Mixed Bag: Books and links

It’s been a while since I chronicled my reads here at The Literary Shack. And the itch to update you all on my progress has finally turned into an urge to put my fingers on the keyboard. Talking about typing reminds of this beautiful post I read recently on Londoner’s Musings on The Delight of Handwriting. It got me yearning to hold a fountain pen and write something too. Agree or not there is this impregnate romanticism  in writing by hand with a treasured pen that is missing while you type on a computer.

And then I read these books in this couple of months gone by. Somehow all except one of these are collections of short stories! I am no disciplinarian when it comes to ticking books off my stack for it is my whim for the day that picks the books. And owing to this I’ve had to suffer a slow and long-drawn period of completing them giving me more time than I required for thinking, making notes, loving, getting bored,etc. So I thought of just giving you tiny bits of what I thought about them for I’ve spent way too much time already than I can afford to.

The first one to get whim-picked was Vintage Stuff by Tom Sharpe of which I’ve made a mention in one of my earlier posts. Reading it reminded me of watching something like Dennis the menace and I obviously didn’t want to let go of it. Ambrosially speaking, I read it like savouring each and every piece of a Chicago style pizza. It is witty, outright humorous and altogether a heartily enjoyable package. If you’re in need of some bumps you can sit snugly in a chair with this book and yet fly off it in bouts of laughter.

Then I read something pretty uncharacteristic of me. I read a book by Jeffery Archer! I picked up Twelve Red Herrings hastily on my way back home after a tiresome episode of this and that. And it was enjoyable for a best-seller for once! Now some would call my statement as prejudiced but I have my reasons. Anyway, the stories had racy plots, vibrant characters and twelve red herrings! What made the reading all the more pleasurable was the fact that I could keep wondering who this mysterious V.B is to whom the yellow, dog-eared copy belonged to! Trial and Error, Chunnel Vision are some of my favourites from the collection. Not to mention the latter did remind me of Luncheon by Maugham. I would recommend this one to anyone in need of a book to unclog blocks of both kinds- reader’s and writer’s.

Difficult Pleasures by Anjum Hassan is another of those profound books whose presence doesn’t leave you for days after you’re done with it. It has a story for every kind of  cosmopolitan you can find these days in India. There’s the loner, the uncanny artist, the mourner, the dissatisfied wife, the unloved kid and the like. What sets this one apart lies in its form: of short stories, its tone: one of melancholy and pensiveness and its clarity: of thought. I think we’ve found a very good writer in the short story genre and can hope to get lots more from her.

I’ve also been reading a lot on the internet off late which should explain the Three-books-in-two-months syndrome(of course with other added complications) and thought of leaving you with some of the links I found were worth my while.

~ The White Correspondent’s Burden by Jina Moore

The argument about journalism from Africa is often whittled into two camps, Afro-pessimists vs. Afro-optimists. But these binary camps, too, miss that Africa is many complex things, simultaneously. In our news broadcasts and our headlines, though, it’s usually framed by just one static thing: suffering.

~ Reading Rants: Jane Eyre is not submissive at The Compulsive Reader

The problem I have with the super sexy Jane Eyre is the fact that, as I stated in my previous post, she holds to her convictions. She stands by her values and living with Rochester, having a relationship (sexual or romantic) with him is wrong because he already has a wife. Sure, we all are screaming at her to just FORGET THE CRAZY WIFE AND KISS HIM ALREADY but she doesn’t, and that makes the ending so much sweeter. If Jane HAD given in to Rochester (and we wouldn’t have blamed her, really), she wouldn’t have been the Jane we all fell in love with and rooted for and cried for. And without Jane and her amazing character, Jane Eyre wouldn’t work as a novel.

~ 7 Essential Books on Music, Emotion and the Brain at Brain Pickings

~ Tale for our Times at The Hindu

A metaphorical and visual delight, the book is set in an age when a group of rabbits live in happy freedom from their natural predators and are busy violently taming Nature. Some of them seek to do away with warren dwelling, and liberate themselves from the tyranny of old ways.

