Let’s Talk Books

Hasn’t it been quite a while since I last did some book-talk? Considering my love for ranting about books, I reckon it has been far too long. So, here goes. I read two books in the past nearly-two-months. ‘Inferno’ by Dan Brown and ‘The Secret Scripture’ by Sebastian Barry.

For anyone who has read the earlier books by Dan Brown, Inferno won’t be particularly impressive, I believe. The twists and revelations lack impact. By the end, even the basic plot seems a little vague and over-the-top. Also, unlike his other books, I felt this one had some parts which just didn’t make sense to me.  Inspite of the fact that it is an action-packed thriller which takes you through a beautiful city (Florence), always offering new bits of information and keeping you engaged, I have to say that I didn’t feel an affinity towards it. One possible reason might be the repetition in the main elements that define a Dan Brown book – the 24-hour time span, the action, the narrative, the basic thread of the plot, the interweaving of history, art, places and facts and even the outline of the main characters. Some of the situations failed to excite me solely because of their repetitive nature. Inferno is definitely not going to be on my list of favourites.

Coming to ‘The Secret Scripture’ (a critically acclaimed novel by Sebastian Barry) , it’s a book that surprised me. When I started off, I instinctively knew that I’d find it slow, intense and a tad complicated. Not an easy-breezy read, that is. I wasn’t wrong. I found it sort of dull. I kept expecting it to wear off. But, even when I was halfway through it, the dullness persisted. The book failed to draw me into it; I just didn’t feel that urge to go on reading, to know what was going to happen. That’s when the surprising element of the book came into play.

Sometime towards the second-half, the characters started ‘coming to life’, their situations gaining an intensity I hadn’t perceived till then and I could sense myself feeling for the characters. Towards the end, I was very deeply into it. So much that I couldn’t help feeling a bit reeled by the climax, taken aback by the sudden developments. When I began reading The Secret Scripture, I had my doubts about liking it. But, now, I still think about the characters and their lives, long after having finished the book. Do I need to add that I absolutely loved it?

“It is very difficult to be a hero without an audience, although, in a sense, we are each the hero of a peculiar, half-ruined film called our life.” 

[A note, in case you decide to read it: Have the patience and perseverance to go on reading even if you find it slow initially.]

The book I’m currently reading is the latest book by Khaled Hosseini – ‘And the Mountains Echoed’. It’s amazing, so far. It is emotionally intense, bit more than the previous two books. Or maybe it’s just because I’m too deep into it. Anyway, Hosseini has outdone himself, once more! Another thing I loved about it is that there is a change in the narrative, the way the story is told. More about it, once I finish.

What have you been reading? 

 

Rain, Rain, Come Again :)

It’s night-time. Dark, silent (almost) and a tiny bit eerie. I don’t remember the last time I stayed up to blog. Since afternoon, there have been so many thoughts in my mind that I can’t help but sit down and let them out. Considering how lazy I can be, it surprises me that I’m staying up to write about some random thoughts I had earlier during the day. Maybe the fact that I could not go to sleep without doing this shows how much of an impact these thoughts have had on me.

I had been feeling quite low for the past couple of days.

Today afternoon, while walking back home with a friend, it started drizzling. It wasn’t unusual (it has been raining on and off during the past few weeks) or sudden (it has been cloudy for a couple of days). But it changed something within me. It felt good. I felt an urge to stay out in the rain for a while longer. It evoked a kind of happiness in me that I can’t seem to explain. It was not an overwhelming emotion…just plain happiness. A good feeling within, just a sense of being content and happy with wherever I was at that particular point in life. I went up to the terrace and sat there for a while. The rain had stopped by then but I knew it wouldn’t be long before it returned. At that moment, sitting there, watching the sky and lost in thoughts, I felt a deep sense of contentment with life. Almost like I was living solely in that moment. Even though I believe in the concept of living one’s life fully and in the moment, I have to admit that I hardly ever come across moments like this. And when I do, they touch me far deeper than ever; they leave me filled with thoughts that demand to be let out! (Right now, I feel flooded by so many thoughts, I don’t know which ones to let out!)

