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.”

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance…

Clock

Clock (Photo credit: sleepinyourhat)

The sunday newspaper brought good cheer this morning with its awaited literary supplements. It is something I eagerly look forward to reading. But beautiful things come only in small packets and this particular supplement is published only once a month. And on beholding this month’s copy today I was overjoyed and instantly delved into its contents which as always had plenty to rout up from its depths. I discovered a completely new writer whom I felt I would really love without even knowing so much as what his books dealt with. And as the theme of his latest book surfaced in the article I knew exactly where my next investment had to go( The book happens to be Chronicles of a Corpse Bearer by Cyrus Mistry, if you were just curious to know).

After reading about five to six articles I had to restrict myself from finishing all the other inviting pieces for I have to sustain myself on this six paged ration for a whole month. And before I could indulge myself in gleaning information from around the world and my city the clock struck eleven! There was still a day’s work to be done with all the added obligatory activities to be performed being the diligent thing that I am. Where have those precious days where reading a warm newspaper was the only activity that Sundays called for? And of course cutting out fresh squares of articles for the clip book collection too.

The ubiquitous time crunch just revealed its presence to me yet again. At a time when I am already grappling with the grievous fact that my reading time has diminshed drastically being snatched away from my morning paper by sundry duties stung me bitter. That said there’s even less time for me to chronicle my thoughts on the things I read.

Off late I’ve been reading a lot online than offline. It’s always easier to steal a few minutes from work while using a computer. But with every underhand activity comes a peril. Here the danger lies in forgetting where I read a particular piece I adored. And even worse being unable to recall what I enjoyed reading so much altogether. So setting aside the greater grief of not being able to tick off books lying around my room in piles I thought to address this other issue which came with a plausible solution too. Several Google searches and conversations with the geeks concerned revealed Evernote, Pinterest, zoo something, etc as ideal apps to turn to.

But then again a little squirm arose from within. I saw yet another electronic versus traditional approach question surface. Can a mere cut-copy-paste action replicate the wholesomeness of taking notes by hand with the mind aligned on the same lines rather than focused on jumping to the next open tab on the screen?This really wouldn’t matter to a person with a reasonable amount of time to forage the net, pick, reason and ponder. But given the time constraints any solution to appease a self-proclaimed purist is far from the sight. I suppose such questions will continue to arise until the electronic approach completely converges with every aspect of life or it slowly disassociates itself fully. The former is bound to happen naturally or rather “unnaturally”.

So when we stand at the transition point where the direction of leap is uncertain attacking the problem at its heart is perhaps the best solution that I can think of. I simply have to make time. But how feasible is that? I don’t know. It’s as complex a question as the time we are living in.

Taking into account all these issues I’ve only arrived at this: It’s not an easy time to be a purist of any sort. And this: The spare time for those little joys in life is almost extinct.

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

Note: The title is taken from one of my favourite poems by William Henry Davies.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

May Round Up

Via Google Images

My reading has been sparse. When I say it I mean one and a half books. But nonetheless the reading has been absolutely pleasurable. For who can hope to get less out of a translation of the Mahabharata, the greatest epic ever written?

The Forest of Stories, by Ashok Banker is part one of the MBA series as he calls it. As far as my background knowledge of the epic goes I know most parts of it that the majority knows. At this point I’m so proud to owe all my knowledge to my grandmother and B.R.Chopra. Together they made knowing the epic one fantastic ride for me. In fact I remember little episodes of my wee nine year old self animatedly giving discourses on Yudhishtra(righteousness personified, literally) and Dharma(righteousness)

Now the book takes us back. It tells us the tale of our nation itself right from the beginning. My gremlin half reminds me of ‘The Lion King 3’ where Timon tells something like, “Oh no Pumba! We’re going way back”. Well, the book is everything but frivolous mind you, far from the distractive picture painted here. So I suggest a calm, interested mind while you decide to sit with it.

