildering for them.

@Heather ~ Thank you for sharing! They sound like a wonderful family, the kids are sure lucky to have such wonderful parents! Not having too much access to the media might have helped too.

Sanjay said...

Lotus, I am happy to help Nat with the cloud Tag.

Going back to the issue of parents pushing their kids to become "adults" faster.
Here is an example. (Link is to NPR)

An 8-year-old Chinese girl has just finished a run of truly epic proportions. In 55 days, she covered 2,212 miles, in celebration of next year's Olympics in Beijing. But her feat has sparked accusations of child abuse against her father, who is also her trainer....

When asked whether she was happy to have arrived in Beijing, the 8-year-old's immediate reaction is telling — as is her own correction.

"I'm too excited for words. Because I've finished my task, I mean, I've realized my dream," she said.

Lotus Reads said...

@Dana ~ Yes! I, too, wonder what those parents were thinking! I wonder also how child labor laws would apply to this case. The other thing that bothers me is pitting these age groups together. If I was the parent of an 8 or 9 year old, I certainly wouldn't want them hanging out with 14 and 15 year olds...we all know how dangerous that can be!

@Gentle Reader ~ Yes, it is rather like "Lord of the Flies", isn't it? There has been a lot of controversy about Kid Nation but I guess what it's done is to increase people's curiosity about the program, I know I'm curious enough to want to watch the opening show (even if I don't approve at what the producers have done here)

@Starry ~ I hope you will read something by Vassanji. If you like short stories, you might like "When She was Queen" and if you like history/culture or are interested in the Indian diaspora in Kenya/Tanzania, you might want to read "The Inbetween World of Vikram Lall".

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Sanjay!

Thanks so much for the comments, as usual you have got me to think more about the book...

I love your point about ambitious parents ramming their ambitions down a child's throat. I see it all the time - parents living vicariously through their children - the result of which one's true personality never surfaces or shines through.

I guess I don't want to speculate too much on what the protogonist thought, atleast not until you read the book! But yes, I think he arrives at most of his answers towards the end,which makes for a neat, if not happy, ending.

Many feminists would accuse Wendy Shalit of wanting young women to wear chastity belts or to sit at home dreaming of their Prince Charming, but I think they are being too harsh on her. Like you say, many parents are concerned about popular culture and the damage it is doing to their kids, but isn't it strange, the minute you give them an alternative the feminists want to pick at it!

I am sure there are many people that think "Kid Nation" is all about having fun and that perhaps the kids will learn responsibility from being thrust into situations where there are no adults. But I think this really exploits kids and some of them just might be scarred for life for having undergone such a (mis)adventure.

Yes, I read about that little Chinese girl...her poor body, will it be able to withstand the kind of pressure the adults around her are putting it through? I remember the Indian police recently had to stop a 5-year old boy from participating in a 500 km walk after he completed a 7-hour run that sparked charges of abuse. Poor kids!

Pour of Tor said...

I am so excited about "The End of the Alphabet," lotus reads! Thanks so much! I have just sent off an email to you with my mailing address.

Nyssaneala said...

On Girls Gone Mild: bear with me Lotus, I have a very strong opinion on this! One that is probably divergent from many others.

Having a little girl entering our family in a few short months, this is a topic I have thought about a lot in the past, and will probably continue to do so for many years into the future.

**I haven't read the book yet**, but I know a bit about her opinions, and listening to her on NPR, I found myself disagreeing with a lot of what she says.

Yes, I agree with her that the extent of the hypersexualization of young girls, especially in the media and advertising, is a serious problem in our society, and one that needs to be addressed. But I think the weaknesses of her methods and arguments outweigh the strengths, and I find her a bit hard to take seriously. She paints a picture of extremism that I feel is a bit far-fetched. She degrades the 'older feminists' as setting our society up for this problem, an argument I find deplorable.

