On Writing Badly

I’m not a writer.

Consider this a caution, if you must, for what lies ahead. But it’s definitely not me being modest. I might not know what I am but I’m aware of what I’m not.

Writing, though, is a release. Relaxing, almost like meditation but better as I need not concentrate. I let the words go—bad grammar, vague sentences, misspelled words—who cares? I’m writing for self.

Why must you only do things you are good at?

Sometimes, when the subject matter isn’t too personal, isn’t too disturbing, isn’t too sad (because my sadness is mine alone), I post it here for a handful of you to read.

My writing process is complicated but religiously followed, whether it’s a book review or a post like this one. A pen and a notebook/paper being the primary requirement, followed by a laptop/PC and finally, the revered and equally loathed, my phone, which I need to make sure the words mean what I think they do.

The first step is always about putting my thoughts to paper. The consequence of not doing so are heavy, robbing me off the much-needed release which follows almost instantly as soon as the pen touches the paper. It’s a need as big as any. Skipping this step and going straight for the next one, which is typing it on my blog and editing as I do, feels wrong.

I never was one for an easy, direct approach.

Now the question: why put up this unnecessary vagueness here?

I don’t know. My words aren’t surreal; my thoughts aren’t stimulating. But in my defence, I did warn you.

I’m not a writer.

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Book Review: Verity by Colleen Hoover

What I need to stay happy is a dark (the range can go from slight to extreme) book with a damaged(?) character and a plot which doesn’t let you put the book down. The world stops existing and so does your well-being.

Who cares about your health when you’ve got pages after pages of flowing, engaging words? Verity is one such book, and nevermind the fact that I’m working on just few hours of sleep (what’s new there?) It was all worth it because my mind is satisfied. That intense NEED for a good book which makes me restless and anxious is gone, for the time being.

Here’s the thing: Colleen Hoover’s books have been all over Goodreads, all over bookstagram and I’ve avoided them for a long time, thinking they weren’t for me, thinking romance is stupid. Now, though, things have changed. For her books are so much more than just romance, and no, I don’t think romance is stupid anymore. Contemporary romance has grown on me and happens to be one of my favourite genres now.

Verity comes under a different genre, a psychological thriller, albeit not very dark. But that’s okay, I’m happy. My expectations were met.

Colleen Hoover, simply put, is brilliant.

Em and the Big Hoom: Review and Recommendation

I’ve got some praises for you to read, bestowed upon a book.

I don’t fancy myself as a writer, neither do I think of me as a reviewer. Usually when I start reading a book, as I progress, my brain starts writing a vague review of it. By the time I’m done reading, it is back to blank.

Words are difficult and I often lose track of them. What I try is to do my best and note down my thoughts about a book. It’s not easy, I don’t always have thoughts for books. Usually it stops at “I enjoyed it/I didn’t really like it/it was okay”. So I’m back to giving another review a go, for one of the best books I’ve read so far.

Em and the Big Hoom is Jerry Pinto’s first novel. Darkly funny, largely moving and overshadowed by mental illness, the story revolves around a middle class family settled in a one-bedroom-hall-kitchen in Mahim.

Imelda and Augustine—Em and the Big Hoom as our young narrator who happens to be their son calls them. Em suffers from Bipolar Disorder, a condition formerly known as ‘manic depression’. With a strong love for tea and beedis, Em is the sun around which the rest of the family orbits. She is also the ‘monster’, due to her illness, who often ends up harming herself and others. She is enchanting, brusque, unabashed and peculiarly charming. While the Big Hoom is the quiet engine purring in the background, the rock—solid—and keeps everything running without a complaint, leaving our narrator to often wonder what would happen to him and his elder sister should something happen to their father.

I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to deal with the world. It seemed too big and demanding and there was no fixed syllabus. 

Love is a hollow word which seems at home in song lyrics and greeting cards, until you fall in love and discover it’s disconcerting power. Depression means nothing more than the blues, commercially packaged angst, a hole in the ground; until you find it’s black weight settled inside your mother’s chest, disrupting her breathing, leaching her days, and yours, of colour and the nights of rest.

