Book Review: The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction
It has been a while since I wrote a whole post about a book but this book deserves a review of its own. I can read and write in Tamil. I studied Tamil in school from the age of 6 till I was 15. I have read poetry and classics, I have written essays and speeches. I should be proficient. But I never read in Tamil. Newspapers, fiction, jokes, gossip – I just avoid Tamil. I have no clue why I do it. It is my goal to overcome that in 2013.
Given the back history, I was pleasantly surprised to hear about this book on NPR during my commute one morning couple of years back. This book has been on my to-read list ever since. It was in my pre-good reads life and all the books I wanted to read were saved as email drafts. I was never able to find a copy of this book in Houston and I really did not look for it in Singapore. It caught my eye when I was browsing the Singapore National Library and I had to pick it up.
The cover (Front and back) scream Tamil pulp fiction. I thought it was because I have seen Tamil pulp fiction covers before. But kuttyma has asked me more than once if I was reading a Tamil book on seeing the cover. What is in the cover that screams Tamil that even a 3 year old can pickup?
So the review – the book is a collection of translated stories by famous Tamil authors and titbits of information about Tamil pulp and the authors. I actually enjoyed the titbits part quite a bit. Having never read Tamil pulp before this book was very fascinating. It was sort of like watching a Tamil movie – in the story Tokyo Rose (originally by Tamilvanan) I expected the lead pair (the detective called Shankarlal who has a big fan following in Japan – the Japanese police even consult him and his wife Indra , who goes around calling him Aathan) to break into a dance any minute among the locales of Japan.
I have always been told Ramanichandiran books were the Tamil equivalents of Mills and Boon romances and I see the connection. Soft love stories with happy endings.
I loved sci-fi touch Rajesh Kumar’s stories brought in. Indraa Soundarrajan’s story about rebirth and the divine reminded me watching a Tamil soap on TV.
Murder, Crime and detectives (who are in relationships yet continue to drool behind other women) seem to be a common theme amongst the stories in this collection. Infact the book’s back cover describes the book “Mad scientists! Hard-Boiled (Eggs??) Detectives! Vengeful Goddesses! Murderous Robots! Scandalous Starlets! Drug-Filled Love Affairs!
The initial thrill of reading the translated Tamil works died down soon. It was simple translation – one that had me rolling with laughter often.
I enjoyed the book and that is because I have not read Tamil pulp before and I find it a refreshing change from the other books I have been reading currently. I enjoyed the book because it offered a peak into the Tamil pulp publishing industry. I enjoyed the book because I could now understand why my grandmother and mother loved these books. If you are looking for literary works to read this is not the book for you. But if you want to pick a book to fill in few hours and move fast, go ahead pick this up. You will not regret it. A lazy weekend by the pool reading translated pulp – perfection!
Review done and now it leaves me with one thing left to do – read at least one Tamil pulp fiction in Tamil.