~ Will Self: ‘I dont write for readers’ at The Guardian

“You can’t go on pretending that the writer is an invisible deity who moves around characters in the simple past,” he says. “I just can’t do that stuff. It’s lies. The world isn’t like that any more. The world is really strange. It’s not to be explained by ‘He went to the pub’. You cannot capture what’s going on with that form, to my way of thinking. You can create a divertissement, you can create a very fine entertainment, but you can’t reach any closer to any kind of truth about what it is to exist.”

Five life-changing books

Credit : booksaboutlife.com

Books can be the best possible source of constant companionship. They come in all different sizes and stories to suit each of our tastes and needs. But a book can sometimes be more than just an instrument to alleviate boredom. Sometimes they can one’s outlook in life. They are the grand category of books often referred to as ‘Life-changing’.

As a bibliophile and a book addict I’m happy to say I’ve seen my share of such books. Sometimes these are confused with self-help books but I’m referring to works, born out of the imagination of genius’ of writers. But don’t get it wrong. I’m not one against self-help books and I have my favourites in this section too. But how impactful they are to life is questionable according to me. For a truth put straight seldom is received in the way it should and so are secrets. And when it comes to life it’s one big secret and one big truth as well.

So, the first in this line that comes to my mind is J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. It’s got a beautiful philosophy underlying all the adventure. It teaches a most important lesson in life- Let go. And there are anecdotes aplenty to take as the escapade progresses.

Here’s a beautiful line from the book:

 The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.

Holden is the quintessential urban yogi of sorts whom I personally try to emulate in terms of outlook towards life and Salinger is the typical genius of a writer whose writing amazes me.

The next book that flashes in my mind is Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. It’s a one of a kind book and I’m only too happy that I was able to read last year. It was instantly my favourite the time I read it. Short and crisp though it is the point is nailed so very clearly. Even if the theme is not one that can so easily be said or understood. Only a writer who has felt it can impart such clarity of thought and fact to the reader and the reader in turn can capture the essence quickly. One needs a little spiritual spark to get anything out it; read the book at the least. But such a reader is bound to get a seed of the truth vital to his quest. I can say that with conviction for I did get a lot out of it. For others who simply want to get a glimpse into Buddha you get more than that. Herman Hesse has Buddha demystified for the commonest of people. I wouldn’t say it’s the most precise chronicling of Lord Buddha’s life and teachings but the essential extracts are set on a platter and hence the life-changing quality.

Oftentimes a book cannot be anything if it is a bestseller. A bestselling book is now a book which has reached its saturation level of popularity and its universal acceptance has sometimes invariably rendered it a clichéd image. It is a sad reality which won’t keep me from listing Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert here. Everything’s said and done and what’s more even shown in this case. Its honesty is pivotal to its success and reach and so is its passionate telling instrumental in striking that personal connection with me. The same lesson re-surfaces: Let go.

Now I come to another important book which is quite interesting in that I’m impelled to list it now but asked a year ago I would have fiercely detested its very mention. The book I’m referring to here is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. For an Austen fan much accustomed to happy ending and sweet twists reading this one felt like chewing a big chunk of raw bitter gourd. But after exactly one year I feel there was much truth. It wasn’t a waste of labouring over seven hundred pages of one heavy and gruesome book after all. Interestingly I also noticed having noted down just three lines from the book. And here the golden lines are:

“In the end, it’s all a question of balance”

“You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair”

“…Please always remember, the secret of survival is to embrace change, and to adapt”

They may be lines we’ve heard over and over but that doesn’t reduce their truthfulness in the least. And put in their context and storyline they make one big, impactful picture.

Finally the last one that I’m going to name here, assuming that I’m to name only five books, is Wuthering Heights. Yes, the gothic romance by Emily Bronte gave to me understand what a hero can actually be at the age of thirteen. I read the book twice immediately after my first reading to just make sure that I didn’t make any mistake in discerning the story. One thing, it strangely made me braver in matters of death and other grim aspects of life. On a more philanthropic level it taught me what love can be. It can be dark. It can be grim. It can be excruciating. But it can be true too. Heathcliff is a one of a kind hero whom I’ll always turn to at some point of time in life repeatedly.

So, there’s a cherry picked version of books that strike me as life changing. As of now.