I’m yet again tempted to take a diversion from the point. But this one’s far more relevant. So hear me. The Tamil(a regional language in India) version of the title song of B.R.Chopra’s Mahabharata features these beautiful lines,

Oru kadhaikul pala kadhai

Pala Kadhaigallil oru vidai…

It literally translates as,

Many a tale within one

And each tells the same answer…

This has much to do with the context but as a new reader you can expect to be treated with stories galore! And Ashok Banker has done a great job of stringing together the many beads of the tale. The attention to detail, the accurate accounts of characters and the seamless conjoining of the stories with engrossing continuity really stands out. These render the translation that enchanting nature typical of the epic. For a sceptic of translations this one came as an exceptionally commendable one.

The narration has that surreal quality which initially creates a hollow and then pulls the reader into its depths. The book starts its magnificent sojourn at the mysterious ‘Naimisha-van’ a thick, majorly uninhabited forest and the focus zooms into the veiled ‘Ashram’, an ancient centre for learning. The beginning teases one’s curiosity to the limit and like a coaster fall delivers an exhilarating experience.

This volume revolves around the various events that eventually lead to the illustrious climax. The tension slowly builds on the periphery while at the centre of the stage are introduced powerful characters like the axe wielding great sage, Parashurama, the king of snakes, the ancestors and descendants of the heroes of the Mahabharata war. Their stories are less heard of but extremely engrossing to read. It’s more of a live streaming of history right inside your mind’s eye.

This little excerpt could well give you a good glimpse at what lies within this fast and fervid translation:

He had walked unstintingly for days, stopping neither for food nor rest. Accustomed though he was to a rigorous pace, a life spent on the open road, the forest unnerved him. There were tales told of Naimisha-van. Rumours of strange inhabitants who resided within its shadowy depths. Not all were human, it was said. Not all were benign. There were tales of horror, wretched stories of hapless travellers who had spent the night within the vaulting embrace of these formidable boles, and had never been seen or heard from again.

It’s one of those ‘un-put-down-able’ books and a must read for all, be it those who are acquainted with the tales or not. It’ll certainly leave you wanting for more, like me waiting to read the next installments. That’s the promise the writer offers.

Last year I picked up a typical yellow, dog-eared copy of the book ‘Vintage Stuff’ by Tom Sharpe. Somehow I never got to it until now and regret having done that. It’s more of a companion to me right now. I turn to it at intervals, when I’m away from my desk and have a good time. It’s everything funny, original and funny! I’ll be back to say more but for now, it’s my comrade that I’ll hold on to until work gets a little less taxing.

 

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.

Jane Austen January: Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favourites. Yeah, I know. But come on liking a book must not become a cliché and talking about it too. So to establish the practise I’m going try to pontificate now. Whenever I ponder about its universal popularity only one fact resurfaces over and again- we are all human beings who pull through the hardships of life sustained by love and a happy ending.

For those of you looking for a review of the book, new-timers, this is what I can say. It’s a beautiful story and you must go read it. It wouldn’t do justice to the book to describe it as a ‘timeless classic’, ‘immortal piece’, etc. Go read it and experience it.

Now, Elizabeth Bennet according to me is the perfect girl that every noble man on earth should lust for. Elizabeth is quick witted, loyal, sensible and altogether so endearing that no scene can do without her. If the people and places came to life, it would feel completely exanimate without her presence. She is one lady whose very flaw extols her beauty more than her virtues. So it’s not just the friction factor here that makes Darcy and Lizzie the most sensible pair. And there obviously lies the ingenius Austen touch.

If I have to say I love something more than the rest then that would be Wickam. Yes the infamous cad who is so impossibly smooth. When I imagine a fictitious scene set in the Regency period I can’t conjure up anything but ‘handsome mansions’, elegant young women, wealthy noble suitors and balls(of course). It’s just so incredible to encounter a person like Wickam. I can never think about him without remembering Maugham’s Tom Ramsay. They are two characters from fiction that I adulate despite their notoriety. You’ve got to be smart to be bad too. I mean one cannot possibly reject “a fine countenance, a good figure, and very pleasing address” unless of course the post-conflict Darcy comes around with his ‘bewitched’ heart.Collins, the annoying puny fellow, is the core spice of the story according to me. Where else would Lizzie go to but his humble dwelling(with its benefactress the Lady Catherine de Bourgh) and how else can Darcy do what he does?

It’s all too perfect, just there for the reader to revel in. Austen certainly poured out all the passion she had into this novel. How else can it survive the vagaries of fads over two centuries?

