Jaya Posts

“Chokepoint Capitalism” by Rebecca Gilrow and Cory Doctorow

Chokepoint Capitalism: How big tech and big content captured creative labour markets, and how we’ll win them back by Rebecca Giblon and Cory Doctorow (Scribe Publications) is a must read. Whether you are a digital entrepreneur or a service provider or an employee, or a digital creator and a consumer, this is an essential read. It is incredible on every page, so many pennies drop in understanding the digital world we inhabit. The commercials, the hungry desire of many “digital entrepreneurs” in providing platforms for users, supposedly enabling the creative workers to use these for their individual expression, but the platform owners having the first mover advantage / exploit to use the massive volume of IPR being created in multiple ways. The authors prefer to dwell upon the hourglass-shaped markets, “with customers paying money at one end, suppliers and workers creating value at the other, and a small number of predatory rentiers controlling access in the middle. Creators earn little from the culture they produce not because of platforms per se — even if tech platforms are the major culprits right now — but because their supply chains are colonial by powerful corporations who co-opt most of its value.”

The authors discuss in detail in the first section if the book how big business captured culture, how Amazon took over books, how news got broken, why streaming doesn’t pay, why Spotify wants you to rely on playlists, why seven thousand Hollywood writers fired their agents, why Fortnite sued Apple and about YouTube chokepoints. The second section is entitled “braking anticompetitive wheels” with chapters on ideas lying around, transparency rights, collective action, time limits on copyright contracts, radical interoperability, minimum wages for creative work, collective ownership and uniting against chokepoint capitalism.

Read this book. Use it. Take it to heart. This is one of those big idea books that will appeal to many and will make many creative workers think. Remember content is the oil of the twenty-first century. Sobering thought when digital entrepreneurs realise that there is economic opportunity in every deep dive on the net; it is to the tune of a minimum $1 billion.

Katherine Rundell, “The Golden Mole: and Other Living Treasure”

Award-winning writer (children’s and adults), thrill-seeker and roof walker, Katherine Rundell, has published another extraordinary book, The Golden Mole ( Faber Books). It is incredibly beautiful to behold and full of razzmataz in its language. It is incredibly informative. Fun facts as students love to say. “Silly” information that promptly gets embedded in one’s head whether you like it or not. For instance, who knew that a greenland shark takes 150 years to reach maturity before it can give birth. Or that in its womb, the strongest foetus develops sharp teeth and consumes its siblings. But once born, its metabolism is so slow that it only requires the nourishment equivalent to that of one and a half chocolate digestives every day! Similarly, a wombat can achieve speeds of up to 40kms/hr for nine seconds at a stretch. Compare this to Usain Bolt’s hundred-metre sprint in 2009, in which he hit a speed of 44.7 kph but maintained it for just 1.61 seconds, suggesting that a wombat could easily outrun him! Or take this: seals have surprise language-learning capacity. Rundell describes Hoover the talking seal in Maine. The golden mole, the animal, that lends its name to the book title is not a mole actually. It is more closely related to the elephant! Then Rundell proceeds to write about the creature and its iridiscence, but it is completely oblivious to it, as it is blind and lives underground.

The Golden Mole is an extraordinary book. It is primarily a collection of Rundell’s essays that were first published in the London Review of Books. These have been compiled and published as this sumptuous edition. It is as beautiful as a Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane books on the beauty of nature and its creatures. Rundell attempts to capture the diverse characterstics of these animals, their incredible evolution and really marvel at the beauty of Nature. Her joy and wonderment at seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary is palpable throughout the book. It is the perfect antidote to doom scrolling on the Internet. But be warned, such a crazily fascinating set of animals gathered together in this book makes one want to research these creatures some more on the Internet and that activity becomes a time sink hole.

It is an expensive but oh-so-worth-it book! It is a book that will get passed through generations.

15 Feb 2023

Katherine Rundell, “Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne”

[I wrote this commentary about Katherine Rundell’s Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne on Facebook, the night of the Baillie Gifford award. ]

“Parnell and Pope and their many allies were men who believed that art had rules: that poetry was a monovocal exercise; that there was one poetic voice, and we should stick to it. Years later, when Samuel Johnson compared Donne’s ‘false wit’ withh Pope’s ‘true wit’, it wasn’t a throwaway comment: it was real anxiety that Donne might be nigh-on insane. His work, for Johnson, was improper and ugly and broken — it was ‘produced by a voluntary deviatuon from nature in pursuit of something new or strange’.

