Thursday, 6 February 2020

Goa- A new revelation. All credits to this dainty place- Literati Bookshop Café

The ceiling-high bookshelves
I was in Goa last month with a family friend of ours. Just like any tourist or person who wants to visit Goa, I was excited about the blue beaches, dipping sunsets at the horizons, the sand caressing my feet and most of all the Beer. Well, let’s be honest, who can ignore a good pint of beer watching the waves while your child for once has his attention drifted from you, busy with sand trying to make castles. Mumma bliss, I call it. And so for the first two days, it was about the typical Goa things to do list- sun, sand and beach. But here is what was different this time when I visited this place of busyness and oomph. I am an avid reader, a book blogger and I daydream about my book café- all the time! So when I walk into one I imagine the kind of stuff I’d like to keep and arrange in it. I was adamant to visit this book café in Goa which I had found out on Google. My friends teased me but well I am accustomed to such jokes, they wanted a good coffee and I bargained them into it, only to know later- we didn’t have our coffee! But, like good humans, they accompanied me to the café. The Literati book café had a sprawling lawn and was spread on a magnificent area of land. My happiness knew no leaps and bounds when I entered the book café. Ceiling high bookshelves beckoning me to check them out. Drowned in a sepia tone, it looked vintage giving me the thrill of having time travelled. When I looked at the shelves I spotted some new releases; it was like a pinch on my arm to tell me- “you aren’t dreaming or have time travelled. Take a look outside and you’d find your son playing on the grass kicking his feet. It is for real”. I really did take a peek before getting back to browsing the shelves (just mom things!).

For the book which I spotted as “read” I felt happy and for the ones I hadn’t read, I felt anxious. I found a copy of ‘Grief is the thing with feathers’ by Max Porter gorgeously priced, it was hard to not pick this one up for myself. Just then the owner came in- Divya Kapur, a very smart female with a head of cropped white hair, her spectacles placed on her head and flashing a smile. I spoke to her, bragged about me being a book blogger (sometimes you got to sell it, fella’s!) which I am sure she was not interested in (haha!) and asked her about the café, it's running, the business and lastly if she would recommend me her choice of books and something which captures Goa’s interesting history and tradition. She got to the job of finding books for me immediately asking me questions about books and authors. I bought all the books on her recommendation, except for the Max Porter book. If there is something I have learned as a voracious reader in the last few years is coming out of the comfort zone. I have found immense beauties that I carry in my heart, by just exploring new authors and their work. Divya Kapur, the owner herself came out to me as a passionate reader. And when readers recommend, other readers keep themselves alert with standing ears. ‘Skin’ by Margaret Mascarenhas was her choice for me on Goa history. The other two- ‘Mister Pip’ by Lloyd Jones and ‘The Moon and Sixpence’ by Maugham are her personal favourites. I will not lie, I did burn a hole in my pocket with this book haul but I think it was all worth it. It is my way of contributing to an independent bookstore. The postcards that I brought with me from this bookshop café are a remembrance, they give me hope of going there again or to a similar book café. My quest for spotting good ones doesn’t end here. I would like to say, it’s just the beginning.

It might seem like I went a little poetic with my words above, writing about this book café. It is so because I hold a tender fondness for the people who own and run these cafes. Maybe because I see myself in them at some point in time, my inquisitiveness never giving up. I feel like I want to know it all. Talking with them fills me with a will, a ray of hope that someday, just like Divya I will guide a reader in my bookshop, recommending the books of her choice or maybe mine. Dreams are what drive us. And when you find such driving forces, look at it as the wind beneath your wings whispering in your ears- You will get there.

I will.

Amongst other things, Goa was special this time around too. New memories and new incidents to remember the place by.

A very happy "Me" in my natural habitat
Sharing my two cents here about something I feel strongly about- On your travels, look for places you find comfort in. It could be a bookshop, an artwork boutique, an old coffee shop or a music soirée. Not only because they are your happy places but because you might learn a new fact about them or find something rare that’d tug at your heart. Maybe bring back memorabilia of the place. We all google a lot while planning our travels, watching vlogs and reading blogs about the place we are to visit. Why not keep a comfort place handy to drop by. Who knows your happy place might just be a few blocks away from your hotel.

Happy Wandering and Happy reading!

