These are a few of my favorite words..

I recently read an article about ‘power words’. These are words that apparently evoke strong positive emotions in people.  In no particular order, the words are- You, Money, Save, New, Easy, Love, Discovery, Results, Health, Proven, Guarantee and Free.. Do these words ring a bell? Very likely they do,  since we are bombarded with advertisements that use atleast one and often more than one of these words.

For no other reason than that my thought process is rambling, this article got me thinking about my personal list of pleasing words. This is not a post with a message, or coherence, or indeed anything that may make it interesting to anybody. I am simply listing here some of my favorite English words ( I’m sure any avid lover of the language has such a list in his/her mind, and a good number have it in their blogs as well. So this post lacks novelty as well as reading value)..There, the disclaimer is in place and I can now write with a clean conscience.

1. cicerone – A soft, musical word that should have meant something more profound than it does..it refers to a museum-guide.

2. mellifluous – Unlike the previous word, this one does have a meaning to match up to its tone.

3. tintinnabulation – A word I like for its goofiness 🙂 A word that GRE test takers would recognize if they ever got beyond the first 30 word lists in Barrons.. I didn’t, but a hard-working friend of mine brought it to my notice.  Who would use such a word in conversation or even in a book?? A google search reveals that Edgar Allan Poe did use it, in a poem-

“To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells –
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells. “

Heck, going by the above,  writing poetry looks like a viable career option 🙂

4. elven – J. R. R Tolkein rules!! He had an absolute gift for inventing words that sound beautiful to the human ear. Anybody who has read Lord of the Rings would agree. There is something so utterly magical,  so ethereal, so achingly lovely about the word ‘elven’. When I am traveling by train at night, and I see small clearings in the midst of trees, illuminated by a single lamp, I’m reminded of JRR’s elven world ( in particular, the night that Frodo and his friends spend with the elves in the forest).  If a single word could lift me out of mundaneness and into the realms of happy imagination, it is this..

5. bliss – I guess perfect happiness by any other name would sound as sweet 🙂 Even if ‘cabbage-head’ or ‘mushroom’ or ‘sycophant’ was used to describe perfect happiness. Though for the most, language has evolved wisely – words that sound nice mean nice things.

6. billowing – I imagine clouds moving rapidly across the sky, like they show in tv serials to indicate the passage of the day. I’m not even sure if that’s what the word really means, but that is what it means to me ( in the spirit of Humpty-Dumpty in ‘Alice of Wonderland’- “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean”.)

7. dryad – meaning wood-fairy. An obscure word that I have seen in use only in L. M Montgomery’s books. Again, it conjures up visions of something other-worldly..I seem to have a weakness for such words.

8. lilt – one of the prettiest, jolliest words ever ..it has got such a nice twang to it.

9. rustling – this word makes me think of flowing new silk dresses and newspapers and trees swaying in a powerful breeze..all pleasant recollections.

10. coy – a tiny word that conveys so much 🙂

I’ve also just realized that I love the words gossamer and cobwebs and shimmer, but I think I’ll stop here. The complete list would leave everybody craving for less, and even I might get bored reading it again.

Now, to finish this winding post on a balanced note. A word that I thoroughly hate the mention of –  sumptuous..especially when used in the context of food. It is totally irrational..how a foodie like me can dislike a word that means a lot of food 🙂 but so it is.

( Thanks Sis, for loyally reading to the end of this post 🙂 You’re the best! And anybody else who finished reading this self-indulgent piece, thanks even more.. you weren’t forced to read this, unlike my sister 🙂 Do leave a comment with your favorite words! )

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(P)smith, Emsworth and the rest of them..

Since I first read a book from start to finish, probably at the age of 9 or 10 or thereabouts, I have ripped through a gazillion books at a speed that’d make a tornado feel pretty silly. Out of all of these, no author has been such a delight to read as P.G Wodehouse has.

I first discovered P.G Wodehouse ( ‘Plum’ to hordes of adoring fans) when I was in the 9th standard.. Our school, which couldn’t be called a model school, no matter which way you looked at it, had a few redeeming graces. The library was one. And it was pretty full to the brim with P.G Wodehouse. I was an indifferent student back then, atleast in my estimation ( popular opinion was that I was a geek.. I suppose the glazed look in my eyes when I was daydreaming was mistaken for rapt attention). All those dreary hours in class I whiled away thinking about P.G Wodehouse’s stories, living in them, and having conversations with the characters. If my head had been examined back then, the verdict would have been ‘basketcase in the making”.

