MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “reading”

The book on the shelf

http://onlinesalesstepbystep.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/book-on-a-shelf.jpgIt stood there longing to be read. But instead its pages crinkled with time as they gathered dust. If it was ever opened now, the reader would be able to see the passing of time imprinted on the yellowing of the paper. Yet it remained on the shelf, unopened, unread.

Potential readers passed by its location daily. Their eyes always passed over it but none focused on it for more than a second. And that was never enough to grab their attention.

Books on either side of it were removed and returned frequently, but that persisted always firmly in place.

The book had now aged. But its content was always timely. If only someone chose to pick it up and open it, they would experience the wisdom in its pages diffuse into their mind. A closed book is hardly of any use. Just like a parachute, it works better when opened. When read. When understood. When applied.

You never know the inspiration and the knowledge you may find, unless you actually fall upon it, by choice or by chance.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Shelf

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Fine Art, Flawed Artists

books1There are times when you come across a book that you cannot put down, not because of its plot or fictional narrative, but because it is so inspiring you want to learn more. When such books are recommended by people who know you well enough to safely bet that it will enrapture you, then you are certain to read through the entire book in less than a couple of days.

Clive James’ Latest Readings is such a book.

Masterfully written it is witty, funny, absorbing, entertaining, inspiring. The flow of language is so effortless that it can be read in a gulp. There is a uniqueness in every line, blooming with such an exquisite narrative, that it makes you feel as if the author is sitting right there conversing with you.

Although an esteemed literary critic, in this specific book, James does more than simply review the books he read. He reviews a lifetime of reading books. Because he artfully combines his opinion of the book’s content, with its background epoca and its context, associating everything with current events – from the rise of ISIS, to the digitization of the written word, to Bill Cosby’s trial, even to recent TV series and movies. And all of this is combined with a telling of his own state (he was diagnosed with terminal leukemia) and the fact that he was melting away, or, like he says, “slipping into time”.

This is an illuminating book in many ways, because, although some books and writers may not be familiar to you, he will awake in you the urge to read more. He will illuminate the dream of having a large room with huge double doors opening into an entire library full of books. One that contains bookcases rising up from the ground to the ceiling, so complete that you need an incorporated sliding ladder to move across them. A library so full, that you would eventually need to smuggle books in and hide them, as he does, being under embargo for bringing in more books. And he encourages you to love books, despite the rapid conversion into the “rational solution” of a digital form, as “being book crazy is an aspect of love, and therefore scarcely rational at all”.

But he will also inspire you to become a better author in order to produce the book you dream to write. He urges you to be open to self-criticism, because “unless you can criticize yourself, you are not a writer”. He even calls out to journalists themselves, a dying craft of our times, stressing that “journalism is the first draft of formal history”.

He explores the background stories of the writers themselves, opening up details into their lives that you never knew. One of the most memorable phrases in the book is that “fine art is usually work of flawed people”, giving you hope that no matter your troubles, you can always produce something great.

His ode to Ernest Hemingway is beautiful, particularly noting that “he was a giant of who dreamed of being a giant” and was an author able to deliver such a convincing narrative, such that “his way of putting things was a transformative illusion”. His closing reference to Florence Nightingale is also both touching and enlightening.

What is most astounding throughout the book is that, despite his illness, James never gives up. He doesn’t abandon his wit and sharp intellect, nor does he stop reading, expanding both his knowledge and his world. And that, is perhaps, the most inspiring aspect of it all. After all, as he so deftly states, “If you don’t know the exact moment when the lights will go out, you might as well read until they do.

Paper books or e-readers?

books vs ebooksWith so many things to read nowadays, we often get lost not only in the material but in the medium of reading. You see people reading constantly and everywhere – paper books, magazines, newspapers, on tablets, phablets, e-readers, phones. Choosing the right medium is not simply a matter of preference, it is also of convenience. So what do you prefer, a paper book or an e-reader?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Kindle (for many more reasons beyond its practicality), but there is just something else present in a real paper book that cannot be replaced by any screen. And it is not just the excitement of getting your hands on a new book every once in a while (because, really, how many times are you going to buy an e-reader?).

