Beyond the Gossamer Veil – A Review

Mr.Holland Astonbury has acquired a singularly sinister reputation in Mr.Fox’s village.
The village rumors made every other delivery guy quake in his boots when the Post Master came looking for volunteers for an urgent delivery to Astonbury Hall.  Fox knew ( or thought he knew ) better than to take into account these tales – this assignment could turn to be the trump card he would play to move up the ranks as there was no other man willing to even step forward despite the handsome sum it promised . So,our Fantastic Mr.Fox starts for Astonbury Hall with the package – how does the assignment go?? Read a first hand account from Fox himself about his expedition – Yeah, all those tall tales had made a journey to a mansion in his own village an expedition!!

Martin had had a really bad week. First, it was his breakup with his altogether too demanding girlfriend . He was too occupied to give much thought to trivial things like breakups . But , in the coming days , the market downslide and the declining profits gave him something to worry about seriously the rest of the week . Come Friday , he was on his way for a much needed weekend getaway but it looked like his disastrous week didn’t end with the boardroom  and the bedroom (strictly Martin’s opinion about his relationship(s) ) .The latest one was his Cadillac Escapade’s run in with a Toyota Corolla . Now watch out  his weekend getaway plans take a turn for something else.

Beyond The Gossamer Veil –  Eldritch Tales of the Supernatural by Todd William is the book you need to pick up if  I have managed to pique your interest with the above snippets from his collection of stories . The stories were gripping from the first page with me wanting to finish atleast the story which I had started in one sitting (even if I could not sit through the entire book in one day) . All credits to his superb story telling – he knows how to shock people with the violence or scare them when he takes the readers to eerie places or if he wants you to see the nature’s beauty in his settings, you can get to see some breath-taking beauty of the landscape. It just depends on Todd’s plot to take you to  interesting places and watch the drama unfold albeit a bit slowly . Sometimes , I found it difficult to pace my reading to savor his language without plodding through a gripping start.

Every setting for his story is different and his character sketches were  really good . A suspense / thriller fan subconsciously picks up the deerstalker hat to play the what’s -gonna – happen – next guessing game I guess when he or she comes across stories that offer such scope . I actually guessed the direction the story was proceeding for a few correctly – 3 out of 7 to be precise . A few seemed to wander into  familiar turfs but Todd managed to spring a surprise at the end . Humor , pathos , a crime shrouded in something more than regular mystery – Todd’s package offers a rich variety and he manages to engage the reader early on in his stories  –  I envy Todd’s rich vocabulary . But as with his narrative style which sets the pacing slow , a few words just seemed to be used just for the sake of getting a different word . For non-native speakers , just a quick question – How many of you know the meaning of the word macadam?

Yeah, the reading experience itself was very interesting one for this book –  I was of  two minds  whether I should race through the stories without pacing my reading to actually soak in the beauty of the language and the vivid imagery it evoked or to turn the pages slowly because Todd gets you hooked in the first few pages and thereafter there seems to be no option but to sit through the entire story . The tales are quite tall and that’s what made it difficult to finish a story sometimes in one sitting once I got started with one .

So , having written about my reading experience and a quick review of the book , I can assure you that Beyond The Gossamer Veil turned out to be a rewarding read in several aspects . Pick it up if you want to get an idea about how to tell a story . Sometimes , the sheer mastery over the art of storytelling it what it all matters!!!

Rating – 3.75 / 5

For people who picked up the book , I would love to hear about your reading experience and thoughts about the book .

 

A few interesting picks of all the “made-up” words – Part 1

The word QUIZ was coined  by Richard Daley to win a bet .The story goes that he got some kids to write the new word he had made up on the streets of Dublin in the night . The next day , the people of the town were talking about the word that was scribbled all over the town on several walls . When Daley was questioned as to the meaning of the word he had  replied ” a puzzle ” . Today , making up new words has become a little easier  – a writer just makes up a  new word when he thinks he needs one and some are made up by the netizens  to up their social  media swag -quotient . A good number of words owe their popularity to social media . A few interesting picks from a whole bunch of words that can make up a ” A Dictionary Of Made-up Words ”

I have discovered that a few of my friends have become are actually textroverts. You can actually get them to “talk” only in WhatsApp groups or messaging .They should be the ones who should put  the”Can’t talk WhatsApp only” WhatsApp status .When they WhatsApp/message , you cannot imagine them saying the same things at a lunch table or anywhere when you hang out with friends.
There are a few Cynophiles whose canine love is evident from the number of pics we get to see of their dogs -a few pics look like they are right out of a exclusive photoshoot. Almost every selfie of these cynophiles have their canine friend.When they can sit for photoshoots it’s no wonder they caught up with the selfie fad also.A few of these people do not stop with posting pics of their adorable canine friend but try to help others like their canine friend to find another person like them.THAT is really something which I admire them for.
When there is a word for the dog lovers cat lovers too need one right ? Now , they are Ailurophiles. Not seeing any cat pics in my newsfeed. So,I think I don’t have any ailurophiles among my friends. But I know a lady whose blog-posts about her feline pets almost convinced me that being in the other camp would be easier.If her experiences with cats are things everybody who has/had one can relate to,then I can understand why getting cats to sit for photoshoots or posing for selfies is not easy for you guys.If any ailurophile is reading this,no offence please.You could probably share some pics of you and your feline friend bonding or maybe something adorable your cat does.Or you could easily write about your adorable feline friend and how I have got it completely wrong.

