Reading and (un)reading it


31/10/2014 by Siddiqui Fayesal

I’ve read a lot. I don’t mean to sound obnoxious. I don’t mean to say that’ve read all the classics; I don’t mean to say that I can be regarded as a connoisseur whose taste can be safely accepted as a hit.

I won’t stop you if you do think all that though.

I remember that in my 9th grade’s vacation I read 15 paperbacks. I began with Maclean’s The Golden Rendezvous and ended it with The Prisoner of Azkaban. I read a lot of R. L Stine and Maclean in those days. I can still relish a Maclean novel now.

I started with Maclean’s The Golden Rendezvous and enjoyed it thoroughly. I followed it up Ice Station Zebra, Where Eagles Dare, Guns of Navarone, The Way to Dusty Death, Bear Island and Fear is the Key. Maclean’s style began rubbing off on me when I began writing my yet-to-be-finished novel. That was the time when I first wished that it would be great should I be able to un-read a few books. I’m only glad that it hit me in time. I stopped reading Maclean for the next 3 years and I’m happy to see the difference.

I remember the librarian gawking at me in surprise when I finished the Prisoner of Azkaban in a day. The little library didn’t have Goblet of fire so I had to wait quite some time before I gobbled that one up. It was that vacation when the bug bit me. Reading is second nature to me now. From that love stems the love for writing. I am not a trained writer but I plan to do a few writing courses in the very near future to get a little technical knowledge. My sister tells me it’s not a great idea to ‘learn’ how to write. She says that the raw edge that comes naturally to a person is smoothened and it loses the rustic appeal that comes with the uneven handedness of an untrained writer. Although, she is right in a way I am a stickler for the technical details for everything. There is a ‘right’ way of doing some thing. I will learn that and then meander along my path. After all, I’m not a beginner. Of course, I’m not published yet but I do have a certain amount of confidence in my writing that I hope I’ll be able to harness after I take a few courses.

I review books for my side project Bookhad, but I’ve got an admission to make. For a person who likes reading and reviewing books I can’t really be a good critic. There is always something that catches my attention in a book. If the story is putrid I’ll like the narration perhaps. If the narrative is abysmal, then the research will carry me to the end of the book.

A book has to be really really bad for me to accept it aloud and tell people to stay away from it. I’ve even managed to sail through a couple of Sydney Sheldon books holding on to some imaginary hope. I’ve been told that a few of Sheldon’s book are good but I think the time is gone now for me to sit with a pulp fiction paperback as a part of my primary reading exercise. My primary reading list is made up of books written/based in India during the 70s ad early 90s. My novel is based along those time periods so I need to have the knowledge of the language and mannerisms to be a little authentic.

Unreading a book stems from the belief that muddles my thought process. I never took it seriously but now when I’m writing a few 100 words every day it has started to take hold in my head. By reading classics like Wuthering Heights and David Copperfield and the likes I incorporate their style. It happens very unconsciously but it does happen. There is a tangent to their writing that I cannot afford to apply to my book. Theirs is based in another continent, another era, another group of people that simply cannot be used in my book.

I try being careful bit it seeps in some how. So to unread the great classics I am reshuffling my reading lists and removing those books that are not relevant to my book’s time frame. So, gone from the list are the following books:

  • Albert Camus’ The Plague
  • Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury
  • Achebe’s Things Fall Apart
  • James Waller’s Bridges of Madison County
  • Turgenev’s Father and Son
  • Coetzee’s Duskland

The following books are added:

  • Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry
  • The Circle of Reason by Amitav Ghosh
  • The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh
  • Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil
  • Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto.
  • Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

I’m trying hard to NOT make my character (aged 27 in the year 1951) sound like Dumbledore. I can’t have a teenager in 1993 talking with a ‘Dude’ and ‘Bro’. I just can’t.

4 thoughts on “Reading and (un)reading it

  1. “I can’t have a teenager in 1993 talking with a ‘Dude’ and ‘Bro’. I just can’t.”

    You’re already one up on a certain Mr. Tripathi. 🙂

  2. Tame SheWolf says:

    Dude (:P) I don’t think getting yourself in the grind of a creative writing course will change you into a formulaic writer. I believe it will give you some polish and techniques to get rid of writer’s block and all that. Plus, the rigour of the course will stretch you in a systematic way and you will discover yourself as a writer. Writing in a system does not and should not mean that the creative process is sucked out. Of course, there are some writers who do great alone.. But mostly, naivete in the writing of budding bloggers sometimes throws me off.. It is raw yes.. But not great in quality.

    Refined writing takes practice and I see no wrong in getting it boot-camp style. Rather, I think it saves you from all the guilt of “wasting time in only writing unstructured sap”

    Good luck to you, Fayesal! Love your enthusiasm!

    • You’re lucky you’re not a teenager form the 80s 😛

      I agree with you. What my sister said wasn’t a general suggestion by her. She was just reacting to something in particular that she found to be real neat. I know it won’t make me a formulaic (?) writer but the fear is real. I keep telling my friends that to be a published but abysmal writer is worse than not getting published.

      On the other hand, I can’t control that but I can at least write. So, yeah, all in all it is just a battle of nerves and ego as to who would back down first; me or my negative energy.

      Thanks, Wolf. I just hope I can sustain this level of enthusiasm, and more, for as long as I can put pen to paper!

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