I hope to turn this into a feature where we have other book lovers talk about books that changed their lives and the lessons they imbibed from them. As always I look forward to your support and suggestions.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

The month in books #2

The month gone by was a long one for me. Funny: considering it was a February. Anyway the really strange aspect was when it came to what I read and watched. I hadn’t planned out anything in particular but strangely the general theme seemed to be- touchy. So…

There are very few things in the outside world that actually affect me in a sentimental way. Even though kindness and compassion is a part of me I’m as strong as steel when it comes to being moved by a touchy scene/story. People have often thought me hard-hearted at farewells and re-unions when I return home dry and composed as always.

But in everyone’s life, at sometime, a thing deeply shatters you and brings an outpour without any notice. The first time it happened was when I watched ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch. My eyes were all weepy and I kept shaking and nodding at the end of the speech and a family member who entered the room was quite appalled at the sight. All through the speech only one thing went through my mind- This guy is freaking divine! He knows he’s going to die and there he gives an awe-inspiring talk to a hall filled with the grim auras of the gathering. Despite everything he forges ahead, with his ‘dark humour’ and left me crying. I was hollering in my head when he so coolly acknowledged that he had only about six months of “healthy life” left. And man did I clamour for one of those adorable bears!

The other thing that left me all teary was this book- ‘To Sir With Love’ by E.R.Braithwaite which I read this month. This racial thing has always put me to distress. I don’t really know if it exists even today but if it does then God save the man who supposedly is in the ‘information’ era. If there’s one word in the whole of the English Language that I hate, it has to be- coloured. Whatever million other meanings a vocabulary may render it invariably reminds of the atrocities that faultless human beings with a lot of melanin on their dermis faced.

This book is a straight ticket into the hearts of millions of people with dark skins. Braithwaite’s writing is so exact in setting the scene before the reader that only imbibing the emotions is left to do. And that is pretty easy to do for anyone who can empathise with the grave injustices faced by another human being. One minute he is happy with the way life has showered something upon him and the other minute, that which was in sight sometime back quite disappears. When Braithwaite finds a place to get accommodation he is more than delighted at the prospect but all the delight is sucked into a black hole the moment he hears that ‘kind refusal’ masking the prejudice beneath. The stark reality glares into his eyes whisking away the temporary mists of joy.

Then a couple of days after reading Braithwaite I took up John Green’s latest novel, The Fault in our Stars after reading much in praise about it. I’m yet to categorize the book personally whatever the world may say. I still cannot decide about what aspect of the book pulled the strings but that is because every time I even try to probe I find myself breaking down internally. I read a lot of contemporary novels and love them too. But never was I totally convinced that they would create impacts like the classics, which had the masses hooked to them. And John Green demystified every such notion and I’m so happy about it. I cannot further elaborate on the whys and whats for the same reason stated a few lines back.

‘The mysterious affairs at Styles’ touted to be Agatha Christie’s finest novel was one which I never got to read until now. Mysteriously. A die-hard fan of hers that I am. So I loved it and took in the atmosphere completely and for once my guess was almost right!

Finally I managed to squeeze in ‘Revolution 2020’ by Chetan Bhagat, the writer who revolutionised book reading in the India. And well, it was an average book with witty bits sandwiched between some mediocre bits.

Somewhere in between I also picked up ‘The Return of the Native’ by Thomas Hardy but sadly it was a failed attempt. Again.

And on the day before Leap Day I started ‘Charming Billy’ by Alice McDermott and boy was I shocked to find myself reading about a funeral! Well, I couldn’t pull myself to read it in a day and I suppose I’ll finish it now. Or maybe not. Maybe I need something more cheerful.

So, that was that. How was your February?

 

Jane Austen January: The Final Chapter

Jane Austen SOURCE: Google

It feels a bit disheartening not to be able to complete the fourth book in my attempt to read four of Austen’s fantastic novels this January. But what with tight writing schedules, other readings to get done, a bit of health issues too I’m happy to have experienced three delightful books by ‘The Lady’- Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.