         Petrichorthe pleasant,earthy smell after rain

That’s not often I got to experience everytime it rains in the city.But I remember experiencing it vividly in a small town.Running into the garden to see the plants with the droplets covering every leaf/flower and playing under the trees just to experience something of a shower when somebody shakes one of the branches with the petrichor lingering quite strongly is the memory I have of the rainy days spent.But,that still is one of the best memories I have of my grandparents’ house.

            Vellichorthe strange wistfulness of used bookshops.

If you think I would have experienced it the answer would be a dampener.Despite frequenting some used bookshops for bulk purchases for my bookshelf, the used bookshops don’t have the aura of a place radiating old world charm.Rather,I need to be present in the moment to actually pick some good books before somebody else does.After getting a decent pick,its time to negotiate with the owner of the bookshop about the prices.The other day I picked up all the Chetan Bhagat books except Five Point SomeOne and a few others before going to the nearest used bookshop.I saw atleast 3 copies of One Indian Girl and atleast 1 copy of every book of his.I was just happy to put them there and I couldn’t say the same for the bookshop guy when he got a look at those titles.

             Sonderthe realization that each passerby has a life as vivid and complex as               your own.
The description itself had a deep meaning.So,when I actually googled the usage, I came to know about John Koenig’s ongoing project The Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows.I couldn’t agree about the word Sorrows in the title because these are fleeting emotions.We can feel a few of the emotions he has given a word for,but we might not feel them for a noticeable time.It is just like a realization/perception that dawns upon one at a moment or gaining a a deeper insight about life or actually feeling a tinge of regret.The next moment we shake it off and are all set to get going on with the practical life.These words,in John Koenig’s own words “feelings of existentialism“and are meant to “fill a hole in the language“.

Need to share my most favorite memory from my family ‘s road trips here.

During one  road trip , we had several butterflies coming and hitting against the windshield of our car. First there came 2 or 3 and before we could even realize,we found that our car was raking up butterflies .We had not seen a butterfly up close before and such a sight got me and my siblings all excited . Only our parents wanted to make a quick stop somewhere .We would have loved to travel all the way with the butterflies on the windshield . So,we made a stop at the nearest petrol bunk . Only when we saw butterflies with broken wings and few others dying or dead we actually felt sorry that we couldn’t make an earlier stop . A few were able to revive slowly . The memory that stayed with me about the trip was the sight of a whole swarm of butterflies in a variety of hues and patterns on the windshield of the car . Whenever we passed that particular stretch sometimes I remember looking out of the car window expectantly for a butterfly or two (not on the windshield definitely) but no such luck .
Quite recently , we decided to take a road trip after a long time to Kodaikanal. Standing in the midst of all the beauty of nature, I still couldn’t figure how suddenly the memory about those butterflies came about and the thought that came with it was the one that hit me hard – like those butterflies this too will become a memory one day . I was not exactly interested in rushing through ‘places of interest’ but I wanted to actually be amongst the nature and not look at it through the window of a car .So, we actually made several stops at any point that caught our interest and not only at the viewpoints listed in a tourist guide.Heck, we stopped to click pics of anything that we wanted to have a memento of . If we could actually bring some mementos home,we did that too-pine cones , fallen branches of pine trees , leaves with intriguing patterns and even some lichen from the bark of a fallen tree . I wanted to walk along the trails and the hairpin bends – me and my sister managed to actually take walks  despite  our short stay thoroughly enjoying every minute of it   and soaking in the beauty of the towering trees and the flowers in the shrubs  that stretched before us . A  Walk I Remember…

I couldn’t explain that feeling of  realizing that this trip too will become a memory then . So, for a change , I decided to actually take in the surroundings instead of just capturing them on photographs . I was aware that once we start clicking pics we focus on getting the perfect shot and forget about living the moment . Today, I found a word  from Koenig’s dictionary that describes that feeling perfectly

              Dés vu-the awareness that this (moment) will become a memory

How many times have we told ourselves that ” This too shall pass ” when we are going through tough times just to keep ourselves motivated? But have we ever thought about everyday moments in the same way? They might be part of  our daily routine or even if it is for a span of few months,those little moments are just what they are-little moments only.We realize that they were big things only when they become memories.Live the moment has yet another in-fad phrase which we use without an idea of the depth of meaning it conveys.Only when we fully understand ” living the moment” , I think we will appreciate the moments however insignificant it might seem in today’s hectic lifestyle .  Take a look at Koenig’s eloquence of language when he describes the feeling perfectly when he says

You were born on a moving train.
And even though it feels like you’re standing still,
time is sweeping past you ,right where you sit.
But once in a while when you look up,
and actually feel the inertia,
and watch as the present turns into a memory
-as if some future you is already looking back on it.

This quoted lines are just an excerpt . Click here for the  video on YouTube .  Do check out Koenig’s  project for his vivid descriptions of the ” obscure ” emotions . They wouldn’t seem  obscure after listening to Koenig ‘s vivid descriptions and equally moving visuals and background score . The attention that has been given every little detail in the videos  is commendable .

That’s it for this post . There ‘ s more to talk about this . Yeah, I am still not finished . Until I hit the publish button for the next post then .

