Margery Allingham and Agatha Christie were contemporaries through most of their writing career. She wrote 27 novels in the ‘whodunnit’ genre with Campion, as her gentleman detective. He is listed alongside Christie’s Poirot in all the lists of famous fictional detectives. This was a favorite genre and I was rather partial to Campion in my younger days. So, out of curiosity I picked up this slim book of
The second book I read this week on Kindle was Bernard Malamud’s ‘The Assisstant’ – from the TIME list of 100 books. Malamud, along with Philip Roth and Saul Bellow, were great 20th century American authors and had in common that they were Jews and recorded the angst of post-was anti-Semitism in wonderful books. ThIs is the first Malamud book I’ve read – and the simplicity of the story, the rootedness of the characters and the basic issues of life that are dealt with are penned in simple short and elegant sentences. It is absolutely in contrast to the Roth style, which I refereed to in the context of his book “American Pastoral’.
This is a story about simple people struggling to make their lives better in a world of bad luck. Morris Bober, who runs a grocer,y store in a mixed neighborhood, his wife, Ida, and their daughter, Helen live a hard life filled with poor luck and disappointment. Frank Alpine, a footloose Gentile with an ambivalent attitude to Jews strolls into their lives and becomes becomes Morris Bober’s assistant. Frank Alpine, the alien and outsider, falls in love with Helen, and becomes a kind of redeemer. with taut, lyrical descriptions of people and scenes Malmud creates simple people who are memorable and real as rock without any concession to sentimentality or theatrics to render them so. A beautiful book.
But this week was more than just about reading. As I have often recorded, I am the keen reader I am mostly due to my early initiation by my father. And I had talked about his collection arriving from Chennai a few weeks ago. Gurgaon being as dusty as it is I needed covered shelving – and my order with Urban Ladder arrived ( after delays and some hiccups) a couple of weeks ago.
I wanted to make an inventory as I unpacked and was procrastinating as I was not sure how this would happen. I did look for and found some Apps – when coincidentally, a friend talked of an App that she was aware of people using successfully. So I downloaded LIBIB and started the exciting summer project of filling these shelves. All you have to do is to enter the ISBN code and App recovers all the details – but there has been a catch. Most of my father’s collection are dating back to the pre-ISBN era (1940s, 50s and 60s) and these need manual input – a slower process. So it will keep me going for a while – I have started with English Fiction of which he had a large collection. I am looking forward to reading and in many cases re-reading Edna O’Brien. Doris Lessing, John Masters, Joseph Conrad, the Mitfords and the Waughs et al……