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Monthly Archives: November 2015
Winter is coming. No, this is not a “Game of Thrones” related post but the cold reality. After a long and gorgeous autumn, these past few days the rain has taken over and the wind has stripped the trees of their golden crowns. But I’m trying not to dwell on the changing seasons. To counteract the cold, my guest blogger for this month is a person full of warmth – Deepika, who blogs at Worn Corners. I’ve discovered her wonderful blog only this year but in the short time since then I’ve learned to appreciate her emotion-filled posts and the beautiful photos that go with them.
Here she is.
I am a logophile, animal-lover, and an aspiring cyclist from Chennai, India. I love talking to animals, having profound conversations with strangers, and reading quotes from my favourite books. And, I am a sucker for tiny, warm moments in life. I began reading when I was about 22. I am not sure how I managed to endure life before that.
2. Why do you blog and what is your blog about?
When I am insanely chased by a thought, I write to liberate myself from it. I have to blog about that pressing idea to move on with life. If I resist, the thought would almost sabotage my universe’s equilibrium. Besides that, I am addicted to words. I often write about books and animals, and also about my childhood, the significant changes that take place in my life, and the heartwarming things I encounter. I consciously refrain from calling my blogs on books ‘reviews’. I am more content if I call them ‘bookish thoughts’.
3. Favorite books/authors/genres.
I adore Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, PG Wodehouse, EB White, Michael Morpurgo, Ruskin Bond, JK Rowling, RK Narayan, and Haruki Murakami. I still haven’t developed a strong palate for romance. So, I love reading everything else. I don’t expect plot-twists, and racy narratives. I fall in love with a book if it has extraordinary characters, and memorable passages. I wouldn’t complain if the story is not particularly great. Just a few remarkable moments would do to keep me happy. And, I devour animal-books, and children’s literature.
4. Kindle or paper book?
I must confess that I am beginning to like my Kindle. Although I got it five years ago, I was reluctant to use it, only because I thought that it diluted my reading experience and retention. But, for no reason, I bought some highly-acclaimed books on Kindle, and chose to give it a fair chance. To my surprise, I found myself enjoying the experience and comfort. However, if there is an animal on a book’s jacket, I would choose to abandon my Kindle. No surprises there. 🙂
5. Three things you learned from a book.
Cheryl Strayed’s Wild taught me to make peace with my past. It made me realize the significance of letting go, forgiving myself, and following my heart. It was a powerful book. EB White’s Charlotte’s Web and AA Milne’s Winnie The Pooh had so much wisdom to offer, especially on friendship, and the need to slow down in life. Almost every book of PG Wodehouse reminds me that there is something to laugh about every situation.
I will take all the books that I want to reread. I barely reread since the TBR is ever-growing. So, I think it’s a great opportunity to revisit my favourites. I will read Harry Potter, The Art of Racing in the Rain, The English Teacher, An Unnecessary Woman, Neverwhere, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Stories of Hope, The Old Man and the Sea, Dogsbody and many more.
7. Best book to use as a doorstop.
Gone With the Wind, only because it’s been on my shelf for about six years, and I still haven’t read it. If it becomes a doorstop, I will see it more often, and remind myself to finish reading it soon.
8. Favorite quotes.
“Most of us can’t rush around, talking to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven’t time, money or that many friends. The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book.”
― Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
“I long ago abandoned myself to a blind lust for the written word. Literature is my sandbox. In it I play, build my forts and castles, spend glorious time. It is the world outside that box that gives me trouble. I have adapted tamely, though not conventionally, to this visible world so that I can retreat without much inconvenience into my inner world of books. Transmuting this sandy metaphor, if literature is my sandbox, then the real world is my hourglass — an hourglass that drains grain by grain. Literature gives me life, and life kills me. Well, life kills everyone.”
— An Unnecessary Woman, Rabih Alameddine
“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”
— Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed
9. Three tips for bloggers.
– It’s okay if your readers do not agree with your opinions. It’s okay if they detest the book that you love dearly. Try having constructive discussions with them. If there is no room, it’s still really okay. But, most of all, enjoy yourself while writing.
– Do not be crestfallen if your blog doesn’t garner traffic. Continue to visit more bloggers, and interact with them. We are here to meet more folks.
– Try adding a personal touch to your blog. It is more interesting to connect with bloggers who open a window to their lives beyond books and things that fascinate them.
