Proglen

Publisher info

Proglen is Thailand's oldest online bookstore. It specializes in English and other European language books published in Thailand. Thailand is fortunate to have so many publishers with good books covering the Southeast Asian region in both fiction and non-fiction. Dipping our toes into the eBooks explosion is our latest endeavour.

Where to find Proglen online


Where to buy in print


Publisher of



Detektiv Kaputt
Price: $5.49 USD. Words: 41,320. Language: German. Published: August 4, 2015 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
Der Detektiv Romeo befindet sich am Tiefpunkt seines Lebens. Die allgemeine Weltwirtschaftskrise ist auch über die Ermittlungsbranche hereingebrochen. Existenzielle Sorgen und die Vorstellung einer Zukunft ohne Perspektiven haben ihn kaputt gemacht.
Thai Jinks
Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 74,780. Language: English. Published: June 13, 2015 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General, Nonfiction » Travel » By region
Through the eighties and nineties and into the new century we followed the humorous adventures of Jim Eckardt in both of Bangkok's daily English language newspapers, the Bangkok Post and the Nation. You see, things happened to Jim. It often involved beer. Some of these things weren't so good, but they were always funny and never dull.
Bleeding in Black and White
Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 104,940. Language: English. Published: April 21, 2015 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Spies & espionage, Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Colin Cotterill creates a new member of his wonderful cast of characters in his latest book Bleeding in Black and White. He is CIA agent Robert "Bodge" Leon.
Maria and the Wicked Witch
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 4,830. Language: English. Published: March 18, 2015 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables
Two wonderful children’s stories are featured. In the first, Maria and the Wicked Witch, 6-year-old Maria, tricked by an evil witch, disobeys her parents, enters a forbidden forest and is taken captive. She uses all her wiles to escape from the witch. The second, The Three Crayons - Red, Blue and Green - are taken to a Village Fair by their parents Mom Brown Crayon and Dad Yellow Crayon.
Quest for The Rod of Moses
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 45,760. Language: English. Published: March 10, 2015 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables, Fiction » Children’s books » Legends, Myths, Fables / General
A young warrior, Zarn, is chosen by Fairy Julietta to seek and obtain the Rod of Moses as the means to ensure the Royal Family of the Kingdom of Zamara has a male heir to the Royal Throne.
Revolving Doors
Price: $5.95 USD. Words: 148,660. Language: English. Published: February 28, 2015 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Historical » General
(5.00)
Set in Thailand, Revolving Doors is the companion piece of Behind the Folding Fan focusing on Old and New Japan. Revolving Doors finds the hero exploring a new country to him as he tries to reconnect with his soul-mate.
The Doomsday Earthquake
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 36,330. Language: English. Published: February 26, 2015 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables
A beautiful girl, Mandi Mandar, is chosen by the White Angel, Surora, to save the three Kingdoms of Aurora from destruction by a devastating earthquake being planned by three evil Wizards who live in the mountains and are unhappy with the rapidly increasing population in the Kingdoms.
Jax and the Wizard of Zandar
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 59,540. Language: English. Published: January 24, 2015 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Adventure
A brave young man, Jax, aided by a Fairy, embarks on a thrilling, captivating, perilous and frantic mission to save the Royal Family and the Kingdom of Zandar from a greedy, evil Wizard, and at the same time, prevent a horrible marriage between the Wizard and Princess Andara.
The Riddle
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 28,740. Language: English. Published: January 22, 2015 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables, Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy Tales & Folklore / Country & Ethnic
The book contains four wonderful, intriguing, exciting, captivating and thrilling fairy tales by Peter Halder. In the feature tale, The Riddle, a brave young man sets out to find an evil Enchanter who kidnapped the Royal baby. To destroy him and save the Royal child, the young man must solve a riddle.
The Rainbow's End
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 19,340. Language: English. Published: January 17, 2015 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Two wonderful, entertaining, captivating and enchanting fantasy tales. This pair of splendid tales are a treat for children of all ages.
The Three Princes
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 21,540. Language: English. Published: September 21, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables, Fiction » Children’s books » Legends, Myths, Fables / Other
The Three Princes: Two Exciting Adventure Tales by Peter Halder The Three Princes combines a pair of exciting, breath-taking, action filled fairy tale adventures. Both tales are filled with strange events, thrills, magic and happy endings.
