Monday, October 03, 2016

Friendship, Writing, and #inktober

I can't draw to save my life. Or that's what I always used to say. I always wished I could draw, even a little bit, and I look at people's sketches and water colors on social media with wonder, and wish someone would gift me one.

Now I've finally decided I'm going to try. I'll be bad at it, but who cares. I don't want to be an artist, I just want to have fun.

So I'm participating in Inktober. Where you make ink drawings through October.

Recently, I've been putting up handwritten drafts of poems on Instagram, so starting today I'm going to try and do one a day, and do a bit of drawing around it.

Here's the first. Don't mock me.

Follow me on Instagram for more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Books I read in August and September

I was so late  I thought I might as well combine these, even though I expect to read a few more by the end of the month.

Changes (The Magic Jukebox Book 1) by Judith Arnold
You know what I thought of this one.

A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer
I reread a bunch of Heyer, because I wasn't well for a few days and a Twitter conversation sparked some nostalgia. I have reread this book at least twice because I didn't remember reading it earlier, which is not much of a recommendation. I get Heyer's going for how some life partnerships can be reasonable and practical rather than romantic and passionate, but fuck that. As usual, the heroine is much better and smarter than the hero, and she deserves a man who's wild about her, not one who is vaguely condescending and thinks she's not pretty and doesn't have the right background, but after all she's really nice and her father gave him a lot of money so he could continue the upper class life he's used to and even become a gentleman farmer because he's not one of those idle rich. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

On A Magic Jukebox and Other Romance Novels

I am constantly disappointed by romance novels. I want to love the genre, and I really love a few -- Georgette Heyer's Cotillion, PG Wodehouse's Jill the Reckless (don't tell me that's not a romance, it totally is) -- but most make me want to throw it across the room (which is a problem, because I read on a Kindle).

This one had so many things wrong with it:

a) The hand of fate: a magic jukebox that plays what someone needs to hear and changes lives. Here's the thing: I like having control over my life. It's the thing I've fought hardest for: the right to make my own decisions, even if they are stupid. And falling in love with someone because a magic jukebox made me: that's the stuff of nightmares, not dreams.

b) Conflating love and lust. Just because he's a good kisser -- yeah yeah, it's the best kiss you've ever had -- doesn't mean it's *true love*. You can lust after someone and not want to marry them. There's nothing wrong with enjoying sex with someone you don't want to spend all your life with.

c) Moving fast: a few days is all it takes to fall in love? Who are these people? I bet they spend the rest of their lives convincing themselves they are in love, after all magic jukebox matched them. (If they don't split up in a few weeks, which the author wouldn't allow.)

d) Why can't a woman break up with her boyfriend/fiance just because she's bored of him or had fallen out of love with him or doesn't want to spend all her life with him? Why does the author need to stack on evidence for why she's awful -- he's a snob, he's domineering, he's boring, he doesn't listen to her, he doesn't kiss well... And then, finally, he is violent towards her. His only positives: looks, wealth, success. Is our heroine that shallow or that lacking in self esteem? Seems like the latter, but then it seems a poor decision to jump headlong into another relationship, especially with a man she barely knows.

d) Where are their friends? Why does she have no one to call but her fiance when she's had a success at work? Or anyone but her sister - who she doesn't seem close to - who she feels safe telling about her decision to dump her fiance? If they don't have any (or more than one between them), maybe that's something to fix first instead of diving out of one engagement and into another. (Did someone say rebound?)

e) Given that the characters don't value friendships, it's maybe less of a surprise that they don't try to make friends with each other. And this really annoys me. When you decide to be with someone, it's both the really little things and the really big things that matter. Big things like - does she want kids? Does he believe in equal rights for everyone? Is she homophobic/racist/transphobic? Is he a saver or a spender? And little things like, is he a morning person? Will he understand her need for alone time? Will she expect him to accompanying her on runs? Is he tidy or messy? Will he do the chores? Does she like going out or staying home? Who will cook breakfast? What kind of food does he like? What kind of music does she like? All the things which seem unimportant at first but are essential to peace in the home.

f) How do things get resolved magically? One conversation, that too instigated by and in the presence of an outsider - isn't enough to change a parent-child relationship that's been screwed up for decades.

g) This is almost like asking why the sky is blue, but why do romance protagonists have to be good-looking? Less good-looking people deserve -- and find -- love too.