What I learn from Austen every time I read is the credibility of characters more than anything. The stories just seem like normal love stories but beneath them lies the world that I so take pleasure in knowing and understanding. I love the bows, the dinners, the manners, the ribbons, the dresses, the manners, not to mention the wonderful suitors. Though live back then is touted to have been boring by the children of technology of today’s world, in my view it is quite the contrary. With grand and elegant pianoforte’s to be mastered, room full of books by the masters of English Literature to be devoured, long and insightful letters to be written to the dear, courteous notes and calls to be given to neighbours, breathtaking parks and mansions to visit where was the time to be idle? Living like that has always been one of my many utopian dreams.

But Austen more than sufficiently provides for my fancies. Whatever views literary critics may take I for one will always admire the novels and turn to them for comfort and camaraderie.

Now I thought I might share some of my favourites out of her six popular novels.

Favourite Setting: Barton Park from Sense and Sensibility

Enjoyably Annoying character: Mrs. Jennings from Sense and Sensilibity

Favourite Non-heroine Sibling: Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.

Favourite Notorious Character: Frank Churchill from Emma and Lydia from Pride and Prejudice

Favourite Stately character: Sir Thomas Bertram from Mansfield Park

The character(s) I laughed my off reading: Collins and Catherine De Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice

Favourite hero: Fitzwilliam Darcy( I know, very typical, but that’s that)

Favourite heroine: I just cannot zero in on one. It would be pointless to cherry pick for the Austen fan that I am.

Favourite lucky character(s): Fanny Price from Mansfield Park and Wickam from Pride and Prejudice.

Favourite Parent/ Parents: The Morlands and Mr. Woodhouse

Favourite Saint: Anne Elliot from Persuasion

Favourite kids: The Musgroves pack from Persuasion

And the list is endless I think, so it would be best if I just let it be.

And now it feels like I have come to the end of something so enjoyable and invigorating. Nonetheless, I will continue to read them in the future. And it was a bang-up start for the year and thanks to all of you who joined in to make it an even more pleasant experience.

South Asian Writers Challenge: Gently Falls the Bakula by Sudha Murthy

I’m so happy to have started off with my reading for the South Asian Writers Challenge hosted by S.Krishna’s Books. Before I get to the book here’s a bit about the author.

Sudha Murthy

Sudha Murty was born in 1950 in Shiggaon in north Karnataka. She did her MTech in computer science, and is now the chairperson of theInfosys Foundation. A prolific writer in English and Kannada, she has written nine novels, four technical books, three travelogues, one collection of short stories, three collections of non-fiction pieces and two books for children.
Her books have been translated into all the major Indian languages and have sold over three lakh copies around the country. She was the recipient of the R.K. Narayan’s Award for Literature and the Padma Shri in 2006.

SOURCE: PENGUIN INDIA

The book is a short read but a very impactful one. It’s simple in tone and took me very less time to get into its core though the settings are quite unkown to me. The story parodies the life of a couple, both of who are talented and ambitious in their own ways. It starts off with their early conflicts in schools and flows through the subsequent years where Shrikanth and Shrimathi, the hero and heroine, fall in love and feel they are entangled for life. The domestic disputes between their families, which had lasted for years as far as they remembered, shadows their relationship throughout passively. Though their differences don’t enter directly into their combined happiness, it still penetrates into their personal peace. Life and strife gets the better of them as years progress and Shrimathi feels the pinch of the sacrifices she blindly made for the man she loved. Despite the advice of her mentor, an old Professor from the United States, to pursue her passion for history she goes on to give up all her personal goals for the good of her husband. But even after ten years of unfaltering devotion to her family she finds all her sacrifices being neglected and even worthless. The pain unrequited love is felt clearly through the lens of Shrimathi’s character.

The book deals with a heavy, multi-layered topic of complicated family matters very typical of the Indian society almost thirty years ago. It shows in

crystalclear terms the impact of the IT boom in a conventional gild. A strong feminist voice speaks throughout which is the aspect I most loved about the book. Thetenderness and sensibility of a woman, her sacrifices, her fortitiude, her aspirations and her suppression is all set on a platter for the reader to assimilate. Over and above everything is the beautiful metaphorical allusion to the fragrant Bakula flowers, from a variety of ornamental tree that grows in India.