Alabama Days
Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 139,650. Language: English. Published: August 31, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA, Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
Alabama Days by James Eckardt, cover design by Colin Cotterill A few weeks after the 1965 Selma March, four teenage Catholic seminarians from Long Island arrive in Birmingham, Alabama, to work for Father Edmund Fraser in a door-to-door voter registration campaign. Nights, they return to the same black neighborhoods to play guitars and lead crowds in singing freedom songs.
It is the People: of Thailand and Other Countries
Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 68,620. Language: English. Published: August 25, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Literature » Literary
Thailand's premier author in the English language, Pira Sudham, is for the first time published in the ebook format. Best known for his novel Monsoon Country, this is an anthology of his short stories previously published in Tales of Thailand and People of Esarn. In It is the People are stories of hardship, land loss and the tourist sex trade to which so many of the young are drawn into.
A View from the Bench
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 15,230. Language: English. Published: August 4, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Historical » General, Fiction » African American fiction » Historical
A View from the Bench by Philip Small. This is a fascinating tale about a young boy mercilessly whipped by his teacher then later ordered to stand on the bench for the rest of the school term.
The Princess of the Forest
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 20,930. Language: English. Published: July 31, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables, Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy Tales & Folklore / Country & Ethnic
The Princess of the Forest Two stunning Fairy Tales that will evoke feelings of sadness and then joy over the fate of two beautiful young girls.
Hero the Warrior
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 30,870. Language: English. Published: July 29, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables, Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy Tales & Folklore / Country & Ethnic
Hero the Warrior Defender of the Forces of Good A quartet of fantastic, exciting and action packed Fairy Tale adventures which extol the conquest of good over evil.
The Dead Don’t Die
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 27,660. Language: English. Published: July 7, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Occult, Fiction » Horror » Undead
Macabre Supernatural Tales of Guyana. Blood-curdling, mind boggling and hair-raising supernatural tales embroidered with murder and mayhem. The cemetery, spirits and dark forces add unreal backgrounds to the tales.
The Dance of Death
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 21,240. Language: English. Published: July 1, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Occult, Fiction » Horror » Undead
The Dance of Death: Chilling Supernatural Tales from Guyana by Peter Halder A crypt of seven chilling, spell binding and spine tingling supernatural tales that portray the folklore of Guyana.
Falcon at the Court of Siam
Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 69,680. Language: English. Published: July 1, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Historical » General, Nonfiction » History » Asian
Set toward the end of the seventeenth century, Falcon at the Court of Siam recounts the true story of Constantine Phaulkon, a Greek of low birth who spectacularly rose to fame, and infamy, as King Narai's favourite courtier - in effect, if not in name, First Minister of Siam. No other foreigner, before or since, has ever held such a position of power and influence in Siam.
Naypyidaw: The New Capital of Burma
Price: $9.95 USD. Words: 51,110. Language: English. Published: June 27, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Nonfiction » Social Science » Developing & Emerging Countries, Nonfiction » Politics and Current Affairs » City planning
Naypyidaw: The New Capital of Burma examines the possible factors involved in the current relocation of the capital in order to enrich and enhance understanding about contemporary Burma/Myanmar in various aspects - including History, Geography, Political Science, Military Science, Economics, Sociology and Urban Architecture. Fully illustrated with maps and colour photographs.
Behind the Folding Fan
Price: $5.95 USD. Words: 151,170. Language: English. Published: June 25, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
(5.00)
This is a story of self-discovery and self-actualization. The main character, despite having realized the American Dream, is ill-at-ease in his cosmopolitan milieu. Sensing that something important is missing in his life, he hankers to relive experiences he once had in Asia. He naïvely seeks to renew, if not reinvent himself in Old Japan, which he considers his spiritual home.
Five Myths of Professional Gambling
Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 9,280. Language: English. Published: June 14, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Equestrian, Nonfiction » Entertainment » Gambling
This is a short book designed to dispel some of the lingering myths surrounding professional gambling. The author has been involved in the racing industry since the early 1970s and made his living from racing for a number of years in the early 1990s.
Tiger's Birthday Party
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 12,770. Language: English. Published: June 14, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables, Fiction » Children’s books » Legends, Myths, Fables / General
A menagerie of seven amusing and entertaining animal tales each of which contains a moral. They are set in the rainforests of Guyana on South America's Caribbean coast.
