Posts Tagged ‘books read’

Tough cookie of a year. Of many endings and completions. Of the losses, one merits grief because the love was such. The rest, bah.

Heartbreak: Losing Rosa. My spiritual path has taught me that love doesn’t die. But how do you serve love which has no form anymore? I can’t serve her food, I can’t rub her nose, I can’t spread the fleece blanket out because she loved kneading it. So, how then do i keep the love alive?

shilo india

protest poster by shilo shiv suleman

India: It has been the season of protests as the threat of fascism got realer and realer. Dissent is still on, still strong despite the internet shutdowns, police brutality, and the narrative being controlled. Plenty of courage and love to go around for takers, any.

Men-on-pause: Mon dieu! Stalkers! Creeps in the garb of friends! Unwanted advances! Unimaginative brain picking and plagiarizing! Mon dieu again!!

Question 1: What’s the better/worse deal: a wolf or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

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new yorker cartoons

Question 2: If you steal my coat, add a ruffle here and a rip there, and walk in to meet me in the stolen coat, twirl around and say, what do you think of my new coat, does it mean you haven’t stolen my coat?

nyc plagiarism

new yorker cartoons

Laughter: Nothing quite like a witchy cackle to ease things up and the New Yorker Cartoons as always gave me plenty of that!

Fun Things: Zine-making | Trekking | Cooking (!)

Kitten Rescues: One – a fierce, blue-eyed ginger, the size of my palm

Writing: I got a lot of writing and reading done. A few short stories and articles were published. I also completed the manuscript of short stories that I had begun in 2018. I had completed a children’s picture storybook about compassion toward animals, inspired by own time with animals and at cat shelters, which I am reworking.

Read: Apart from my regular reading, I also beta read manuscripts and dipped into several collections of short stories and essays by Lydia Davis, Monique Schwitter, Carmen Maria Machado, etc. It has been a failing game of catch-up as I continued to buy more books than I could read. Over a 100 new books now call my bookshelves and Kindle their home.

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image: goodreads

My love for Japanese literature continued. I began the year with the strangely captivating Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman – what’s normal, what’s not. Old lovers reunite in Yasunari Kawabata’s Beauty & Sadness which is tender and dark. Revenge by Yoko Ogawa is a series of short stories that are interlinked. I also indulged in psychological thrillers and crime novels with Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman, Kiego Higashino’s A Midsummer’s Equation and Newcomer, Ian Rankin’s Rather Be the Devil, Shinie Anthony’s The Girl Who Couldn’t Love, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer, and Samuel Bjork’s I’m Travelling Alone. Paul Aster’s The New York Trilogy is a set of detective novels with variations, which reminds me that I must get the Red Notebook. A favorite was Natsuo Kirino’s Out in which the violence of death brings alive what’s dead.

There were a couple of non-fiction books. The Hungryalists by Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury was about the Hungryalist literary movement in India. In The Possessed, Elif Batuman walks the path of Russian authors. In the graphic novel, Dare to Disappoint, Growing Up in Turkey, Ozge Samanci recounts her life as a young girl and woman in Turkey. I went for a talk by naturalist and conservationist Paul Rosolie which was brilliant and it led me to pick up his first book, Mother of God, which is largely about his time in the Amazon. I also read two essay collections about what we avoid and mustn’t: What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About edited by Michel Filgate and Burn It Down: Women Writing about Anger edited by Lilly Dancyger.

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image: book depository

Out of the norm, I read two plays Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest, which had me laughing till I cried, and The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov. I also read a dystopian novel, a genre I generally avoid, but this one was brilliant and joined the dots of technology and social media and how they are killing us: Dave Eggers’s The Circle. Purity by Jonathan Franzen was not dystopian but speaks of crossed lines, divided Germany, charismatic whistleblowers, Assange-style. I read my first book by Mahashweta Devi, The Armenian Champa Tree. Surprisingly, I didn’t read much poetry this year. I had to pick up a copy of Tenzin Tsundue’s Kora Stories & Poems after I heard his reading. I also read Ecstatic Poems by Mira Bai, which is Bhakti (devotional) poetry.

