Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Catchup! 2011 Book Festival

More of the notes I never got round to converting into proper reviews, this time from last year's Edinburgh Book Festival.

Ben Meznich (author of The Accidental Billionaires and Sex On The Moon)

Ben Mezrich - interviewed by Decca Aitkenhead - "narrative non-fiction". Changes names, recreates dialogue, alters chronology but never invents incidents. (So what if Mark Zuckerberg wasn't interviewed? Neither was Socrates when Plato wrote about him.) You have official records and other parties' interviews. New book "Sex On The Moon" - basically a student prank gone over the line. Rogers did 7.5 years for trashing a professor's notebooks; Ben genuinely doesn't know who is telling the truth but it seems out of character.

British reviewers seem more comfortable with BM's genre and style than US ones.

Enjoys the "method writing" research, then the writing is a chore.

Now gets all kinds of crazies pitching stories: doesn't want to do another crime (Julian Assange got in touch!)

Unfair criticism but responding would worsen things.

Stories he would have liked to do: world's biggest brothel in a Chinese Sheraton, different girl for each room. Wife vetoed. As with story of the madam in US Congressman high-class call-girl shagging case.

Mark Tully (author of India: The Road Ahead)

Corruption and bureaucracy

Dynasties in S Asian politics (Sonia Gandhi already grooming Rahul)

Pakistan - the army calls the shots. If no longer has India as enemy, people will start to question the money spent on it. Again, if India concedes too much on Kashmir (its only Muslim-majority state) people will say if Muslims in Kashmir don't want to stay in India why not expel them all?

Caste - will never be eradicated (we have it with all our Old Etonians) but is becoming less important. Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh is a former Dalit, and a woman to boot.

Indian federalism v Chinese centralism

Relations between religions. In India 15% Muslim and nearly as many Christian, and hardly any tension in everyday life. Multiculturalism working perfectly. Contrast the BBC discussion about whether we should stop sending Christmas cards with the Hindu president (?) hosting Christmas dinner for Christian children.

Difference between Indian culture and occidental culture is Indian insistence that there is no one true way to God or to anything else: a discursive culture which abjures excess and goes for the middle way. Whereas in the west our religions promote a single truth (interestingly he classed Islam as a Western religion, which to an Indian I suppose it is!) and we tend to believe we have the right answer and everyone else is wrong.


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