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What Are You Reading Currently? [OFFICIAL THREAD]

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No.

You're saying this as a hanger-on of a white convert from a white country.

Ignore the content of the argument and juggle with words in a dull show of buffoonery. That's what you are good at doing. Characteristically baradar_jackson. *chuckles*

Come back when you have something to add. We shall talk.

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I was so distracted by Kadhim's epic Pahlavi-estyle anti-Arab post that I forgot to respond to this.

I have often heard this point being made in Western documentaries on the DPRK: that the government of the DPRK propagates the idea to its people that it is a paradise and that life could not possibly be better than it is in the DPRK.

This is not true, and I will explain why.

Firstly, let's understand one thing: the government of the DPRK does not derive its legitimacy from anything material. Perhaps this case could be made in the 1960s, when the North Korean people were the only people in the Third World to have full literacy, full employment, free universal healthcare, free universal housing, and reliable food rationing. (This was while South Koreans were languishing under a sub-Saharan African economy). But after the famine in the mid-1990s, if they had staked their legitimacy in material well-being, certainly they would have collapsed.

Secondly, it is a misnomer that the government in the DPRK shuts off all information from its public. This simply isn't possible. During the famine, there was the issue of people crossing into China to bring back food. (With them, they also most certainly brought back information about Chinese prosperity). But there is also the free trade zones (which were established before the famine; in the 1980s). Even ignoring these sources of information about the foreign world, you have North Korean state media acknowledging the economic prosperity of the South. You have KCTV -- during Kim Jong-il's visit to China in 2001 -- showing footage of Kim in a Chinese worker's house, television sets and stereos in plain sight. (Televisions are a luxury item in the DPRK; only two million people out of a 24 million population own one).

So North Koreans all are aware that their country is poor. Their loyalty has nothing to do with material conditions in the country.

Inshallah I will explain more on this later.

Adding to this point...

It is a common Western idea (which kadhim, as a Keynesian, surely subscribes to) that the opening of markets translates into the opening of ideas.

In other words, Western countries feel that if they open Eastern countries' markets to Western business, Western values will subvert old Eastern values organically.

In the case of the DPRK, we have a country which has long been liberalizing its economy. It was as early as the 1980s (before the famine) that the North Korean government established free trade zones in the country (no later than China; and yet DPRK is seen as sticking to socialist dogma).

As far as the freedom for foreign business, the DPRK has the most liberal laws of any East Asian country. The market economy countries (South Korea, Japan, Singapore, etc.) are all quite strict when it comes to protectionism. The DPRK is much more liberal in this respect.

This is a very interesting thing, because:

(1) Clearly, the opening of markets has not subverted the political culture of the country, and (2) the notion of North Korea being a "hardline Stalinist" country is far from the truth. People think that simply because Pyongyang is decorated by some taqlidi Soviet-style monuments (like this one) that the DPRK is the last Stalinist holdout. In fact, the DPRK has been undergoing drastic reforms of its economy since before the famine and before the death of Kim Il-sung.

As for the issue somebody raised about material conditions in the country always being a factor in public support, I say that you need to understand Korean history and culture. You cannot project your own values on the Korean people.

Part of the Korean values have been inherited from Imperial Japan. In Imperial Japan, people's only function was to serve the Emperor. In the DPRK, people's only function is to serve the Suryong (Great Ruler), General Kim Il-sung. When the leader is made into being this opaque, divine figure, then surely none of the problems of the country can be blamed on him.

Once, Kim Il-sung was quoted as saying that living standards should not be too high, because it causes the people to become lazy. You will never find another socialist leader saying that, because the entire basis by which socialism justifies itself is the improvement of living standards. But the Korean system is very different, both in how it is implemented and in how it justifies itself.

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It is a common Western idea (which kadhim, as a Keynesian, surely subscribes to) that the opening of markets translates into the opening of ideas.

A Keynesian? Where do you get this stuff? Nothing if not imaginative.

