Tuesday, June 3, 2008

the kind of books i like to read...

social networking sites or random friends or job interviews, sooner or later the question pops: "what kind of books do you like to read?" then for a few seconds i stare at the screen or the person and this definitely has the worst effect in a job interview.
what kind of books do i like to read? not bestsellers. maybe when the same books age a year or two its worth reading but surely not right ofter its been named ' book of the year'. new books are not charming, they need to age with time; mature into books that have been named 'book of the year 1978, Pulitzer prize winner half a decade ago and all that...'
next, i cannot read fiction online. i do not understand the concept of e-books. i admit it, i do read the New Yorker and i loved the new piece by Vladimir Nabokov that got published but otherwise e books and the whole concept of digitizing everything around us drives me nuts.
certain inalienable truths need to remain tangible. like sea breeze, like literature and like tropical summers. literature needs to be pulled out of bookshelves, dusted and read sitting in the attic, away from everyone.
the reason i havent read as much or as many as my other J school contemporaries is because i re-read a book if i like it, till its engraved in my mind for a little more time.
i remember in my early teens every summer i would re-read LITTLE WOMEN, till i stopped relating to it. and then suddenly MADAME BOVARY made a lot of sense. and then i used to read a host of short stories and translations. one of the best i have ever read would be the HAPPY PRINCE, it was anything but a fairytale. i felt MILLS AND BOONS wronged us immensely, i read one of them and couldn't imagine that we as a species are capable of so much of stupidity. also it morphed my ideas about love and eternal romance. no wonder i am still single.
and then i discovered Camus, Sartre and Remarque and various other short stories till i started reading Steinbeck and Hemingway and the rest...
ours is a Bengali family where literature is served alongside macher jhol everyday. my grandfather was a mathematics professor and a poet. i still have all the birthday cards where he would write us poems. books were to be gifted, to be quoted in love letters, to be discussed over evening tea and sugar-coated biscuits but to be read in company of no one but the self. i loved the attic of my grandparents' house, it had a broken down cupboard full of books and diaries. that's where i discovered the 23 yr old writer that was my uncle and his personal diaries with entries about table tennis and occasional stray comments about girls. did he know two decades later on a lazy Sunday afternoon his niece would dig up his diary? did he consciously never indulge too much? i gave the diary back to him, i was never interested in table tennis. i don't remember if i kept his fiction pieces, i remembered them by heart for quite some time.
after the whole rush of alcohol in the past few years, my memory has got washed away in bits and pieces.
and then there was the wall aligned bookcase. that is where i met Hemingway and Flaubert and even Harrold Robbins. yellowed front pages with the owners name scribbled on, with the year next to it. it was womb like; the experience. the room was dark and damp and i remember climbing on the sofa to reach out to the books on the topmost shelves. somewhere some treasure was always hidden for me to find it.
when my grandparents passed away, the selfish me didn't want anything from there but some of the books. i never got them, somebody else rightfully owned them and took them away.
and then there the ones that i stole from there.
it was like stealing from a library.
ordinary books that i could avail now if i wanted, but i remember wanting only that copy with that font and that feel. i remember especially the copy of HAPPY PRINCE and other stories that i stole. my uncle's name scribbled on top reminded me of my crime like an apparition. but i read and re-read and today even if i had to give the book away, i would never forget it. the feel and the stories......
from what i remember that was the only book i stole. i couldn't bear to own a book with somebody else's name written on it. HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER STORIES was the only exception.
even today when i buy a book, its like a love affair. a sense of possessiveness bordering on gentle obsessiveness. i write my name and the year, hoping someday, another sunny summer afternoon somebody would discover me in some broken down cupboard.


Anonymous said...

Wish I could lay my hands on the books I like to read...books, books and books, the greatest treasures of mankind. Write a book.

Roanna said...

It is exactly the way you put it, when you buy a new book, it's a love affair...I love to take great care of my books especially the old books...I have this huge green book of Fairytales that has all my favorite stories...it's a wee bit tattered but I know I will never give it to anybody or throw it away.

snigdha said...

fucking wow soho. I was waiting for you to write something like this. You shud give up all ur tv plans. Print needs you. Join us.

Dielle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dielle said...

Loved the post!

Sometimes situations seem so ordinary they can reach extraordinary only if you read them and then smile because you relate to them. You've felt the feel, smelled the smell, touched the touch.
I can already sense the sneeze coming from the must in the attic!! lol