a blank slate

a blank slate

Tag: indispire

Ten Questions You Must Stop Asking Book Lovers

(Reposting with minor edits a post from early last year, because it really fits this week’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt and because I love it.)

Excuse the generalization. The title could be misleading; I’m not talking about all book lovers here, but me. Which means it’s perfectly fine if you aren’t annoyed by these questions. But I do think some of you book bloggers and avid readers out there would agree with me on at least a few of these.

1. *Gawping at my bookshelf* But have you read all of these? These askers almost always relax with immense satisfaction when I say no.
Of course not. I have read about half of them and that is the point of owning books: I do not want to run out of reads. It is not as if I have only read three from the three hundred. Like Umberto Eco said, what is the point of stacking your shelves with only books that you have already read? (Not verbatim, naturally.)
2. Which is your all-time favourite book?
I don’t really hate this question so much as find it difficult to answer. Um, my favourite horror is The Shining by Stephen King, my favourite romance is Possession by A. S. Byatt. If you catch me on a Wednesday, my favourite fantasy would be Discworld by Terry Pratchett, but Sundays generally see me raving about Harry Potter. So yeah, there is no single all time favourite book.
3. Why do you read?
Okay, tell me this: why do you breathe? Can you help it? Because you would die if you didn’t? Right. That pretty much applies here too.
4. What is the point of fiction? / What do you gain from reading novels? / How can reading about imaginary things be useful?
These questions depress, infuriate and amuse me all at the same time. I could give you a hundred instances of fiction being pointy(?) and useful. But the fact is, you can come up with a hundred reasons to eat pizza too or start wearing hats, very logical reasons, but I will do either only if I want to – and no one is making you read fiction unless you want to. All I ask is, do not expect justifications or explanations from those of us who do and stop being so damn pompous about reading useful knowledge-providing non-fiction only.
5. How do you read so fast? Do you skip pages? 
Hey. How dare you accuse me of that. No, I don’t skip pages. And I don’t speed read either, so don’t you go telling me how quality is more important than quantity. Yes, I have a lot of free time on my hands, and when I don’t, I make time. No one gets to make me feel guilty about missing a few socializing sessions and other dull chores to finish a book. And after years spent reading, you don’t have to aim to read fast – it just happens.
6. No, but seriously, how could you have finished … in two days?
Fine. I skip pages. Whole chapters, when I am bored. Then I read the SparkNotes summary and scan the Goodreads reviews, rephrase them, throw in a couple of Priya-isms and voila! Review done. Pretending to love reading, skimming through books, all so I can write a book blog is super-rewarding. There. Happy?
7. (so this is more reviewer-centric rather than book-lover related) Are you scared of writing critical reviews? Why are all your reviews so safe and “politically correct”?
No, I just like to make the most of what I read. I am a book lover not a critic. And in all fairness, there is no such thing as a good or bad book, only a certain type of reader. When I don’t like a book, I rarely spend precious time ranting about it, never without giving reasons. If I am required to write a review, instead of “Ugh, what a horribly mushy book”, I would rather say, “I don’t like it, but fans of heart wrenching sagas might.” Sarcasm may slip in, but come on, nobody is perfect… at least I try.
8. What do you prefer: ebooks or physical books?
Am I the only one who finds this particular topic over-discussed?  Sure, I like the smell of a physical book and love libraries, but I also like carrying along a teenie device full of books that would have otherwise weighed a couple of kilos. I mean, I like reading. The stories matter. If Rowling publishes her next book only on like eggshells, that is where I’ll read it. 
9. You read so much. Is that why you have glasses? / why you are tired all the time (because of no activity, apparently) / why you never call? / why you are such an introvert? / why you *insert unrelated “issue”*?
No, at least… I don’t think so. No, I am pretty sure that is not the reason. Maybe I should not read so much, what do you thi…? Wait a minute, you cannot scare me into reading fewer books. What do you know about getting glasses or being an introvert, anyway!? The last I checked, you aren’t exactly a doctor. Reading is not a problem, thank you.
10. Do you even have any other hobbies, besides reading?
Erm… Yes?

Written for IndiSpire, a nice little initiative by IndiBlogger, which I can rarely take part in because of the very specific theme of this blog. 

Five Places Books Make Me Want to Visit

I find myself making too many lists on this blog lately – the blame lies partly on Top Ten Tuesday, I’m participating after a whole year and very enthusiastic about it – and partly on the fact that having been annoyingly busy with exams, I hardly find time to read. Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is the ten bookish things I want to buy – but honestly, while I love the idea of some, I’m always reluctant to spend on trinkets what I could spend on books.
My topic today is from Indiblogger’s Indispire initiative. The idea is pretty straightforward: five places I want to visit because I read about them in books. I don’t mean fictional places here, though, no Platform 9 3/4 or Hogsmeade in this list. Here are five real places I want to visit because I read about them in fiction. Hopefully, when I reach a point where I finance my own trips, I will get around to this. (Till then all the places in fiction I get to visit would be ones right here in India.)
Of course, these five mean hardly the end of my list, but I’ve only included those books which have extensive descriptions of locations, particularly those I could find!