Edited by kadhim

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I have been lazy in reviewing the books I have recently done. I will review them in quick succession now. So in the tradition of baradar_jackson, with the picture of the front cover:

9780144000494.jpg

Snapshots by Shobha De

Here is the desscription from the publisher's website:

As the wine and conversation begin to flow at a reunion between six women, who were friends at school, memories start to surface—some happy, others bittersweet and a few that are downright poisonous... Forced to confront dark secrets that they thought lay buried deep in the past, the women begin to turn against one another and the mood of the party turns nightmarish...

Death, infidelity, incest, rape, lies and the evil that lurks beneath the everyday lives of people form the substance of Snapshots, Shobha De's explosive new novel. PUBLISHER'S LINK

I stumbled upon a pirated copy, a cheap one, both in quality and in terms of money, and intrigued by the description on the flap of the book, bought it. It turned out to be exactly how I thought. A typical bollywood gossip which can be turned into a film, but one that wouldn't pass the Indian censor board, not yet at least. The narrative starts with a no holds barred scene of copulation, on the Goa beach, between one of the principal six female characters, an advertising entrepreneur, who is living a free-life after her husband walks out on her, and her lover, who is, of course, her office colleague, her junior.

The story builds when one of them receives an invitation to a reunion party. The six women had studied together in high school and the contact between them had been lost since then. Now was the time to reunite and just have a good girly time. At the reunion party, it soon turns out the six women had some unfinished business with each other from college days. Jealousies, grievances, secrets, explanations, love-triangles and whatnot, all began to be recounted.

One of them, who took the reunion party initiative, insists they come clean in every way, and share the occurrences in their lives in that closed room to all. And so begins a long narrative of typical Indian womanly gossip, punctuated with cheap dialogues, very flimsy sub-plots, worship of money, sex and personal vendettas, in short, all one can think wrong with a typical, Star Plus type, convoluted bollywood-desi women, and much more!

Guys thrown in the narrative are presented as some sort of vultures, ready to pounce on the bare flesh and having absolutely no respect or care for the women and their needs. This is the picture half a dozen or more male characters related to those women that the author shows.

Not a book that can promote itself from its place at one-star on my five-star scale. Amazon's Link

Edited by Marbles

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^ :lol: :lol: :lol: No offense but that you actually took time to write such a long review on this ..damaagh kharab hai kiya ? .i cant stop laughing.....

doubt if anyone will bother to read or buy this book especially after reading your review , so in a way i am thankful to you :) ! I am sure you were lured by its cover which is as you mentioned you bought it in the first place , because i expected a better book review from you :) But yaar the cover is as horrible as the story line.....you might as well have bought a pirated dvd and watched it in less than 90 mins instead of torturing your brains on a stupid love triangle ! Its just a simple indian story that reminds me of those love-sickning sugar sweet Harlequin book series :)

Thank you for warning us , I enjoyed reading your serious review and time you put in writing about this Junk ....throw the book on fire would serve a better purpose :)

As promised I will send you a much better book '' Indira Ghandi's biography'' :D

Edited by Scary_Betty

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^ :lol: :lol: :lol: No offense but that you actually took time to write such a long review on this ..damaagh kharab hai kiya ? .i cant stop laughing.....

doubt if anyone will bother to read or buy this book especially after reading your review , so in a way i am thankful to you :) ! I am sure you were lured by its cover which is as you mentioned you bought it in the first place , because i expected a better book review from you :) But yaar the cover is as horrible as the story line.....you might as well have bought a pirated dvd and watched it in less than 90 mins instead of torturing your brains on a stupid love triangle ! Its just a simple indian story that reminds me of those love-sickning sugar sweet Harlequin book series :)

Thank you for warning us , I enjoyed reading your serious review and time you put in writing about this Junk ....throw the book on fire would serve a better purpose :)

LOL I know. It's a lowbrow work with little or no literary merit. I put it down one-quarter way through but decided to go all the way just for the heck of it. I hate to put down books in the middle. But then I read all sorts of book and review them if required. You can find many book reviews and book postings in this thread which I have read in the last one year or more, not many of them can be compared to this gaudy piece of fiction.