You don't want your kids to wear promiscuous clothes? As a consumer, we have the ability to take our business elsewhere, and let other businesses know why. Our opinion does count!! You feel the images on TV are too sexualized? Don't subscribe to cable. Yes, peer pressure will always be a factor in raising children, but I feel that there are many things that parents can do, from an early age, to help educate their daughters (and sons) about female equality, respecting a woman's body, and looking beyond appearance and sexuality to what is truly important. If my daughter grows up to be proud and respectful of her mind and body, I will surely trust that she will make good decisions that are good for her in her relationships with others.

In the author's favor, though, I think it is great to see a modesty website for girls that is secular.

Saaleha said...

I've never heard of vassanji. Thanks for the heads up. He sounds wonderful.

Radha said...

Great book review as always Lotus!

I cant begin to imagine how it is to be a mom to two young girls; who're waiting to be all grown-up and "cool" :-)
I'm sure its tough, but then knowing you, your girls are going to turn out great.
Good luck to you!! :-)

Parth said...

Tough to comment on the content of the books, but the second book's title did make me smile. I do think though that parents even today might have the right degree of influence on how their kids turn up.

Booklogged said...

Very thoughtful reviews. I'm glad there is a movement, albeit small, that is moving towards morals. It's scary that children cannot take their time to grow up. They are faced with some serious decisions at such a young age and I'm not sure they have the maturity to weigh the consequences. I'm interested to get my hands on this. I shared your review with my daughter and she seemed interested, too.

The Assassin's Song sounds like a great book. I'm wondering why he titled it thus when it's a story of a mystic. Don't tell me, though, because I want to read it.

I just stopped writing for a sec and thought back on our wonderful time in Toronto. I count it as one of my blessings to have met and visited for a short while with you. I hope I don't feel inclined to 'gush' every time I make a comment. This time the feeling just caught me and so I'm expressing it. Thanks again, Lotus. You are special person with such beautiful gifts that you are so kind to share with others.

Pointblank said...

loved ur review! oops.. its not areview rite? k.. so wotever u have written, i liked it.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Nyssaneala!

I really do appreciate your input, thank you!

I haven't read the entire book either so that's why I had to title that section of the post as "not a review" but the idea that a modesty movement is gaining momentum was very intriguing to me.

Yes, it is rather silly of Shalit to blame feminists from the '60's for imparting their ideas of sexual liberation onto their daughters, but apparently she gets letters from young women all the time saying it is their parents that are pushing them into dressing provocatively or teasing them for still being virgins.

True, I know parents can do a lot to prevent their kids from falling prey to popular culture. Not subscribing to cable is a good choice, but even if you don't have it at home, the kids are bound to be exposed to it in someone else's home. Also, peer pressure is a lot harder to counter than we realize. Girls especially are so mean to other girls that are not "like them", they ostracize them and can make their school life hell. As the old expression goes, it takes a village to raise a child, I wish more parents would come together and make a noise against these sources that would corrupt our children, especially our girls. We have to take a stand together!!!

Priya said...

i love your new look

Jyothsna said...

Hmm, two interesting reviews here. The Assasin's song seems a compelling book to read! Girls Gone Mild, I can see has raised a lot of fears among parents! I recently watched an episode of Boogie-Woogie and was shocked to see 5 year olds dancing a la Madhuri or Urmilla or whoever!!! How can parents allow their children to dance so vulgarly, gracelessly and make those annoying faces!!! I would never allow my child, boy or girl, to do that! I'm not against Bollywood dancing, just tune it down to appear sweet and innocent like children should be. That said I do think parents can influence children to be responsible individulas with the right kind of upbringing. Peer pressure is hard to tackle but parents still do play an important role in instilling values in children and guiding them to right decisions.

Lotus Reads said...

@Saaleha ~ Hi! You know it really baffles me that Vassanji is not very well known outside of Canada, especially as he so deserves to be. Saaleha you will really enjoy his writing. Wish you lived closer I would have loved to have shared my copies with you.

@Radha ~ You are sweet. I try to do my best, but there are days when outside influences reign supreme. Like many other readers have noted, as a parent, all you can do is your best and then hope that all the input you made when you child was younger starts to pay off. In most cases it does.