P.G Wodehouse’s world is impossibly perfect – boy loves girl, and girl always loves him back, and vice versa.. and all money troubles of young couples in love are resolved by the hapless Lord Emsworth ( who has one great love, his prize-pig.. which is incessantly stolen by all the scheming young couples to blackmail him and make him cough up money).. If ever a hero is jilted in a story, he is sure to find a better girl by the end of the book..and so on. In short, the stuff of fairy-tales.

However, I think this is a fairy-tale that would appeal even to fans of realism. His perfect stories are simply the backdrop for the famous Wodehouse brand of humour. Side-splittingly funny without being abusive, sarcastic without being bitter, mocking without being cruel..P.G Wodehouse is the grand old gentleman of comedy. He prods at the idiosyncrasies of his characters for us to laugh at, but gently. You can see he is indulgent to his flock of people.

I could write reams about P.G Wodehouse, but I’ll sign off after just one more burst of enthusiasm..for Psmith, my favorite P.G Wodehouse by far. Probably the one story-book hero Im never going to get over. From the time he introduces himself to a gaping parlourmaid..”My name is Psmith..the P is silent, as in pshark and ptarmigan”, I fell for him, hook, line and sinker.  If only, if only Psmith was for real!

A revival

Many times over the past month have I logged into wordpress..started to write a post, and left it hanging, barely a few sentences long, conveying nothing but the strained effort that went into writing them.  As the days passed by, the sight of those poor, bedraggled drafts was disheartening enough to send me scurrying out of wordpress right after I had signed in. So, today I did the sensible thing.. deleted all the drafts and decided to pretend that there had been no hiccups in my writing. To anybody who is visiting this blog still – a hearty thanks for not having given it up as dead.

November was a crazy, exasperating, hectic month for some – those people around the world who participated in Nanowrimo ( read previous post).  Well, not the ones like me who signed up and wrote only a paragraph instead of a novel..but the serious contenders.  They must have had their private moments of bliss on November 30th.  I, on the other hand, felt a deep kindred sympathy for all those like me, who could not only finish, but also couldnt get started..Those of us, who are trying to shake off years of accumulated laziness and a disinclination to do anything in the shape of hard work..In this world full of flourishing, regularly-updated blogs with sky-rocketing site visits, I find solace in thinking that there are other people like me who are still taking baby-steps, well past their first few months of blogging.

I’d have liked to finish this post on an optimistic note, like those essays I used to write as a school-kid , where all the world’s problems could be solved simply by ” joining hands and working together for the common good”..But it will not twist itself into something happy.  I guess the only good thing about this grouse of a post, is that its broken the month-long lull.. and hopefully, the next interruption wont be for another six months!

NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month..what an absolutely corking idea! Thanks to this guy for bringing it to my notice..

The agenda is simple – you get a month to write a novel that has to have atleast 50000 words. The idea behind the idea is that people always function better under a deadline. The thought of producing 50000 words in a month would be dizzying even to the most prolific of writers, and of course the thought of writing a novel of any size at all seems too much of a hurdle to many a lay-person who has idly dreamt of writing the great (indian/american/whatever) novel someday. NaNoWriMo is an opportunity to shake off the laziness, if only for one month. And since the competition only requires that you produce sentences in great quantities, and gives a damn about the quality of your writing, there will be no shattered self-esteems and bruised egos at the end of it. ( I remember being more than a little surprised and disappointed that I hadn’t won the Ayn Rand Essay competition. I bunked many hours of college and skipped meals to write the essay and it didn’t pay off. I realize now that I wrote that essay at the height of my Ayn Rand devotion and sprinkled words like ‘premise’, ‘morality’ and ‘leeches’ liberally all over my word doc..in short, I must have sounded like a dispirited shadow of a pale imitation of Ayn Rand herself.  But then, isn’t that what most Ayn Rand fans are like? )

Coming back to the point, what this competition does for one, is help silence the Internal Critic in a budding writer. Any new writer would concede the formidablility of the Internal Critic. If one is under doubt about the extent of his/her writing abilities, the Critic gleefully jumps in and contributes to the uncertainty. It mocks at neatly-turned out phrases, scoffs at metaphors and generally makes one feel like a fool for having written such silly drivel.

