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What started out as a pastime soon turned into a hobby that turned into a passion until it eventually became a necessity. Reading is a need so beautiful that I feel I must write about it every day.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

First experience of McEwan!

There are certain writers who you see everyone reading and you wonder why you haven't read a single book by them. For me, these are the likes of McEwan, DeLillo, and Eggers. Every time, I am in a bookstore scrutinizing titles on the shelves my eyes hover over Ian McEwan, stay there for a moment and move on.

A few weeks back I bought my first book my Ian McEwan, 'The comfort of strangers' mainly because the title amused me immensely. The story is set in Venice and reading through this 100 page thin book I got the feel of walking through the unique city; however, with lackluster characters, devoid of human emotions other than sexual, I wasn't impressed. 

McEwan's writing style is fluid and the plot gripping but somehow the story leaves more to be desired. The horrific ending disgusted me to some extent but left no long term effect. Hence for me, McEwan's book are best left avoided in future. 

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The 'Goddamn' world of J.D. Salinger.

American novelist, J.D. Salinger (1919-2010)
May it be Holden Caulfield from 'The catcher in the rye' or the members of the Glass family from 'Franny and Zooey', Salinger's characters share a disillusionment about the world they live in surrounded by 'phony' adults. Every character in Salinger's book is not your regular, conformist, loveable or (hate-able for that matter) character and they are often hard to relate too. You either love them or you don't. Period.

After being completely smitten by Salinger's controversial book 'The catcher in the rye', I was interested in exploring his other works. Franny and Zooey, a popular hit amongst this writer's fans proved to be a complex piece of work bearing the authors distinguished style of writing.

It's a hard read but at the end, its worth it. Its not a plot-driven novel, instead it is fueled by lengthy dialogues that sometime stretch to pages. In this novel, Salinger's gift of eloquent and real dialogues is exposed in all its brilliance. The dialogues are sharp, witty, honest and never boring. This is real writing in my opinion. Not a word more or a word less. 

While reading this book you get a feeling of being trapped in the freakish world of the Glass family where frustrations, contradictions and a sense of loss run high. You are absorbed into unusual settings where intense conversations take place between the main characters. Franny is the perfectly written first chapter in the book which introduces us to a pretty college student Franny Glass who is on the brink of an emotional and spiritual collapse.
"It's everybody, I mean. Everything everybody does is so--I don't know--not wrong, or even mean, or even stupid, necessarily. But just so tiny and meaningless--and sad-making. And the worst part is, if you go bohemian or something crazy like that, you're conforming just as much as everybody else, only in a different way."-Franny
However, the reasons for her world rejecting attitude and  breakdown are fully revealed in the second and last chapter of the book Zooey. Here, we see Franny's older brother, Zooey's morbidity and humor, his sense of being doomed by their elder brothers and enlightenment. 

"We're freaks, that's all. Those two bastards got us nice and early and made us into freaks with freakish standards, that's all. We're the tattooed lady, and we're never going to have a minute's peace, the rest of our lives, until everybody else is tattooed, too."-Zooey

I was gripped by Franny in the beginning only to see Zooey steal the spotlight and be captivated by his perspectives deeper into the book.

The book is perceived by some as a religious novel, however in the words of the narrator, this offering is '... a compound, a multiple, love story, pure and complicated.' This is J.D. Salinger at his best. 

Friday, 14 October 2011


With a feeling of incredible guilt for letting procrastination get the better of me, I am writing this post while vowing to myself that from today onward, I shall write a post every week.

One of the first things I did after starting university was to get a library card made. In college we weren't allowed to issue books which led me to steal one of the novels (for two weeks only, in my defense). It was rightfully returned to its shelf once I had devoured it. :) So to prevent the burden of another theft, I quickly got my card made and the first book I issued was ''The Essential Rumi'', complied and translated by Coleman Barks.

We've all read quotations by Rumi somewhere or the other but to read a book of his poetry is another experience all together. I am half way into the book and I feel like I'm trapped in Rumi's world. To read his poetry is like going into a trance.

For those who are not familiar with this great philosopher of the 13th century; Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī was a Muslim Poet and Sufi mystic and scholar. He is one of the most widely read poets all over the world and rightly so since his work encompasses a wide array of spiritual elements and the fluidity of thought in his poetry is such that its fascinating in its simplicity of truthful narration as well as being universally appealing.

