Tis The Month of Joy!

December, glorious December! How I love thee! You are the only month in the calendar that helps me survive, January to November! Ok, maybe not November, but for sure January to October! And finally this glorious, wondrous, joyous month is upon us, and boy! do I have plans!

Unlike each December month, when I head out to some corner to find rest and recreation, I am staying put at home this year! Too many expenses and some future investment requires me to be sane and sensible about money matters! Oh! How I hate it, but if has to be, it has to be and I plan to make most of the time, while in town!

To start with, I have several social engagements planed through the month; in fact, I cannot help but think, its one too many. After all, all my weekends are BOOKED through January first week! I am either partying at someone’s place or playing the hostess! In addition to that, I am have exploring expeditions planned around the older parts of the city. There are many ruins and monuments to hike about in this town and December is the best month to do it. Since I am staying in town this year, I plan to use my leaves in hiking around the city, re-visiting  some of the old favorites and hopefully finding some new ones! I mean there have been 7 civilizations/settlements of this city and it’s takes a lifetime to cover them all!

In terms, of reading, as has been my tradition, I suspend all challenges and the more ‘virtuous reading’ this month and read everything that I want to or that which grabs my interest and attention! In that spirit of things, I started the month with Christopher Moore’s Lamb : The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal; 100 pages into the book, I realize it attempts to be ‘irreverent’ more than it is, but it is still a good, fun read and I am enjoying it immensely! I will also hopefully get to borrow an edition of Miss Buncle’s Book by DE Stevenson, which I have been waiting to read forever and am finally the next person in the Library’s wait-list! There are a couple of historical fiction – thrillers that I would like to lay my hands on this month – A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee, a whodunit based in 1920’s Calcutta, the city of my grandparents; The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, a much talked about post World War II, finding truths, kind of novel and finally, under Penguin’s First-to-Read Program, I have a copy of yet unreleased. Last Stop in Brooklyn by Lawrence H Levy, where PI Mary Handley investigates an infidelity case turned murder, in 1894 Brooklyn! I am also planning to start, Tristram Shandy by Lawrence Stern; this has been in my TBR forever and I want to get started on the same. I doubt I will finish it in December, but I do want to get started! I also carry on with my re-reading of The Brothers Karamazov by Fyedor Dostoevsky. Finally, I am also doing a virtual read along, starting in December with a dear friend cum colleague cum keeper of my sanity cum soul sister from work, EngiNerd with Origins by Dan Brown. I am not much of a Dan Brown fan, but EngiNerd loves him and says that I started off on the wrong foot with The Da Vinci Code instead of Angels and Demons and so should not judge harshly! I guess, the very fact that this one is based in Spain has its redemption so how bad can it get? Besides, the joy of reading with dear friend, as many know outweighs all other considerations.

Phew! That is my “simple” reading plan for the remaining year! I do have two weeks planned off from work, which should help me cover a lot of reading ground and the next three weeks are being spent in plans of getting most reading time, in between hectic socialization! So, I say to you all, Happy Reading and Joy to the World!

The Return of the 24 Hour Madness….

I have not been keeping well for sometime now, sleepless nights due to sever bronchial asthma. The biggest project of my career goes live on May 1st and it could set me up for next 3 years or make me look up other jobs! Minor domestic crisis continue to plague me. Life can hardly be called a bed of roses; but do I care? Am I really worried that my life is falling apart?!?!?! Nope…the only thing I give a damm about at this point is that the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon is BACK!!! April 29th, 8:00 AM EDT the non-stop reading binge starts!!! Wooohooooo……I CANNOT wait!

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My first Readathon was last year in October when I stumbled on Brona’s post on her Readathon prep. This is exactly why you need friends…..to drag you and tempt you into madcap adventures! Of course, not that I really need tempting to read a new book or participate in reading events! Anyhow, I attempted it last year and had a ball! Scratch that, I had a ball time 10! There is no way I was passing the April event up, even if it meant working late into the night to ensure Project launch on Monday goes smooth and I have the weekend to READ!!!

Now to proceed to matters, of actual importance – what do we read??!!! That, delicate and difficult question, that haunts each reader’s life; such a wonderful pain! I have my list all set, though again, I am not really sure, if I will be able to cover all or some or even in the end, throw up all the careful planning, to re-read Harry Potter, but for now this is what it looks like

