Under my byline


Posted in Books by Rrishi on 17 January 2009

Two very short book reviews.

The New Oxford Book of Literary AnecdotesThe New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes
Edited by John Gross
pp 400

This book “should on no account be allowed in the bedroom, or you will find yourself awake in the cold, small hours, still turning the pages”. That’s what a blurb on the back says, and it is quite right. There’s no shortage of anecdote collections, but this is a new and delightful one, and if you take it to bed, you will be kept awake.

England is a land renowned for its eccentrics, and in these pages little facets — amusing, awe-inspiring, worrying, incomprehensible — from the lives of some of its literary sons and daughters from Chaucer to Rowling, along with a handful from Europe, America and India, stand revealed. As with Yiddish jokes, there’s always room for more good anecdotes. This book is well worth your lost sleep.

(Visit the publisher’s website.)

Giles Tillotson, Taj MahalTaj Mahal
Giles Tillotson
pp 208

Indian or foreign? Symbol of Indian genius or folly foisted upon India by invaders? This book is not so much about the Taj Mahal itself as it is about ideas of the Taj. Thus the author, British art historian Giles Tillotson, throws open before the reader a bulging portfolio of artists, architects, travellers, poets and administrators — not to mention imitators — from the 17th-century Mughal court to modern ads featuring the likes of Zakir Hussain and Amitabh Bachchan.

The book is presented as a meditative essay, and its slim profile, elegant design, numerous illustrations and simple prose will reinforce that impression, but it’s really quite a serious work. If you like popular history and want to get beyond the few facts and myths that everyone knows about the Taj, this is a book worth owning.

(Visit the publisher’s website.)


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