Women’s Day: Memorable Women in Fiction

It being Women’s Day (Happy Women’s Day!), I was thinking about the most memorable female characters in fiction. I don’t mean just the strong-women stereotypes, but the loving wives, the doting mothers, passionate lovers and great friends, who just happen to be women, not to mention pretty freaking awesome. I don’t think there needs to be a day to celebrate them, but since it’s already happening, I made another list – sort of.
When it comes to strong women who are crucial to the plot, the first character I thought of was Mina Murray-Harker from Dracula by Bram Stoker. I’m talking about book Mina, who (*spoiler!*) does not stay under the curse. She’s intelligent, modern, brave and determined in the face of one of the most seductive dangers!
The next female character to come to my mind was not intended to be good. Carrie White from Carrie by Stephen King went from being alone and misunderstood to evil through the course of the story. She was hated and feared; and by caving in to everything she faced, giving up and letting the bullies turn her into a monster, she was not the bravest or the strongest. She was certainly memorable, though. The fact is, anyone who has had trouble in high school (and who hasn’t?) can relate to Carrie’s twisted ideas of revenge. And while that’s not okay, of course; she does remain an impeccably written character, that lonely girl you thank God you’re not; someone you neither love nor despise, only pity.
My favourite Discworld woman is Esmerelda, Granny Weatherwax, of course. The most powerful witch you’ve ever met, who doesn’t like to show off. Minimalistic, confident and unselfish, she’s an ideal witch and a great, though not very womanly in the popular sense, character. Another favourite is Susan Sto-Helit from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. She is Death’s granddaughter. Need I say more?
Another favourite, who’d make it to every memorable literary women list, is Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It is said Jane Austen has created many impressionable female characters. I wouldn’t know, seeing as Pride and Prejudice is her only book I’ve read. For me, what makes Elizabeth Bennet a special character is her journey – she starts out as a stereotype and ends up as a person. Also: she’s witty.
A strong female character I love is Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. Her perseverance is her obvious strength, but I do admire her whole personality, loner tendencies included; thought not in Hannibal, where (*spoiler!*) she does some quite creepy and twisted things herself. 
The obvious picks from the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling would be Hermione Granger or Luna Lovegood. Perhaps even Molly Weasley. For me, the stand-out female character in Harry Potter has always been Lily Evans-Potter. If you think about it, the whole series revolves around her – (again, *spoiler!*) the boy who lived wouldn’t have lived had it not been for his mother, not to mention, Snape’s redemption in its entirety is about his undying love for Lily. And she’s smart, interesting, funny, she sees the good in people, but she’s not the sort of person who’d let herself be pushed around, either.
The last literary character I can think of is Eliza Doolittle from Pygmalion by G. B. Shaw. The feisty Cockney flower girl also probably makes it to every such list. 
Some younger bookish women I love are Tiffany Aching from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, Matilda from Matilda by Roald Dahl, Sam from American Gods by Neil Gaiman and Abra Stone from Doctor Sleep by Stephen King.
Wading through my book shelves, I could find another couple of characters, but since the title is ‘memorable’, that would beat the purpose! 
I have more memorable TV women than I can list; with a second-place tie between Lorelai Gilmore from Gilmore Girls, Donna Noble from Doctor Who and Willow Rosenberg from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And the first place will obviously be taken by Violet Crawley, the dowager countess, from Downton Abbey; because, well, it’s Maggie Smith. 
Who makes it to your list of the most memorable fictional women?

A Father’s Day Review of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“…but do one thing for me if you will: you just hold
your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you,
don’t let ‘em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change…”

I read To Kill a Mockingbird as part of the Back to Classics Challenge, but I didn’t write a review. A review doesn’t always have to be a summary + my thoughts affair. That is why, I’ve been saving my thoughts about To Kill A Mockingbird (by Nellie Harper Lee) for this day. It may not be my favourite book, but it is not a classic for no reason. This book is not just any bildungsroman, it’s a book of how two little kids, who initially think of their father as an old, gray, dull man; learn to see the world through his eyes. So, here’s a Father’s Day post about Atticus Finch, probably the best father figure in literature.

