Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Reading of The Glass Palace, novel by Amitav Ghosh – Nov 28, 2008

Indira, Jeena in blue crocs, KumKum, Amita, Talitha, Bobby 

In the midst of the Mumbai terror the Kochi Reading Group met to find some solace in literary matters. It was the reading of The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh, set in Burma, India, and Malaya, starting with the exile of King Thebaw of Burma and continuing beyond World War II.

Jeena reading, Indira and KumKum listening

 This was one of the most intense and interesting novel reading sessions ever held by us. And this, in spite of the fact that the majority of readers delivered a poor opinion of the novel. Their musings and the debates concerning the characters in the novel, and the themes addressed, may be read in the full account, linked below:
 Record of Reading on Nov 28, 2008 - The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

 Thommo, Indira, Jeena, KumKum, Amita, Talitha, Bobby

The next session will be Poetry on Friday Jan 23, 2009 at 5:30 pm.

Happy Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you, our dear readers of the group and those on the Web! Send in your comments by clicking at bottom right.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Poetry Session of Oct 10, 2008 and Membership

Indira and Penny in conversation, KumKum, Amita

Indira and Bobby as the founding members discussed and came up with ideas of how to qualify people for membership in future. A statement of what we do at the KRG and the commitment required from intending members was handed out to everyone as a laminated template. The fiction session is demanding in time (15 to 20 hours just to read the novel chosen) and then more time to prepare your reactions, critique, and comments for the session. It is a group commitment: since we benefit from the effort of others, we too have to put in our own effort. Poetry is only slightly less time consuming. It needs a fair amount of reading of the chosen poet before one begins to feel the unique rasa of the poems.

We would like people to self-select whether they should join the KRG or not, by presenting the laminated template for them to read. We also have a numbers limitation imposed by how much time we can devote at a sitting (max 2 hours) and the seating space of our DC Books niche (~12 people).

Other matters
Nov 28, 2008 will be the date for reading Amitava Ghosh's novel The Glass Palace.

An expanded version of the KRG charter is attached below:

The record of our discussions at the stimulating poetry session on Oct 10 is here:

Joe, Shobha, Indira, Penny, KumKum, Amita, and Bobby

Monday, September 8, 2008

Reading of Anil’s Ghost, novel by Michael Ondaatje – Sep 5, 2008

KumKum reads the passages on how Anil got her name - Indira, Jeena, Penny, KumKum, & Amita

The session to read and discuss Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje was stimulating. Everyone benefited from the reactions and observations of others, pointing out obscure things within the novel, and sharing experiences from personal knowledge of Sri Lanka, our nearest neighbour country from Kochi.

The session was notable for the range of commentary. The singular events in the novel, the angular attributes of the heroine, and the unusual make-up of the secondary characters in the novel, were cause for reactions, ranging from admiration of the poetic descriptions to critique of the novel's weaknesses.

Penny, KumKum, Amita, and Talitha at the reading

The intensity of the participation at this reading, and the rich commentary illustrates why everyone is eager for these sessions.

The next session (Poetry) will take place on Oct 10, 2008, same place, same time! Please prepare.

A detailed account of the course of our thoughts as we read from Anil's Ghost is linked below:

Thommo, Rajan, Shobha, Ammini Amma, Jeena & Indira after the reading

Friday, August 22, 2008

Madras Book Club releases book 'Historic Residences of Chennai' by V. Sriram

Mr S. Muthiah (left) receives the first copy of the book Historic Residences of Chennai from S. Vijayaraghavan. Author V. Sriram is at right.

Audience in the Ball Room of the Taj Connemara Hotel gathered to witness the release of the book Historic Residences of Chennai

Joe & KumKum attended a Madras Reading Club event when a book by V. Sriram titled Historic Residences of Chennai was released on the occasion of the 369th anniversary of Madras. It has been called the First City of Modern India, established by a grant of land from two local Nayaks (leaders) to Andrew Cogan and John Day of the John Company on August 22, 1639. Thus it antedates both Bombay (1661) and Calcutta (1690).

Copies of Sriram's handsome book printed on art paper with full-page pencil sketches of 50 dwellings (by a young artist, V. Vijayakumar) were given free to all the attendees - about 400 people attended at the Ball Room of the Taj Connemara Hotel. The publication was underwritten by the business group, Sanmar. Every residence is described on the page facing the sketch with a historical account in English and Tamil. Mr Sriram, the author, is an entrepreneur in software and hydraulics, but his intense interest in music and preservation of tradition has inspired him to write three books about exponents of Carnatic music. And now this volume on heritage.

Mr S. Muthiah, a well-known figure in the heritage and preservation of Chennai, and self-styled 'Chronicler of Madras', received the first copy. He writes in the preface to the Seventh Edition of his book, Madras Rediscovered, that "there are heartening signs that heritage and history are being paid attention to." His book of 450 odd pages has been touted as the best guidebook to the city, with many black & white photographs and maps.

