Too Much What?

I love reading not only for pleasure, but for symbolism and metaphors. I know I should not admit these kind of things publicly, but it’s true! Underneath it all, I am the ultimate geek that jumps for joy when I see beyond the written word and just for a moment, find myself looking through the author’s eyes, and understand them and their purpose. However, there are days when the author just shuts me out and says “ha ha, you ain’t getting this one!”. Unfortunately I have had one of those experiences, and it kind of sucks. As a passionate supporter of Canadian authors, I try to read as much Canadian literature as I can, not only because I enjoy it but also because I want to create more awareness of it and its complexity and beauty. Canadian literature explores many new realms that I feel American audiences would appreciate, and in the future I will be sure to share many wonderful titles here.

Recently I decided to reach back into the archives of Canadian authors and pull out one of the pilgrims of Canadian writing, Alice Munro. I have enjoyed many of Munro’s works during my years as an undergraduate, and have always found her writing complex and real. This time around, I found that same complexity, but could not achieve a level of complete comprehension that would have allowed me to enjoy her writing with the same pleasure that I have previously experienced.

“Too Much Happiness”, is a series of short stories primarily focusing on many female protagonists. The stories all have an element of darkness in them, and a base sense of death and sexuality. It’s hard to describe, but in my opinion its this kind of writing ability that separates good writers from great writers. Even though I had difficulty deciphering the deeper meaning behind Alice Munro’s characters  experiences, I was still intrigued and very aware that there was something more, I just couldn’t see it yet. Perhaps it is a matter of viewing the characters objectively instead of subjectively. As a Canadian, I felt that my personal opinions and knowledge of certain areas referenced in the short stories perhaps led me to make assumptions about the characters that created limitations on my understanding of the deeper meaning. In this case, familiarity worked against me, and left me asking questions that I don’t know are meant to be answered. Perhaps in this case, my readers can lend their views and tell me what they think!

Excess Baggage

Time for a book review!!!

Now I’m not sure about all of you, but one of my favourite moments while travelling is that 30 minutes or so after you pass security when you are free to browse the stores near your gate. More specifically, the store with the table of books out front calling my name! It’s a really a horrible habit of mine to be honest. Even when I already have a book or two in my carry-on luggage, I can’t seem to help myself! Anyways the point is, the following book  was my latest unnecessary purchase.

Now being ethnic myself, I am a huge fan of ethnic literary fiction. Shobhhan Bantwal’s novel, “The Full Moon Bride” is a very common piece that addresses the struggle of dual identity and finding a balance between cultures. The novel’s heroine, Soorya Giri, is a 30 year old, single, Indian-American woman that lives a cushy, and sheltered life with her parents in a wealthy suburban neighbour-hood of New Jersey.  Being the daughter of a respected plastic surgeon, Soorya’s life is filled with the best schools and opportunities that led to her job as a successful environmental lawyer at a top law firm in Manhattan. She had it all, except of course the primary requirement of any respectable South Asian woman past the age of 25; a husband. Soorya’s life suddenly becomes interesting when she becomes the pursuit of not just one, but two very different men. In her journey of romance, Soorya not only discovers love, but also the value of knowing who you are and understanding what that means.

I know this story sounds predictable, but it’s actually got some refreshing moments in here. Now I will admit that I did not love this book, but it was interesting enough to keep me reading. I guess my main issue was the author’s delivery of a cultural experience. I do understand that the author is writing for a North American audience, and is essentially trying to teach someone about a culture that is foreign to them. However, in doing so, Bantwal’s voice no longer sounds authentic. It becomes too textbook, to the point that anyone who simply knows a few facts about a culture could create Soorya’s character. As a reader, I like when an ethnic author doesn’t spell out everything for me in such an elementary manner, but rather the natural flow of their culture and their experience is illuminated in their writing and I am able to capture all the important details simply through their delivery, and not necessarily through their explanations.

Nevertheless, I did relate to Soorya’s character from a female prespective, and you can’t go wrong with a few cheesy feel good moments. All in all, it was a nice mellow read.

Return from Hiatus…….yet again!!

I must apologize, I fell off the face of the earth again! What can I say, life really did get in the way. A lot has changed since my last post! Firstly, (and most importantly) I am no longer a grad student! I graduated this past summer and did the walk in my velvet cap :) A few months later I got married to a wonderful man and dived head first into reality and have come to a scary realization: I am no longer a grad student  swimming indulgently through the pages of my beautiful books searching for meaning and symbolism, and wrapping myself into the warmth of literature. I am now a wife, a partner, and at times a culinary genius (or so I like to think):P.