There was good old Margaret Atwood with Lady Oracle, a woman who wants a fresh start. Mumbai’s drug dens come alive in Jeet Thayil’s Narcopolis. Cassandra grows up in I Capture the Castle. Steven Rowley’s The Editor has Jackie O playing editor. Andrew Martin’s Early Work follows the early days of a writer and the desires that play out. In Kayla Rae Whitaker’s The Animators, two friends start a business until drugs and conflict enter the mix. Milan Kundera’s Laughable Loves is a short story collection and smart and hilarious in equal measure. Another short story was Sylvia Plath’s Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom, which was interesting to read as a precursor to her more well-known work. A novella told as a set of stories, Janice Pariat’s The Nine-Chambered Heart is sparse and poetic. Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint is a litany of complaints. Leila Slimani’s Lullaby explores what drives a nanny to murder. There was more horror and abuse in Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. I loved Mohammed Hanif’s first book and that led to Red Birds about what war does to people.

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image: goodreads

Finally, my favorites. Ottessa Mosfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation has made me bookmark her next novel which will be released in April this year. There was Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. I am no Jean but this could just be the prime of my life. I was on a diet of Mary Gaitskill. Bad Behavior is a collection of short stories about navigating through desires and friendships. The novella This Is Pleasure published by The New Yorker is about the #metoo movement and tries to understand dynamics and patriarchal notions as the protagonist is left confused and angry when her friend is accused of misusing his relatively powerful position in publishing to misbehave with young women. Mona Awad’s Bunny is one of the most original, dark, funny, and genius novels that I read this year. It is based on a group of writers in a writing workshop and a misfit who undervalues her own abilities but that is oversimplifying it.

Watched: It was the year of second seasons of some my favorite shows, so binged and then binged some more. There were a few movies too.

  • Parfum: Yes, inspired by Süskind’s novel.
  • The Young Pope: Jude Law puts the pope back in the pope.
  • The Little Drummer Girl: When you can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not, espionage.
  • Sex Education: Refreshing.
  • Lizzie: Borden!
  • The Tale: #MeToo. Jennifer Fox’s real-life story reenacted by the fabulous Laura Dern.
  • What Keeps You Alive: A couple’s vacation turns into a nightmare.
  • City of Tiny Lights: Riz Ahmed. I love this man.
  • Dirty John: Based on a real-life story about a man who chases wealthy women.
  • Tully: Mommyhood ain’t always pretty.

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    image: imdb

  • Searching: You see the entire movie unfolding on screens.
  • A Simple Favor: Turns out to be not so simple.
  • BlackKlansMan: What happens when a black man becomes pals with KKK?
  • Fleabag Season 2: A hot priest, a fox, and trademark fleabag.
  • American Psycho: Very psycho.
  • Quicksand: About a school shooting and how it unravels.
  • Colette: How the author reclaimed her work and her self.
  • We Need to Take about Kevin: Another one on school shooting from a mum’s perspective.
  • Delhi Crime: How the Nirbhaya case was solved.
  • The Frozen Ground: Another killer on the loose.
  • Booksmart: Fun.

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    image: town and country mag

  • Fair Game: When power overpowers.
  • Made in Heaven: Big old Indian marriages among Delhi’s elite, pff.
  • Crazy Rich Asians: Made the good old Bollywood movie-style.
  • Big Little Lies Season 2: The performances!
  • Killing Eve Season 2: These two.
  • Titli: On escaping abuse and starting new.
  • Unbelievable: Based on a true story, how empathy is crucial when dealing with sexually abused people.
  • Mystic River: A child goes missing. Whodunit.
  • The Spy: Another true story about the Israeli spy, Eli Cohen.
  • The Politician: Brilliance! There’s Lange and Paltrow and Midler.
  • Ingrid Goes West: The troubles of social media.
  • The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch: A young Jewish man stands up to his mum.
  • End of the F*** World Season 2: It was nice to meet James and Alyssa again.
  • My Happy Family: A woman leaves a marriage because she wants her solitude.
  • Don’t F*** with Cats: Hunting a Serial Killer: How animal activists help in finding a killer.
  • Wanted: Australia’s Thelma and Louise continue to evade the cops and kick sex trafficking in its butt.

