Finally, The Wonderful October!

In the words, of L.M. Montgomery, via Anne of Green Gables “I‘m so glad I live in a world where there are October“. I cannot think of a more perfect way to show gratitude for the month of October…fall is here and winter is on its way. It means relief for the searing heat of Indian Summer, wood fire smokes, festivals and celebration and finally a year end, where for the mad year of 2017, I can slow down a bit and take a breathe to read and write! Needless to say, I am overjoyed that October is HERE!

From a bookish perspective, I am hoping to finally get going and pick the pace up! As I write this, I am conscious of the fact that every time I have made a statement like that this year, it has turned into an unmitigated disaster! So I am keeping all my toes and fingers crossed for this month and hoping things will go as planned! To begin with, I am coming at a near close of The Pickwick Paper by Charles Dickens Read Along, organized by O. It was the longest read along ever and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved this book on this revisit! I will also finish the much delayed The Raj at War by Yasmin Khan and I really have to stop procrastinating and finish Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. In terms of new books to read, a whim took over me couple of weeks back and I started re-read the Anne of Green Gables series by the brilliant L.M. Montgomery. I am currently on Book 3 – Anne of the Island and I hope to finish the series between October and November. I am also re-reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I have no reason to re-read this novel that I have read 1236 times, except you never need a reason to re-read an Austen! Speaking of re-reads, I was looking over O’s blog and I saw she was planning to re-read The Brother Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky again; I loved the book when I read it more than a year back with Cleo and Ruth’s more recent review was making me itch to back and read it again. Therefore I re-read The Brother Karamazov again, only this time, I take my time to ponder over many instances of brilliance of Dostoevsky, something I did not do fully, the last time in my haste to reach the end! I do not see myself getting around to it till end of the month and will probably take the whole of winter to finish it!

To end, in other reading adventures, the October round of Dewey’s 24hrsReadathon is coming up – 21st October is the date. I have been having so much fun since I joined up last October, that there is no way I am passing this one up! I have yet to decide what books I will read for the event, but I am sure, I will have PLENTY to choose from! I know for a fact that The Rector by Margaret Oliphant, recommended by Jane and pending from September will for sure be on the Reading Plan, but I have yet to decide on others! This is the 10th anniversary of the event, and the hosts are running a 30 days short challenge to celebrate the occasion and you can find the details here. Finally, there are also hosting the short run up weekend challenges to the main event – this weekend (Oct 6-7), they are asking you to read a book that has been on your TBR for more than a year – considering I have endless number of books in that category, it took me some time to narrow it down and finally I decided to ease into it with a fun mystery – The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers. I loved her when I read Busman’s Honeymoon and I am hoping to enjoy this to a T! Also for the October event, in a departure from my usual Reader only participation, I have offered my self as a host for a couple of hours, so that I can help the hosts in a small way as a show of thanks for the awesome event they have been hosting for years now!

That’s that for the month folks! Happy October and lets be thankful that we live in a world with October 😉

The 24 Hours Madness

Ok….so here’s a discovery, well not really a discovery, more of declaration of a well known fact – I am completely and obviously crazy!! Yes, I am aware that many of you always thought so, but I guess I am pointing out the obvious!!

After an extremely stressful week at work, where I got less than cumulative of 28 hours of sleep, I am happy that the weekend is finally here! I have a lot of things to do including cleaning the house and getting some shopping done, which HAS to be done because next week is Diwali, the big festival of the Indians! I have some reading and blogging planned as well, but nothing out of the usual. I am all set and I have a plan and schedule for the two days, that is until I decide to casually scroll through Twitter and stumble on some comments by Brona and bam! all plans are in disarray and there is a whole new plan in place!

What am I ranting about you ask? I am referring to the bi-annual Dewey’s Readathon, which kick starts on Oct 24th 2016 at 8:00 AM EST which translates to 17:30 Indian Standard Time and for which, I hang my head in shame as I say this, I have SIGNED UP! The idea of course is to read non-stop or with mini stops for 24 hours straight! You can find the details and whats and hows here.