Since it was the rain that led to this “outpour” of thoughts, I suppose I’ll let rain take the limelight here. Today, while it was raining, I had so many thoughts going through my mind…and when I paid attention to these passing thoughts, I realized that they were mostly vivid memories, all related to rain. Some of them were almost long-forgotten. I thought I’d list out a few, to pore over on some other rainy day.

Rain reminds me of:

1) How I used to long for rainy days during childhood. I loved floating paper boats in the puddles, getting drenched in the rain (although that rarely happened) or just listening to the rain falling outside. Since rain wasn’t very common, I used to love whenever it rained, even if it meant mess and mud and dampness.

2) Schooldays! I loved going to school on rainy days. Inspite of the fact that I hated getting my feet wet, I enjoyed rainy school days. I used to love the small puddles on the school ground. Not the messy corridors, though. We used to make excuses or happily carry out errands for the teachers, just to get out of class and go out in the rain.

3) Quite contrary to school time, I hated rain during college. Perhaps because there was an excess of it! I dreaded going to class on rainy days. I hated the muddy paths, the drenched uniforms, the cold, everything! One distinct memory is of an instance when one moment, we  (classmates) were all walking slowly, ‘navigating’ around muddy puddles and talking, and the next moment, it started raining cats and dogs, and we ran to find shelter, splashing mud all around (need I add we ended up looking very much pitiable).

4) Songs. Experiences – Every time it rains, the first song to come to mind is Unnai Kandane (Parijatham). It has become almost synonymous to rain. Apart from all the memories of travelling on rainy days or of curling up in the bed, listening to the rain outside, another rainy experience I’ll always remember is the one I had while I was at Kochi – going up to the terrace with a PGmate/friend and enjoying the rain.  Evidently, it was good enough to make me blog about it. The memory and the post, in particular, have immense significance for me!

5) And now, rain will always remind me of today and the happiness it brought forth in me. Because it happened at a point when I badly needed it. Or perhaps, because it made me see things I had been overlooking, like the need to be happy by oneself.

So, what does rain remind you of? 

 

 

(A bit of) Straightening Up :)

Apparently, one post was all it took! I already feel like I’m back to blogging.

During my active-blogging-days, I used to go through each day, see everything partly through a blogger’s eyes. I used to always be open to wandering thoughts and ponder over how to write it out. Each passing thought or incident went through a sort of scrutiny, just in case it was something I could blog about. And, I seem to be back to that stage now. I keep thinking of what I could possibly blog about; I write down interesting sentences I build up in my head, jot down random thoughts; I observe people, places and situations much more closely. Do note that this happened just hours after my previous blog post. And, then, it struck me…I feel like I’m back on track. Almost, I suppose.

The past few months were much like a whirlwind of activities. March was my last month at school, as a teacher. And I was completely caught up with everything. Completing portions, spending time with the kids, finishing up the tasks. It was quite hectic but I didn’t really mind. Probably because I knew that I wouldn’t get to experience it again. April was more of a roller-coaster ride. I finally got to Bangalore (a place I’ve had in mind for the past two years!) and before I knew it, everything had fallen into place much more perfectly than I had expected to. I’ve almost settled in with the new atmosphere, place and people. Like any roller-coaster ride, I also had some down-times, instances when I was emotionally low. But then, I know it will pass (even though it seems to be taking its own time in doing so).

The only writing I did in the last few months was in my diary…the normal rant about incidents, emotions, day-to-day events, random thoughts. Even those entries were not regular. Still, I kept at it. For the sake of the joy and solace it gave me every time I wrote something.

A week or so ago, while writing out about the day, I realized that it had been ages since I wrote a poem. There was a time when I used to have books/diaries filled with poems and now, I can’t remember the last time I wrote one! That’s when it struck me that I hadn’t really been writing, in the true sense of the word. Whatever writing I did in the diary barely helped in keeping the spark alive. It felt like I had been trying to keep myself just alive, barely so…and not nurture it back to life completely. Like managing to stay afloat but never taking the effort to reach ashore.

