Reading Plans and 2020

I know it is almost 15 days in the year for this post to go up. But I am guessing better late than never and if nothing else, these kind of posts inspire me to have some kind of a reading map to guide me through, instead of all kinds of crazies. Having said that, I must also say, that this reading plan is not really a plan, but some guidelines that I want to adhere to while making reading selections through this year. These are not exhaustive reading plans or list. I love those detailed plans I used to make at the start of the month and at end the month assess of how I fared. I also used to love participating in various reading events and read alongs; many books and genre’s that I would never read would become my absolute favorites thanks to these events. However life has been totally out of control for the last two years and if that should be the trend this year as well, then it is better to be selective and chose or not, wisely so that there is no sense of I-really-have-not-read-much-this-year at the end of the year!

Therefore moving on, here are my very basic rules for reading anything this year –

  1. Read two chunksters – I have several and there was a time when reading chunksters was BAU and did not need to be called out. However, life is throwing me spinners and I need to manage accordingly, so I am calling it out and restricting the number to two; if I end up with a miracle and read more than two, that would be even more awesome. But for now two. I started on The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I bought this book nearly 5 years ago but never really got around to reading it, so now I am pacing myself with a couple of chapters every week and trotting along. I have no idea what the second chunkster will be.
  2. Read more classics – Again, something that would not have been called out in the past but lately I have skipped reading the more richer works, unless one counts, re-reads of Austen. I need to get back into the groove of reading Classics again and I will consciously try and read a few more, maybe 5 through this year.
  3. Read Non Fiction – Lately I have been reading significant amount of Non Fiction beyond my usual trope of Travelogues and History. And I must say, that it has been quite an enriching and significantly transforming experience. I have read and learnt and observed and it definitely challenged my mind and forced me to think in ways I do not do and overall, it has been a learning that I would want to continue on.
  4. Read Books already Bought – I think this is a common issue of all Bibliophiles. We see books, we buy books and then we go back re-read Austen or Harry Potter. I have nothing against re-reading Austen or Harry Potter; in fact most of you know, those are my go-to comfort books. However, I have over the years bought several 100 books and my house is filled to excess with unread books, I want to try and read some of those this year, I cannot commit to never buying new books; I have yet to reach that stage of Nirvana, but atleast control by spending spree, I have developed a simple rule – I will add books to my cart and keep them for 24 hrs; if post that I still am itching to buy them, then I will. I have trying this since December and the only book I have bought since then is a Strategic Management book which is part of the coursework I am doing for a certification. I hope, super hope, I can stick to this one critical resolution.
  5. Have Fun!

That is my reading plan for the year. The only read alongs I have so far signed up for is to re-read Pather Dabi by Sarat Chandra and Bleak House by Charles Dickens with Cleo, whenever she takes those two on. The other event I want to participate is The 1920’S Club hosted by Kaggsy and Simon. I love that era and inherently gravitate towards that time period and therefore being part of this event is only a natural progression!

This then is the plan for 2020! I am hoping in the last week of December this year, to be able to show case a relatively favorable report than those I have shared or not over the last few years! But that will be when, it will be! Until then, here’s to all the good things in life in 2020, including and especially Books and Readings!

The Cousins

This post is again way beyond its original stated timelines, and I can only apologize, especially to you Jane and plead mercy on account of extremely overwhelming work pressure and preparation of a certification exam! Moving on, about two years ago, Jane introduced me to the world of Margaret Kennedy, an author hereto unknown to me and whose works I absolutely fell in love with from the very start. I loved her Lucy Carmichael and The Feast and The Wild Swans and so many more! Naturally when Jane decided to host the Margaret Kennedy Day, I was not going to pass it up! And though I am really really late in posting about it, I thought as always, better late than never!

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I was originally planning to read the Ladies of Lyndon for the event, however a last minute mix up at the library, propelled me to make another selection and I read Red Sky at the Morning! Set in the backdrop of early years of 20th century and ending in post World War 1 England, the novel follows the lives of the two sets of cousins – The Forbishers and The Crownes. Their mother’s were siblings and both had married poet. After Mr. Crowns involvement in a a murder scandal and fleeing from the country, the Crowne twins – William and Emily who had already lost their mother, were brought under the guardianship of their aunt, Catherine Forbisher, now a widow with two children, Trevor and Charlotte. The four children grow up together enjoying the same amusements and under the same care of the concerned, well-meaning albeit strict parent! They played together, fought together and made plans for the future! They had the company of Philip Luttrel, a neighbor and the Rector and their uncle Bobby who had been disowned by Catherine temporarily, on account of his staying with a married woman. he met in India , whom he latter married and who became their aunt Lisa. World War I interrupted their idyllic childhood and the Forbisher’s and Crownes returned for the war, determined to lead their lives in the best way they thought possible. Trevor moved to London in order to became a poet, the twins also took up an establishment in  London and William began to work on a play. Soon they developed a glittering social life, but the ties of past cannot be broken and will come back to extract a price on all!