I have an impression that Shobha De was trying in vain to imitate Khushwant Singh by depicting numerous raunchy sexual encounters in the narrative. But she badly fails at that. Khushwant's content and style is completely different and always carries nuances one is pressed hard to discover. She is no match for Khushwant.

It was the story line on the flap not the cover of the book that lured me. The front couldn't be more tawdry and unimaginative. The woman featured on my copy is the Bollywood actres Sonali Bandre. Why her? I don't have a clue. But in the picture I found on the web it is someone else. I don't know who. Anyway, no I won't recommend this book to the readers of even the most casual and cheap romances. But this book does in a way give a glimpse of the glitzy, conspiratorial, money and sex-obsessed life of contemporary urban India.

Another reason I decided to read it because I hadn't read anythiing from this author before, and I was seeing many of her pirated books adorning bookshelves in almost every bookstore.

As promised I will send you a much better book '' Indira Ghandi's biography'' :D

I am actually looking forward to reading this book. I haven't so far gone through a full, comprehensive biography of Nehru's daughter.

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LOL I know. It's a lowbrow work with little or no literary merit. I put it down one-quarter way through but decided to go all the way just for the heck of it. I hate to put down books in the middle. But then I read all sorts of book and review them if required. You can find many book reviews and book postings in this thread which I have read in the last one year or more, not many of them can be compared to this gaudy piece of fiction.

I admire your steadfastness in finishing a book with such a story line ..... Reading your review was useful and interesting (I never knew guys would even read such books

I have bookmarked this link / books thread as a favorite sticky one !

I have an impression that Shobha De was trying in vain to imitate Khushwant Singh by depicting numerous raunchy sexual encounters in the narrative. But she badly fails at that. Khushwant's content and style is completely different and always carries nuances one is pressed hard to discover. She is no match for Khushwant.

Another reason I decided to read it because I hadn't read anythiing from this author before, and I was seeing many of her pirated books adorning bookshelves in almost every bookstore.

I have never heard of Kushwant Singh , had to google him .... a question of curiousity , do Pakistanis read indian novels for their literature classes ? How did you become familiar with his works?

I am actually looking forward to reading this book. I haven't so far gone through a full, comprehensive biography of Nehru's daughter.

Inshallah , safron and the book are on its way ! You have to read it with a good cup of nice tea to enjoy it , preferably under the shadow of a tree on a nice sunny day :)

Keep the reviews coming , can anyone recommend me a good book on Pakistan which is easy to read and understand ? I want to buy the book Musharaf wrote (In the lines of fire ,,,, any reviews ? ) It seemed to be a bestselling book 2/ 3 yrs ago .... any good novel written by a Pakistani ?

I am currently reading a funny book which by my sister from a bookstore in Islamabad :

Real Men Keep their word , tales from Kabul , Afghanistan , a selection of Akram Osman's Dari short stories translated by Arley Loewen..... : ) (Oxford University Press)

Edited by Scary_Betty

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^

after reading that review Marbles, it's no wonder u liked "Brida" ... :lol:

Paulo Coelho's Brida you mean? Did I like it? No lol, I didn't like it really. But as it happened, Brida was my first book from the author; a new style; interesting. But Brida wasn't like anything the one I reviewed above. I didn't feel rotten after reading Brida. I did feel so after reading the book above lol.

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North Korea/South Korea: U.S. Policy & the Korean Peninsula by John Feffer.

51OoH0QyuxL._SS500_.jpg

Still reading this book.

Also reading:

Bruce Cumings, North Korea: Another Country

Another_Country.jpg

This is a great book. I am about 1/3 into it. First Cumings gives a detailed review of American and South Korean war crimes during the Korean Civil War. (He is one of the few Americans who recognizes it as a civil war, which it was). He mentions that, in addition to the relentless aerial bombing campaigns that destroyed 90 percent of North Korea's infrastructure and killed a quarter of her people, the American/South Korean forces actually committed more massacres than the KPA. Also, MacArthur and other "hawks" were really keen on using nuclear weapons on the DPRK (and even China) during this period. Cumings pretty much gives the middle finger to the entire US/South Korean narrative of how the war started and was conducted.