Types of Quorans

I signed up for Quora in July 2016. I would have made a reference to it in one of the posts. The Quora that I signed up for was a knowledge-sharing platform. During the early days, it was a social media platform with a difference – you read even if your book reading took a backseat with all the deadlines and most importantly, read about things that matter. The title speaks for itself. So let’s get started…

       Storytellers:

These are the guys who have a story for every question they answer. As we know people tell stories in their way and so the storyteller tag itself is a generalization.

           Just for Laughs Only storytellers:

               Warning: Read at your own risk in office as these answers will crack you up and you would definitely get some weird looks if it happens too often. Or if you are the kind of person who can always manage a placid smile , then you can go ahead.

These guys are probably cousins to the Facebook meme creators. They ace the art of telling stories in a rib-tickling way and rival the stand-up comedians with their narrative spiced with puns and definitely their own unique style of writing. Any question they choose to answer should have a story and most importantly should be told so that the readers have a good laugh. When the answer nails these two factors, it automatically rakes the upvotes. For those who are for Laughter is the best medicine, when you cannot go for Facebook or Twitter, you can go for Quora also now.

       Enlightened storytellers:

These guys are the ones who have graduated from the first category. They have finally realized that you don’t have to make the reader smile or LOL with every story and that there are other stories also to be told for some answers-inspiring personal stories, personal stories that sometimes reveal about the person with the “popular Quoran” tag whom several try to emulate (definitely) and most importantly about inspiring people whom many of us have very little idea or no idea about .Whatever story they tell they make the reader sit through it to the very end. When the reader finishes reading the answer, it leaves the reader with questions/new insights or pondering about the opinions put forth. Whatever their answers do, the readers have a takeaway from each answer. The stories cannot be simply categorized-they know which story should be told for any question.

Some of them have been very honest about their journey from being a JFL storyteller just to establish a good follower base to telling stories that need to be told today. The answers that are introspective about the journey and setting new goals by some of the really honest guys are as good as motivational blogs and TED talks. These people show how to do things when they write those answers.

      Masked storytellers

          Not all heard stories are easy to digest for the readers. We can only imagine about other stories which we have not heard.

I have seen several anonymous answers raking upvotes and helpful comments by the awesome Quora community (not meaning to sound insensitive) than the stories which identifies the writer.

Their stories drill the hard fact that all good things in life will not be handed to you in a platter sometimes. You have to beat the odds to reach where you want to. A few answers are people who are still struggling but very optimistic that they will make it.Some answers would make you wish you knew that person and heard the story from their own mouth. These guys are the ones who have bounced forward. The society, their family circumstances, their failures-nothing shakes/shook them. They take/have taken things in their stride.

Another set of answers are written by people who want to unburden themselves about some harrowing experiences in life which they wouldn’t confide even to those closest to them for the fear of being judged/sparing their loved ones the pain which they suffer constantly. The Quora community reaches out to these people which encouraging words and I have seen several of these storytellers coming up with Edits about how those words have been consoling and they are looking forward to moving on.Some have gone to write about bouncing back in the Edits.

The Mentor

These writers were probably Adam D’ Angelo’s target audience when he together with Charlie Cheever came up with the idea of Quora.

They painstakingly write quite lengthy but super-informative answers on how-to-learn or choosing-between-X-or-Y or about complex concepts and several others questions beginners have in a particular field. Some of them actually substantiate their answers with stats and a bonus of list of reference links for more info/tools for learning/links for courses. A single answer can provide a wealth of information and give a head-start for the reader’s learning journey. Several of them give the tips & tricks they followed during their learning phase too.

I specially love those writers who narrate the story of their learning journey with all the mistakes they made (which the reader had also made/might be making) and most importantly, how they got back on track which serves for reassuring the beginners that perseverance pays off when some beginners feel anxious about getting stuck in learning-plateaus (I was one of those beginners…So special mention about these answers).

The Prime Time Debate Panelist:

As the country which drives the highest traffic to Quora, this is an exclusively Indian thing. The Quorans who write about India’s current political scenario are divided into two camps. No wonders there-there are no-so-healthy discussions in the comments sections or tongue-in-cheek answers about why the other camp has got it wrong completely. It becomes really ugly only when people specially from the camp that is critical about the Government write anonymously and begin their answer with the explanation-I am one step from getting banned. Some of the “not-so popular” but definitely bold writers from the camp have got banned. So, the seasoned political critic has to resort to this safety measure so that another dissenting voice is not banned from putting forth his/her opinions.

I believe that people of a free democratic state have the freedom of speech. It becomes a joke when we can make Trump jokes and Brexit jokes but cannot see what has happened at the home front. The current Government is honest enough to set the example for their Digital India campaign when every minister in the Cabinet is active on the social media like Facebook and Twitter. But, Quora is a different social media platform-questions will be asked and dissenting comments with solid facts for which the Minister has to come up with an convincing reply much like their “epic tweets”. Quora does not need their presence-their faithful followers in Twitter and Facebook are doing their job. So, why worry? With all honesty, one camp has an unfair advantage over the other like in most of the prime time debates on Indian news channels.

With several non-Indians hinting about their feeds monopolized by questions about The Great Indian Socio-Political and Economic scenario (one guy was frank enough to suggest that India should have its own Quora) where we would probably be able to thrash another writer’s opinions from the opposite camp without any fear about moderation from Quora. Well, rules can be relaxed as user experience matters and most importantly user engagement.

