Review: White Teeth (Zadie Smith)

I’d recommend this book to anyone who has ever moved homes and travelled beyond their city. It’s brings forth so many questions and the answers are entirely subjective.

Author: Zadie Smith

Published: 2001

Language: English

Genre: Literary fiction, Realism

Rating: 3/5

Book summary:

https://www.goodreads.com/sl/book/show/4204.White_Teeth

I picked up White Teeth on a whim. When I haven’t come across an author or the title and cover look interesting, I’ll find myself eager to explore. I had only ever come across her books on Instagram. I have rated it 3/5 for it builds well and then unravels too quickly. You spend so much time reading and getting to know all the characters and spaces, and you’re caught in a blur of action towards the end, grasping at meaning and the end of the story.

The novel left me thinking, in addition to feeling a little confused about the overall message. It’s something I’ll chew on for the next few weeks. For now, I’ll break it down into the following aspects as I saw them.

Identity

Our identities are formed over time, as a result of our interactions, or lack thereof, with spaces and people. In Samad and Archie’s case, they are limited to their historical experiences to even open up to effects of the world changing around them. Their children are a better example of how immigrants approach their foreign identities. They are caught in the crossfire of their parents’ history and their future in the spaces that hold their shared present. Each generation feels entitled to their experience as immigrants.

Spaces

I enjoyed Smith’s keen observation and representation of foreign spaces through the eyes of natives and immigrants, creating a stark contrast. In a clash of cultures, behaviours, and mindsets, we are exposed to how immigrants can feel at home in their chosen land and still feel misplaced. A standout moment in the novel was when Smith narrates how the convention space is being set up by a focus group of immigrant workers and eventually ‘owned’ by British natives; it simply showcases how spaces are forever in a flux between neutral and polarised. Our ownership of a space is momentary in the world and immortal in the mind.

Balance

The immigrant experience is a delicate balance between ‘what we brought in from the homeland’ and ‘what we have adopted and adapted to in the foreign land’. The folks who watch us leave believe that we are starting afresh in a land far off, whereas it’s simply a continuation of the path we have all set out on. As we acclimate to the new environment, we evolve just like the second-generation immigrants in the novel and we tip the balance in the favour of home. This may not hold true for Samad, Archie and their wives. They are still rooted in their ancestral experiences and are forever evading foreign influences.

The catch however is the fact that we don’t notice how much we have changed till we meet our folks again or leave the foreign land. The balance vanishes. You have grown into the space that you have chosen, wherever it may be. A change of place and atmosphere can change you for the better or for worse, and it’s up to you to decide how you choose to process your experience.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who has ever moved homes and travelled beyond their city. It’s brings forth so many questions and the answers are entirely subjective.

If you’ve read White Teeth, let’s talk in the comments!

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Review: David Copperfield (Charles Dickens)

If you love Davy, stop here or go ahead tell me why! Maybe I’ll change my mind then.

Author: Charles Dickens

Published: 1970 (first published in 1850)

Language: English

Genre: Classic, Fictional autobiography, Bildungsroman

Rating: 2/5

Disclaimer: If you thought that this David Copperfield is a magician, like I did for a long while, do your research.

Wikipedia will tell you all about how Dickens came to write David Copperfield and that he never meant to publish it. I may just agree with him on that.

There’s always a reason a book is considered a masterpiece, and I’m sure it exists for this one as well, however it escaped me.

826 pages, tightly packed paragraphs, bygone vocabulary and my dwindling patience kept me company in the 7 months it took for me to read David Copperfield. A century ago, it must have been quite a book to occupy time and space, given its length and breadth. It didn’t work out too well in this era though.

I’ll start with what I enjoyed: the language. There were so many phrases that made me smile while I was wearily reading and they almost made up for the fatigue the endless paragraphs were causing. I say that while I write a sentence like that. At times, a small voice in my head wished we still spoke like the 1800s now; I couldn’t help but think of how we spend time now, in comparison.

Time was meant to be filled up 170 years ago, and now we worry about not having enough. Language helped fill up a lot of time, given how sentiments were expressed, questions were posed and advice was elaborate. We have reduced language to TBT, LOL and BRB, to say the least, quite literally, just to not waste time saying it all. That’s all I enjoyed!

I should end the review here, except it wouldn’t be complete and it’s not going to be pretty here on. So, if you love Davy, you could stop here.

