Thursday, February 23, 2017

au revoir classics!

A reason to do the 100 book challenge is to reduce my ever increasing TBR pile. The largest number of unread novels in this pile are classics. Flaubert, Balzac, Sartre, Stendhal, some Chekov, some Dostoevsky and many others. Whenever I decide to reach out for any one of them, I find myself gravitating to some other book and they remain untouched.  

So yesterday, after much hesitation, I picked up Flaubert's book, Sentimental Education. A young man in love with a married older woman seemed an interesting enough plot. The introduction by the translator was promising too with hints of an outrageous ending. Thirty pages in and all I wanted was to put it right back on the shelf. I even considered donating the whole lot but the thought of empty shelves was a bit disconcerting so I abandoned the idea, for the time being at least. 

But why did I feel this way towards this great writer? Was it the language? Was I not able to relate to the setting or the time period? I dismissed the latter as irrelevant because it is always the story which pulls you into the novel no matter what the setting or the time period. I mean, we've all practically grown up on Enid Blyton novels where usually the kids did stuff which was completely alien to us. Drinking tea at 4pm and having cucumber sandwiches was never a part of MY lifestyle while growing up!

It seems a bit silly but this recent aversion to classics was really bothering me. So I put this question to two bibliophile friends today and one of them simply said, “Life is too short to waste on books you don’t want to read. If you don’t feel like completing a book, don’t. There are so many other good books out there.” 

Now you might not agree with this but it makes SO MUCH SENSE! Why read something which doesn’t excite you, interest you or is unrelatable? Books are an escape. We inhabit another world when we read and it takes our mind off reality for a while. A good book is one which engages you at such a level, you don’t want to come back to reality! And at this point, classics are definitely not doing that for me. 

So with a spring in my step and a light heart, I place the Flaubert back on the shelf. The hunt for a new book begins!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


I recently read 'Journey to Ithaca' by Anita Desai. In fact, I finished it last night after binge reading 'The Weary Generations' for an event yesterday. I personally think it isn't a good idea to finish a book at bedtime because your opinion about it is affected by the muggy state of mind you're in. At least that happens to me. As I skimmed through the last few chapters of Desai's book and finally put it down at an ungodly hour, I found myself slightly disappointed. Which is surprising because I love Desai and am a huge fan of almost all her work.

But books have a life and personality of their own. At least most books do and sometimes you truly understand them when you're least expecting. Earlier today I was looking for a notebook to write my present journey through a very special and interesting time of my life. And suddenly, the whole purpose of the novel just kind of hit me. It isn't the end of the journey that matters, I thought, but the bloody journey itself. In all honesty maybe that is a wee bit romantic but often, it's the journey which brings out the best and at times, the worst in us. And every journey is a quest. Whether it is a holiday or visiting family or writing a novel or having a child or embarking on a pilgrimage or trying to lose weight through a 50 day challenge. Each journey tests us in ways we never imagine but we carry on, hoping we'll be better off in the end than we started. 

We embark on many journeys in our lifetime. There are some we venture on alone and though we might find other travellers on the way, it is essentially our journey. Writing my novel is somewhat like that and though I have friends who are also undertaking this monumental journey and we are there for each other, each one of us has to travel the long, lonely hours of writing alone.  Then there are collective journeys which we embark on with many others (school, university, diploma courses) but as they reach their end, we find ourselves drifting away and finding our own separate paths to start completely new journeys. 

I don't know what the joy is in - the journey or the destination. Probably both. Even reading a book is embarking on a journey, you never know how it will change you. Reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen had a huge impact on me, both as a reader and writer, but that is a story for another day. Right now I'll leave you with the poem 'Ithaca' by C.P. Cavafy which inspired the title of the novel. [For the complete poem, click here]. 

Image: From the book- Journey to Ithaca