Tag Archives: life

Ongoingness : The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

Ongoingness - The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso Title: Ongoingness: The End of a Diary
Author: Sarah Manguso
Publisher: Graywolf Press
ISBN: 978-1555977030
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 104
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

What is “Ongoingness”? What does it mean and how does it come to be defined? Is it even a word like that? Is it okay for anyone to invent something like that? And does it also then mean that it is all okay and to just experience moments as they come by? “Ongoingness” by Sarah Manguso is a diary – it is however, not your usual run-of-the-mill diary either. Come to think of it, it is not like something I have read in a very long time and trust Ms. Manguso to come up with something so uniquely different and contemplative.

Of course you can finish this book in one sitting and that is the idea. However, I also had to pause in most places and keep contemplating about life. The book is about Sarah’s life as a mother and how memory and loss of it played a major role for some time then. This diary is just a series of fragments on time, memory, the nature of the self and how one connects with the internal and the external world.

The memoir is barely only about 100 pages long and yet there is so much you will see in this book which perhaps no other book will be able to communicate or show. Manguso has dealt with the passage of time beautifully from the time when she was not a mother to the time she became one and how things changed drastically.

“Ongoinginess” is beautiful and terrifying at the same time. It is about relationships and life and yet Manguso has a different perspective and outlook in everything. It is a poetic meditation on our need to remember and capture life through words, images and sounds.

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Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe by Yumi Sakugawa

Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe by Yumi Sakugawa Title: Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe
Author: Yumi Sakugawa
Publisher: Adams Media
ISBN: 9781440582639
Genre: Spiritual, Self-Help
Pages: 160
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Becoming one with the universe? Getting signs from way up above? To completely and totally understand who you are and how you are connected to the universe is not an easy task. Maybe it is not that difficult either. I guess we just have to find ways to connect with the universe and become one with it. I know it sounds very superfluous but it is not. We just fail to see so many signs. We fail to listen to what our instincts tell us. Is that not a part of the universe? Don’t we need to see and listen to all of that?

Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe by Yumi Sakugawa - Image 1

“Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe” by Yumi Sakugawa is an illustrated guide like none other that I have come across. It is beautifully done and speaks to every reader. There are nine metaphysical lessons in this one and even if you aren’t a believer, I suggest you read this to help you open your mind and heart.

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I don’t even know what prompted me to buy this book but I do know that after reading it, I just felt good about being who I am and what it takes to be who you are. It is about connecting with the world around you and with the world within you. I know it sounds mighty preachy but the good is far from that. It is a very quick read but I guarantee that you will come back to it because of the way it is illustrated and what it teaches each one of us.

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Academy Street by Mary Costello

Academy Street by Mary Costello Title: Academy Street
Author: Mary Costello
Publisher: Canongate Books
ISBN: 978-1782114185
Genre: Literary Fiction, Novella
Pages: 180
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Very few times you come across a book that makes you feel and takes you beyond that, almost in another realm of consciousness. “Academy Street” by Mary Costello was one such book that did it for me this year (and the year has not even begun properly, so to say). If you are the sort of reader that only reads a book a month, then I will almost force you to read, “Academy Street”. It is a book which every reader (no matter what level of reader) should read at least once in his or her lifetime and I am not kidding about this.

“Academy Street” came to me at a time when I needed it the most. Yes, I do believe that books find you when they have to. Till then, no matter how hard you try, you cannot immerse yourself in the book. The book’s permission is needed. “Academy Street” is a novella of one woman and her journey from being a girl to an old woman and life as she sees it through those decades and years gone by. This is perhaps me simply putting it. The book is so much more and the layers to it are just phenomenal.

I had not heard of Costello before picking up this one but I am only too glad that I have now. Tess is not just a character. She is perhaps somewhere there in all of us in various forms or maybe just one. The book charts Tess’s story so to say from childhood till she is an old woman – all her happiness, her anxieties, her loves, her transitions, the loss of her mother (which is stated at the very beginning of the book) to her migration from Ireland to America, a new land with new possibilities, new hopes and new losses. How can one remain untouched by this novella? This was my only thought when I finished this gem of a book.

I am quite sure that other writers might have explored this theme in other books, but what makes this one different is of course the writing. Costello does not confuse the reader. The facts are laid out. The story-line is simple. The writing is simpler. The characters are not so many. So what makes me say that this book is astounding? It is all in the words and the sentences used by the writer.