The writing, unusual and one of a kind, something I truly couldn’t get enough of. It’s littered with wit, compassion, humour—the latter unexpected but welcomed. Even though I’ve come to dislike the word ‘quirky’, it is indeed a quirky and gracefully composed debut.

The book is bound to leave an impression upon you, days after you’re done. When I first bought it, I had a hunch I’ll love reading it. It’s also remarkably different, not just from my usual picks, but the way it’s written and the subject matter it concerns itself with.

I would definitely urge you to pick it up.

Ratings: ⭐⭐⭐⭐🌠/5
Verdict: Buy and read!

Book Recommendation: A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

𝑯𝒂𝒗𝒆 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒂𝒏𝒚 𝒏𝒐𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒉𝒐𝒘 𝒎𝒂𝒏𝒚 𝒃𝒐𝒐𝒌𝒔 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒘𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒕𝒆𝒏 𝒂𝒃𝒐𝒖𝒕 𝒘𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒏 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒄𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒔𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒚𝒆𝒂𝒓? 𝑯𝒂𝒗𝒆 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒂𝒏𝒚 𝒏𝒐𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒉𝒐𝒘 𝒎𝒂𝒏𝒚 𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒘𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒕𝒆𝒏 𝒃𝒚 𝒎𝒆𝒏? 𝑨𝒓𝒆 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒂𝒘𝒂𝒓𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒂𝒓𝒆, 𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒉𝒂𝒑𝒔, 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒎𝒐𝒔𝒕 𝒅𝒊𝒔𝒄𝒖𝒔𝒔𝒆𝒅 𝒂𝒏𝒊𝒎𝒂𝒍 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒖𝒏𝒊𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒆?

Here’s a book I’d like to recommend. A book which should be read once, at the very least, by everybody. A non-fiction, short but a very valued read, it’s an essay, to be accurate.

One of my absolute favourite quotes from it:

𝑭𝒊𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒊𝒔 𝒍𝒊𝒌𝒆 𝒂 𝒔𝒑𝒊𝒅𝒆𝒓’𝒔 𝒘𝒆𝒃, 𝒂𝒕𝒕𝒂𝒄𝒉𝒆𝒅 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓 𝒔𝒐 𝒍𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕𝒍𝒚 𝒑𝒆𝒓𝒉𝒂𝒑𝒔, 𝒃𝒖𝒕 𝒔𝒕𝒊𝒍𝒍 𝒂𝒕𝒕𝒂𝒄𝒉𝒆𝒅 𝒕𝒐 𝒍𝒊𝒇𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝒂𝒍𝒍 𝒇𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒄𝒐𝒓𝒏𝒆𝒓𝒔.

It’s a book I’m unable to review, and I don’t expect anyone to do a brilliant job at it anyway. Here’s a summary (courtsey: SparkNotes) of it, though:

“The dramatic setting of A Room of One’s Own is that Woolf has been invited to lecture on the topic of Women and Fiction. She advances the thesis that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Her essay is constructed as a partly-fictionalized narrative of the thinking that led her to adopt this thesis. She dramatizes that mental process in the character of an imaginary narrator (“call me Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael or by any name you please—it is not a matter of any importance”) who is in her same position, wrestling with the same topic.

The narrator begins her investigation at Oxbridge College, where she reflects on the different educational experiences available to men and women as well as on more material differences in their lives. She then spends a day in the British Library perusing the scholarship on women, all of which has written by men and all of which has been written in anger. Turning to history, she finds so little data about the everyday lives of women that she decides to reconstruct their existence imaginatively. The figure of Judith Shakespeare is generated as an example of the tragic fate a highly intelligent woman would have met with under those circumstances. In light of this background, she considers the achievements of the major women novelists of the nineteenth century and reflects on the importance of tradition to an aspiring writer. A survey of the current state of literature follows, conducted through a reading the first novel of one of the narrator’s contemporaries. Woolf closes the essay with an exhortation to her audience of women to take up the tradition that has been so hardly bequeathed to them, and to increase the endowment for their own daughters.”