Often his poetry is a narration of events with enlightening morals. He talks about God and His prophets, his master Shams and his disciple Husam, the pleasures of silence and the longing to reunite with ones roots amongst a host of other topics which are always somehow intertwined with spirituality.

Rumi believed music, dancing and poetry were some of the ways to achieve nearness to God. This belief led him to become the founder of the 'Whirling dervishes' an act we've seen many time.

'We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.'- Rumi

“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
― Rumi

“The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.”
― Rumi, The Illuminated Rumi
“When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you're not here, I can't go to sleep.
Praise God for those two insomnias!
And the difference between them.”
― Rumi
"You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?”
― Rumi
My earliest memory of the whirling dervishes goes way back to when I was twelve years old. A music video showing men dancing in circles with bellowing ivory frocks, eyes closed, arms raised in joy and without a care in the world just going round in round in circles captivated me. I remember standing up from the couch and mimicking the flawless rhythmic rotations of the whirling dervishes on screen. At first I went around in circles like a madman, I whirled and whirled and laughed but within a few seconds I closed my eyes and slowed my pace to the somber tune of the music. I remember feeling at peace. The reason I remember this event is because when I opened my eyes once the song ended, I saw my mom looking at me and letting out a surprised laugh.

And ever since, Ive been mesmerized by them.

The order of the Whirling Dervishes is an act of love, a means to forget this world and immerse oneself in the journey towards God. No wonder Rumi said:    
"Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy, absent-minded. Someone sober will worry about things going badly.
Let the Lover be."

Monday, 19 September 2011

So much to read, so little time.

I feel like I have completely abandoned my blog. Ive been super busy lately with university and all that it has brought along; interesting people, good conversations, new opportunities and the experience of something completely new and exciting. :)

Nevertheless I am squeezing out time for a short post because the guilt is nagging me.

Now, I have been waiting anxiously to get my hands on Mohammad Hanif's second book 'Our lady of Alice Bhatti' which came out a few weeks back. Mohammad Hanif of 'A case of exploding mangoes' fame is a fresh addition to the South Asian literary scene. His writing is fast, sarcastic and sometimes hilarious. Reading his first book gave me a sense of euphoria that I had been aching to feel after finishing a book. So my desire to read the new one is no surprise.

Unfortunately, I missed the reading of his book at T2F on Sunday, 4th September due to heavy rains and the eminent flooding of roads in Karachi. :(

As for now, I am waiting for a chance to go to the bookstore and buy it. :) Here's a review of the book.


Sunday, 4 September 2011

My school is fab and yours is trash- the dissing culture

Hey there, my  fourth article was published in The Express Tribune newspaper on Saturday. I am pretty upset over the editing that completely altered my writing style, however, the content is the same. Check it out!


Saturday, 3 September 2011

Some of my favorites...

"Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."

— G.K. Chesterton 

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Suicidal vein in creative geniuses.

It may sound disturbing but history bears witness to the demise of some of the greatest in the literary world who became the masters of their final destiny. Suicidal obsession, severe depression and feelings of seclusion are all emotions that over shadowed the lives of these writers below, prompting them to eventually take their own lives.

John Kennedy Toole (1917 –1963)
Died aged 31

"It will all end very badly, Gus"
— John Kennedy Toole (A Confederacy of Dunces)

John Kennedy Toole  was an American novelist, best known for his novel 'A Confederacy of Dunces' . Toole’s novels remained unpublished during his lifetime.  In 1981 Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 11 years after his suicide.
How he did it?
After suffering from paranoia and depression over critcism of his unpublished work, Toole committed suicide on March 26, 1969, after disappearing from New Orleans, by putting one end of a garden hose into the exhaust pipe of his car and the other into the window of the car in which he was sitting. The suicide note he left was destroyed by his mother.

Sylvia Plath (1932 –1963) 

 Died aged 30

"Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace."
— Sylvia Plath (The Bell Jar)

Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. Her best-known works are replete with themes of alienation, death, and self-destruction. Plath published her first poem at age eight. She entered and won many literary contests and entered Smith College on a scholarship in 1951. She was a cowinner of the Mademoiselle magazine fiction contest in 1952. Despite her remarkable artistic, academic, and social success at Smith, Plath suffered from severe depression and underwent a period of psychiatric hospitalization.

In 1982, she became the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously, for The Collected Poems. She also wrote The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel published shortly before her death.

