[Book Notes][Book Review] The Devourers

I started this book about a month ago. I was skeptical. It’s a first book, it’s by some unknown author, it’s set in India but not quite. There were many other reasons too, all of which fell away, shattered, burnt, and then stomped upon by this glorious, marvelous, alien, absurd, beautiful novel.

If I wanted to sensationalize this novel, I would say four words to you – “Cannibalistic European Werewolves in Calcutta!”

But this novel doesn’t need that (besides, that statement above is completely wrong). This story is wild and beautiful and violent and gory. It deifies murder and condemns humans. It questions some social mores and reinforces others. This novel is a fictional history and a tight ropewalk across time. This story is not in control of the narrator and sometimes, not even in control of the author. It flows, like all the blood that it spills, sometimes visibly and sometimes invisibly.

This story needs no sensationalization because it is already, inherently sensational. It goes to those dark places you do not want to go and which the writer did not know his own mind went. And it. is. blashphemous. Oh, it is blasphemous. It is ugly in its blasphemy and yet somehow pure and organic. This book should be burned in squares and read in colleges. This book should be debated and revered. This book should be shredded and yet should survive generations, to show a future civilization, that this too, was something a contemporary thought of.

Or, perhaps, it should not. The violence is without obligation. The rating should be nothing less than “for people who will not puke at every page”. This book should be read by everyone yet no one. There are passages I could not go through with a sane mind, which begs the question – what of the author? Well, I can only say that the author is a genius of another level. He is so vivid in the descriptions yet somehow, there’s always a fog over the entire story, perhaps because that is how we read our history – with a dim view of what must have happened. It is almost unbelievable that this story exists, that too from an Indian mind.

When I was, over the last month, in thrall of the story, I met with a friend and went into a reverie about the book. At some point, she looked me straight in the eye and woke me up from my stupor by asking me that one dreaded question that has destroyed many a career before making them – “tell me how it ends”. The implication is clear. I’ve read way too many first-time novels which were wonderful pieces of literature till they were not. A weak ending, an odd plot point, a stubborn author not willing to let editors do their job. There are many examples of such books which sat in my memory as I pondered over this question. Every time I read the book since that day, I was ever afraid of her question and what the answer would be. Would it be as terrible as I’d come to think it could? There certainly was a strain on the story. It reached a climax too late. It piled on too much towards the end. It tried to tie up too many loose ends.

But my prayers were answered. The novel walks that middle path quite well. It is a wholly original story (the irony of using that phrase, which itself is not wholly original!) and it elevates folklore to a new level. This. This is what Indian authors are capable of, if only they return to their own roots and take ownership of their stories.

Do not ask me if you should read this story. Ask yourself – are you ready to be jolted out of your seat and into the ugliness of this world that the writer so casually flips through, as if it were part of our real history? Human history is not free of bloodshed and meaningless violence, but I’ve never come across an example where it is just laid out, so simply, so absurdly, so purely, while still making it clear – this is fiction. Then why, oh why, is it so bloodcurdling?

There is a phrase in the book that aptly describes the story – “in revulsion and glory”. The story is deeply homosexual. True to its form, both scenes of utmost violence and of deep passion are vivid and colorful and this may very well not be for everyone.

Notes

Page 8, last para, it should be “the moonlight diffuses”

Page 52, last line, “I relieved” seems oddly worded.

Page 57, this is such a beautifully written book. It elevated even the most gruesome, the most banal, the most ugly. There’s a line here that says “her faced gemmed with flies.” That is not a phrase that I believe I’ve read anywhere, ever.

Page 152,

A leash, I didn’t say. “Thank you,” I said.

By Jove this book has such colorful language! The way it starts and stops, the way it leads the reader through the thought processes of the characters. The way it surprises and shocks the reader at the same time as it does so to the characters. Indra Das is truly a magnificent writer who will come up with many great stories in his lifetime!

Page 155, oh beautiful blasphemy.

Page 165, what the heck do onions rotting in honey smell like? This book confuses my senses more than anything I’ve ever read!

Page 177, what is the River of Paradise, a canal that flowed through Chandni chowk?

Page 190,

“little more than monkeys that forgot how to swing from the trees.”

Seattle has a lot of Christian missionaries who stand on the streets, smiling, trying to convince you that their religion is the best. If these people irritate you, simply get a printout of the cover of this book, with this paragraph on the flip side and hand it to them whenever they disturb you.

Page 199, this is a great book to wake up to. It jolts you. It burns through whatever sleep you had and whips you into thinking, ‘this also exists in the world?!’