But here are a few things I loved about this book, though it's hardly enough, given the other problems:
a) the hero is working class and works with kids, trying to give them the support and opportunities he lacked
b) both have really flawed, even horrible parents

I get that fiction isn't always supposed to reflect reality. That this is escapism. Or maybe I don't really.

Because you know what, many of us do draw lessons from fiction into real life. The best literature - whether it's fantasy or romance or some other genre fiction or highbrow literary fiction -- helps you learn more about life. And romance books like this - and I'm talking about books that are supposed to be well written, and read by intelligent, feminist women (since those are the only ones whose romance recommendations I heed) -- can teach all the wrong things. That lust and love are synonymous. That you don't need to know someone to fall in love for them and change your entire life to fit around theirs. That you need a man to change your life and make yourself happy. That adult children should always make peace with their parents, even if the parents don't care for them or were abusive.

In contrast, the very few romances I have read that I've truly loved, have featured protagonists I respect and who get to know each other before they decide they are in love. Yes, decide. Because however swiftly you're swept off your feet or however overpowering your lust for the other person, deciding to share your life with someone (even if it's not for forever) is always a decision. And it's most romantic when you make it willingly, wholeheartedly, with your eyes open.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Thoughts on the movie Akira

 Threading together some tweets about the movie, which the Guy and I saw last night and quite enjoyed. (I don't watch many movies on the big screen -- this was the first after Udta Punjab.) The formatting might be a bit wonky and some tweets might appear twice -- you can view it on Twitter instead.

I meant Sonakshi, of course.

*reversal, not reveal. My phone really needs to stop messing things up.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thoughts on Raksha Bandhan and this time of year

Last week, I wrote about my true feelings about Raksha Bandhan for the Ladies Finger. I envy those of you with siblings you are close to, and ooh-ed and aah-ed over the fun subversive rituals some people celebrated with. But the original festival makes me want to run (as do most religious rites for that matter).

Janmashthami today, Ganesh Chathurthi around the corner, Durga Puja and Navratri and Dussehra and Diwali not far behind. This is not my favourite time of year. In some ways. Especially the noise.

But in other ways this is a great season. Bombay is awfully hot and humid, but it'll be my birthday next month, and even though I'll be officially middle-aged this year I have plenty to celebrate. Two weeks after is our wedding anniversary, and we'll have made it a full decade.  I've got plenty of fun stuff planned with the Guy and friends, so the next two months should be fun!

You have fun too, however you choose to celebrate.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Books I read in July

Can you believe it's August already?

I got more reading done this month, in spite of two short trips (Goa again, yay!) and near my new-normal level of socialising.

The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar
I've read about this book for years, and finally got around to reading it. It's a seminal work in feminist literary criticism, and examines how classic women writers - Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Dickinson -- subverted and shaped literary conventions. If you're interested in literature and feminism, it's fascinating, even though some chapters are somewhat dry and academic.

The Professor by Charlotte Bronte
I had read this years ago (as I had Villette) but I was tempted to revisit it based on some paragraphs in The Madwoman in the Attic which shed a new light on my recollections. It's interesting and fun, and not quite as subversive as anything written by Jane Eyre's author should be, being a more straightforward hero+makes+his+way+in+the+world+and+wins+the+love+of+a+good+woman, but it has its moments (and The Madwoman in the Attic had some fascinating suggestions on how to read it as more subversive than it is).

Thursday, July 28, 2016

More thoughts on having been married for nearly ten years

Click through to read the thread.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A love story, in tweets

I shared this long true story on Twitter a few days ago.

And here's more love stories from other people:

Saturday, July 23, 2016