Marriage truly is a wonderful journey that does change your life in a way you never expected, and you find it easy to lose yourself in the land of “we” and “us”.  And its important to catch yourself and not lose yourself completely. So here I am, rediscovering me and the first love of my life: the written word.

Stay tuned readers, more book reviews and literary ramblings are brewing!

Reader’s Bliss!

I love the freedom of shamelessly reading several books a week! The freedom to read any genre or author I choose! Being able to enjoy the book, the story, the characters, from cover to cover without having to map out an analysis for another essay……ahhhh bliss!

Well with such bliss comes great rewards….another book review!!!! I was travelling recently, and with no classes, upcoming papers or reading requirements to complete, I strolled into the airport bookstore with my eyes wide open and my wallet in hand. I was ready to spend! Now I must admit, usually the bestsellers do make for good plane reading but sometimes, the titles just do not appeal to me at all. So during this delightful venture, I came across an interesting book. For some reason the name clicked in my mind and I remembered a conversation I had at a wedding just two days ago, when someone pulled out their e-reader to ask me about a book they were reading. Now if you bring your e-reader or any book to a wedding, then it must be a pretty good read. I decided to trust their opinion and picked up a copy for myself. Lets just say I got the book 3 days ago and I finished it yesterday.

“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett was the perfect start to my reading binge that will be spanning the next few weeks. I picked up the book simply 3 times and it kept me reading for hours. For those of you, who like me, enjoy books that take you to another time and place (and read with a southern accent in your head), would surely enjoy this one. I don’t want to give away too much, but its a touching story about a group of women in a  small town in 1960s Mississippi, struggling to understand and change the world they live in. I love a book that can take a tough issue like racism and write a story that says what needs to be said without passing judgement or demeaning either side. It’s a skill that many writers do not possess, but Kathryn Stockett has done an exceptional job with it. It may not be in the New Hot Fiction section of your local bookstore yet, but its worth looking for!

The Return….again

Once again I have returned from an unintended hiatus. Yes it was a rather long break but sometimes even a nerd like me has got to put in her bookmark and chill out. I’m still making my way through my Harry Potter adventures and am surprised that it just keeps getting better and better.

I am currently kicking myself everyday for making the brilliant decision to take summer school. Why I torture myself like this? I do not know. However, I have entered a completely foreign territory – 18th century Restoration plays. Yes, it is as awful as it sounds. Well maybe I’m exaggerating. It’s definitely not my cup of tea but it has its amusing points.

To be quite honest, some of the plays I have read have left me blushing and slightly violated. So much for a more innocent and conservative time! People are fornicating with everyone and anyone all over the stage! And I’m pretty sure there was no birth control at this time so the scarlet letter must have been a popular fashion statement! And not to seem prudish, but wasn’t good hygiene also a tremendous feat?

I have entered the world of adultery, incest, and prostitution topped off with some comic dialogue. Definitely not the type of literature I will look back on beyond the duration of this class….

Wizards get the Nod

Well, I think I have made it very clearly on more than one occasion that vampires are a no-go in my book. But wizards on the other hand have me screaming for more!

I just entered the quarter century club last week (ugh) and received a gift I never imagined being so excited about. My super cool sister-friend got me the entire collection of Harry Potter! Yes, I know…where have I been right?!?! But any how it was a wonderful surprise. I had been wanting to take the plunge into the world of Hogwarts and Quidditch but just did not have the time and didn’t know where to begin. When I received a large parcel at my apartment and saw a box that read Harry Potter I was overjoyed. With just two weeks of grad classes left I had decided to treat myself during the holidays, but I only lasted a day and just could not wait to start!

I mentioned in previous posts that I took a Children’s literature class this semester and was learning what ‘sells’. And essentially Harry Potter is a middle-grade children’s book even though it has appealed to a much larger audience. After reading just the first book and and itching to start the next, all I can say is that J.K. Rowling delivered. As I read the book I was mentally checking off all the requirements she had satisfied that makes a book sell, and I did not find one thing unchecked…..and if anything she got double checkmarks!

So this post is for all of those who like me have circled the idea of Harry Potter and have yet to get off the fence. JUST DO IT!!! I do not regret it and am sooooooo happy I have six more books to go because I do not want this journey to end!

Thanks UB – I owe you!

Express yourself

So a few weeks ago I was approached by a friend of mine who wanted to write a letter. Not just any letter but a love letter- or more accurately a love email. And being her writer friend, she assumed I would know how to conjure up one of these. One of the things she asked me was why it was so hard for her to express her feelings. I didn’t know how to answer her at the time but I got to thinking about the idea of expression in words and remembered a quote I saw somewhere a few years ago:

“Literature is protest. No writing is innocent”

It made me think that like a love letter, any kind of writing is an expression of the mind and the heart. Not to say that we’re all just writing love letters all the time, but even this simple love letter was like a form of literature. It was protesting her feelings to her beloved, and the writing had the purpose of receiving an answer or a reaction.