Tinsel Town
Price: $7.95 USD. Words: 81,700. Language: English. Published: June 9, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General, Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
Tinsel Town: Another Rotten Day In Paradise "Tinsel Town is the best introduction-to-Hollywood novel I've ever read." David Giler, producer/writer of the films ALIEN, UNDISPUTED, MYRA BRECKINRIDGE and many more.
The Monkey Wife
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 26,070. Language: English. Published: June 2, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy Tales & Folklore / Country & Ethnic, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fairy Tales
The Monkey Wife: Four Bizarre Tales of the Rainforest Following on from Peter Halder's first collection in The Aligator and the Sun, these four incredible tales add more color to and further illuminate the tapestry of ancient rainforest myths, from Guyana on South America's Caribbean coast.
The Alligator and the Sun
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 25,230. Language: English. Published: June 2, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fairy Tales, Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy Tales & Folklore / Country & Ethnic
The Alligator and the Sun and other rainforest tales Nine captivating tales, which weave a tapestry of the unbelievable and fascinating ancient rainforest lore of the Amerindians of Guyana on South America's Caribbean coast.
An Extraordinary Life
Price: $3.95 USD. Words: 29,570. Language: English. Published: May 1, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Nonfiction » Biography » Personal memoir, Nonfiction » Biography » Business biography
A betting man visiting Cardiff in Wales and meeting a baby Brian Twinney in 1936 would have given very long odds on him making it into his teens, let alone being 78 years old and living with his family in the north of Thailand. For this is a survival story, just as much as tales of shipwrecks or walks across Antarctica.
Zipper Up Zipper Down
Price: $3.95 USD. Words: 43,960. Language: English. Published: May 1, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Gay, Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » General
In this story a young man invents a new instrument and becomes a world renowned superstar. Later in life he discovers that he desires same-sex relations. In his attempt to satisfy those desires his life takes on a complete new series of adventures.
Walking Through Bangkok's European Heritage
Price: $3.95 USD. Words: 5,590. Language: English. Published: April 30, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Nonfiction » Travel » By region, Nonfiction » Travel » Hikes & walks
A walking tour of Bangkok, one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Famous for its food, shopping, and nightlife. It also has a rich European-influenced history, with some relics still remaining in the architecture of a variety of well-known tourist attractions, as well as a few that are off the beaten track.
The Siamese Connection
Series: Vampire of Siam, Book 4. Price: $7.95 USD. Words: 80,650. Language: English. Published: April 22, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Undead, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General
The fourth book in the popular Vampire of Siam series. The story begins in Bangkok 1948, shortly after the end of WWII and the Japanese occupation of Siam. The vampire, Ramonne Delacroix becomes involved in a quest for a mysterious artifact, - The Oracle - hidden during the war by the Japanese. He joins forces with the famous American Expat Jim Thompson and OSS agent.
From Condoms to Cabbages
Price: $6.95 USD. Words: 109,640. Language: English. Published: April 21, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Nonfiction » Social Science » Abortion & Birth Control, Nonfiction » Biography » Social scientists & psychologists
From Condoms to Cabbages: An Authorized Biography of Mechai Viravaidya In Thailand, a condom is called a "Mechai". Mechai Viravaidya, Thailand's Condom King, has used this most anatomically suggestive contraceptive device to turn the conventional family planning establishment on its head. First came condom blowing contests, then T-shirts with condom shrouded anthropomorphic penises...
The Fool's Best Joke Book Volume 1
Series: Fool in Paradise. Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 138,740. Language: English. Published: March 29, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Nonfiction » Entertainment » Humor and satire, Nonfiction » Entertainment » Humor and satire
Welcome to the world of humour. What makes human beings laugh can be broadly defined under three headings: someone else's misfortune, someone else's misunderstanding or someone else's stupidity. The keywords here are "someone else's" because, let's face it, most silly things are much funnier when they happen to someone else.
Jim Tully
Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 79,950. Language: English. Published: March 22, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » General, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General
Jim Tully is a misfit who belongs to an earlier era. The causes he believes in, like the world he wants to live in, are already doomed. The narrator first meets him during a student riot in Paris and finds him again more than twenty years later in Thailand. In between Tully has drifted around the world, tossed from one noble cause to another, even being imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge.