Page 201, one of the things that always amazes me about great writers is how they can describe, in apparent detail and vivid imagery, things that have not happened (at least to me). Things such as death, unconsciousness, and being in a stuffed stupor. How amazingly the author describes one such event, making it so amazingly clear how it would happen. The more I think about it, the more this is my favorite para in this entire amazing book.

Page 204, there’s a line on this page, “all else was fled”. When I googled that phrase, it showed up exactly 3 times in old books. That shows the level of original thought by this author!

Page 235, “a glittering human scab on the water”, ugh, so beautiful! So ghastly!

Page 250, should this be “infinite moment” or “infinitesimal moment”?

Page 283, comedy appears in the strangest of places in this book!

Page 287,

“Lightning cracks the edge of the world, rewriting the vanishing sunlight.”

Note to the author – I hate you, dear author, for you have ruined me for a great many books now. The deep color you have shown me, the way you have wrenched my eyes open to this absurd world of yours, how will I come out of it? How will I dive headfirst into lighter novels? How will I read funny stories without feeling that they are all monochrome?

Update – But I have already moved on! I have picked up All our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai and it is a riot of a book! I am cracking up in the bus like I’ve not in a while! A perfect follow up to this gruesome novel. The Devourers will visit me over time, but for now, I’m gladly sated at how it ended and what wonderful visions it showed to me.

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

A quick review of Dan Brown’s Origin

This is a typical Robert Langdon book, where the hero is the most well-connected, smartest-in-the-room, teacher-of-genius, yet-dumbest-when-it-comes-to-technology larger-than-life persona in the book, for whom women ache and doors open and helicopters fly at will. It was improved by the other two characters in the book, who, frankly, were in ways more important than Langdon himself.

Brown’s final explanation, that beautifully crafted, extremely vivid crux of the novel, which we read his books for, outdid itself this time. It was elegant, very well researched, and perhaps so coherent that Brown may well be a messiah of the times to come!

There was an expected thing that happens towards the end – the betrayal of technology – which you begin to expect almost as soon as you read about the technologies involved in this novel. Yet, in the cold light of the morning, I realize that while Brown had to make it trope-y, he managed to squeeze in an element of elegance there. The betrayal is typical of all science fiction, yet somehow away from it, as it resides in the world of Robert Langdon, and it is done and discovered in Langdon-style. The character’s response to it is also surprisingly Luddite.

All in all, it’s a good read. There were a point or two where it could have been tightened, where obvious spoilers could have been skipped to maintain the suspense. But those side-suspenses don’t matter. The main suspense was enough to whet our Dan Brown appetites!

Photo by quadralectics

[Book Review][Book Notes] A Room of One’s Own

I read this book, over the course of a month and a half, starting on July 1st and finishing it on August 13th, 2016. I read it because of the Bechdel test. I wanted to know the background of that idea. Woolf, unaware of the webcomic she would inspire almost a century later, gave a couple of lectures which are transcribed and expanded upon in this book.

I did not read the foreword of the book, for forewords are for and by editors. People do not need to know how to decipher the hidden meaning between the lines in order to enjoy prose. I dived directly into Woolf’s thoughts on the subject and her winding arrival at the conclusions presented in the book. There are things I agree with and things I slightly disagree with. My notes will say as much.

These notes are presented here, more for me, than for you. I want a record of the things I read and the thoughts I… thought… while reading this book. I hope to come back to this page often and review and revise my thoughts and notes.

A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf

“And thus by degrees was lit, halfway down the spine, which is the seat of the soul, not that hard electric light which we call brilliance, as it pops in and out upon our lips, but the more profound, subtle and subterranean glow, which is the rich yellow flame of rational intercourse.”

Woolf notes a very curious thing – that food is rarely ever mentioned by novelists. She believes that luncheons and dinners are not just for the witty things said, or the interactions the characters experience. So she challenges that norm by describing the food she had at a particular lunch and the effects it had on her. But she had an ulterior motive to it – she wanted to show the almost pedestrian food women’s colleges had in her time, so as to show that even something as important as lunch is rationed and poorer than it would be for a men’s college.

p.11

“Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction.”

Oh, such a wonderful line, and so true. This book is technically marked as fiction (even though it is an essay and is thus non-fiction). Yet almost everything in it is fact, which makes it all the more wonderful. It reminds me of The Mezzanine, a book by Nicholson Baker, where he painstakingly describes a lunch break. That book too, is fiction, but it is almost entirely based on facts, which makes it a strange and wonderful read.

p.16

“All was dim, yet intense too, as if the scarf which the dusk had flung over the garden were torn asunder by star or sword.”

A lot of my notes are just about wonderful imagery.

p.17

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

Ah, another maxim.

p.18

(How to describe gossip)

p.19

“We burst out in scorn at the reprehensible poverty of our sex.”

