Light and Letters @ BYOB Party in April 2017 (Part 7)

Shruti continued with the Jerry Pinto theme, having spoken about  Em and the Big Hoom at one of the previous BYOB Parties. She then found another book on mental health issues compiled by Pinto called A Book of Light: When a Loved One Has a Different Mind. He wrote the foreword for the book as well. What he found difficult about the process was getting the stories right. It’s one thing to tell a story and quite another to put these painful real-life incidents into print. So he kept checking the facts, making sure that the people whose stories were published did not have to compromise with their emotions. So there was a very human side to the making of this book.  Even arriving at the title was extremely difficult. Shruti outlined many painful incidents in the book. Reading the stories of those whose family members faced mental health crises, she was inspired to appreciate her every day as for some people the every day is filled with impossible battles that can not be won, just endured. It is difficult to read this book in a stretch, she says, and also a tad disturbing.

Arup got a book called Letters to a Young Poet by the renown poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. The book comprises ten letters Rilke wrote to Franz Xaver Kappus, a 19-year-old officer cadet at the Theresian Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt. The duo corresponded about all matters poetry and it Kappus who eventually compiled and published the letters three years after Rilke died of leukemia.

Here is the content of one letter:

You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself.

More letters here and more books in Part 8.

The Bipolar, the Surreal and the Light @ BYOB Party in July 2016 (Part 3)

emandthebighoomBasav Biradar, a playwright in Bangalore, shared a book that we have heard a lot about at our BYOB Parties. Em and the Big Hoom is the story of Pinto’s parents and inadvertently a powerful gaze at mental illness. His mother ‘Em’ has bipolar disorder and his father is the ‘Big Hoom’. The book has been awarded the Hindu Literary Prize and recently Pinto was awarded the Windham-Campbell prize. The book was first published by a small press in India and what stands out about the book is the humor that runs throughout its pages. Basav read out a passage from the beginning of the book that revealed the affection that Em really had for the Hoom. Hearing the passage made me want to buy it instantly.

theelephant vanishes

Archana talked about her love- hate relationship with Haruki Murakami. We’ve spoken about Murakami before as well and noticed that there are two kinds of people in the world- those who swear by Murakami and those who cannot understand him. Archana is neither- she loves the short stories he wrote in the book The Elephant Vanishes , yet she fails to understand his long and surreal novels. “I understand the things he talks about in his short stories like being trapped in a lift, but his novels are so very boring.”

The group came to the conclusion that Murakami fans had to be Gen Y; maybe books about lifts, cats, earthquakes and the strange subterranean inner life of Murakami characters were too outlandish for older people.

I was introduced to Murakami by a much older person, so I guess with Murakami no conclusions are adequate. Another comparison was made between Chetan Bhagat and Murakami’s writing style, both being very simple and easy to follow. But with Murakami, the story delves into the inner lives of the characters, and the language is repetitive in an almost hypnotic way. Chetan Bhagat writes simple sentences as he believes his readers do not need to be burdened; so I don’t think a comparison is warranted.

the adventures of tom and huckSunny has a penchant for light reading and this time he brought along The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Everyone is familiar with the adventures of these two immortal characters. Most of us have read Twain as part of our primary school curriculum, though Twain’s books are devoured in equal measure by adults. Tom has everything that Huck Finn doesn’t and yet he envies the freedom of this son of a drunkard. Their adventures together are modeled on Twain’s own experiences. “There’s nothing existential about this book at all and there’s a bit of suspense to add to the thrill. I enjoyed the book as a child but rereading has been more enjoyable,” Sunny said.

Rereading a book that you had read as a child can be an enlightening experience. Archana talked about how she regretted rereading Doll’s House, a play by Ibsen. It isn’t her favorite play any longer. So the experience differs from person to person.

More books in Part 3.