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Tag Archives: JK Rowling

The casual vacancy, Moby Dick Online and other stories

The casual vacancy, Moby Dick Online and other stories

There’s been a fair bit of buzz about The Casual Vacancy, Rowling’s first adult novel that came out last week. Caustic, stern and critical reviews aside, we found this profile at the New Yorker, the definitive read of the week. We love the profiles they do at the New Yorker. Our favourites so far, has been the one with Taylor Swift and Capotes profile of Marlon Brando. Happy reading.

“Call me Ishmael”. You obviously know that this is one of the most epic lines in literature. If you don’t, then maybe you should catch a reading of Moby Dick live on the web. These guys are already a couple of chapters in, but it’s never too late. This way you can read while getting a manicure. Hello, technology. `

The coolest thing that had to have happened this week was the whole Balpreet Kaur debacle on Reddit. One, props to the girl for being an absolute boss. Two: Mad love to the dude who apologised and became the bigger man. Can we just point out here that, Reddit is getting some serious points for going where no website hath gone before (We’re talking about the AMA by President Obama). Our favourite question was by the user who asked the powerful man, whether he would rather fight 100 duck sized horses or one horse sized duck. (He chose the former.)

So the hilarious folks at Jezebel really know what’s what. Here’s a ridiculous picture-story on how Romney just doesn’t get the infant vibe right (and we mean that in a non creepy way).

Haven’t read Ullysses yet, have you? Neither have we and here’s why we don’t really need to!


– Sheena

The Dr. Horrible sequel comes out in October and other stories

The Dr. Horrible sequel comes out in October and other stories

If you’ve been following Project small fry regularly you’ll know that Neil Patrick Harris has talents that go beyond playing smooth-talking Barney Stintson. We’re talking about Dr Horrible’s sing along blog, the 2008 web-based sensation born purely out of the restless genius of Joss Whedon and the acting prowess (and that free moving blonde eyebrow) of Neil Patrick Harris. Well, we learned this past week that there’s a sequel due somewhere in October and it made us nearly wet ourselves with excitement. Will Dr. Horrible’s new and dangerous life as a member of the super bad league of evil, be cast over with the shadow of his tragic loss?

The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling’s first non-Potter book for adults will be on shelves in the US and the UK by the end of this month. Or so Little Brown promises. I know you expect to be happy and expectant but I’m a little wary. I’m Potter fan enough to get the book, but should I really believe all this pre-print marketing schtick? Once a writer really reaches the peak of her form, I don’t know, it’s only human to crash and burn. At any rate, this book has big shoes to fill. Huge. Some Felix Felicis might be in order.

Speaking of books, Nilanjana Roy’s The Wildings is out to brilliant reviews.  That’s two debut novelists this year by David Davidar fledgling publishing house Aleph, which really seems to tapping the journalist-turned-author pulse.  And no wonder, if Project Small Fry (yes, we’re a collective now) is any indication of readership, their sales will probably be sky high. Think about it. We devoured Pinto’s articles and then promptly bought the book. We devour Roy’s articles and now that salaries are credited, we’ll be lining up to buy the book. No-brainer really.

We try to be free of political strain, but this was too much for us to bear. I can’t decide what’s funnier about the whole situation. Is it that Eastwood looks like the crypt keeper’s older brother and can’t form a sentence without mumbling? Is it Obama’s tweet in response? Is it the series of web memes that took over the internet? So many angles!


– Sheena

Judging ’em by the covers

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Judging ’em by the covers

The cover of J. K Rowling’s highly anticipated novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy was released a couple of days ago as was Manu Joseph’s new book, The Illicit Happiness Of Other People. Both are bright yellow, eye-catching and you know they will command a place of prominence at all bookstores (Not accounting for the popularity of the writers, of course).

If you walk into a book store, with absolutely no reviews, tweets or marketing ploys hard-selling books swirling about in your head, what would make you pick a book? The unfortunate and inevitable answer is the cover. The second is the title and synopsis.

We can try to not judge a book by its cover, but judgment comes naturally to us. Book covers, like magazine covers are pretty important to make a sale.

This is why it is so surprising that so many writers have such terrible book covers. Almost the entire rack of books written by new Indian authors (The journalist-turned-author, the IIM graduate-turned author, The-nutritionist/fashionista/twitter account turned writer) have uninspiring, boring and corny covers that give you no indication of what the book contains. Hearts, coffee mugs, clip arts of women with shopping bags; they just blend into each other and you can’t tell them apart.

Having sat in on a few magazine cover ideations, I know that the writers and designers work together on a cover that will best represent the magazine (or at least the writers will agree with the designer’s point of view). Unfortunately in publishing, the writers have only so much control over the cover design. At a discussion panel on the rise of Indian chick-lit I attended, Kiran Manral, author of The Reluctant Detective pointed out that she has no idea why the publishers decided to put a high-heeled shoe on her cover. And, that as a first-time author, she had no choice but to agree. You’d think a writer who has finally got their work published would fight tooth and nail to have it look the way they want. But then again, you’d rather lose that battle than not have your book published at all.

