Hello!

I’ve been AWOL for a while, and that state of affairs might very well continue for some time—and yes, this is happening while we’re in the middle of a Middlemarch readalong which I am supposed to be hosting! A proper hostess, I shall not make, it appears. BUT I am so, so SO appreciative of both Laila and Valancy who have continued to read and post their reviews despite my AWOL-ness! I love thinking that maybe that’s because they’re both enjoying the book too much to let anything interfere with it! THANK YOU BOTH SO MUCH!

You can read their reviews of Book 4, Three Love Problems and Book 5, The Dead Hand at the following links:

Valancy
Book 4
Book 5

Laila
Book 4
Book 5

As for me, things have been really busy offline. Happily so, I might add! I’ve hosted family and friends, visited the west coast (I live on the east), driven to Niagara Falls and back, attended a friend’s wedding in another state, discussed some big life changes with husband, and all of these since just my last post! To be honest, I’m just not feeling like reading/writing that much these days.

I’m still continuing with Middlemarch and hope to write a little bit about that even though I am way behind the schedule. I’m just about to finish book 4 even though by this time I was supposed to be nearing the end of book 6! The funny thing is that I kind of don’t mind this “falling behind-ness,” you know? This break feels right.

I also finished a category romance that I LOVED, Shanon Kendrick’s The Greek’s Marriage Bargain (thanks Sunita for the recommendation!), a historical romance that I didn’t (Elizabeth Hoyt’s The Leopard Prince—I had such high hopes for it but it felt. . . too. . . over-the-top-ish to me), and that’s about it.

I have returned most of the library books, and put all my holds on freeze for the near future. Basically, I don’t have any reading plans for the next few weeks, and I’m quite ok with that! I LIKE this ebb and flow!

What about you guys? I’m sure you must have had/have your phases too, don’t you? What phase are you in right now? Do you have any specific plans in the offing? I’d love to know!

An Evening with Jhumpa Lahiri

My husband and I were deeply affected by Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake. We could see echoes of our own selves in the characters of the book. We understood why Ashok and Ashima acted the way they did. And we understood why Gogol reacted the way he did. It was a book that we had many discussions about and so when we found out that Lahiri was going to kick-start the New York Public Library’s Live sessions for Spring 2016 we had to be there!

Some time ago Lahiri decided that she would only write in Italian. Her new book, In Other Words is also in Italian. The session started with the host asking Lahiri if her decision to write in Italian was some sort of a mid-life crisis to which Lahiri responded with the words that an intimate relationship with a language is the best sort of mid-life crisis to have. It quickly became clear that to Lahiri language is more than just a tool. It is an instrument that she uses to define who she is. Her seven-word biography was apropos of this: “without a mother tongue, rooted by words.”

English for Lahiri seems to be the language of her past. It is the language through which she tried to understand her parents, a motif, which according to her, is what her last four books have been all about. Italian, on the other hand, afforded her a chance to break off with all known reference points—a thing that she found incredibly liberating. In her words, she is trying to graft onto Italian because she is trying to grow in a new direction. I loved her use of “graft” in this context, of mixing things up, of introducing a new element into the base of who she is.

Of all the things that she said I found her declaration that she finally feels that she can write the books that she wants the most interesting. Perhaps she had to write the books she did to reach this point. It did make me wonder though if there are other authors out there who write what they do because they feel that that is what they should write rather than writing what they want to write. I don’t know if one is necessarily better than the other but I’m always a little wary of “should”s.

It got me thinking about genre fiction and literary fiction and wondering if the latter is more populated by the should-s. That is not to say that genre fiction doesn’t have its share of should-s or that literary fiction doesn’t have writers doing what they want to do but I just found it a bit puzzling that it took Lahiri the time it did to get to this point. Then again, I guess it might be difficult for any established author (irrespective of the genre they write in) to switch to something new.

Here’s the link to the NYPL website in case you’re interested in seeing the whole thing.

Quote of the Evening: Every change necessitates a betrayal.

BBAW Day 5, Keeping the freshness alive

Today is the last day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week and fittingly things come a full circle!