Joe & KumKum met the Ms Jayanthi of the Madras Book Club, who reaffirmed her invitation to the Kochi Reading Group to attend their functions, free of charge. Incidentally, they charge Rs 600 per year from their members. Before the event the Book Club served coffee/tea, gulab jamuns, etc. in the regal surroundings of the Ball Room of the Connemara Hotel.

A couple of photos are shown above, and here is an account of the event as it appeared in The Hindu of Aug 18, 2008:

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Poetry Session of Oct 22, 2007 and some archival pictures

Here is another record from our Archives of the Poetry session held on Oct 22, 2007, when we recited from these poets: George Mac Beth, Robert Browning, ee cummings, T.S. Eliot, Stewart Conn, Arun Kolatkar, Rainer Maria Rilke, Edwin Brock, and Vikram Seth.

Click on:


Some pictures from the archives too:

A House for Mr Biswas by Naipaul; discussing are Indira Outcalt, Thomas Chacko (Thommo), the late Manjoo Menon, Jeena Thomas, KumKum (hidden), Joe and Bobby Paul George on July 17, 2006.

Bobby Paul George, Joe, Grace George, Rajeev, Indira, KumKum, Gopa David, Salim David listen as Joe discusses Seamus Heaney's translation Beowulf -- Aug 9, 2006.

Bobby George, Joe, Grace George, Rajeev, Indira, KumKum, Gopa David, Salim David discussing a poem with Indira leading - Poetry Session on Aug 9, 2006.

Bobby, John Mitchell (Australian) with no trace of Oz accent, Hélène no trace of her Belgian accent, Indira no trace of her Princeton accent, & KumKum with hints of her Bengali accent, at the Poetry Session on January 10, 2007.

Madras Book Club News

The Madras Book Club has been meeting for the longest time. As a book club their main activity is holding talks and readings by visiting authors, and sponsoring talks on the occasion of book releases, and so on. About 200 or so attend their meetings on average, which are held at the Connemara Hotel, Anna Salai (Mount Road), the Binny Room. Attendance at the Madras Book Club events is open to Kochi Reading Group members on a reciprocal basis. Our events will be circulated to their members also.

If any of our members happen to visit Chennai, they can attend. The next two scheduled events of the Madras Book Club are:

1st August - 6.30 p.m. - Discussion on The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction - discussion by Sadanand Menon and Pritam Chakravarty

17th August - 10.30 a.m. - Madras Week celebration (369th birthday of Madras) - release of a new book on Chennai Heritage Homes, sponsored by Sanmar Group.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Poets, Poems & Discussions at the Poetry Session on July 18, 2008

You can see us gathered above, L to R: Thomas Chacko (Thommo), Tanya Kurisingal, Penny Shepherd, KumKum Cleetus, Paul George (Bobby), Talitha Mathew, Amita Palat, & Indira Outcalt - Joe Cleetus was taking the picture

You will find an account at the URL:

Kochi Reading Group begins life on the Web

The Kochi Reading Group has been meeting for the past two years.

The leading spirits at the beginning were Paul George ('Bobby') at whose bookshop, Just Fiction, the sessions used to be held; Indira Outcalt whose enthusiasm for literature kept it going with the participation of several keen Kochi readers of English literature; and the late Manjoo Menon, grand seigneur of matters cultural in Kochi. Here is a news item from The Hindu newspaper about the early origins of the group reported by Priyadarshini Sharma:

The picture on the archival website of The Hindu is badly distorted. Here is the original picture

Bobby Paul George, Nina Nayar, Jeena Mathew and KumKum Cleetus smiling at JustFiction book discussion of 'Snow' by Orhan Pamuk on Feb 16, 2007

In various sessions we have also recited poetry translated from German, Marathi, Bengali, Oriya, and Sanskrit.

DC Books on Chittoor Road (opposite the YMCA) in Ernakulam have offered a cosy corner of their large bookstore for our reading sessions; we shall be meeting there henceforth. Our reading group is small, having 12 members now. We focus at alternate sessions on Poetry & Fiction. For fiction events we all read the same chosen novel and come together to read extracts and discuss. For Poetry each of us chooses a poet and tells something about her/him and recites a couple of poems. There is plenty of enriching discussion that follows. At the recent session on July 18, 2008 we had poems from Kipling, Keats, Arnold, Dylan Thomas, Carol Ann Duffy, Sitakant Mahapatra, Kahlil Gibran, and Barbara Reiher-Meyers. A report will be posted here later with some pictures.

Our next meeting is on Sept 5, 2008 at 5-30 pm and we are going to be reading from Michael Ondaatje's novel, Anil's Ghost.