New year, new vibes:

© Anuradha Prasad 2020

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image: penguin india

I’m more familiar with literary movements that swept the US and Europe than the ones closer home. The first that I heard of the Hungry generation was in this book (they figure in Jeet Thayil’s The Book of Chocolate Saints too). The Hungryalists, as they were known, were a revolutionary band of poets who originated in West Bengal. They questioned the rigidity of form and exclusivity imposed by upper-class poets, the bourgeoisie. They rubbed shoulders with Allen Ginsberg when he visited India. In fact, shocked by the legal action slapped on the Hungryalists for obscenity by a few righteous literary leaders of that time, he did his best to help the Hungryalists by writing to various people in positions of power that he knew in India. The poets received recognition and support from the international community while back home, they faced harsh and unforgiving judgments.

Much of the poets’ work was destroyed. However, Chowdhury has featured what could be found through her research and interviews in the book. She has interspersed the account of the literary movement with copies of translated poems and reproduced letters exchanged between the poets and others. Their passion and urgency are still intact in these letters. Even at the worst of times, despite the persecution, their love for poetry held them strong. Chowdhury has written an engaging narrative with prose that ebbs and flows, rich in lyricism, apt for the subject.

Title: The Hungryalists
Author: Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Random House India, 2018
ISBN: 9780670090853, 0670090859

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

Thank you, twenty-eighteen. It was nice knowing you and let’s not meet again.

Natural Disasters: One that involved getting stranded in the Kerala floods and many, many poppadums

My-Made Disasters: Two…three…four??

I peered through
lennon frames, rose-colored,
looked past and over
red flags waving.

Extrication Rate from All Disasters: 100%

Love: That stretchy feline, Rosa, uff!

New Things, Fun Things: Learned French poetry and music | Went on a writing retreat to Pondicherry | Conducted a workshop on blogging | Volunteered for art things | Learned the flamenco

Overdose: Family things…what with Sunshine all tied in knots and hospitals.

Call Out to the Universe: Whatever happened to courtship? Come back, we miss you.

Books Read:

There was a good mix of short fiction, novels, poetry, and a trickle of non-fiction.

Read the first two of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggles series: A Death in the Family and A Man in Love. He sure knows how to work magic as he goes into inane details and still keeps you hooked. Srabani Basu’s The Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan narrates the story of Noor, who was the first Indian woman to win the George Cross. Enjoyed reading Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Misfits Manifesto that came after her TED Talk. Resonations aplenty.

What’s a short fiction marathon without Anton Chekhov? It began with A Dreary Story. It was good to go beyond Lolita and read more Nabokov in Nabokov’s Thirteen. Margaret Atwood was as always brilliant in Wilderness Tips, each story is a condensed novel, full and rich. Japanese authors continue to amaze me with their easy style and complex ideas and strangeness; there was Yukiki Motoya’s The Lonesome Bodybuilder Stories, Haruki Murakami’s Desire, and Granta’s Japan edition. Granta’s India: Another Way of Seeing was an interesting collection. Speaking of seeing, Raymond Carver’s Cathedral was an interesting read on the ways we see and the ways we don’t. Hemingway’s Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories was another revelation in style. I dipped into Grace Paley and Lydia Davis who redefine storytelling while Kate Chopin defines it in The Awakening and Other Stories. Letters of Sylvia Plath so far has not been as interesting as Woolf’s diary. Also reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Flappers & Philosophers, more of Zelda and Fitzgerald’s relationship in it.

