Across my lap sits a fascinating work by Tzevetan Todorov called The Fear Of The Barbarians: Beyond The Clash of Civilizations where he confronts Europe’s slide towards xenophobia and Islamophobia and the abandonment of the principles of the Enlightenment (Todorov’s real interest is in this particular moment in European history and his The Imperfect Garden a wonderful exploration of the development of thought and ideal of that period, and their relevance and important to our modern age) that these attitude entail.

The Fear Of Barbarians By Tzevetan Todorov

And I can’t recommend enough Todorov’s earlier work The Imperfect Garden: The Legacy of Humanism

The Imperfect Garden By Tzetevan Todorov

And yes, I am reading it on a Kindle reader as a test to see if I eventually want to invest in a Kindle itself. My love of the book, the sheer pleasure of its presence in my hands, the ability to write within it, and the security of being able to hold it are hard to overcome. But as I prepare to spend the next many months working in India, I worry that I will not be able to carry as many books as I will want to read. I dearly hope that the Kindle can be even half as accessible and pleasurable as a physical book so that I can simply justify getting it, and being able to read voraciously and passionately during those many hours spent waiting for photographs.

The last some weeks have seen me explore America’s women writers, and I have been ensnared by Jennifer Egan’s hiliarious, poignant, and sad novel A Visit From The Goon Squad

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

She is one of a number of American women authors I am trying to examine and read. I am not sure why I have turned to them – perhaps a realization that I rarely read women writers, or that the sheer desperate gravity of so many of America’s ‘masters’ is becoming tiresome and disappointing. Recent works by Franzen, Roth, Delillo have left me completely unimpressed and unmoved. Worse, they have revealed a lack of creativity, compassion and curiosity about the world around them. So the women writers have proven more exciting perhaps because they seem less determined to write grand politically intelligent narratives and concentrate instead on the complexity of individual lives and small town experiences.

Pankaj Mishra expressed similar sentiments in a piece on American literature, and drew my attention to the works of America’s women writers like Picoult, Jane Smiley, Lorrie Moore, Shirley Hazzard, and Deborah Eisenberg. Some hours spent at the local bookstore had me coming home with Eisenberg’s collected works

The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg

On a different note, I do have in front of my a copy of Steinbeck’s The Pearl a book that has stood on my shelf for some years without my having read it. I can’t for the life of me remember why I never read it. But I am now.

The Pearl by Steinbeck

Wealth and greed destroys all – that is Steinbeck’s simple message in this lovely novella. And as I am reminded of this fact, I always turn towards those who may remind me of the other things in life that are worth fighting for. Edward Said’s Humanism and Democratic Criticism has been a long time favorite and once again sits in front of me as I remind myself of the completely naive, irresponsible, and as some would say, silly ideals and values that inform some of the works I am pursuing today

Humanism And Democratic Criticism by Edward Said

And there is more…a lot more – a return to Ayesha Jalal’s Self & Sovereignty and Bhabha’s Nation & Narration, Chatterjee’s Empire And Nation, Eqbal Ahmed’s selected writings and more. The latter all part of a process of turning my mind and eye back to the India project that has now seen a near nine month hiatus as a result of bureaucracy and logistics.