At the core of the book, there is empathy, loneliness and sheer need to be accepted which intensified chapter after chapter. You get to know Tess like a close friend and there were times I just wanted to keep the book down, so there would be more reading time with it. The book is about her siblings, her friends, but above it all, it was to me, just a brief and simple testimony to life and the living. Tess is constantly finding herself. She is constantly seeking, trying to become that someone, and that will ring true for anyone who picks up this book. There is grace, devastation, eye for detail, elegance and above all empathy to Costello’s writing. I suggest you go and start reading this right now. Savour and cherish it, as books such as these are meant to.

Here are some of my favourite lines from the book. There are obviously more, but for now these will do.

In her life, ever, there were only a few people who had been a fit, with whom she had felt understood.

Ease her terrible ache for human touch, human love. The room was flooded with light and she was blinded, mesmerised.

And how all things change or end or disappear, and this would too, this day, this moment. She looked around. And you too, you will all disappear.

Oh honey, when it comes to the heart, it ain’t about men or women, but people.

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Dear Me: A Letter To My Sixteen Year Old Self : Edited by Joseph Galliano

Dear Me - Edited by Joseph Galliano Title: Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self
Author: Edited by Joseph Galliano
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Limited
ISBN: 9781847377661
Genre: Non-Fiction, Letters
Pages: 128
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

“If you wrote a letter to your sixteen-year-old self, what would it say?”

That is the premise of the book, “Dear Me” – Edited by Joseph Galliano. What would you tell your sixteen year old self anyway? What would you stop him or her from doing, which you know will be futile anyway, because he or she will not listen to the older you? The book is of famous people – of celebrities writing to their younger self, dispensing advice, providing nuggets of wisdom and trying to go back in time and perhaps contemplate on how life was.

The book is a revelation of sorts and at other times, I was tempted enough to pick up the notepad and write a letter to my sixteen-year-old self. There were letters that stood out – the ones by Elton John, Emma Thompson, James Woods, Jodi Picoult, and so many more. There are 75 letters in all, written by celebrities from various fields – from actors to comedians to novelists, they all are written depicting youth and what is called growing-up.

These letters touch on issues that are still prevalent – from gay rights to racism to being felt left out – the letters provide a sense of warmth and at the same time you empathize with at least a few of them, because you have gone through the same.

“Dear Me” is a bitter-sweet journey through life, sometimes scarily a reflection of your own. It is a book of letters, of contemplation, of thoughts and ideas. Joseph Galliano has done a wonderful job of editing this book and somehow compels you to write a letter to your sixteen-year-old self, sharing your fears and maybe consoling him or her – to let them know that it will all be alright, after all.

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Book Review: Delicacy by David Foenkinos

Delicacy by David Foenkinos Title: Delicacy
Author: David Foenkinos
Publisher: Bloomsbury
ISBN: 9781408827574
Genre: Literary Fiction, Romance, Humour
Pages: 250
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Once in a while, you chance upon a book, that you just have lying on your shelf and intend reading someday. However, that someday takes a while and when you do read it; you begin to realize that you wasted a lot of time, waiting for that someday. “Delicacy” by David Foenkinos had that impact on me. I kept wondering, why had I missed out on this when I first bought it? Why did I wait for two years to read this book? And all it took me was a six hour bus ride to finish it and come out of the reverie with a big fat grin on my face.

“Delicacy” by David Foenkinos is a charming little book. It is full of joy, happiness; comic moments and at the same time, there is sadness as well. Natalie is a woman who has it all. A great lover, who in turn becomes her husband. A successful job. A life which is fulfilled – more or less and there is nothing she could need or want. Till her life falls apart in one minute, or rather on a fateful Sunday, when the love of her life gets run over by a car and nothing makes sense anymore. And then just like that, life changes again and Natalie sees herself falling for the most unusual man ever. The setting I must mention is the city of romance, the capital of love, Paris. Paris is almost another character in the book – all pervasive and right there, sometimes mocking and sometimes encouraging love, the way it should be.

What I loved about the book was the way it is written but of course. The chapters are short (which I love) and there is no melodrama. It is as real as it could be. There is office romance. There is life going on as usual after the loss of a loved one. There is also the knowing that life may not be the same, but it will change for the better, if you want it to. The other guy – Markus is clumsy and doesn’t know how a woman like Natalie could love him. He may not be her knight in shining armour and yet Foenkinos writing makes him one.

The book speaks of social norms and breaks all of them in one single long sweep. I am not one for romantic books and yet Delicacy is romantic and not so, if you know what I mean. There is a lot of soul to the book. There were times I found myself weeping and with the next turn of the page, I was smiling.