So, now, I need to get out of the rut and..well, write. For real. :) Thoughts and ideas are always welcome. (I could seriously use some help!)

What does writing mean to you? What does it do for you? :) 

 

And…We Meet Again!

Can you imagine what it would be like to meet one of your closest friends with whom you’ve been out of touch for ages? The happiness, excitement, rush of emotions, thoughts, things to say…and a sort of awkwardness because of all the time that has passed by, a silence because you don’t know where to begin or what to say. You realize that after all those years and the distance, you are a different person, and yet, you are still the same person. (Does that even make sense?)

Well,  that is how I feel right now. Like I’ve just come face to face with a dear friend who I had lost contact with. And, I’m kind of fumbling for words, typing out and deleting sentences, wondering if it sounds right…I don’t know what to say, or if what I say makes sense.

I don’t even want to think of how long it has been since I blogged. Of course, there were times (so many times) when I felt guilty, embarrassed, sad or plain disgusted at myself. But I suppose that wasn’t enough. Honestly, I don’t know what brought me here today. But, now that I am here, let’s just leave it at that.

So, to cut the long story short, I’m at a different point in life, a whole new phase…in a new place, around new people. I still feel surprised when I think of how fast time went by. One day, I was teaching and the next day, I find myself in a completely different place. Not a bad place, I should say, even though I miss home and teaching and the kids.

I’ve always loved new experiences, which is exactly what I know I’ll find in a new place. But there is something I constantly tend to overlook. When you start a new phase in life, initially, there is always a kind of emptiness…a void before it starts getting filled up with new experiences, people, thoughts. I think I’m somewhere in that void right now, and, perhaps, that is what brought me here. The need for something familiar and comforting to help me get through this initial vacuum.

I truly hope I don’t go disappearing again. But, for now, I’m back. And it seriously feels good!

 

 

 

The Shining: Which Truly Shines – Movie or Book?

I thought that soliloquy might have just managed to save my blog. But looks like the ‘saving’ is still under way.

Last day, I wrote in my diary, after quite a long time. And, I don’t know if it was the myriad thoughts already in my mind, bursting to be freed, or the way the pen floated so smoothly over the paper (LOVED the feel of it) or even the mere act of writing…but I ended up writing a lot. Like, a lot. And not just normal diary entries; the ‘lot’ included random thoughts, some crazy, some profound. At the end of it, the process of emptying all those thoughts onto paper felt so great, so relieving…so much that I couldn’t stop smiling and feeling happy. And that also gave me  this longing to blog. Which is why I’m back here, nearly one month after I promised myself I would try not to neglect my blog!

The book I’m currently reading is ‘The Shining‘ by Stephen King. I saw the movie a few months ago. I kept seeing it in all the ‘Top the-shiningHorror Movies’ lists and decided to watch it (being the horror-movie-fan I am). Unfortunately, I didn’t like it much. I was disappointed, to be honest. Yes, it might probably be because I was expecting a real horror movie. By the end of the movie, I couldn’t figure out if there were actual horror incidents in the movie or if they were all just the characters’ imaginations. I’d call it more of a psycho-thriller than a horror movie.

But the book is an entirely different case! There were quite a few instances in the book which gave me the chills (and I’m only halfway into it!). It pulls you pulled me into the life of the Torrance family in a way the movie didn’t. The characters have a depth that they lacked in the movie (in the movie, I couldn’t figure out if Jack Torrance had a streak of insanity right from the beginning or if the hotel/the ghosts did it to him)…a depth that makes you understand why they act/react the way they do, that makes you see sense in what happens to them. It’s a lot different from the movie in terms of situations, characters and plot. Jack Torrance seems to be a much more emotional person, deeply attached to his wife and son, more than I remember him to be in the movie.

