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Posts from the ‘Awards’ Category

The Spinning Story

I know, I know, the path to hell is paved with good intentions! 2019 was supposed to be the year, I read more and post more! In fact in spirit of unrivaled ambition and complete disassociation from reality, I chose a 100 books as a Reading Goal on my Good Reads. Half a year has since passed by and I am so behind, that the word “catch -up” is something that can only tickle my funny bone!

In a year of dismal reading record, the one thing that I am proud of is that I was able to participate in the 20th Classic Club Spin Read and what’s more, surprise, surprise, I was able to complete my spin book well within the timelines; though the blog post, as usual is late! I had a very “Quixotic” list this year and I cannot honestly say, I was looking forward with enthusiasm. However, the spin number turned out to be a good number and I got James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize winning classic – Tales of the South Pacific as my Spin book.

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Tales of South Pacific is a series of short stories or novellas, related with a character or an event and was published in 1947. The stories were based on Michener’s own World War II experience in the South Pacific and the stories are all fiction, steeped in real life events, based on the author’s observation and experience during his stay there. The stories deal with a variety of aspects that the US armed forces stationed in the island had to deal with – from the harsh realities of war, where death is inevitable and expected to the emotional aspects, of loves found and lost and friendships that survive the worst possible tests! The Cave , is a description of an action that happened in islands and where US Navy triumphed with of an English informer who infiltrated into the heart of Japanese military base and was later caught and killed. Mutiny traces the lives of the descendants of the infamous, Mutiny on HMS Bounty and their effort to save the natural habitat of the islands from the US Navy as the latter try and build a landing strip for the aircrafts that was vital for the success of the war in the region. An Officer and a Gentleman, looks at the loneliness and emotional desert that some of the officers felt and the many ways that they tried to conquer it, not always in the best manner or conduct. Stories like The Heroine, Fo’ Dolla, and Those Who Fraternize are all love stories that takes on the questions of color, acceptance and challenging the set norm, in times when old prejudices were slowly being dismantled by a world that had gone of the hinge. There poignant tales of courage and valour like The Aristrip at Konora and the happy memories that help keep sailors hold on to reality, like Frisco.

I can understand, why the book won a Pulitzer. It gave a brutal, honest and somewhat emotional narrative of a war, from which the US and the World was just recovering. It challenged the set status quo of class and color and privileges and sang the songs of a new World Order, which the Dumbarton Oaks Conference was supposed to achieve in the form of United Nations.  This book is all of that and then some! This was Michener’s first book and the unique narrative style that he would pioneer over other novels, like The Source, Alaska and Texas, was put down in paper for the first time. Short stories linked with one event or character came into being in the Tales of South Pacific. But it is not just the narrative style and the subject which makes this book a great read, it is the characters whom he brings to life, with all their nobleness and frailty that captures the readers imagination and makes them relate to them, admire them and sometimes, disparage them as well. The author’s thorough understanding of the Military affairs and conduct, comes through in every story, bringing authenticity and history to act as strong pillars to the stories. The  author captures the tiny detail of the people, the heat, the lack of facilities and the make do efforts to bring some semblance of comfort in the harshest conditions, and makes for the very heart of the book! While not all stories are all at par, most are and the last few tales especially bring out the brilliance of the author as he captures, in a moving and heart-breaking style, the unnecessary loss of lives of good men and women, in a war that makes little sense! 

To end, I believe in later years, James Michener produced a much higher degree of fiction, especially in novels like Caravan and The Source. However, the Tales of South Pacific is a must read for an honest, authentic and powerful story of World War II

 

The Natural and The Practised….

I was at a social gathering last night and I started talking to someone about …you have guessed it – books! Now he began reading at an adult age and spoke about how he struggled initially with reading the simplest volumes and how by disciplining himself into reading a bit every day, he had finally developed an interest and a habit of books, so that it flew much more naturally now. He then made an observation, having heard about my obsessions with books from common friends, that how I must have never struggled with forcing myself to read or even knowing what to read when depending on my moods and preferences, while he himself went through this cathartic process of trying to inculcate this habit at a much older age!

