Do you re-read books?

The seven Harry Potter books are probably the books that I have re-read the most over the years (the third and the fifth more than the others.) So much in fact, that only the other day I realized that my copy of The Prisoner of Azkaban is so battered that not a single page is now attached to the spine. You would say I don’t handle books with care, but I usually do. It’s just that I have read this more times than I can count, taken it more places than I can imagine (also, I am fairly certain it was not that great an edition anyway.)

It’s obvious that everyone reads books, their favourites most likely, more than once. But what I’ve always been curious about, is how people re-read. My favourite chapter from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, Prongs – I can quote the part from the Goblet of Fire where Voldemort returns (The thin man stepped out of the cauldron…) – and I can describe the Fountain of Magical Brethren in excruciating detail along with all the floors of St. Mungo’s Hospital. You get my point now… I re-read parts that I liked the first time I read them. Even if I sit and try to read the entire book again, cover to cover, I end up skimming over to the good parts. Also, I have noticed that re-reading doesn’t work, for me, with mysteries, thrillers and horror fiction. I have read a couple of Stephen King books more than once, but the effect of the books is almost entirely diluted during the second or third read.

I have also noticed that after re-reading a book (especially a review copy, or any book I’ve reviewed) I tend to change my opinion of it. It may be because I’m older or have read more books of that genre or just think differently now. I wonder if it’s okay to change the earlier review later, because I keep wanting to do that… Does this ever happen to you?

And which books do you re-read? Are there any books that you’ve read so many times that you could quote entire pages? Do you re-read cover to cover or only certain parts? When it comes to re-reading, which do you prefer: eBooks or paperbacks?

So many books, so little time

“Sitting in any library, surrounded by high shelves of books,
I sense the profoundly rich history of scholarship as something real, and it’s
both humbling and inspiring. This manifestation of reality is true of other
artifacts as well. We can read about the Holocaust or where Emily Dickinson
wrote her “letter to the world” or where Jim Morrison is buried. We can view
online photos of all these places. Still, each year, thousands of people visit Auschwitz,
The Homestead, and Père Lachaise. I suppose our desire to be near books rises
from a similar impulse; they root us in something larger than ourselves,
something real. For this reason, I am sure that hardbound books will survive,
even long after e-books have become popular.”

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (Allison Hoover Bartlett) 
I wanted to write a post about all these different wonderful libraries that I have joined recently; and the fact that I am finally thoroughly enjoying the library experience; when I remembered this quote. I couldn’t have said it better. For once now, there is actually a delightful stack of books piled up on my shelf; the kind of old, rich smelling books, that make reading ebooks seem excruciatingly boring; and I can’t quite find the time to read. You know, life always interrupts at the worst possible moments. I do hope you’re having a more bookish time than I… Happy Reading!

Time to change.

We spend our entire lives concerned only about those things near and dear to us. Not everyone can become a social worker, and not everyone should. I don’t want to preach social values, I’m hardly the kind of person who has the right to do that. There are so many aspects of our society that we know need to be changed or refined; be it education, health, religion. We all know it, but we do nothing about it; simply because it doesn’t affect us. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, either.

I hardly gave animal rights a thought, till someone called a dog-catcher to capture the very lovable strays in our area. Though I never really fancied our education system, I didn’t feel like changing it, until I suffered from the mental pressure it put on me. I never thought about changing the despicable traffic in our country, till I lost my father to a car accident.

A while after my father’s accident, I was with my mother at a bank, where she had to take care of some documents. When she checked the box that said “widow” on a form that she was filling out, I couldn’t stop the sudden tears that came rushing to my eyes. With the word ‘widow’ come to mind old history lessons about reform by Jotiba Phule and what’s-his-name and phrases like ‘abolition of sati’ pop up in my memory. I would never have imagined the word to be so real, so relevant in my life. The first time my mother asked a woman, who was visiting, to apply the haldi-kunku on her forehead herself (because a widow is supposedly not allowed to do that) I realized much of what we label ‘discrimination’ is self inflicted. Thinking back to those days, when my mother instinctively felt ‘odd’ to go to a function dressed in bright, fancy clothes, I realized that if there’s one thing we need to change in this society, it’s the way we think.