Now, if you’re going to make a job out of writing 50000 words a month, which is more than 1800 words a day, either the critic has got to go, or you have got to give up. And if you want to finish what you started badly enough,  there’s a fair chance you’ll win over the critic and let yourself  make spelling-mistakes, flimsy jokes and errors in sentence construction. You will get a hell lot of bad writing out of your system, and hopefully be a victorious and changed writer in December ( The competition is in November).

Even if the writing does not improve, atleast you’ve written a novel. Bad, trashy, unreadable maybe. But still, a 300-page novel that is all yours. It is more than most people can boast of.

Kudos to whoever thought up this competition!

Pride and prejudice – the groundbreaking review ;)

Of course Pride and Prejudice is discussed too much.. there are a zillion reviews, movies,  parodies and even gory spin-offs (‘pride and prejudice and zombies’..the word around the circuit is that its quite good).  But I still feel compelled to add to the sum-total of PnP reviews ( mostly because I cannot think of anything else to write about).

Pride and prejudice is the classic for those who don’t like classics ( I stole this line from Stephanie Meyer, who said about her book ‘ The Host’ that it is  science fiction for people who don’t like science fiction. ‘The Host’ is a great story, by the way..the characters stay with you long after you have read the book. Even the harshest critics of her Twilight series have a kind word for ‘The Host’. )

Here is why I think PnP is an absolute must-read. First of all, its beautifully written. The book is a perfectly-composed symphony of words. It is chock-full of snappy sentences that few would be able to think of  ( I mean I would not be able to think of..sigh) and none would forget . Unlike her ‘Emma’, where Jane Austen has let one of her characters speak far too much for her own good , this book is tightly written, with every sentence adding value to the story.

The second reason has to be the elusive Mr Darcy. Jane Austen is very reticent on the subject of Darcy’s character, simply stating that he was haughty-though-noble at the start of the book, and humbled and in love, by the end of it. In spite of his relative obscurity,  he remains the ideal story-book hero for thousands of girls around the world. Perhaps, what appeals to us girls is that he was reformed and thoroughly at that, by the woman he loved, without her even having to try. And after he was reformed, he was simply perfect in every way 🙂

If you’re still reading this post, and you’re not a reader of classics, I thank you 🙂 Do read ‘Pride and Prejudice’! Jane Austen’s books have endured two centuries and are still in our bookshops..that has to be the highest testimonial to any book. This could very well be the book that gets you initiated into the wonderful world of classics.

The ill-formed excuse for my writer’s block

Writing is not a very easy proposition for those who like to keep their souls closed..I think it is impossible to write and yet remain shrouded ..to put down words that took form in your mind, and still keep a veil between the reader and you.  its a job for the spiritually brave. the ones who are not afraid of censure or brickbats or being labeled. No matter what genre a book falls into, whether it be a novel of principles, like the books ayn rand wrote, or more frivolous and less preachy writing, the prejudices of the author tend to find voice in their books.

Even Agatha Christie, who could have written about the criminal mind and human nature with comparative ease without having to bring her values  into her books, time and again revealed her very british disdain for foreigners through her various characters.  and that is the one consistent undercurrent in her books, trivial though it is, that i dislike, as im sure other ‘foreigners’ do too.

There’s L.M Montgomery, one of my favorite writers of all time. Her books are sunshiny, uplifting, humorous, humane, clever, wholesome.. (I could go on, but apparently three is the upper limit of adjectives to use in a sentence, by good writing standards, and I’ve already overshot it)
And even she makes a statement in one of her books that is gratingly racist, a statement that spoilt the entire book for me.

Closer home, there’s Chetan Bhagat, who by all accounts, has taken a dig at South Indians in his latest ‘Two states’.. Sure, he apologizes in advance in the Foreword, but even his attempt at a light-hearted apology is condescending.

To one like me, still not entirely unafraid of being judged, words come very reluctantly..

 

 

Finally

Registered for the creative writing course that Ive meant to take since I was 18! At 18, I wrongly interpreted the eligibility criteria and thought I had to wait till I was 20. At 20, it was still on my mind and I paid a couple of fruitless visits to what I thought was the regional IGNOU centre ( It was actually the study centre for a different course). Now, Im going on 24, and I finally have the material in my hands. The prospect of an exam, though hardly likely to have me scrambling to perfect my writing, will probably get me in the habit of writing on varied topics..the writing exercises in the first booklet consist of inane questions like ‘ why did mankind start writing’ and ‘why is it necessary to get feedback on ur work’..If I could manage to read my answers and not fall asleep over the first time of reading, then that’d be something..I hope there is a noticeable difference, and that it shows in this blog.

