The month in books: April

On the personal front April was a tiresome and trying month. I had very little or rather no time at all for myself and it seemed an unsettling period. The little hours of solitude that I snatched for my reading had me read these wonderful books which truly sustained me through those distressing days.

Firstly I owe the revival of my spirits to none other our beloved Rowling. Reading Goblet of fire sort of rekindled those feebly glowing embers of enthusiasm. It was my second time I think. The first time I read it, I remember clearly, was many years back and under a thick blanket, shuddering at the death of poor old Frank. I felt the very same fervour in this reading too. And I am pretty sure that it will never die out. My love for the Harry Potter series will definitely be with me throughout my life.

While there are many critics who argue that Rowling’s writing is too logical than fantastic I can but only detest that argument. Stories can be logical, magical, anything! That’s what stories are- impossible, possible, imaginative, real… The fact that as a child the book awed me and as an adult it remains a true and faithful friend, who sees me through tough times, even provides an unparalleled escape is a testimony to its brilliance. Only very few books have that power and the Potter books have it in them.

And with the alleviation of cloudy moods I even ventured headlong into ‘Pottermore’ and had loads of fun buying my wand and getting sorted. Mine’s a beautiful Sycamore with unicorn core wand and to my surprise I found myself in Hufflepuff house. Ouch! But the hat never goes wrong.

The other book that completely aided in my healing was Mr. Oliver’s Diary by Ruskin Bond. It’s a short and sweet book that will stay with me forever. It tells the endearing tale of a perfect school teacher, the strict and bendable, Mr. Oliver. It’s a children’s book and I loved it. Somehow I am never comfortable calling books as ‘Children’s books’ because I enjoy them wholly as any child would do and I am strictly way past my childhood. I never tire of them and it isn’t surprising that I turned to these very books in a very troubled time. Not intentionally though, but perhaps instinctively.

This also tells a very good principle to keep in life if you ask me. Stay a child at heart. When a book meant for kids can cheer one up so well, keeping your heart and mind like a child’s can certainly go a long way to leading a happy and fulfilling life. Yes and the book also has many a treats on the platter to cater to every imaginable childish craving- from croaky, slimy frogs to hot, savoury snacks to snow, ghosts and a cute love story.

And then I read a painting. Yes, I can only describe that book as a work of pure art painted in words. How else can anybody discuss about a work by the Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore? ‘Shesher Kavitha’ a Bengali masterpiece by Tagore was recently translated to English by Dilip Basu. I recently read a little review of the translated version, ‘The Last Poem- A novel’ and instantly ordered it online. It was a long wait of forty eight hours before I held it my hands. This one is a true feast for the romantic sort. It is tragic, in a way, mind you yet it is not. That subtlety in its storyline kept me in a trance for hours later. Once taken up it is next to impossible to put it down. The story pulls you into its mire of poetry, nature and love; the three very elements that I live on. It is a beautiful little novel and in a way renders true beauty to the word beautiful.

Here’s a tiny eloquent poem, one of the many poems that bridge the romance :

Waterfall, in the crystals

of your flow,

The sun and stars

See each other

And here is another favourite of mine:

Let the shadows swing and play

Upon your waters,

Let the shadows mingle

With the music of your laughter,

Give it a voice

The voice of eternity.

The last poem in the book, from which the book derives its name, is a classic. There are several surreal illustrations, by a very talented Dinakar Kowshik, interspersed between the pages and they are great tools that aid in gluing to mind the quintessence of the characters. All in all, one marvellous book that I can just look at and feel happy.

 

 

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Rejection Slips

They give me more than one kind of feeling when I get them. Before anything the first thing that my mind tells me is: Someone actually read your work. That was the point of writing after all; to get at least one other living being to see your work. The sadness dwells in another core of me, a place which actually steers the day-to-day activities of my life. So such slips do affect my life in a way.

So if there was some small positive part to rejection slips in my view, it was that. Now the larger part of the story deals with the traumatic side. Naturally.

With every rejection slip comes the feeling that the day of being published will perhaps, never come. That one dream which struggles to sustain itself despite all the other things in life that don’t actually matter might just stay unrealised.