In an era that sees the rapid rise of a “screen culture” we often need to take time off any and every screen. It is just not natural. And it is unhealthy being stuck in front of a screen all day. Get your hands on a book, flick through its pages, smell that odour of print and paper, rub the rough yellow sheets between your fingers, roll your hands over the indentations of the cover, mark the page you left off, feel the agony, work and inspiration that were involved in making that book, and let the magic radiating from each and every page carry you away.

Of course, you can still read the same book on an e-reader, but this digital medium just won’t allow you to completely engage in the relationship between book and reader. Sure, it is more convenient in many ways – for example, e-books are cheaper than paper ones; you can carry your e-reader anywhere at any time, having with you an abundance of books all at once; and quite significantly, you can read anything anywhere surreptitiously without being afraid of being judged, as it is impossible to see what you’re reading and can thus saturate your curiosity for a range of genres.

Reading a book is not just a past-time. It is an experience. A journey into another world. It is a way of getting lost without even moving from your couch. And it is one that will enrich your life.

So in essence, it doesn’t really matter where you read something, just as long as you immerse yourself fully into it. You’ll never regret it. (Unless it is a really bad book, but that’s another story).

Room to write

writing roomErnest Hemingway had said that “there is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”. That is really all it takes. To let your soul pour out at your fingertips. To allow your emotions to surface and manifest themselves into words, into stories, into prose on paper.

All you need to do is allow yourself to breathe and feel.

To feel every single thing that is cornered in your psyche. To be able to sit in silence and type. (Or write with a pen or pencil if you are more traditional).

What you really need though is room. Like Virginia Wolf said, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write”. Money, for the obvious reasons that you need to be able to afford just sitting there typing, and room because you need the space to simply be. To accept the feelings that are overwhelming you, that are weighing down on your shoulders. To permit them to flood out of your heart like a torrent during flood season.

To have the room to be able to lock yourself into. To sit on a big executive chair that wraps around your back and spine like a comforting bear and reassures you that everything will be fine. Just type. Just go on and say whatever is on your mind.

The key in being able to write is being able to accept that the words you form are a small part of your soul breaking away from inside of you. It is allowing yourself to be vulnerable and not minding that the world is authorized a glimpse at your pain. All sad people write. It is an outlet for the pain. Sylvia Plath was told that after rain everyone suddenly is flooded with literary inspiration. The point, however, is how true, how deep, how emotional, how exposed you can get.

Because think of the person who will read. They will want to be able to feel precisely that emotion. The pain, the anguish, the heartbeat, the torment, the painstaking ordeal. We all want the assurance that we are not alone in whatever it is we are going through. That is primarily why we read. That, and to get away from it all. From our own troubles into another world.

Imagine being able to do that through reading.

Now think of the power you could possess if you could write too.

If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads. Or better yet, date a girl who writes.” ―Rosemarie Urquico

Also part of Daily Prompt: Writing Room

The art of writing

writing2If there is an elegance in knowing how to speak, there is a charm in knowing how to write. In being able to express the thoughts that swivel in your mind, into words, phrases, sentences. Giving them meaning to paint an image to the outsider, enabling him/her to witness with their own eyes a fraction of your very being.
Being able to write is a gift, a talent, a skill.

In an age when we are constantly busy with something, and never have enough time for anything, possessing good writing skills is a trait few truly have. For, from a very young age, we are taught that reading and writing are intrinsically linked. They are two skills that you learn simultaneously. Today, we spend most of our precious daily time skim reading texts of all sorts. We have no time to waste. If the first few sentences do not grip your interest immediately, the text is not deemed worthy of your attention. So being a good writer becomes all the more important. You need to invite the reader in, to arouse their attention, raise an issue of common interest to them, welcome them into your stream of words, and grasp them so tightly that they would want to stay along for the entire ride. And if you are exceptionally good, you will leave them with an afterthought, having awakened inside of them their spirit of curiosity, of questioning, of bewilderment for the very world we live in. It is true that nowadays we speed read all the more, but that does not necessarily mean we should also skim write.

