Where have all the reviewers gone?

How will Goa books get the attention they deserve if the media doesn’t talk about them when the titles hit the stands, asks FREDERICK NORONHA.

Where are all the book reviewers gone? Apart from the monthly magazine Goa Today, very few publications here give any decent space to focus on new books published in Goa.

Yes, Sunaparant reviews books, often Konkani. For the others, book reviews means looking at books published in some distant part of the globe, or in the mass market that is the rest of India. In such a context, who cares for books from Goa itself? Are we just destined to consume the thoughts that others churn out, rather than create some of our own?

Talking about which, there was this interesting discussion on the Goa Research Net [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/goa-research-net] the other day.

Dr Pramod Kale wrote: “Books are published in all kinds of languages all over the world; but a book in Engish, backed by a million dollar contract, certainly has feet and walks all over the earth!” Well said indeed.

Dr Kale has a 1967 PhD from the University of Wisconsin Madison, and in Goa he’s probably better known for his genuinely insightful essay on the Konkani tiatr (‘Essentialist and Epochalist Elements in Goan Popular Culture : A : Case Study of Tiatre’ Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. XXI No.47, November 22, 1986). He also has worked on a Chicago project about the dynamics of social and cultural change in Roman Catholic communities in Goa. And a video film ‘Chandor, a Roman Catholic Village in Goa : Habitat and Performances’, (30 minutes, colour, English narration), 1995.

But coming back to the issue of the printed word, and Goa.

After ages, I read a fascinating review of a Goa related book, on the Net the other day. It was written by my acerbic friend (and one-time classmate) Augusto Pinto of Moira. It was about Alfredo de Mello’s just-published book ‘From Goa to Patagonia: Memoirs Spanning Times and Spaces’.

And Augusto began it thus: “If I was Alfredo de Mello’s editor, the first thing I would have told him was to rename his book: The Autobiography of a Young Goan Fidalgo, and then subtitle it: Memories of the Son of Dr. Froilano de Mello, the Great Bamon Bhatkar of Benaullim.”

With the right mix of irreverence, admiration for the author and control over his language, Augusto made light of Goan Catholic idiosyncracies. This includes even issues like caste among the Catholic community, which is otherwise such a bugbear to deal with, either way one sees it.

Augusto ends his review saying: “In spite of these carpings I think this book is an excellent read which I’d heartily recommend.And I look forward to Volume 2.” In between he goes on to touch varied topics — Goan Catholic elites, and even that bound-to-raise-eyebrows topic of how Goan writers handle the issue of sex!

You can find the review here: http://augustoreview.notlong.com


Thanks to a mention in this column, I ran into author Odette Mascarenhas, a management consultant formerly with the Taj whose first book is well produced and written.

Goa books by you.

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Titled ‘Masci: The Man Behind the Legend’ is about her father-in-law, Miguel Arcanjo Mascarenhas. This is the story of how a simple man from a Goan village, Anjuna, went on to become a famed name in India’s cullinary history.

Just because her subject is her father-in-law should in no way detract from this book. It’s not just a puff piece.

‘Masci’ (an Anglicised short-hand for Mascarenhas, you guessed right) is an individual who deserves recognition. Like so many other Goans do, whose achivements across the globe just die unsung and get buried with their bodies.

Odette does a fine job in putting together a collection of photographs and clippings that portray the achievements of the man, who stares out from the neat cover in a chef’s garb.

She tells her story, as a fresher in the catering line in the Taj (in Bombay) in 1979: “My induction covered a host of areas and the most profound impact was in the kitchen… the reverence with which a single word was uttered, ‘Masci’…. I never really questioned the respect and awe that remained in the voices of some of the esteemed clients who patronized the Taj and made comments like ‘Masci would have done it like this’ or ‘No dish even left the kitchen without Masci tasting it first.'”

Unlike many hurriedly-published Goa books, this one has a classy get-up and is printed on fine paper. Its contents page gets called ‘the menu’ and apart from 131 pages on the man himself, pages 132 to 183 are devoted to recipes. Soups, entrees, breakfast, salads, the main course, the “Goan affair”, veg fair, snippets, and deserts. Fifty recipes in all.

A good book. But will it get the readership it deserves?


Panchayat Raj .... by you.

Madkai-based Peaceful Society, a Gandhian group, has been working at the grassroots for some time now. Often, they stay away from the publicity and hype that non-governmental organisations sometimes bask in. And they’ve done quite some work on panchayati raj issues.

Their newly published book ‘Panchayati Raj in India: Post 73rd Constitutional Amendment Scenario’ is an English-language edition of a national publication.

Its 13 chapters looks at various issues of ‘panchayati raj’, albeit from a national perspective. Hard-bound and 460 pages thick, this is a useful guide if you’re interested in issues related to panchayats.It was self-published by Peaceful Society, Kundai, Goa in a printrun of 500 copies (no price mentioned) and printed in Ahmedabad.

Talking about this organisation, their tiny booklets related to gram sabhas of panchayats and other matters (priced at a nominal Rs 5) have been very useful in spreading awareness at the grassroots level in Goa. That these publications are available for a free download from the Net only makes them more popular. For details email Kumar Kalanand Mani at peaceful_goa@sancharnet.in

This much for this week now. Feedback welcome: fred@bytesforall.org or 2409490 or 9970157402

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About fredericknoronha

Alt.Publishing. Journalism. Books. Cyberspace. Networking.


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