@Parth ~ Keeping my fingers crossed that our influence will win over the media and the influence of friends. It can be a tough battle some days, but not a hopeless one.

@pointblank ~ Well, the first one is a review, the second one isn't...was just meant to be a discussion :)

@Priya ~ Thank you! :)

Lotus Reads said...

Booklogged ~ Awww, really, you are much too kind! We really enjoyed our time with you and Candleman. You've done such a great job raising your kids, how I wish we lived closer, I could certainly use your insights and expertise with bringing up my kids.

Booklogged, I can keep my copy of "Girls Gone Mild" for you. Let me know when you might find the time to go through it and I will gladly put it in the mail. I didn't read the whole book, just those chapters that I was interested in. I'd love to know what your daughter thinks of it...it would be great getting a young woman's perspective on these issues.

*much love*

@Jyothsna ~ I haven't seen "Boogie Woogie" but watching Bollywood movies the way I do, I know exactly what you mean. The choreography has grown increasingly vulgar over the years, so much so, we no longer need a Helen or a Bindu to play the vamp or the seductress, the heroine does a pretty neat job of that herself! :)

Nyssaneala said...

Not subscribing to cable is a good choice, but even if you don't have it at home, the kids are bound to be exposed to it in someone else's home. Also, peer pressure is a lot harder to counter than we realize. Girls especially are so mean to other girls that are not "like them", they ostracize them and can make their school life hell.

I completely agree with you on that! In many ways, I agree with the intent of Girls Gone Mild, I just don't believe she delivered it very well.

It seems, that in regards to clothing, there only seems to be two extremes in the argument: girls either dress sexy, or they dress very moderately and conservatively. I fell somewhere in the middle when I was a teenager (I'm 28 now), and I remember my mother defending my decision to some other relatives when in the summer I wore short shorts and tank tops that exposed my belly. I didn't wear them to be sexy, but because it was hot out! And, being a short person, knee-length skirts just aren't becoming to my stature. Looking sexy never entered my mind, and I felt that boys who were rude enough to make suggestive comments were the ones in the wrong, not myself for having the freedom to wear what made me comfortable.

Unfortunately, however, I know there are too many girls out there that don't have the same positive self-image and self-esteem, and are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure and media images, and they are being targeted at a younger and younger age. The answer? I don't profess to know, but don't think Shalit quite captures it either (I also think her sample pool of subjects for her research was not very broad - I would love to see a more extensive study done).

John Mutford said...

I've only ever read one Vassanji book before. That was The Book of Secrets and to be honest, I didn't really enjoy it. However, earlier this week a friend told me I need to read The In-Between World of Vikram Lall and now you're praising up this one. Hmmm. Maybe I should give him another chance- did you enjoy The Book of Secrets and do you think it's possible to enjoy The Assassin's Song without liking that one- I guess what I'm asking is, how does it compare in your opinion?

Lotus Reads said...

@Pour of Tor ~ Thank you for sending me your address...I put your book in the mail for you this afternoon. Should take between 4-5 days to reach you.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Nyssaneala!

I think my dress sense was more traditional - long,ugly home-stitched dresses,lol, but that's how everyone dressed back then in India...you could say it was the norm. I see kids in daisy dukes and tank tops all the time these days, but like you so correctly pointed out, I don't think they mean to be sexy, infact, with a lot of them it's furtherest from their minds, but these are not the young women Shalit's book is discussing, she's talking about the ones who dress seductively,even though they are uncomfortable with it, because they feel pressured to do so.

I really do value your impressions on Shalit's book and yes, I suppose the conclusions would be more believable had her sample pool been bigger and more diverse (did she say she had interviewed 144 girls for this book?)

Another fascinating topic would be to talk about the reverse - those adults so obsessed with youth culture that they want to dress like their teenagers!

@John Mutford ~ Welcome! You're the second person to mention on this blog that "Book of Secrets" did not impress. Unfortunately, I haven't read that one. "The In-between World of Vikram Lall" blew me away and so did his book of short stories, "When She Was Queen". I hope you will read "Vikram Lall", I would love to have your impressions. Thank you so much for visiting!

ek_rani said...