This conversation kind of got me thinking – yes its true, not only for me, but I am sure about a lot of voracious readers, that we never struggled to read; nor did we have to switch our alarms on and force ourselves to read until it rang and more importantly, some authors/books, well we did not really “discover”, they were always in our ambit and unconsciously part of our inheritance!

I had mentioned this earlier, but it’s true that my earliest memories are of my father, reading out to me and somewhere down the line, his fingers stopped moving over the words and instead, I began to read for myself. I do not know when that happened, but I do know it happened at a very early age. When this gentleman last night made a statement that for the likes of me, we must have read our first books when we were 8-9 years old, it made me realize that actually, I must have read my first book, albeit a fairy tale with very simple words, at a much younger age….actually way before being 8!

So, how did all of this begin?

readingI am frankly not sure; the same gentleman said that when he has kids, he will like my father, start reading out to them from the very beginning so that they do not really have to struggle to appreciate such pleasure; he said like my father, he will ease them into books! I think he may have summed it up accurately – my father did ease me into books! I have always been surrounded by books and from an early age was always told that when all else failed, books would be there for my company. As an only child, to parents who worked full time, this was one of life truths.  Despite my adult bearings of gregariousness and being extremely social, as a child, I was quiet and an introvert and forever struggled to make friends – in those very lonely years of childhood and early young adulthood, my comfort, support and friends were the books that my parents stacked the house with. I remember looking forward to Saturdays, not because my parents will be at home, but because, without fail, my father would take me to this one book shop that he and later I had fraternized over the years and allow me to pick two books as a rewards for some task I did in the week.  Those two books would then sustain me through the long hours in a lonely rambling house, through the week, while my parents managed their professions. I am not sure if those books that were bought were bribes or gifts of guilt, but the point to be noted is that I was never given any other gifts like clothes or toys, but books. Was it because my parents, especially my father loved reading or was it because he knew that I loved reading? I am not sure – it could have been an amalgamation of both, but the key factor here is, I always looked upon the process of my becoming a reader as a natural progression; however until last night, I had not really thought about the factors and circumstances that enabled and encouraged this progression.

Does this make me a more dedicated or a more comfortable reader than the gentleman who developed this habit as an adult? I am not sure – his ability to read and appreciate something as a connoisseur is no less; he is quite aware of what constitutes a bad writing versus beauty of words or tenacity of plots. While he may have not read all the classics, which many of us have, but  because he kind of went through the ocean of literature, before settling down to a genre that he considers his own, his range of reading, albeit very modern, is also very vast and extremely interesting. Finally and more importantly, he now has a hunger for the time that he lost as a youth on books, and now reads so voraciously that he might put some of us “natural” readers to shame.

So does it really matter how or at what age you begin reading? Does it really matter if your father bought your first book or you bought one yourself, especially when it comes to appreciating good works? Does it matter if you timed yourself or read through the night? Is there really a something called a good reader like a good writer? And like a good writer, do you have to practice reading to appreciate it or does it always come naturally to you? And really does it matter if one had to practice reading to become a voracious reader, as long as he enjoys the habit and finds solace in it?

To do or Not to do…

I know that almost everybody on the blog site is talking about this and I know I am just adding to pantheon of writers who are working themselves up for “the event”. Yes I am talking about NaNoWriMo that begins in November 2012.

I missed the bus last year….I discovered NaNoWriMo in December 2011!(Go figure!…Duh! No I was not sleeping, but many become aware kind of late in life!) What was I doing before that….don’t ask!

