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What's trending or not in our bookshelves this week

As Amazon readies to close Westland Publications, here are some of their recent non-fiction titles that you could pick up

The front covers of the books
The front covers of the books

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Subversions: Essays On Life and Literature by Shashi Deshpande; Selected and Compiled by Nancy E. Batty and Dieter Riemenschneider; 284 pages, Rs. 599

“With the birth of the writer, the paralysing confusion in the woman ended,” writes Shashi Deshpande. The sharp line sneaks up on the reader in A Balancing Act, an essay in which she traces how women’s rights and circumstances have changed—while dishearteningly remaining the same in many cases. This personal essay, in the second section titled Women, Writing And Empowerment, draws upon observations and experiences that make it relatable and readable—and leave the reader with much to ponder. There are four other sections: The Role And Identity Of The Writer; Writers, Readers, Critics And Reviewers; Texts And Genres; and Places Recalled, And Writers Remembered. Selected from previously published works and speeches by the academics Nancy E. Batty and Dieter Riemenschneider, the essays are, however, a mixed bag. Some even seem too basic to be from the pen of a literary force such as Deshpande—perhaps these are more dated than the editors believed them to be.

The Cinema of Satyajit Ray by Bhaskar Chattopadhyay; 314 pages, Rs. 499

Bhaskar Chattopadhyay is an author and screenwriter who has translated 14: Stories That Inspired Satyajit Ray and has novelised the 1966 Ray film Nayak. In his new book, he addresses Ray’s work more directly. The Cinema Of Satyajit Ray is divided into two broad sections. The first has short, jargon-free essays by Chattopadhyay, originally written for the online portal Firstpost, on each of Ray’s 39 films. The second has interviews with critics, academics, actors (including Sharmila Tagore) and directors on Ray’s legacy. Chattopadhyay’s assessments of the films can be a bit breathless but he’s clearly conversant with Ray’s oeuvre. What’s missing is the insight a film critic might have brought to the mini-essays: an awareness of what was going on in world cinema at the time, and a more descriptive appreciation of the many filmic achievements (phrases like “technical wizardry” and words like “brilliant” and “beautiful” recur). Those getting started on Ray’s films would, nevertheless, find this a useful primer.

The New BJP: Modi and the Making of the World's Largest Political Party; by Nalin Mehta; 808 pages, Rs. 999

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) evoke a range of reactions. Journalist and political scientist Nalin Mehta, however, sets aside emotions and biases to objectively examine the factors that led to the growth of the BJP over the past 15 years. Clocking 800-plus pages, it’s a weighty volume that looks beyond the narrative of Hindutva politics. Using the data-led tools he has formulated, alongside research and interviews with party leaders, social scientists and journalists, Mehta explains that the party has grown beyond its core base under Modi, and that contrary to popular belief, it’s not a party that appeals only to urban, upper-caste, privileged Hindu men. Clever caste coalitions, the careful building of a voter base of women, and the cultivation of a perception of being welfare-driven have created a party that wins elections. Being too dispassionate as a writer, especially on politics, can be a double-edged sword, however—and that’s the concern with this book.

Also Read: From a dive into the history of Indian independence, to a look at the state of our prisons, and more


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