I sooo look forward to getting book recommendations from your site! (There is nothing more fulfilling than hearing about a worthy read). So thank you! These both look intriguing.

Nix said...

I'm afraid my previous experience with Vassanji was not all that great! I started reading "The Gunny Sac" and no matter how hard I tied, I just couldn't get involved enough and never finished it.
Perhaps I can give him another chance!

and oh, just notice that I'm on your blogroll *thrill*

Cereal Girl said...

I loved The In-Between World of Vikram Lall so much I couldn't review it. I was a bit awestruck.

By the way, you may be interested to know Robin Maharaj is teaching a Creative Writing course this fall at U of T. You've written so much, with so much thought. Ever thought of giving fiction a twirl?

My other motive for leaving you a message is I got meme-tagged by Heather at Errant Dreams Reviews to list 8 random facts about myself. Here are the rules. If you want to play along, consider yourself tagged.

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. List eight (8) random facts about yourself
3. Tag eight people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them)
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving them a comment on their blogs.

Olivia said...

Wendy Shalit! I am currently (on and off) reading her book "A Return to Modesty".

Happy Reader said...

Lotus, Great review as always :) I picked up Vikram lall recently, but never finished it. May be its time for me to go back to it. 'The Assassin's song' sounds like something I would like to read.

"Girls gone mild" intrigues me much. "Girls especially are so mean to other girls that are not "like them", they ostracize them and can make their school life hell". I completely agree with you on this. Its been one of my major concerns. Upbringing a child is quite a challenging experience in itself and now that I have a little girl I often wonder a lot about peer pressure and other challenges she will face in school and society in general. I only hope that the values I inculcate in her will help her make good choices in life.

hellomelissa said...

for you to call "the assassin's song" a masterpiece is high praise indeed!

it's on my wish list with this great recommendation.

Bookfool said...


Sorry I haven't commented, lately! I love your new look. The topic of the second book is one that I think about a great deal. What our children are exposed to is so horrifying. We ditched our satellite service when I realized how obnoxious television had become, around the time that you couldn't find anything to watch but reality shows. I hope there will be a revival of innocence - a going mild - but I truly believe that it's unlikely to happen anytime soon. Many, many things will have to change.

Lotus Reads said...

@Ek-Rani ~ I love your blog name, I am so glad you visited and thank you for letting me know that my blog helps with your book recommendations!

@Nix ~ Sorry that "The Gunny Sack" wasn't such a good read for you. Was it the story? The writing? The theme? Can you put your finger on what it was that you didn't enjoy? I ask because I haven't read that particular book, but if I remember correctly it won the regional Commonwealth Writers Prize, didn't it? If you do give him another chance, do let me know!

@Cereal Reader ~ Lovely to hear from you! I've already done the meme but thank you so much for asking! I love what you said about "The In-between World of Vikram Lal", that's what I felt too...completely awestruck.

Thank you for letting me know about Maharaj....I have tried my hand at creative writing and it was a disaster, I'm not much good at it I'm afraid, but thank you so much for thinking of me!

@Olivia ~ Ahhh, "Return to Modestry" what are your thoughts so far? I think it was shortly after she wrote this book that the feminists meanly tagged her "professional virgin"!

Lotus Reads said...

@Chitts ~ Now, I've got to ask you...which Vassanji novel couldn't you finish? Chitts, it can be just a little difficult bringing up kids these days, but a strong set of morals and values should see them on their way. I know you'll do a fine job with your daughter!

@Melissa ~ I enjoyed this book so completely. It was one of the better books I've read all year, but one man's food is another man's poison, so I am not sure what the rest will make of it. To tell you the truth I haven't even read the reviews yet, so I am not sure if it's being given a warm or frosty reception. All I know is, I like it!

@Nancy ~ I have missed you, but I understand completely about not having time to visit. Now that the new school year is here, I am fighting to make time myself. I seem to hearing that more and more parents are disconnecting cable and are much better off for it. Will visit you soon, I just got back from Buffalo and trying to play catch with my e-mails.