Well, I did some googling, and, turns out I’m not the only one who didn’t like the movie so much.

Stephen King has been quoted as saying that although Kubrick made a film with memorable imagery, it was not a good adaptation of his novel and is the only adaptation of his novels that he could “remember hating”. 

… King suggested that he disliked the downplaying of the supernatural element of the film, which he felt took the “bite” out of the story and made Jack a less sympathetic character. According to King, he viewed Jack as being victimized by the genuinely external supernatural forces haunting the hotel, whereas Kubrick’s take viewed the haunting and its resulting malignancy as coming from within Jack himself.” 

Sometimes, I wonder why exactly books turn out to be much better than their movie adaptations. The experience with ‘The Shining’ offers one possible explanation. A book can delve deeper into characters than a movie, giving you a lot of background with which to understand more about a person – his traits, behaviour, idiosyncrasies. This is particularly true in the case of books made into movies. The book would have drawn out a complete portrayal of the characters, giving you a perfect grasp of why they acted in the way they did. The movie can hardly achieve this kind of detail, considering the limitations the medium has, as compared to a book. So, when someone who has read the book watches the movie, they see semi-detailed characters, interesting situations omitted/altered, less sense in the way the plot pans out.

 

Whatever reviews might say, I’d skip the movie and go for the book any day! :)

Care to mention the movie-adaptations which, you felt, lacked the depth of the book?   

How A Soliloquy (nearly) Saved My Blog from Becoming Extinct

I realize that it has been a long time since I blogged. Some of my closest friends did ask about it and urged me to resume blogging (Once, Kiran told me I shouldn’t get used to NOT blogging. But then, I think that’s what happened, eventually). The problem was not lack of will or desire. I wanted to blog, yes. But I lacked the inspiration – that uncanny sense and ability to string together words and form a sentence, and to create a bunch of sentences like that, which make sense, ultimately. I got away with that “excuse” for a long time. Until I had to give an answer to myself. The conversation with myself went something like this:

Why are you not blogging?

Because I don’t find the inspiration for it. 

Is that reason enough for not doing something you enjoyed so much?

Well…

Did you never have thoughts that were worth blogging about?

Hell, yes, I did!

Then why did you never do it?

I don’t know…I just didn’t feel that urge to sit down and put those thoughts into words. 

Did you try?

No. 

Did you try to find the inspiration somewhere?

Umm..not really, but, at times, yes. 

And…?

Well…(clears throat)…All I can say is that what I found wasn’t enough. 

Do you even realize how stupid that sounds?

Yes. 

Without ever genuinely trying to find inspiring thoughts or using what you found or even trying to write something, how can you blame everything on the lack of inspiration?

Ok, maybe I was also lazy.

Makes sense. Do you know that you have a responsibility to yourself, to do what you love and enjoy? The responsibility to do what you’re passionate about? Because that’s the only way you will ever contribute anything!

Yes, I know that.

Great! Now that you have come clean and knocked some sense into your head, please get down to doing what you do best. And no, I don’t mean lazing around!

* * * * * * *

And that conversation is what brought me here, to this page, after so long. I love talking to myself. I do it at random instances but most often when I’m in extreme moods (extremely angry, happy or sad). And it always helps me clear my head in a way nothing else does. Whenever I’ve spoken to myself, I’ve always come out of the mood with some thought that was powerful enough to make an impact. And I love the fact that I have the power to change my state of mind. :)

When I started off with this post, I had no idea about what to write. I just wanted to start with it, just try to do it instead of complaining. And I must say I’m very glad with the outcome. Even though it’s really nothing more than a pointless, stupid conversation with myself. Now, all I need to do is make sure that I don’t fall back into the ‘Lazy Mode’ and leave this space to gather dust until the next time I get some sense into my head. *Fingers crossed*

The Saleem Sinai effect :)

I thought it’s time I took a look at my blog, blew off the dust that must have gathered and maybe get it back in shape. Also, since it’s vacation and I’m practically jobless, it’s not like I can give the “I’m busy” excuse and ask my ‘inner voice’ to shut up every time it points at my blog and asks me to do something about it. And with some friends who keep asking me to blog, I hardly had an option.