Not everyone, as I said, can sacrifice their personal interests and become a social worker. It is not fair to expect that from each and everyone. But you can change society even by changing your perspectives on the smallest of things. The next time you tease a fat girl or call someone ‘gay’; stop and think about it, their personal life is none of your business. Religion is not a duty; it’s a choice – you can pray to God as much as you want, but you shouldn’t judge me for choosing not to do it. The best way to change the education system, is to stop studying only for the exams, stop mugging up “questions and answers” and focus on understanding the concepts – you have all the necessary resources and more; books, television, internet. What people might say, shouldn’t stop you from doing what you want. Walking into a temple at that time of the month should seem no different from sneezing in a temple. Becoming a widow shouldn’t stop you from wearing a mangalsutra; it’s your mangalsutra and it’s your goddamn neck.

People are always going to be there waiting; crouched, hungry wolves ready to pounce on you, and seize away your rights. It’s up to you to stop them. I’m not saying this is going to stop all the child marriages and sati practices still prevalent in the remote parts of the country. What I am saying is, it will still certainly make a difference. The change doesn’t have to colossal, no one is asking you to become the next Mother Teresa. What I am saying is, every time someone smiles and tells my mother “Are you kidding? You know that stuff doesn’t matter to us, you’re the one who should apply the haldi-kunku.”; it makes a difference.

(The Time To Change contest on Indiblogger made me publish a non-book-related post on this bookish blog.)

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett

The title of the novel The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett made me want to read it. When I started reading the novel, I hadn’t read any reviews or synopses and had no idea what to expect.

It is the story of a notorious book thief and a clever rare-book dealer who tracks him down. It provides a glimpse into the quite magical world of rare book collectors.

There is not much to say about the writing style. I found it a bit pompous, too literary; but it’s one of the things you learn to overlook when only the plot/ideas get you so involved in the book.
The author’s opinion about the fact that many collectors don’t actually read the books they collect was first surprising, then convincing. It is the love for the physical beauty of books that drives people to collect them. The yellowed pages, the delicate spine and that old smell, I’d be lying if I said never I loved books for all of that.
“Much of the fondness avid readers, and certainly collectors, have for their books is related to the books’ physical bodies. As much as they are vessels for stories (and poetry, reference information, etc.), books are historical artifacts and repositories for memories—we like to recall who gave books to us, where we were when we read them, how old we were, and so on.”
Don’t you completely agree? There are so many books that I do judge by their covers. So many books I don’t like but can’t manage to give away, because they have that special meaning, beauty attached to them. I have fond memories to associate with every book I owned as a kid; serious discussions along with bookish games and crazy fan-girl obsessions.
I still remember reading the first few pages of The Diary of a Young Girl in my school library. It was the first hardcover novel I read, and that edition carried pictures of the girl and her family and a map of the place she lived in; along with a few copies of the original diary entries scribbled in her own handwriting. The fact that I didn’t like the book as much as I thought, doesn’t remove the memory. The excitement it caused me to think that the book was actually someone’s life, gave me sort of a new perspective on reading. Like the author says, even physical artifacts (like books or paintings) carry memory and meaning.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves reading or loves to hold a book in their hands or loves, much like the author, to spend time in libraries, surrounded by books. It is one of the best books about books.
“Sitting in any library, surrounded by high shelves of books, I sense the profoundly rich history of scholarship as something real, and it’s both humbling and inspiring. This manifestation of reality is true of other artifacts as well. We can read about the Holocaust or where Emily Dickinson wrote her “letter to the world” or where Jim Morrison is buried. We can view online photos of all these places. Still, each year, thousands of people visit Auschwitz, The Homestead, and Père Lachaise. I suppose our desire to be near books rises from a similar impulse; they root us in something larger than ourselves, something real.”

Too highfalutin for my palate!

“One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones. This is like dressing up a household pet in evening clothes. The pet is embarrassed and the person who committed this act of premeditated cuteness should be even more embarrassed.”

