A Final Call in Calcutta

My last bit of work business in Kolkata was accompanying the Consul General on a farewell call. At 4:15pm, I clambered aboard the lightly-armored, black Land Cruiser and we creaked our way 2 miles or so through the Maidan to Raj Bhavan, the office and home of Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi. Continue reading →


The Life of Kuma Kuma

One of Q’ool’s favorite books is La Vie de Kuma Kuma, a story in French.  I read it to him every Friday night.  Yesterday, Q’ool brought it from from the bedside bookshelf, opened it, and said:

‘My friend Kuma Kuma lives on the mountain far way.’

‘It’s not easy to get there.’

‘He eats salad.’

‘He’s making his coffee.’

‘He read magazines at the book store.’

‘He carries his bags.’

He’s sweeping the floor.’

‘Kuma Kuma cuts fingernails and looks at them.’

‘He’s sliding on the roof.  Watch out! Be careful!’

‘Ohhh, it’s raining! Kuma Kuma go inside!’

‘He’s rolling on the floor.’

‘Kuma Kuma writes long letters after dinner.’ (my favorite)

‘Time for bed!’

‘The end.’

It’s amazing.  He’s not reading, he’s telling the story.  So Q’ool.

A Mediocre Medium

Sometimes, as I anguish over the number of books, articles, blogs, Op-Ed pieces, reviews, and commentaries that I attempt to read, just sometimes, I recall a simple truth: I love words. That passion, which is not expressed in any knowledge of poetry nor in an ability to rattle off and insert literary quotations into my everday speech, is why I cannot escape the desire to tap on computer keys or dangle a pen from my fingers or carry around a scrap of notebook.  This is a constant presence — the belief that I may have something to write. Continue reading →

Sometimes You Just Know

Like on the wonderful 1989 Chicago summer day when I sat in dappled sunlight and read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day in one sitting, it’s occasionally possible to sense a book that you’ll love from a combination of the first few pages, some serendipity, and the physicality of the book itself.  I’ve been purchasing up a flock of books during my last weeks in Kolkata (hardbacks for the price of paper), but an article in the NYT caught my eye about Joesph O’Neill, whose new book Netherland was released May 20.  The article wasn’t about his book so much as it was about his subject.  Cricket in post 9/11 New York City.  I placed an order post-haste.  The fresh-cut pages are in my hands now, it’s in my bag on the way to the office, and I’ve been half-tempted to close my door and read at my desk.  One of the first character’s names mentioned in the novel is “Ramkissoon.”  Say it to yourself, over and over.  Ramkissoon.  Ramkissoon. Ramkissoon.

I’m going to go out on an aging, weathered limb and predict that I’ve found 2008’s Book of the Year.