Even though positivity is something I try to keep a good stock of, it just doesn’t help beyond a point; it falls flat in the desert of discouragement where one is thirsty for reassurance. Now that is something harder to come by than the goal itself. While two close family members really believe the day will come, and a few friends who don’t know the intensity of despair try to cajole you and even pull you to a bad movie, no Angel is out there waiting to bestow kindness and reassurance. If there is one that’s got to be me and I’m only a novice Angel!

Writing is a lonely process despite the fact that I love it more than anything. What with the other hundred issues that can bog me down I have to handle the solitary feeling too. Sometimes being alone is a great comfort but at times when I sit staring at rejection slips in my hand it is pure hell. It even stalls the WIP which clamours for attention and polishing. It’s a sad state.

But there’s one other thing that rejection slips can do. A positive one too (I really didn’t see this coming when I began writing this post). It makes one brave. If I’m writing about my rejection slips with an intention of sharing it with the world, when the rest of world is proclaiming slogans like “My First book is in print” or “I sold my recent novel” or “I signed a three book deal”, then that’s something to feel happy about.

While sailing through one of my rejections I happened upon writer Ellen Jackson’s website. And these priceless words really did some good healing work.

Rejection-proof your manuscript. Write from your heart. Everyone is looking for a little bit of wisdom to help them get through life with courage and grace. Do you have wisdom to share? Is your gift humor? Can you make a child laugh? Can you tell the truth in a new way? What was important to you when your were a child? Make the clear expression of your passion your primary goal. Then show your writing to friends who know you and will understand what you’re trying to say. If one person “gets” it, you’ve planted a seed. Your writing is successful–no matter how the rest of the world judges you. The rest is just ego.

And this piece, Rejection Slips: A balm for Writers and as certain as Death by Gerald. W. Haslam is by far the most wise and sensible take on this sensitive ailment facing writers. In the essay Poet Donna Champion is quoted to have said, “I wouldn’t mind rejection so much if editors would just take the time to send a personal note” and I couldn’t agree more. This is greatest form of reassurance in my opinion. Being replied to with a little note that’s personal gives that feeling of the all important “belongingness” which is so valuable to writers.

This particular line, I felt, was the keystone point of the whole piece:

It is important to recognize that there is no sham in receiving rejection letters. For someone who wants to be published there may actually be shame in not receiving some, since that often means a writer is not really trying. Jack London once claimed to have received 400 in a single year, but he hung in there and eventually saw a great deal of his material in print.

So the deal here is to try, and try, and get there! And even if I don’t exactly wear shirts like these I’ve learnt to accept them just as any other  felicitous news.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: A Room with a view by E.M.Forster

A Room with a view

It’s not every day that I come across a book as profound and Edwardian as this one. Almost everything that is lovely and sensible features in this compact novel about a girl Lucy Honeychurch. The story starts off in a pension room in grand Italy. Lucy and her chaperon have come to tour Italy and take in its beauty to the most. Their place of stay, the interesting Bertolini brims with vivid characters who take the plot forward. After an untoward experience with a young man George Emerson the two girls leave for Rome abruptly ending their Italian trip. Then the story shifts to the household of the Honeychurches. Lucy who returns from Rome gets engaged to one typical English man Cecil. But something inside her disturbs her keeping her in perpetual disquiet. The memories of George keep returning and finally fate contrives in bringing George to Lucy’s very neighbourhood. Stuck in this tumultuous mess Lucy tries to disentangle herself and this forms the rest of the story.

This is the first book Forster’s that I read and I have certainly fallen in love with his writing. The narration throws such beautiful words of wisdom that I was wonderstruck even as I read it. People and places are so lively even in the most serious of times. There is every possible kind of character in the story, from clergymen to novel writers. The two characters out of the bunch that interested me were Lucy and old Mr.Emerson, the father of George Emerson. This old man is crude in manners, loud and asserting. Yet his kindness which is celebrated by the author himself shines forth rendering a hero image to him. This I think is justified also because he is instrumental in clearing things up in the end. His character is consistently shown to be good and eccentric in equal measure. The old man can be rightly described to be strangely intellectual for one with many weird idiosyncrasies.

