The most inspiring them of all…

I know I have to still write about Charles Dicken’s Great Expectation and I promise I will do it this week for sure. But while I drown myself in my other life, aka, the Project Manager, this Meme, I just could not let go! So Classic Club’s 2013 July Meme is –

What classic book has changed your view on life, social mores, political views, or religion?

I was 14 when I read this book – a very impressionable age and this book was way beyond the 14 years old reader – it had rape, violence, racial discrimination and per Wikipedia, destruction of innocence (though I have never felt that; to me it was more of coming of age!). So what book was this when all my peers were reading Ann of Green Gables? It was called – To Kill a Mockingbird. And I am darn glad that I read it and that too when I was 14!

To Kill a Mockingbird is more than an everyday story of fighting for the rights of less privileged. It’s more than a story of black versus white, rich versus poor! It’s a story of moral courage and about being brave when you are most afraid (Yes! I know George R R Martin wrote that in Games of Throne, but I am really talking about the principle of the thing!). The book is filled with acts of honor and valor even when they count for nothing. For instance when Atticus forces Jem to read to Mrs. Dubose because she is dying, though she has done nothing to deserve such kindness.  It’s about winning people over through bravery and honest conduct. It is about winning, when you have lost everything! It’s about compassion, not pity for your fellow beings – my favorite motto in the world is what Atticus says to Scout “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb around in his skin and walk around in it”. All this while, the book remains warm, humorous and very personal. There are everyday events out of our daily life – again one of the parts that I relate to most is when Scout talks about her reading – she could not recollect when she had not read with Atticus. I know the feeling, like I said before; I never realized when my father’s moving fingers over the words became my own to read.

This book may not have defined my social or political mores when I was 14. But it did go a long way in making me an egalitarian advocating liberalist who believes in equality for all and standing up for what you belive in no matter what the cost. In my small way, I find at times speaking up for what right may cost you something – relationship, money, promotion. But this book made me understand one very important kernel of truth when very young – unless I can look myself in the eye, nothing is worth it!

Viva Ms. Harper Lee. You wrote only one book, but boy! That book challenged our thoughts and forced many to reckon with what they thought was right and what was actually right! It gave impetus to the Civil Rights Movement and continues to inspire generations of lawyers and humanitarians!

P.S. now you know where the “Mockingbirds” in my blog’s name came from!

The ‘romance’ of romantic novels…..

I was just 12 years old and I wondered into a book shop. The owner showed me all the books a young adult would like – Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Anna of Green Gables. I picked them and one more – a vague book with green cover, called Shadow Princess. I picked it up because the back cover said that the heroine was a Ph.D student and even at that age I knew a doctorate was ‘the thing’ for me; so I was going to read up everything even remotely related to it. My ever encouraging dad paid for the books and we walked out.

However it was not till two years later that I got around to reading Shadow Princess….I do not quite remember what happened; but  I think I lost a couple of books traveling and then found them two years down the line. Anyway that’s not the point. The point is at the age of 14, I read the “Shadow Princess” and after reading the slim book, I decided that romance was a piece of nonsense! It took the protagonist (who by the way was supposed to be intelligent; what with a Ph.D in chemistry) 180 pages realise that she loved the male protagonist for no better reason that one point his father had dated her sister!!! Oh! Lord!!

That was my introduction to Mills & Boons……..

So many years down the line, my view has not changes. It has just expanded to include Silhouette romances and all flowery cover jacketed books with apparently, the key word is “apparently” intelligent heroines and the silent strong men. Give me a break!!!
I defy anyone to show me such a piece of work which does not adhere to the following premises – 
  1. The writing is always from the woman’s point of view considering most these things are written by women
  2. The obviously stunning girl whose looks are played down in the initial part of the book for the “wow” effect later with large black/blue/green eyes (they always have large eyes!) meets “the guy” at some gathering
  3. The girl is obviously someone who is supposed to have substance though she has done very little in the first 10 pages to show it and might be in some kind of trouble which only “the guy” can rescue her from.
  4. The Guy” is obviously extremely tall, extremely good looking, extremely intelligent, extremely rich, extremely popular among opposite sex, extremely in love, extremely rude…extremely annoying!!
  5. They get off to a rocky start because they have a past or because they are trying to deny their attraction for each other because of some weird twisted logic that will be revealed at the end of novel that will want to make you barf!
  6. We will now spend 80 -100 pages skimming through various ups and downs where the two fight, detest each other and end up making out (Have you ever made out with someone you truly detested?????)
  7. The novel ends with “the guy” doing some incorrigible act of daring and chivalry that will make the girl declare her undying (yawn!) love for him (now that was an ending I never so coming!!) with some trite vapid wannabe joke!

Oh!! Please!!

Long back, a friend’s brother told me at an impressionable age, when I voiced my disgust for such writings that we can thank Jane Austen for introducing us to such plots via, Pride and Prejudice.

Agreed…. P&P does follow this plot line….but Jane Austen actually originated it. Furthermore, she addressed some very serious concerns of that age – marrige as the only security for educated women; the case of entailment of estates; marriage between people of unequal status….I can go on!! Besides, her humour is subtle and sarcastic!!  I refuse to believe in today’s day and age, women marry for security and in a more and more democratic world where Princes are marrying commoners, one writes about an unequal marriage where a rich ‘the guy” marries our woman of apparent substance, albiet of lower social standing and there is an ado about it! If she has substance, she will cope!!

I know this will put many in a tizzy, but can’t we do a book, a romance novel, where the heroine is fat or taller that the hero. Also what if the hero is an average guy with a good job, but is not a power wheeler dealer. I am told such books would not sell….really? Is our reading population so insipid? Maybe there is a certain section of the population that will never read such books and thrive on traditional romances, but I am sure, if a romance is a good book that truly depicts the poetry and humour of our lives, people will read.

In the meanwhile, if you like many of my friends feel the need for an out of the world, so unreal romance, there is always Messer’s Mill & Boon!