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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Travel Aspirations

The time seems near, if it has not actually arrived, when the chastened sublimity of a moor, a sea, or a mountain will be all nature that is absolutely in keeping with moods of the more thinking among mankind. And ultimately, to the commonest tourist, spots like Iceland may become what the vineyards and myrtle-gardens of South England are to him now; and Heildelberg and Baden be passed unheeded as he hastens from the Alps to the sand-dunes of Scheveningen. – Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native.

Certainly Hardy’s foresight ran clear and the whole world is abuzz with travelling to exotic places on the planet. The latest issue of my Traveller magazine tells me in glossy enticing pages all that I can maybe see in ten lives. It is exciting for me to merely pick up an issue of the magazine from the stands. The travel bug bit me when I was busy talking to the stars and having dinners with the moon.

I didn’t quite realise how fortunate I’ve been to have travelled far across the planet in my own small way. Until recently I actually took the time out to mark out the places on the planet I’ve been to. That is always the easier thing to do when it comes to journaling your travel aspirations. But nevertheless I did go a bit further, ambitious that I am in these sorts of things, and listed down places I’ve got to go before…

Well, the city of lights, the city of my favourite bookstore, the city of history , the city of fashion and French still tops in my list. But that was that until I read- I, Literary Tourist by Daniel Nester. The writer talks about his wonderful experiences at a Bed & Breakfast. After reading it I just thought, “How sublime woulds’t that be?” There’s very little in today’s world where book lovers can experience the thrill of fiction in real life. Though author talks, book clubs, other little ventures are garbled here and there, there’s a lacking in terms of wholesomeness in the experience for it comes under the drone of everyday life, though the general definition of a ‘Literary Tourist’ as given in Daniel’s piece includes these activities. You have to munch on a granola bar while steering your way to the book club. You have to tackle that pending office work before you fizz out.

And the idea of Bed and Breakfasts themed on a book or a writer is very appetising to me personally. Though the commercial aspect of it might repel some people away from it, it must be noted that all that is unbelievably exciting is not bad. I wouldn’t mind saving up a few months for it. If it’s easy and worth the while to do that for an Audi it certainly applies here as well if you’re one of the happy dreamers like me. And the title of ‘Literary Tourist’ comes along with it too! Any new tags to my little literary cap rather my Literary Shack is very welcome.

Daniel discusses about a few places that are popular like ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ and Dickens World in Kent. As a prospective literary tourist my itinerary looks something like this:

~ The Poetry Ridge Bed and Breakfast

~ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

~ The Anne Frank Museum

~ Jane Austen’s House and Museum

~ Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

~ Robert Frost Farm

~ Stratford-upon-Avon

~ Brook Farm Inn

I solely relied on this marvellous website, LiteraryTourist.com to make up my list though they didn’t actually let me get to the details without registration but its listing is almost exhaustive. Now step two in my attempt to become a fancy Literary Tourist is about getting there and with enough dough 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.

 

 

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.

On Fear of Graves

Gloom

As a child, I was very scared of tombstones. The very knowledge of the existence of a graveyard in the vicinity would daunt me and give me a feeling of insufferable unpleasantness. I would strive to the best of my abilities to steer myself, and when possible, the others too away from the
place. And keeping the fear a secret was of utmost importance to me for I thought that being afraid of dead people was silly. Even as I write, I wonder
how I write so easily about these morbid things which tortured me so much once.

One cold evening, while out on a walk near a friend’s we had to pass along the grey walls of a cemetery and the shivers wouldn’t let me proceed. At the gate a strange odour of an assortment of flowers on the stones drifted towards us and I haven’t forgotten the fright it gave me. I can even feel the same smell sometimes. I believed staunchly that I would never go close to another one in my entire life.

And now at twenty-something I realize that my aversion has almost completely disappeared. One may call it the effect of growing and maturing but I know that my fear had not just been a silly childhood fear. My mind, as a child, drilled much deeper into the stones than anyone can possible imagine. It was a psychological taboo for me to think or see anything related to the departed. Every time life forced on me such an instance as having to experience my fear I felt like I was being literally torn apart. The little joys that I saved within me would vanish instantly leaving me forlorn and shaken. I realize now that I felt that such encounters with the unpleasant were the end of everything. My little timid self could not hope for happiness after that. It would take several days for me to forget and recoup.

Life has always been very benevolent with me in terms of irony and humour. Every place I have lived so far has had atleast a tiny graveyard close to it. And I can’t imagine going through the juvenile pangs of sorrow over again. As years progressed, I adapted to the vicissitudes of growing up and feel distinctly the changes in my likes and dislikes. A natural phenomenon I agree. It astonishes me that I have completely lost my fear of graves, the dead and the like. I grappled with the mystery behind the cause for the change for a while and I now believe that time has been teacher. There is a universe of difference between the working of the mind of a seven year old pampered child to a mature, weather-beaten woman.

The primal reason for my boldness is that now I can look beyond the graveness of life. There is an implicit sense of hope that is instilled in my mind now as a result of sustaining the vagaries of growing years. Pain, I have learnt is a good thing. It is a great tool, an indicator sign to the subtly ubiquitous peace and happiness. It has been my instructor rather. But it has also been very unassuming and quiet for it has taken me almost a decade to understand its importance. I now look at graves with ever so calm a mind. I have even taken to liking them in a small, curious way. By curious I don’t look at them with the eye of a philosopher or seeker. I am a worshipper of the Almighty and believe that the answers to all my questions lie with him. But when I do look upon a grave, these days, I strangely perceive peace and stillness.  I even want to visit the grave of my favourite writer and role model, Jane Austen. Now, that also gives me a hunch on another plausible reason for the change. Perhaps even the Victorian writers like Emily Bronte and Charlotte Bronte have had their
share in phasing out my fear through their marvellous, timeless works.