  1. The Histories by Herodotus – Many of you are aware that I am reading this with Cleo and Ruth as part Reading The Histories for The Well Educated Mind Reading Challenge. Both Ruth and Cleo have finished while I lag woefully behind. Having said that, I am loving this narrative and I hope to cover some significant portion, through the Readathon
  2. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol  – This comic satire of Russian feudalism and bureaucracy set in 19th century is an absolutely wonder to read. Again, this is something I am reading with Cleo and again while my progress is slow, I hope, seriously hope to make some progress over the weekend!
  3. An Incident of the Fingerpost by Ian Pears – A whodunit is a must to break the monotony, especially if it’s a whodunit set in medieval England! Really looking forward to this one!
  4. Bones of the Hills – #3 The Great Conquer by Conn Iggulden – Can I possibly do any reading event, without atleast on hardcore Historical Fiction. The answer naturally is a big NO!!! This time I revisit and re-read an old favorite; Conn Iggulden’s marvelously researched tale of Chengiz Khan and his army is a fascinating read, away from all incorrect myths and gory descriptions. I finished Part 1 & 2 over this last week and now move on to part 3.
  5. Men at Arms by Sir Terry Pratchett – Could I possibly consider any reading event as complete, without one homage to a comic and humane narrative of mankind and its his frivolousness? Nope!! We go “detectoring” with Commander Vimes and his crew in the greatest city of Discworld, Ankh-Morpork!

My update style will remain same! I will have a 24 hour open blog update which I will try and update every 3 odd hours. I will also try to be more diligent and in fact use the Twitter and Goodreads pages for well needed breaks!

My cheering squad, I look at the same two – Brona & Cleo – some serious cheering required!!

This should be yet another restful weekend, which  should ensure I am all ready for the big launch come Monday! However, Monday is still far and for now, LET’S READ! Counting down the last few hours!

Reading Non-Stop

Whoever it was coined that “Ask and you shall receive” really knew what they were talking about. (I am really not sure that God made such an injunction, I do not quite think he/she works in pithy saying, but then one never knows!)  Anyhow, my point, there is a lot of truth in that statement, though instances often belie us! But then there are times when you actually get what you wished and then you kick yourself wondering why the hell did you not wish for that million dollars that you need? But still one must be grateful for that one instance being gratified and keep their fingers crossed, in more such events coming true.

Now I am sure what this looooooong prologue  entail? Never fear; enlightenment cometh thy way! (You have to allow me the joy of being a drama queen). Like I had mentioned in my previous posts, the work hours are getting longer and longer with no end in sight, and in fact will not be in sight for next several months to come.Add to that there are domestic complications, including the electric fuse which blew and the wiring of my apartment needed to be re-wired. Top if off, I am in midst of personal quandary, the solution to which is completely unbeknownst to me; let alone unbeknownst, I do not even know where to begin to find the pathway to the answers! Needless, to say, I am not in a happy place; atleast not in a peaceful place and I need a break – the kind of break that i really thrive on – the escape to the bookland variety! Considering there are quite a few things crowding in my mind and diverting me from focusing on the books I want to read, I thought a readathon like event would set the stage and motivate me to get going and gain some momentum on my reading and take my mind of the sundry! So I trawled the internet and after same lame ducks, I hit jackpot.

Season’s Reading is hosting a two week long Readathon, from Jan 16th to Jan 29th called A Winter’s Respite. It starts at 12:00 am Monday the 16th, and ending at 11:59 pm on Sunday the 29th. The great part about this Readathon is you can join up anytime during this period and there are no mandatory reading requirement, as long as you read and have some fun along the way.

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This is just what the doctor ordered, some company for focused, albeit relaxed reading! So I sign up with joy and list below some of the books, I am planning to make significant headway with, before Monday takes over –

  1. The Histories by Herodotus – I am reading this with Cleo and Ruth and many others, as part of The Well Educated Reading List for Histories and I am SIGNIFICANTLY behind!
  2. The Hindus by Wendy Doniger – Yet another History and this one controversial at that. Banned in India, I bought the copy well before all the fire and fury was raked up and then because of the uber hype, I gave it up for a later read! (Everybody was pretending to read the book, without actually any idea of what Dr. Doniger was saying and it was “cool” to support or refute on very shallow understanding of the subject!!) Now is a good time to rev-visit the book finally and I look forward to the this pioneering and exploratory work on the Ancient Hindu culture!
  3. The Curse of Mohenjodaro by Maha Khan Philips – Since I am reading ancient Indian History, it made sense to mix it up with a easy historical read and vary the pace a bit. Based off recommendation from a friend, I am going to see what the author makes about a civilization, which remains a mystery!
  4. Politics and The English Language by George Orwell – This is not a book but an essay by George Orwell on the politics of using English as a primary language. I have Cleo to thank for this one!!
  5. Lucky Jim by Kinsley Amis – Just because I need some laughter among all the serious reading!

That’s the plan for now! I bid all of thee adieu with promises of updates every few hours!

Murder in an American Farm

As part of my Victober Reads, I decided to read The Dead Alive by Wilkie Collins as part of the Read a Victorian novel where a plot is afoot category! This novella was one of Collins’s earlier works and is supposedly based on a true story, based on the Broon Brother murder case.

