Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bertrand Russell: Graphic novel hero

Bertrand Russell, the philosopher, logician, mathematician, my school-time philosopher hero, and Nobel prize for literature winner who wrote the seminal work on mathematical logic, the Principia Mathematica, is now a graphic novel hero. The hit 'comic', Logicomix has become a bestseller in Greece and has been picked up by several publishers across the world -- from China to Turkey, Israel to Italy. The UK version by Bloomsbury is expected in September this year.

Bertrand Russell died in 1970 at the age of 97. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth portrays the story of his life and the great 60s pacifist's quest to pin down the foundations of mathematics. Sounds so tera menera yah? But it was a tera menera period, the 60s, with the Vietnam war, with the Beatles and Bob Dylan, with Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro, with nuclear proliferation, with the hippies, with Charles Manson ... and with Bertrand Russell. It was he who got me interested in the scope and universality of mathematics, and the language of philosophers.

Logicomix is written by maths expert and novelist Apostolos Doxiadis, who was admitted to Columbia University at the age of 15, and Christos Papadimitriou, a computer scientist and novelist. The artwork is by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna.

"Covering a span of 60 years, it tells the story of Russell's life, taking in his childhood, brought up by his grandparents after he was orphaned aged four, his four marriages, the writing of his great work Principia Mathematica, his rivalry with Ludwig Wittgenstein, and his quest for nuclear disarmament in the last decades of his life."

The Guardian

Discussing philosophy with a bus conductor

It used to be a joke in the seventies that India was the only country in the world where one could actually have an intelligent discussion of Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance with a bus conductor during a rural pit stop, and the only place on earth where taxi drivers had Master's degrees. Now they are talking about India (and China) rescuing the entire English publishing industry.

With the US and the UK industry stagnating, publishers are looking for new markets. India, the world's third largest English language book market, is particularly enticing with its reported 10% annual growth and 350m English speaking segment of the population, and where PG Wodehouse, Agatha Christie and Enid Blyton are still a hit and every John Grisham title sells on average 70-80,000 copies. But that is miniscule compared to the potential of the market.

The Chinese market for English books is much smaller, but there is a great appetite for 'books about earning money and making a family healthier'. Who Moved My Cheese, the motivational book that celebrated its 10th anniversary last month, is one of China's all-time best-selling translated titles with several million sold, which is not entirely surprising given that, to them, English is primarily a language of business. Many English books in China are used as educational tools; people use them to improve their skills in a language.

The importance of these 'new' markets are clearly underscored by Malaysian author, Tash Aw, who's second novel, Map of the Invisible World is first published by Harper Collins of India. (Tash Aw will be at Silverfish Books, 58-1 Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru on Sunday, 7th of June from 11.30am to 1.00pm. Remember it is a Sunday.) Also, Random House has announced that the record-breaking first print run of 6.5 million copies of The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown will include over half a million for overseas territories including India and South Africa.

Thaindian News

Crime and Punishment in nine minu

They have been threatening to come for a long time. And now they are here. Matthew Moore of The Daily Telegraph reports: "A freshly-bound edition of Fyodor Dostoevsky's classic -- ordered by The Daily Telegraph -- was one of the first tomes to drop out of the Espresso Book Machine when it opened for business for the first time ..." (The printing itself of the 540 pages took only five minutes. The sheets were then sent into the binding section of the machine were they were pressed, covered, glued, and cut to shape in under four minutes.)

"And the results were impressive. The hefty work that skidded out of the chute, while slightly sticky to the touch, looked and felt like a standard edition, even down to the correct ISBN number on the back. The paper and ink are the same quality used in larger presses, and the binding appeared flawless."

The Blackwell bookshop on Charing Cross Road is offering that novel amongst 400,000 titles, many of them rare and out of print. This GBP 68,000 machine -- one of only three in the world -- is on a three-month trial. It allows readers to track down rare books, and also offers mainstream works that happen to be out of stock. Customers will also have the benefit of being able to load files from their own discs.

Printing cost? Apart from a set fee of GBP10.00 a book, there is 2p charge for every page. So Crime and Punishment would have cost GBP 20.80. (I am assuming this is for a paperback.) But what are the alternatives. One could order a copy of the book from, wait for a week and pay the shipping costs. Or one could have a cup of coffee, or browse through the shelves, or read something, or nip into the shoe shop next door while waiting for the book to be cooked. The other alternative is the ebook. But with a cost of over GBP 200.00 for the reader and another GBP 5.00 to over GBP 50.00 a pop for the titles, will it ever take off. Besides, the bragging rights associated with a well-bound (or any) copy of Crime and Punishment sitting on the bookshelf which are so much more, there is also the way they furnish your house and determine its character. So what are you going to tell your friends when they drop into your bookless house; that you have an electronic copy of Dostoevsky on your Kindle? Duh!