That is the centrality of Woolf’s issue with the current state of affairs regarding women. They are indeed poor. Once the woman was pushed into the kitchen and the home, there was no need for them to have money of their own. Man became the provider of goods and money and that was where women lost so much power and control. It’s coming back, slowly.

p.21

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p.23

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p.24

“Why was one sex so prosperous and the other so poor?”

p.25

“London was like a workshop. London was like a machine.”

p.26

“… the aloe that flowers once in a hundred years would flower twice before I could set pen to paper.”

She’s talking about how long it would take her to read all the books written by men about women. Indeed, men are obsessed with writing about women, mainly to prove them wrong.

p.27

“les femmes sont extrêmes, elles sont meilleures ou pires que hommes”

translation – women are extreme, they are better or worse than men
Oddly, it is true. Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned. Yet, when women are better, they are infinitely better than men, as is proven often by the Indian school system.

p.29

“Had he been laughed at, to adopt the Freudian theory, in his cradle by a pretty girl?”

p.31

astrachan
Noun
  1. a fur of young lambs, with lustrous, closely curled wool, from Astrakhan.

p.31

“They had been written in the red light of emotion and not in the white light of truth.”

All those books written by men about women are worthless to a woman trying to study women because they are colored by the resentment those men have towards women.

p.32

On this page, Woolf feels angry towards the men psychoanalyzing and expounding on women. She feels that their constant categorizing of women as inferior is wrong and hurtful. So she rejects their theories outright and says that their books are worthless to her.

This should be our response to Western attacks on Indian religions and mythology. Ignore them and forge your own. If the framework to be followed has been defined by them, so be it. But instead of trying to explain their flaws, simply make your own assertions and let those stand the scrutiny of people. Add a new voice, instead of parroting their claims and then defending against them.

p.32

This page has a wonderful description of how Woolf sees the anger of men and we can see her anger rising in response to that anger. This is the face of feminism as we see it today. It is just anger, legitimate anger. But it is seen as anger. It is not seen as the just response that it is to the anger of men towards women. Why have men been angry with women for so long? Do they want no progress for women? Do they never want to see a woman have the morals of a man? Even that question puts women in the light of men and so, is wrongly put forth.

p.33

“The professors…were angry.”

p.33

“When I read what he wrote about women I thought, not of what he was saying, but of himself.”

This is the key to what Rajiv Malhotra does and he is criticized even for that. Why should he not psychoanalyze the psychoanalysts of Indian culture? What gives them the right to do so but doesn’t allow him to do the same?

p.34

“Yet he was angry. I knew that he was angry by this token.”

p.34

“Life is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle.”

p.34

“There is no end to the pathetic devices of the human imagination.”

p.35

“Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.”

p.35

“…was not merely the cry if wounded vanity; it was a protest against some infringement of his power to believe in himself.”

That is what men are most afraid of when a woman stands up for herself – that they will be suppressed by the simple act of her trying to define herself.

p.35

“And how can we generate this imponderable quality, which is so invaluable, most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to oneself. By feeling that one has some innate superiority…over other people. “

This is the perfect example of how the British felt that they had the right to rule over the rest of the world. Frankly, raising this feeling in a people is very important for a country.

p.35

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An unintended consequence of feminism may well be that boys will actually mature, instead of growing up to be manboys who are mollycoddled by their wives as much as they are by their mothers. From this passage, it would seem that Woolf is trying to show how feeble men really are. They are emotional wrecks just waiting to happen. Well, bring about a culture of equality and men will have to learn to fend for themselves emotionally, maybe even learn to share their feelings with other men.

p.36

“How is he to go on giving judgement, civilizing natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets, unless he can see himself at breakfast and at dinner at least twice the size he really is?”

Man’s dominion over his home is as much a definition of himself as how he operates in public.

p.36

“Great bodies of people are never responsible for what they do. They are driven by instincts which are not within their control.”

That is a shame and a blessing. Fools like Trump can easily control them for their means and men like Gandhi can rouse them into rebellion for the greater good. Can not a body of people each think for themselves? Not often. Man is a social animal, true, but an animal nonetheless. Animals think in packs and often, one animal’s flaws take the entire pack down a path of destruction.

p.38

“Moreover, in a hundred years, women will have ceased to be the protected sex.

Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation.”

This is an interesting passage, for its predictions. Let’s see if they come true. Supposing this was written around 1927 (copyrighted 1929), the due date is 2027 and already, most of what Woolf writes about has been achieved by women.

p.40

“Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history.”

