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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.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Of books and Pakistan

First published in Unique Pakistan

A few years ago, Pakistani writers were globally unheard of. Fast forward to today and you’ll see Pakistan’s literary landscape flourishing. With international awards and widespread acclaim to their merit, Pakistani authors are making waves in the literary circles and casting their magic. Pakistani novelist writing in English are now being hailed as the new generation of intellectuals propelling the country’s almost non-existent reading culture forward and garnering attention for the country due to their immense talent.

The likes of these young guns include Daniyal Mueenuddin, Kamila Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid, Mohammed Hanif, Bina Shah, Bilal Tanveer, Ali Sethi, Nadeem Aslam amongst many more. Dealing with themes of religious extremism, racism, politics, class division, war and love, these novelists are weaving complex and epic tales with their distinguished style. Their popularity can be measured by the crowd that turns up in droves to attend their sessions in literature festivals in Pakistan and India as well as the prestigious awards they have been nominated for and won.

For the last three years, Karachi Literature Festival has been accelerating the process of the resurgence of writing in Pakistan. Every year it’s becoming bigger and better, bringing together the biggest names in literati from various countries. This year the festival showcased brilliant talent to the literary starved audience of Karachi by presenting an astounding number of 150 authors, poets, journalists, publishers, etc.

According to Kamila Shamsie: ”Pakistani writing is in it’s infancy”. While that may be true, Pakistani writers are surely taking the publishing world by storm.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Literary crushes!

I have plenty of free time on my hands these days and it seems all I do the entire day is read. Thank God for the makeshift library I set up a few months back; plenty of unread books grace my shelves so I'm set for a few more weeks. Yesterday I finished reading Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and found myself utterly captivated by it's dead protagonist- Rebecca. This made me ponder back to the numerous literary crushes I've developed over the years. Here are some them: 

 Mr. Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Johnny Depp plays Willy Wonka, 2005
Every fat kid with an irrevocable love for chocolate adored this eccentric character created by Roald Dahl in Charlie and the chocolate factory. Not only is Mr. Willy Wonka the best chocolatier in the world, he also owns a chocolate factory where everything is made entirely out of chocolate! Apart from a fabulous dressing style complete with a sleek bob, a tall hat and a perfectly tailored maroon coat, I love him for his quirkiness, his unconventional attitude and his disgust for almost everything that isn't made up of chocolate. Watching Johnny Depp play Willy Wonka in Tim Burton's film adaption only cemented his position as one of my favorite literary crushes. 

Best dialogue: “"Everything in this room is eatable. In fact even I am eatable, but that is called cannibalism my dear children and is frowned upon in most civilizations.”

 Vampire Lestat in Vampire Chronicles

Stuart Townsend plays Lestat, 2002
 This enigmatic monster gripped my attention in Interview with the vampire by Anne Rice- A story about blood sucking, bad ass vampires! (Take that Meyers). Despite the story being about Louis and his transformation from a human to a vampire and his subsequent adventurous life, it was Vampire Lestat who made a lasting impression on me. He prompted me to read the entire Vampire Chronicle series, including Vampire Lestat and The queen of the damned.
This 200 year old vampire is a vanity-struck sexy rockstar, a rebel, a miser, and ultimately a redemption seeker. He is more like one of my bi-polar friends...yes Molls I'm referring to you. He's crazy when life's good and deeply morose when things go bad. Unbelievably powerful and  unapologetically fatal; Vampire Lestat is irresistible!

 Best dialogue: ''Evil is a point of view. God kills indiscriminately and so shall we. For no creatures under God are as we are, none so like him as ourselves.''

Lord Henry in The picture of Dorian Gray

Collin Firth plays Lord Henry, 2009
 Could there be a character more witty, opinionated and intriguing than Lord Henry? The answer is no! He plays the devil's advocate, misleading the naive Dorian Gray with his demonic views of the world. Lord Henry is a clever man who doesn't practice what he preaches, instead he influences others with his immoral and unconventional philosophies. He may not be the desirable hero of this novel; he is sexist, offensive and attention seeking but Lord Henry is also undeniably fascinating and an exquisitely eloquent character who says things that most of us only wish we had the courage to speak.

Best dialogues: "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.''
"The people who love only once in their lives are really the shallow people. What they call their loyalty, and their fidelity, I call either the lethargy of custom or their lack of imagination. Faithfulness is to the emotional life what consistency is to the life of the intellect - simply a confession of failure."