The Daily Telegraph

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The most inspirational book

According to, which conducted the research, To Kill a Mockingbird has been voted the most inspirational book of all time, beating the Bible into second place.

The 1960 Harper Lee classic has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. Set in the deep-south depression era, it recounts the life of middle-aged lawyer Atticus Finch, who is appointed to defend a black man accused of assaulting a white woman. It was made into an Oscar winning movie with Gregory Peck in 1962.

The Bible has been translated into 2,233 languages, and has sold an estimated 2.5 billion copies since 1815. Still, it lost to To Kill a Mockingbird. A spokesman said: "Despite To Kill a Mockingbird being written in the 1960's, it is still considered the most inspirational book ... The novel is renowned for its warmth and humour, despite dealing with serious issues of racial inequality. The narrator's father, Atticus Finch, has also served as a moral hero for many readers over the years ... It's interesting that the book is considered more inspirational than the bible ..."

Books on the top ten list:
1. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (1960)
2. The Bible
3. A Child Called It - Dave Pelzer (2001)
4. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus - John Gray (1993)
5. Diary of Anne Frank - Anne Frank (1947)
6. 1984 - George Orwell (1949)
7. A Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela (2002)
8. The Beach - Alex Garland (1994)
9. The Time Travellers Wife - Audrey Niffenegger (2005)
10. The Catcher in the Rye - J D Salinger (1951) ENDS

The Telegraph

Tamil Pulp Fiction

Mad scientists, hardboiled detectives, sensuous starlets, murderous robots, vengeful goddesses, saucy heroines -- what they all have in common, Tamil Pulp Fiction. Accessibly priced and with lurid photoshopped cover designs, they sell at tea stalls and railway stations and has a huge avid readership.

When I was kid, my mother used to devour Ananda Vikadan, Kalki and Kumutham in stacks. If only I knew how much fun she was having, I would have surely not neglected my Tamil education.

The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction, is an effort by translator Pritham Chakravarty and publisher Rajesh Kanna to bring some of this to non-Tamil reading readership, which for all intents and purposes includes me. I read an extract of a couple of stories produced exclusively by Outlook magazine recently. What can I say? They were corny to the max, but delightfully inventive.

According to the Outlook exclusive, the first book in Tamil for popular readership appeared in 1869. Later, inspired by the 'penny dreadful' novels of post WW1 Britain, another crop of authors appeared. A 1933 guideline for writing commercial novels appeared in Sudhandhira Sangu thus (from Outlook):

1. The title of the book should carry a woman's name -- and it should be a sexy one.
2. Don't worry about the storyline. All you have to do is skilfully adapt the stories of (penny dreadful author) Reynolds and the rest. Yet your story absolutely must include a minimum of half-a-dozen lovers and prostitutes, preferably 10 dozen murders, and a few sundry thieves and detectives,
3. The story should begin with a murder. Sprinkle in a few thefts. Some arson will also help.
4. You can make money only if you manage to titillate. If you try to bring in social messages, forget it.

Of the two writers I have read, Subha is the penname of two writers, Suresh and Balakrishnan, who have been churning it out since the 80's. They are reported to have written 550 novellas, 50 longer novels, and more than 400 short stories, apart from screenplays for cinema and television. The other author, Rajesh Kumar, has been writing since 1968 and has to his credit 1250 novels and over 2000 short stories.

No time for lazybones in that industry!


Wayne Rooney chooses Harry Potter

In his story Footballers reveal their favourite books, Richard Garner, Education editor of the Independent, writes how English Premier League (EPL) footballers revealed their favourite literary works in a campaign to persuade more children to read books. 20 EPL players (one from each club) were selected as "reading stars" by their teams, and, interestingly, eight of the teams selected their goalkeepers as the person most likely to devote time to help children with their reading. The books range from children's books to the classics.

Wayne Rooney, of Manchester United, chose Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone by J K Rowling as the book he would read to children, while Robert Green, the West Ham and England goalkeeper, selected Homer's The Iliad. Wahhh!

Rooney says: "Harry Potter is almost every child's favourite book and ... J K Rowling is a fantastic author ... I would encourage any child to read the Harry Potter books: they are full of excitement and adventure and they really get your imagination going."

And Green's take: "Everyone should try to make a bit of time each day to read more. You should never be scared of a book either, reading classics like The Iliad might seem daunting but if you take your time you gain such a lot from trying them."

Here are some of the rest:

Bolton, Jussi Jaaskelainen, How To Speak Dragonese, Cressida Cowell;
Blackburn, Paul Robinson, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Robin S Sharma;
Hull City, Boaz Myhill, Lord Of The Flies, William Golding;
Wigan, Emmerson Boyce, Wallace And Gromit: The Bootiful Game, Ian Rimmer;
West Bromwich Albion, Chris Brunt, James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl.

The Independent