Can literature be a healer in a pandemic?

Hamlet tells Horatio:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

His words seem all too true today if you substitute science for philosophy. Who ever thought a virus transmitted by a bat could disrupt the whole world?


The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Harrowing, bleak and elegiac in turns, this Booker Prize winning novel of love and war is imbued with a fatalism that strangely resonates in this time of the coronavirus pandemic.

Books Poetry

In praise of PG Wodehouse

It feels like heaven,
To be reading PG Wodehouse again,
Hailed by critics one and all,
As the Garden of Eden before the Fall,


Jan Morris’ beautiful diary

Even in her 90s, Jan Morris remains a pleasure to read. I am re-reading her book, In My Mind’s Eye: A Thought Diary, first published in 2018, when she was 91 or 92 years old. And what a pleasure it is. She is observant as ever, recording her observations in beautiful prose. Filled with fond reminiscences, gentle humour and painterly descriptions, this is a diary of a happy and fulfilled life.


Not quite limericks

There is a gentleman in Beijing
By the name of Xi Jinping
With a burning ambition
And steely determination
To be the world’s uncrowned king.


Books Poetry

Unleash the poet within

Unleash The Poet Within
Is a primer for women
To try their hand at verse,
Though why it’s male-averse
I’ve no notion
Or explanation
For. Is the author,
Wendy Nyemaster,
A literary feminist,
A versifying specialist,
Intent on a sorority
Skilled in prosody,
But absolutely no time
To teach men to rhyme?


William Dalrymple,Bengal and East India Company

Did Bengal’s last independent ruler Nawab Siraj ud-Daula bring about his own downfall and pave the way for the British conquest of India by his attack on Calcutta, destroying the city? The question came to my mind after reading William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company.

Books Poetry

The poems of Philip Larkin

Often wry and dry, mocking and wistful in turns, sometimes even bitter and foul-mouthed, Philip Larkin is no Wordsworth, William Blake or Keats. He doesn’t go into raptures about love or nature or into spiritual ecstasy. He isn’t a poet who offers solace or comfort. And yet, as James Booth says in his book, Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love:


Shashi Tharoor: Inglorious Empire

I was surprised by Shashi Tharoor’s criticism of India’s parliamentary democracy in his book, Inglorious Empire. He himself is a member of parliament, elected to the Lok Sabha (the Lower House) from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala on a Congress party ticket. But Tharoor, who had been a minister of state when the Congress was in power, says the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy is unsuitable for India. He advocates a presidential system.


Jill Lepore: A history of America

Jill Lepore’s These Truths is a sweeping history of America from the founding fathers to Donald Trump. As she says, it’s a political history with very little military, diplomatic, social or cultural history though she does refer to the role played by journalism and technology. The internet, she says, has increased inequality and facilitated the spread of false news. Lepore covers recent history at considerable length, including the rise of Trump and the conservatives. She puts them in perspective.