1.

Transylvania – Romania – Carpathian Mountains – Do I even have to say it? 
– from Dracula by Bram Stoker

(picture taken from Wikipedia) The picture is the view from Bran Castle, which is one of the castles associated with Dracula’s castle.

Beyond the green swelling hills of the Mittel Land rose
mighty slopes of forest up to the lofty steeps of the Carpathians themselves.
Right and left of us they towered, with the afternoon sun falling full upon
them and bringing out all the glorious colours of this beautiful range, deep
blue and purple in the shadows of the peaks, green and brown where grass and
rock mingled, and an endless perspective of jagged rock and pointed crags, till
these were themselves lost in the distance, where the snowy peaks rose grandly.
Here and there seemed mighty rifts in the mountains, through which, as the sun
began to sink, we saw now and again the white gleam of falling water. One of my
companions touched my arm as we swept round the base of a hill and opened up
the lofty, snow-covered peak of a mountain, which seemed, as we wound on our
serpentine way, to be right before us:-

“Look! Isten szek!”- “God’s seat!”- and
he crossed himself reverently.

2.

Spain – Roncesvalles – or the road leading up to it! 

– from The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

These descriptions of Burgete made me swoon more than those of Pamplona. Pictured is the house where Hemingway stayed according to Wikipedia.
(picture taken from Wikipedia.) 
The bus climbed steadily up the road. The country was barren
and rocks stuck up through the clay. There was no grass beside the road.
Looking back we could see the country spread out below. Far back the fields
were squares of green and brown on the hillsides. Making the horizon were the
brown mountains. They were strangely shaped. As we climbed higher the horizon
kept changing. As the bus ground slowly up the road we could see other
mountains coming up in the south. Then the road came over the crest, flattened
out, and went into a forest. It was a forest of cork oaks, and the sun came
through the trees in patches, and there were cattle grazing back in the trees.
We went through the forest and the road came out and turned along a rise of
land, and out ahead of us was a rolling green plain, with dark mountains beyond
it. These were not like the brown, heat-baked mountains we had left behind.
These were wooded and there were clouds coming down from them. The green plain
stretched off. It was cut by fences and the white of the road showed through
the trunks of a double line of trees that crossed the plain toward the north.
As we came to the edge of the rise we saw the red roofs and white houses of
Burguete ahead strung out on the plain, and away off on the shoulder of the
first dark mountain was the gray metal-sheathed roof of the monastery of
Roncesvalles.

3.

Germany – The Rhein – The Loreley Rock – from the poem Die Lorelei by Heinrich Heine which is the first German poem I remember reading some four years ago. It’s a haunting poem relating a legend of the siren. This is a Mark Twain translation.
(picture taken from Wikipedia)


I cannot divine
what it meaneth;


This haunting nameless pain.
A tale of the bygone ages,
Keeps brooding through my brain.
The faint air cools
in the gloaming;

And peaceful flows the Rhine.
The thirsty summits are drinking;
The sunset’s flooding wine.

The loveliest maiden is sitting;
High-throned in yon blue air.
Her golden jewels are shining;
She combs her golden hair,

She combs with a comb that is golden,

And sings a weird refrain;
That steeps in a deadly enchantment
The listener’s ravished brain.
The doomed in his
drifting shallop,
Is tranced with the sad sweet tone.
He sees not the yawing breakers,
He sees but the maid alone.
The pitiless
billwos engulf him;
So perish sailor
and bark,
And this, with her
baleful singing,
Is the Loreley’s
gruesome work.



4.

Ushuaia – Tierra del Fuego – Argentina  – the Beagle Channel – from This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson

Granted, the book is pre-colonization-old, which is the point – the channel was named after HMS Beagle, which carried Captain Robert FitzRoy and Darwin. And also, it is my favourite book in the world. The location is also famous for Verne’s The Lighthouse at the end of the World, but the channel will always mean more to me.
(picture from Wikipedia)



The sun nudged aside the persistent grey clouds in
celebration. There, in a sheltered cove, nestled an acre or so of rich, sloping
pastureland, well watered by brooks and protected on three sides by low, wooded
hills. The pretty little natural harbour was studded with islets, the water
smooth and glassy, with low branches overhanging a rocky beach. It was so
beautiful, so unexpected amid the wilds of Tierra del Fuego, that it possessed
an almost dreamlike quality. It was the perfect place to build a mission.


5.

The Uffington White Horse – Oxfordshire – England – from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett 

For me, this will always be Tiffany Aching’s curious horse pendant. The young witch is from The Chalk, an area of rolling chalk downland near Lancre in Discworld and this is the most famous land mark. I love what Granny Aching says about the horse.
(picture from Wikipedia)
“’Taint what a horse looks like, it’s what a horse be.”
________________________________________________________________________

Is that it!? I only get to pick five? I can think of so many others. What about you? Any place you want to see from a book you love? Any place you already have been to? Content, though I am, as an armchair traveller, visiting the world through words, I’d love the words to make me go places, too.