Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

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First off how good is the minimalist cover of Olive Kitteridge? I really thought I got lucky with this edition not just because I love lighthouses.

I have been delaying talking about Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge because I read it within a month of my grandfather’s death. Saying we were very close would be an understatement. At first the book hurt terribly. I thought I knew heartbreak and then life decides to say ha let me show you how you wrong you are! Initially, you want to escape the pain not experience it more deeply. But then the latter is more cathartic in the long run, and you start to heal when you realize this is the way of the world. We are all connected by loss, love and longing.

I was astounded by Elizabeth Strout’s writing. There’s a kind of gentleness about the everyday life she writes about. It is never banal. I never thought everyday life could be written about so poignantly and have such an immediacy to it. Ordinary people, everyday entanglements and normal lives in the hands of a gifted writer makes for a compelling narrative.

Henry Kitteridge, the husband of Olive Kitteridge, reminded me of my grandfather – kind and affable, never wanting to make a fuss and trying his best to be in harmony with what is.

Possible spoilers ahead.

Olive Kitteridge is the portrait of a long marriage and of an only child’s failed relationship with his parents. It is learning that marriage cannot alleviate your loneliness completely even though you are bound together for life. It is about the deterioration and fatigue that sets in old age. It is about finding companionship when you least expect it. It is about tender unexpected love that has no name but which gushes forth without caring if it’s appropriate. It is a deep yearning to be connected yet unable to bridge the gap.

It is about the truth and being straightforward being the kinder way in some cases. It is about the meek and submissive becoming vile when it is they who wield the power.

It is about small things, things of no apparent consequence and almost invisible to others, having the capacity to cause such tremendous heartbreak that it takes you by surprise.

It is about compassion lurking under battle hardened hearts and letting go of judgement, living with everything as is. It is being true to yourself above all because in the end when Death is coming for you, that’s all that matters.

Olive Kitteridge showed me all that and more. I could identify with many things. Things I didn’t know I felt, things I suppressed because they weren’t important in the scheme of day to day living. And there were things I could foresee myself identifying with in the future. When a book does that you know it’s a keeper.

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Thoughts on The Heat and Dust Project- How (not) to tell a book what you feel about it

 

 The Heat and Dust Project is a travel memoir and not just a travelogue as the title says. It is about the two people who are married to each other and how their relationship changes when they are travelling through India, to discover it and themselves in the process. It is about the feel of the place and the people they meet there, more than the place itself. They, along with the places they visit, are the main characters in their own book.

They have dared to show things as they are, and shown themselves in less than flattering light many a time. Their relationship is there for everyone to see and that can’t have been easy. Two writers in the house and both fiercely opinionated and stubborn. It must be have one hell of a writing and editing process. I, for one, would have loved to be a fly on the wall to see how it came to be the book it is.

Reading the book  shortly before an impending trip, it fell into my lap at just the right time. I bought the book a few months back and hadn’t gotten around to reading it. Then one fine day it struck me that it would make a great gift for a friend of mine who has the wanderlust and frequently travels with her better half. I read the authors’ interviews to know more about them and their project and I thought I will read  just the author’s note to get a feel of the book. Then to get a better idea I read the introduction and before I knew it I was reading the book.

The strange thing is, whenever I read nonfiction (which is not very often) I only want to read more nonfiction. Initially it was a slow read, I was savouring every moment and nonfiction is more powerful in the way one experiences it, probably because one feels that it is something which has actually happened, real and tangible. The writing is conversational but still literary. A good balance I thought.

Anxiety is a strange but not uncommon response to beauty. It is mostly exhibited by people with a talent for stress.

Devapriya or D as she calls herself says this when they were going gaga over the beauty in Jaisalmer and thought they might not be able to do justice to its breathtaking gorgeousity (yes that is a word). At times like these I wished the book had some photographs.

I finally found someone, to whom dusk matters and affects, in equal measure. Finally a person who has a relationship with the setting sun, a person who has revelations at dusk. And just like me, dusk is a harbinger of hope for her. How a moment captured during twilight becomes perfectly stored in one’s memory has always been a mystery to me. A marker which nature gives us every single day, to take stock of the day, to pause and reflect.

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Where’s the moon

 
Whenever I see the moon, especially the full moon I’m reminded of the poem Silver by Sir Walter de la Mare.  It was one of the early poems I remember reciting and loving. Mrs. Irene Kapoor( I. Kapoor miss to us), our English teacher had interpreted it so nicely.

I felt the poet in me stirring and  came up with this. I have decided I will post my poems however idiotic they might be. After all I have got only  this life to live, so I might as well live without any inhibitions. Better to be embarrassed and laughed at  than to live out my days as a coward. I might as well get on with it. Cheers !
 
The moon is full and bright,
I look at it wistfully
with dreams in my eyes.
 
I wish I could stare into the eyes of a loved one,
and see the moon light reflected in its shadowy depths.
 
The yellow moon with grey scars on its face,
vibrating and pulsating like a living thing,
reminding me of my heart pumping along for dear life.
 
Overflowing with feelings,
with joys and sorrows,
radiating and shining forth,
showing others silvery light,
itself burning bright.
 
Ah the moon’s bright tonight,
so bright it hurts my eyes.
Tears spring forth free and fast,
it’s so heartbreakingly beautiful,
 that I cry.

Of semester exams and other disasters

Today my first ever semester exam came to an end and I feel as if I have recovered from a serious traumatic experience. How is that for optimism, eh?Now that it’s done with I feel alive again (as opposed to the past week where I was feeling like I had been lugging around a ton of data in my head and feeling as nice as a dead corpse in a coffin buried under a ton of earth).
You get the picture-walking, talking manic zombie. Telling people off  just for living their lives when mine has stopped and literally revolved around course books. Looking umpteen times at the clock and wondering if  someone has bewitched the clock to go twice as fast. Then realizing that it’s not Harry’s world and forcefully admitting to myself that indeed is real time that’s passing or rather ticking by. Panicking that today is  another day wasted,day dreaming(now that’s my favourite past time) and fantasizing about the ending of examinations when I will be able to watch television, read books and watch movies till my eyes hurt. 

I never realized how good I had it in college with annual exams at the end of the session which meant college life was a breeze compared to post graduation.Of course the work is supposed to be hectic and heavy,but still…

I like the idea of studying leisurely, ruminating on concepts, clearing topics to the best of my ability, researching and living with it for a considerable amount of time. And then only  can I sit down to write an essay. And for most part I don’t get around to the writing bit at all and it makes me look like a bit of a loser when exam seasons begin.

In the wake of exams I didn’t even realize how the new year came and went. It’s biting cold and it’s January. It should be the time to laze around, snuggle with a blanket and read books in the warmth of the winter sun.A movie or two a day shouldn’t cause any harm too. There ought to be time for day dreaming and time for scribbling away in journals too(which amazingly enough  I always find time for even though I might be fanatically busy).

But alas no time for a holiday now,just take a breather and move on.It’s time to pull up my socks because  the next semester beckons.

And a belated happy new year to everyone !