On the novels front, I finished Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. Is it just me or were Don and Betty in Mad Men inspired by the protagonists from the novel?

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image: vanity fair

Yoko Ogawa explores the darker side of sexuality in Hotel Iris, while Emily Fridlund took on the question of healthcare and negligence in History of Wolves. In Aminatta Forna’s Happiness, the foxes and those who exist on the periphery of society come to focus. Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere brings up motherhood and the various ways it is expressed. In Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees single mothers are made, by accident and by choice. John Barth’s The End of the Road follows Jake Horner’s life and his ‘cosmopsis’ while shining light on societal issues, all of it laced with black humor. A love story unfolds against the Yom Kippur War in A.B. Yehoshua’s The Lover. Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick is a memoir interwoven with contemplation of womanhood and feminism. Andre Sean Greer’s Less was brilliant as Less runs away from heartbreak and sets off to travel, epiphanies and mishaps abound. Anne Frank is brought back to life in Philip Roth’s The Ghost Writer when an upcoming writer visits an award-winning writer and encounters a woman who could very well be Anne. Meanwhile, a man lies dreaming in Lavie Tidhar’s A Man Lies Dreaming, which weaves a fictitious alternative history where Hitler is a low-brow detective in London after the fall of the Nazis.

In Janwillem van de Wetering’s Outsider in Amsterdam, a murder is solved and in Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam, secrets take a deadly turn as does a young girl’s anger at her father’s lover in Bonjour Tristesse by Francois Sagan. A story is spun over a love that can never be in Alessandro Baricco’s Silk. More murder and mayhem in Pierre LeMaitre’s Irene, that ends with an unexpected twist. Keigo Higashino’s mystery thrillers filled in between the literary reads; there was Malice and Salvation of the Saint. A school boy competes to win an audience with Hemingway in Tobias Wolff’s Old School and learns a thing or two about being who he is to write his best as does Kugy in Dee Lestari’s Paper Boats but it gets a tad sentimental. In Irving Stone’s Lust for Life, Vincent van Gogh struggles to create art and dies in its quest.

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image: smithsonian

Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry is narrated in three parts: a love story, a story within a story, and an interview on Desert Island Discs. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah is a commentary on the seduction of America and the layers of racism that Ifemelu encounters. Among Indian authors, there was Sudha Nair with The Wedding Tamasha and Priyamvada & Co; both are stories about families and love and loss. Ajay Sachdev with Operation Al-Nagrib, a thriller about a counter-terrorism team trying to prevent a terrorist attack masterminded by the still-alive Sheikh. Radhika Oberoi recreates the events following Indira Gandhi’s assassination in Stillborn Season: A Novel. Jugal Mody’s Toke was hilarious, what with Vishnu and Shiva and their stash. As the author says, toke, toke, toke.

I ended the year with Fran Ross’ Oreo, a funny and brave and jewel of a read. It’s a tightly knit commentary of -isms and light of wit. Recommended.

I got to listen to a lot of poetry and picked up a few collections at the Bangalore Poetry Festival, among them Shikha Malaviya’s Geography of Tongues. Gili Haimovich, Alvin Pang, and Ulrike Almut Sandig were part of the Beyond Shores segment. I also got my hands on a copy of Poetry at Sangam House with some remarkable poems, which included translated work of poets writing in regional languages. Ulrike Almut Sandig’s Thick of It opened up a whole new world of seeing and being.

