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Reading and Writing as Women @Link Wanderlust

Has anyone asked you: “Do your parents know what you are reading?”

Soniah Kamal has been asked this question and she recreates the experience of reading forbidden books in her essay Girls from Good Families. Reading used to be an act of rebellion and still is in some parts of the world.

One day in the late 1990s after I’d married and moved to the U.S., I was reading a short story in a literary journal when I came upon the word “vagina.” I slammed the journal down. My stomach churned, my cheeks flushed, I was dizzy. My reaction perplexed me. After all, a vagina is simply a female body part, so why was I mortified? Iqbal’s genie, who I’d thought long excised, seemed to have only been buried and now leapt to life. I decided I was going to write through my discomfort and shame and battle both the genie’s censorship as well as my self-censorship by writing a story with “vagina” in the very first sentence. And so was birthed Papa’s Girl, a story set in the brothels of Bangkok, where a young boy is witness to his father’s dallying with a child prostitute and is consequently traumatized for life. It eventually appeared in the anthology A Letter from India.

If reading is an evil, then what of writing? It definitely is if you are writing about sex. Kamal’s story makes you think about women the trophies and the honor of their families vs the women who sit down at their table to write chic lit, dick lit or quick lit. Writing in that sense becomes a political act as not every woman can click her keys like E.L.James. Many times women have to agonize over writing about home truths. It may be the twenty first century in some parts of the world, but darkness looms where women play mute spectator more often than not.

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Sci-fi– Hard wired and Emotionally charged @ BYOB Party in March, 2016 (Part 3)

This BYOB Party (Part 1 and Part 2) had no mention of the Mahabharata. Instead there was a great deal of sci-fi.

manhattan in reverseAkshay is an avid sci-fi reader. When he was done with his share of Clarks and Asimovs, he came across Hamilton. The book he talked about was Manhattan in Reverse by Peter F. Hamilton, a book of nine stories. For sci-fi geeks Hamilton’s work provides all the delightful details of time travel, memory manipulation, planetary inequality, inter-galactic wars, and rejuvenation technology.

“When it comes to Hamilton’s series,  as characters don’t die,  there is scope for continuity and evolution. “

In the sci-fi mode, Jaya advised us to watch a short movie available on Youtube- Man from Earth. The conversation moved on to how the social context would change if human beings did not die at all. While on one hand, there would be more Mondays, on the other, there would be less inequality as only those who had the means to live forever would be around anyway. The predominant theme of sci-fi was debated upon- is it human expansion or space operas? A science fiction writer who was recommended was Cyril Kornbluth.

 

Never Let me GoPiya Bose has read her share of sci-fi as well. What she’s now looking for is a sci-fi heavier on emotional quotient. She found this in Never Let Me Go by Booker Prize winning author Kazuo Ishiguro. Three children Kathy, Ruth and Tommy study at Hallsham in an imaginary set-up in the 1990s. Although the narration is straight forward, there is an eeriness and strangeness in the novel that turns it into a mystery.  Ishiguro speaks about how science without ethics is detrimental to society.

“The vagueness of the writer is a style shared by Murakami too,” Piya said. Everyone agreed unanimously that there were two kinds of readers and you would know who would prefer an Ishiguro and a Murakami as opposed to those who wouldn’t.

More in Part 4.


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Visual Friday: The Hateful Four – No Stereotypes

Visual Friday: The Hateful Four - No Stereotypes
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Writer’s Block and Mom Monologues@ Link Wanderlust

Maria Konnikova’s essay How to Beat Writer’s Block in The New Yorker is an analysis of the dreaded formless disease/condition/diagnosis called Writer’s Block. Many writers have faced this block at some point in their lives. Even Graham faced the empty page. He did battle it though, with a dream journal.

Writer’s Block is officially recognized as a problem, and not some kind of laziness or lack. It can be psychoanalysed and even treated:

“Blocked writers were unhappy. Symptoms of depression and anxiety, including increased self-criticism and reduced excitement and pride at work, were elevated in the blocked group; symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, such as repetition, self-doubt, procrastination, and perfectionism, also appeared, as did feelings of helplessness and “aversion to solitude”—a major problem, since writing usually requires time alone.”

The best part about this history of the invisible condition is that a writer can cure herself by resorting to the one thing she can not do any more- write. Knowing that creativity is creativity’s only vaccine gives hope.