But that was exactly it. Donne did not want to sound like other poets. Human experience exceeds our capacity to either explain or express it: Donne knew it, and so he invented new words and new forms to try. He created new rhythms jn poetry: Johnson said that Donne, ‘for not keeping of accent, deserved hanging’. He was an inventor of words, a neologismist. He accounts for the first recorded use in the “Oxford English Dictionary” of around 340 words in the English language. Apprehensible, beauteousness, bystander, criminalise, emancipation, enliven, fecundity, horridness, imbrothelled, jig. (And for those who bristle against the use of ‘disinterested’ to mean ‘not interested’ rather than ‘lacking a vested interest’: Donne was the first to do so, and we must take it up with him.)

He wanted to wear his wit like a knife in his shoe; he wanted it to flash out at unexpected moments. He is at his most scathing writing about originality, and those who would steal the ideas of better men:

But he is worst who, beggarly, doth chaw [ i.e. chew]

Others’ wits’ fruits, and in his ravenous maw

Rawly digested doth those things outspew

As his own things . . .

Donne imagined his own words taken by another. He imagined them chewed up and expelled:

And they’re his own, ’tis true,

For if one eat my meat, though it be known

The meat was mine, the excrement’s his own.


To read Donne is to be told: kill the desire to keep the accent and tone of the time. It is necessary to shake language until it will express our own distinctive hesitations, peculiarities, our own uncertain and never-quite-successful yearning towards beauty. Donne save his most ruthless scorn for those who chew other wits’ fruit’, and shit out platitudes. Language, his poetry tells us, is a set, not of rules, but of possibilities.


Katherine Rundell’s “Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne” is a gorgeous biography of the poet. It is meant to be savoured. It is a like the old-fashioned biographies that were detailed but “Super-Infinite” has a very modern feel to it. Btw, the reference to “Super-Infinite” is from a sermon that Donne gave at the poet George Herbert’s mother’s memorial service.

…Magdalen Herbert…a woman who had been his patron and friend. Magdalen, he wrote, would ‘dwell bodily with that righteousness, in these new heavens and new earth, for ever and ever and ever, and infinite and super-infinite forevers’. In a different sermon, he wrote of how he would one day be with God in ‘an infinite, a super-infinite, an unimaginable space, millions of unimaginable spaces in heaven’. He loved to coin formations with the super- prefix: super-edificationa, super-exaltation, suoer-dying, super-universal, super-miraculous. It was part of his bid to invent a language that would reach beyond language, because infinite wasn’t enough: both in heaven, but also hereand now on earth, Donne wanted to know something larger than infinity. It was absurd, grandiloquent, courageous, hungry.

This splendiferous book is on the shortlist for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2022. The winner will be announced tonight, 17 Nov 2022.

Update: Katherine Rundell won!!

17 November 2022 / 15 Feb 2023

“The Competent Authority”

This is one of those days when truth is stranger than fiction, or is it? In 2013, the late Shovon Chowdhury published an extraordinary novel called The Competent Authority. It was his debut and in his inimitable style, tongue-in-cheek humour. A decade later, voila!, we have an official letter stating that “as desired by the Competent Authority”, Cow Hug Day has been withdrawn.

Happy Valentines Day!

14 Feb 2023

“Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street: A collection of recipes to share” by Felicita Sala

Lunch at Pomegrante Street: A collection of recipes to start, text and illustrations by Felicita Sala (Scribble Books, Scribe Publications).

A stunning picture book that will work for children and adults alike. It is about the house at Pomegrante Street, where the occupants are getting ready for lunch. It has an almost cinematic feel while reading the book. As you turn the pages, you sweep through every apartment and peek into the respective kitchens to see what is cooking. Depending on the culture that is represented, the family is making an easy-to-put-together dish. There are hors-d’oeuvres, savoury dishes, main course, side dishes and of course, plenty of desserts. These include Salmorejo, sesame soy broccoli, guacamole, black bean soup, sole meuniere, spaghetti Al pomodoro, coconut dahl, mini-quiches, meatballs (with turkey, zucchini and feta), oyako don ( chicken and egg rice), baba ganoush, green rice, peanut butter & choc chip cookies, banana & blueberry bread, and strawberry crumble. Once it is all ready, all the neighbours scuttle down the stairs to the back yard for a sit down pot luck. Their good cheer and bonhomie, cutting across cultural divides, is almost palpable through the pages of this beautiful book. Plus point is that the recipe for every single dish is given and illustrated brilliantly. The illustrations are made with watercolours and coloured pencils.