But Lucy, the female protagonist whose life the author tells, is only constantly changing. It feels like you’re being shown different facets of her through a kaleidoscope. And I love dynamic characters like her.

It’s not just the characters that make this a classic. No book can become a classic without originality in perspective. And Forster is simply wonderful in this aspect. He tells: Do you suppose there’s any difference between Spring in nature and Spring in man? But there we go, praising the one and condemning the other as improper, ashamed that the same laws work eternally through both. This one dialogue speaks much in its depth. We come to know clearly that the society and its mindset weren’t much different from the present. Love was seen with equal disgust as it’s seen today in some societies.

There were moments while I read when I was astounded by the little commentaries on life and nature in general. Imageries are found aplenty in this one and my favourite was that of the little pool of water that Lucy calls a Lake. Some of the deepest insights on her character that is perceivable derives its core from this particular image. A side so naive yet so earthy comes to light every now and then in the presence of this symbolic Lake. It stands for memories, the lighter and more enjoyable side of life and the most mystical period of life too- childhood.

The book also is idyllic because of the realism in the settings. The Italian paintings, galleries, dark alleys and Piazza’s, hills and picnic spots, quiet English neighbourhoods are strikingly tangible and it’s not hard to make peace with the surroundings. Forster must have had a real thing for Violets because they so powerfully render a transcendental quality to the atmosphere, at the right time, where love happens.

…,and violets ran down in rivulets and streams and cataracts, irrigating the hillside with blue, eddying round the tree stems, collecting into pools in the hollows, covering the grass with spots of azure foam…

The chapters are so aptly named, without any unnecessary sophistication and that adds beauty too. With so much of beauty packed into one small novel it is just on overpowering experience to read it. This is by far one of the finest books I have ever read and is certainly one of the best books I’ve read this year too.

 

 

 

Mixed Bag: Audiobooks, Austen, Nostalgia, Fest…

We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.  ~George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, 1860

This is the first time I get to tell you that I heard a book. Yes, Love and Friendship taken from Jane Austen’s Juvenilia is the first audio book that I ever listened to. Firstly, the listening experience was undoubtedly different from the reading experience. And much to my surprise I wasn’t guilty of not reading the text. I could just as beautifully perceive an unfledged Austen’s world. So, I’ve actually broken the shackle at last when it comes to audio books at least.

Secondly, I have to give credit to the narrator whose voice was so sweet and enticing to listen to. I was in fact transported to my early school years as I sank deeper into the story being narrated. Back then I was a lovely story-teller or so they said. But I’m convinced about the truth of the matter a tiny bit thanks to the certificates that adorn my drawers. Well, I remember enjoying myself completely while narrating about Cinderella’s enviable glass shoes or the poor old grandma in Little Red Ridinghood to my classmates. Little did I know that I was being marked for the act but anyway it was a win-win situation for me fortunately.

As I listened to the story proceed in my player I realised how much I missed story telling and how many years have flown by without being told a bed time story. I prided in knowing every bit of detail in the mythologies and ancient stories that my grandmother so lovingly told me every night as a child. There was a certain speciality in the was she narrated. She would first get on with story in its entirety, establish the morals and allow the story to instill in my mind before telling me which God/ famous hero that tale pertained to. I remember being delighted on hearing, “And that Prince was none other than Lord Rama!” Childhood is something so precious beyond explanations and I’m not even ashamed of reiterating here. It’s just that nostalgia is so powerful and I’m just having a bout of it now.

Yes and getting back to the audio book- Emotional on one hand and ecstatic on the other I completed listening to the collection in a few hours. And then when I was a little more settled I wondered about the Jane Austen that I had just experienced. I only marvelled at that a girl of twelve could write so fluently in matters of love and friendship. Austen, the literary genius, never failed to deliver even as a child. My veneration for Austen has only increased for even those early works of hers has a lot to offer to the reader and more so for the aspiring writer. Simple though the plot and scenes are there’s much in terms of insight and voice.

Overwhelmed by the whole experience I vowed to continue with audio books and with Austen who happens to be my literary God. In continuation with this renewed Austen fervor, I planned to dedicate January 2012 to re-reading all of Austen’s works in one shot; something like an extravaganza. Reminds you of  a certain movie? Of course.