**

In her story Writing my Context at The Rumpus, Lyz Lenz writes about how motherhood unblocked her. She wrote continuously in spite of life and she got published especially because of her life: “So I wrote more, enjoying the publication but resenting that I had to use my uterus to get there.”

Having kids changed the trajectory of her output and her readers liked her the more for it.

 

Parenting books tell me that I ought to draw healthy boundaries between myself and my children. But I once read that cells from the fetus stay inside the mother long after the child is born. Scientists don’t know what those cells do to the mother exactly, but they do know they linger forever in her heart and in her head. These cells make a mother a chimera—a mythical creature composed of disparate parts. But how can they be disparate when they are part of who you are? I also read that my children have my cells in them too. We are all chimeras.

Have you tried to write your context? Have you felt hindered in some way or do you feel more voluble?

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Quotes Wednesday

Sometimes to get what you want the most, you have to do what you want the least.

By InstaScribe

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Libraries, Fashion and Dysfunctional Families@ BYOB Party in March, 2016 (Part 2)

At our sixth BYOB Party, we had a large collection of books to discuss.

This is not the end of the book

Sreeraj got a book  This is not the end of the book by Umberto Eco and his fellow raconteur Jean-Claude Carriere. What happens when two bibilophiles get together? You will have a long discussion about your personal libraries, the fate of these libraries when the owner dies, interesting authors and translations, eBooks and papyrus manuscripts, etc. Jaya also mentioned that Umberto Eco’s famous book Name of the Rose revolved around manuscripts and libraries. It is only natural that his love for books extends itself into books that he wrote.

 

The Devil Wears Pradathe devil wears prada by Lauren Weisberger was the book Shruti Garodia talked about. It’s a book she repeatedly goes back to, a light-hearted read with a pertinent message. “Over time, I think the relevance of the message of the book has become a little outdated,” Shruti said. “It’s one of the few books that has worked so well as a movie.”

The story is about an unfashionable lady Andrea Sachs who lands a job in a very prestigious fashion magazine. Little does she know that her boss is a diabolical woman who expects a slave, more than an assistant.

 

The illicit happiness of other peopleAvnish found Manu Joseph’s writing to be quite entertaining. The Illicit Happiness of Other People is the story of a dysfunctional family headed by Ousep Chacko, a journalist and failed novelist. His wife has psychological issues. One of their sons has died and it is hard to say whether it was suicide or a mere accident.

“Manu Joseph’s characters are three dimensional and wonderful to read about,” Shruti said.

Has anyone reading this post read Serious Men by the same author?

 

More in Part 3.


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Visual Friday: April’s Fool – Editor’s Bribe

Visual Friday: April's Fool - Editor's Bribe

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Anxiety and Bus Theory@ Link Wanderlust

Jessie Burton writes in her article Success, Creativity and the Anxious space about how 2015 was probably the best year of her life. A million copies of her book The Miniaturist were sold. For any aspiring writer, this sounds like the pinnacle of achievement.

But this was exactly the time when she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Burton then chronicles the story of her mind- a mercurial thing like all minds out there. The problem with writing a book and one that flies off of the shelves at that is the anxiety that you may never be able to write another word again. Success is impossible to handle when you are used to failure.

“When something you have made in private is mass-consumed, the irony is that the magnifying glass burns even brighter on you as an individual. Who you are, where you come from, how you make your work. And if you do not have immediate answers to this, because let’s face it, who truly does, then boy, are you in for a bumpy ride. When something like this happens to you, however minor it might be in the great scheme of fame, you never know what’s waiting in your personal wings. You never, ever know how the spotlight on your identity is going to make you feel. You may hypothesize that you’d be really good at dealing with it, but forgive me that I beg to disagree.”

The success of her book led her to dark spells that she coped with and wrote out. Reading her story gives you an insight into the working of a writer’s mind, or even the mind of someone who works entirely on his or her own. Writing a book can turn you into an overnight success; it can wear you down as well. Looks like ups and downs go hand in hand.

 

So how do you reach there at the pinnacle of success?  I found an article about the Helsinki Bus Station Theory in an article by James Clear called Stay on the bus. The idea is that you could be working on the same idea for years but it’s reworking it and sticking with it that brings the real breakthrough. So if you are stuck on a manuscript, it will begin to work only once you start reworking it.

Have you ever been stuck with your writing?

I liked the common sense no-nonsense approach of this article and the possibility of inserting the picture of a bus in this blog post was too tempting to miss.

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Quotes Wednesday

Sometimes it's as important to prove there is no answer to a question as it is to answer it.

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