Back to the question of why some people find it so hard to express themselves. Well, this is my take on it, there are two types of people.

Some of us can easily write down our thoughts because we want them to be heard. And even if no one ever reads what we have to say, we are content with the fact that it is said in some shape or form.

On the other hand there are those who fear the very same thing. Their fear isn’t that people will hear them, rather that no one will. That personal expression carries a bigger weight and therefore is more difficult to express. And if that expression isn’t heard or acknowledged, they feel vulnerable and exposed.

That’s just my take on it. Good news is she did manage to write the letter herself – currently awaiting a reaction from her ‘audience’.

Vampire vampire go away…

It just came to my attention that all this vampire madness has been riding on Twilight’s tail for the past two years! Is anyone as tired of this vampire epidemic as I am? Yes it was cool in its first revival, and then again through the tween Twilight obsession. But I think I’m ready to say “Ok I get it, next!”

Anyways, as I had promised, another book review. Several of you may have read this and received it as your graduation gift (as I did), but I was reminded of it this weekend so I figured I’d spread the word.

This weekend on a flight I was sitting next to someone typing away on his computer while I was looking over some of my peers manuscripts and he struck up a conversation with me as he had made the assumption I was a fellow academic. Turns out he was a Computer Science professor at a very popular university(no name given to maintain privacy but it was impressive!). As we started talking about programs and our different disciplines I remembered the name Randy Pausch, the author of “The Last Lecture”.  And I got very excited when I learned that he had known Dr. Pausch and actually been an attendee at this famous final lecture!

For those of you haven’t read this, and need a book to kind of give you a boost of confidence and dash of inspiration should definitely pick this up. “The Last Lecture” was written by a professor at Carnegie Mellon that was participating in a ‘last lecture series’ that was given annually. However, he had been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and it was in a terminal stage, so ironically this really was his last lecture. Instead of focusing his lecture on his field of study, he gave a lecture on time-management. But it’s not what you would expect.  His perspective on his life and the future is inspirational and very touching. The book was written in a style that made it read like a lecture.  Its really wonderful to know that even those who have been given such a misfortune can still depart leaving such positivity and optimism.

The inevitable “burnout”

So since my last post my optimism has dwindled. I love grad school and I love literature, but sometimes you just wish that after hammering out a brilliant essay or chapter you could clear your desk and say, “I have nothing else to work on”. That has not been the case at all this quarter. Its like a tag team, even though one assignment reaches the end, it just hands me off to the next item on another syllabus to do another run again and then again….and again.

And let’s be honest – this weather is not helping. It seems as if spring came and skipped over summer and went straight into late fall. Turning on the heat on May 12 was a sad sad day.

That’s all for today – another book review coming up soon!

Writing like a writer…..

So obviously I started this blog because I want to write. But of course I was always aware that I wasn’t writing something New York Times bestseller worthy (unfortunately I’m no Carrie Bradshaw), but was hoping this could be the place where I could grow as a writer and find my voice. And its a great feeling to finally feel that growth! My life as a graduate student has been much more pleasant this past month, and its mainly due to the classes that I have been taking. Mind you, the workload is still pushing me to the brink of sanity occasionally, but at times I truly enjoy it. One of the classes I’m taking right now is Children’s Literature and Publishing. It’s really a great class. Being so turned off with this vampire frenzy going on in the publishing world these days, I completely forgot the brilliance in so many Children’s books/novels.

As a part of this class we have to write the first few chapters of our manuscript for a children’s book. This was a challenge that I was not prepared for. I guess mainly because I did not think writing a novel for a 12year old would be that complicated. But the challenges started from the minute I picked up my pen. I had never considered writing a children’s book so I had no idea what to write about. I was 12…..12 years ago!!!! And needless to say 12 year olds today are very different! Much more complex if you ask me. So after racking my brain for ideas and waiting for that moment of inspiration I finally started thinking about myself when I was 12 and just started writing. Of course I did some major embellishments and modernized my character (her bulky portable CD player had been replaced with an I-pod) but eventually it came together. It was fun to remember the things that used to go through my mind at that age.

So after several revisions I finally completed my first chapter. It was a feeling like no other. I don’t know if its brilliant or will ever be publishing worthy, but just that feeling of actually sitting down to write the first chapter of your manuscript and seeing the finished product (well first draft actually) feels like a step up from an aspiring writer to actually becoming a writer. I discovered the strengths and weaknesses in my own writing that I would never have realized until I actually started REALLY writing. Let’s see what challenges chapter 2 brings!