And it’s no fun doing these things alone. So, I request you to join in and make it an event/blogfest. We could have a lot of fun, you know. Who’s to predict where this might lead us all to? Pemberly? Mansfield park? Please let me know, in the comments section if you’re hopping aboard. Add your name, your blog(if you have one) and your reason for participation. I would really appreciate it if you spread word on twitter, FB, etc. and brought along more lovely Austen fans.

Update: Our twitter hashtag will be #JAJ for Jane Austen January.

Rule of Three: Evanescence Part III

Rule of Three

Hello! Here’s Part 3 of the story.

 

Fear flowed through their veins and their hearts reverberated at an inconceivable pace. For a minute, Elaina regretted her impulsive decision of following the footprints. Sometimes the facts of life present themselves only at the very end of the road and one wonders if such knowledge would be useful at all in future. This started to dawn at the split second she impulsively turned around to behold the image of the man.

“Richard!”

Helena could hardly believe the name as she let go of the rod she clutched. And still as she looked at Richard, her mind could hardly take in intensity of the shock. The room was still as a picture except for the moving eyes that rather intensified the eeriness of the situation.

“Helena, it was you? You were by the river this noon. My dear! What a fearful thing to think about. What are you all about?” Richard said moving inside clearing all the ambiguity about his presence.

Helena was still blown out of the water and couldn’t get herself to speak. “Well, we were out on a picnic” Helena paused looking at Richard’s expression, “It was our little dream to come down to Espadon and do some paintings” Elaina struggled to make things clear.

“But what are you doing here, at Erichton Freus’s dwelling?”

“We were attacked” Helena could say no more. On hearing these faint words, Richard’s angry brow came low as he approached her and took her in
his arms. “Helena, say no more. You’re safe”

“Richard where are we? Are you acquainted with this place?”

Richard let go off Helena slowly and walked up to the picture at the end of the room. “This place belongs to the Freus’s. It has remained here quietly among the trees for over a century. You must have heard about the anserine couple who went away into Assart to never return. This is the very house that they created and lived in”

“Why did they do that?” Elaina interrupted.

“The Great Battle of Sora. The murkiest time witnessed by Renaissance forced men to lose their sanity. The civil war led by the aggressive warrior Sora took turmoil to the peak. Men, women, children in large numbers were brutally injured, made invalid and some even murdered conveniently in the forests of Assart while the political camps in little towns plundered and looted. It was a little time after the period when ruthlessness had withdrawn its regal wings that young
Frues and his wife went into Assart- to help cure the scattered groups of ailing people. They consecrated their lives to service. And young Frues happened to be
an artist of high calibre and what you behold all around you are some of his very hand strokes”

“How do you know?” Elaina blurted.

“While on my frequent journeys to our town on business, I was acquainted with this mystical place and its occupant, the great-grandson Erichton Frues”

“Mystical?”

“Yes, dear sister. Come with me” he led the trio to the picture of the woman sitting by a door. “Observe her eyes. Every time I see it, I can certainly perceive a marked change in its bearing. It’s a curious mix of character that I see. Either the artist was brilliant or Lady Frues was indeed a curious personality. Sometimes I sense subtle braveness. At other times it’s a deluge of compassion and mildness that shows up. I haven’t been able to describe that quality at all” Richard quietened into thought.

“Evanescent” murmured Helena. Richards’s eyes were aglow upon hearing the word.

But who attacked us here? Elaina wondered silently.

 

**************************************************************************************************************

Word count : 600

Main Character: Richard Greaves

Prompts used: A long-kept secret is revealed.

Read Part I and Part II.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rule of Three: Evanescence Part 2

Rule of Three

Howdy! Here’s the second part to the story.

What a beauty!” Maria gasped for breath as she tried to perfect the evergreen shrubs on her canvas.“But something seems to be missing surely”

“My Maria, when will you stop being modest?” Helena cried in reply.

While the two were engaged in the creative pursuit, Elaina stood atop a mound of pebbles, looking at her reflection in the blue waters. She felt her cheeks as she looked and brushed aside a strand of her chestnut hair as the breeze teased it. Her eyes suddenly seemed all curiosity, her figure all sensuality and her aura seemed to attract every living being around it.

