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Rediff.com  » News » Kiran Desai, Pankaj Mishra on New York Times' Top 100 books

Kiran Desai, Pankaj Mishra on New York Times' Top 100 books

December 04, 2006 12:55 IST
Six weeks after winning the Man Booker Prize for her second novel, The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai is hardly out of the news.

She appeared with her mother, the novelist Anita Desai, last week on America's prestigious National Public Radio where the two writers were interviewed for over 15 minutes.

Kiran Desai wins the Booker

This week, Desai's book is among the 100 Notable Books of the Year chosen by the prestigious The New York Times Book Review.

The top 100 books are divided into fiction, poetry and non-fiction.

The only other Indian writer featured on the list is Pankaj Mishra in the non-fiction section, with his Temptations of the West: How to be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet and Beyond.

Others on the list include master writers like John Updike, whose Terrorist revolves around an American high school boy, half-Irish, half-Egyptian, who is intoxicated by Islamic radicalism. There is also Julian Barnes, whose Arthur and George was inspired by the struggles of a Parsi immigrant falsely charged of witchcraft, and how Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, helped him.

The beleagured Parsi is George Edalji, son of a Parsi vicar settled in the United Kingdom and a Scottish mother.

Also on the list is Collected Poems, 1947-1997 by Allen Ginsberg (HarperCollins). The Ginsberg book is out just as America celebrates the 50th anniversary of his protest poem, Howl. The famous Ginsberg, who called himself JeBu (Jewish Buddhist), was inspired by the Baul singers of Bengal.

In Temptations of the West, Mishra offers travelogues with deep insights into a subject that has worried and engaged him for over two decades: the conflict generated between Westernisation and centuries of local cultures.

The book follows his An End to Suffering: the Buddha in the World. The earlier book, published two years ago, also reflected his worries over rapid Westernisation and globalisation.

In the new book, he revisits Bollywood and Mumbai's strong middle class and observes radical Hindu and Muslim activism in several parts of India. He also looks at the Chinese government, officially atheist, but which packages Buddhism in Tibet to lure Western tourists.

Also included on the 100 Notable Books list is a riveting memoir, which is also a travelogue and love story. Eat, Pray and Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia tells Elizabeth Gilbert's story of the mysteries of sensuality, prayers and love.

Following a terrible divorce, Gilbert, an American in her early 30s, divides a year equally among three countries. In Italy, she enjoys the world's best pizza, free-flowing wine and meets colourful people.

'I came to Italy pinched and thin,' she writes, but she also puts on weight to nobody's surprise. Then in an ashram in India she is equally enthusiastic about prayer and ascetic rigour as she was with sensuous pleasures in Italy.

She spends many hours a day following yogis and intricate yoga positions. Finally, she says she has a balancing act in Bali, where Gilbert studies with a medicine man and suddenly falls in love.

Arthur J Pais in New York