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Posts tagged ‘sense of humour’

The Happy Sad Syndrome

Is there anything called Happy Sad? You know when you are filled with joy of knowing someone and yet there is sadness of parting? I am truly blessed not to have parted with someone like that in real life – I mean I do have close friends and family who have moved away and I do miss them terribly! But there is always the hope of meeting again and starting off from where we left. Therefore, all my Happy Sad relations are limited, (sigh and thank heavens!) with books.There are those books that make you laugh through the whole bloody tale, only to make you cry (because otherwise the lump in your throat would choke you) in the end and yet when you close the book, you are smiling, cause you have just formed a Happy Sad relationship!

I know I am being maudlin, but bear with me! I just underwent such a cathartic Happy Sad moment! I just finished reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. This was my first book by John Green and I had no idea it was a young adult book and even if I did, frankly my dear, I don’t give a damm!

The story sounds very mushy and sentimental – Hazel Lancaster is a terminally ill girl who is forced to go to a Cancer Support Group meeting by her mother so that she can deal with her illness. At such a meeting, she meets Augustus Walters, a Cancer survivor and they start seeing each other. As their relationship develops, so does their obsession with author Peter Van Houten who had written a book called An Imperial Affliction, which does not really have an ending. In order to find an appropriate end to the story, Augustus uses his Wish from The Genie Foundation, to sponsor a trip to Amsterdam to meet the reclusive author and get a closure on the book they both love.

But there is so much more to this book than teenage mush and of course the whole tragedy of young people dying of cancer. This book is filled with sparkling wit and wonderful humor and some absolutely marvelous prose and some heartbreaking moments. Let me elaborate –

When Hazel is worried that she would break his heart by dying of her illness, Augustus says ““Oh, I wouldn’t mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”

The humor crackles through the book; here a sample when Augustus’s sister try to cochie coo him, making him uncomfortable –
“It’s just that most really good-looking people are stupid, so I exceed expectations.’
‘Right, it’s primarily his hotness,’ I said.
‘It can be sort of blinding,’ he said.
‘It actually did blind our friend Isaac,’ I said.
‘Terrible tragedy, that. But can I help my own deadly beauty?’
‘You cannot.’
‘It is my burden, this beautiful face.’
‘Not to mention your body.’
‘Seriously, don’t even get me started on my hot bod. You don’t want to see me naked, Dave. Seeing me naked actually took Hazel Grace’s breath away,’ he said, nodding toward the oxygen tank.”

And the heartbreaking moments like when Hazel worries what will happen to her parents after she dies and she makes them promise to be together and continue leading a good fulfilling life.

The sensitivity with which a very difficult subject has been handled, without sentimentality and loads of fun (in fact the book is replete with mockery of all those books with cancer patients who do such courageous things, when in reality there is nothing poetic about dying a slow and painful death). There is a lot of good sense and practicality and an unearthly sense of reality. There is THIS whole piece of talking over the phone just before you drop off to sleep which is even better than being with the person, because it is togetherness beyond the obvious. I know exactly what that Hazel is talking about. While I am not 16 and I am not sick, I do talk to Mr. Soulmate every day just before I drop off to sleep and it’s one of the most wonderful experiences, where it seems like I am with him no matter what the time and space and there is something intransient about us!

That’s another thing about John Green’s book – he is a man; but the story is written from a girl’s point of view and boy! Does this man know the soul of woman or what? It’s like he is sitting in living room of a girl’s heart and writing from there.

Like I said, I could go on and on about the book, but it’s just something you need to read and savor on your own, like Hazel says –
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”

All ado about pathos and tragedy

Books

Books (Photo credit: vasta)

I am fundamentally a very happy person. I was not always a happy person, but a wise man once advised me that to get ahead in life especially when things are down and out, one must consciously make an attempt to be happy. This might include wearing an outfit that you never wear but you know makes you look awesome; it might be watching movies that are absolutely inane but make you laugh; in my case it was reading books which bring joy! I have tried this recipe of reading joyful books or at least books with a happy ending for a number of years now and it has become a part of my DNA. Today I can be happy almost in all circumstances – keyword almost!

This post however is not about my philosophy of happiness but my ever-increasing marvel at the sheer number of highly intelligent and intellectual people who seem to prefer everything in the way of reading that has some tragedy, heartbreak and calamity as its theme and would end in ensuring the reader’s mind is absolutely beset with the misfortunes of life. A case to the point is my best friend and flatmate rolled into one. She is an extremely intelligent woman, who has a degree in English and Mass Communication, besides picking up a Ph.d along the way. She is extremely sensitive, intuitive and can be a lot of fun! However her idea of a darn good read is Brother Karamazov and In the First Circle. I mean Gulag, murder and Siberia are some of staring features of the book. Then there is my sister – another one of such ‘weirdo” species. She has a double master and is one of the most erudite individuals whom I have the good fortune to know with a quirky sense of humour that makes you laugh out loud. What is her favourite read? Madame Bovary! I mean you know by the second chapter of the book that this book will end in a tragedy and Madame Bovary is destined for death, but that does not prevent my sister from proclaiming this is one the best books ever.

Of course I do not mean to deride the extreme versatility of these great authors or the understanding or the philosophy that they tried to convey. These books are a must read for any enthusiast of literature and can truly be considered classics. Having said that these are not and I repeat not comfort books and I would not turn to them for relief when I am disturbed. They are not the pick me up kind of reads and they do not give you a warm fuzzy feeling of being at peace with the world and they definitely do not make you smile.

I understand that life is not all fun and games and we have serious issues to address. My contention is that when I am down and out, serious issues do not help, unless you do a take-off in the lines of Evelyn Waugh. Anybody who has read “Scoop” will agree with me that it is as sarcastic a portrayal of commercial journalism as there can be. However it is written in the most light-hearted manner that not only drives home a point but also makes you laugh along the way. Tried reading “The Case of Exploding Mangoes” by Mohammed Hanif? The book covers one of the darkest periods of Pakistani historyGeneral Zia‘s dictatorship and his assassination. But it has been written in subtle black humour while being completely honest to the horrors of an undemocratic tyrannical government. The book tackles serious issues, but it does not make me feel like Atlas; It does however make me aware and appreciate democracy. So while entertaining me, the book has given me substantial food for thought without making me weep buckets!!

There will be tales where some amount of tragedy cannot be avoided. Try “The Great Mysterious” – I am told it’s not Lorna Landvik’s best book, but I love it! I know I cried buckets when Jordan dies some 10 pages before then end, but the book still ended in hope with the protagonist bonding with her nephew and finding a new worth to her life! See what I mean ….

In the end, all I can say is I will root for Oscar Wildes and Sakis and Mohammad Hanifs of the world till kingdom comes. I do not understand the whole “beauty of pathos” thing. They do not make me sigh and teary eyes at all the unhappiness of the world…they make me never want to read them a second time! Wit on the other hand is truly the highest form of intelligence.

 

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