The plot unlike other Collin’s plots, is based away from England and set in rural America.Philip Lefrank, an overworked and now sick lawyer is advised by his doctors to take a break from work for the sake of his health. He therefore sets off to America to visit some cousins of his who run a farm – The Medowcroft of the Morwick Farm. He arrives at Morwick station and is met my Issac Medowcroft’s eldest son – Ambrose, who appears to be a handsome and personable individual and who entertains Lefrank with interesting and candid conversation all the way to their journey to the Mrowick Farm.There he finally meets his host and the patriarch of the family Issac Medowcroft, his daughter, his daughter, a grim faced unhappy looking Miss Medowcroft and their cousin, Naomi Colebrook, with whom Ambrose seemed to be in love. The atmosphere of the house seemed strained and Lefrank was glad to retire to his own room. When he came down for dinner that night, he was introduced to the younger brother Silas and yet another person, John Jago who apparently ran the farm on behalf of Issac Medowcroft. It is soon apparent to Lefrank that things are not as they seem and there are tensions and undercurrents at play in between the Medowcroft household. The brothers do not like John Jago who seems to have the good opinion and trust of the elder Medowcroft and Miss Medowcroft for sure did not like Naomi Colebrook.  After dinner, Naomi, seeks an interview with Lefrank and shares her angst about the continuing tension and unpleasantness in the household and seeks his help in trying to speak to the brothers. It is at this point John Jago approaches Naomi and requests to speak to her, to which Naomi agrees, setting of a series of events, with unforeseen results.

This is not perhaps one of the best works of Collin’s and it lacks the plot tenacity of The Moonstone or the Women in White. But it is Collin’s and till the end, you are kept guessing what and who? The ensemble of characters like all of  Collin’s works have a large range -the now enfeebled patriarch, the angry woman scorned, the gentle heroine, the good brother and the weakling and the strange outsider. You name it and they are all there and they are woven so  well in the plot that it seems like taking even one of them out would leave a gaping hole in the narrative.The women do seem to verge at two ends of the spectrum, but this was a Victorian man writing the novel and allowances have to be made for that day and age!  The narrative without doubt the tale is kind of uni-dimensional. the length of the novella and the vivid characterization ensures that the story does not come across as flat. It straight forward no frills and no gore writing that brings the reader to the climatic end, smoothly and tries up the lose ends cleanly.

A very good one time, read it through the night novella!

The Madness Updates

Beloweth are the updates of my valiant attempts at this 24 hour readathon!!

Update 1

Hour 1  –  18:47 IST

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Page 112 of 323

Take on the Book – intriguing. Seems to be veering around cliches but yet not fall into them. Difficulty in developing empathy for the protagonist; but its getting better so one never knows!

Snacks Update -Water & Nuts

Update 2

Hour 4 – 20:40 IST

Still on The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Page 201 of 323

Take on the Book –  Still intriguing. Cannot like the protagonist; she goes around doing nasty things and then cannot believe she has done it! No idea why everyone has patience with her! Plot line seems to go around traditional damsel-in-distress-syndrome where only a strong but have suffered much man can redeem the protagonist. If I was not curious as to who the killer is, I would have barfed  by now! But I plod on!

Snacks Update – Butter Milk – the bestest drink in India!

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Update 3

Hour 6.5 – 00:00 IST

Finished The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

Thinking of Starting The Book of Snobs by WM Thackery and then varying the pace even more by also starting on the Land of Seven Rivers by Sandeep Sanyal

Take on the Book – Some bits cliches and some bit contrived but still very readable, at least a good one time, curl up and read it on kind of read. There are parts that you get completely hooked on to as well plot turns that are clever and your appreciate the craftsmanship of it it! But not startlingly HAVE TO READ variety!

Snacks Update – Took a break and had Dinner with flatmate!

Update 4

Hour 10 – 2:39 IST

Started reading Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal

Page 41 of 352

Take on the Book – Easy to read for a layman. Shares interesting information about how Geography shaped the evolution of Indian History, though I do feel a very strong Right wing leaning! But then that may be nothing and I am only on Chapter 2 for now.

Snacks Update – Water/Milk and the much awaited English Shortbread

Note – Maybe last post of the night as really need to get some shut eye to be bright eyed and all active for remaining day tomorrow!

Update 5

Hour 15.5 – 8:00 IST

Woke up an hour back after napping for couple of hours. Finished early morning chores and now back in the “Reading Zone”!

Continuing with Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal

Page 69 of 352

Take on the Book – Well researched. Provides Historic and scientific insights to keep the narrative grounded in facts. But still cannot quite overcome the feeling of Right wing leanings, especially since we all know facts can manipulated to prove anything! But still early in to the book to draw a firm conclusion!