10. Last book that made you cry.
The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo. I didn’t cry because it was mushy or depressing. I cried because it was heartwarming, delightful, and I felt full. Books on animals always, always do that to me.
Ask me a question.
If you choose to include an animal in your book, which one would it be, and why?
The first book I wrote during NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago had a black dog in it so I’d have to go with dogs. Why? Because I knew a black dog once who gave me many moments of happiness and a litter of shiny black pups to play with. She died many years ago but I’ve never forgotten her and those happy times.
Horses would be my second choice – such wonderful majestic creatures!
Franz Kafka has been on my TBR list for some time and finally I decided to take the opportunity and read some of his work as part of German Literature Month, an event hosted by Caroline from Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy from Lizzy’s Literary Life.
The book I have is an old but well-preserved Romanian translation printed in 1969 with a beautiful sepia color bordering each page so that the words seem encompassed in a sort of frame, a painting without the picture.
There are nine stories, and the first, The Verdict (Das Urteil), pulled me in right away with its beginning – a young man writing a letter to his friend who had gone to Russia years ago where he was supposedly working hard for some business or other. We also find out the young man, Georg Bendemann, lives with his elderly father and is engaged to a girl from a rich family. It’s not until the dialogue between father and son that something begins to feel amiss – it’s like suddenly getting a whiff of an unknown scent coming from a place we can’t pinpoint. It’s unsettling, slightly disturbing, and forced my mind, which until that point had a fairly linear thought process, to take a leap. I felt like I had to take sides – is it the father who has lost his mind or is it the son? Even the last sentence of the story adds more to the uncertainty and I loved that about it.
The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung) is my favorite story from the book. I could very well argue that this is a horror story because how can it not be? Can you imagine waking up as a human size bug one morning?
Gregor Samsa’s nightmare begins when he realizes his shocking change just as he wakes up to go to work. The cause of the metamorphosis is never explained but through plenty of detail the reader is introduced to Gregor’s life following this amazing misfortune. Or is it not a misfortune after all? If you have read the story you might think I’m slightly off (or more than slightly) but it is clear the whole family went through a metamorphosis. Perhaps Gregor, as the dutiful son and breadwinner got the short end of the stick; it is however just as captivating to see his family’s reaction and the changes they go through as they adjust to their new life.
Interestingly enough, both The Verdict and The Metamorphosis begin in the morning. I found this clearly defined frame of time to add a realistic tone to the story ahead.
“Bug” may not be the best term to describe Gregor’s transformation. The edition I have refers to it as an “insect-like” creature. We have a specific word for that in Romanian which perfectly fits Kafka’s description.
On a personal note – I’ve had a couple of unfortunate encounters with bugs, the most recent one when I found one in my jacket pocket while taking a stroll through a park, not long after I finished reading this story. Maybe it was a reminder.
In A Country Doctor (Ein Landarzt) the author present us with a moral dilemma told from the point of view of an elderly country doctor who is called away suddenly to the bedside of a patient. An unexpected help presents itself – a man with two horses, ready to replace the doctor’s own horse that had died the night before. The doctor’s housemaid, a young woman named Rosa, helps the man with the horses but it’s clear the man can hardly wait for the doctor to leave so he can abuse the girl. The doctor doesn’t want to leave Rosa behind but somehow the horses take the carriage away before he can get down and he can hear her screams as the man breaks down the door. From this moment on the story takes a fantastical turn – the horses become agents of evil, and the patient, a young boy, is dying of a terrible wound.
Has this been just a wasted call? Did the bell, which rang in the night and whose voice the doctor always obeyed, lead him not to save a life but to lose two? Is this an allegory for something that happens in life? I found myself totally captured by the story and utterly immersed in the doctor’s predicament.
Some of the stories are quite short but not less powerful. Up in the Gallery (Auf der Galerie), which is something that brought to mind an “if – but” story (a term I just came up with), is a two page story that describes a scene at the circus. The urgency of the image presented is not less potent than a story sprawled across a dozen pages. It is the precision of every word and their capability to surge forward that create an emotion which cannot be explained easily. Not by me, at least.