Such a sad plight – being the centerpiece of a magnificent story, but flung to the side as soon as a man arrives on the scene.

p.43

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This passage right here is what inspires me. It is not just the Elizabethian woman who faces this dire situation – that in which she does not record in her diary, or write poems and plays, or describe her house – it is also the everyman of almost every generation. My father and brother and mother and wife, none of them have a diary of their own. No means do they have of passing on any knowledge of their existence to our children. Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram are not going to be around forever and they do not suffice as records of our existence. We need more. We need to fall back on the traditional ways of recording our lives and we need to find new ways of telling our tales to our future generations. That is the only way that some time in the future someone, somewhere will have our names on their lips when they want to refer to our lives. That stranger is very important to me.

p.45

“Mary Russell Mitford”

What enmity did Woolf have to this woman?

p.45

“Cats do not go to heaven. Women cannot write the plays of Shakespeare.”

People sure have never liked cats!

p.46

“Who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet’s heart when caught and tangled in a woman’s body?”

Beautiful use of hyphens.

p.48

“Ce chien est à moi”

Translation – this dog is mine
Men wants to own everything, want their name on everything.

p.50

“The chief glory of a woman is not to be talked of – Pericles”

Why is it that being talked of is as negative thing a thing as any? Why must men assume that if a woman is famous, she must be famous for the wrong reasons? Why do men assume that women are always pure and worthy and need to be hidden behind curtains? I’m watching a TV show nowadays with the missus – Criminal Minds. The protagonists work for the FBI and go around catching serial killers, child abductors and rapists. Almost always, if the villain of the episode is a woman – which is rarely the case – a solid reason is given for the woman to turn to crime – a lost child, a rape, a vicious trauma. Men, however, seem to want to kill and rape and destroy for no good reason. They are supposedly of the mindset to want to do these things. That is a rather wrong thing to assume.

p.50

“Anonymity runs in their blood. The desire to be veiled still possesses them.”

p.50

“To write a work of genius is almost always a feat if
prodigious difficulty.”

Ah, so true.

p.51

“The indifference of the world which…men of genius have found so hard to bear was in her case not indifference but hostility. “

A genius man faces indifference, a genius woman, hostility. Almost as if the public asks, “Why must this man be smarter than us?” and then, “How dare this woman be smarter than us?”

p.52

“And happily in this age of biography the two pictures often do complete each other, so that we are able to interpret the opinions of great men not only by what they say, but by what they do. “

Is Woolf suggesting that Mr. Oscar Browning is having an illegitimate affair with a boy?

p.53

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That is the sad thing about bad things said by people about others – someone else down the line tends to use those words for their own purpose. Something I was reading recently, though I don’t remember the source – words are a weak source of information, because the person who writes them is not there to defend their meaning somewhere along the line. I think this was Socrates, critiquing writing as a means of knowledge transfer.

p.54

“Her mind must have been strained and her vitality lowered by the need of opposing this, of disproving that.”

This happens even to this day and age. Actresses in India are asked to defend themselves in strong roles, or asked to comment upon someone else’s criticism of their art. The answer, ‘I have no comment’ is not accepted and reporters hound them for a comment. Why should a woman have to defend a good role? Why should an actor have to defend any role? Why is the answer, ‘let my art speak for itself’, not enough?

p.55

“Unfortunately, it is precisely the men or women of genius who mind most what is said of them. Remember Keats. Remember the words he had cut on his tombstone.”

What did Keats have on his tombstone?
Answer – “Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water.”

p.56

“Florence Nightingale shrieked aloud in her agony. “

p.56

This page is an excellent example of how a writer can copy down an entire work of some other author and thus have it live on, both in the original and in this form, so that if for some reason the former may be destroyed, the latter can bear witness for future generations of this wonderful writing.

p.59

“The adulation of the toadies”

p.60

“Mrs. Behn was a middle class woman with all the plebeian virtues of humour, vitality and courage;”

p.63

“Money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for.”

If you get it for free, you don’t appreciate it enough. Money gives it a stature, a dignity.

p.65

“This, towards the end of the eighteenth century a change came about which, if I were rewriting history, I should describe more fully and think of greater importance than the Crusades or the Wars of the Roses. The middle class woman began to write.”

p.65

“Earn five hundred a year by your wits.”

This, more than anything, is Woolf’s appeal to women, according to my reading of this book – do not wait for someone to open that door for you. Go forth and push it yourself. Do not wait for an aunt to give you an inheritance. Earn that wage from your craft and you will suddenly have the freedom to be who you want to be.

p.66

“To Jane Austen there was something discreditable in writing Pride and Prejudice.”

p.67

“She will write of herself where she should write of her characters.”