Think about the books you read. There are some that you can literally not put down. Not even when you feel your bladder so full it is pressing against your stomach, and you’re dancing around on your seat, trying to finish one more line, one more sentence, one more page, before you have to race to the bathroom like a mouse on fire. But there are others that actually put you to sleep after just one or two pages. It might not necessarily be just the plot at fault. It is the way the plot is written. The descriptions, the narrative, the tone. It is no wonder, therefore, that the best books you read – those that remain with you long after – are the ones in which the flow of words can reach deep into your soul, caress every atom of your being, and so thoroughly describe every emotion you feel to the extent that you experience a hair-raising chill down your spine. The most memorable texts are indeed the ones that so vividly describe exactly what they make you feel. The ones that help you embark on a rollercoaster of emotions, of racing heartbeats, and of sighs of relief.

Knowing how to write is more than a dexterity. It is an art. And like many others, everyone claims to know how to do it. But few truly do it well.

Also part of Daily Prompt: On the Edge

Turn to page 82

82The thing with bookworms (people who love books, not worms who live in them) is that they are deeply attracted by the writing on them, particularly that on the cover. And especially the back cover. So, when you grab a book with a huge “82” drawn on the front on a blueish background and with all sorts of creatures and objects flying, crawling or even drilling their way out of the number itself, it does catch your attention. So, you turn it over to read the summary on the back. All it says is “This book has a significant focus on the number 82. It tells a story like no other, which will remain with you long after you read it. Now, you want to find out what the number 82 has anything to do with it, don’t you? Well, you’ll just have to read the book then…” You think it is silly. But it already has you gripped. And the next thing you know, you’re comfortable in your relaxing armchair, with your soft, fleece blanket at your knees, and a steaming hot cup of tea at the table beside you, and you turn the first page of this new book.

It had a fascinating start. It was a story about a young man who had learned to read from a shepherd who took refuge in his barn one night. And he inadvertently found his first book one morning when he went to offer the shepherd-guest some food but discovered he was gone. All he left behind was a book. Intrigued, the young man began to read it, as he believed it would solve the mystery of the shepherd’s presence.

That is when it first appeared.

“Turn to page 82”.

Was this a Fighting Fantasy book? It couldn’t be. But the man tried to find page 82 to turn to anyway. (So did you). Page 82 was nowhere to be found. (It was nowhere in this book either). It was not between pages 81 or 83, nor misplaced in any other part of the book. Nor were there any signs whatsoever that it had been ripped out. Page 82 had simply never been a part of that book. (Nor in this one – clever, huh?).

But drowning in curiosity, the man continued to read on from where he left off. A few pages later, it appeared again.

“Turn to page 82”.

The same process was wearingly repeated. The man continued to read on. It was a story that seemed incoherent. With weird animals, imaginary creatures and ghosts appearing out of nowhere, with the story taking place on earth, in the ocean, on different planets, in different universes, at different times even. It was utterly confusing, but for some reason it kept you wanting more. That’s the other thing with bookworms – they must finish the books they start reading; it’s a matter of principle.

So whenever the prompt to turn to page 82 appeared – and it appeared quite often – the man simply ignored it and continued to read on. (So did you). He had still not understood the storyline or purpose of the book, but was profoundly drawn into it by now. (And coincidentally, so were you).

Alas, he reached the final page. He thought that finally he might understand what all this “turn to page 82” was about. It turns out, however, that the book would eventually end in a cliché: this was all a dream. The young man had apparently imagined it all – the strange paradoxes, the hen fighting with an elephant, the appearance of a yoku (a beast which was half eagle, half something that resembled a lion-snake) and its defeat using rat’s poison that was taken from a far away planet that could only be reached by planting a specific type of bean that grew from tomato plants watered with coke. It was so confusing that you were surprised you had managed to last until the end. So, although you were deeply disappointed that all this time you were reading something that was in essence never there, a smile did form on your face when you read the last sentence explaining that the man had fallen asleep in his quest to find page 82 in a book that simply did not have it because a publisher had been distracted when numbering the pages.

And that is when you closed the cover and put the book down. “Well, that was ingenious”, you thought.

 

Inspired by Daily Prompt: Connect the Dots

An inspiration and an adventure through a book

DSC01554A good book can transfer you to another world, another time, another place and will invite you to literally dive into its pages as if you were its protagonist living out its story. A great book will also transmit to you its feelings and engage not just your mind, but your senses as well. A book is your passport to the world, to places you never even knew existed, and to cultures you knew nothing about.

