I am a subscriber to some literary journals published in India. Of course, I am a reader of some of the world’s leading literary review journals, notably, the 100 and odd year old Times Literary Supplement, TLS of great fame. TLS has been a reading habit with me, now, I don’t know for how many years. Perhaps, as long as I have been in Oxford and it is a long time indeed.

This attachment to TLS has grown with me in time and perhaps my reading habits and my reading tastes and my literary appreciation must have been impact by the TLS style of writing and the TLS way of looking at things, mostly literary.

TLS review of the classics, philosophy, poetry and of course much of history and biographies have been my staple reading and I have greatly benefited by reading these pages.TLS also helps me to keep in touch with the latest publications, in particular the Oxford philosophy titles, my special interest.

But then there are of course the equally the British appetite for book reviews, an all their journals and newspapers. The Guardian reviews lately have not been up to my tastes, they seem to be shallow and cater to the tastes of the current average British newspaper reader. I like the Spectator book reviews and even get these pages often xeroxed so that I can read them at leisure. The Newstatesman was my youthful pursuit, I knew Kingsley Martin and I also used to write letters to it as an Oxford undergraduate, I became a Fabian Socialist and I invited once Mr.Martin to speak to Oxford Indian and Pakistani joint Majlis meeting and so I became familiar with all the Socialists of yore, Julian Stratchy, Victor Gollanz and other India hands from Pethick Lawrence to others. Now, as for the Newstatesman reviews, yes, I like to glance at them. That is all. There are others in the Nature and even in The Economist and other British journals. I read them, yes, now and then. That is all. As for sustained interest I still confine myself to TLS.

After all I tell myself that life is short and you have to pick and choose, don’t you?

Now, as for keeping up myself with updated what is happening inside India I just pay my subscriptions to some journals I pick once or twice when I visit  some five star hotel bookstalls.

That is how I got to get the addresses of a few journals.

One is The Book Review published by a trust. The other is the Biblio: A review of books. As for others and other fields, for literature I subscribe now to the Sahitya Akademy’s Indian Literature.

I was one of the early subscribers of this journal. In fact, I still possess the first copy of the first edition of the Indian Literature when the great Krishna Kripalani (an old Santiniketan hand, was the Secretary. I also knew Prabakar Machwe, a dear friend who introduced me to the world of other language literary names.

I also subscribe now to the Chennai-based music magazine, Shruti.
Yes. I also subscribe to a variety of small magazines in the languages, more for the patronage they need than for anything else.

There are very active groups of poets, short story writers and even language enthusiasts and the extremists of various categories, Marxists, Tamil nationalists and others, Dalit causes and much else.

As for the English learned journals, the Book Review is okey, it is mostly written in an academic language that is very trying on your nerves!
The current and latest one issue, a review on Amrita Shegil by Laila Tyabji is perhaps the best written review for a long time. I enjoyed Ms.Tyabji’s writing style, so polished and so chaste a language and it shows her maturity of mind and a cultivates sense of urbanity and sophistication. It was an enjoyable half an hour!

One example:”All previous writing on Amrita and her art has tantalized, inspired, raised questions, enthralled, exasperated-while conveying only a pale shadow of her brilliant and many faceted self. These two volumes encompass all dimensions, and are deeply, deeply satisfying. There is sadness, delight and gratitude”.

Vivan Sundaram, the nephew of Amrita and the editor of the volumes, must have got a great satisfaction to get such a favourable review from one who is very competent to say what she says.

The Biblio is another literary review journal from Delhi and this trust is also one with eminent names.

Obviously by looking into the very famous names on the trusts of these journals, I wondered why they retain the names that are no more living!
May be there is some snob values for such names.
It is time to be very smart as well as modest and be natural.
Unfortunately anything that comes out of the New Delhi classes, the middle classes are all pretentious.

There is one, the Oxford Cambridge Society of which two of our family members are also members.

Perhaps, this society consisting of some of the most paranoid minds is a reflection of the very artificial and also very insecure world of the New Delhi’s new and old middle classes!

They put the two British Prime Ministers, one and his deputy and at the same breath put Dr.Manmohan Singh and then bring in Rahul Gandhi (to show off  or to cultivate favours?) as they  would be  Deputy Prime Minister!

So, I find the retaining of names long gone, K.R.Narayanan or K.N.Raj or Sham All (the Biblio) is somehow in bad taste and sounds all the enterprises a very bogus exercise!

Anyway, the Biblio is better organised editorial wise and there are some very well-written literary pieces. I enjoyed reading “Imagining the nation in Hindi and Urdu (perhaps we won’t have such writings anywhere else and we need such reviews to focus more on the Indian side of the issues) and give the Indian personality a new priority vs. the Western inspired writing mostly. Another review that caught my attention in the first place is Jaithirtha Rao on Meghnad Desai’s Rediscovering India.

I had already read the book and I consider the book an original contribution to the understanding of where we stand as a nation. Of course, I had also read the intemperate attack of Mani Shankar Ayer on this book for Deasis, rightly in my opinion, focused on the primacy given to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty as spelling danger to the polity.

There is a review by Inder Malhotra, the veteran editor of Pranay Gupte’s 597 page book Mother India: A political biography of Indira Gandhi. I had read the book. It is boring. Nothing new we don’t know.

Malhotra too didn’t say anything new by way of new insights or wisdom. Indira Gandhi corrupted not the political system; she almost created the new, current politics without any principles. So, the current rich, criminal and corrupt and dynastic elements totally created a meaningless polity.
We need emphasis on the deterioration of governance, the sheer absence of any rationale for a man like Manmohan Singh to hang on as a shadowy character behind the veil of Sonia Gandhi!

The music journal, Shruti is a serious journal devoted to Carnatic music. The trouble is it is so obsessed with Mylapore centric music!
A great pity.

Music, modern day classical music needs some cosmopolitan outlook, some modernity in covering an all India perspective, if not an international perspective.

Indian Literature, published by Sahitya Akademy, is plainly unreadable! Its English language is so academic and the writing style, especially for the literary magazine must be simple and translucent!

It is time Sahitya Akademy either changes its format or stops the publication once for all! Some relief at least!

Image Source : latimesblogs.latimes.com

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