This has been translated from French but for some inexplicable reason, the name of the translator has not been given. Instead the copyright details resting with the publisher are explicitly mentioned. Odd. It is at variance with the spirit of collaboration and sharing across cultures that the story underlines.

Nevertheless, it is a stunning book to read, share and use.

Ottolenghi and Nigella Lawson have endorsed it too.

‘A stunningly illustrated recipe book for kids (or anyone, really). It tells the story of different residents of a house cooking foods from around the world. Simply sweet.’

— Yotam Ottolenghi

‘Beautifully depicting an apartment building with people cooking food from all over the world … Really uplifting and charming.’
— Nigella Lawson

11 Feb 2023

“A New History of India: From its origins to the twenty-first century” by Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Shobhita Punj and Toby Sinclair

. “A New History of India: From its origins to the twenty-first century” by noted historians Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Shobhita Punj and Toby Sinclair, published by Aleph Book Company .

A single-volume history of India such as this is sorely required. It is also beautifully illustrated with photographs and maps. History books on the trade list sell exceedingly well. These books access different communities of readers. But “A New History of India” will work tremendously well for ordinary readers, supplementary reader in middle and senior schools, prescribed text for schools that are not using state published textbooks or are affiliated to the NCERT or SCERT school boards, job aspirants taking various competitive exams including the Holy Grail — to join the hallowed portals of Indian bureaucracy, and many more. As a hardback, proced at Rs 999, it is a tad too expensive for many of the aforementioned readers but if a low-priced paperback, albeit published on poorer quality paper, this edition will sell like hot cakes. It also needs to be available in Indian languages. It will have a much larger reach. It is critical that it is made available since more than 50% of the Indian population is below the age of 25 and more than 65% is below the age of 35. This time period coincides with an astonishing lack of history about India’s history. This is exactly the lack of ignorance of the youth that is being preyed upon by Machiavellian individuals for their immediate political gains. It is a very worrying trend. Hence, books like this that are easy to consult and provide clear snapshots of our magnificent history are very welcome.

12 Feb 2023

“The Penguin Book of Hollywood” (Ed.) Christopher Silvester

“The Penguin Book of Hollywood”, edited by Christopher Silvester. First edition, 1998.

I picked up this anthology at our church garden fete. It consists of reportage, book extracts (usually from memoirs), accounts of incidents/recordings/castings/pitching a story etc. It is about Hollywood in the twentieth century.

Some of the essays are:
“Eluding the Patent Agents” Fred J. Balshofer
“The growing stature of agents” Howard Dietz
“The producer and the produced” George Sanders, Letter to his father, 16 Oct 1937
“Stravinsky in Hollywood” Miklos Rozsa
“The Ethics of the Industry” Raymond Chandler, Letter to Alfred Knopf, 12 Jan 1946
“The rising cost of production” Darryl F. Zanuck, Memo to Producers, Directors, Executives, 13 June 1946
“Group Life” Jean Renoir to Albert Andre, the painter, 25 Oct 1946
“No, I don’t despise Holywood”, Raymond Chandler , Letter to Hamish Hamilton, 13 Oct 1950
“Pitching a story”, John Gregory Dunne, husband of Joan Didion
“The casting of Al Pacino [ in “The Godfather”]”, Robert Evans
“The stress of Jon Voight”, David Sherwin
“Moral rot” John Huston

And the list goes on.

A quick check on the Internet shows that this book is unavailable. Sad. It seems like a treasure that can easily be updated.

11 Feb 2023

Idra Novey, “Take What You need”

Idra Novey’s forthcoming novel Take What You Need . It been named as the most anticipated book of 2023 by Oprah Daily, Vulture, Today.com, Elle, and Lit Hub. I read an ARC in Nov 2022 when Idra sent across a copy. There is something extremely powerful about the writing. Here is the book blurb. It says much and yet, not much.