The Reckoning
Series: Vampire of Siam, Book 3. Price: $7.95 USD. Words: 67,330. Language: English. Published: February 21, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Undead, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
From Paris to Angkor Wat, Ancient Siam to modern-day Bangkok, the vampire seeks the secrets of his past. Ramonne Delacroix, 175-year-old French vampire once again crosses paths with Martin Larue while retracing the historical journey that he made in 1858 with Henri Mouhot to Indochina. Martin has founded an orphanage in Cambodia outside the gates of Angkor.
Hello My Big Big Honey
Price: $7.95 USD. Words: 53,560. Language: German. Published: January 27, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Nonfiction » Social Science » Prostitution & sex trade, Nonfiction » Sex and Relationships  » Prostitution
Hello My Big Big Honey von Dave Walker & Richard S. Ehrlich, Deutsche Fassung "Hello My Big Big Honey!" ist eine bis dahin nie erzählte Darstellung der Liebesleben von Bangkoker Barmädchen und den Ausländern, von denen die Mädchen gemietet werden – und sich dazu in ihren eigenen Worten bekennen.
Ramonne: The Return of the Vampire of Siam
Series: Vampire of Siam, Book 2. Price: $7.95 USD. Words: 51,690. Language: English. Published: January 11, 2014 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Undead, Fiction » Horror » Crime
The Vampire of Siam is back — with a vengeance Martin Larue’s blood-soaked encounter with a 175 year-old vampire has left him a changed man. For twelve months he donned the orange robes of the monk and studied the teachings of Buddha. His transcendent nirvana is shattered by a police lieutenant who seeks his help in tracking down a killer — a killer who drains the blood of his victims.
Bhutanese Tales of the Yeti
Price: $7.95 USD. Words: 43,590. Language: English. Published: December 14, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Cultural & ethnic themes » Cultural interest, general, Nonfiction » Travel » By region
Bhutanese Tales of the Yeti is a collection of twenty-two stories set in four different regions of Bhutan. The presence of the yeti is ubiquitous to the kingdoms of the Himalayas, where beliefs and attitudes related to it go beyond scientific judgment and analysis. The Bhutanese consider the yeti, or the migoi, to be an essential part of the backdrop of their existence.
The Bangkok Writers
Price: Free! Words: 43,240. Language: English. Published: December 2, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - multi-author, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
The Bangkok Writers: Tales from the other City of Angels. There is another City of Angels apart from Los Angeles. It is Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. Its Thai name, Krung Thep, means City of Angels. For many visitors Bangkok lives up to its name far better than LA. It is with great pleasure that I can introduce some of the best English language writers based in Bangkok .
The Stone Buddha's Tears
Price: $7.95 USD. Words: 28,260. Language: English. Published: December 2, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban, Fiction » Literature » Plays & Screenplays
S.P. Somtow's novel The Stone Buddha's Tears was inspired by a real-life incident in 1991 in which the city of Bangkok, about to host an international conference, decided to throw up a corrugated iron fence around a slum in order to conceal it from passing delegates. Two boys concoct a team of street kids, taxi drivers and elephant herders in a wild plan to bring down the fence.
Running with the Sharks
Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 57,280. Language: English. Published: December 1, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller, Fiction » Adventure » Sea adventures
Running with the Sharks is a novel of stark human conflict set in the lawless isolation of an uninhabited island off Thailand’s Andaman coast.
Opus 50
Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 103,060. Language: English. Published: November 24, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author, Fiction » Horror » General
S.P.Somtow has assembled a collection of essays, poems, and fiction - and tells all about his first published poem from 1967, which earned a lengthy shelf life when it was used as the epigraph for a best-selling autobiography by Shirley MacLaine - to his first professional fiction sale in 1977 - to stories that won major awards like the World Fantasy Award.
Thai Lite
Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 73,020. Language: English. Published: November 20, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General, Nonfiction » Travel » By region
The selected scribblings of S. Tsow - linguist, theologian, philosopher and sage-in-residence of the City of Angels - writes authoritatively and eloquently on the burning issues of our time: the scourge of cellphones, the escalating price of noodles, the inanity of political correctness, not to mention beer drinking, bad medicine, backpacking in the old days and the boisterous bedlam of Bangkok.