Google maps will guide you perfectly to this lovely book café but still putting down the address below:
E-1/282, Near ABC Farms Beach Resort, Gauravaddo, Calangute, Goa

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Mahfouz's words are surreal. The Quarter, a window to his work asking you to explore more- Book Review and Musings.

The Quarter by Naguib Mahfouz comprises stories from the quarter understood as a small section or community of people. These stories have a pattern, precisely they have a similarity. They trail off like dialogues in a conversation when one’s mind goes numb, or they don’t know what’s to be said next etcetera. You never come to know their conclusions, aftermath or end; like conversations left midway. I personally do not like such situations, they leave me more anxious and dubious about the whole “thing”. Hence, my experience with The Quarter was no different. What was left with me after I finished the book was the Atmosphere that formed the base for it. It took me to Cairo, amidst people and their conventional society. What the stories failed to do was leave a lasting impression. Short stories can be very tricky that way. But I got glimpses of Mahfouz’s element of writing, though not in full glory but a slight glimmer; Mystique and metaphorical, enough to tell me to read and explore his work as I hear he is a stellar storyteller.

It is said that this collection, The Quarter was found in Mahfouz’s drawer after his death and before it was published, so one can only assume and frame their imaginations around it; if these stories are incomplete or if they were bound to be so. Something to think about.

My Rating:

Thank you to the publisher Panmacmillanindia for the review copy.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Such a fun age by Kiley Reid is a quick and "food for thought" book, channeling your inner self to question privileges- Book review.

My interest in the book was sparked when @reesesbookclub chose it as their book of the month and I have to admit that it is one of those engaging books that perplex you. The processing of ideas and the formation of viewpoints in the reader’s mind are rapid when it should actually be reflective. The rapidness comes from smooth writing and a moving plot. Kiley Reid’s writing is clever.

Emira Tucker is A twenty-five year old black babysitter with no real job and health insurance of her own. In the hope of earning some money and because of her fondness towards baby Briar, she is making do with the situation at her employers who are keen to accept her as family. The turn of events however compel her to leave. I am not going to dwell on the plot, instead would like to move the flashlight to the factualness in the prose. How some crucial themes have been inserted in the content with respect to racism, human behaviour and societal show business. With a very casual approach, Reid slips in racism and that is what infuses the interest further. How different and difficult can the repercussions of someone’s actions be! I misconstrued the character of Emira as daft. Her voice being tried to muffled down by her expressions as explained. It inevitably made me compare her to Ifemelu from Americanah. Her opinionated speech and voice was what I missed here and really wanted to be shone. The juxtaposition of these two images was with me until the end of the book. I missed the character depth that could have brought if she was given a more solid voice. But then what would have made her character stand out? Wouldn’t she be another Ifem? Upon reflective thinking, she comes across as a humble and matured person who was always and foremost concerned about the child whom she adored, Briar. Caught in flashbacks of high school drama, old love sparks and revenge is Emira, coming out nonchalant and unscathed.

I’d recommend it for how it is presented and authored. It was something new that I read in a while. The phrase “food for thought” applies adeptly here. The book is fast-paced, gives a lot of debating points and keeps up with the momentum of interest.

My rating:

Thank you to the publisher Bloomsburyindia for the review copy.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck- a slim book capturing the ambiance and human nature perfectly.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck is said to be his ode to California, the state he spent a memorable amount of time in. And his nostalgia brims in the first few pages where he describes Cannery row, an atmospheric one at that. With his appeasing words he makes it so easy for the reader to visualise this street lined with sardines canneries, the characters and their state of mind;

The book takes us to Cannery Row, a small and close-knit community like place where some fellas(Mack and others) plan to give the doctor (Doc) a party as he is a very humble and good person at heart. This party transpires into a big fiasco gradually and the series of events that lead to it being so can be described as mishaps and comedy of errors. In his very captivating manner, Steinbeck not only frames a brilliant story around the Great Depression-era but highlights human nature eloquently. Some very wise words hidden in the form of dialogues amidst a conversation are a clever way of putting substantial content across. The writing is very crisp, ambient and engaging. Interesting characters and situations peppered with wit make this slim novel very flavorsome.
A sliver of his writing below: (my most favourite excerpt from Cannery Row by John Steinbeck)

“It has always seemed strange to me”, said Doc. The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitant of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”

In 2020 I plan to read books by Steinbeck, majorly the known one’s. Cannery Row proved to be a good start for this journey. Looking at Of mice and men next.