Plath's fellow confessional poet and friend Anne Sexton commented: "Sylvia and I would talk at length about our first suicide, in detail and in depth—between the free potato chips. Suicide is, after all, the opposite of the poem. Sylvia and I often talked opposites. We talked death with burned-up intensity, both of us drawn to it like moths to an electric lightbulb, sucking on it. She told the story of her first suicide in sweet and loving detail, and her description in The Bell Jar is just that same story."
(Anne Sexton committed suicide in 1974)

"The Sylvia Plath effect" is a term coined by psychologist James C. Kaufman in 2001 to refer to the phenomenon that poets are more susceptible to mental illness than other creative writers. 
How she did it?
In 1963, five months after seperation from husband, Plath placed her head in the oven, with the gas turned on. Her nurse found her dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in the kitchen, with her head in the oven, having sealed the rooms between herself and her two sleeping children with wet towels and cloths.

Her second child, Nicholas Hughes hanged himself at the age of 47.

ANNE SEXTON  (1928-1974)
Died aged 45 

"Any writer, any artist, I'm sure is obsessed with death, a prerequisite for life."
- Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton was a prolofic American writer. Her poetry dealth with themes selcusion, suicide and depression. She won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for Live or Die in 1967.

Sexton suffered from severe mental illness for much of her life. She asserted that speaking of death stimulated her and made her real, but she admitted that such a fascination with death sounded strange and sick, and that many people would never understand it.  Another event which reignited a longing for death in Anne Sexton's case was the news of Sylvia Plath's suicide. This event led to Anne's poem "Wanting to Die"
How she did it?
On October 4, 1974, Sexton had lunch with poet Maxine Kumin to revise galleys for Sexton's manuscript of The Awful Rowing Toward God, scheduled for publication next year. On returning home she put on her mother's old fur coat, removed all her rings, poured herself a glass of vodka, locked herself in her garage, and started the engine of her car, committing suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Her eldest daughter, Linda Gray Sexton attempted suicide thrice but survived.

Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941)
Died Aged 51
"To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face, and to know it for what it is...at last, to love it for what it is, and then to put it away."
— Virginia Woolf

Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century.
Born in London and raised there by eminent parents, Woolf had to deal with depression throughout her life.
However, Woolf’s mental illness did not prevent her from becoming  successful. She enjoyed a long and fulfilling marriage with her husband, Her most famous works include the novels Mrs. Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and Orlando (1928).
How she did it?
On March 28, she slipped on an overcoat weighed down with rocks and drowned herself in the River Ouse. Her body wasn’t found for three weeks.
Her suicide note:
“I feel certain that I am going mad again… and I can’t recover this time.I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do...” – so read the suicide note she left for Leonard, her husband of almost thirty years.

And perhaps the most famous of them all:
 Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961)
"Every man's life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another."

Hemingway is best known for writing several novels which are now considered classics of American literature, such as For Whom The Bell Tolls (1940) and The Old Man And The Sea (1952). His contributions to literature won him both the Pulitzer Prize (1953) and the Nobel Prize (1954).
Hemingway’s love of the bottle developed into alcoholism later in life, leading to high blood pressure and liver problems.
How he did it?
Hemingway loaded both barrels of his favorite twelve-gauge shotgun, put the weapon in his mouth, and blew his brains out the back of his head.

Four other members of Hemingway’s immediate family also committed suicide – his father, two of his siblings, and his granddaughter – leading some to the conclusion that a hereditary disease was at work behind the scenes.

It makes me wonder, are most creative masterminds susceptible to suicide? This maybe due to the very nature of work displayed by writers in particular. Writing is a sensitive art that requires one to not only explore the inner workings of their mind but also put them on paper for the world to scrutinize. Sometimes, failure to do so (and as is often the case) may overwhelm the writer with the weight of his own thoughts and ideas leading to the ultimate escape.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Simple words- Memorable sentences.

A couple of months back I started a list. A list where I'd jot down the the opening and closing sentence or paragraph of a good book. Here are a few that gripped my attention and compelled me to note them down.

1. The catcher in the rye by J.D. Salinger: 

First paragraph: "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."

(This first paragraph was enough to capture my attention. There is a seriousness in the casually written lines which set the tone for the entire novel. Refreshing, to say the least).

Last sentence: "Don't ever tell anybody anything, if you do, you start missing everybody."