Olivia said...

Hm, not sure what I think yet, but I want to get far enough to gather her conclusions.

I understand some of her points but not all because when I was a teenager in school and university, I never had to deal with those peer pressures or issues...so I can only imagine. See, I think it's different when you're older.

A Reader from India said...

Hi Lotus,

Am yet to read any book by Vassanji, and my cousins had highly recommended 'Vikram Lall' a few years ago. The Assassin's Song sounds interesting. After reading your review, I am going to definitely check it out. Thanks!

equiano said...

Now I am seriously drooling! I love Vassanji and that hasn't come out here yet (there's always amazon of course!). I think of him as a Kenyan writer, isn't that funny?! I'm glad it is so good.

Id it is said...

I haven't read Vassanji, but you compare him to Mistry whose 'Fine Balance' I've read. I'm afraid, I wasn't too impressed by the latter. In fact the novel was a page too many for the story he had to tell. Apart from the metaphor of the blanket that he so beautifully fabricated and wove, the rest of the novel was a let down in that the situations presented were so unreal; the novel could've been better researched and definitely shorter.

Your write up has sold me on Vassanji and that is why I made this rather long comment above on R. Mistry; sorry for having gone off on a tangent.

Thanks for the comment citing schadenfreude as a prime catalyst for obsession with sorrow in Literature.

Sugarlips said...

I've never read anything by Vassanji but "The Assassin's Song" sounds interesting. Your reviews always make me wanna grab the book rightaway :)

I'm done reading "Girls of Riyadh" and The Reluctant Fundamentalist :)

Btw, have you read The Dancing Girls of Lahore ?

P.S: I'm going to Pakistan for few months my brother is getting married :) I still remember the shalwar kameez I promised so shoot me an email or inform Nabeel if you need anything :)

Hugs...Take care a lot.

Stay Beautiful...!!

Lotus Reads said...

@Olivia ~ you are lucky not to have experienced peer pressure. What do you owe it to? The way you were brought up? Or the people you hung out with in school? My daughter has recently found a new group of friends at school and she is finding they are so uncomplicated and complete opposites of the people she previously hung out with, I am so hoping she stays friends with this new lot.

@A Reader ~ I think you will love Vassanji, do try reading one of his books and let me know what you think! As always, so happy to see you here!

@Equiano ~ I guess he is more African than he is Indian, but being of Indian heritage we love to claim him as our own! :) He lives in Canada now, so I guess he's a global citizen really! :) Lovely to see you here!

@Id ~ I have only one complaint about Mistry and that is, he's not prolific enough! I love his writing even though he writes tomes (and I usually avoid long, voluminous novels).

You ask some wonderful questions on your blog and your latest post is no exception. I really don't know for sure why literature doesn't explore happiness as much as it explores darkness and depression, I can only think it's because happiness is so fleeting, does it last long enough to create a whole novel out of it? Also, many writers, especially the very sensitive kind, are more drawn to gloom and doom,not sure how capable they are of holding onto happy moments. I may be totally off the mark here...in other words, I really don't have much of an answer to your question, but I look forward to seeing what the others have to say.

Lotus Reads said...

@Sugarlips ~ I hope you have a wonderful time in Pakistan!!! I shall miss you, you know so make sure you don't stay away too long! Yes, I have read "Dancing Girls of Lahore" and it thrilled my anthropologist's heart to bits! One book I really,really want to read is Mohsin Hamid's "Moth Smoke". How wonderful that he is up for the Booker Prize, would be wonderful if he wins!

Enjoy your brother's wedding and you are the sweetest for remembering the salwaar kameez but i know you'll be busy, so don't go out of your way, truly.

Much love to you sugarlips!!!

Sugarlips said...

I've read Moth Smoke a while back and thoroughly enjoyed, I'm sure you will like it.

I will definitely enjoy my brother's wedding Inshallah, looking forward for some crazy fun.

Lots of love...Stay happy and beautiful :)

Lotus Reads said...

Crazy fun it will be for sure! Take lots of pics!!!

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