Today’s prompt: One of the unfortunate side effects of reading and blogging like rockstars seems to be a tendency toward burnout. How do you keep things fresh on your blog and in your reading?

Day-Five blogger burnout17

Just a couple of days ago, Chris of calmgrove was talking about the art of reviewing. While reading his post it struck me that the reason I blog is because I like figuring out why a book works or doesn’t work for me, and writing my thoughts down helps me get there.

And then it’s fun to know if the things that worked for me worked for another reader. Or perhaps those very same things irritated them! Or maybe they picked up on something which sailed right past me.

Or conversely, to read a book that strikes a chord with someone else, and to see how I respond to it.

I guess what I’m saying is that I read and write, first and foremost, for myself. I love everything that follows as a result of it—the connections, the new books, the ideas, the new ways of looking at things—but primarily, I’m doing this for myself. So if at any point of time, for whatever reason, I start contemplating this thing that I enjoy as just another box to put a tick against, I’ll know that it’s time to take a break!

As for keeping things fresh in my reading, I’ve found that if it’s possible to, reading according to the mood I’m in, really adds to my reading experience. Which is probably why I’m in the middle of multiple books simultaneously. And is also why I love having a humongous TBR—it’s easy to go back and pick up something that sounds about right for the moment. And why it can take me such a WHILE to finish any one book!

How about you? Do you feel the pressure to keep a steady stream of words flowing in and out of your bloggy-verse?

BBAW Day 4, Community Connection

Today’s #BBAW prompt is all about community connection: How do you stay connected to the community? Examples: social media, regular commenting, participation in blog events, etc. Tell us your faves!

CommunityConnection

I’m guessing only saying that I’m following your blog doesn’t really cut it, does it?

The thing is I’m not one for commenting unless I feel like I have something to say, and commenting is my primary way of staying connected to the community.

I feel like I should explain . . . Unless I think I can add to the conversation I think twice about commenting, and if I simply like what you’re saying without really having any thoughts about it, I will most likely “Like” the piece. . . Though I guess I could make more of an effort to find something to say. Does anyone else feel the same way?

I’ve just started being a wee bit active on Twitter though (say hi to me!) and I CAN see Twitter as a platform for quick exchanges of any and all sorts.

As for events, this is the first time that I’m participating in one and it has been a lot of fun. I’ve found books and blogs that are new to me and that I’m really looking forward to getting to know more of!

I’ve eyed Readalongs only from a distance but the whole reading together and discussing things as you go along sounds immensely appealing to me! Would anyone be interested in doing one for Middlemarch? I’ve read only about 25 pages so far and I can’t help thinking that it would be a very good candidate for reading along with a group of other bookish people! If anyone’s interested, let me know (comment here, or say hi on twitter or drop a mail at booksnooksncrannies at gmail dot com)—I’m willing to figure out the logistics et all!

I guess I’m nowhere near as active as a lot of other awesome bloggers that I know are.

Part of it is just because of who I am, and the way I re-charge and derive sustenance (I was so glad to see Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking pop up on a few lists the very first day of #BBAW—that book was one of the things that helped me in being ok with the way I am).

But part of it is also because of the fact that I have been a pretty erratic blogger for the longest time and have felt a bit ashamed in being really “out there”—it feels kind of one-sided, like I have so much fun when I visit your home but when you show up at mine, I’m always AWOL.

I’m hoping to change that as the year progresses so you should hear some more from me, I hope! In the meanwhile, if anything I’ve ever said has spoken to you in anyway, THANK YOU!

Introduce Yourself! BBAW Day 1

When two of my favorite book bloggers on the internetz co-host an event, I HAVE to be a part of it!

Day-OneIntroduce-yourself

So here’s what you’re supposed to do on Day 1: Introduce yourself by telling us about five books that represent you as a person or your interests/lifestyle.

Let’s start with the newest one in this list—The Wee Free Men which I got around to reading after Ana’s heartfelt review of The Shepherd’s Crown, the last one in the Tiffany Aching series (The Wee Free Men is the first).