Screen Things I Binged On:

  • I, Tonya: The real-life story, shot as a mockumentary, of a competitive figure skater who sabotages her rival.
  • Short Cuts: A series of interconnected stories build up to a climax as LA is hit by a quake – not the big one, but shake, it does, the many lives.
  • American Hustle: How I loved the wife.
  • A Poet in New York: Dylan drinks himself to death.
  • The End of the F**** World: Alyssa and James, a pair of oddballs, fall in love.
  • SKAM: A high school series whose highlight was the chemistry between Isaac and Even.
  • Raw: Not for the faint of heart. Cannibalism runs in this family.
  • Revenge: Starts with objectifying a woman’s body, the same body that gives her the strength to hunt her assaulters down.
  • Gloria: An older woman looking for love and living life to the fullest.
  • Wild, Wild Country: A revelation of how the cult-like Rajneeshpuram worked and the hypocrisy of Americans.
  • Killing Eve: Villanelle is super creepy.
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image: bustle

  • Collateral: A well-made mini-series with excellent performances; about immigrants and the fear of terrorism.
  • Molly’s Game: A skier, after an accident, runs a high-stakes poker game.
  • Zodiac: An account of the Zodiac murders and tracking down the killer.
  • Becoming Jane: A biographical account of Jane Austen and the possible inspiration for Elizabeth and Darcy.
  • In the Fade: A woman tracks down the people behind the terrorist attack that kills her husband and son.
  • Wind River: A murder mystery set in Wyoming.
  • The Americans: The final season. Miss the Jennings already.
  • The Shape of Water: A fantasy thriller. The apartment scenes with their aqua are spectacular.
  • Ocean’s 8: I’ll take Clooney any day.
  • Get Out: The horror of racism.
  • Perdida: A girl gone missing, sex trafficking, old secrets resurfacing.
  • Fight Club: Why, why did I wait so long to watch this? A brilliant commentary on consumerism.
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image: drafthouse

  • The Motive: How far will you go to write?
  • The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society: There were many faces from Downton Abbey (which by the way is being made into a movie).
  • Barry: About Barack Obama as a student in Columbia.
  • The Angel: About Ashraf Marwan who spies for Israel and may have just diverted a whole lot of casualties.
  • 22 July: A terrorist attack in Norway in which students at a camp are targeted.
  • Operation Finale: An account of how Adolf Eichmann was captured in Argentina.
  • Fugitiva: A woman runs from her abusive and influential husband, and keeps trusting the wrong men along the way.
  • Battle: SKAM’s Lisa Teige as a dancer who chooses to enjoy dance over discipline and competition.
  • You: There’s a writer and a bookstore and John Stamos. Hard to resist. For the next round, I’m getting the book first, on which season two is based, Hidden Bodies.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

Life took an unexpected turn this year. I turned social. What’s left of it is experience. Jepson says, ‘Everything is an education in writing’. Ready to shed skin, settle back into myself, and write.

Books (contd.)

  • Patty Yumi Cottrell’s Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
  • Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence
  • George Orwell’s The Animal Farm
  • Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X
  • Scott F. Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned
  • Natalie Goldberg’s The Long Quiet Road
  • Julie Buntin’s Marlena
  • Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen and Moon Shadow
  • D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love
  • Isabel Hugan’s The Elizabeth Stories
  • Emma Cline’s The Girls
  • Dot Hutchinson’s The Butterfly Garden

thegirls

  • Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park
  • Elif Bautman’s The Idiot
  • Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy
  • Anais Nin’s A Spy in the House of Love
  • Bod Dylan’s Chronicles Vol. 1
  • Lalita Iyer’s The Whole Shebang: Sticky Bits about Being a Woman
  • Rochelle D’Silva’s When Home is an Idea
  • Nicole Krauss’s Forest Dark
  • Bob Dylan’s Tarantula
  • Gili Haimovich’s Sideways Roots
  • Lauren Elkin’s Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London
  • Ivy Pochoda’s Wonder Valley
  • Patti Smith’s Devotion
  • Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

 Screen (contd.)