– Stephen King (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft)

I couldn’t agree more. Unless it is absolutely essential for you to write a word that most people would need a dictionary to understand, you’re only dressing up your language. And by absolutely necessary, I mean, when there is no other word in the English language that conveys exactly what you’re trying to convey.

If you’re one of those people, who insert big words in their writing and convince themselves that those few words show what a wonderful writing style they have, allow me to tell you it that doesn’t work that way. The only thing it does show, is how incredibly ordinary the rest of the writing is!

Don’t use words like ‘perspicuity’ where a simple ‘clarity’ would suffice, and I won’t call your language ‘magniloquent’ when I can just call it ‘pretentious’.

Does a cow really say “Moo”?

Last night I found out that when German cats purr, they are actually “schnurr”-ing. That got me wondering what animals from the rest of the world say!

I can now say “woof woof” in ten languages. If I were in Japan (and if I were a dog), I’d say “wang wang”. Actually, come to think about it, I’d rather not. Let’s just see what the dogs say. In Spain and Greece, they say “guau guau” – it’s rather fascinating to imagine a dog pronounce a “g”. In India, dogs say “bhoo bhoo”, which sounds kind of like those American dogs that go “bow wow”. Korean dogs, apparently say “mung mung”.
When I was a kid, I always wondered why on earth an English-speaking rooster says “Cockadoodledoo”! That too, when our Indian roosters get away with saying an easy: “kukoochukoo”. It sounds so much more like a bird, anyway. The German rooster says “kikireki”, and the French apparently says “cocorico”. Either way, it is highly unlikely for a rooster to be able to pronounce “doodle”.
Anyway. I have to go out. Bye! Or… in the words of an Australian bird (that only has us to thank for its crazy name), “Currawong”!

A Creative Bit

After getting what can only be described as one incredibly awesomely creative gift yesterday – well, two – I went into a bit of a creative mode myself!

As a kid, I used to absolutely love making bookmarks, specially for my father. Well, these are for me. A few days ago, I came across this post on homemade bookmarks. They are so wonderful!!

Which is why, when I was cleaning my closet for the umpteenth time, and I came across these pieces of cloth just sitting there waiting to be cut up – I knew just what I wanted to do with them!!

After spending three days of my four-day-holiday doing absolutely nothing, I finally did something productive (and… entirely out of scrap!!)

Aren’t they adorable?

As for the gifts, well – my (favourite… duh!) sister gave me this left-handers’ mug that reads “I may be left handed, but I am always right”, and has a teenie hole on the right side, so, as you see, it can only be used by left handers! I am sipping coffee from it, as we speak.

And the left handers’ pair of scissors was a real help (while making these cute bookmarks) because, for once, I managed to cut something up without almost crushing half of my hand!

What a day…!

Blame It on the Weatherman

It’s raining like crazy. I hope it stops raining. I love to sit at home and read and sip hot coffee while it’s raining outside. When I was a kid I used to love to play in all the puddles! I used to love the rains – the smell of the mud and the lush green grass, that sort of thing – until I started having to drive myself home from places. I was coming home from class the other day, and I was soaked and stuck in a huge traffic jam and feeling pretty sorry for myself, when I saw this car next to me – a wedding car. Can you imagine? Just stuck there for over an hour. There was the couple in the back seat looking absolutely miserable – and suddenly I felt a lot better. There is a mean satisfaction in knowing someone’s having a way worse time than you!

Incidentally, my pet cats had the first rains of their lives this time. I spent a whole lot of time yesterday building a sort of a “cat kennel” in my back yard, where they could spend the night without getting wet! Now all I have to do is wait and see how long it takes them to rip it to shreds. The cats are all grown up, about to turn one now, but that doesn’t stop them from running for their lives, tail between the legs, every time it starts to even drizzle. It’s fun to watch!!

Not always, though. You know, we were waiting outside this hotel the other day and it was raining pretty heavily. Anyway, I saw a furry white cat, completely soaked, trotting along the street with a piece of meat in its mouth. Personal experience made me wonder why it wasn’t hiding. But this cutie calmly jumped its way up on the roof of a hut and under some branches of a tree above. I heard small high pitched mews and could make out three of the sweetest little kittens scampering up to their mommy. The cat went on to feed the meat to those tiny balls of fur, licking them and gently playing about with them. It was adorable.