Snacks Update – Masala Tea

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View of the valley, which my apartment overlooks. This is what my balcony opens to & my favorite reading spot

Also because I missed the Mid -Event Survey, posted about 2 hours ago, on account of it being like 6:00 am and snooze time, I post the updates now –

Mid-Event Survey

1. What are you reading right now?

Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal

2. How many books have you read so far?

1…I think speed reading is not my thing!

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

The one I am currently reading!

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Some. Despite pre-planning people did call, though I managed to keep the conversations short!

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

The adrenaline! I never realized the rush one gets in this kind of break neck virtual club reading event!

Update 6

Hour 19 – 11:00 IST

I cannot believe I am feeling so very nostalgic about the up coming closure! I will so miss this event!!

Continuing with Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal

Page 119 of 352

Take on the Book – Well researched. Some very intresting learnings. Like the Yezhedi Tribe in Iran shares common DNA with the North Indian population and that there seems to be a movement of this population not only from Iran to India but also back to India. Extremely well written descriptions of the epics connecting with current Indian fauna and flora, proving the possibility that the events of Ramayana and Mahabharata may have actually happened. The only take is, this is a well researched and well written history, the claim to geography remains limited to the two major highways that link India north and south and east and west, which have in operation since centuries.

Snacks Update – Big Lazy Sunday Breakfast – Very English! Toast, Eggs, Sausages, Pot of Tea and Juice. Sunday indulgences, since Monday to Saturday its oats or cornflakes!

A friend of mine shared this on Facebook and I think it sums my Readathon Sunday just perfectly!

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Update 7

Hour 21- 13:52 IST

Boooohoooooo!! Someone make the time stop!!

Continuing with Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal. Also started on The Book of Snobs by WM Thackeray for change in variety.

Page 147 of 352 for the former and Page 26 of 130 for later

Take on the Book –  Land of Seven Rivers is getting better by the minute. Loving the rich historical and now significantly enriched geographical history that shaped the fortunes and lives of India, both land based and maritime. Loaded with facts and filled with some very interesting insights into the neglected everyday history of common man, I am at this point super impressed with the book . One of the best Historical reads in a long time. Thackeray is brilliant as always, but I will do a separate review for his book as part of my Victober Reading Update!

Snacks Update – Lunch –  Grilled Fish

Update 8

Hour 24- 16:37 IST

This is the end, my friend!

Continuing with Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India’s Geography by Sanjeev Sanyal. Also read up  The Book of Snobs by WM Thackeray for change in variety.

Page 278 of 352 for the former and Page 56 of 130 for later

Take on the Book –  Land of Seven Rivers is the HIGHLIGHT of this reading event for me. Rarely am I ever so impressed with Indian Historians but Mr.Sanyal’s work is indeed quite good. In-depth research, an easy to read narrative, that mixes facts with some wonderful lesser known nuggets of history. For the first time, after many years of reading History, I had a sense of Ah! So that’s how that happened!! Having said that, the geography part of the book is limited. Its picks up and then loses the strain and does not quite fulfill the promise of a “geographic history”. There is of course a distinct right wing /nationalist twang to the book, but it is not a blind absolutely fundamentalist approach. It’s more of a belief system that kind of guides the narrative.

Snacks Update – Yougurt

The Madness Starts

Couple of minutes left to start! I am all set at the starting line.  Dewey’s Readathon, Bring it on!

Me, the obsessive control freak, has made a list and checked and double checked all items.

  1. E-Book Reader Charged – Check
  2. Snacks set and dinner plans in place – Check
  3. Plenty of Water Bottles – Check
  4. Good Music – Check
  5. Have told Dad and all friends/relations not to call me till Sunday Evening – Check

Seems like I am all-ok to make SOME dent in my reading list!

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I am kind of confused as to whether to read The Girl on the Train first or The Land of the Seven Rivers to kick start the event. I will fit in Dombey and Sons somewhere after that, before I am too exhausted and drop off before I know; Dickens clearly is not at his best in this one. I have kept Christie and Austen for the difficult hours (late night and afternoons) and New York and Jerusalem come in when I have revved up my engines well and all set for some ground breaking reading. Thackeray will provide a wonderful diversionary break! Well this is the plan! And now that I am almost there, a though comes to, what the hell was I thinking????

Oh! Well! To late to ponder over those philosophical conundrums. Let’s just plunge in with the Opening Meme

1.What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

India, New Delhi to be exact!

2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

That had to be a toss up between The Land of Seven Rivers and New York

3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?

There are these absolutely melt in your mouth shortbreads that a dear friend from England sent me! That’s not only a motivation but also an indulgence!

4.Tell us a little something about yourself!

Dedicated reader, trying to be a writer, full time Project Leader in a financial conglomerate, amateur historian, devoted blogger, born traveler, occasional  exotic cuisine chef, daughter, sister, friend!