There’s a cynic in my head..

Ask a group of book-averse people what they think of books..and after telling you that they never have the time and the patience to finish a book to the end,  some of them will smugly tack on that they think reading is just a form of escapism.. and though they don’t know what they’re talking about, there’s a degree of truth to that.. It is such a potent means of escapism too, much more than movies or sitcoms are, because books let you wander into wildly creative alternate universes that stay stuck in your head longer than any 3 hour movie possibly could.

I’d have thought that feasting on too many unreal books ( I never read stark, life-as-we-know-it books) would make me discontent with the comparative ordinariness of my life. But that hasn’t happened..of course when I was younger, I was naive enough to wish that I lived a century or so back in Concord, Boston. Which is where L.M Alcott’s Little Women series was set. But as I grew older, I realized that they didn’t even have woman’s suffrage at the time and that the chief recreational activity for women was needlework..and that I was way better off. I learnt, for the most part, to stop living vicariously all the time, and start living my own story.

However, there are times still I have trouble getting used to the real world after reading an awesome book..like this morning. This post comes on the heels of a day and a half of frenzied reading – I have been devouring Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series.  After going to sleep  at 3 A.M with a swimming head,  I surprisingly didn’t dream about the book, but woke up listening to imagined conversations between the Twilight characters.

It got tiresome after a point, and the crabby mood that ensued set me off thinking about why I felt irritable, rather than content, after finishing the book..after all, it was very apparent that the series would end with the guy getting the girl, and good winning over evil, and I should have gone about my chores and GMAT prep with a song on my lips after the much-needed break from drudgery. Then I realized that it was probably the cynic in me kicking into action..

I should have known that it would happen- the feeling of flatness that follows the reading of a particularly absorbing romance or adventure. When the characters are all either dead or married, and the loose ends are tied up, and I’m looking at finis with a frown creasing my forehead thinking..does this kinda stuff happen in real life? Perfect love, as is depicted in Twilight..isnt that something most people reach for and never attain? Aren’t we in danger of expecting too much from a relationship, fed on a diet of all-too-perfect romances in books?

There is a whole genre of realism of course, where people do break up after declaring eternal love,  where frailities are revealed much more than perfections.. but I never seem to finish such books from cover to cover. So there is no justification for this grouse, it appears..Im a sucker for perfect heroes and heroines, and if I feel disillusioned after reading these books, that’s a flipside I have to settle with..atleast the cynic doesnt rear its head while I’m reading the book and spoil all the fun.

catvacuuming

“Cat hoovering (also Cat vacuuming) – 1. any excuse to avoid writing, even vacuuming the cat; 2. A pointless exercise used to avoid real work.

Earlier this sunday morning, I was feeling purposeful and enthusiastic and  full of resolve to write a goodly sized post. Two hours and one lunch later, I ambled to the desktop, opened orkut, closed orkut, opened my blog dashboard and waited for my muse to pay a visit. Having decided that I should be reading about writing, if not actually writing, I read this – a very useful guide for teenagers/anybody starting to write. The guy who wrote it, John Scalzi, is a well-known author of sci-fi with funk titles like ‘the sagan diary’ and ‘the android’s dream’ to his name..besides being a humor columnist, a consistent blogger since ’98, and a host of other things ( got bored midway through the bio-check).

He talks about the sucky writing phase that every budding author goes through before producing tolerably good reading material. Without being holier-than-thou about it, he dispenses realistic advice and observations on teenage writing ( though I think it applies to any new writing).

Coming to the point, cat vacuuming is a funny word that I picked up today from his post on writing. It means ‘ any activity you do to avoid actual writing, the kind you aspire to’.  What I would like to do is write imaginative stories. Over the years, I have assiduously been putting off writing stories. Ten years back, it was writing mundane accounts of my day, what I did, whom I spoke to, etc, trying to force a few fancy phrases and a sprinkling of what I thought was humor. Then it was poetry, simply because it was easier to string together rhyming words, than it was to think of a plot for a story and write it. Then, the ongoing efforts to atleast blog consistently. And this morning, catvacuuming in its  most abject form..reading other blogs, instead of writing in my own.

However, reading John Scalzi’s post brought me back here.

And I’ve written my piece and can now log off in peace.. ( I would have shamelessly called this poetry, ten, even eight years ago).
Now, to tackle the other stuff I have been putting off..