Anyway, I am trying to mentally prepare myself for this one month of” literary abandon” as the website states. Having said that, I have like a million butterflies in my tummy…

  • Should I really undertake something like this? I hate failures and need perfection and in such circumstances am wondering if participating in the event such a good idea.
  • NaNoWriMo veterans tell me that I should abandon all other pursuits this one month – no reading of book, no catching up with friends, no laundry and preferably learning to cook with one and type with the other…..I can do all this and more; but what the hell do I do about my job?????!!!! There is absolutely no getting away from the fact I work in a high stress environment where time literally means money….I mean I work in the financial services!!!  So there are deadlines after deadlines and each month is crucial and the business target needs to be met!
  • Whatever I write ends up having a lot of history, so I end up spending a lot of time reading up! The NaNoWriMo veterans again tell me that I should just write the story and not worry about the details…..the only problem no matter what plot I think of, the details make up the story!! Uggh!!
  • Then of course is the daunting fact that I never managed to finish my “the novel” – you know the epic novel, the one which would be held as the novel of 21st century, you know my “East of Eden” yada yada yada! I could not finish this mammoth work though I started working on 2 years ago; what’s the chance I finish writing anything else in one month??!!!!

So here I stand… varying from my chirpy blah blah self and wonder “To do or not to do”! I know it’s not the end of the world if I do not finish 50,000 words at the end of November; I know this is not about any prize money or awards and I think that is what is making me jittery! This is for me …..this to prove to myself that yes I can write and write and see the end of what I imagine in my mind. Like many before me I realize that what we imagine and what we put down on paper are wholly different and I am thirsting to see if what I see in my mind’s eye will turn out that way on paper.

But will I persevere? Or all that is mundane and every day in my daily life takes over as it does and obliterates what I really want to do. But that again I guess would be my choice!

The month of November is then my philosopher’s stone to see if I can survive in my artistic endeavors and become a more accomplished writer! This then is “The month”!

The Cosmic Bridge

I promised you in the last post that I would be back to talk about the The Bridge of San Louis Rey and guess what???!!!! Surprise!!! Surprise!! I am going to talk about The Bridge of San Louis Rey.

Now I know this book is one of the modern classics (I am still to completely understand that term!) and it won Thornton Wilder his first of the three Pulitzers and Yada yada yada!!  I am not a person who goes with Pulitzer and Nobel. I mean I fell in love with Orhan Pamuk, way back in my sophomore year when no one or at least a very limited population knew him outside Turkey! On the other hand, there is J.M. Coetzee and I know a lot of you out there swear by him, but I do not understand him at all and gave up on him after Disgrace! (I could not understand Lucy marrying her rapist!) Give me a good yarn with some creative language and I am a sucker for that work, though the world in general may have never heard of it! So, though this book was on my list, it was never a top priority, nor did I go out of my way to find and read it. Until, one fine morning while doing some online shopping for some exotic books (will tell you about them later!) I came across a discounted copy of the book and decided on whim to buy it! It was bought more like a task… a necessary chore that needed to be completed in the journey of reading through every type of fiction in print!

Then the inevitable happened….like all love stories, the thing that one ignores the most, one ends up falling in love (trust me! I speak from experience!), I fell in love with The Bridge of San Louis Rey.

Thorton Wilder was born to an US diplomat in 1897 and spent his early childhood in China. All his siblings were accomplished scholars and writers; in fact his elder brother was the Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. He began his career as a writer with the publication of The Cabala in 1927 and spent the next 40 years writing – his last work to be published was Theophilus North in 1973. Through his life he won three Pulitzer Prizes, the first one as mentioned in 1928 for The Bridge of San Louis Rey and two more for his plays – Our Town in 1938 and The Skin of Your Teeth in 1942.

The Bridge of San Louis Rey is set in 18th century Peru, where on a fateful day of July 20th 1714, the bridge spanning the San Luis Rey, built by Incas a century earlier, snaps and plunges to death 5 people. This tragedy is witnessed by Brother Juniper, a Franciscan monk, who then sets out to find more details about the lives of the 5 people and understand why things happen? Are some actions fated or does being good or innocent help in bringing on a definite life and its end? Or does the universe work according to a random cosmic plan? The book then explores the lives of the 5 characters –