5. If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I have read many many times through my life. But reading through 24 hours should be something else. Also I am really really impressed with all the one-world-cyber-cheering and supporting happening; from United States to the Nordics to Australia to closer home in New Delhi! This feeling is totally out of the world!

And now LET’s READ!!!

The Parisian Murders

Again, this post should have been written like anons ago, but as I have been explaining, practically in all my posts of May, that, Travel, illness, weddings and other social events kind of got me completely off tracked….however, I am back and like they say, lets get the show moving. As part of 12 Months Classical Reading Challenge, where the April theme was “A classic you’ve seen the movie/miniseries/TV show of”, I read Murders at Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe. Now, as God be my witness, with so many films and television shows based on books, I have no idea why at that point I was penning the list did I choose this one! Except, that I made the list right after the Winter holidays, where I spend another film watching marathon on every single film starring Val Kilmer. To take a minor detour from the usual book review post, let me quickly give you a background – I was 8 when I saw Top Gun….it was nearly 5 years since it had originally be released in US, but India was still playing catch up. A cousin of my best friend had gotten a VCD of film as a gift to her and we sat down to watch something that had  been cool in US 6-7 years back! Oh! Well! While my best friend drooled over Tom Cruise (natually) I was completely mesmerized by the golden haired gum chewing bad boy – Val Kilmer. I feel in love and I am still in love though I know he is old and well not as happening as he used to be, but hey…this true love and true love abides! Back to present day, while I books own my soul and I do not like films too much, there are times when I indulge and Val Kilmer movie marathon was one such indulgence. For those who do not know his film credits by heart. The Murders at Rue Morgue was a made for television movie in 1986 and had a pretty impressive star cast of George C. Scott, Rebecca De Mornay, besides Kilmer. While I saw the film, I had never read the novella and it made sense to read Poe as part of this event!

The Murder at Rue Morgue begins with the narrator sharing with the readers a theory on analytic and analysis and how the latter influences the former and then introduces us to his friend Auguste Dupin, a brilliant man not particularly social with certain eccentricities with whom the narrator shares an apartment. Their daily routines of reading through the day and writing and debating and walking the streets of Paris in the night, is disturbed as the news of the gruesome double murder of  Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter in the Rue Morgue, erupts in the city. The details of murder are bizarre and grotesque – the Madame L’Espanaye throat is badly cut that her head is barely attached and her daughter, after being strangled, has been stuffed into the chimney. The murder occurs in an inaccessible room on the fourth floor locked from the inside. The neighbors who heard the screams of the two women and ran into the house claim that they heard two voices talking – one in French and the other in another language, which each neighbor accounted for differently; one called it Italian, another Spanish, yet another English and another said Russian. There seemed no clear motive for murder either ; the mother and daughter were quite retiring ladies who saw very few people, but  shared a mutual affection. It was an interesting fact that Madame L’Espanaye had made a withdrawal of $4000 a day before her murder, but the money was found stewen all over the chamber. The police arrested the clerk who worked in the bank and has escorted Madame L’Espanaye back to her house, after she made the withdrawal, but they are unable to establish a motive and most importantly explain the murders. Dupin who had received a favor from the bank clerk starts his investigation to clear the latter’s name and reveal a most unusual and improbable events that led to the murders.

This was the first tale where Poe had introduced his now famous Dupin and he does full justice to his character. Dupin is not flamboyant like his competitor Mr. Holmes and he does not display any habits like violin playing or indulging in drugs. He is however eccentric, anti-social, connoisseur of books, with brilliance that like a streak of bright light hurtling at you. The mental processes which Poe showcases through Dupin are steeped in psychology and human behavior and the reader has to pay very close attention to all the details to genuinely enjoy the marvels of a brilliant mind. The novella is not a nail biting mystery, where you are hanging on by each page, but a slow revelation in intellectual persistence and layer by layer, the mystery is revealed. The conclusion, I thought both for the film and book was a bit exotic  and sensational – but then considering the time and audience the books were being written for, it seems to also kind of fall in place.  The language is simple, but since Poe uses a lot of psychological analysis in moving his plot forward, it is not a breezy mystery read to be rushed through! A very fine read and though I have not yet given up my devotion to Holmes, I have every intention of exploring a bit more of Mr. Dupin’s mind!

A final P.S. note before I end this post – this film is the an example of very reason why I do not like watching films based on books! On reading the novella, I discovered there is no Horace (Val Kilmer) and Dupin played by Scott is an old retired police officer who was discharged from the police force for disagreeing with the chief! There is his daughter played by De Mornay who is engaged to philandering but innocent of the murder bank clerk! I understand taking artistic liberties, but this is just stretching the whole liberty to a new height!! Stick to the books I say!