Chasing Jimi
Price: $7.95 USD. Words: 53,650. Language: English. Published: November 17, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » General, Nonfiction » Music » Rock music
A novel by Jim Newport. Chasing Jimi is a rock ‘n’ roll period piece. It spans one year - the summer of 1966 to the summer of 1967. From New York’s Greenwich Village to swinging London to the stage of the Monterey Pop Festival. It follows the ascension of one Jimmy James, a struggling back-up guitar player, to the exalted throne of rock-god superstardom.
PostScript: Forgotten But Not Gone
Price: $3.95 USD. Words: 36,540. Language: English. Published: October 30, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Humor & comedy » General, Nonfiction » Travel » By region
After his last book, PostScript, many thought Crutch would do the decent thing and consent to being put out to pasture without little more than a whimper. But you can't keep an old dog down and he kept on and on and on with his Sunday column in the Outlook section of the Bangkok Post. Well, it does good paper bag material after all.
The Vampire of Siam
Series: Vampire of Siam, Book 1. Price: $7.95 USD. Words: 48,490. Language: English. Published: October 21, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Undead, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
Book one of the The Vampire of Siam trilogy. In The Vampire of Siam a nineteenth-century explorer, Ramonne Delacroix, encounters an ancient Chinese demon in the temples of Angkor Wat. His subsequent nocturnal transformation leads him to the capital of Siam, where he witnesses the coronation of kings and the city’s metamorphosis into the modern day sin-city of Bangkok.
Dragon's Fin Soup
Price: $7.95 USD. Words: 70,100. Language: English. Published: October 18, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Cultural & ethnic themes » Asian American
Dragon's Fin Soup: And Other Modern Siamese Fables by World Fantasy Award Winner S.P. Somtow. Eight Rowdy Tales where East and West don't meet - they collide. Eight Frightening Ruminations where nothing is as it seems, and even the unreal is an illusion. Eight Delectable Servings that could only have sprung from the fevered mind of S.P. Somtow.
What’s Your Name I’m Fine Thank You
Price: $4.95 USD. Words: 48,240. Language: English. Published: October 11, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Nonfiction » Travel » By region, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
These finely-crafted stories and articles were originally published in Bangkok Metro magazine and The Nation newspaper. Written between 1994 and 1998, they appeared in Metro under the column title "Mugged by Reality" and in The Nation as "Slightly Out of Focus". Factually sweetened, slightly surreal, occasionally critical, but always biting and hilarious.
Jasmine Nights
Price: $9.95 USD. Words: 127,680. Language: English. Published: October 10, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » Asian, Fiction » Cultural & ethnic themes » Asian American
At twelve years old, Little Frog has a richly fantastic and sustaining inner life. It is 1963, his parents have disappeared, and he lives with his maiden aunts, known affectionately as the Three Fates, on a family estate in Bangkok. But, fed by a steam of books and accompanied by his pet chameleon, Little Frog refuses to accept that he is Thai; eats English food; speaks only English...
Boat People
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 96,120. Language: English. Published: October 9, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » Asian, Fiction » Historical » General
Boat People is a panoramic novel of greed and compassion, violence and family love, desperation and hope. It is September 1981, the high tide of boat people flight from Vietnam. From the Mekong Delta port of Rach Gia, one boat, crammed with fishermen, farmers, political refugees, and urban hustlers, runs a 300-mile gauntlet of pirates and storms for the safe haven of Songkhla Refugee Camp.
Zoom Top: Australia’s Greatest Greyhound
Price: $9.95 USD. Words: 15,840. Language: English. Published: October 9, 2013 by Proglen. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Dog racing
At the end of 1968 the muscular Zoom Top was already regarded by many as one of greatest racing greyhounds Australia had ever seen. By the time recurring injury forced her into retirement in early 1970, Zoom Top had swept all before her in a series of thrilling victories, downing some of the best racers in the country over a variety of distances.