  • Doña María, the Marquesa de Montemayor : The lonely Marquesa who spends all her efforts in trying to get closer to her daughter who had married an aristocrat across the oceans in Spain, to get away from her mother.
  • Pepita: An orphan girl raised at the Convent of Santa María Rosa de la Rosas and sent by the Abbess of the convent to act as a companion to the Marquesa as part of her training, albeit unknown to her as the heir to the Abbess in the management of the Convent.
  • Esteban: Another orphan raised again at Convent of Santa María Rosa de la Rosas, and who begins to work as a scribe in the theater along with his twin brother Manuel
  • Uncle Pio; The mentor, guide and protector of the actress Camila Perichole, who transforms a 12-year-old mimic called Micaela Villegas into the renowned Camila Perichole and remains faithful to her even when she becomes the mistress of the Viceroy.
  • Don Jaime: Camila Perichole’s son whom Uncle Pio takes with him to train the boy like he had once trained the mother.

The book ends with Dona Clara, daughter of Marquesa de Montemayor coming back to Lima and meeting the Abbess who takes her around the convent. Dona Clara is moved by the sights and sounds of the hospital and the sick and poor being cared for at the Convent. The novel ends with one of the most critical observations on mankind – There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.

Written a simple style with some wonderful play of words, this book’s is an easy read in terms of a tale. It covers less than 120 pages. However vis-à-vis a parable or rather a philosophy, the book is unique in the sense, Wilder manages to convey a lot of moral and insightful ideas, without seeming didactic or pedagogic.

This is a must read, but do not read it in a rush, but absorb the language and the ideas as nuggets over a slow afternoon, where you have the night to think them through!

The rewards of Sisterhood…..

So here I was about to write a thought-provoking piece on Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Don’t give away a Sigh of relief as yet! I still plan to write about it in my next blog!) and then I open my WordPress account and see that Roshni (an extremely talented young lady who writes some marvelous posts!) has nominated me for Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award! Yay! And of course I am super touched! Thank you for the nomination Roshni! Coming from someone as talented and gifted as you, it’s truly an honor!

Now comes the rules! Of course you link it back and Thanking the person who originally nominated you, ( easy – it’s a pleasure to direct people at Roshni’s site, cause she does write some amazing stuff!) bringing out to the world in general 7 random facts about yourself, hereto unknown (how I struggle with this part, though I am completely self-obsessed, I mean who isi’nt; only the degree of obsession varies, but I digress, despite my self obsession, it is kinda difficult to come up with these things! )and finally nominating 7 other bloggers! (easy again! There are some incredibly talented bloggers and to follow them is a privilege. )

7 facts about myself –

  1. I am hydrophobic! Water scares me out; not like shower or drinking water, but you know pools, oceans, rivers, bathtub filled to the brim! My nightmare is that I will be travelling in a plane over a vast water body when the craft will have to make a landing on the water (yes! There is a fatalistic streak in me! )
  2. I have a sweeeeeeeeeeeeeettttttttttt toooooooooooootttttttthhhhhhhhhh! I am not exaggerating! Give me high on sugar content item at any time of the day/month/year! I love chocolates, pies, pastries and dunk about 3 sashes of sugar in my tea!
  3. Like Roshni, I did spend a lot of time thinking about becoming a war correspondent (Yes! Girl! We have a lot in common!) Even managed to complete a Ph.D in International Politics and then threw it all up in the air and joined a financial conglomerate as a Project Manager, while still aspiring to be a writer! (Yes! Even at this age, I have some confusion about what direction my career should take!)
  4. While growing up, I was incorrigibly shy and would shrink like 50 ft underground before talking to a new person. No one, who knew me in my childhood or early adolescence, would believe that I will turn into this outgoing, talkative, absolutely obsessed social creature. It’s like I did a 360 degree turn around!
  5. Despite going on and on about being a social creature, it’s kind of difficult talking about oneself and I really am exhausted by these exercise and at #5 have run out of facts to share with the world!
  6. I love Vivaldi, Beethoven and Bach and I am still in my 20s; so for the older folks, it possible for the younger generation to appreciate good music and for the younger folks, I do not care if this is “uncool”; I think these boys rocked!
  7. I do not like poetry….that is one form of reading I could never develop an affinity too!!!