Shrikant was restless . . . Holding a bakula flower in his palm, he was wondering why he was fascinated by this tiny flower, that was neither as beautiful as a rose nor had the fragrance of a jasmine or a champaka. And yet, it was very special to him. It held an inexplicable attraction for him.’

The book is also pretty informative for a short novel that it is. There’s plenty of love professed generously for the poignant Indian king Ashoka the Great , even more admiration for the artistic ancient cities and marvellous monuments of Western and South India. In tiny little bits in between the flow of the story there’s much beauty to discover in the form of facts and little characters.

I completed the reading in about four hours but the story left me with a considerable impact. As a self-professed student of Hemingway in matters of writing and reading, I say the book was a good one because it ‘hurt‘ me. It left me thinking way after I was done reading about women and life.

Jane Austen January: Re-visiting Emma

Emma had to be the first book to read as a part of Jane Austen January because the first joys of reading it years ago remained with me. And I must say it was just like visiting an old friend’s when I read it now. It is a formidable book in terms of size and a masterpiece in terms of the one and only captivating character- Emma. In no other book have I found myself so freely, without any ambiguity in deciding, declaring that the heroine is the one who is to be admired the most. I love her sensibility, as they say, and that innocence which is so characteristic of her and her alone.

After reading so much of Austen I no more seek to understand her style and writing but just admire it. I haven’t read any accounts of Austen’s personal life as yet, unfortunately. But as I understood from the movie ‘Becoming Jane’, Austen was determined to give her readers excellent suitors for her heroine. I read Emma much before I read Pride and Prejudice for the first and even after Mr. Knightley stuck on to his No.1 position in my view. Of all the things I love in Jane Austen’s books it is the starkly different men that she introduces. The very name, Knighley, so regal and stoic, captured my heart. And then his unfaltering, noble love for the one girl who enraptured him, even when she was just thirteen!

Though Pride and Prejudice is touted be her best, Emma I personally feel surpasses it by being more than just a love story. There isn’t blind passion, and most of all there’s no hurry at all. Everyone is done justice and there’s happiness. I love this most about this book. Mr. Woodhouse, Emma’s father is another ingenious creation, a formidable check to the progress of fast-moving love. But not once does his character seem as an impediment, neither to Emma nor to the reader. He is one cute character who I always enjoy reading about. And the quaint country side, the gossips, the seriously hilarious misunderstandings, the apologies, the parties amply provided for the drought of Austen’s world that I faced last year.

If there’s one thing I admire more than the story itself, it’s the long letters that Austen never fails to include. I hope I can someday be able to write a fictional letter half that length, with the same quality and also find faults with it. Every time I read them I seriously feel for the loss of the art. One of the main reasons that reading Austen is so delightful for me is that even in the midst of prejudice and class conflicts the importance of humaneness shines forth. It provides me with the re-assurances that I sometimes need when caught in the quagmire of life.

“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart,” said she afterwards to herself. “There is nothing to be compared to it. Warmth and tenderness of heart, with an affectionate, open manner, will beat all the clearness of head in the world, for attraction, I am sure it will. It is tenderness of heart which makes my dear father so generally beloved—which gives Isabella all her popularity.—I have it not—but I know how to prize and respect it.—

It’s also interesting to note that it was just a matter of talking a small idea out and a whole bunch of people end up at a picnic or a party. And there’s no dearth for humour too in Emma. This is one excerpt that I love:

“Oh! now you are looking very sly. But consider;—you need not be afraid of delegating power to me. I am no young lady on her preferment. Married women, you know, may be safely authorized. It is my party. Leave it all to me. I will invite your guests.”

“No,”—he calmly replied,—”there is but one married woman in the world whom I can ever allow to invite what guests she pleases to Donwell, and that one is——”

“—Mrs. Weston, I suppose,” interrupted Mrs. Elton, rather mortified.

“No—Mrs. Knightley;—and, till she is in being, I will manage such matters myself.”

Though there’s very little description of places in this book it still is exciting to imagine it. And now these are for your pleasant perusal:

Image courtesy: JASNA

Box Hill

~ You may also want to read this informative and insightful article Adoring the Girl Next Door: Geography in Austen’s Novels  
(The next thing for me will be to hunt for the DVD because I haven’t watched it as yet. Be sure to tell me about it if you’ve seen it)

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.

