While there has lately been a growing number of small-town India travel memoirs, 'Nautanki Diaries' by Dominic Franks stands apart with its earnest sincerity and exuberant love for cycling as, beyond a sports activity, a metaphor for life. Certainly, it is worth spending a few hours to take this charming journey with the writer and let his beloved Nautanki reveal and redefine both exterior and interior landscapes for us readers too.
Shoba Narayan, a journalist and columnist, has a second memoir out. Here is my review of it at PopMatters. Narayan, a Columbia grad, returned to India with her family after two decades in New York City. This memoir is about how, while living in Bangalore, she bought a cow. Overall, the book is a compelling and different take on a prominent and vastly popular subject: the place of the cow in Indian culture and history. But, of course, it is so much more than that. It is also an insightful and humorous account of the reverse immigration journey and how she navigated and negotiated those endless terrains of personal identity, familial belonging, and social community to assimilate on her own terms. This is a well-researched and well-written account and uses humor at just the right moments.
The question that we now turn to is regarding the literary value and relevance of bibliomemoirs as meta-narratives for the book(s) and / or author(s) that they are based on. Specifically: when is the bibliomemoir, as a hybrid genre, more worthwhile to readers than a related book that belongs to one of its component genres? In other words, when is, say, ‘My Life in Middlemarch’ more worthwhile than a biography of George Eliot or a socio-cultural history of Victorian novelists or a book-length literary criticism of ‘Middlemarch’ or simply an autobiography of a person who loves the book?