May 9, 2017
May 8, 2017
The session kicked off with a Hindi poetry book, Kuchh Ishq Kiya Kuchh Kaam Kiya, by Piyush Mishra, an Indian film and theater actor, music director, lyricist, singer, scriptwriter. Being a part of Bollywood, his writing is popular, Jay observed. It is very difficult otherwise for an unknown writer of poetry to be read and enjoyed. Since Mishra is one who has seen life in all its facets, his writing is informed by experience and the contemporary life. His style is to the point and devoid of unnecessary frills. Ari read out a couple of poems and the BYOB party took on an air of lyricism.
Archana spoke about a series that she was impressed by for its therapeutic and cathartic value- Conversations with God, a sequence of books, running up to three-thousand pages, written by Neale Donald Walsch where Walsch asks questions and God answers. Walsch wrote the book during a low period in his life when he was looking for answers.The first book published in 1995 became a publishing phenomenon, staying on the New York Times Best-Sellers List for 135 weeks.
Here is an interview with the author in case you want to listen to some words of wisdom from a spiritual messenger, where he talks about fundamental spiritual questions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwH8LOkugzE.
Abhaya mentioned that Muhammad Iqbal, a celebrated Urdu poet, has written two controversial books in a several vein (this is much earlier, some time before the 1920s) called Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa. While the first part of the book addresses questions to God and attracted much ire from Muslim scholars, the second part was welcomed and praised.
More books in Part 2.
May 4, 2017
It is a little known fact that Alexandre Dumas’s father was a military hero and not white skinned but of Haitian origin. This story is even more relevant during a presidential race in France where race and origin matter.
“Many of the adventures described in The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo are believed to be based on his father’s experiences. Yet few who read his books are aware that Alexandre Dumas was the grandson of a Haitian slave. Fewer still realise that his remarkable parent, born into slavery but raised and educated in France by a white aristocratic father, grew up to challenge Napoleon Bonaparte and become one of the most celebrated military heroes of his day.”
Thomas Alexandre had the opportunity to study and succeed. The revolution freed him from slavery and he even married a white woman and was promoted to the post of general. His exploits earned him the nickname Black Devil and he even came in confrontation with Napolean Bonaparte who wished to reestablish slavery. Alexandre has never been given his due ever since. Racism can not be dismissed as some kind of primitive boorishness. It exists in France and stories like What the legacy of France’s first black general tells us about the country’s identity can change the way young people make judgements on the basis of the skin color.
I stumbled on another race related story about the revered Russian writer Alexander Pushkin.
The legend, in French and Russian, declared that Abram Petrovich Gannibal (Hanibal in French), born in LogoneBirni in 1696 and deceased in Russia in 1781, chief military engineer and general-in-chief of the Imperial Russian Army, was a graduate of the royal artillery academy of La Fère.
It also noted that he was the great-grandfather of Russia’s greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin.
Pushkin was proud of his descent and he even used Gannibal as a model for an unfinished novel. Gannibal was apparently kidnapped when he was just seven and presented as a gift to the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople. The boy finally ended up being sent to Czar Peter I. Read more here: Of African Princes and Russian Poets
May 2, 2017
April 27, 2017
If you have read Siddhartha Mukherjee’s books, you will be familiar with his lyrical prose and his ability to talk about complicated realities like disease and death in a way that sustains interest rather than chases you away. Disease is like that; it frightens and where understanding is necessary, you are most often faced with pure ignorance and fear.
In this delightful essay (actually a keynote address given to the recipients of the 2017 Whiting Awards for emerging writers), Love in the time of Numbness; or Dr. Chekov. writer, Mukherjee speaks about writing in numbing times as these. He can speak about numbing times with ease as most often a dedicated oncologist faces many tragedies that he can only try to avert. As it is with beautifully written essays, he begins his story at a personal level and then meanders to another writer who faced the same problem of desensitization. Chekhov.
He travelled deliberately to Sakhalin Island, a penal colony, to overcome the numbness that his profession as a doctor had left him in.
“Six principles that make for a good story,” Chekhov would later write, “are: 1. Absence of lengthy verbiage of a political-social-economic nature; 2. total objectivity; 3. truthful descriptions of persons and objects; 4. extreme brevity; 5. audacity and originality . . . and; 6. compassion.”
It was compassion that led the writer to uglier climes and his writing reflects the lessons he learnt.
April 25, 2017
April 24, 2017
Goodreads was acquired by Amazon in 2013. It’s a social cataloging and a community of literature lovers website that was launched in January 2007 by Otis Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler. Most of you must have an account at Goodreads. You can search their database for books, annotations, reviews and reviewers. If you don’t have an account there yet, one good reason to register would be that there are 20 million book lovers on board.
Another reason is the Goodreads Author Program. If you’ve written a book, you can create a profile page, promote your book and connect with your fans. Your profile page can have your profile pic, bio, link to blog and book listings.
You can promote your books by advertising, which is affordable, or doing a giveaway. You can also answer questions fans ask their authors. You can vote for your favorite book and improve its ranking too. You can also interact with book groups and increase your readership.
Check these links to figure out how Goodreads works:
April 21, 2017
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April 20, 2017
Russell Smith deconstructs the idea of the app behind the book. He’s talking about an app called Prolifiko that Wyl Menmuir used to write his book, something we mentioned in our Link Wanderlust series here. The app is a productivity tracker, so it measures how productive you are though it can not keep track of where your ideas come from. Such an app is good, argues Smith, if you have the time. But if you don’t….
Smith doesn’t get the writing everyday magic formula. He thinks what’s more important is the outline. If you know what will happen in the story, you are more likely to finish it. Smith has a different take on much of the advice that is doled out to writers. Read his essay here.
Another essay I discovered was about speed reading apps in the market.
The idea of speed reading was invented by an American schoolteacher named Evelyn Wood, whose search for a way to improve the lives of troubled teenagers in Salt Lake County, Utah, by teaching them to read effortlessly, led her to the belief that she herself could read at the rate of 2,700 words a minute, 10 times faster than the average educated reader. And further, that the techniques that allowed her to do so could be taught and sold.
Speed reading is a fad that has institutes dedicated to the cause. There are techniques that help you speed read like running your finger down in the middle of the page and looking at print as blocks, rather than words and sentences. Check out Spreeder and Accelread …
Read the essay here.