The Avid reader

The one who reads and reads but doesn’t write much and upvotes good answers. Quora freshers are in awe of the “popular Quorans” and even a comment from one of them, for one answer makes them ecstatic. You need to see some of their replies!! The fandom reaction for anything a “popular Quoran” does is becoming somewhat of fandom reaction for celebs.These are the most underrated guys very understandably but these guys also drive a good amount of traffic to the site and most importantly, make the writers write often and better.

Today the platform for “gaining and sharing knowledge” is just another social media platform. Quora follower-base is just like Facebook’s Friends list and Twitter followers. The stats say that India drives the largest traffic to Quora (33.3%) compared with 26.5% from US. But we don’t need the stats-we see it everyday. Now, Quora has become another in-fad platform that Indians have to try out. Quora has become a platform where every wannabe writer practices writing and there are too many of those answers that are written only for raking upvotes and every other reason except sharing knowledge and even for really interesting questions the answer is in the Indian context . My Quora feed has no variety and is flooded with answers on select number of topics when there are a wide range of topics. Click here for the full list of topics on Quora. The Quora follower-base has given them bragging rights because ” Brainy is the new sexy”. I think it’s the beginning of Quora becoming another Facebook/Twitter because this is what we Quorans get to see everytime nowadays

 

  • You upvoted this answer on this topic and so we bring you more answers on this topic.
  • You have answered questions under this topic and so read other answers on this topic
  • You can “discover new topics” with a list of related topics with the names of the “popular Quorans” you are following who are following those topics
  • Notifications like XYZ upvoted this answer after seeing your upvote

To gain an edge over its competitor Q & A sites Adam D’Angelo made sure Quora had the crowd-pulling features of both Facebook and Twitter. The Quora blogs feature is just taking things too far-Its like Lenka singing

All I wanna be
Is everything

Everything at once

By now, you can guess which category I fall into. I was also into honing my writing skills when I signed up for Quora but eventually I was not interested to enter into a rat-race that people where making Quora writing to be. I am still mostly answering A2As about book recommendations and anything on literature and some interesting questions in random topics.If you are wondering if I am still reading Quora-Yes, I read but mostly answers by the last two Quoran writers and sometimes stories by the last two kinds of storytellers.

 

A Writer’s gotta write first…

There is one Indian author whom I have been following very closely for anything except his writing. The man is not confined to writing bestsellers alone- he is a reputed columnist who writes very insightful articles on any niche,a screenplay writer for some of the highest box-office-grossing movies in Bollywood ( Hollywood,you have missed out a great talent…) whom The New York Times identified as ” the biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history” in 2008. Perhaps,that might be true – but are his works really noteworthy? If you are not familiar with Indian writing,I ‘ll tell it straight-Chetan Bhagat.

           First Point Someone was really good for a debut novel-the narrative style, the rib-tickling  wry humor (courtesy Ryan) were instant hit with  the audience ( particularly the youth) and Chetan Bhagat  became a voice of the youth and most importantly, for the youth .Most importantly,it portrayed the failings in the Indian Education System that was prevalent even in the premier institutes of the nation like IIT. Being an alumnus of one such institutions,the narrative voiced the disappointment which he probably felt during his Under Grad years and he did it in a very entertaining way with his prime characters-Alok Gupta and Hari Kumar when Hari says “ So, we’re not just five-point somethings anymore, we are five point somebodies. ” when they manage to get a job finally.

So,when 2 States came out,this time Chetan Bhagat’s strategy became very apparent. I should say that he is a man who  should know very well that ” Successful people do not necessarily do extraordinary things-they do ordinary things  in an extraordinary way”. When you tell a regular campus love story with all drama in Bollywood style with all the drama thrown in  with a happily-ever-after ending, the masala factor became the crowd puller rather than the writing. Yeah, it was a fun read again only for his tongue-in-cheek narrative and humor. But, I had learnt to not expect much and had designated Chetan’s books for a light read during 6 hour train journeys.

When a picked up my last Chetan Bhagat novel, I remember thinking about The Three Mistakes Of my Life after finishing it

  • Picking up a Chetan Bhagat book again
  • Sitting through a plot-line that does not resonate with the political climate ( set in Gujarat during the earthquake and later communal riots in 2002 ). If at all anything,I was mentally making note of n number things that went wrong that were too jarring.Let’s say I became a better reader and ever better at picking up books
  • Still giving a place for Chetan Bhagat’s books in my bookshelf- Five Point Someone can stay.The others are going to the second hand book-dealer very soon.

He became a pioneer of a new kind of storytelling. Several other motivated Indian youth joined the bandwagon of this breed of storytellers who believed that stories need everything else-the masala factor, very creative and intriguing names like this one( Of course I love you..!Till I Find SomeOne Better, Now That You’re Rich Lets Fall in Love– this guy can give starters tips on how he comes up with such titles that gets the reader hooked even before he/she take a read at the plot summary) , a narrative that borders more on the type of fantasy genre with the most improbable locations and situations) .