‘Good ol’ times’

Yep, good old times – or at least what I can remember of them! Consider this a disclaimer: this incident happened eons ago. And forgive me, but I have the attention span of a squirrel, and the memory of… something that has a despicable memory! So there might be exaggeration involved in my ‘narration’ to a certain extent thanks to my rusty recollection of this.

It was some school function- Independence or Republic day, I’m not sure, I just remember a lot of flags!- that morning, and my parents had come to pick us up. I was already sitting in the car with my dad, while my mother was still out hunting down my sister. I kept the windows open and my head hanging out like a dog, because our car was, if possible rustier than my memory – it was impossible to stay locked up in that thing! Anyway, there was this butterfly outside- a pretty orange and black one. My dad identified it as a ‘Plain Tiger’ and went on to tell me about a thing called Batesian mimicry in butterflies. It’s a thing, where one butterfly mimics the colours and patterns of a poisonous butterfly to stay safe from predators who mistake as the poisonous one! Who knew butterflies did stuff other than just, you know, flying!? You know what, apparently, we have something similar in our human world: take a look at this! After that incident(probably), I was hooked. Every weekend after that was spent watching, running after(and tripping, a LOT) and capturing(Fine, I never managed to do it myself!) butterflies with my dad!

Like I said though, this happened eons ago. Today, I was out with my mother, and she pointed out one really pretty, small white butterfly fluttering about near us. I spent an hour wondering which one it might be, and I still didn’t get it. Then I came home and read a book, did my home work, ate and saw a movie. If it was ‘eons’ ago, I would have rushed home, took out my ‘butterfly watching'(is that a thing?) books and looked it up.

I guess ‘eons’ is enough time to change someone. And I realize I have changed a lot! But there are some things that are just worth changing back to, don’t you think? I think this just might be one of those!!

P.S – Picture courtesy: here! Those weren’t the digital camera days, ‘eons’ ago remember?

Wait a minute…did I say “pretty, small white butterfly”? Way to go, there’s actually a butterfly called ‘small white’ and it kind of fits the description. My memory may not be as bad as I thought! (Oh and by the way, ‘eons’, though very “American”, is my current favourite word!)

*Long pause*

I was sitting quietly at my desk listening to some music when this girl showed up out of nowhere and settled herself next to me. After a while, it became impossible to ignore the face that I could see smiling at me from the corner of my eye. I yanked out my earphones and gave her a polite smile. I found myself involuntarily cringing, fearing what was about to come next. The painful conversation lasted for about five minutes, with only a series of “hmm-s” and “ya-s” contributed by me. After the longest pause in the history of time, the very nice and friendly girl gave me the most withering look she could manage, and left. I returned to my music, after this near daily drill. She really was nice, believe me, that’s what I thought too. At the beginning. When she finally finished answering, in excruciating detail, the one question I managed to come up with, however, I wasn’t quite sure about that. If only she didn’t talk so much…

Someone asked me yesterday why I never talk. And today, someone asked me if I was scared of them. I plastered a meek smile on my face, and mumbled the usual, “I’m just shy. I don’t even talk to my friends!”

Now, the first part is true. I really am shy and I have the social skills of a hamster(who happens to be a very shy animal). This might seem a little strange considering how much I have been blogging lately. No, actually, a blog adds just the finishing touch to my ‘image’.

Anyway. I am the girl who can’t think of what to say to babies.
If you’re a baby, and you happen to look at me; I’ll display an alarmed expression for the tiniest fraction of a second, before I quickly adjust it to resemble a smile, but not before I mutter an unintelligible ‘uh-oh’. Then I’ll pointedly look in every other direction but yours. Still, it’s easier with babies. Babies can’t ‘small-talk’.
If you’re not a baby, I will try to be a little more interactive.

Just one little tip for all you nice and friendly people out there, (as they say), some silences are best left unbroken.