 

Notes on Bookish Readings When Ill

I have been writing this post in my mind for the last 3 weeks since I have recovered from a painfully long bout of bronchio-asthma, but there have been out of station weddings to attend and friends to visit and preparation for a Project Management exam, that  blogging took a back seat and worse, for a while there was not enough time to even read! Anyway, such things are happily in the past and I hope I am back to the settled rhythm of daily reading and frequent blogging!

While I was laid up three weeks, I was mostly in a irritable temper, struggling to breathe while fever came and went and the Indian summer heat rose. I could not eat much and doing almost anything gave me a headache. The only thing I was capable of was watching endless reruns of F.R.I.E.N.D.S , but for such bookish creature like us, you can watch only so much of sitcoms, without yearning to dive back into books. Herein lay the problem, I was too ill, to read my April reading plan books….I could not bear to look at Shakespeare or Poe, Spenser made my eyes dance and see things and Willa Cather was simply out of the question! So I decided to hunt the ever reliable internet for some suggested readings when ill. However for once, the cyber space completely let me down; while some sites suggested the tried and tested Austens and Rowlings, most sites suggested some very grim readings, biographies filled with struggle and toil and one site even suggested As I lay Dying (I don’t know if the guy was being funny!!) I don’t know why people would read such stuff when they are physically so unwell, which in turn has to have a psychological impact! Why read depressing stuff when you are already  down and out, but I guess, different strokes for different folks and for a different folk like me and I am hoping other like me, we need a much more cheerful reading list. Therefore, I humbly present to you 10 books/series/authors  you ought to read if you feel like laughing out loud or even chuckling a bit or simply take your mind off the physical trauma, when laid up with maladies –

  1. Jane Austen – Devoted as I am to Ms. Austen, I must say she has helped me recover several times in my life and made the illness more bearable. I do not recommend all her works but Pride and Prejudice, Emma and the lesser known Lady Susan! In the author’s own words – light, bright and sparkling!
  2. Terry Pratchett- I have said this before and I will keep saying it again, the world is a better place, thanks to Sir Terry. When your are completely fatigued with the mundane sameness of your surroundings, compounded by a sever iron grip variety headache, take a walk in the Discworld and meet the witches and the watch and Death and so many more characters, that will take you to whole new world and keep you there laughing, agreeing and coming out as a much more happier, healthier and even a better human being!
  3. Short Stories by Saki – The much lesser known Hector Hugo Munro, aka, Saki is the perfect anecdote when you are irritable and cannot stand your fellow creatures! Saki’s short stories filled with irreverent humor and biting sarcasm is a treat, as you wander into a 1900’s England filled with social gaities and find succinct observations, served with irony and dash of laughter to help recover your soul!
  4. Sherlock Holmes Series by Arthur Conan Doyle – You want to escape the physical discomfort, then there is no better escape than Victorian England where a hook nosed, opium using detective takes you down the lanes of England and Europe to unravel some of the most unbelievable acts of crime!
  5. Father Brown Series by G.K. Chesterton – While very different in tenor, than the Sherlock Holmes series, Father Brown is another detective, with whom you will be alert and constantly involved as you unravel one gritty mystery after another, in a intuitive, philosophical and patient way, that characterizes , one of the best detectives in Fiction!
  6. Miss Marple Series by Agatha Christie – When you are ill, and need a distraction, who better than the queen of crime. While all most all her books are addictive, I prefer Miss Marple, because I cannot get over the impression of a weak woolly old lady going after some of the most ruthless criminals and that kind of always makes me feel better and hope that I will recover soon!
  7. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling – Cliched, I know! But I cannot help it! The wizard world is such a pick me up and then there are all kinds of fantastic creatures and constantly changing dynamics and yes, there are several deaths, but the books always end in hope! So it is way better option than As I Lay Dying, when ill!
  8. Lord Wimsey’s Series by Dorothy Sayers – I read my first and only Dorothy Sayers when I was ill and she did me a world of good! First impressions are not usually a thing to go buy, but I am taking a chance here – me think reading her when ill, will make you feel infinitely better! At any case I can vouch for Busman’s Journey, among all the other books in the series!
  9. Jeeves and Wooster by PG Woodhouse – Need I say anything! A Jeeves is exactly what you need when so ill,but it being in short supply and only available in fiction, wade through the mis– adventures of Bertie Wooster in 1920s England as he is rescued and saved every time by the dependable Jeeves!
  10. Asterix Comic Books by  written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo – Follow the Gauls through one magnificent adventure in Roman world after another, as they meet Caesars and Cleopatras and discover pun like never before! Laughter and more laughter!

There you go folks, that’s my list and my recommendation! What are yours?

 

The Horrifying Times…..