When finally One Indian Girl came out,Chetan Bhagat marketed it aggressively on social media.But,when the book became epic disaster( finally, the average Indian had learnt to choose better as Chetan Bhagat was touted to be the one who made them read English books…Duh!! ). Have a look as the Indian twitterati trolled him and its too spot on and hilarious to miss out. Click on this link- Just for laughs

When people become staunch advocates for these writers saying that they made the average Indian to pick up English books,I have only one thing to say to them-

Indians’ contribution to the English literature did not start with Chetan Bhagat or the others. It started way back during the independence struggle only with Rabindranath Tagore, R.K.Narayan. For a better idea, have a look at this Wikipedia article. I am planning to check out one or two myself.

I should say that Chetan Bhagat was working all the while for making his entry into Bollywood as a screenplay writer. I can say whole-heartedly that he fits the bill for a screenplay writer better.If his books were dishing out only What Young India Wants ,the movie adaptations of each of his books tapped into that talent more. And his works do not count as any contribution to English literature.These books can be seen as some recent contributions to the English literature

A Train To Pakistan-Khushwant Singh(I know this is not a recent one but I loved this book )

 The God Of Small Things-Arundhathi Roy

The White Tiger-Arvind Adiga

Ibis trilogy-Amitav Ghosh

The Inheritance of Loss-Kiran Desai

Midnight’s Children-Salman Rushdie(still in my TBR list)

So,that brings up another question -if the book is not in English, does it’s literary value diminish? Will that book not gain widespread recognition that generally comes with English? The answer is a straight NO. Have a look at the list below –

The Millennium trilogy(Swedish) – Stieg Larsson

The Alchemist (and every other title by the same author in Portuguese) – Paulo Coelho

The Dinner (Dutch) – Herman Koch.

For more  click here.The more I google,the more number of whole new lists keep coming up. OMG.

When it comes to India, there are several languages and only very few epic works have got the privilege of reaching a wider audience (especially the regional works capturing the society and the political scenario in the background during the independence movements) . Sometimes, translation would prove to be a lesser substitute as the dialect of the regional language which gives the distinct style cannot be captured in a foreign language. For Indian readers check out this link  for some must-read translations.

When I was reading Michael’s post, the words “A scorpion’s gotta sting, a writer’s gotta write.” brought Chetan Bhagat instantly to my mind and this post.Thanks Michael for giving me a title for the post. If I might add, write  something worthwhile first . Probably he should have a paper with these words pasted just above his writing desk. He might be an alumnus of IIM-A but now you are a writer, you should know better that all the marketing gimmicks would not help if your story relies heavily on everything else except a good plot-line. He had done it previously and gotten away with it but this time, his marketing backfired in an epic way.

Lastly, to quote the man himself –“ I think half the trees in the world are felled to make up the IIT entrance exam guides. Most of them are crap ” Just substitute IIT entrance exam guides for Chetan’s books. Just can’t resist taking a parting shot 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wuthering Heights-Getting answers for some questions…-Part 2

The way Wuthering Heights panned out with Heathcliff on an avenging mission, I have often wondered that who had a major role in advancing Heathcliff’s schemes(knowingly or unknowingly) on both the families.Was it Hindley’s alcoholism cum gambling mania that made him a debtor to Heathcliff or Isabella’s attraction towards Heathcliff?If it had been only Hindley,the scene of action would have been only Wuthering Heights .But Isabella too comes in and Thrushcross Grange-the Lintons’ happy and normal home becomes a setting for the climax-the climax that preceded the story of avenging one’s love .There is one person who connects both the houses-Catherine Earnshaw,the ‘tragic’ heroine of the novel. Throughout the entire first half of the novel, there is ample evidence that Catherine Earnshaw’ s actions and words played a major role in setting up Heathcliff in his avenging mission.

Firstly,there was nobody to hinder Catherine from choosing Heathcliff over Edgar Linton-a proud (and definitely uncaring) brother definitely did not stand a chance against Catherine’s strong-willed nature. It was only Catherine’s pride and fear of poverty that made her choose Linton over Heathcliff. She could comprehend her feelings towards Heathcliff even then when she says-

“This [the acceptance of Linton’s proposal] is for one who comprehends in his person my feelings to Edgar and myself.[…]my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and all else remained ,and he were annihilated ,the universe, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger;[…]My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware; as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath-a source of little visible delight but necessary.

This alone says it all-her marriage to Linton is chiefly out of selfish motives for herself primarily despite her saying “The others [motives] were for the satisfaction of my whims and for Edgar’s sake,too,to satisfy him” and for Heathcliff chiefly.The only thing that sets apart Catherine (who caps even  all the Brontes’ unconventional heroines) from the rest of the Victorian heroines  is that she is very vocal about her factors(however despicable) that influenced her course of action.With the Lintons pandering to every whim of hers, she soon forgot about the only living person “who was her great thought in living” until the day he made his reappearance.While Heathcliff had come only to pay back Hindley, Catherine’s rapturous welcome of him showed him plainly that he had not lost Catherine’s love. Edgar Linton’s evident discomfort at his wife’s attachment towards Heathcliff, made it a sport for Heathcliff to repeat his visits to the Grange.

When Isabella confesses her admiration for somebody whom she perceived Heathcliff to be, Catherine plainly puts forth Heathcliff’s failings to make Isabella see sense.