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Jane Austen

October Round Up

Stephanie Perkins is one personality I find really interesting in recent times. My year started off with reading and loving her debut novel ‘Anna and the French Kiss’. And I was bowled over this autumn when I read her second book, ‘Lola and the Boy Next Door’. The good cheer didn’t fail to hit me and I finished the book in one go. I must say it was an absolute joy ride reading it. The colours, sights and emotions blended so well, it was one well structured story. What sets this book apart is its quirky characters. Only Stephanie can pull off something as eccentric as gay parents! And Lola’s sense of style in book quite revived my liking for jazzy  nail polish and sparkly dresses. Not to mention, my passion for pies too. The other heartening aspect of the book is the appearance of Anna and Etienne, the adorable and celebrated pair from her first book. These characters are present throughout and added to the wholesomeness of the plot. And I can’t stop loving Cricket. Everything about this character is so wonderful and lovable. All through the book I could feel all the passions of the writer flowing out. And when I finished the book in one go, I really understood the importance of writing about what you most love.

So, apart from that I read ‘Thanks for the Memories’ by Cecelia Ahern which was another feel good book too. This is the first book I read by the writer and it was really gripping. What really shined through for me was the remarkable father-daughter relationship. And the narration from two points of view was also very interesting. The dialogues are also very brisk and fresh which feed the plot its pace. On the whole it was worthwhile read.

And that’s all I had time to read- just two books. I sincerely hope November has better prospects in store for me.

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I did do some writing for the REN blogfest which was thoroughly enjoyable. My WIP did show some signs of improvement in terms of progress in chapters and I’m only looking ahead now. I have strongly come to believe that positivity is the only way to go.

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I discovered some fascinating TV shows that I had missed through tastekid. Now, this tastekid thing has really got me addicted. I end up typing up something everyday and discover loads of fun stuff. What do I love more than Jane Austen and ‘Pride and Prejudice’? Simply Nothing. Tastekid threw up ‘North and South’ and ‘Lost in Austen’ in return and I am ever so happy to have watched them. And after falling in love with John Thornton I also ordered the book by Elizabeth Gaskell. I will go on forever if start about Richard Armitage, but I will spare you dear readers by just saying ‘I love him’.

‘Lost in Austen’ was bold, eccentric, funny and enjoyable. The ending is every Darcy lover’s dream-come-true and though the story was not very emotional I had tears in the end. And I now believe that I can devour ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in any form other than the book too.

The surge of the urge

Image Via Google Search

I wasn’t going to do a post today.  Until I read this on YA writer Tahereh Mafi’s blog. And it hit me that I’ve been procrastinating too much delaying ‘The Day’. I’ve been dreaming way over the limit about ‘The Day’ and not actually working towards its actualization. I wish to witness ‘The Day’ and hold my baby in hands and cuddle it. But its in my hands to reduce gestational period(Excuse me for getting too cheesy) and I have done nothing about it lately.

Honestly, writing has taken a back seat while work has started to consume the larger part of time and energy. Despite the struggle to make space I haven’t had much luck. My WIP is crying for words and I haven’t been able to nourish it to fruition. I feel like a complete bully starving my WIP and harming my desire to write at the same time. Perhaps better time management? Well, I’ve not been able to do that very efficiently.

But there’s one tool that spurs me forward better than anything else- seeing the success of other up-coming writers. After I read that post by Tahereh Mafi I felt the joy and the pinch at the same. The joy of feeling the happiness of another and the pinch of delaying my getting there soon. As an aspiring writer, I’ve seen that my graph of motivation and work has been rather fluctuating unfortunately. I have always been in constant need of company, motivation, push to get ahead. I often went wandering outside in search of these and ended up having an insipid day with bitter entries to write in my journal. Now I have realized that these are ingredients that come from within.

But with the blogosphere brimming with so many lively writers and aspirants I have found some solace at last. Even as I battle my insecurities I have now understood there’s a lot of hope to be had. The loneliness has been done away with. And all I have to do is move towards witnessing ‘The Day’.

I can feel the words flowing in my head with renewed zest and sensibility already. I hope this surge stays consistent and constant for the days to come.

Committed

Via: Google Images

“I wandered lonely as a cloud”…

Well, I was not exactly lonely. Maybe I just felt things in my life were getting a bit lacklustre. I was in need of something super exciting and stimulating. Something that would trigger the enthusiasm for the nerd in me. It’s been quite some time since I pampered that part of me. No, really the nerdy part slowly retards without food and finally withers away leaving stubs of guilt and restlessness.

So, let’s say I wandered vapidly, not over vales and hills certainly. And as I hobbled about this way, I stumbled upon this blog – http://onehundredonebooks.wordpress.com/ This blog is by this super cool person Robert Bruce who has committed to read all of the 100 books(ALL TIME 100 NOVELS) listed in TIME magazine. This quest seemed to me a very sensible one and I instantly wanted to take it up, without any second thoughts.

Now I am extremely eager to plunge into the pursuit and get ahead. I will not be setting myself any time limit for completing this goal, just like Robert, for I want to take in all the good literature slowly and surely. What’s reading when you don’t savour every word from the book?

This challenge will go simultaneously with my usual reading, reviewing and writing. So, that means I have a lot of things to get done and I simply love that feeling! Now let me tell you, I’m not in the least jobless to feel that way. But I work twelve hours a day at a place very far from the literary world. It’s these little bits of happiness that I collect during the rest of the day(which is very sparse) that strenghten the balance of things. So, that’s that.

I am going to have a great time hunting for these books in my library this week. Wish me luck!

And, tell me, would you be interested in joining along this effort? It would be fun. I assure you.

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.