My Rating:

Sunday, 26 January 2020

The collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang- A very insightful attempt to educate us about a terrifying state a mind can reach and thrive in.

The collected Schizophrenias is a collection of personal essays holding in its depth immense information about mental traumas, mental health in general and laying bare everything about Schizophrenia. It talks about how it affects the victim and the people around them. The kind of life they lead and the gruesome accidents that happen. It can sometimes feel like living in delusions and illusions, very easily losing track of what is real. The thought itself is very harrowing and when it is supported by real-life stories, it isn’t very easy to stomach these facts. While the author talks about her own schizophrenic disorder journey from first being diagnosed, she puts into consideration other people’s accounts of surviving and sailing through the same. With a nuanced narrative, the essays feel extremely personal. Very effortlessly Esmé slips into her prose important questions like- is heavy art, creativity, and success often accompanied by lunacy? Can appearances mislead taking into account someone’s mental state? These questions stem from the fact that our author here is a fashion enthusiast and a geek brainy individual. She talks about her time in Yale and how she was made to leave it, about Stanford and her lectures on this terrifying disorder. I carried ‘A knot in my chest’ throughout this book, some incidents shook me. I had to put down the book after I read about the children who suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and similar such traumatic mental health issues. The book demands time to be read. It needs to be absorbed at one's own pace as there are several topics that might come across as triggering. Nevertheless, It is intelligent, thought worthy at times spiked with some good wit.

Non-Fiction that reads like a memoir is brilliantly authored as Esmé records her own feelings of hallucinations, delusions, therapy sessions and how catastrophic a psychiatric hospital can be. She says it is the worst place a person with such disorders can land into and how they do nothing to improve the mental health of the victim. Calling them and reading them as victims gives me a heartache but succumbed and in full control of a severe disorder can only be called a victim.

With factual writing and placing apt sometimes satirical references of the movie ‘A Beautiful Mind’ the author tries to bring us face to face as much as possible with schizophrenia. Though complex and heavy with medical terms, the book doesn’t take away its essentiality to be read. The writing had my heart, really. Armed with a pencil I couldn't stop myself from writing in the margins and highlighting my favourite paragraphs and excerpts. The emotions crack open through the substantial content just like sunlight splits in through gaps in window beams. It gives you hope and rips it off too, gut-wrenching but informative this is a book one must read at some point in their life. Here was my bleak attempt to review this book. I do not know how best it can be done as it is not our “quintessential” piece of non-fiction. It is definitely something more.

My rating:

I made a mental note of rewatching the movie - A Beautiful mind after reading the book. Highly recommended, both the book and the movie (A beautiful mind).

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Cost of Living, the second part memoir with a feminist voice and piercing words. Deborah levy, up close and personal.

Cost of Living by Deborah Levy is the second in her memoir part series after the blue book- Things I do not want to know, which by the way is phenomenal. While the blue focussed a lot on her earlier part of life and struggles, as a child and further dealing with writing struggles accompanied by low mental health the yellow book is a compilation of personal essays which talk of her later life- after marriage, her separation, kids and her thoughts as a writer working in a shed which sprouted the concepts for her books Hot Milk, first memoir and Swimming home. It also speaks of how affecting Levy’s mother’s death was. A loss she wasn’t able to recuperate from for a long time.

Levy’s way of authoring is not only varied but stupendous. A familiarity which lingers reminding you it’s all “her”. With her memoirs you see her writing in new light. It is different because it is welcoming and similar because solid wordplay is something her prose is never deprived of. Strongly worded yet showing her vulnerability in tough times and solitude. Cost of Living shows Levy’s fans the correlation of her book projects with her life stories. It is endearing and impressive. Her feminist thoughts propagate well through her skilfully framed sentences. I personally loved those parts where she hammers men who call their wife as just “wife” as if they have no names and only this identity to carry. “My wife”- they’d say! Her bothersome past as a young girl comes back to us in this yellow book in the form of memories, of her own and her mother's. I enjoyed the author and book references she brings up in her conversation with us, citing them and fitting them in the most appropriate stanza.

While I might not recommend this as a first book to be read by her, it is nothing short of being declared as a delectable piece worth savouring. Pick it up after you have absorbed her other works(atleast 2) so the after taste of the yellow remains longer and stronger.

My Rating:

Goa- A new revelation. All credits to this dainty place- Literati Bookshop Café   The ceiling-high bookshelves I was in Goa last m...