To be honest, I can’t really think of anything much to blog about. So, to get myself back into the flow, I thought I would just write about the book I read last. I started reading ‘Midnight’s Children’ sometime by February end and, much to my relief and happiness, finished it a few days ago! Finally! It’s very slow, and boring, at times. I felt it had a lot of unnecessary details and digressions. If I were to read it again, I doubt I would be patient enough to finish it. But did I like it? YES! Would I recommend it to you? YES!

midnightschildren.jpg (150×222)

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is a book that was adjudged the ‘Booker of Bookers’ – the best novel to have won the Booker Prize in its first twenty-five years – in 1993. When I started reading it, I was curious. I wanted to know what made this book so great that it was given the Booker of Bookers title. As I progressed, I was confused. By the time I finished it, I wasn’t bothered. Whatever might have been the reason [for the award], whatever it might or might not have won, I loved it. I don’t know if it makes sense but I have a kind of bond with every book I read. Maybe not with the books I didn’t like. But with most other books, I do. Inspite of the way it irritated and frustrated me, I think I have ‘bonded’ with this book. And that’s what is important to me, as a reader.

Coming to the book, one point I strongly felt is regarding the implied focus of the book and its actual one. The title and the blurb/outline on the back cover lead you to believe this book is about the Midnight’s Children. My friend was reading this book before me and once, when I asked her how it was going, she said, “I reached Book Two (the book is divided into three parts) and yet, nothing seems to be happening.” I didn’t understand what she meant but once I started reading, I did. If you read this book, thinking it’s about Midnight’s Children, you might end up being very much disappointed. Because Midnight’s Children is just a part of it. Not even a major part, I’m afraid.

This book truly and totally belongs to Saleem Sinai, the narrator and protagonist, born on the exact moment of India’s independence, (and as a result, gifted with extraordinary powers). It is Saleem’s biography; one which he writes, and at the same time, narrates to his ‘mighty pickle-woman’, Padma. Saleem irritates, frustrates, confuses you just as much as he evokes your interest, moves you to laughter or tears and creates a place for himself in your mind. He can go on with his elaborate thoughts that are way too detailed and end up getting on your nerves. There have been many instances when I felt, “Why can’t he just shut up and get on with the story?” But then, that is how Saleem is, and after awhile, you get used to it…and the next time, you will be prepared for his rant. He digresses way too much but he is also adept (super-adept!!) at keeping you hooked (throwing in interesting bits about what lies ahead). He is one hell of a writer-narrator, I must say! I know it’s Rushdie who should be appreciated but, well, I think I’m too attached to Saleem to realize the difference. [And, anyway, when I appreciate Saleem, it's basically Rushdie I'm talking about, in an indirect way]

Like I said, it’s Saleem’s biography. And he relates it in a very detailed way, including very minute facts. You get to know absolutely everything, right from the details of his grandfather’s marriage, his parents’ life before his birth, all the ‘unspeakable’ acts he committed, the people who changed his life, so on…until his death. I’d be surprised if you have ever read a biography more detailed than Saleem’s. And, I forgot an important part. Saleem, being connected to India by his birth, relates the country’s historical and major events in a parallel manner. Which is brilliant, I think! The work of a genius, in fact. The writing style is kind of unconventional (different would be an understatement) but I loved it, nevertheless.

I’ve grown to love the character and am so attached to him (obviously, I know, literally, everything about him!!). So, well, I could go on. If you intend to read this book at some point, go ahead. I hope you will have the patience it demands and love it as much as I did. Only advice I’d give is: Don’t read it for Midnight’s Children; read it for Saleem.

This is the most favourite quote from the book. I think it kind of defines the book, and Saleem, as well. And what I loved most about it is the strikingly beautiful truth it talks about.

                                                                 midnights-children-quote.jpg (200×366)