(By the time I finished the novel, I had fallen in love with the narrator. This last sentence was a perfect ending to a brilliant novel).

2. The metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

First sentence: "As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from unsettling dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin."

(This powerful first sentence draws in the reader and lets his/her imagination wonder for a while as to how the character transformed and what has he changed into overnight?)

I saved the best for last! 
3. Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

First sentence: "It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love."

(Lyrical. Nostalgic. Magical! The first sentence is exactly what you'd expect from a literary genius.)

Last paragraph:  "And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going?’ he asked.  Florentino Ariza had kept his answer ready for fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven day and nights.  ‘Forever,’ he said.”

(Okay so I really can not contain my love for this book. The romance genre has never really caught my fancy, this was my first love story and oh boy! did it make me go bonkers!? lol. I would just not stop talking about it. The eloquent narrative and its beautiful prose completely immersed me into the world of Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza. The last sentence is a memorable line summing up the triumph of irrevocable love.)


Review: Tender Hooks by Moni Mohsin

Two years back, I got hooked onto books about the Middle East. Most books I read such as Khaled Hosseini's, Mohsin Hameed's and Daniyal Mueenuddin's dealt with intense issues. Soon I began to wonder if heavy and depressing stories were all that the South Asian Writers had to offer. That perception changed when I read a review of Moni Mohsin's much talked about book, Tender hooks.

Clutching a copy of the book when I walked out of the book store, I knew I was in for something funny, bone-tickling and most importantly, lighthearted. After classic reads such as The Beautiful and the Damned and The picture of Dorian Gray, I was in need of some major comic relief. And that I got!

The story has been set in present day Lahore, with the ever-increasing problems of the country mentioned in random headline on top of each chapter. The narrator, a social butterfly from a 'khata peeta bagground' not a 'bhooka nanga' one with a rich husband who is more like a 'zinda lash' and a fifteen year old son Kulchoo, comes across as a shallow woman, obsessed with her status. Her group of affluent friends, 'kittys', GTs (Get togethers), dinners and parties are all a staple feature of her lifestyle.

The language of the book is very different as it doesn't conform to traditional English which is justified as it is better able to portray the life of an elitist society. The book is a hilarious take on the rich and the famous of Pakistan who live in their own bubble, very much aware of their surrounding but unfazed nevertheless.

It was sheer joy to read the book, made me laugh out loud a couple of times and satisfied me with a happy ending. 

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Each person has a story to tell

One of the favorite things about going to a college that was 45 minutes away from my home was the ride. Each morning, I'd see different faces on the sidewalks, bus stops, at signals and in rushing automobiles. People standing impatiently at a bus stop raising their wrists to view the watch that seems to tick just a little faster in the morning and looking out for their ride, dads grabbing the hand of their children all clad in neatly pressed uniforms rushing across the street to put them safely in their vans, beggars- the same ones, everyday asking for money in the same way at the same signals, all week long.

I look at these people and think what's there story? I ache to know sometimes. If each person I see on the street every morning decided to pen down their story, imagine what an exciting world would it become! For I know for a fact that everybody has a story...it's just waiting to be written. 

Friday, 26 August 2011

Worst books I've read!

Don't call me hater! Because I'm not. I love books, hence this book blog! But to be honest there have been a few books Ive read that were awful! So to save who ever is reading this, from the mental trauma I went through after reading these true masterpieces of nonsense, here is my list of the 5 worst books. 

5. An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It

4. How to Marry the Man of your Choice by Margaret Kent
 My mum has been giving me better advices than Ms (I highly doubt its Mrs.) Kent did in her 187 page long book.

3. Skinny Bitch: A No-Nonsense, Tough-Love Guide for Savvy Girls Who Want to Stop Eating Crap and Start Looking Fabulous!

Interesting statistics

I am not particularly fond of numbers but I do like reading statistics. They usually reveal surprising facts... if you can call them facts, that is. For example Pakistan's government claims it's rural population's literacy rate to be 48%!

Well...we know better.

Did you know that between 2002-2010 there was a: 99% increase in books in the genre of Poetry and Drama? 89% increase in Fiction, while only 2% and 4% increase in Language and Travel books, respectively. I am happy with the statistics. While Drama and Fiction are my favorite genres, I couldn't care less about books on Travel and Language (some things are best left for real life experiences).

Which are your favorite genres? I'd love to know. :)


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