Woolf says that Charlotte Bronte wrote too much of herself in Jane Eyre instead of writing more about the character. This would be because Charlotte’s frustration with her life and its limitations would drive her to ‘write in rage’. It is important for the author to divest completely of their frustrations and issues and start afresh with their characters, because those characters are completely different people from the author and must be treated as such. Good writing advice.

p.69

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Excellent commentary about how we perceive novels as readers

p.71

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p.71

“what holds them together in these rarest instances of survival (I was thinking of War and Peace) is something that one calls integrity, though it has nothing to do with paying one’s bills or behaving honorably in an emergency. What one means by integrity, in the case of the novelist, is the conviction that he gives one that this is the truth.”

p.72

“They wrote as women write, not as men write.”

p.74

“It was a flaw in the center that had rotted them. She had altered her values in deference to the opinion of others.”

p.74

“It is useless to go to the great men writers for help, however much one may go to them for pleasure. “

p.76

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

Universities are funny places. They had odd rules in
Woolf’s time, such as – women were not allowed into libraries without permission.

p.76

“Habit facilitates success”

Now there’s a good quote!

p.76

“Sedulous
Slovenly”

Nice words.

p.76

“Freedom and fullness of expression are of the essence of the art.”

p.77

“A book is not made of sentences laid end to end, but of sentences built into arcades and domes. “

p.77

“But these are difficult questions which lie in the
twilight of the future. I must leave them, if only because they stimulate me to wander from my subject into trackless forests where I shall be lost and, very likely, devoured by wild beasts.”

p.77

“There are Jane Harrison’s books on Greek archaeology; Vernon Lee’s books on aesthetics; Gertrude Bell’s books on Persia.”

p.79

“It seems to be her first book, but one must read it as if it were the last volume in a fairly long series… For books continue each other, in spite of our habit of judging them separately.”

p.80

“…because novels so often provide an anodyne and not an antidote, glide one into torpid slumbers instead of rousing one with a burning brand…”

Anodyne means painkiller.

p.80

“For while Jane Austen breaks from melody to melody as Mozart from song to song, to read this writing was like being out at sea in an open boat.”

Woolf is not kind to this woman author, and why should she be? If the expectation is to write with as much greatness as Austen, why should the average be tolerated?

p.81

We finally reach the discussion of the Bechdel test.

p.82

“This is not so true of the nineteenth-century novelists, of course. Woman becomes much more various and complicated there. Indeed it was the desire to write about women perhaps that led men by degrees to abandon the poetic drama which, with its violence, could make so little use of them, and to devise the novel as a more fitting receptacle.”

I’ve never read any reasoning for a particular form of writing, any history of how and why a form of writing arose. But it is an interesting subject. Why, after all, are all our books still not great poetry? What spurred the invention of so many other forms of writing? I’ve never thought of that!

p.83

“The poet was forced to be passionate or bitter, unless indeed he chose to “hate women,” which meant more often than not that he was unattractive to them.”

Some class A behavioral analysis here, a la Criminal Minds.

p.84

“”Highly developed”-“infinitely intricate”-such are undeniably terms of praise, and to praise one’s own sex is always suspect, often silly; moreover, in this case, how could one justify it? One could not go to the map and say Columbus discovered America and Columbus was a woman; or take an apple and remark, Newton discovcred the laws of gravitation and Newton was a woman; or look into the sky and say aeroplanes are flying overhead and aeroplanes were invented by women. There is no mark on the wall to measure the precise height of women. There are no yard measures, neatly divided into the fractions of an inch, that one can lay against the qualities of a good mother or the devotion of a daughter, or the fidelity of a sister, or the capacity of a housekeeper. “

That is no longer the case, thanks in part to Woolf. After all, women are leading in so many fields today.

p.85

“…and there would follow, even in the simplest talk, such a natural difference of opinion that the dried ideas in him would be fertilized anew; and the sight of her creating in a different medium from his own would so quicken his creative power that insensibly his sterile mind would begin to plot again, and he would find the phrase or the scene which was lacking when he put on his hat to visit her.”

A change of pace and a conversation with someone with different cares in the world can do wonders to refresh your mind.

p.86

“Ought not education to bring out and fortify the differences rather than the similarities? For we have too much likeness as it is, and if an explorer should come back and bring word of other sexes looking through the branches of other trees at other skies, nothing would be of greater service to humanity;”

Would Woolf be happy with the number of sexes we acknowledge today?

p.88

“It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only?”

p.88

“For all the dinners cooked; the plates and cups washed; the children set to school and gone out into the world. Nothing remains of it all. All has vanished. No biography or history has a word to say about it. And the novels, without meaning to, inevitably lie.”