As always, there is a lot to be admired in the this book! Margret Kennedy captures the childhood and the post World War 1 era marvelously. You can so picture the brilliant countryside in spring as well the glittering parties of London, especially the gentle mockery of the London social and theater scene . You can see the grotesque Monk Hall and you can see Emily’s bedroom in London….the word pictures are completely clear and absolutely delightful. There are very human relations that come through in the book – the love among cousins and the natural jealousy that transpires when one does better than the other and yet the feeling of a clanship when an outsider tries to close in. There are some lovely moments of bonding and wonderful evolution of characters, especially Catherine Forbishers. There are some superb  characters  and I cannot stress enough on the brilliant way the character of Catherine Forsbisher was drawn. There some maginificent, kind and empathetic characters in the ensemble that take your breath away – you cannot help but be touched by the self denying kindness of Mandy Hacbukett and be moved by Bobby’s devotion to Lisa or  his insights into human nature. Philip is another vivid character, somewhat of a cross between George Knightly and Colonel Brandon.But as a Margaret Kennedy work, it falls short! Not all characters completely evolve and come together, especially William’s. By page 100, you more or less know that there is tragedy in the air and are now just waiting for the axe to fall and when it does, you are not surprised that it fell, but rather that it manner it was done seemed altogether difficult to understand and extremely abrupt! In fact the book is filled with hurried tie ups of plot lines that should have been given more time to evolve and find a natural closure and as a result, the reading is jerky and at times tries your patience as points are driven in until you are ready to scream and some points are blink and miss! It is however a good read and we ought to read it once, if nothing else for the some of the wonderful characterizations and for an insight into an era long gone!

Book Reading in June and Other Bookish Musings

June is here and the heat will not go away….not in the near future!! Oh! How I hate summers!! Sigh!! Winter!! Oh! Lovely winter…Come Soon!! I just realized that I have used more exclamation marks in the last couple of sentences, that I have used words! See..there I go again! I have to stop! Ok….really need to start a new paragraph and subject!!

First of all Reading plans for June – among other sundry and random reading, the following I will complete because of Classic Club reasons or others like I had already begun them –

  1. The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne – This is a part of my The Classic Club Spin#6. I did have some reservation about this one, but so far and it’s not far, since I have only proceeded to chapter 4, it’s holding up!!
  2. The Good Soilder by Ford Maddox Ford and Dubliners by James Joyce – While I began reading both in my sudden obsession for the Lost Generation, (Hence the Katherine Mansfield post!), it very nicely coincides with The Classic Club event of the month which they published today was to be on World War 1/The Lost Generation literature
  3. The Tin Drum by Gunther Grasse – This modern classic is well different. It’s not an easy read and it’s a lot like solving mental math problems except you are kind of solving world problems to really delve into this book about a family surviving World War II and Nazi occupation. This one takes time and I really do not think I will be able to finish it in June
  4. Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell – I love Gaskell….love every work of hers; whether it’s a novel with social message like North and South or a comedy of manners like Cranford; but this is the first time I will be reading any of her “gothic” stuff; but I have high hopes….
  5. The Elixir of Immortality by Gabi Gleichann – This is light reading! At least hope so; the few pages that I have so far ventured does not so far seem like that can be read through a night; but I could be wrong. Reasons for picking this one – Jewish History in medieval Spain and Portugal. I think that just about sums it up!!

Speaking of light reading, here is something I have been mulling over since last night…the last week at work was extremely stressful and all most all the five evenings were spent socializing, leaving me with very little “me” time! The little “me” time I had was spent in reading The Tin Drum or Dubliners, while great books, can hardly be called uplifting, cheery books. By the time Saturday night came, I was tired, sore and completely not interested in meeting anyone or doing anything! I wanted some comfort food (Pizza with all kinds of cheesy stuff! Yes! I know the health hazards, but it was a choice between physical health or sanity and I thought, sanity was kind of more important for the moment!) and some nonsensical book where I have to exercise my brain in very very limited capacity – so I read through two Georgette Heyer – The Grand Sophy and A Civil Contract and two Lisa Kleypas (Yes!! I was reading ‘romance’ novels – how shall I ever hold up my head again!!!)

