Stuff I’ve been reading

April 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

I just finished R.L. LaFevers’ Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris last night. Plucky, loveable female protagonist with lots of gumption and smarts; Egyptian lore and magic with highly detailed descriptions on how to ‘ward off’ curses; walking mummies; annoying, pretty, pinching governesses; absent yet loving parents – all the ingredients of a very fun  and engaging children’s book. This one is a lot thicker than the first book, Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, but it’s no more ponderous. 400 pages, practically – but as opposed to say, some of the Harry Potter books, I’m not skimming through chunks of prose to get to the good parts. It’s all good!

Also been dipping in and out of Blaft’s awesome Where Are You Going You Monkeys?: Folktales from Tamil Nadu. The stories are just what you would expect from folk tales – irreverent, funny, and fizzy. The good folks at Blaft have included a great introduction by the collector/archivist Ki. Rajanarayan that places these tales in a much-welcome context. Kudos to the translator, the awesome Pritham K. Chakravarthy, who’s also done other books for Blaft. Her translation maintains the flavour of the time and place (or what one imagines is the flavour of the time and place!) while using fresh, pulsing language that fairly moves around the page with confident energy. These are no staid, slow, and plodding folk tales for the bored and the aimless. These are tales of women blooming out of ripe mangoes, gods unable to control their wayward subjects, and brinjals that taste too damn good. A lot of the stories focus on the concept of justice; or the ‘eye for an eye’ type lesson that everyone needs to learn. Lots of it also focus on animals who possess a greater sense of integrity than their human counterparts, as in the case of ascetic who becomes fully man-like in his inclinations only after his sexual desires have been fanned by the flames of another woman, and thus is able to be cruel to the snakes whom he promised to protect. Or there are gods fumbling about for some measure of control, marrying their godly daughters off to stone pillars but still being unable to dictate how the story ends. It’s fine stuff, and I enjoy reading a tale or two before I sleep.

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