Yay! RIP X is here!!  I have had such fun in the past in participating in these events, that this absolutely no question of passing this up! This annual event is hosted by Carl V. Anderson over at Stainless Steel Droppings; but this year to celebrate the 10th edition of RIP (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril); the event is being hosted by The Estella Society!

rip10

(Image by Abigail Larson)

The event runs starts from September 01st to October 31st and there are multiple perils for the indulgent reader/viewer; the only clause being, that you read or watch anything under the following genre –

Mystery
Suspense
Thriller
Dark Fantasy
Gothic
Horror
Supernatural

I have decided to naturally sign up for the Peril The First and this means and I quote directly from the site “Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.” My nominees for this year are –

  • We have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – Thanks to The Estella Society’s last year’s Readalong, I was introduced to the brilliance of Shirley Jackson and The Haunting of Hill House and I have been since then planning to read more of her work. This event is just the event to get kick started on another of Ms. Jackson’s Nuggets!
  • In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu – Heard much, but read practically nothing. I was once told by one of my university professors that not to have read Sheridan Le Fanu is not to have truly ventured into the Gothic genre in the truest sense of the term. So this time I plan to read Le Fanu and “truly” understand Gothic!
  • The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde – What can I say about this book that has not already been said! This is a re-read and I remember reading it way back and being extremely uncomfortable through the night. Time to revisit an old, I can hardly say friend, but rather an indulgence in its most macabre sense!
  • The Shining by Stephen King – I know …I must be one of those very few, practically non-existent population that has not read this book, but I am never been much of a Stephen King fan; however this one is considered a cult classic and I think I will give this one a shot, before I consign my entire Stephen King reading as an unmitigated disaster!

Finally I am for sure participating in the Peril of the Group Read, which runs from September 18th to October 18th. This year we are reading The Quick by Lauren Owen. I have never read Lauren Owen, but the reviews sound awesome and it’s a thriller based in Victorian England…need I say more??

So without further ado, here’s to RIP X…let the mayhem begin!

The Ripping Reads….

I finally finished two of my RIP IX reads and considering both are masterpieces and everything that could be said has been said about them. Therefore I thought of doing a short combined post on both the books and instead of doing the usual reviews, I thought I will just share some observations that have now stuck me, after my re-readings!

The precedence as always goes to Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four, featuring the greatest of all fictional detectives, Mr. Sherlock Holmes and his trusty aide, Dr. Watson. The book begins with Dr. Watson trying to convince Holmes to give up his use of cocaine and other such substances with Holmes replying that these are the only stimulants that keep his brain active, in the absence of work. This conversation is interrupted by the entrance of Miss Mary Morstan , a young genteel woman, who has been employed in the capacity of a governess and whose regular life has been disturbed by a note which asks her to meet a certain person that evening at six, along with two of her trusted friends, so that a great wrong that has been done to her can be righted. Miss Morstan also reveals that her father had been a Captain in the British India army and posted at Andaman Islands, from where he returned about ten years ago. He then wrote a letter to his daughter, who at time was in a boarding school, asking her to join him in London; that was the last she ever heard of him and he had since disappeared. Finally she states that for the last 6 years, she has received an expensive pearl anonymously. She then requests Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to accompany her in the evening to meet the man who wrote to her. Thus begins, the adventure of the Sign of Four, taking the reader from the fogs of London, to Cumberland, to Agra and the Andamans, in search of treasure, truth and in a very non Conan Doyle style, love. It’s a great mystery and the art of scientific deduction is wonderful to read – it makes one wistful and wish that if only one could think logically and deductively as a habit and at all the times. The narrative style is as always in a memoir of Dr. Watson and for once, some of the ending is given away, with allusions to what happened in future. However this does no harm to story in itself and it is a thrilling and nail biting narrative to read (especially the steam boat chase chapter) which has not lost even a tenth of its shine, since being published in 1890. Like I said, I can say nothing more about the novel than what has not already been said and shared; but this time two items stuck me as, well, a bit non-palatable. One was the portrayal of Mary Morstan, sweet, gentle, supportive, fragile, disdaining treasure for the sake of love – I mean Ye!! Gods!! Help me from such virtuous role models; for that’s exactly what she is – a model of ideal womanhood from Conan’s point of view. I know allowances need to be made for that particular time and the social-political rules that governed the society; but Victorian era produced a number of strong women who would disdain any namby pamby portrayal of their characters – these were women of blood, sweat, substance and strength, and while possessing a lot of compassion, they also were practical and sensible. I mean, England was ruled by such a woman at that time, not to mention, other wonderful women like Elizabeth Gaskell, Christina Rossetti, Millicent Fawcett and Elizabeth Fry. This concept of the ‘household angel’ was enough to throw me off the book, and I cannot believe that I had been so oblivious to this angle during my earlier reads! Sir Conan Doyle wrote of a much better woman, at least vis-à-vis character in Irene Adler in “A Scandal in Bohemia“– who is intelligent, loyal and practical to a T! Hard to believe the same man wrote about Mary Morstan. The other item that hit me was the portrayal of non-whites – whether it is Mohmet Khan planning a cold-blooded murder or Tonga the indigenous tribal from Andaman, the natives can kill with no conscience, the only redeeming characteristic being their loyalty! Thank Heavens for that!! I mean as it is the brown man/woman are “savages” but imagine the greatness and generosity of Englishmen, in inspiring loyalty among this unworthy people!! Kipling was a unaplogetic and unashamed imperialist, but to think Sir Conan Doyle also sang a similar tune, is kind of unsettling; as I mentioned before allowance have to be made for the age and I do, but with Kiplings, and Doyles and Haggards, at times, it becomes difficult not to be prejudiced! Everything apart though, it is a great book and Sir Doyle does what does the best, proving time and again he is the master of “detective fiction”.