But now more to the point, I have been wondering, if after all the fine reading, sometimes our minds want to play hooky and just tramp about aimlessly. But then to me reading is playing hookey or rather it is the only way of living and letting my mind wander….then why the high fields or the low fields? Why when I am reading some intense literature for a while, suddenly, I need something absolutely frivolous and nonsensical – I mean like last night, I was so exhausted, I did not even to go to my comfort books like Jane Austen, Agatha Christies or Harry Potters! I needed something completely that was a no brainer and while I LOVE Georgette Heyer, her irony and sense of fun is just brilliant; I can say very little about the Lisa Kleypas novels and even while I was reading them, I knew, there was absolutely nothing in them vis-à-vis intellectual nourishment and though I know many people enjoy her works and I cannot say they are bad (remember I devoured two of them in one go)…they are not me! Yet the only thing my mind could have processed last night were such novels!! Why do you think that happens? Do you have such “interesting” read days?

Once upon a time in the Jazz Age…..

I finally finished reading The Great Gatsby and my first reaction is – why the hell did I wait so long to read this magnificent work??? Why the hell did I believe that this very stereotypical tale would be written in same trite manner set in an era and country that in itself continues to make people curious and on this lay the principal reasons for popularity of the book alone? I was so wrong!!

I think one of the main reasons which made me hesitant to pick up this book was the fact that at a very young and a very impressionable age, I had read Tender is the Night and really dislike it. Somewhere in my sub-conscience, I knew that as a connoisseur of literature, I should give this book a try and in fact had borrowed it from the library at least twice and bought a copy more than year ago…but until today, I just did not summon the courage to read it. But now that I have, I must own, I am blown away.  I am humbled and in complete awe of the immense talent of Scott Fitzgerald that he could take an oft-repeated tale and turn it into something beautiful, tragic and a cathartic experience.

the-great-gatsby-by-beckisaurusrexxI am sure almost everyone is familiar with the story of The Great Gatsby. The story is told from the point of view of Nick Carraway, an educated, wealthy and a sincere Mid-Western, and begins with his moving to East, New York to work for Bonds. He is soon re-acquaints himself with Buchanan’s, Daisy being his second cousin and Tom being his senior at college. The Buchanan’s are typical products of the Jazz Era, with loads of money and restlessness. They had travelled in Europe, lived in Chicago, before moving to New York. At the very onset of the novel, it is made clear that Tom Buchanan is a libertine and keeps a mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who is the wife of the garage owner, George Wilson, who services Tom Buchanan’s car. Nick also becomes friendly with the mysterious Jay Gatsby, his extremely wealthy neighbor, with a reputation of having killed a man and a host to lavish parties, through which he hardly appears and is rarely seen by the party attendees. Nick soon discovers a past between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan and soon this past comes to become the present of the lives of the two, with tragic results ends with Nick moving back to the West, with the conclusion that Tom, Jay, Daisy and he himself, were all at the heart westerners and that’s why none of them could get completely comfortable under the skin of East.

What makes this book wonderful is the word portrayals and characterization. For instance when Nick first describes Gatsby “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the “creative temperament”–it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.”  Through the book, while Gatsby and Daisy are the principal figures, the author also subtly delineates the character of Nick Carraway, who is presented as a contrast to all the denizens of East, with his sincerity and true sophistication that comes through.  It is Nick Carraway’s own admission that comes as a proof of his honesty of character “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life”. Fitzgerald is at his best as he masterfully creates verbal imageries and brings home to the reader the irony of the tale, with a gentle disapproval of his generation and their conduct. His description of George Wilson and Tom Buchanan making similar discoveries about their wives is presented with an illuminating insight “I realized that so far his suspicions hadn’t alighted on Tom. He had discovered that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another world and the shock had made him physically sick. I stared at him and then at Tom, who had made a parallel discovery less than an hour before–and it occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well. In fact the book is filled with such piercing observation – “Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead”.

I know I have quoted practically the complete book, but the very beauty of the book lies in the words – used so subtly, yet so powerfully as to make one speechless and instead quote forth the book. In the end, all I can say is, this is a must read and I am only sorry that I made my acquaintance with this masterpiece, so many years later! The preface, (which I always read after reading the novel, since they create half-baked ideas that intrude into the tale) describes how on its first publication, the book was deemed a failure and only after it was distributed to the soldiers during World War II that it began to rise in popularity! I am once again amazed how a worthy work, gains all the value, when it is deemed completely value less.