Why am I choosing this book? Because in Pratchett, and in Pratchett’s portrayal of Tiffany Aching, I have found a kindred spirit. Like I said in my review of The Wee Free Men: The Wee Free Men struck a deep and resonant chord with me. Its nine-year old protagonist reminded me of the girl I used to be though Tiffany Aching is WAAAYYYYYYY MORE smarter, and MUCH more put together than I ever was at her age! Even more, I felt this sense of familiarity that is hard to put words to. It was as if the nebulous mist that I carry around in my head had suddenly coalesced into words, and shapes, and forms! In Pratchett, I feel like I have found a kindred spirit.

the wee free men terry pratchettAlso, BOOKS! AREN’T THEY GIRNORMOUSLY AWESOME?!! I’m not a nine-year-old. Nor do I live on the chalks. Or have an army of tiny, blue tattooed fairies all around me. BUT oh, there is this sense of RECOGNITION, this feeling of the very depths of my soul being reflected in what Terry Pratchett writes that takes my breath away. (Did you notice how I carefully refrained from mentioning how I’m NOT a witch like Tiffany Aching is?)

Second is one of my favorite books of poetry by my favorite translator-poets of all time, Daniel Ladinsky: Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West. Ladinsky is famous for his translations, or non-translations according to many, of one of the greatest Sufi poets of all times, Hafiz. I’ve been reading his work for more than ten years now, and if Pratchett’s writings is my soul’s translation in prose, then Hafiz and Ladinsky are probably its poetic version. Here’s my favoritest of all Hafiz-Ladinsky collaborations:

Even
after
all this time
the sun never says to the earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
what happens
with a love like that—

it lights up the whole
world.

The next one has to be Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. See, I’m the kind of person who thinks that life lies in the details of our day to day existence. I love celebrating the “big events” that mark our lives and ratcheting up words in their favor but what I love even more is finding the poetry in the everyday stuff of our lives. It just seems a tad stupid to me to leave happy feelings for only the “occasions.” The occasions matter of course but what about the morning sunlight, and the afternoon teas, and the quiet conversations and the deep breaths and that sort of stuff? Emily St. John Mandel agrees (Or so I think anyway!). And that is why I’m choosing Station Eleven as the third book that I think says something about me.

love poems from god daniel ladinskyFourth is The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I’m choosing this one because the tension that it depicts between Gogol and his parents struck very close to home for me. It’s not that Gogol doesn’t love his parents, nor that his parents don’t love Gogol, just that. . . there’s a weight of expectations, a lot of it stemming from the cultural milieu that is India, that puts them at cross-purposes with one another. Lahiri really captured the experience of generations of Indian parents and children in her book.

Fifth is not a book, but a poet, Mary Oliver. . . What do I say about her that is coherent and weaves together all my love for not only the images she paints but also the words that she paints them with? To say that she writes about nature would be to paint an incomplete picture. She talks about moments in time and often those moments feature oaks, and fishes, and herons, and “wild geese, high in the clean blue air.” But that’s not it. It’s what she does with those snapshots, mixing them up with her own essential self, that makes her poetry what it is. My current favorite from her is not even about nature. It’s just a four-liner that I often chant to myself:

Things take the time they take,
Don’t worry.
How many roads did Saint Augustine follow
Before he became Saint Augustine?

I also want to mention Walt Whitman though it’s only recently that I have started reading Leaves of Grass. I wish I could end every sentence that I write in relation to him with an exclamation point—such is Whitman’s exuberance and vigor. His vision and the all-encompassing largeness of it, and the generosity with which he proclaims from his poetic pulpit amaze and enthrall me each time that I dip in and out of his words.

So yes, that’s it from me. I would love to know what five books you think speak to who you are. And of course if you’re participating in BBAW, do leave a link to your own post!

Off Adventuring! Be back in a While!

The Merriest of Christmas/End-Of-Year/Whatever it is that you celebrate, dear reader!