I was given such a book as a present. And then I was lucky enough to realize a dream every book-lover has – to get in contact with the author and ask questions!

Cássia Martins is a wonderful author, artist and person at heart. Of Brazilian descent, she decided to go back to her motherland after finishing her degrees, and after a mere nine months she had written her book! With Brazil preparing to take center stage with the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Cássia Martins immerses the reader on a heartfelt, touching story of personal development and soul-searching in a beautifully and vividly described “Marvelous City”.

IMG_9663Born in Rio is a book that ravels you up right from the start and leaves you asking for more. Complete with twists, dark secrets, revelations, and a flood of emotions that can be felt right to the core, it is a book so full of life that makes you reconsider your own place in the world. What makes it such a great read is that it is full of gripping, wonderful descriptions that make you feel as if you were really there –  feeling, seeing, smelling everything around you. But most of all, this book embarks you on a trip to Rio, and through its pages you learn about the history, culture and life in one of the world’s most passionate and lively cities.

Contacting Cássia as soon as I read the last line of her book, she not only welcomed my enthusiasm, but reiterated her delight when I asked her if she could answer a few questions for an interview. With a journalistic flair at work and my excitement to be interviewing a published author, I therefore present you the interview with Cássia Martins, author of Born in Rio:

How did you come up with the idea for this novel?
The first idea of writing a novel came to me when I was writing application essays to graduate school. When I was done with my MBA applications I realized how much material I had to build on a story about a New York banker going back to her roots and eventually changing her ways. During my MBA at Wharton, I constantly thought about the plot, and finally when I graduated I had the story figured out. Then it was a matter of sitting down to write it!
 
Why did you decide to go back to Rio now (when writing the book)?
I really wanted to talk about Brazil and Rio because I was born there and it’s a place that has such a special place in my heart. I wanted to show the world how it feels like to live in Rio, the culture, the heat, the people, so living there was actually crucial in writing this story. It had been 15 years since I last lived there on a day-to-day basis, so actually going through the experiences of being back helped me a lot with material for the book!
 
How did you feel going back to Rio after 15 years? How did it feel living there again and then having to go back to the US?
When I left Rio to the United States I was a teenager, and thus I became an adult in the US. Throughout my life I had been to Rio in many instances, but always for short period of times, just for the holidays. My family is from Brazil but I am also American, so there was definitely a culture shock of going back, and then getting adapted back into a culture that I actually had experienced before! But it was such an enriching experience that inspired me to write rich content for Born in Rio; I was never short of interesting things to write about!
Shortly after I finished writing Born in Rio I went back to the US. Going back to the US after Rio was an easier transition. Born in Rio is published in English and most of the work involved in publicizing it now is done from the US. So, to me, I think I had the best of both worlds while making this book.
 
How is the book based on your own experience?
IMG_9220_2The book is based on my own experiences from many angles. All the events Rita goes through when she gets to Brazil, in a way, I experienced them as well. The liveliness of people in Rio, the heat of the culture, the passion, these were all things that took me by surprise, and that I then wrote about. All the places Rita goes to in Rio I also went there. I even took dance lessons (like dancing samba in pairs) and my favorite place in Rio is the Rio Botanical Gardens, where I went often to get inspiration for my story!
The plot and the story itself is fiction, but based on real events, either circumstances that I have experienced myself, or that I saw other people go through. I compiled all my knowledge and allowed my creativity to interweave them in this inspiring story of growth that is Born in Rio.
 
How could you bring yourself to write so vividly about such painful events (the passing away of the mother of the character; the domestic violence from the father etc.)?
I think that one of the missions of an artist is to be sensitive to experiences we all go through as humans. So I always try to think of different circumstances and the feelings that might be associated with it when I engage in the creation of an artistic project. The artistic creation itself, to me, is something I am very used to. Since an early age I was exposed to many forms of art, and I have used my art and creativity as a channel of growth and healing. That ability has allowed me to connect with other people, and to humanity as a whole. So I think I used this approach in writing this story, and in transporting my readers into different aspects, and feelings, we might experience as humans.
 
