Friday, October 28, 2016

November is coming

I think the biggest cliche' in our lives is the constant complaint of how time flies really quickly and it only seems like yesterday when this happened or that happened. But no matter how banal this sounds, we are kind of helpless at the hands of the goddess of time. I guess we kind of pay homage to her when we wring our hands and complain about the fleeting hours, days, months, years, decades and so on. 

It was a year back, in November, when I undertook the biggest challenge of my writing life. And another November is time flies! I participated in NaNoWriMo and ended up writing 50k words of a fantasy novel. They weren't the perfect words, and it wasn't the perfect story but it was a great achievement. After many years I was able to fight with my insecurities, overcome them and write (I've written about that struggle at the DWL blog which you can read here). 

I am preparing for another NaNoWriMo and, somehow, it seems more daunting than last year. I don't know why. Maybe because now I know what it really takes to write 50k words. I think the fear is that if I don't work seriously on my novel this time around, I'll never be able to complete it and it will remain a story, in my mind only. That is a very scary thought because now there are other stakeholders involved; my characters. And I have this fear that if I don't put their stories together, they will haunt me in old age. It's a grim thought but I know, deep down, that it can happen....that it will happen.

On a slightly less morbid note, I am looking forward to losing myself in my creation. Reality can really sap your spirits sometimes and what better way to escape from it then to immerse yourself in a good fantasy tale. Especially one in which you control everything. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Of book-covers and book snobs

You know how sometimes you buy a book purely because of the cover? I mean, look at this gorgeous set. How can any book lover in their right mind pass it over? And even though I had a very faint idea of who Asimov was, I picked up these books without a second thought.

I think science fiction is awesome. Why am I saying this? Because there are many book snobs out there who raise eyebrows and shake their heads when this genre is discussed (there are some who display the same sort of behaviour when the fantasy genre is brought up) and frankly, I think it’s all hogwash and pretence and this oh-I’m-so-above-this-genre attitude. I know because I, too, was a member of this tribe many years back. Any mention of fantasy or science fiction by someone and immediately the judgement dial in my head would start blinking red. How I rid myself of this snobbery is a matter of another blog post but if truth be told, some ill effects still linger but I am open to suggestions and do try to embrace most, if not all. 

Anyways, coming back to the books. And science fiction in general. The entire point of good fiction is to make the reader believe in a make belief world. This is especially the case with both fantasy and science fiction. When I was eight years old Jules Verne made me believe that his characters had traversed the centre of the earth. Asimov did the same. He dragged me into the story immediately and after a few chapters I was hooked. Hari Seldon and his mathematical predictions were fascinating and how they played out in the entire trilogy made for excellent reading.

A lot of people might say the books are a bit repetitive and the first book might seem so. However, in the second book, Asimov takes us on a new journey and the story goes off on a different tangent when The Mule makes his appearance. Both the second and the third books have such a mind-blowing twist in the end that I couldn’t stop myself from exclaiming loudly after I was done reading. I know it might sound a bit melodramatic but how many books do that anymore? I’ve read 30 so far and only five, which includes two of Asimov have made me go oh-my-god-i-don’t-believe-this-is-happening-shit!

Another book which recently had me all twisted and turning pages till 2am was Doctor Sleep, a novel by Stephen King. For the longest of time I didn’t read King because of the snob-effect but all that changed when I bought two of his novels from the book bazaar sale at T2F. I started reading Doctor Sleep at breakfast yesterday and it is such a page turner that I have to physically distance myself from the book to get anything else done. And of course, I am kind of kicking myself for all the years I turned a blind eye and an upturned nose to the works of Mr. King! 

Moral of the story? Never be a book snob. You have no idea of all the great writing you're depriving yourself of!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Straight from the book

'Other men slowly build up the sense of home by accumulation - a new picture, more and more books, an odd shaped paper-weight, the ash tray bought for a forgotten reason on a forgotten holiday; Scobie built his home by a process of reduction.'

(The Heart of the Matter - Graham Greene)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Book 4 U is back!

Some of you might know about my book donation drive which I started in 2014. If not, read about it here. Well, the book donation drive is back and you can receive a book in the mail wherever you are in Pakistan. Read through the list below and send me your preferred title along with your name, address and number at Please mention book donation or A Book for Me in the subject of your email. 

Here are the books: 

1. The Museum of Innocence - Orhan Pamuk
2. The Woman Destroyed - Simone de Beauvoir
3. Poet and Dancer - Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
4. The Wandering Falcon - Jamil Ahmad
5. Cold Feet - Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan
6. The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma - Ratika Kapur
7. Point Omega - Don Delillo

Happy reading! 

Note: For an updated book donation list please click here.

My 100 book pact - an update

It was a crazy idea. Reading 100 books in one year. Seriously? But then again, why not? Why is the thought of reading such a large number of books daunting?  Especially to someone like me who a) loves reading, b) has ample time to read and c) is a fast reader. So I went ahead with this crazy idea and so far, things aren't looking very bright because I have only, and I repeat ONLY, managed to read 27 books. And it's already August! 

*deep breaths*

What made this task difficult was my resolve to read books which I've had for years, collecting dust on the shelves, waiting to be read. Some turned out to be pure delights and I kicked myself for not going through them earlier (The Book of Other People, The Pursuit of Love) while others were huge disappointments and I kicked myself for wasting precious time reading them! I ended up reading three novels by the same author (Greene) and had almost decided to finish all his novels in my collection. However, common sense prevailed and I switched to other authors. A large, uninterrupted dose of Greene can be lethal! 

Currently I'm reading the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. I picked up these lovely editions from the old book bazaar at Frere Hall and couldn't resist diving into them immediately. I'm just wondering though, will the trilogy be counted as one or three books? 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

book shots

Anita Desai is brilliant. This book was such a delight! It revolves around Nanda Kaul, an austere old woman who lives alone in Carignano, a secluded bungalow in Kasauli. Her solitary existence is disturbed by the arrival of her great-granddaughter, Raka. As Raka tries to adjust in her new surroundings, Nanda finds herself dwelling on the past & as the summer goes on, many of her old wounds seem to resurface. Especially when her old friend, Ila Das, discovers her in Kasauli and pays a visit.

Desai is at her best. The descriptions of the house and Kasauli are beautiful. They reminded me so much of Murree and Nathiagali. But the real beauty lies in how the author has disclosed the past of Nanda Kaul, layer by layer. It is beautiful prose and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 

The pine cone in the picture is rather special. It has come all the way from Quetta with a dear friend and has found a place on my writing table. 

Beanbagtales is on Instagram and I'm posting pictures of books recently read with mini reviews or 'book shots'. For more clicks follow @beanbagtales on Instagram.