Before the Law (Vor dem Gesetz) is the story of a peasant trying to gain access to the law. The way is barred by a guardian who, every time the peasant tries to go in, comes up with clever excuses to delay him – from warnings to accepting bribes to other ways in which he shows his power. This goes on for years when, at last, the peasant asks the one question which prompts a revealing answer from the guardian. The end is abrupt, and while we don’t find out why the peasant wanted to see justice done, it is, somehow, satisfying.
Eleven Sons (Elf Söhne) is a father’s description of his sons. It’s a case of a man who is never satisfied – one son is clever but not good looking, another is very handsome but lacks courage, yet another is nearly perfect but for the fact that he travels through the world, self sufficient and content, ignoring his father’s wish of starting a family, and the list goes on. Reading this story felt like watching a man who, no matter how many gifts is given in life still finds fault with all of them.
In A Report to an Academy (Ein Bericht für eine Akademie), a man is called to recount his experience as a monkey in front of distinguished members of an unnamed academy. He launches into lengthy descriptions of what he calls “his past life as a monkey”, starting with allowing himself to be captured by people, then talking about how he finally learned to do whatever was necessary to please his captors. I find this story more than slightly ironic, as if Kafka was poking fun at the origins of the human species by claiming the man’s life as a monkey ended but five years prior to this confession. Also, the amount of detail makes it hard not to believe the man – the story seems entirely plausible.
At first glance, In The Penal Colony (In der Strafkolonie) is a story of an execution. A famous explorer is invited to witness the execution of a man whose offense is punished by death. But beneath this obvious story there’s another layer, deeper and even more troubling than seeing a man being crushed to death by a man-made machine. It’s the story of a belief, an absurd belief, and a man willing to go to great length to show his devotion to it. Aside from The Metamorphosis, this was the most disturbing story in this collection because there was no way I could have guessed the horrible turn it took. And I could also argue that this one as well is a great horror story.
A Hunger Artist (Ein Hungerkünstler) is the story of a man who fasts for days while being exhibited like some kind of freak in a cage, while people come to watch him. The fasting goes on for forty days, a period of time set by his manager as being the maximum time people will take an interest in this curious form of art. Of course this brings to mind the famous “15 minutes of fame” so prevalent these days. This could also be interpreted as a man choosing to display himself in front of others, risking their admiration, distrust and revulsion. It could also be a way of trying to get their attention by choosing to stand out from their midst, a person who’s doing something others don’t. I find the title very apt – aren’t many artists after all courageous people who are willing to brave people’s displeasure by displaying their art?
I loved my first encounter with Kafka. He scared, delighted, and surprised me. He’s fascinating, bold, and his attention to detail is worthy of the highest praise. I didn’t know what to expect from his writing and I confess to reading next to nothing about his books because I like to start on a new author with a blank slate and form my opinion of them with as little influence as possible. I will, however, read more of his work in the future, although I confess I’m a little uneasy (but also delighted and fascinated) by the prospect.
My rating: 5/5 stars
Read from September 29 to October 06, 2015
October was quite a slow month reading-wise. Life took over to such an extent that I simply could not focus on the printed word for too long. I managed to review a couple of books for R.I.P. X – The Ruins by Scott Smith and The Birth of Venus by Jarl Nicholl, both perfect for this event.
I’ve also participated for the first time in writing the Stephen King Message Board Halloween Story, a great project in which a few message board members contribute a segment to a story that gets posted on the forums on Halloween. This year the story had werewolves, gypsies, some great fighting scenes, an evil dwarf and, of course, a cemetery. I had a lot of fun and hope to replicate that next year as well.
This month I will be participating in German Literature Month, an event hosted by Caroline from Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy from Lizzy’s Literary Life. I knew about the event for a few years but the last two were taken up with NaNoWriMo. This year however, I’m not joining in the mad, wonderful, exhilarating rush to write 50,000 words in 30 days so I decided it was about time to broaden my horizons by reading German literature. So far I’ve finished a collection of short stories by Franz Kafka, which includes “The Metamorphosis”, a story I’ve wanted to read for a very long time. It was one of the best stories I’ve read. I’ve also completed “A Time to Love and a Time to Die” by Erich Maria Remarque, whose wonderful dialogue will probably stay with me for a long time. Reviews coming soon.
As for future reading plans, I have The Black Obelisk by Erich Maria Remarque and The Trial by Franz Kafka. I’m rather favoring the former but we’ll see if time allows for both of them.
Are you participating in German Literature Month? What do you plan on reading?