Then he talks about the nuclear issue; how the US media rehashes the same old reports about the DPRK and simply replaces the dates and some few select words. Cumings attributes this caricature to the fact that the Americans refer to the Korean War as the "Forgotten War." Meaning, they have forgotten that war whereas it is still very much fresh in the memory of North Koreans. So this is why Americans cannot make sense of the DPRK and its conduct.

Thomas Hosuck Kang, Why the North Koreans Behave as They Do

[no cover available]

First of all, this book looks like it was published by some teacher who photocopied a book and went to kinko's to make multiple copies of the photocopy. The ghettoest book I ever bought off of amazon. Secondly, the author writes it in Engrish, which makes me laugh. Haven't gotten too far in the book, but it's pretty short anyway. It consists of two articles: one written in 1967, the other in 1980. So far, it has talked about the modern roots of North Korean nationalism (the Japanese occupation, the post-WWII Soviet occupation, the Korean War, the presence of Chinese troops in North Korea in the years following the Korean War, and the presence of US troops in South Korea). I am pretty sure this book is not going to offer what I hoped. I hoped it was an insight into the mind of the average North Korean. But it looks like it is rather a look at the roots of DPRK's foreign policy ("The Sources of North Korean Conduct").

Edited by baradar_jackson

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I have never heard of Kushwant Singh , had to google him ....

He is one of the most celebrated authors of Indian Subcontinent. His trademark book is "Train to Pakistan", first published in 1956, a novel based on the Partition. It has acquired the status of modern classic in Subcontinental English fiction. A recommended read for every desi. Here is amazon link for the book. CLICK. He is the author of numerous other novels and short stories among other works.

a question of curiousity , do Pakistanis read indian novels for their literature classes ? How did you become familiar with his works?

Nope. We hear nothing of Indian novel in our school and college curriculum. Whatever I have gathered about Indian novel is due to my personal interest in South Asian fiction and poetry.

can anyone recommend me a good book on Pakistan which is easy to read and understand ? I want to buy the book Musharaf wrote (In the lines of fire ,,,, any reviews ? ) It seemed to be a bestselling book 2/ 3 yrs ago..

What exactly do you want to read about Pakistan? It's sociocultural history? Overview of its political history? Current affairs? Being a bit more specific would help recommendations.

As for Musharraf's book, I wouldn't recommend it as a first choice read if you aren't already well acquainted with recent past and current political landscape of the country. Books written by politicians and state officials are no more than shameless apologia for their own follies, and propaganda tactics to sell themselves to the world. For instance Obama's "The Audacity of Hope", Ayub Khan's "Friends Not Masters", Yousaf Raza Gilani's "Chah-e-Yousaf se Sadaa" etc. Even Bush and Blair came out with their [ghost written] "books". These books offer a very skewed and false face of the reality. They are only good if you want to read for the purposes of further research but aren't of any use if you want to add objective and academically oriented opinions to your repertoire of information.

.. any good novel written by a Pakistani ?

Plenty. I assume you are asking for Pakistani authors originally writing in English? There has been a sudden surge of interest about Pakistani fiction in English. Even though Indians led the scene of English fiction writing for many decades, Pakistanis have now enough good writers and much good fiction to keep you busy for months. Here are a few:

Mohsin Hamid - A Reluctant Fundamentalist; Moth Smoke.

Kamila Shamsie - Broken Verses, Kartography, Burnt Shadows.

Muhammad Hanif - A Case of Exploding Mangoes.

Uzma Aslam Khan - Trespassing.

Daniyal Mueenuddin - In Oher Rooms Other Wonders.

Daniyal's book is interconnected short stories. The rest are full novels.