Florentino Ariza in Love in the time of Cholera

Javier Bardem plays Ariza, 2007
Florentino Ariza is observant without being detached, tragic without being hopeless and stubborn without being impatient. Our passionate hero waits fifty-one years, nine months, and four days to reach his lover, Fermina Daza. During his wait he turns into a sex addict, becomes an obsessive stalker and lives and breathes poetry.

This is not to say that I find the above mentioned traits attractive but despite his flaws Florentino Ariza is a die-hard romantic who reaffirmed my belief in true love that transcends time. Written in Marquez's masterful prose, Florentino Ariza is unforgettable.
 Best Dialogue: “The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.”

 Rebecca in Rebecca

Author: Daphne Du Maurier
Rebbecca, the antagonist of the book with the same title is headstrong, accomplished and beautiful. Although she is dead, she is still indestructible. I am completely smitten by her character because of the different sides of her personality that were revealed to me as the book progressed. In the beginning the narrator of the book pieces together an image of Rebecca that portrays her as the perfect hostess of the grand Manderley and the much loved wife who dies tragically at sea but a few chapters into the book and the real Rebecca begins to emerge; one who is rebellious, flirtatious and an evil woman who commits unspeakable acts under the masquerade of beauty and grace.

The oppressive presence of Rebecca throughout the novel captured my imagination and made her one of the most memorable characters I've come across. Her 'last joke' in the book is the perfect example of Rebecca's wicked nature. Not so much of a crush than a fascination, the ghost of Rebecca haunted me long after I finished the novel.

These were mine. Who are your literary crushes? Any character who has captured your mind and enthralled you with their charisma?

Monday, 16 April 2012

Dead man walking - Mark Twain filmed by Thomas Edison

Mark Twain is arguably one of the best writers of all time. Unlike so many other authors of yesteryear  whose pictures we have seen in paintings and photographs only, here we have a footage of Twain captured on film by none other than Thomas Edison in 1909. The eerie video shows Twain in his estate in Stormfield with his daughters Jean and Clara. Here's a rare glimpse of the man who has inspired and entertained a generation of readers beyond measure.

It is sad to think about how his daughter Jean, featured in the video died in December of the same year, while Twain himself passed away the following spring in 1910.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Birth of a book

Found this beautiful video on Huffington Post. Also, remember my dilemma? Well, these two videos helped me make my mind- Hardbacks it is! Forever and ever.

A wonderfully hilarious speech about Book cover art:

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Nastiest literary insults of all time

I think most authors are an insecure and envious lot. Hell breaks loose when a writer decides to spew his/her hatred publicly. It makes for a highly amusing read too. No wonder these insults are so eloquent and hard-hitting, after all they have been made by some very good writers who just find their fellows really bad. Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby present to you a stunning mix of wit, jealousy and sarcasm.
Note: Regarding some comments as plain nasty would be an understatement. 
Let the vicious war of words begin!

Oscar Wilde on Alexander Pope
“There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope.”

Lord Byron on John Keats
 “Here are Johnny Keats’ piss-a-bed poetry, and three novels by God knows whom… No more Keats, I entreat: flay him alive; if some of you don’t I must skin him myself: there is no bearing the drivelling idiotism of the Mankin.”

Mark Twain on Jane Austen
Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” Ouch!

Vladimir Nabokov on Ernest Hemingway 
 “As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early ‘forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it.”

Homer J. Simpson on Walt Whitman's book
'Leaves of grass' my ass!

Harold Bloom on J.K. Rowling
“How to read ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’? Why, very quickly, to begin with, and perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do.” Sorry Potter fans

Gertrude Stein on Ezra Pound
“A village explainer. Excellent if you were a village, but if you were not, not.”

 H. G. Wells on George Bernard Shaw
“An idiot child screaming in a hospital.”

Charles Baudelaire on Voltaire (1864)
“I grow bored in France — and the main reason is that everybody here resembles Voltaire…the king of nincompoops, the prince of the superficial, the anti-artist, the spokesman of janitresses, the Father Gigone of the editors of Siecle.”

William Faulkner on Ernest Hemingway
“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

Ernest Hemingway on William Faulkner
“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

Gore Vidal on Truman Capote
“He’s a full-fledged housewife from Kansas with all the prejudices.”  

Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac
“That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

W. H. Auden on Robert Browning
“I don’t think Robert Browning was very good in bed. His wife probably didn’t care for him very much. He snored and had fantasies about twelve-year-old girls.”