“Will you see that?” Maria said distracted by Elaina’s silence which was very unusual.

”Little sister admiring herself! Oh dear, look at my beautiful Elli!” Helena teased.

Before Elaina could reply, a twang of a bow was heard and an arrow zoomed beside Elaina’s ear, missing it by a fraction. Elaina fell off the mound and landed on a bush of thorns. Helena stood paralysed while Maria fought her fear and moved herself towards Elaina. She lowered herself and helped Elaina onto her hands.

“Elli!” Helena was in tears.

“Dip your handkerchief in the water and bring it” Maria instructed Helena. Elaina jerked heavily, as Maria picked the thorns and rubbed the wounds .

“Who would have done that?” Elaina said feebly after her tender body numbed with the pain. The flummoxed girls could barely reply. Just then Nora bit Elaina’s shoe to turn her attention to a trail of footprints. These marks were proof enough that danger was lurking somewhere, behind one of those bushes.

“I’m going to find out” Elaina cleared her throat, while the girls wished they wouldn’t hear those very words. When the younger Ms. Bond was determined to accomplish a task, the others followed without refuting. Elaina brushed aside her injuries mentally, and walked steadily ahead of her companions along with Nora. The marks on the ground led to a slightly growing gradient and disappeared a few hundred yards before a little cottage.

A cottage in the middle of Assart! Elaina wondered. “Is that a cottage?” Maria said trying to gain a grip on the ground.

“We will find out!”

The girls crouched their way to the cottage which camouflaged with the forest.

“Let’s get to the back of the house. The door may be open” Elaina whispered and led them.

And as Providence is always at service to aid the ones in distress, the door was indeed left ajar. The house was silent and dark. “Elli, come back” Helena tugged at her sister but in vain. Elaina was already into a room which looked like a gallery. Paintings of all sizes hung about its walls.

“Look! That’s the painting of the couple that Mrs. Rugs talks about” Elaina said astonished. “And there’s one with them holding a child”

The woman in the pictures looked unearthly and the child she held was undeniably her very own. Every feature of her virtuous face was visible on her boy. On the far end of the room was a painting that surpassed all the others in its realism. The woman sits by the door, pressing the juice out of leaves and shrubs onto a crude pestle. Dried tears embellish her red cheeks and warm affection flows from her heart.

The girls stood in awe, admiring the beauty of the paintings forgetting their peril. “The couple never returned they said” Elaina breathed.

“That’s because they decided to stay where their hearts were” a voice replied.

Little did they notice the silhouette of a man standing behind them.

 

*********************************************************************

Word count: 600

Prompt: Someone is killed or almost killed

Main Character: Elaina Bond

Read Part 1 here.

 

Are you a writer? Yes, you are.

Image Via Google

Have you seen a painter or sculptor at work? If you haven’t you have plenty of opportunity to do that on YouTube. The artist has a vision of his product in his head but he has to start from scratch. Sometimes it also happens to be scrap. And the final result ensues ever so slowly; often imparting a very anserine look to the piece in progress. But never have I heard or seen an artist lose sight of his vision or go astray or feel the blues. But why does this happen with writers so much?

A writer is as much an artist as a painter or sculptor.Perhaps the thought of audience is etched in the mind of a writer even before he sets to write and that makes all the difference. And maybe it’s also got to do with the intangible nature of the product. A painter or sculptor is blessed to be able to get a feel of his work even as he works with it and a writer has to pray he should be able to touch a paperback of his novel someday. And this uncertainty leads to fear of not being published over time and that in turn finds you all at sea.

So, this form of art that you have chosen is a taxing one; one that gets no encouragement most of the time. You may be the only one to
encourage yourself. Haven’t we noticed that it’s ever so easy and even a matter of pride to introduce people, even amateurs in their field, as singers or painters? But the general tendency of people is that only a published writer is a writer. The person who merely performs the act of writing does not figure into even the second meaning of the word ‘Writer’ in their minds. So the question of credibility arises when talking of an unpublished writer because writing is seen as an art that cannot be perfected with practice.