“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get
along a lot better with all kinds of folks. 
You never really understand a person until you
consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk
around in it.”
Atticus Finch, the father of Jem and Scout (from whose point of view, we learn the story) is a lawyer and a resident of the (fictional) town of Maycomb, Alabama. He is smart and just (a rare quality for a lawyer) and takes insults rather than hitting back. In a book that contains the most well-shaped, seemingly real characters ever, Atticus Finch stands out as a hero. A good father is not someone who deals with all the problems in his life, while maintaining a seemingly happy and warm bubble of ignorance around his children. I love the way Finch disciplines his children; lets them think for themselves, includes them  in everything, let’s them know things that are considered widely to be “wrong for kids” and becomes a hero in their minds as well. He keeps them safe, while making sure that they know, what they’re being kept safe from, and also making sure that they don’t need to be kept safe. He is the kind of father, who respects his children, and I loved him for that.
One of my favourite moments in the book is when Jem proudly announces, “Atticus is a gentleman, just like me!”

Happy Father’s Day!

Holiday Reads

I haven’t been blogging much lately (for one reason or another) and I do sincerely miss it so I decided to make some time in my seemingly insanely busy life to wish you guys a happy Christmas! I had planned a whole set of twelve reads for the “twelve nights of Christmas”, but I am neither supposed to know nor do I happen to know when these nights start or end. So I just read a lot of other books along with a few Christmas-ey reads this month.

One of the books I read and loved was The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore. After reading the likes of Heinrich Boell and Max Frisch in November, this laid-back Christmas story was more than welcome – for getting out of the serious-literature-mode and into the holiday spirit! While looking for some good Christmas reads, among the usual Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, Tolstoy’s Papa Panov’s Special Christmas, in a list titled Christmas Horror I spotted that little cartoon angel, who made me want to read the book in the first place – and also wonder whether the book was in the right list! I loved the book – so much, in fact, that I spend the next day reading two more just-as-funny books by Moore!
It is Christmas time in the fictional town of Pine Cove. An angel (a very silly one) is supposed to grant a lucky boy one wish. The little boy has seen Santa die (well, someone dressed up as Santa, but the boy doesn’t know that, does he?) The wish goes awry, and instead of making Santa alive again, the angel manages to raise a graveyard full of people from the dead – making it a very zombie Christmas!

Only last Wednesday I read a short story called The Festival by H. P. Lovecraft, that I forgot to post about. A man returns home for Christmas, to the little village of Kingsport to meet his folks. Instead he is greeted by strangely silent streets and crazy people. This story is one of the first short stories of Lovecraft’s Cthulu Mythos. The strange rites performed in the caves and the old battered and scary grimoire of Necronomicon do make me want to read so much more of Lovecraftian horror – which I hear it’s called!
Last night, I re-read my most favourite (holiday) book – Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather – ’twas (after all) the night before Hogswatch…

Happy Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week started yesterday; the 24th of September, and goes on, obviously, till October 1. (So, I do realize, this post is a day late.) For this celebration, I have decided to read just two books (e-book format) that have been banned here in India, so as not to add too big a load to my already busy schedule and my already toppling to-be-read pile.

Banned Books Week is a time to celebrate the freedom to read, and that is certainly a freedom I wouldn’t give up easy. I’m not fighting for the freedom of expression here. When it comes to movies that show violence or anti-feminism or anti-religious views, or those that offend specific groups of people, the censorship, though not correct theoretically, seems like something I can live with. In particular instances of, say, animals abused for art, I am not that generous. But books – why do you need to ban books? When you take your kid to a museum, you have no choice but to let him watch that poor dog tied up on display! When you put on the television, you cannot help watching that scene where the man hits the woman. But you have the choice to not read a book. I mean, really, I can’t see how the Catcher in the Rye can hurt anyone? Bore them to death, may be, but hurt? I don’t think so.

There can be like a notice, at the back of the book, you know after the blurb – P.S: May hurt the sentiments of/bother ‘some people‘. Read at your own risk.” Or a parental advisory, say – “Warning! Explicit content, don’t read unless first read/reviewed by a parent.”

Now, I am not the biggest fan of Indian literature, and I haven’t decided which books to read. The first one that came to mind was Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, but let’s see. I’ll put up reviews once the week is done, of course! Happy Reading!

