Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity by Sam Miller
St. Martin's, July 20, 2010
And I'm so glad I did. Delhi is an engrossing book, by turns romantic and down-to-earth. It takes the form of a travelogue: Miller sets out to walk through Delhi in a spiral, slowly moving out from the city's center at Connaught Place, and recording his impressions and encounters along the way. Miller is an appealing travel guide; a white Englishman married to an Indian woman from Mumbai, he's lived in India long enough to take the country's eccentricities in stride, but he's still enough of an outsider that he makes the reader feel they are discovering the city along with him. Delhi is a fascinating city with a long history and a rapidly approaching future, and Miller's many asides, footnotes and "intermissions" are as enlightening (and entertaining) as the journey itself.
Hidden away behind the construction site . . . is Agarsen's Baoli, central Delhi's oldest building. Six thousand years old, and built by the uncle of the Hindu god, Lord Krishna, according to its watchman. A mere seven hundred years old, according to historians. Agarsen was probably a thirteenth-century chieftain and a baoli is a rectangular step-well. Through a padlocked gate opened by a taciturn, bidi-smoking watchman, I climb up onto a large plinth from where one hundred stone steps lead down to the bottom of the well.
Although this is only my second visit, it is a view I have seen many times before, thanks to a Delhi photographer called Raghu Rai, with a Cartier-Bresson-like instinct for the decisive moment. In a photograph taken in 1976, a young boy is caught at the moment of launching himself from a wall into the waters of the baoli, a dive of at least twelve feet. Above loom some of the newly constructed high-rises of Tolstoy Marg and Barakhamba Road, but beneath is the ancient step-well. I ask the watchman if he has seen the photograph, and he stuns me by saying that he, Bagh Singh, grizzled and grey-haired, was that diving boy. He sends a young girl off to get a copy of the picture he has cut from a magazine and gets me to photograph him holding it. In the thirty years in which Bagh Singh has aged so rapidly, the water level at Agarsen's Baoli has fallen by twenty feet. A shortage of water is one of the biggest problems facing Delhi today.
The fall publishing season usually contains at least one blockbuster celeb bio. On the radar for 2010 is Keith Richards' Life, which will be released in October. Little Brown publisher Michael Pietsch calls it "the most exciting memoir I’ve ever had a hand in." He goes on to say
All those encounters and adventures we’ve heard of for decades—Redlands, Morocco, exile in France, Altamont—and the people—Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, Gram Parsons, Patti Hansen, Johnny Depp and more—are here in Keith’s own vivid memories. The best news of all is how superbly written this book is. [Richards collaborated with writer James Fox.]
If you had to guess which president was being described in those words . . . would you guess George Washington?
Maybe not, but the real man, not the legend, is who Ron Chernow is said to describe in Washington, out on October 5. Though this is also the angle Joseph Ellis took in 2004's His Excellency, Penguin representatives say that Washington is both a "landmark biography" and a "fabulous read." Since, like Ellis, Chernow is one of America's foremost biographers—he won the National Book Award in 1990 for The House of Morgan, his first book—this is likely. But given the high, high volume of "Founding Fathers" biographies published in the last few years, is there anything new to say about Washington? We'll find out when the galleys arrive . . .
Less than a year after the publication of South of Broad, Pat Conroy has signed a deal to write My Life in Books, a nonfiction account of the “people, writers and books that made him into the reader and writer he is today, from Tolstoy to Thomas Wolfe and beyond,” according to an announcement yesterday in Publisher’s Marketplace.
This will not be the best-selling author’s first foray into nonfiction. The Water Is Wide (1972) is based on his experiences as a schoolteacher, and in 2002, Conroy published My Losing Season, a memoir inspired by his senior year season as starting point guard on The Citadel’s basketball team. In 2004, he published The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life, which includes personal stories in addition to recipes.
No doubt My Life in Books will be eagerly anticipated; Conroy is a favorite of BookPage readers—South of Broad was our cover story in August (read a review of this “lush, remarkable new novel”), and we interviewed him in 2002 about My Losing Season.
I wonder how the book will be organized—chronologically based on what he was reading when? By author that inspired him? When Gay Talese (the husband of Conroy’s editor, coincidentally) described some of the stories and inspiration behind his books in 2006’s A Writer’s Life, I thought the result was a bit disjointed; he bounced from anecdote to anecdote, with long digressions thrown in. I hope Conroy’s book has a clearer narrative structure.
Will you read My Life in Books?
Ms. Johnson was the author of a memoir, It Is Well With My Soul: The Extraordinary Life of a 105-Year-Old Woman. Originally slated to be published on April 27, the book's publication date has now been pushed up to March 31. It tells the story of her life, from her early days in Dallas, Texas, living through segregation and the Jim Crow era, to her education (she was the oldest living black graduate of Case Western Reserve University), to her marriage and family life, to her values as a Good Samaritan, and up through her attendance at Barack Obama's presidential inauguration in January 2009.