 

 

 

Read More

This is quite early for a wind-up post of the year’s high’s and lows. So I’ll do all that when it’s the right time. But the purpose of this post though is to list out the various challenges that I’m planning to take up in twenty twelve 🙂

First up, the super-exciting Jane Austen read-along in January. I’ll be re-reading some of the best books ever written in the world of Literature and so will all the wonderful people who have signed up to join it. And so will you if you sign up now. You can view details of it here.

I came across this South Asian Challenge that requires the participants to read books written by South Asian writers. And I simply couldn’t resist the urge to take part in it. Every year I do get some reading done by South Asian writers but not just enough. Now I can actually push myself to get that bit of extra reading done in this genre. And would you care to notice the elegant button! It’s so pretty and showcases an extraordinary Indian danceform. The challenge is hosted by S. Krishna’s books. I have made up my mind to read at least four books for this challenge.

 

Then, who can resist a handsome uniform clad man from a book? I certainly cannot. This unique reading challenge really impelled me to join in without any second thoughts. It’s called the Men In Uniform Reading Challenge and its hosted by The Book Vixen. The challenge has various levels of reading to get done and I think I’ll do the Sergeant level that requires 1-5 books to be read. The list of books however I’ll update later on when I finally zero in on the choices.

And additonally I’m also going to challenge myself to be more open to genres of books that I usually steer clear from like historical fiction, crime fiction, steampunk and the like.  Finally like any other book lover I’m hoping to get more reading done than usual. So that’s that on the reading front. With this sorted I’m off to ponder about the writing challenges that I’m going to take up strictly this coming year.

 

 

Book Review: Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai

Via Google

A rich Chekovian novel by one of the most gifted of contemporary Indian writers.’- THE NEW YORKER

And I couldn’t have agreed more on this one. This is one novel which picked up from my local library by falling in love with its title at first sight. I also happen to be a fan of Anita’s rustic A Village by the Sea. So, I only had to walk up to the librarian and get the book issued.

Anita’s delicate yarn of a tale excited me with its characteristic slow and observant attitude. The plot in simple terms is about the awakening of reality for the characters and a subtle reunion or rather peace-making. The book has powerful core of nostalgia which steers the story forward. It is essentially a family tale- about a lonely, crude woman Bimala, her sensitive and delicate sister Tara, their romantic hero of a brother Raja and Baba, an autistic sibling. Bimala resides alone in their home since childhood taking care of the autistic brother while Tara is married off happily to an NRI and Raja leaves home to pursue his passions. When the family reunites there’s much disconnect between the characters and how everything becomes one again makes the whole story.

Now what makes for the beauty of the novel though is Anita’s sharp eye and eloquent pen. I couldn’t help loving those light crisps of witty comments on nature, people, society and the like. This extract can well acquaint you with the point:

…Bim had never seen anyone so dressed. So bathed, so powdered. She seemed to be dusted all over with flour. Perhaps she had fallen into a flour bin, like a large bun. But she smelt so powerfully of synthetic flowers, it must be powder after all. And her white sari crackled with starch, like a biscuit. And her hair gleamed with coconut oil, and flecks of gold glinted at the lobes of her ear and in the ringed folds of her neck. Altogether a piece of confectionery, thought Bim.

A human being called ‘a piece of confectionery’ is something so out of the realm and undeniably original. This sense of freshness that is garnered to every mundane aspect of life drew me deeper into the book. Honesty is another parameter that keeps throbbing in me to be ticked off while I read any book. And the truthfulness with which the identity crises and the unsettled pasts of the NRI’s is handled really appeased my anger from reading several other poorly presented soups on the same issue.

The several quotes of peotry from Lord Byron’s collections, Iqbal’s royally enchanting verses provided more insight and food for thought. When I read a book it is these extra things that add richness to it. Anita seems to have a natural way of adding richness and elegance to her works. The book is Chekovian in the sense that it subtly brings to terms the reader with the tale and the tale with its proceedings. This added to the typical flavours of the Indian sub-continent made the book one idyllic read.

This is my one other favourite line from the book: An invisible cricket by her feet at that moment began to weep inconsolably.