And then there were seven…

September has been an incredibly bookish month. I started reading the classics, that I’d planned to read in August; I am done reading more than half of the 2011 Booker prize shortlist; I participated in some fun challenges and memes; I received books to review; I read many essays, short stories, and even poems (but more on that later!)

With my birthday right on the third day of the month, I got many wonderful books, without having to spend a single penny on them. And they just kept coming. Until today – and now there are seven. A huge thanks to all the generous gift-givers! Now I own seven books that I am desperate to read. I will have to wait till October to finally get to read all od them, though, considering that I’m supposed to study for my exams as we speak (not that we are speaking right now; but I’d rather write it and explain this than not write it at all.) These are seven of the most awesome gifts I have received in my nineteen years of existence.

One might say I am exaggerating the awesomeness. In which case, I would suggest one to look carefully at the photograph. Yes, that’s right; it says The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Followed by the red and green books, that are Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages. Which would mean I am actually understating the awesomeness, for I fear I might start acting like one of those crazy, squeaky fan-girls if I don’t. Enjoying J. K. Rowling all over again; now that’s something I’m definitely looking forward to. October is surely going to be a hell of a month!

Happy Pet Remembrance Day!

The second Sunday of September happens to be National Pet Remembrance Day. I am not entirely sure what “nation” the name refers to. Even so, do you really need a reason to remember your awesome pets? If someone says it is Pet Remembrance Day, well, here I am all ready to celebrate it.

I love pets since as far back as I can remember; and I have also had pet cats since right about the same time. Whoever decided cats are shrewd or wily or scary, clearly didn’t know what he was talking about. I adore cats. Now, I can either write a long post describing exactly why I love cats and end up sounding like Mrs. Figg. Or, I can post this:

He appeared at our doorstep one day, with no sign of a mother or sibling-kittens. Of course, we took him in, and fed him. The little kitty decided to stick around. So, we let the him sleep in this small basket in our kitchen. He loved that place. He grew up to be quite a loyal young cat. But he never grew out of sleeping there. Here, more than a year old, the big tom cat that he was, he could hardly fit in there. It didn’t bother him one bit.

Cats are kind of stupid and very adorable and lovable, which anyone who bothers to take care of one would say! Happy Pet Remembrance Day!

(Neither of the pictures of the cats – no, they’re not the same cat – was taken by me. Thanks to those who did – you know who you are – for capturing such cute moments!)

Happy “Friendship Day”!

You know, over the years, I seem to have convinced myself that I don’t make friends easily. The truth is, I just don’t think of friends as “people you only hang out and have fun with.” Those can be called ‘acquaintances’ or just that: ‘people I hang out with’. Maybe it is because I am actually lucky enough to have a few real friends who mean so much more than that! While we did have a card-making trend going on for a couple of years, with them ‘friendship day’ are just two random words. I love them no matter what day!

Anyway. I am going to continue my self-established tradition of posting lists of favourites on all the “Days”. These are some of my favourite book friendships:

1. Harry, Ron and Hermione – Harry Potter series (J. K. Rowling)
You can’t think of friendship without thinking of the three of them!

2. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn – Adventures of Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
With Huck’s practical humourlessness and Tom’s mischief and imagination; they are very different from each other, which makes their friendship uniquely comical. Plus, I love Mark Twain.

3. Liesel Meminger and Rudy Steiner – The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
This is one of the very few books that have almost made me cry. And you can’t completely say they were ‘in love’ either.

4. Aziraphale and Crowley – Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman)

An angel and a demon! As Crowley puts it, “an enemy for six thousand years now, which made him sort of a friend.”

5. Moony, Padfoot and Prongs (’cause Wormtail was.. well, a rat.) – Harry Potter series (J. K. Rowling)

Of the dozen combinations of friends in Harry Potter that I can come up with, the one that stands out from the rest (apart from the obvious) is James, Sirius and Remus! You don’t see people turning into animals for their werewolf-friends every day!

A 100 posts & yet another “Thanks”!

I was at, what I love to call “work” the other day, doodling away (along the margins of an article about Roald Dahl, which I was supposed to be reading) waiting for some real work to come along.