Another remarkable African-American woman's life is celebrated in a memoir by Ann Nixon Cooper, whom Obama mentioned in his Election Day speech. Ms. Cooper's book, A Century and Some Change: My Life Before the President Called My Name, was also released mere weeks after her death. She passed away on Dec. 21, 2009, at 107 years old.
It's inspiring to read about these women and the incredible change they witnessed over the course of their lifetimes. If you're looking for a similar book, check out Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First Hundred Years, published in 1993. Although the Delany sisters, born in the 19th century, have also now passed away, we are lucky that all of these women have shared their stories with us.
Finally, a celebrity memoir that has a chance of being interesting! On Wednesday St. Martin's Press announced the acquisition of a memoir from Judi Dench, And Furthermore. As the press release puts it, "For the first time, Dench writes about her life, both on-stage and off, in a book that takes the measure of both her astonishing career and her private life. " The book will be published in October.
Dench made her acting debut in 1957 and has amassed a string of impressive credits in the years since. Seeing her name on a cast list feels like a guarantee of quality to me -- her turn as Lady Catherine de Bourg made the sub-par 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice worth watching (OK, Matthew MacFadyen helped with that too!). It's hard to say what role of hers is my favorite, but right now I'm going to go with Miss Matty Jenkyns in the Cranford adaptations. (I blogged about the series here.)
I'm also looking forward to her turn as Mrs. Fairfax in the upcoming version of Jane Eyre. (More on that here.)
Do you have a favorite Dench film? Has anyone seen her on stage? And will you read her memoir?
There's been no shortage of major books about political figures recently—think Going Rogue and Game Change, just for starters—but a few titles coming out this spring will be sure to generate even more interest in these very public lives.
President Obama may already have two books to his name, but David Remnick's The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama is the first major biography to be published about him. Remnick, who won the Pulitzer Prize for 1993's Lenin's Tomb, will cover both Obama's personal life (such as his relationship with his mother) and his political life. Says Paul Bogaards, executive director of publicity at Knopf, "Remnick conducted hundreds of on-the-record interviews to write the fullest narrative possible of a sitting President. He relies on conversations with family, friends, teachers, professors, mentors, donors, and rivals of Barack Obama––as well as with the President himself." Knopf will publish The Bridge on April 6th, with a first printing of 200,000 copies.
And a mere two weeks later, on April 20th, Gotham will publish Michelle Obama's brother Craig Robinson's family memoir, A Game of Character: A Family Journey from Chicago's Southside to the Ivy League and Beyond (Gotham). With a first printing of 250,000, Robinson's book promises to share his insights into developing that elusive quality known as "character," with stories about his and Michelle's childhood, growing up and eventual acceptance into Princeton University.
Finally, with a first printing of a whopping 750,000 (!), Laura Bush's memoir, Spoken From the Heart, will be released by Scribner on May 4th. There's very little official information to be found about this book—they aren't even sending out advance copies—but with numbers like that, expect this one to be HUGE.
If you saw this holiday season's hit movie The Blind Side, you may think you know all about Michael Oher, the young black man who was taken in by a well-off white family and eventually became a star left tackle on his high school football team, then for Ole Miss, and now for the Baltimore Ravens. If you read Michael Lewis' book of the same name (you can read an excerpt on the NYT website), you'll learn more about both Oher and the couple who adopted him, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy.
Now you can have the chance to hear about the Tuohys' experience in their own words. Publisher's Marketplace reports that the Tuohys' book (no title yet) will be published by Holt this summer, and will explore "the power of giving." Will you be interested to see what this extraordinary family has to say?
Related in BookPage: The power of giving is certainly a timely topic these days! Check out reviews of books on philanthropy and money management in our January feature, "Getting and Giving," or a review of The Power of Half, by an Atlanta family that sold their house and donated half of the proceeds to an organization working to end poverty and hunger in Ghana.
Earlier this week, Meghan McCain shared the title of her upcoming book on Twitter. (Read from the bottom up.)
I don't care how un-politically correct it is, I love walmart.
really sad to hear that @tyrabanks show is going off the air in 2010 but she says there are more projects in the works. she is such an icon
my dad made us pancakes and then took us to see a movie - I feel like I'm 14 again. we saw Sherlock Holmes, we all loved it but Dad LOVED IT
There's someone on my holiday list who would be a perfect match for this book—and she's not going to be happy that we're giving a copy away (sorry Grandma)! But in the spirit of Christmas that's exactly what we're doing. So, if you would like a charming little pocket guide to all those perplexing bird behaviors, complete with illustrations and sidebars, just leave a comment telling me what your favorite book in our science roundup is by Monday, December 28, and you could have The Bird-Watching Answer Book in your hands by the New Year.