He’s not a rough diamond___[…] he’s a fierce,pitiless,wolfish man.[….]I say ‘Let them alone, because I should hate them to be wronged’; and he’d crush you like  a sparrow’s egg,Isabella,if he found you a troublesome charge. I know he couldn’t love a Linton, and yet he’d be quite capable of marrying your fortunes and expectations___avarice is growing with him a besetting sin. There’s my picture; and I’m his friend -so much so that had he thought seriously to catch you, I should, perhaps, have held my tongue, and let you fall into his trap”

Despite knowing enough about the Heathcliff who had returned [no guesses there-Heathcliff laid bare his desire for revenging himself upon Hindley during their long rambles], she still reveals the girl’s fancy to him “to punish her for her sauciness” which seals Isabella Linton’s fate. Heathcliff had to just step up his revenge on Edgar with his marriage to Isabella Linton.Catherine Earnshaw knowingly not only betrayed her husband but also his beloved sister despite declaring that her intentions were otherwise.Even if she was honest in her intentions towards Isabella Linton,her betrayal towards Edgar Linton gives her fallacies that would make her an “anti-heroine” just like Heathcliff becomes an “anti-hero”.

I can go so far as to say that Catherine Earnshaw’s presence in the Lintons’ home was a luckless one. And Ellen Dean says that it was Heathcliff who was the “luckless presence”, a bird of bad omens”(Duh!!) .She does get very good adjectives but she did not use it to describe the correct person.

Catherine kept her word assiduously when she said

“I’ll try to break their hearts by breaking my own.That will be a prompt way of finishing all when I am pushed to extremity!”

If Catherine, alive and headstrong could inflict only this much damage, a delirious Catherine Earnshaw in her deathbed, with her words, destroyed any happiness that everybody could have had, if Heathcliff had been given a chance to move on.

I shouldn’t care what you suffered. I care nothing for your sufferings […] Will you forget me? Will you be happy when I am in the earth? Will you say twenty years hence, ‘That’s the grave of Catherine Earnshaw. I loved her long ago, and was wretched to lose her: but it is past. I’ve loved many others since; my children are dearer to me than she was, and at death, I shall not rejoice that I am going to her. I shall be sorry that I must leave them! ‘Will you say so, Heathcliff?

Even when Heathcliff for once speaks his heart at the very moment when he says “Do you reflect that all those words will be branded in my memory, and eating deeper eternally after you have left me? [..]Catherine, you know that I could as soon forget you as my existence! Is it not sufficient for your infernal selfishness, that while you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments of hell?”. But this anguished plea  falls on deaf ears and she again wishes to never be parted from Heathcliff and rambles on about how she expected Heathcliff to wish to be near her always.Knowing Heathcliff unlike any other person,and her hold on his heart,if her marriage was a betrayal,her confession about her undying love for Heathcliff during her final moments was even worse.

That day,the “anti-hero” Heathcliff emerged when he says-“I forgive what you have done to me.I love my murderer-but yours!How can I?“Although he clearly perceived Catherine’s fallacies,the intense grief totally eclipsed every other notion of reason/moving on-and The Hate Story started from there.

 

 

Wuthering Heights-Getting answers for some questions…

Recently,I picked up Wuthering Heights once again-these classics have such a powerful and eloquent language that dipping into one of them time and again is nothing new.But Wuthering Heights is different in one aspect-every read reveals a new shade of the characters -especially Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. Perhaps I should call them ‘changelings’ to adopt Bronte’s expression.I have always wondered at the great heights to which Heathcliff took his mission of avenging his lost love on both the Lintons and Earnshaws with not an iota of pity and evident indifference even for the only person connected to him by blood-Linton Heathcliff. That was enough to convince me that Heathcliff presented the epitome of villainy despite the introduction written by some English professor referring to Heathcliff as “anti-hero”.

It was the most depressing read at that time when all the previous reads have been happily ever after(even Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre despite the romance between Rochester and Jane not being in the style of a regular one). I skipped some chapters to fast-forward the read in the hope of getting some glimpse of  redemption,if any ,for both the families from the diabolical schemes of the villain.With turning over each page,it only seemed that things were moving towards something dreadful of an epic proportion and that’s why I had to fast forward my read with this book.

The next read (after a year or so),allowed for a proper reading which turn the spotlight full on the eloquent and most importantly, the powerful language which brought out the raw emotions of the lead characters-Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. This time, I felt some pity for Heathcliff when he says “….nothing that God or Satan could inflict would  have parted us,you,of your own will,did it. I have not broken your heart-you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine.[….]”

I could understand that being loved in his own way by somebody (for probably the first time in his life), he was always striving to be worthy of that love. On losing his only love, he became someone whose only life mission was to dish out revenge to people whom he perceived to be the reason for his love betraying him. I have always tried to find a convincing explanation for Heathcliff to run amok in view of his life mission of revenge on Hindley Earnshaw and Edgar Linton as he did not stop with only both of them-he carried it too far with his schemes on both Hareton Earnshaw and Catherine Linton.

Understandably Hindley becomes the arch rival as his depriving Heathcliff of his education and degrading him in the eyes of Catherine who eventually turned to Edgar Linton despite her misgivings about marrying him as she herself puts it beautifully thus-“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changing the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath-a source of little visible delight, but necessary…”.When he returns to Wuthering Heights to primarily avenge Hindley Earnshaw, Isabella’s Linton’s attraction towards him presents him with a golden opportunity to avenge Edgar also and he aces it with diabolical cunning. On Hindley quitting the hell of his own making (within a few months of his sister quitting hers and again entirely her own making), Hareton has to bear the atrocious conduct of the sins of the father visited upon the son (and very pathetically without knowing about it).But, Edgar severing all ties with Isabella upon her marriage to Heathcliff and Isabella eventually running away from the Heights and taking refuge in London, it is somewhat of a poor consolation. This time, his own son becomes the pawn in his game to obtain the custody of Hareton Earnshaw and making him a servant in his own father’s house.