And I’m seeing stars now because as I was typing this post I also took this quiz and voila!

I resemble Elizabeth Bennet! Strangegirl.com you totally made my day! And why not take the quiz yourself and post your results. I’m more than eager to know.

 

 

 

 

 

Jane Austen January: A tale to relish

Via Google

“The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex”

These are the opening lines of one of my favourite novels of all time. At first when I read I thought it a very unassuming starting and that elusiveness is what I like most about it now. It was indeed a very happy excuse for me to read Sense and Sensibility so slowly, allowing for other hum drum things to get in the way, while I thoroughly took in the tale one bit at a time, once again. But nevertheless it was fresh as ever. I never stop being amazed with the little astonishing dialogues and other tit bits that I missed last time.

I love stories where there’s less crowd and more action. This is exactly one such story. Though I’m easily provoked to declare every one of Austen’s novels as my favourite, I completely reserve my total love to Sense and Sensibility. Elinor and Marianne, are just the two sisters who can capture my interest- one all composure, the other all passion. I’ve always admired how much their characters do justice to the title, the words- Sense and Sensibility. I suppose that’s the beauty of a classic- you love it through and through from its title to the font of the print in various versions.

But this isn’t just about the superfluous beauty for the story is well entrenched into the ways and workings of the society which makes it a perfect mirror to project love and despair in all its intricacies. Elinor and her sister, poles apart in their personas eventually set their hearts upon men who are equally different from one another. But strangely their hearts are broken in an arguably similar manner- in that they both have other women who are in the way, for quite dissimilar reasons though. While Elinor secretly suffers her losses, Marianne, whose love for Mr.Willouby, was openly known to the world, is mortified to know that he was to marry another lady Miss Gray. A typical heartbreaking twist yet the reasons for the betrayal that unfold and the way in which they are introduced to the reader sets its mark as a work of Jane Austen. Elinor’s disappointment in Mr. Edward Ferrars’ secret engagement to Miss Lucy, her short time companion, is borne by her with so much of natural virtue.

Of course the sisters meet with happy endings in the end, as all of Austen’s lucky heroines. But the intermediary trials and lessons of Elinor and Marianne are certainly endearing. Marianne’s notions of love and wild passion are subdued by her shockingly disappointing relationship with Willouby and she learns to love sensibly in the end and finds happiness in her long time admirer and well wisher, Colonel Brandon. For Elinor it’s more of a test of her fortitude and constancy that she triumphs to be rewarded with a happy life with Edward Ferrars.

I love the book for three others reasons apart from the beauty of the tale. Firstly it is the ironies that are aplenty and very humourous to note, as always. The most important one bring that Edward who couldn’t read with feeling for the entire world, wished to take orders. I constantly kept imagining the annoying Mrs. Palmers saying, “Oh! How droll Mr. Ferrars sermons are!” Secondly, the characters with whom I instantly got used to than I usually do interested me. Thirdly, the beautiful parks and walks that Marianne so enjoys earnestly made me yearn, once again, to live in that fanciful era.

I must also admit that I have myself learnt a few vital lessons for Elinor represents the kind of person I certainly wish to be and Marianne’s character is nearly what I am.  If I have to recommend a great read now with delightful people, well plotted story with romance too, one that you would want to read over and over, it should be this.

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)

Jane Austen January: Five Links

I’m having an absolutely great time with Emma Woodhouse and her fun schemes. And I just dropped by from Hartfield to share these links which I thought would elevate the experience. Do visit them if you have some time to spare.

~ Pemberly – A site where you can meet lots of Austen fans, learn more about her and spend time.

~ Strange Girl – The best part of this site is the quiz in which you get to discover which Austen heroine you resemble. It’s fun, you know.

~ Jane Austen’s World – One passionate blog I must say.

~ Pemberly Couture – It’s a cool one where you buy some cute stuff. Also there are lots of little things to see and be happy about.

~ Jane Austen Centre – A useful website if you are a fan of Austen and live in England. It’s interesting to browse otherwise also.

Now I’m off to Hartfield again. Perhaps I’ll be just on time to catch the Knightley’s in conversation.