Unfortunately, and as I have already said before, I never did read much of Dahl. I was more of an Enid Blyton fan and progressed on to being a Harry Potter fanatic. So, if there’s one author I regret not reading before, more than Roald Dahl – it is Dianna Wynne Jones. The woman is a genius! After meeting characters like Christopher Chant and Wizard Howl Pendragon and after um.. ‘visiting’ the Moving Castle and the Parallel Worlds, Hogwarts loses a bit of its charm. I’m just saying. It’s a pity I never read her books before she passed away.

I am currently reading “Dogsbody”, written by Diana Wynne Jones in 1975. The god Sirius, the denizen of the Dog Star is punished for a murder he did not commit! He is banished to the earth, reborn as a puppy, to recover a mysterious Zoi (using which he is supposed to have attacked another “luminary”!) As Sirius struggles with his life as a dog, he also struggles with memories of a past as a luminary. Soon, this little dog sets out on an adventure, to hunt for the Zoi that will set him free!

Like all of Diana Wynne Jones’ books, this is a charming, wistful and magical tale, that keeps you involved throughout, with bits of humour here and there! I’m sure this will end up in my favourite fantasy books right alongside The Lives of Christopher Chant and Howl’s Moving Castle!!
The way I see it, I would not have read these books had I not started blogging. Or one of the much-too-discussed “Metro Reads” by Penguin India that I normally skeptically smirk at. Or YA authors like Holly Black and Suzanne Collins. Not that I particularly liked most, but hey, you can’t say you don’t like it till you try! I wouldn’t have given any fantasy author a chance over J. K. Rowling and I would have missed reading some really amazing books.
Phew! Did I mention this is my 100th post? Yay!! After spending a hundred hours thinking up a hundred different ways of making my hundredth post special – I realized that the more I think, the worse the post becomes! It’s just a number, anyway. So I wrote this – a thanks to the blogging world for giving me a new favourite author! Did I mention I LOVE blogging?

Happy Father’s Day!

I had a very busy day. But here I am, finally getting in the spirit of Father’s Day. Just like great moms, fiction is also full of awesome fatherly figures, if not fathers! Here’s a list of (some of) my Favourite Fictional Fathers:

5. Rupert Giles (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) – Buffy Summers’s Watcher and the school librarian. He may not be her real Dad but he’s everything you’d want a father to be! He’s loving and caring and always there when Buffy needs him!!

(when Giles turns into a fyarl demon but Buffy recognizes him!)
Giles: How did you know it was me?
Your eyes. You’re the only person in the world that can look that annoyed with me.

4. Marlin (Finding Nemo) – The cute little clownfish from Finding Nemo who literally crosses the world to find his son!!

Marlin: What if they don’t like me?
Coral: Marlin!
Marlin: No, really.
Coral: There’s over 400 eggs, odds are, one of them is bound to like you.

3. Danny, Jesse and Joey (Full House) – I used to love this show, and these three were pretty great dads!

Stephanie: (passing by Joey, Jesse and Danny) Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.
Jesse: (the teacher looks at them confused) What? Elizabeth Taylor’s daughter had 7 fathers.

2. Death (Discworld) – Death is awesome. Of course! (even as a dad and granddad!)

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”


1. Arthur Weasley (Harry Potter): As if it weren’t awesome enough to be the father of six awesome Weasley kids (and one Percy), he’s also like a father to Harry!! And his obsession with Muggles makes him absolutely adorable!

(when the boys drove his magically modified Ford Anglia)
Mr. Weasley: “Did you really? Did it go alright? I — I mean … that — that was very wrong, boys, very wrong indeed…”

Happy Father’s Day, people!!

Happy Birthday, Blog!

After 82 posts, 591 comments, 70 followers and 13,125 hits – today my blog turned one. All the numbers don’t really matter to me – they just shocked the hell out of me is all!

From silly jokes and making fun of everything (and everyone!), to talking about cats, doodling and writing incessantly about books – this blog has been through a LOT.

It’s been a great year – what with bugging my friends all the time about my latest blog post and wondering what to blog about next during class! “Tabula Rasa” has been with me through good and bad – mostly good! Thanks to the people who made my blog happen and my (if any) patient readers! This calls for a huge celebration!