I am currently reading a funny book which by my sister from a bookstore in Islamabad :

Real Men Keep their word , tales from Kabul , Afghanistan , a selection of Akram Osman's Dari short stories translated by Arley Loewen..... : ) (Oxford University Press)

I beat you :P. Click HERE

Why the book is funny? I actually enjoyed some stories for I had never before read any fiction from Afghanistan. The foreword from Jamil Hanifi about Afghan novel and publishing history in Afghanistan was very informative. I had no idea things were so bad there. I particularly enjoyed "A Free Coffin" (it is burlesque critique of the miser), "The Secret Unleashed", "The Moderate Politician" (on the utter hypocrisy of a ruling class in Afghanistan), and the lead story "Real Men Keep Their Word" (which sharply portrays one of the strong ethical values the locals adhere to). On the other hand, however, stories like "The Blind Eagle" and "A Crack in the Wall" didn't carry much literary merit.

The translator, as he has explained in the introduction, has chosen to translate Dari idiomatic and linguistically-specific expressions literally into English. The sentences made an awkward reading where the original Dari story contains a lot of such terms and phrases. It would be better to translate the local idiom into equivalent or near-equivalent in English and to explain the Dari terms in footnotes. What do you think?

Some serious, complicated, heavy book reviews are in the pipeline. Stay tuned.

Edited by Marbles

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Marbles,

How do you know Obama's book (The Audacity of Hope) was written by a ghostwriter? He wrote his first book (dreams of my father) when he was relatively unknown or popular. He can write well.

Sis if you read again I only referred to Bush's and Blair's books as ghostwritten. Not the Obama's. Yes, the latter is an intelligent bloke and can surely write well. But it is often the case that most of the books written by men in power, especially if they are in office, are written with the help of a ghost-writer, primarily because they don't have time to sit down and write even if they have the ability. For instance, I'm sure Musharraf is capable enough of writing a book, but some sections were written with the help of an aide as he himself later acknowledged.

Edited by Marbles

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Sis if you read again I only referred to Bush's and Blair's books as ghostwritten. Not the Obama's. Yes, the latter is an intelligent bloke and can surely write well. But it is often the case that most of the books written by men in power, especially if they are in office, are written with the help of a ghost-writer, primarily because they don't have time to sit down and write even if they have the ability. For instance, I'm sure Musharraf is capable enough of writing a book, but some sections were written with the help of an aide as he himself later acknowledged.

Our Great Leader Kim Il-sung wrote his memories 100 per cent by himself: http://www.korea-dpr.com/lib/202.pdf

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Paulo Coelho's Brida you mean? Did I like it? No lol, I didn't like it really. But as it happened, Brida was my first book from the author; a new style; interesting. But Brida wasn't like anything the one I reviewed above. I didn't feel rotten after reading Brida. I did feel so after reading the book above lol.

yeah, makes sense, as it was the first book u read by paulo coelho :D . his other works are much better.

it was a disappointment for me, i didn't even bother to continue it after the first 100 pages.... :lol:

Muhammad Hanif - A Case of Exploding Mangoes.

this book is actually really good, i borrowed it last summer from friend, its worth your reading time .... and now i want copy of my own, to read it again.

summary of the plot:

The central theme of the book is a fictitious story behind the real life plane crash which killed General Zia, dictator of Pakistan from 1977 to 1988, about which there are many conspiracy theories. After witnessing a tank parade in Bahawalpur, Zia left the small Punjabi town in the C-130 Hercules aircraft designated 'Pak One'.

Shortly after a smooth take-off, the control tower loses contact with the aircraft. Witnesses who saw the plane in the air later claimed it was flying erratically, before nosediving and exploding on impact, killing General Zia and several other senior army generals, in addition to Arnold Raphel, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, and General Herbert M. Wassom, the head of the U.S. Military aid mission to Pakistan. Zia had ruled Pakistan for 11 years prior to his death.

The book develops through the eyes of the narrator, Ali Shigri, a Junior Officer in the Pakistani Air Force who seeks revenge for the death of his father, which he is convinced, although apparently a suicide, was orchestrated by General Zia himself.

( i copied it from some internet source, as i was in no mood to type the whole thing myself :) )

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