On authors’ lives influencing their works

I enjoy reading about writers’ lives, especially when I come across a book I really like, for I feel that the circumstances they found themselves in must have contributed greatly to what and how they wrote.

There is no denying that a good imagination, a talent for story telling and writing, intelligence and having a way with words are all key elements for writing a great book. But what about circumstances?

Had Jack London not spent a year in the Yukon, would he ever have been able to write The Call of The Wild (read my review) in the manner he did? Had Hannah Kent not visited Iceland as a student, would the idea to write Burial Rites (read my review) ever have come to her? Did Sylvia Plath’s depression not find expression in some of her greatest works? What about Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Anne Frank?

Sometimes in fact, I feel a book is made even more enjoyable by learning about the author’s life. In fact, I would go so far as to say that some books don’t make sense or lose their meaning, when we don’t know anything about the author’s life. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, for example, which I read a long time ago, is, by itself, a great book. But when you learn about Jean Dominique Bauby and the circumstances under which he wrote the book, it becomes a truly remarkable achievement.

So, whenever I come across a good book, it is always interesting to me to know what made these writers who they were – what motivated them, from what perspective they looked at the world, what experiences helped them become better writers – I guess the list could be pretty long!

However, I usually don’t like to read about their lives before I’ve read their book/s. I like to enjoy a book unbiased. I like to enjoy it for what it is and once I have finished, only then do I like to understand what made the writer ‘tick’.

What about you? Do you enjoy reading about a writer’s life before you embark on his/her books? Or after? Or do you just like to enjoy a good story and leave it at that?

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Daily Prompt: Deprive

I often wonder, as I’m sure many parents do, whether I will be able to provide for my son all that he requires as he grows from a child to an adult, or whether circumstances may force me to deprive him of certain things. It’s so easy to worry about the future when you have a child, whether or not the present situation warrants it. For example, will he be deprived of:

  • a good education?
  • all the right opportunities in his life?
  • a room of his own?

My list goes on. There are major worries and there are small, silly worries. There justified worries and unwarranted ones, the latter merely a creation of my over-thinking mind.

The realisation has however dawned on me that one cannot know today what tomorrow will bring. So many times, as life has already shown me, we find ourselves victims of circumstances that have eluded our control.

Thus while I can of course do my best to ensure that my son is not deprived of the things I would like him to experience in his life, I have to recognise that in the future there will be some circumstances that will be beyond my control. I might not be able to do anything about them when they occur and I certainly cannot do anything about them right now. Hence worrying about these things, and getting stressed and upset is indeed a waste of ‘NOW’.

This thinking has led me to another realisation, which is that there are certain things that are in my control and that I need never deprive my son of: Continue reading

My Blog: Then and Now – FOOD

 (Part 4 of My Blog: Then and Now – Taking stock of my blog’s main categories and examining what has changed since I first began blogging in 2013)

Good food – the eating of it and the making of it – are things I have always been interested in (particularly the former!)

Over the past year and a half I have hardly been able to make the time to focus on the making part of it, but now I find that I am beginning to fit it in a little bit at a time, as I also fight to make time for the other interests / hobbies in my life.

So the occasional experiment with cooking, a few handy tips and some food related book reviews will hopefully begin to feature again, in keeping with the reason for the Food category in this blog.

Reading Extensively Vs. Reading Intensively

A couple of weeks ago I glanced through a write-up and interview in the local newspaper about a professional story teller who was visiting India from England to give a performance and to speak about story telling, reading and books in general.

Besides being quite excited that the art of story telling was being highlighted and promoted as an actual profession, I was struck by what the artist had to say about reading extensively vs. reading intensively.

He said that most people look to read extensively these days – to read as many books as they can in as short a time as possible. (I suppose audio books aid this phenomenon as well)

He said people seem to have forgotten the beauty that lies in reading intensively – taking it slow with a book, really getting absorbed with what the book, its setting and characters are all about; allowing a book to take you somewhere else or to be immersed in someone else’s way of thinking.

I hadn’t even thought about these two contrasting ways to read and I’m glad that I chanced upon this write-up. It made me realise that I want to make it a point to read intensively. I think I do anyway, for most books, but I want to make it a point to. Of course like many people who love to read, I do have those moments when I want to get through a book quickly just so I can begin another, for I am sure I will never have enough time during one lifetime to read all the books I want to!

But really, what IS the point of reading only extensively and not intensively? Why read if we don’t REALLY absorb what the book is trying to offer? Or is reading extensively just another feature of the crazy, demanding, fast-paced lives we lead today, where it is so hard to just slow down. With all the things we have to remember to do in a day, just remembering to slow down can be difficult!

I am currently reading How Green Was My Valley, am doing so “intensively” and am enjoying every slow minute of it.

When I visualise “reading intensively”, I picture an IV drip whose contents are a book that slowly, drop by drop, begin to enter your system. A bit dramatic I know (not to mention bordering on being morbid!) but that’s just what popped into my mind right now.

So, what do you prefer – reading extensively or reading intensively and why? I’d love to hear some opinions on the topic.

(In response to today’s Daily Prompt: Contrast )

My Blog: Then and Now – PHOTOGRAPHY / TRAVEL

 (Part 3 of My Blog: Then and Now – Taking stock of my blog’s main categories and examining what has changed since I first began blogging in 2013)

I rarely take photos these days, but I find I still have much to show from the collection of photos I took from around 2005 till 2012. Hence, it is photos from that era that will usually feature in this blog, with the occasional current one. So as far as the Photography category goes, the purpose has pretty much stayed the same since I first began blogging.

I am grateful for events such as The Weekly Photo Challenge, Thursday Doors by Norm 2.0 and Travel Theme by Ailsa which provide me a platform to share photos that would otherwise most probably just remain nothing more than a bit of memory space on a hard disk. I am looking forward to checking out more of these events on WordPress.

The reason I am writing about the categories of Photography and Travel together is that most of the photos I enjoy taking are while I travel and I haven’t done much traveling either since 2012. So the Travel Tales that I hope to write more about will also be from the same ‘era’ as the photos. I have recently unearthed the travel journal I used to carry on all my trips, jotting down notes wherever I went. I’m hoping this will jog my memory and hopefully the Travel Tales category shall also fill up in the coming months.

My Blog: Then & Now – WRITING

(Part 2 of My Blog: Then and Now – Taking stock of my blog’s main categories and examining what has changed since I first began blogging in 2013)

 Under the writing category of my blog my aim when I first began blogging in 2013 was to accomplish two things:

  1. To showcase my work, which at the time was freelancing in corporate communications and as a ghost-writer.
  2. To write about and discuss the process of writing, as well as gain knowledge from other blogging writers, as I completed my collection of short stories and began attempting to write books that till then had been only concepts.

But over the past 3 years my circumstances have changed and as a result, for the time being, I am no longer able to pursue working as a freelance writer and neither have I been in the frame of mind to complete the works of fiction I have begun. So you won’t, for the time being at least, find any posts on those topics.

Currently my days are taken up with numerous tasks that have arisen out of the responsibilities I have taken on, which also include child and elder care, amongst other time consuming activities.

What has come back to me however after a very, very long slump is my love for reading. And I do believe writing and reading go hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other.

I hadn’t blogged in over 2 years and I re-started blogging again around the time the reading bug caught up with me again. What a happy moment that was!

So now I practice my writing by doing book reviews of the books I read. I would like to believe that all this reading of other people’s writing will help me whenever I eventually make the time and get into the frame of mind to write again – both for work and to complete those other chapters that are waiting to be closed. Continue reading