Evelyn Waugh on Marcel Proust (1948)
“I am reading Proust for the first time. Very poor stuff. I think he was mentally defective.”

Virginia Woolf on James Joyce
“[Ulysses is] the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples.”

William Faulkner on Mark Twain 
“A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.”

D.H. Lawrence on James Joyce (1928)
“My God, what a clumsy olla putrida James Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest stewed in the juice of deliberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness.”

James Dickey on Robert Frost:
“If it were thought that anything I wrote was influenced by Robert Frost,
I would take that particular work of mine, shred it, and flush it down
the toilet, hoping not to clog the pipes...'' Seriously Dickey? lol

H.G. Wells on Henry James:
“A hippopotamus trying to pick up a pea  that has got into a corner of its cage..”

Lawrence Durrell on Henry James
 “If I were asked to choose between reading Henry James and having my head pressed between two stones, I’d choose the latter.” Sorry Azzaam, that must've hurt. 

 Mark Twain on Henry James:
“Once you put one of his books down, you simply can’t pick it up again.”

Mark Twain on Edgar Allan Poe.
“To me, his prose is unreadable– like Jane Austen’s”

Gore Vidal after being punched by Norman Mailer 
 “I see Norman, words have failed you again!”

Louis-Ferdinand Céline on D.H.Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”:
“600 hundred pages for a gamekeeper’s dick, it’s way too long.”

Vidal on Truman Capote’s death
 “A good Career move.”

Mark Twain on Jane Austen:
Just the omission of Jane Austen’s books alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it

Dorothy Parker’s on Benito Mussolini’s -The Cardinal’s Mistress
“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” HAHA

Flannery O’Connor on Harper Lee
 “I think for a child’s book it does all right. It’s interesting that all the folks that are buying it don’t know they’re reading a child’s book.”

John Updike on the name of a character in one of Rushdie's novels who has the same name as a German actor: Why, oh why, did Salman Rushdie, in his new novel ... call one of his major characters Maxmilian Ophuls
Salman Rushdie: A name is just a name. Why oh why ... Well, why not? Somewhere in Las Vegas there's probably a male prostitute called John Updike.

Dorothy Parker on Clare Booth Luce
Clare Booth Luce, opening a door for Dorthy Parker: Age before beauty.
Dorothy Parker: Pearls before swine. OH GOD!

Ben Jonson on William Shakespeare
“I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been, ‘Would he had blotted a thousand,’ Don't speak ill of the bard!

Salman Rushdie on John le Carré 
 “an illiterate pompous ass”.

James Dickey on Steinbeck
I can't read ten pages of Steinbeck without throwing up.

Arnold Bennett on Charles Dickens
About a year ago, from idle curiosity, I picked up 'The Old Curiosity Shop', and of all the rotten vulgar un-literary writing...! Worse than George Eliot.

Samuel Johnson on John Milton's Paradise Lost
'Paradise Lost' is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again.

Anatole France on Emile Zola
His work is evil, and he is one of those unhappy beings of whom one can say that it would be better had he never been born.

Norman Mailer on Tom Wolfe’s 
“Reading the work can even be said to resemble the act of making love to a 300lb woman. Once she gets on top, it’s over. Fall in love, or be asphyxiated.”

I'm just as surprised as you are...

Friday, 6 April 2012

Date a girl who reads by Rosemarie Urquico

“Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.”


Thursday, 5 April 2012

Under the spell of Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I'm a woman possessed! From Love in the time of cholera to a collection of his morbid short stories to Of love and other demons, I'm utterly mesmerized by Marquez. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, chances are you're aware of my obsession with the Colombian novelist. To say that his books carry me away to a different world wouldn't be entirely correct. His world is just like ours but slightly more romantic, (and trust me, this is coming from someone who has never been a sucker for romance novels), its a bit more melodramatic and its a lot more...magical! I'm currently reading Of love...and enjoying every second of this epic tale.

“Do not allow me to forget you”
Gabriel García Márquez, Of Love and Other Demons 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A solitary passion.: Devastating imagery

A solitary passion.: Devastating imagery: The month of April is regarded as the National Poetry Month . So I thought I'd share my favorite poem. It's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufr...

Monday, 2 April 2012

World's fastest reader

Okay wow! She's just as fast as she's cheeky. I'd love to see an argument between her and Nicki Minaj!
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