The second book that I read for RIP IX is “Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier. I had originally read this novel when I was 15, through the night, when I was racked with fever and could not sleep. I had deep impressions from that read – all very gothic and creepy. The story is too well-known from me to write in detail – Maxim De Winters, the owner of the Manderley, an estate on the Cornish Cost, brings home a young wife after the accidental death of his first wife Rebecca, in a boating accident, a year ago. The second Mrs De Winter, is a young, shy woman who has great hopes of her future, that come to standstill, as she grapples with the presence of Rebecca in Manderley, whose presence is overwhelming and who continues to run the house from her grave! It could be that fever had induced my brain to be more sensitive, because, when I had read this book the first time I had felt the terrifying presence of Rebecca, I was afraid of Mrs. Danvers and I felt all the apprehensions and illogical fears of the second Mrs. De Winters. I should have waited for another bout of fever, before re-reading this book! I know people rant and rave about this book and I may be offending half a million readers if not more, but only a teenager, with really low self-esteem can like this book! My whole problem with the book is the second Mrs. De Winters – I can understand being shy and I can empathize with the feeling of being left out and not belonging, but Mrs. De Winters made me want to throw up and throw the book at her. She does not even try; for heavens’s sake, she is not even willing to try. She goes around the house like a mouse, when she has no reason to, and is perpetually afraid of Mrs. Danver who is just a big ol’ bully who should be set in her place. She does not even try to manage the house or stake her claim as the mistress – had she tried and then failed, that would have added a complex layer to the narrative, besides adding on to her oh-i-am-so-scared characterization. She is embarrassed in the presence of Mrs. Van Hopper, she is embarrassed with Maxim and she is embarrassed when Mrs. Danver finds her in East Wing! Mrs. Van Hopper is embarrassing and it could be that the second Mrs. De Winters’s initial life may have been a trial, but as Jane Austen had showed us, that one can still act sensible in presence of distressing environs; case to point, Elizabeth Bingley with Mrs. Bingley as a painful dimwitted loud mother or Jane Fairfax with her poor, silly aunt. But of course, no understanding of self-worth, enters the poor little Mrs. De Winters’s head until her lord and master, declares his undying love her and confesses that he never loved Rebecca – I mean what value do we women have unless, it is to be made worthy by the acceptance of the man. Also let’s not forget, that the Lord and the Master is a great man of courage and forbearance, who can murder to save his family name from infamy but cannot divorce for the fear of scandal. Such wonderful choice makes this declaration of love, even more touching; after all who can resist the love of a cowardly soul, who cannot face the truth; no matter how far he would have to go hide it. Only by such love, can one make herself a complete woman!!! By such standards, I should really consider myself an absolute failure and consider becoming a nun!!!! The redeeming feature of the novel, really are the last 100 pages as the body of Rebecca is discovered, and the mystery unfolds to an unexpected and unbelievable climax. This is where Ms. Du Maurier revealed her exceptional brilliance and expertise of her craft and as a reader; you are left breathless and shocked by the sudden twist of the tale!! It is this end, which makes the book in my view a classic and preserves it from the morbid and irritating presence of Mrs De Winter, the second! I never realized how disgusted I was with this novel, until I wrote this piece! Writing I guess is therapeutic!

I know this is one of my longest posts, but I cannot end, without once again urging all of your help in the Indiegogo Crowdfunding project which I am managing. We are not doing that well and your help would really make a difference. Again, there are a couple of ways to support this cause –

  1. We need financial patronage – We need your monetary help to complete this project. Every contribution is of great value and you have our heartfelt appreciation for any amount that you put forth. You can pay via a credit/debit card, directly at Indiegogo’s Website (The project is called Identity on a Palate)
  2. Help us Spread the Word – Please share this campaign on your social network so that more people can become aware of this project. The more people see this, more the chances of us reaching our goal. Please so send me the link or a mail for the same, as we would love to see this live!

Please do help and Thank You again!