“Delicacy” is maybe one of those rare books that truly come to you when you really want to read something like this. You cannot read it when you wish to. You perhaps have to wait it out, like I did. There will always be such books and the good part is that there will always be patient readers, waiting to be enthralled.

You can watch the trailer of the move here starring Audrey Tautou, one of my favourites. This should also lead you to read this wonderful book.

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Book Review : Ismat : Her Life, Her Times : Edited by Sukrita Paul Kumar & Sadique

Ismat - Her Life Her Times Title: Ismat : Her Life, Her Times
Author: Sukrita Paul Kumar & Sadique
Publisher: Katha Books
ISBN: 9788185586977
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Biography
Pages: 300
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

When an author has had a kind of life which no one can match up to, that is when books such as these are needed. I think to a very large extent, only a few authors can rise to this rank from the plentiful in the literary sea, existing as of now. I have always felt this rare closeness to Ismat Aapa and I do not know why. I think to a very large extent (and I am only guessing here) is the marginalized context – of both of us that I am able to relate to her, the way I do. The bold texture of her life, the choices made against the grain of the norm and more than anything else, to fight for the cause of her work, is something worth admiring, perhaps a hundred thousand times over. Where else can one see this passion today? I may be getting ahead of myself here, but that is only because I love her so.

“Ismat: Her Life, Her Times” is a wonderfully constructed book. There is a lot in this book and I can recommend it to any Chughtai lover. Both, Sukrita and Sadique have managed to almost write a canvas of her work and the woman that she was. She is one woman who had so much to say and she always said it with a bite, with humour and emphasizing on the fact of breaking all barriers and boundaries. This book encapsulates her life the way she lived it – from a writer to her advent in the Indian Film Industry to her lens and the way she viewed everything with it.

What is even more enchanting is the range of contributors – who have written about her and are collated in this book – from Faiz Ahmad Faiz to Manto to Krishan Chander and Qurratulain Hyder, commenting on Ismat – the person and the writer.

“Ismat: Her Life Her Times” is a dedication to a writer beyond words. It is her life, through pictures, through letters, through her work and the personality she was. The book could be seen as a starter, as a guide to all her works (her vast body of work that is), and to encourage readers to go and read more of her books, her stories and if possible watch the movies she wrote for and acted in.

To me this book embodies the woman beautifully. Of course not as beautifully as Kaghazeen Hain Pairan, but it does bring to fore mostly everything about her. A book not to be missed out on. A book which takes the writer beyond everything else and gives her the due and credit she has always deserved.

Here is a forty seven long interview of hers, if you are interested and by the way you should be:

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Book Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate Title: The One and Only Ivan
Author: Katherine Applegate
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 9780007455331
Genre: Young Adult
Pages: 252
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Off-late I had stopped reading Young Adult novels or anything close to in that genre or even children’s books for that matter. I did not find anything new in them. They were either set in magical worlds or in this world with fantastical creatures. Till I ended up reading, “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate.

The book is for young adult and is based on a true story of a gorilla named Ivan. For me, the book did a lot. Perhaps books that you need do come into your life only at that time. There is no other way to this so-called selection – when books find you and want to be read by you.

“The One and Only Ivan” is about Ivan – a gorilla who has lived in a cage for almost twenty seven years of his life. He has had Bob – a dog for company and Stella – an aging elephant. Ivan is a silverback gorilla – the kind who has to protect his tribe and family and here he is in a circus mall on the highway on Exit 8. He is a gorilla who paints – finger paints at that and those paintings sell. He watches television in his cage. There is nothing else to do anyway.

Ivan is close to George the cleaner and his daughter Julia. Mack is the owner of this theme based mall. He is the man in-charge. Life goes on as usual. Till one day, Ruby, a young elephant makes an entry. Circumstances lead to Ivan making a promise – that of saving Ruby’s life. Of setting her free, of not making her become another addition to the mall, which becomes the mission of his life. That is when the story takes off.

The reader learns about how Ivan came to be here and about his life. There is Ruby’s life thrown in and so is Stella’s. I liked the story because it rang true. It is based on a true story. There are characters which are thrown in for effect, but the story is that of Ivan’s. Towards the end, I felt that Applegate was rushing with the story; however, given the plot and the structure, I let that pass. To me, “The One and Only Ivan” was a book which is sweet, full of life, hope, a great and unique friendship and above all about freedom, which we sometimes take too much for granted and need to learn its value. A read for times when you have given up on all hope.

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