24hrreading

Yes, I can hear the “naturallys”, but come on, how can I pass up a reading event???!!? I will hold of the cleaning till Monday and I will negotiate the shopping time, opting for online stuff if need be. But participate I shall, even if I do not make it to the participant list, on account of signing up a bit too late!

Anyhow, now that my ranting and self motivation and self exoneration is over, let us proceed to matters of greater significance like, what shall we read? There are loads of suggestions on the website and after scrolling through quite a bit, this is what I came up with – a mix of many things!!

  1. The Girl on the Train by Patricia Hawkes – am on page 62 as of today and shall attempt to finish via Readathon
  2. New York by Edward Rutherford – This one is a chunkster and I have only waded to page 183 so far so, only approximately 680 [pages to go; but its historical fiction and Rutherford does write extremely gripping plots, so I am kind of kicked about it
  3. Dombey and Sons by Charles Dickens – Yes, I am still struggling to finish this! Yes I know I am really dragging this out and yes! I do have every intention of finishing it!
  4. The Book of Snobs by William Makepeace Thackeray – This combines well with with my Victober event and breaks the monotony of serious reading. Thackeray’s take on on people who look down on those considered as “socially inferior” should be interesting. Page count 143 per Kindle Edition
  5. Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal – Just because I am curious and because I need to variety while reading. Page count 352 per Kindle Editio
  6. Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie – When the chips are down and interest flags, who but the brilliant Ms. Christie can keep us going! Look forward to keeping me going in this story of miscarriage of justice which I have for some reason never read before!Page count 286 per Kindle Edition
  7. Jerusalem  – A Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore – It’s History, its Middle Eastern History and the first couple of pages are very very good! Page Count 628 of which I have read 94.
  8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – You have to allow me one Austen to keep my spirits up towards the end when everything buzzes! I know the work by heart and I will glide through it when the going gets tough!

Now about the real time updates and such like, well I will update as I go along. I am not committing to an hour or two hours or any such frequency. More like when I need a  break and when I want to wander around a bit! I will also try and be deligent and keep one and all updated on Twitter and Goodreads and make an honest effort to make the posts interesting and hopefully nail baiting!

That seems simple enough!! I should be well rested and bright eyes and bushy tailed come Monday, when another crippling work load comes crashing on my head!! In the meanwhile I hopeth, that I can convinceth Cleo and Brona to helpeth me through this task!! Guys – NEED HELP BADLY!!!!

Now that I have jumped, I will try and get some good sleep and ease in for the reading tomorrow so that come 17:30 IST, I really do set off!!

The LIST!!

This game has been going on Facebook for a while – you know where we are supposed to do the following – “In your status line, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard—they don’t have to be the ‘right’ or ‘great’ works, just the ones that have touched you.”

I have been tagged at it a few times but have been unable to respond with the list due to recent events. Also this time away from Facebook (since many people have posted their lists by now) made me realize that a lot of people are doing exactly what they were asked not to do…thinking too hard and making sure that the “right” works get listed! Therefore I publish this away from Facebook and share my bookish musings on the same with people who live, breathe and love books!!!!

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  3. Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
  4. Tintin Comics by Herge
  5. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  6. Shadow of the Moon by MM Kaye
  7. The Source by James Michener
  8. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  9. The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  10. Maskeradeby Terry Pratchett

Deciding on just 10 is REALLY REALLY hard!! But there you go…that’s my list!!

What are your 10 favorite works? Can we do this on activity on our blog sites as well?

A special Thank You to Emily, who gave me the idea to share the list on this forum instead of Facebook!

Liking Jane…..

This blog is in response to the March Meme of The Classics Club. The subject is Jane Austen…now how can I ever pass out on opportunity to wax eloquently on my all-time favorite author – the very witty, the very talented and an acute observer of all the fallacies of human nature.

While Jane Austen has always been at the very top of my ladder of veneration that I reserve for my most beloved writers, it is very surprising that I never wrote about her before. But then what can I say for Ms. Austen that has not been said before – what can I say that is original and not hackneyed or trite?  However let me attempt to spell out why I resort to Jane Austen, when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am confused, when I need distraction or simply when I need to attain a Zen state of mind!