That is what is truly sad about human life. It passes by without any record.

p.89

“Be truthful, one would say, and the result is bound to be amazingly interesting. “

Some more amazing writing advice.

p.91

There is a thinking here that Woolf believed in – that there is a collective consciousness which somehow improves as generations go by. She proposes to give Mary Carmichael another hundred years and she may well be a poet. I believe Woolf was both right and wrong here. She was wrong in that there is no collective brain to women or men or anyone else. The works of today’s authors are littered with terrible art, just as it is littered with amazing gems. Just like that, I’m sure there is at least one of Plato’s contemporaries who we do not know the name of because he did not write as well, and thus was not worth mentioning.

So Woolf was wrong in thinking that women in latter centuries would just write better – genius is not an arithmetic progression.

However, she was right too. She was right because the same issues and worries which affected the moods and writings of women in her era are not the same in this era. Women of today know nothing of suffragette, for example. They are beyond that and that will reflect in their writing. At the same time, there is still a long way to go. So today’s women talk about new struggles and pay equality and other things which color their lenses.

p.94

“One has a profound, if irrational, instinct in favor of the theory that the Union of man and woman makes for the greatest satisfaction, the most complete happiness.

Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous.

He meant, perhaps, that the androgynous mind is resonant and porous; that it transmits emotion without impediment; that it is naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.”

p.98

“Is that a tree? No, it is a woman. But… She has not a bone in her body, I thought, watching Phoebe, for that was her name, coming across the beach. Then Alan got up and the shadow of Alan at once obliterated Phoebe. For Alan had views and Phoebe was quenched in the flood of his views. And then Alan, I thought, has passions; and here I page after page very fast, feeling the crisis was approaching, and so it was.”

Clearly, the male-only mind has a problem – that of writing only about oneself. The hallmark of good writing is the ability to think and describe more than just yourself.

p.100

“…but when one takes a sentence of Coleridge into the mind, it explodes and gives birth to all kinds of other ideas, and that is the only sort of writing of which one can say that it has the secret of perpetual life. “

p.101

“They lack suggestive power. And when a book lacks suggestive power, however hard it hits the surface of the mind it cannot penetrate within.”

The problem with writers who do not try to understand and use their other side is that half the readership cannot absorb the writing as it should be.

p.102

“All who have brought about a state of sex-consciousness are to blame, and it is they who drive me, when I want to stretch my faculties on a book, to seek it in that happy age, before Miss Davies and Miss Clough were born, when the writer used both sides of his mind equally. One must turn back to Shakespeare then, for Shakespeare was androgynous; and so was Keats and Sterne and Cowper and Lamb and Coleridge. Shelley perhaps was sexless. Milton and Ben Jonson had a dash too much of the male in them. So had Wordsworth and Tolstoi. In our time Proust was wholly androgynous, if not perhaps a little too much of a woman.”

p.103

“Even so, the very first sentence that I would write here, I said, crossing over to the writing-table and taking up the page headed Women and Fiction, is that it is fatal for any one who writes to think of their sex.It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly.”

p.104

“”This great book,” “this worthless book,” the same book is called by both names. Praise and blame alike mean nothing.

So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”

p.106

atropos
Noun
  1. the Greek goddess of fate who cuts the thread of life

p.107

“We may prate of democracy, but actually, a poor child in England has little more hope than had the son of an Athenian slave to be emancipated into the intellectual freedom of which great writings are born.”

p.107

“That Is it. Intellectual freedom depends upon material things. Poetry depends upon intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time. Women have
had less intellectual freedom than the sons of Athenian slaves. Women, then, have not had a dog’s chance of writing poetry. That is why I have laid so much stress
on money and a room of one’s own.”

p.108

“There runs through these comments and discussions the conviction that good books are desirable and that good writers, even if they show every variety of human depravity, are still good human beings. “

p.109

“…every speech must end with a peroration. “

peroration
Noun
  1. a flowery and highly rhetorical oration
  2. (rhetoric) the concluding section of an oration; “he summarized his main points in his peroration”

p.110

“…the streets and squares and forests of the glove swarming with black and white and coffee-colored inhabitants…”

p.112

“… If we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality…”

p.113

“…and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while.”

p.114

DotDotDot.me: Instapaper finally has a replacement

All those of you who still remember reading paper based books, think about one thing – did you ever keep a separate notebook to make notes about your comments on certain sections of the book or to mark sections you really liked? Wasn’t it just better to just mark the sections in the book itself, wasn’t that more convenient and when you’d pick it up again, you’d remember the context? Similarly, in the digital world of web pages and ebooks, what’s better, keeping a separate service that you use to mark web pages you liked or to keep a single service where you can save the web pages, your comments and bookmarks and even be able to search through it all?

