Why Must There Be A Reader’s Guide?

I realize it may seem that I read books primarily under the categories: India.  And Jews.  Those interest me but it’s not always those I write comments about.  And if it seems that way, I shall widen the scope.

Caveat:  When a book includes a “Reader’s Guide” in the back – my advice is to ignore it.  Pass. Seriously.  Their Q&A’s astonish me.  I tend to avoid groups like the plague, but when it comes to “Reading Groups”, I think Ebola and  Spanish Flu.  Do folks really gather to discuss Oprah’s Book Club selections?  Why?  A lot of folks need Oprah to enhance their lives.  I am not one. And while I really don’t care for Jonathan Franzen after his books   The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion( these he wrote before ).  He is just too adored for reasons I cannot figure out. (Donna Tartt too).  But when he became exercised over the Oprah Seal of Approval –  on the cover of The Connections, I had to approve his ire. I read for pleasure.  I  like to form my own opinions and I find reading a solitary pleasure.

Some of the RG questions beggar belief.  I recently read a novel entitled A Bollywood Affair – a debut by a new voice in India and discovered a bodice ripper writ large (and well writ) that I read in full and wished I hadn’t.  No shade thrown on the author – I just was not prepared.  Neither did I notice the “Reading Group Guide”  mentioned on the back cover.  I promise the book deserved better.  None of the questions would have been sustained in any court. I was about to show you what I meant and could not do it.  All I can say is – dumbed down.  If it’s your drink of choice, by all means, read and respond, but I find they insult many reader’s intelligence.

Tarun J. Tejpal, an author new to me but clearly one who is respected by his readers in India.   The Story of My Assassins just arrived.  The story is true, slightly confusing but what a book.  No helpful glossary and his use of Hindi words and curses did indeed inspire me to look them up.  My own confusion arises from a belief on the author’s part, that the reader has some knowledge of Indian history and politics.  I have more than when I began and caught on to the rhythm as soon as my prior reading recall kicked in.. The event that prompted the book is factual but the layers of the events before and after are woven into a tight fabric set in Haryana, Delhi and other areas of Northern India.  Descriptions of the air in Delhi in previous books have stayed with me and I suspect much coughing and wheezing – and Delhi is not a favorite locale.but this book is a lulu. Political, parochial, authentic and alarming – highly recommended for the story and the writing. Lots of sex, violence, cursing, Hindi and unshuttered windows for closer looks at the India between now and then. (It has been compared to the White Tiger and Slumdog Millionaire*;  I find this book far more intricately delivered and much larger in scope.  (Tejpal is also the founder of the Indian news magazine Tehelka.)  It does have a damn reader’s guide but I am not certain why.  I realize however that I must read the Mahabharata and the Gita.  One hopes there are versions for each in the category of “For Idiots”.

Because I have Lubavitchers as close friends and know their daughters from birth to their marriages and children, Mystics, Mavericks and Merrymakers by Stephanie Levine was truly a joy and allowed me to answer questions I would not feel comfortable asking even these women so close to me. Within this community; so many personalities and viewpoints. Much like the six girls of my friend.  I saw each one in the profiles and it added to the pleasure of this book.  Well cited and indexed (I love indices) and within the cites – other titles to explore

Fire and Fury remains infuriating.  And still best in small servings. Looking forward to picking up yet another look at the man In the White House as measured by over two dozen mental health pros. And no, I did not watch the SOTU.

 

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  • *I read Slumdog as “Q&A” before it was renamed