How much research did you do on Brazil’s history and how did you go about that (by reading books, talking to locals)?
History has always been one of my favorite subjects in school and so it is no surprise that Brazilian history fascinates me even more. I think Brazil is such a unique country, and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to be born there, and to live there. It is truly a melting pot of cultures, and Brazilians consider themselves “Brazilians” regardless of where their ancestors came from. So a lot of the material in Born in Rio was based on my own knowledge of my motherland, but a big chunk of it was based on extensive research; I read many books, not just about Brazilian history but also Brazilian arts and literature. I tried to talk to as many people as I could when I was there, so the information would be not just accurate, but also real. I was very happy with the result in the book Born in Rio, readers always mention to me how I was able to transport them into Brazil, and make them feel closer to its history, people and culture…almost seamlessly.
 
Is Rita anything like you?
DSC01562Well, I wanted to write about another woman, so many aspects of Rita do not belong to me. But at the same time, I think that some do, because I can better write about what I know myself. Rita was a very cold woman, not in touch with her feelings a lot in the beginning, and that I cannot sympathize with because I have always been in touch with my feelings. But she is a professional in the finance world, and so I am, so I do understand her demeanor in many work related situations. She was born in Brazil, as was her mother, and we do have that in common also. I can also say that a lot of her “growing up” throughout the book are questionings and insights I also encounter in coming to terms with my own path in life and adulthood.
 
Is the long-haired dachshund appearing unexpectedly a tribute to yourIMG_9706 Dolce?
I’m so glad you noticed that! I have to say, my Dolce was my true companion in this journey. I like to work at night, when everyone is sleeping and the world is filled with silence. Therefore although I spent many, many nights writing with no humans around, I never felt alone. I have had Dolce for 9 years now, and I truly feel he is such a loyal company, that I just HAD to put him in the book somehow! So, of course, I decided to give a “Dolce-like” dog to the artist, Mona, because I feel like my Dolce has really been a crucial supporter and very important part of my artistic creation process somehow.
 
How did you manage the task of doing all aspects of the publication for the book yourself (publishing, promotion, advertising etc.) and how did that feel?
I honestly don’t know which part I liked most: writing the book, or managing it. Although I am an artist, I also have an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurship, so to me, this project has always been my business plan. I try different strategies with it, measure its results and built on them to move forward. I’m lucky, I guess, to have developed both the artistic, subjective, intuitive part of the brain as well as the more logical, analytical and objective side. Thus I really love the fact that I have had control both on the artistic creation and the management of the book. That ability has really allowed me to put this project together, wholesomely, and that makes me very proud and happy.
 
Could you ever have imagined that just like you were excited to receive a signed copy of a book by Isabel Allende, someone would be just as excited to receive a signed copy of your book?
DSC02509You know, since I was a little girl, I was so inspired by Isabel’s stories. Paula is one of my favorite books and I read it now in three different languages! So, yes, it was one of the best gifts of my life to receive a signed copy of Paula by Isabel Allende. I cried when I got the envelope, a moment I will never forget. Therefore, if my readers are as excited to receive a signed copy of my books, to me, that is one of the most noble accomplishments I can do; to be able to bring a simple moment of happiness into someone’s life like that. I really hope this is true, and I hope to continue doing that for many years to come!
 

N.B. I am so thankful to K for introducing me to Cássia and her lovely book, but also to Cássia herself for being such an inspiration!

It turns out life does indeed happen independently of what you want, but sometimes, it also goes a bit your way, and when it does you cherish every moment, every contact, and every experience you gain!

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: FAQ

Just Sayin’…

Sometimes everybody needs a bit of inspiration to keep going, not to give up, to do something different for a change. Quotes and sayings from various people, be they famous or unknown, may always serve this purpose. You will always find something spectacular, something motivating, in something well said. As eloquent, as funny, as ironic as it may be, sayings will offer an inspiration. This is what my two pages, up there on the right, are for. Quotes and The Pen and The Sword offer a collection of quotes that will spark a desire to do something out of the ordinary, or even at least to think a little more openly. All you have to do is click here: https://mcswhispers.wordpress.com/quotes/ and here: https://mcswhispers.wordpress.com/the-pen-and-the-sword/ and free your mind!

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