By now, the very first question of The Classic Club for this subject should be answered by now – I do not love Jane Austen; I am obsessed with her!!!!!

Now to broach why I love Jane Austen – I love reading her because she is one of the original fountain of all wisdom pertaining to relationships, especially those between a man and a woman. All those of who had been nourished on a healthy and completely untrue diet of Prince Charming carry poor little Cinders away, despite strong objections against her background got of first taste of reality through Austen’s work. Whether it is Mrs. Bennett or her relations, there can be no denying that improper behavior by the family of the protagonist will always be a hindrance in the path of true love and will always make a lover hesitate in declaring his intentions. How many times in your adult life have you heard your boyfriend say that your mother/aunt/sister is too loud and an embarrassment in public which led to an eventual showdown between the two of you, regardless of the validity of criticism? I feel this keenly and therefore try as much as possible to shield my guy from my extended family.  She was one of the first writers to put forth that while filial respect is always important and should always be of greatest import, one cannot turn away from the obvious shortcoming of the parents, which at times may lead to disastrous effect on the child. Example of the same is Mrs. Dashwood who does not try and control the imprudence of Marianne in her relations to Willoughby leading to heartbreak for one and exposing another to the censure of the world. Sir Elliot’s vanity and pride deprives his daughter Ann Elliot from happiness for seven long years. These were revolutionary concepts, especially when we look at the era that Ms. Austen was writing from.

Many claim Jane Austen had written a 18th century Mills & Boone through Pride and Prejudice. But this  in itself is a very simplistic understanding of the novel – this was one of the first books where the heroine asserts not only her own self-respect but also forces the male protagonist to respect her family through sheer force of character. Ms. Eliza Bennett is not a milk and honey  miss, like her other fictional compatriots, who faint at anything remotely stressful; nor does she give away to hysteria when ill befalls her family – instead she faces them as a strong individual, sharing burdens with her sister and keeping her own repining in check and rarelyhas moments of self-indulgence. She does not go around being pedagogic to her suitor, but speaks to him on equal terms, in mixture of humor, angst or anger as dictated by natural human tendency.  Pride and Prejudice was also one of the first writings to throw an egalitarian twist – while Mr Darcy had 10000 a year and Pemberly, he is dismissed as a gentleman by Elizabeth, who claims equality as a gentleman’s daughter and is completely unapologetic about the comparative material inequities between the two.

Ms. Austen was one of the first writers to create a flawed heroine, whether it was Elizabeth Bennett’s initial liking for Mr Wickham or Emma Woodhouse’s meddling and sometimes rude conduct towards her friends and neighbors. She makes her heroine fall to only make them rise, realize their mistake and become better human beings, woman, wife, daughter etc.

Finally many critics have condemned Jane Austen as parochial and not addressing some of the pressing concerns of her time, like the Napoleonic Wars. She does refer to the Napoleanic Wars when there is a need – Persuasion is filled with allusion to peace after the war; but mostly she wrote about the country – the kind of place she grew up and spent most of her adult life. She wrote about things that she understood and had complete command over than attempt something for which she was dependent on second-hand sources and which may have a false bearing on the tale. After all, since Ms. Austen’s celebrated examples of writing about spheres understood by the author, more than 200 years later, the apparently modern and up-to-date social networks, work on her principle of writing locally!

Jane Austen is not out dated, she is not boring and she is not parochial – she is in fact very cool, with writings that can be handed down from one generation to another, because it addresses the really never-changing mores of human interactions!

To address the last part of The Classic Club Challenge – my favorites in order of 1 to 6 are (with 1 being the best!)

  1. Pride and Prejudice (No Surprise there!)
  2. Emma
  3. Sense and Sensibility and Persuasions (I know…I cannot decide between the two!)
  4. Northanger Abbey
  5. Lady Susan
  6. Mansfield Park (Only Austen that I consider tedious and didactic!)

Do let me know what you think about Ms. Austen as well!

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!