To change this general credo of people is out of question. But there’s lot of good that can be taken from the other artisans who invariably enjoy more support and audience. The only way to get to hold your paperback in hand soon, is to imbibe the quality of focus devoid of apprehension from the painter or sculptor. The sooner you apply this, the faster your name appears in print.

So don’t fret co-writer. Start chiselling that story with conviction even if doesn’t exactly the match that shape in your mind today. No one is born with a silver spoon, atleast a writer is defintely not. The fire deep down in you will take you there very soon; to behold that perfect story.

Lessons in Writing: It’s about being brave

Every little happening in the
world comes with its share of danger and risks. Agree or disagree, it’s always
lurking behind you somewhere. And it takes courage, just a good, sensible bit
of it to tackle such circumstances. And what would fiction, the words from the
imagined worlds whose very foundation is reality be without some elements of
it?

I was caught by these words from
this article from ‘The Literary Review’. In the piece, the writer says, “Fiction
is not the place to play safe and, generally, the more risks you are willing to
take the more compelling your work” And I say, “What a great reminder to all
those aspiring writers out there!”

But a lot of things in this world
feature as intersection sets under the ‘easier said than done’ and the ‘morally
right or no’ categories. Now it’s a lot more clear to me why a plethora of
published writers harp upon the ‘Kill your darlings’ concept. And it’s hard to
imagine let alone do it, how one can inflict pain and uncertainty on one’s own
creation just to make the work spicier. I don’t agree that a piece of fiction
can seem adventurous and sophisticated only if the writer is brave enough to
pen down Mr. Chain smoker or Ms. Spoilt. I am now reminded of Frederick Bear,
the benefactor and admirer of Jo March from the book Little Women by Louisa May
Alcott. He tells Jo his opinion on reading her ‘Sinner’s Corpse’ which gets published
after many rejections of her really good but outdated works. And I go with his
opinion. He tells her that she should write only to please herself first. And I
can bravely say that too, to many writers who write what sells.

And then again I am not blind to
the fact that one has to sell as a writer to have audience and buy some pizzas
on weekends. But practising any form of art is about maintaining a balance
between the self and the outer world. And so it’s necessary in writing too. It’s
a challenge and that truly passionate writer triumphs who respects his art as
much as he loves it. Respect for art doesn’t only mean veneration; it also
encompasses the faithfulness of his work to his sentiments.

Then the next question would be
that about being unconventional. But that is the sole aspect of your writing,
as I have understood from my personal experience, which makes your work stand
atop the hill of other manuscripts on the dark circle sporting, pen-tip chewing,
and tired editor’s desk. Being unconventional is being brave too. So, the next
time an unconventional scene pops up in my head, that which is totally in line
with my sentiments, I am going to write it down that instant.

Love of letters

I have never received mail by post. But I have definitely
read and heard a lot about the joy of receiving them. And I am missing
something that I never really had a chance to experience.

I feel that the very word ‘Letter’ has something very
elegant about it. And I am sure it takes a great deal of smartness to write an
elegant letter. After perusing some of my recent mails in my sent folder I am a
bit embarrassed. All those words in there were just matter-of-fact ones or
to-the-point ones. What more can I expect when all of those were words typed
while I waited for my favourite blogs and sites to load. Hmph!

And handwriting is something I fear. It’s one of my deepest
and darkest fears. I got to see some manuscripts by some really good writers a
few years back and I told myself, “You are going to have trouble being a good
writer if you continue with what you do in physics notebooks” It came as a
total reliever, a few months later, when a person who analysed my handwriting
told me that I was very talented and creative (No, really. You should ask her).
Maybe I was not the best judge of myself.

But that apart I really feel for the loss of the art-The art
of writing letters. The yearning heightened when I read these.Now if I
ever get to read the original manuscripts I will certainly be on a high. I must recommend you to
read Rainer Rilke’s ‘Letters to a young poet’. I was completely stumped when I
read it for very many reasons which I now reserve for a different post.

There are several other books where I loved the inclusion of
letters and they were often the parts I most cherished.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call these pieces of live
conversation the most intellectual way of communicating.

Unfortunately that art is gone for good. I sincerely hope
there is a novel way to revive it now.