Continue reading

App Review: Everyday.me

Whenever a trend comes to the social network scene, it comes with a flood of apps and services that do the exact same thing. I recently signed up for a service called TimeHop. It’s a neat service that emails you every day with details of posts that you made on your various social networks exactly a year ago.

 

Everyday.me is an iOS app that connects to your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts and basically records everything you post online every day. Also, the service sends you emails every few days reminding you of things you did a few years ago. Sounds familiar? Yep, TimeHop does pretty much the same thing. What’s the difference? Well, Everyday.me collects all that information that you post daily and saves it ON THEIR SERVERS. Awesome way to have your data protected isn’t it?

 

Anyways, Coming to the most important part of this blog post, Am I keeping this app? Points –

1. Beautiful UI

2. You can see all you do in a stream, from across all your social networks.

3. You can tag your  posts for your own reference since all of it is totally private

4. All your data that’s kept on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will now also be stored on their servers.

 

So? Am I keeping it? No. It’s out of my phone. Sorry guys!

App Review: Cooliris

I have close to 130 apps on my phone. Recently, I filled up a folder of apps I’ve been testing out and decided to review one as soon as the folder is full and needs movement.

Today is that day and the app that I’ll be reviewing is – Cooliris.

Cooliris first started out as a web app and a browser extension to look at Google Image searches in a fancy way. The app, long time in the making, also does that. Plus, the app lets you look at your facebook feed pics and your phone or iPad’s photo roll too. Continue reading

Chrome Web Store – Undirect

Undirect

Removes redirection tracking of clicks on search results in google.

 

 

Just wanted to highlight a great tool in Google Chrome. When you do a google search, each search link is a weird long link that Google generates to track what you’re doing.

This tool simply replaces that long link with the original link, making your life easier. Redirection is an issue because in countries like India where the Internet is already slow, redirection Google-style wastes your time.

Next up, I’m looking for a similar tool to fix Facebook links…

[Book Review] Daemon

Daniel Suarez's Daemon

I picked up the book Daemon, by Daniel Suarez a few months ago and read it within a few days. Since then I’ve been thinking about writing a book review for it. It’s an interesting book and requires a deep analysis of the topics that Daniel touched in the book. Suarez used his in-depth knowledge of the world of IT and his impressive imagination to build a world where bots, automated software running wild on computers, control not just the usual stuff – bank transactions, toll booth cameras, and Google’s search algorithms, but also complete corporations and the fate of millions of people. This world has mad men like Sobol, a legendary game designer who creates a bot to control everything in the new world and I mean, everything. From sourcing professional killers from seedy chatrooms and creating new weaponry part by part from the hands of young 3D printer owners looking for some extra cash, the software controls the fate of many corporations and important people around the world, destroying whoever stands a chance against it. It even does the good task of killing major spam creators, just to be able to have a better control of the Internet.

The book is well written. Suarez manages to grasp your attention for a long time, even if you’re an Internet junkie with the attention span of a goldfish. His characters are well outlined, his story line is a continuous joy ride, with every piece of amazing added in there to make it the perfect story for a tech lover. Games that recruit people based on their kill percentages, Bio-suits that can control cars and the ultimate truth that everyone works for the corporates, it’s all there. But, as always, there’s the low-point. Unfortunately for the reader, this point comes at the ending of the story. The ending is weak, to say the least. It has all the elements of a block buster but it seems that Suarez pulled the plug on his creativity too soon. I can saw this with certainty because initially, Suarez printed this book himself. This means he had the time and opportunity to build any ending he wanted, but he left it where it stands today.

Over all, read it, if only for it’s amazing insight at the technology that already stands tall amongst us and for what’s to come or may already be here. Interested readers can head to thedaemon.com to find out more about the book.

Kung Fu Panda and some real MetaPhysics

 

Yes!!! I recently saw Kung Fu Panda… And It was good!

And then I saw it again and again… And it was good!!!

hehe… ok ok leave apart from the Bible preachings… The movie is great, its a must watch for all genres of people, from children to adults and from Kung Fu lovers to sad, bored-from-life ppl and although the action was a little steep (jumping from nearly the highest mountain in China and landing safely), thats what I expect from a Cartoon Movie because these things can’t happen in real movies (Oh, except in The Matrix).

What I did not expect was the deep Philosophical meaning underlying the whole movie. The whole concept of each action and event in a person’s life having a deep impact on the future and deeply being influenced by the past is a basic tenet of all Martial Arts and most Religions, so the movie left me slightly amused about its real meaning.