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Proglen's favorite authors on Smashwords


Smashwords book reviews by Proglen

  • The Book of Answers on July 18, 2011

    Reviewer--Collin Piprell (www.collinpiprell.com). I had the pleasure of reading an early review copy of C.Y. Gopinath's debut novel. *The Book of Answers* promises even greater success than his globetrotting chronicle *Travels with the Fish( (HarperCollins India, 1999). Released just this month, also by HarperCollins India, *The Book of Answers* has already appeared on the bestseller list in that country. I’m going to don my “let’s pitch this book to a modern market” hat, something I find hard to do with my own books and hesitate to do with Gopinath’s debut novel for fear of doing it an injustice. Anyway, here goes: Think, an Indian Jonathan Swift turns to magical realism with a message for readers everywhere. Alternatively, we could describe the novel as a fabulist satire wherein a Clarke Kent hero represents the potential of Everyman to take a stand and fight against those absurd and often evil (often bureaucratic) forces that shape our lives. Readers in Thailand might almost believe that former and newly de facto PM Thaksin Shinawatra had seen the book in manuscript and used it as a manual for retaking power. The book is compulsively readable. I found myself reluctant to skim passages for fear of missing any of the gems scattered across every page. Gopinath sketches his hugely entertaining characters with sure and economical strokes. I enjoyed all of them, from the Convener and the godman to B Plus and the “doctor of venereal diseases,” with his very entertaining medical examination of Pat and Rose, the central characters. The author’s treatment of Indian English, meanwhile, is both warmly funny and minimalist, in no way obtrusive. In the course of one entertaining dialogue, for example, “codswallop” devolves by stages into “shit,” the speaker’s Anglophiliac try for elegance nicely derailed. “More banging for a buck,” in another conversation, is enough to comically conjure, without further ado, the voice Gopinath wanted. “Gourment” (see the extract, below) is how Indian bureaucrats pronounce “government,” and it includes connotations sorely missing in the conventional expression. The book is also a structural success. Among other features, it presents an excellent conclusion, something too many otherwise good novels lack. En route, Gopinath consistently leaves the reader hanging at the end of each chapter, wanting more, and introduces each successive chapter with a surprise. In the first chapter, the hero’s proto-obsessive compulsive negotiation of Mumbai's streets and his collision with the Fat Man is superbly realized. And what an idea is introduced shortly thereafter! A blind calligrapher of unknown provenance has inscribed wisdom for times not yet here in a mysterious tome known as The Book of Answers, recording details of the future produced by that calligrapher's lover, chief cook for a client's household. That’s followed hard upon by in introduction to “The Ministry of Errors and Regrets.” This venerable institution applies the principle of wringing every possible lesson from a mistake by repeating that error as often as possible. Gopinath adopts a wonderfully comic voice, kind of like Flann O'Brien describing a meeting chaired by the Mad Hatter, the agenda set by Kafka. (The latter individual would have appreciated a ministerial interview to determine whether Pat, the hero, and Rose, his companion, were rich or poor.) The story as a whole is a delightful tapestry woven from such threads as the eponymous Book of Answers itself; the Ministry for Errors and Regrets; Rose's scrapbook of omens; the dynamic between Pat, his friend Arindam, and Rose, who turns out to be Arindam's wife; Pat's comic love-life with Rose; and the rather moving development of Pat's relationship with his son Tippy, as Tippy himself is gradually revealed as much more than the klutz we first meet, the lad with “content-free eyes” tipped back in a chair chewing gum. Here’s just a taste from the hilariously barbed banquet: “We live in times of world ending. Kali yug, as we say in the scriptures. The Convener believes our country is in doldrums. Gourment is committed but man can only do so much. Shri Ishwar Prasad is facing challenges of lifetime, struggling with national problems such as upcoming elections, crime, literacy, terrorism, democracy, women's liberation, abortion, sexual slavery, judicial backlog, and a bankrupt treasury. While he is doing all this —” “We are not fooled,” said Rose. “Your boss heads a government in charge of pulling wool over people's eyes. The reality is that it’s a government of lies.” Her eyes blazed at the Convener’s Personal Assistant. “You make a good point,” Janki Ram continued reasonably. “But concept of pulling wool is rooted in Hindu philosophy and spirituality. Shri Ishwar Prasad says reality is overrated. It's a nice idea, of course, but it doesn't exist. The Convener’s only wants to make this acceptable to our struggling millions. He is not sidetracked by the facts. He is concerned with the truth.” Such ideas, expressed differently, figure prominently in another book I've just read. Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, by Chris Hedges, is a bleak jeremiad that appears to leave little option other than fleeing the planet. I prefer the darkly comic recourse offered by The Book of Answers. www.collinpiprell.com