On Isabella’s death and Linton Heathcliff’s subsequent arrival at Wuthering Heights, his comfortable upbringing in the dismal and disorderly house is with the sole objective of making his own son the master of Wuthering Heights with his arch rival’s son now knowing his rightful place (if he couldn’t perceive the diabolical cunning behind Heathcliff’s indulgence towards him during his growing up years).By excellent scheming again Heathcliff puts together his Linton and Catherine’s daughter  in each other’s company and eventually gets them married knowing very well that his son would die and he would become the master of Edgar Linton’s estate which his son had come into possession on his marriage. Almost everything falls in place like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and he becomes the master of Edgar Linton’s estate also.

Heathcliff’s love for Catherine Earnshaw was of such a kind that she lived in his thoughts and everything evoked a memory of her. He himself puts it plainly thus “….what is not connected with her to me? and what does not recall her…The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did exist and that I have lost her!’. When I say that Catherine loved Heathcliff in his way, it is about the numerous instances where they have echoed each other.

Nelly,I am Heathcliff!He’s always,always in my mind-not as a pleasure,any more than I am always a  pleasure to myself,but as my own being”

“[…] I could as soon forget you as my existence”

“[…] he’s more myself than I am.Whatever our souls are made of,his and mine are the same;and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from from lightning,or frost from fire.”

“[..]What kind of living will it be when you—oh God! would you like to live with your soul in the grave?

 It was a cruel twist of fate for Heathcliff again when he had everybody in his power but he couldn’t strike the final blow as he saw Catherine Earnshaw instead of Hindley in Hareton now.But,the most compelling thing that made him reluctant was that he had a glimpse of his own youth which had seen his degradation and his subsequent hard life in reaffirming his place in the society -“He moves me differently-and yet if I  could do it without seeming insane, I’d never see him again! You’ll perhaps think me rather inclined to become so if  I try to describe the thousand forms of past associations, and ideas he awakens, or embodies” “[…]Hareton seemed a personification of my youth, not a human being. I felt to him in such a variety of ways….”.He couldn’t see something of himself in his own son or (more of)  Catherine in her daughter to have treated her better. It was an irony that he should see her and also himself in Hindley Earnshaw’s son.

Hareton’s aspect was the ghost of my immortal love,of my wild endeavors to hold my right,my degradation,my pride,my happiness and my anguish___

For somebody who lives only on memories and completely in the past,if Catherine’s ghost(as he says) has haunted him “killing not by inches,but by fractions of hairbreadths,to beguile [him] with the spectre of a hope,through eighteen years“,seeing the ghost of his former self  continuously in front of his eyes,was the final blow.It rendered him incapable of finishing the task that he had begun from the day he returned to Wuthering Heights a second time-to avenge his lost love,his degradation,his lost happiness and finally,the death of his only love.

As an afterthought ,Catherine,Heathcliff  and  Hindley were people who could not accept the changes or come to realize that moving on is the best thing for themselves and most importantly for those around them.It should be said to Catherine Linton’s credit that she was more of a Linton than Earnshaw in making peace with the present and moving on with the hope of a better future when she finally turned towards Hareton.

In the meanwhile,let’s get your views about my ideas to the question whether Heathcliff took his avenging mission to whole new heights in the comments section.

 

 

 

 

For the man who taught us to write better English

We had Samuel Johnson’s Preface to the English Dictionary as one of the prose lessons during our 11th grade. Now, once you come to high school (why tell only in 11th and 12th), language subjects don’t count.English classes become a free hour where most of the class will be finishing their assignments for the other subjects while somebody keeps reading out the passages beautifully  with intonation so that atleast a few might be able to appreciate the beauty of the poem/prose. But in a class where almost everybody is already in the rat race for getting into reputed engineering/medical colleges (with the slightest clue about the Engineering course they would take or the specialization after MBBS),all the mellifluous reading falls on deaf ears. Looking back, my respect for my high school/higher secondary English teachers has increased manifold and each one of them seem to personify an epitome of patience.

So, when we started out with the Preface prose, the teacher gave us a quick brief up about who is Samuel Johnson-the guy who pored over n number of books and spent every day to put out the correct usage/spelling of the most common words-is it ake/ache or fuel/fewel so that people get the word/spelling/phrase correct. If he had not started putting out the dictionary, I can very well imagine the sorry state of my emails/posts(which are very few and get published on blue moon days) if I get confused between X/Y or M/N. Now, we have spell check, auto-correct, grammar check etc and its easy to forget the humble forerunner for all these in this day and age.