Let me put down some examples before coming to the real point I wish to discuss-

  1. The Father of Po (Our dear, Lovable Kung Fu Panda) has the same dream of running away to learn Kung Fu but chooses to ignore it to follow his father’s dreams. Had Po also ignored His dream, he would be the same as his father, choosing his destiny to be a cook selling soups instead if being famous and a great Master.
  2. Tells You What? Follow Your dreams and Aspirations, for if you work hard enough on them you will have them and since you have been dreaming about them, You are already Ready to achieve them, just take the steps, the doors Will open.

  3. Shifu had created a Fighting machine in the past (Tai Lung had been trained to be very talented but too challenging in Kung Fu, thus not able to achieve the level of understanding about Life that Oogway did). That war machine destroyed the only happiness that Shifu had, showing that You get what you make. Had Shifu trained tai Lung to be patient and understand that Kung Fu is not a way of fighting but a Martial Art then perhaps Tai Lung would be able to become the Dragon Warrior. The darkness Oogway saw in his heart was not Tai Lung’s but Shifu’s craving for more Pride. So he was responsible for it and had to train Po to become the Dragon Warrior. Shifu thought it was his Bad Luck that he got a Panda to train, but it was his Luck that he got Po who was already destined to be the Dragon Warrior and there was a way to train him (watch the movie, this part is really really funny!!!)
  4. The concept of the Dragon Scroll was really very very beautiful. Spoiler Alert. The truth is this- You ARE the best creation of God that there is, there is no one better than you. Remember that. Because what you see when you look in the Mirror is the greatest mind ever, Realize that and there is nothing in the World that can stop you. Just like Po, look at the world from your eyes, don’t TRY to look at it from someone else’s. See your goals and BELIEVE that they are Achievable. And why are they achievable? Because YOU are attempting to achieve them. The sky is not the limit. There is NO LIMIT TO YOUR POTENTIAL.

Now for the real thing I wanted to say about the Movie… Spoiler Alert

In the Movie, Oogway’s vision of Tai Lung returning to claim the Dragon Scroll is so terrifying to Shifu  that he sends one of his cronies (Zeng is his name and Oh he’s such a scaredy cat… uh… bird… ) to check on the Prison where Tai Lung is held. His presence there is not required as the prison has intense security and the Commander of the Prison (Commander Vachir) does not accept Shifu’s request to increase Prison Security due to Oogway’s Vision. But Zeng’s presence is very important. As Vachir shoves his as a joke, a single feather from the bird escapes to the place where Tai Lung is held and eventually helps him escape (again, watch the movie, you’ll get it).

What does This tell us???

What ever we do is Karma, even if we are trying to do good, thus it will have consequences in our life, and soon. Karma is a basic in all Oriental religions and Spiritual beliefs, because according to us, God is good at calculations (actually, ALL religions and spiritual beliefs say this, but in different ways, like Dooms Day or Armageddon or Karma or Yin and Yang, our beloved two opposites of Life). So We must remember that What We do, i.e. our Actions, whether out of fear or fun, affect us more deeply than imaginable. The best we can do is to do only the right things ( My belief in the adage “It takes less time to do the right thing than to explain why you did it wrong” is confirmed every time I do something wrong) and to think before we act.

In the end, some Italian will do…

La vita è grande, così essere felici
(Translation for those who won’t copy this and paste in Google Language tools to find out what it means out of sheer laziness— Life is Great, so be happy)
Yin and Yang, bhai bhai

Yin and Yang, bhai bhai

 
The Panda is here... Prepare for Awesomeness 

The Panda is here... Prepare for Awesomeness

Singh Is SuperMan

So I recently went to DT Cinemas to watch Singh Is Kinng

(God Bless Akshay Kumar for his versitality and DT and PVR for bringing the joys of Modern Theatre Experience to Chandigarh. FR; Sorry dude, you’re out…)

Most, well, all of my friends said it was a bogus Movie and it was, just that the amazing ability of Akshay Kumar of putting zeal into any character changed the whole scenario…

We all acknowledge that The Sikh community has gained cult status in Bollywood, starting from Daler Mehndi and moving to Sikh-centric movies and the presence of at least one Punjabi song per movie. But what Akshay did moves away from being just a fraction of the type of movies being made or a nominal presence in a movie. This movie can pave the way for a whole new Singh, for the following reasons :-

  1. The raising of the Fist and the chanting of “Singh is King” makes the average Sikh a SuperHero, who has a tailor-made Symbol and slogan to go…
  2. The introduction of the already well known concept that Sikhs are a large-hearted community and love to help people on main screeb cinema will have a long lasting effect on Bollywood story writers and will definitely help the Punjabis get to the ‘Spot’ in Cinema

Now all I’m waiting for is small mock ups of our dear Singh, just like the ones of Krish floating around…

And then was born a SuperHero for India!!!

Over And Out.