Set in the Allegheny Mountains of Appalachia, Take What You Need traces the parallel lives of Jean and her beloved but estranged stepdaughter, Leah, who’s sought a clean break from her rural childhood. In Leah’s urban life with her young family, she’s revealed little about Jean, how much she misses her stepmother’s hard-won insights and joyful lack of inhibition. But with Jean’s death, Leah must return to sort through what’s been left behind.

What Leah discovers is staggering: Jean has filled her ramshackle house with giant sculptures she’s welded from scraps of the area’s industrial history. There’s also a young man now living in the house who played an unknown role in Jean’s last years and in her art.

With great verve and humor, Idra Novey zeros in on the joys and difficulty of family, the ease with which we let distance mute conflict, and the power we can draw from creative pursuits.

Take What You Need explores the continuing mystery of the people we love most with passionate and resonance, this novel illuminating can be built from what others have discarded—art, unexpected friendship, a new contentment of self. This is Idra Novey at her very best.


It has been a few months since I read Take What You Need . Unfortunately, I read a digital copy so I was unable to mark it, dog ear the edition or even scribble in the margins as is my habit while reading. As a result, I cannot write out passages that appealed to me but I do know that it left me with an astonishing feeling of the power that exists deep within ourselves to find hope, to be creative, to find multiple ways of healing. The artist Jane lives alone. She lives in a home that is in an impoverished neighbourhood. Squatters are a common sight. It is a drifting population whose antecdents are unclear and they can be prone to violence as well — survival of the fittest. Yet, Jean with quiet determination, single-mindedly works upon her art. She rummages through scrap heaps for various sizes of metals and welds them in her home to create sculptures. After her death, her massively intricate installations are donated to a museum. It is a complicated procedure that involves removing the roof of her house and using cranes to lift the artwork and place it on a removal truck. Along the way, Jean has befriended Elliott, a neighbour’s son, a young man, a drifter, a loner, a rough-at-the-edges soul, who for some inexplicable reason takes a shine to Jean and assists her.

At one level, Take What You Need is a story about the many lonely individuals, whether in the USA or elsewhere, who come together to create their own social systems. They take what they need from these relationships and move on. It is about the odd couple Jean and Elliott, it is about the xenophobic youngsters gathered like a pack in the jungles, slowly being indoctrinated by the vile rants of politicians, little realising that they are mere pawns in the larger game of politics. The politicians take what they want from these impressionable young men — their votes, their allegiance, leaving them with nothing, no future. Unlike Jean. Who in the face of adversity, mourning the loss of a father who did not allow her to assist him in his car repair work, but slowly learned to take what she needed from her fate — her diginity, valued her time, created something out of nothingness, created a valuable commodity out of scrap that after her lifetime was hailed as a masterpiece. Jean represents the ability of humanity to bounce back against all odds. The individual takes what they need from life. The community takes what they need. Ultimately, it is an expression of one’s free will. It is a choice. And it is precisely these tiny decisions made on a daily basis that have a deeper consequence on the individual’s life.

I read all the time. Some books I remember, some I do not. But months later, the quiet, “simple” writing style of Idra Novey continues to deeply affect me. It empowers the reader to believe in themselves to bring the desired change in their life.

Read Take What You Want and you must take what you want from it too!

10 Feb 2023

Karnataka Library Network

@readingkafka on Twitter is a fascinating account on the state of libraries in India. Uma Mahadevan-Dasgupta is almost evangelical in her desire to disseminate information about libraries and their positive impact upon local communities. This is a particularly interesting thread that I captured via screenshots.

9 Feb 2023

Salman Rushdie “Victory City”

This is utterly fascinating. Without letting on about the story, the fact that the list of acknowledgments is actually a bibliography in Salman Rushdie’s Victory City, is just so perfect. Literally, for an eminent author like him, and within the immediate literary context of the novel.

Hopefully, the wonderful historian-cum-storyteller Subhadra Sen Gupta is seeing the due acknowledgements to her from wherever she is now.

Here is the link to David Remnick’s profile of Salman Rushdie, “The Defiance of Salman Rushdie”, published in the New Yorker, Feb 2023.

9 Feb 2022

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