I remember thinking to myself-“which guy starts a preface on such a grudging/pessimistic tone?” on seeing these words “It is the fate of those who toil at the lower employments of life, to be rather driven by the fear of evil, than attracted by the prospect of good; to be exposed to censure, without hope of praise; to be disgraced by miscarriage, or punished for neglect, where success would have been without applause, and diligence without reward. Among these unhappy mortals is the writer of dictionaries...”But as the lesson progressed, I had almost decided that the author wanted the world to know of his hardships in completing this “monumental” work but still I could not help admiring the way he had with words-shooting straight and getting the correct words so that nothing is left unsaid. Still, it seemed to be  too much of a rant and rave about his hardships and not in the tone of the regular prefaces in novels-Some authors thank their kids, grand-kids(probably for being well behaved children and not playing with their writing materials/drafts),pets. Although put in a lighter note, I had never come across such a preface during the entire reading years of my life.

But when we reached the end of the lesson, these words “I may surely be contented without the praise of perfection, which, if I could obtain, in this gloom of solitude, what would it avail me? I have protracted my work till most of those whom I wished to please, have sunk into the grave, and success and miscarriage are empty sounds…”made me understand somewhat why the tone had been so embittered– and for the first time I could sympathize with him. And these words,” I have protracted my work till most of those whom I wished to please, have sunk into the grave, and success and miscarriage are empty sounds…” touched a raw nerve as even a happy-go-lucky 17-year old could understand that he was referring to his wife.

On Sep 18th,this year,which happened to Johnson’s 308th birthday, Google had a regular super-creative doodle commemorating his birthday and by habit I fell to reading about the doodle. Seeing Johnson’s name, I was piqued and read the extensive but very informative Wikipedia article about Johnson. Johnson’s life loomed before my eyes and the words “…. the English Dictionary was written with little assistance of the learned, and without any patronage of the great; not in the soft obscurities of retirement, or under the shelter of academick bowers, but amidst inconvenience and distraction, in sickness and in sorrow” also would not convey enough about the challenges and difficulties he had to face not only while working on the English dictionary but his whole life having to deal with Tourette’s syndrome,bouts of depression and a host of other illnesses and not-so-stable finances(to the point of getting arrested for an outstanding debt of  £5 18s). I could for the first time understand the complexity of the task he had undertaken after getting to read the historic context about how the  dictionary came about.And above all,he was a visionary  and of generous nature when he writes thus:

The chief glory of every people arises from its authours[…]but I shall not think my employment useless or ignoble, if by my assistance foreign nations, and distant ages, gain access to the propagators of knowledge, and understand the teachers of truth; if my labours afford light to the repositories of science, and add celebrity to Bacon, to Hooker, to Milton, and to Boyle.

If there is a higher purpose then this says it all:tongues, like governments, have a natural tendency to degeneration; we have long preserved our constitution, let us make some struggles for our language. 

But I can say that the most crushing blow for him was solitude after all his near and dear ones predeceased him.He puts it  forth very clearly when he wrote:

The black dog I hope always to resist, and in time to drive, though I am deprived of almost all those that used to help me. The neighbourhood is impoverished. I had once Richardson and Lawrence in my reach. Mrs. Allen is dead. My house has lost Levet, a man who took interest in everything, and therefore ready at conversation. Mrs. Williams is so weak that she can be a companion no longer. When I rise my breakfast is solitary, the black dog waits to share it, from breakfast to dinner he continues barking, except that Dr. Brocklesby for a little keeps him at a distance. Dinner with a sick woman you may venture to suppose not much better than solitary. After dinner, what remains but to count the clock, and hope for that sleep which I can scarce expect. Night comes at last, and some hours of restlessness and confusion bring me again to a day of solitude. What shall exclude the black dog from an habitation like this?

And my next read was no doubt his Preface to the English Dictionary. And this time,the words were not only awe-inspiring for their sheer eloquence but also for putting forth the trials in as-is tone without meaning to evoke sympathy-his fighting spirit shone forth will superb brilliance when he elaborates his extensive research and the factors influencing his choices in spelling a word or usage of phrase despite knowing that the work he had undertaken was not a one-man-task and can never be immortal.For a person to sit at it for 9 years,day in and day out -it surely shows you the man’s dedication and above all the courage and determination.

Johnson writes  with a tinge of regret “…whether I shall add any thing by my own writings to the reputation of English literature, must be left to time: much of my life has been lost under the pressures of disease; much has been trifled away; and much has always been spent in provision for the day that was passing over me…..“.Be assured,Dr.Johnson,that having read only this preface to the dictionary was enough to see the writer in you.Not only the preface,the writings to friends,patrons have shown the eloquence of your language.

Thanks Google for that bang-on doodle on Dr.Johnson.

I just got to see the bigger picture about Johnson.My English teachers tried their best for making the English classes count.I guess that they succeeded with atleast a few of us..

Just wondering how Johnson would feel if he gets to see some of our chats or social media hashtags/posts where we take spelling to a whole new level.Now,now,I don’t want to start sounding like Spelling Martinet….Maybe we are  moving towards the place where we started out from.Most importantly,from where  Dr.Johnson and scores of other lexicographers had brought us to where the English language is today and just telling ourselves that we sound cool.A huge relief is that thankfully people have some sense to keep it only with the social media.

P.S:This is probably a very late post(almost a month late).Thankfully,it has not become an idea that did not get time to become a full fledged post.And like every other post,let me remind you to share your thoughts about the post.And don’t stop with only the post-Give me some good book recommendations.Finally could spare some quality time for Option B.Thanks Accidental Iowan.Just hoping that the next blue moon comes sooner 😛