Aesthetics are important in almost every field and while we want to be idealistic and say that if the writing is good, who cares what it looks like, for the average book readers and buyers, the cover is the first thing that attracts your attention. (Disclaimer: This is only applicable to retail items. You can look like Einstein or never comb your hair like APJ Abdul Kalam; if you’re a genius, it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to adhere to the society’s superficial standards of beauty.)

Think of the beautiful cover of The Great Gatsby or the iconic Lolita or the simplicity of the Godfather that manages to thrill you. Of course, book covers take on a different meaning once you’ve read the book. In my head, angst is the cover of J D Salinger’s Catcher in the rye, Harper Lee’s To kill a mockingbird will always make me feel homesick, DBC Peirce’s Vernon God Little always makes me feel wretched and Zen at the same time.

Colours, fonts (JK Rowling’s new book cover has two different fonts and it grates my eyes), images all contribute to the emotion they are trying to convey.

Here is some visual stimulation for you. Flavorwire has some great minimalistic book covers here, some book covers compared to their movie posters here and some book covers with exceptional design here.

The Hunger Games: How I went from sceptic to fan

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The Hunger Games: How I went from sceptic to fan

I’m something of a reading snob. There I said it. If a book is sensationalist, popular and making people exclaim wildly and in bad grammar over 8 million internet forums, there’s a big chance I won’t like it. Many times I’m right (cough Dan Brown cough) and I get to feel smug. Sometimes I’m wrong. Hello, Ms. Rowling.

And other times, well let’s just say, I get Suzanned. The Hunger games trilogy by Suzanne Collins had all the usual symptoms. Many internet forums, chatter about race prejudices, in-depth erudite sounding stories about young adult fiction and of course the series had TBHBT (The big Hollywood blockbuster ticket). I could totally tell where this was going. The jacket of the first book held a gushy fan-girl line from Stephanie Myers. I smirked. Man, it was going to be easy to hate this book.

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last year or so, The Hunger Game Trilogy takes place in the country of Panem where 12 districts are all governed by the evil Capitol. As punishment for a revolt against the Capitol many years ago, the hunger games is an event where a pair of adolescents, one boy and one girl from each district, get themselves into an arena and fight each other to the death. The whole thing is televised.

The first book, The Hunger Games, went okay but I can’t say I was sold on it. I was a little put off by the short sentences (so pedestrian) but I could deal with it. Besides it had strains of another dystopian novel I liked: Lois Lowry’s The giver. But dystopian novels for young readers follow a pretty standard arc. Oppressor. Confusion. Must overthrow said oppressor.

Let’s move on. The main character Katniss Everdeen was grim and unlikeable but real enough. The love triangle was annoyingly Twilight-ish. Will she go for nice-guy-baker-boy Peeta or stick with badass hunter buddy Gale? Interesting Trivia: the second one shoots and eats squirrels with ghastly relish. The book picked up as fewer tributes remained at the games and at last ended with a cliff-hanger. I could see the appeal but I wasn’t a fan. For one, no humour. And don’t blame the circumstances. Harry Potter was funny and so was Percy Jackson and their plots had them pretty screwed too. Also, is it just me or was there very little dialogue?

I spent time between book one and book two in complete conflict. Did I like it? Did I not?

When Sharanya waved Catching Fire, the second book in the series in front of me, my precise reaction was, “YAAAAAAAAAAAAY. I mean…. cool. Cool, I’ll just take it. I guess. I mean, if you’re done with it. Whatever.”

And I was glad she was. Catching Fire seduced me. A quarter quell, where there’s an upped version of the Hunger Games aka more bloody animalistic murder? Bring it. The Games Arena (spoiler alert) designed like a clock was a small bit of genius. And now there’s political intrigue and a romance that actually adds to the plot? Well done Ms. Collins, well done. Even sullen Katniss was beginning to redeem herself. She was getting tougher, angrier and she dealt with adolescent angst by going out and shooting stuff, a huge improvement on Bella Swan. There still wasn’t much improvement on the jokes. I forgave that. At the end of the second book, I wasn’t in conflict any more. Was I on board with this whole hunger games hysteria? Hell yes.

On to Book three. (This time, I fair snatched it out of Sharanya’s hand). Mockingjay had the stirrings of a bloody war and revolution, plot twists and so much more darkness and despair. Having one of the main characters brain-washed into near-villainy kept things lively.  And finally, oh finally, JOKES! There were funny bits. Mostly through a character called Johanna, who frankly, I’d have loved to see more of. Sarcasm. Wit. Banter. It’s like Suzanne Collins read my mind and gave me everything that was missing in the first book. Am I A Hunger Games fan now? Yes I am.

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