  • Tallulah
  • Tiny Furniture
  • Notes on a Scandal
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Dirty Pretty Things
  • Following
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Thelma & Louise
  • Trainspotting
  • Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight
  • Annie Hall
  • Heathers
  • Fargo

manifesto

  • Endless Poetry
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist
  • Fatima
  • A Woman, a Part
  • Blue is the Warmest Colour
  • The Beguiled
  • À Bout de Souffle (Breathless)
  • Up in the Air
  • Choker Bali
  • Angry Indian Goddesses
  • Manifesto
  • Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold
  • Lady Bird
  • Wanted, Top of the Lake, Mindhunter, Unabomber

Miscellaneous Stories

People adored: Many

People un-adored: Also many

Crimes committed: One, could easily be three

Nature of crime: Classified

Kittens rescued (and loved): Four

Squirrels rescued (spoils of Rosa’s hunts): Two

Fun things: Horse riding

Indulgences: Caffeine. Blueberry cheesecake is a close second with stiff competition from churros.

Contemplations: Why fall in love when you can fall asleep?

Stuck on:

 

Still laughing:

newyorkercartoon

© Anuradha Prasad 2017

books

Loved the narrative voice in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and reading Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep was like reading a movie. Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary offered more than a glimpse of the writer’s intense writing process. James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man didn’t really capture my imagination until the later pages. There were two books about genocide, a nonfiction Elie Wiesel’s Night and fiction, Edna O’Brien’s Little Red Chairs that moved between Ireland, London and Bosnia. Jack London’s The Call of the Wild evokes the inherent wildness in us. Orhan Pahmuk’s A Strangeness in My Mind takes us into the life and mind of a boza seller who married the wrong girl and loved the right one. Vivek Shanbag’s Ghachar Ghochar, a translation from the Kannada, promised Chekhov-like writing, and came with a live ant (!) Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was about how a woman turns vegetarian, taking it to the extreme, and the way she affects her husband, brother-in-law, and sister.

Andre Breton’s Nadja is surrealism personified, and Katie Daisy’s How to be a Wildflower is a vibrant treat. The insights in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own are still relevant, and the honesty and courage in Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Chronology of Water has made her one of my favourite writers. Read Neruda’s Selected Poems, and 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair aloud in Spanish and English to taste the textures in their entirety. Sarita Mandanna’s Tiger Hills brought alive Coorg, and there was a whiff of Gone with the Wind in its pages. Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi made me realise that this was the first book of fiction I have read that was set in Australia. I read Vita Sackville-West’s Joan of Arc the first week of May; the same time in the 15th century, Jeanne brought about the fall of Orleans. It was on May 30 that she was burnt at the stake.

Stories on screen –

movies

Telly

© Anuradha Prasad, 2017

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Writing Takeaways:

  • Own your work, suspend judgment, share it, let it go
  • Acknowledge sources of inspiration
  • The wheels are always turning even when the page is blank
  • Don’t make it about other people

Books:

Here are just two of the fabulous writing/creativity books acquired and added to a book collection that urgently requires a book shelf and desperately needs to be read –

  • Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird (While Goldberg is Zen-sparse, Lamott’s writing is meat and potatoes – love them both)
  • Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit

Reading Highlights:

The number of books read this year has plummeted as my attention span has gone off on an unannounced jaunt. Quite possibly with my Muse. What I enjoyed –

  • May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude
  • Joanne Harris’ Five Quarters of the Orange
  • Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl
  • Julie Orringer’s How to Breathe Underwater

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  • Ruth L. Ozeki’s A Tale for the Timebeing
  • Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet
  • Andrew Miller’s Pure

Screen Highlights:

  • Shirley Valentine
  • The Diving Bell & The Butterfly
  • Downton Abbey

Books on their way right now (have waited a long time for these two. got lucky and found them at 70% off…ohhh joy!) –

  • The Diary of Frida Kahlo
  • The Big New Yorker Book of Cats

Best Day Out:

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  • A vineyard tour (great company, good wine and life in soft focus!)

People Adored: Nil

© Anuradha Prasad