Phew! Done!

Now to the sound of drum roll and thundering applause, the 7 incredible bloggers that I am nominating for this award are –

Eggton

Lill and Jill

So Many Books

Tamarind and Thyme

12 Novels

Ravingmadscientists

A year of reading the world

Do check out their page….trust me………these women are out of the world! Enjoy!

Bring on the Sunshine……

Ahem Ahem….So Thanks to the magnificent Lill and Jill, (awww I am still so touched…sob! sob!!Thank you Guys!) I have been nominated for the Sunshine Award. I would like to take these 15 seconds of fame and Thank my Father/Mother/dog/cat/neighbour/fellow students at my University from Slovakia and Turkmenistan…..No I have not really lost it (yet!)  and I  am not really doing this, so please do not drop your jaws or start reading another blog!!!

So per the Sunshine Award rules, here comes the detail –

  • Favourite Colour – Oh! Gosh! There are so many of them that I love – red, blue, aquamarine (I know its just another shade of blue, but it sounds nicer), pale yellow …let’s just say I am a colourful person (Yes! I know this is a really bad pun, but I was tempted!)
  • Favourite Animal – Oh! I am so old-fashioned here ….give me a doggie anyway!! I mean a doggie and not a dog; there are differences between the two – one is more of an impersonal creature and the common noun can often be used as an adjective….the doggie is a friend preferably a golden retriever type of friend who is always around to share your chicken and life…..I hate apartments cause you cannot bring up a doggie here.
  • Favourite Number – All even and never odds…don’t ask me; got something to do with childhood memories of times when we learnt HCF and LCM
  • Favourite Non Alcoholic Drink – You mean there is any other type of drink in this world? Er…water and tea!
  • Favourite Book – Oh! The list is long and only the brave can survive …here goes Pride and Prejudice and everything else written by Ms Austen, To kill a Mocking Bird, All Terry Pratchett, All Harry Potters, Everything written by Conn Iggulden, All works of William Dalrymple, Wild Swans, All works of John Steinbeck, All works of Orhan Pamuk, War and Peace, All works by Saki ….I will stop now that you have an idea!
  • My Passion – Let me start counting …reading, writing, cooking actually food, travelling, history, architecture, talking nineteen to a dozen, bugging my best friend when she is trying to watch a movie, laughing, dancing, theatre …I think I should stop!
  • Prefer giving or getting presents – Giving, I love giving surprise gifts, but my problem is always choosing the right gift for the right people. Love receiving food or book type gifts though!

Have we reached 10 yet? Does this list end?!!!!

  • Favourite Place – Mountains and more mountains…anywhere in the world
  • Favourite Day of the week – Friday; after I shut my office laptop and head for car parking…yay yay no work and only play for two days!
  • Favourite Flowers –  Not particularly flowery or planty…it’s a struggle to keep my Moneyplant alive but I do love Bougainvillea …reminds me of spring during my university years when there would be a riot of various colour of them and it would seem as if somebody had poured large vials of paints on the trees

Phew done!!!!

Finally the part I really like – I would like to highlight the following blogs for being brilliant, wonderful, funny, beautiful and generally enriching lives –

http://somanybooksblog.com

http://12novels.com

http://nonamesnofaces.wordpress.com

http://freepagenumbers.wordpress.com

http://classicconfusion.com/

http://tamarindandthyme.wordpress.com/

http://eggton.com

http://ayearofreadingtheworld.com

http://eagleeyededitor.wordpress.com

http://photobotos.com

Thank you all of you for inspiring me every day to laugh more, read more, write more and think more, especially from point of views contrary to my own!!

And here’s saving the best for the last – Thank you Lill and Jill for sharing your lives with us! You two make life a fun place to be in with all your roller coaster adventures and experiments! Discovering your site was one the best things and I think everyone should take a big slice out of your celebration of the joyous and downright funny takes on all the “moments” of each day!!  You gals are the best! Thank you for all those moments of sheer sitcom joy!!

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