Go grab the festive spirit in fistfuls and do something that makes you feel joyful! Maybe grab the gooiest chocolate chip cookie to go with that cup of hot chocolate? Or go for an evening walk with yourself? Or make yourself that cup of tea you’ve been meaning to? Or lie in the bed and read that book? Or cook up a storm with your family? Or whatever’s YOUR definition of joyful!

I’m off to be around family and friends for the next few weeks and will most likely resume posting sometime in late January—but you never know! Maybe I’ll be able to sneak in a quick post or two in between!

I’ll end with my three favoritest books of this year:

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel: Thoughtful, thought-provoking, and all round lovely. If sci-fi isn’t your thing, don’t let that moniker put you off. It’s just a really wonderful piece of literature.

Frederica, Georgette Heyer: Along with The Unknown Ajax, this has become my favorite of all the Heyers that I’ve read. It hits all the right spots in the best way possible. Plus, its plot moppets are not only the moppiest I’ve ever read, but also actually move the plot forward! This, along with The Unknown Ajax, is probably the one book I’d give to a non-romance reader who wanted to see what the fuss was all about!

The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett: This just rocked my world and I am so glad that I found it. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of Tiffany’s adventures!

That’s it from me this year! Have a wonderful new year, everyone!

Books! Ba-ba-loo-ba-la, BOOKS!

In case you guys were wondering about my disappearing act—it’s been a busy past month at our household, what with cousins coming over from half-way across the world from Singapore, and then our own two week trip to London which was VERY productive because. . .

I GOT ME SOME BOOKS!

Behold all the books I brought back with me:

Persephone Books

Because, of course, I had to visit Persephone Books.

thumb_IMG_0320_1024

And also the venerable Hatchard’s!

Hatchard's

Books

I bought the one at the top of this pile as a joke for husband. It’s called Harris’s List Of Covent Garden Ladies, and is ahem, as you can imagine, a list of the covent garden ladies in whose company the gents could find some, ahem, pleasure. Here’s my current favorite lady:

Miss Godf-y, No. 22, Upper Newman-street

If parts can conquer great and small,
Sure—and Godf-y—must needs do all.

This lady is a kind of boatswain in her way, and when she speaks, every word is uttered with a thundering and vociferous tone. She is a fine lively little girl, about 22, very fond of dancing, has dark eyes, and hair, well shaped, and an exceeding good bed-fellow, will take brandy with any one, or drink and swear, and though but little, will fight a good battle. We apprehend this lady would be an extraordinary companion for an officer in the army, as she might save him the trouble of giving the word of command.

She resides in the first floor.

I know, I know. I should be horrified. And outraged. But right now, I’m only capable of gurgles of laughter!

I was also very pleased to find an omnibus of R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days, a collection of stories set in the small village of Malgudi, some of which I remember reading and enjoying hugely as a kid!

And alas, my library does not carry The Ruby In The Smoke, so I knew I was going to buy that at some point.

Dog Ears is a children’s book that I searched for high and low in the U.S. but couldn’t find! The wonderful nobodyjones characterized it as Blytonian so of course I had to try it out! Also, can I just say how RELIEVED I was to find Enid Blytons stacked up and down all over London’s bookstores? Their absolute absence in the U.S. had me start questioning if they were a figment of my imagination!

Then there’s Elizabeth Goudge whom I remembered being a children’s author though I have no recollection which book of hers I read. This one though, The Dean’s Watch, seems like a grown-up book with an interesting enough story. Oh, and it was gifted to someone in 1960!

Reader, I have discovered the pleasure of second-hand bookstores! And London simply BRIMS with them. The whole of Charing Cross Street is lined with one second hand bookshop after the next. It has made me want to seek out some here in my own city too!

Rose Macaulay, and Angela Thirkell, I recall wanting to try out, but never succeeding in finding any of their work.

Homestead is the only one amongst this lot that I have absolutely no idea about except that it has a blurb, and a setting (Switzerland) that sounded intriguing.

Middlemarch

And then there’s Middlemarch. I have been meaning to get around to reading it and I just could not resist this gorgeous edition.

Have you guys read any of these books? I’d love to know what you thought!