 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: Review

𝑯𝒆 𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝒈𝒖𝒆𝒔𝒔, 𝒃𝒖𝒕 𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒐𝒏’𝒕 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓 𝒌𝒏𝒐𝒘, 𝒏𝒐𝒕 𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒍𝒍𝒚. 𝑾𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒊𝒕 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒍𝒊𝒌𝒆, 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒔𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈, 𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚𝒕𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒔𝒉𝒆’𝒅 𝒏𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓 𝒕𝒐𝒍𝒅 𝒉𝒊𝒎.

Everything I Never Told You is a literary fiction and Celeste Ng is no doubt a wonderful writer. The first book I read by her was Little Fires Everywhere and I highly recommend it.

It’s not easy to talk about this book without giving out spoilers so I’ll keep it brief.

It’s a family drama with a focus on the everyday life, a melancholy story, and the readers get to witness quite a few intimate moments the characters go through. I especially loved how each character was equally complicated and strong. The plot is heavy and convoluted, expected, because of the central theme of the book. The writing is engaging, haunting.

Heartbreak, grief, self-reflection, relationships between parents and children, between siblings, between friends is what you should expect.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5.

Verdict: Read.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie: Review

𝑮𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒇 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒘𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒐𝒘𝒆𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒅𝒆𝒂𝒅 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒏𝒆𝒄𝒆𝒔𝒔𝒂𝒓𝒚 𝒄𝒓𝒊𝒎𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒍𝒊𝒗𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒐𝒏 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒎.

Home Fire, Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018 Winner, was nowhere near my radar until few weeks back. The reviews from other readers left me unsure—while many loved it, there were equal amount of those who didn’t.

The book, a reimagining of Sophocles’s Antigone (which I haven’t read) in a modern environment, has five central characters and is divided into five parts, each character getting a chance to run the show. I didn’t like nor connect with any of the main characters and it was one of those reads where just the plot kept me going, and what a brilliant plot it was!

Isma, the first character introduced to us, after spending years raising her twin siblings post losing their mother and grandmother within a span of a year resumes her dream of studying in America. Her feet getting used to a new world, she constantly worries over her headstrong sister Aneeka back in London and her brother Parvaiz, who has had his own misfortunes and has disappeared, following the dark footsteps of a father he didn’t know.

It is a powerful manifestation of clash between family, society and faith while the dominating presence of politics and the issue of Muslim migrants seeps from the very first page. But what stays with you is the final scene, which is one of the most memorable, unexpected and emotional scenes I’ve read in a book.

The language is something I initially struggled with but soon realized how well it sang with the plot and how well it fit.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5. 

Verdict: You may like it, you may not but you should most certainly read it.

A special mention to the way Kamila Shamsie has written about Grief. I don’t think I have ever read something quite like that—like it’s a distinct character.

Poonachi by Perumal Murugan: Review

𝑶𝒏𝒄𝒆, 𝒊𝒏 𝒂 𝒗𝒊𝒍𝒍𝒂𝒈𝒆, 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒂 𝒈𝒐𝒂𝒕. 𝑵𝒐 𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒌𝒏𝒆𝒘 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒔𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒃𝒐𝒓𝒏. 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝒃𝒊𝒓𝒕𝒉 𝒐𝒇 𝒂𝒏 𝒐𝒓𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒂𝒓𝒚 𝒍𝒊𝒇𝒆 𝒏𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓 𝒍𝒆𝒂𝒗𝒆𝒔 𝒂 𝒕𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆, 𝒅𝒐𝒆𝒔 𝒊𝒕?

Written by Perumal Murugan and translated into English by N. Kalyan Raman, thus begins the life of this black goat named Poonachi.

There’s a very prominent, recurring and touching theme throughout the book—something we see and witness every day without ever really sparing a thought. The plot is exceptionally well written and equally smoothly translated. Simple language, funny at instances, and you sail through it, wanting to delve further into the life of this little, inquisitive, intelligent and precious goat.

All the fuss around it feels justified and I’m glad I bought this book.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5