I am never going near that book again. There is a higher chance of me going to the moon than rereading David Copperfield again. Did I mention 826 pages? And the vacuum-packed paragraphs? Fine, the length wasn’t impossible. I have read the Millenium Series (1.5 times) and the Harry Potter series (3 times), but the words had room to breathe! I had to constantly step away from the book because the sentences seemed to be blending seamlessly into one another. If David Copperfield was a painting, Dickens would be wonderful. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Let’s talk about the story shall we? Or lack thereof? I am not saying I need a giant point to be made. I’d have just appreciated something to look forward to when I put the book down and it was quite ‘putdownable’. I’d wander off and actually forget about Copperfield because there was simply nothing to hook me. Hear me out: I understand that it was meant to capture his slice of life and the time it took place in. I just couldn’t relate to or appreciate. Yes, it sounds shallow. And yes, it’s my honest opinion.

And so, this review ends. It ends with me giving Dickens a 2-star rating and setting social media on fire. I can’t do it – stick to popular opinions and fall at the feet of deities being worshipped (currently, till another one rises). Your opinions are most welcome in the comments, I’d love to talk!

Until next time, Dreamers 🙂

Review: The 5 AM Club (Robin Sharma)

I’m going to keep this simple for now because this is the type of book that needs more than one read.

Author: Robin Sharma

Published: 2018

Language: English 

Genre: Self-help, non-fiction

Rating: 4/5

What I think book shopping is going to be: a calm day out, or online sometimes, looking through endless options, reading blurbs meant to sell the book and happily going home with, or waiting for a home delivery of, a mountain of books, with no budget in sight.

What I actually do when I’m book shopping: walk around, or browse online, in the sale section hoping I find books that are on my list (or anything interesting) and within my self-imposed spending limit for that month or year or for a particular edition/condition.

Truth be told, I have barely ever paid full-price for a book in my collection of 350 odd books. Sale or second-hand is my haven of choice!

That’s how I chanced upon The 5 AM Club in an Amazon deal-of-the-day section. I had a vague idea about it and I never thought of picking it up because I couldn’t imagine myself waking up at 5 AM to do anything, let alone join a club, even theoretically.

However, I am now glad that I did read it. It’s thankfully not a cult that Robin Sharma has envisioned; it’s more of a suggested practice that you can modify to your speed and space. The 5 AM Club sounds like your walking into a fancy seminar, on the contrary it’s a good old manual.

It’s tricky when it comes to reviewing self-help books because it may not be universally helpful. I enjoyed it for the many models he has put together that will serve me like Lego blocks, all available to me to mix and match and build a routine of my own. And you can do the same of course.

Here’s where I find a lot of readers apprehensive about being caught in the self-help section. It doesn’t mean that you are incapable of figuring yourself out. It’s just like trying on someone else’s clothes before you invest in your own. It never harms you to test out an idea; toss it aside if it doesn’t work for you. If you go through enough ideas, you’ll eventually know what combination works for you.

Here’s how I am going to use the learning from The 5 AM Club:

~ Select three models that can be accommodated into my current routine.

~ Test the remaining models for short periods of time to see if they’re relevant to my goals and habits.

~ Revisit models based on changes in goals or routine.

I’m going to keep this simple for now because this is the type of book that needs more than one read. It’ll stay with me over the coming years, I hope. I gave it a high rating for its practical and intelligible content. What are your thought on it, Dreamers?

70: The finish line

Thank you, Dreamers and stay tuned!

All through school and college, you’re asked to finish what you started and not leave tasks halfway. You’d be motivated to do thanks to the report card that’d be handed to your parents at the end of the year. There’s no such thing once you leave those institutions. You become your own examiner and it’s hard to be tough on yourself.

This series has shown me that I can be accountable to myself, I can be productive and I can own what I put out into the world. These are aspects I used to count as pitfalls earlier, but I no longer think or feel that way.

Thank you for sticking around for the series, Dreamers! It’s been a lovely activity in cultivating a writing habit, no matter what head-space I am in that day. The fact remains that writing is a reflex that you can develop over time; it’s an ability that you can keep or lose based on how much you choose to exercise it. So, I’ll continue on my journey to enable others to do the same, hoping you’ll meet me at other finish lines as well!

69: I have always wanted to do that.

Any guesses?

Meander. I have always wanted to meander. I wanted to meander through the woods, though I didn’t have any around me, when I was reading too much Enid Blyton. I wanted to meander through the empty roads at night when I grew a little older. I wanted to meander through a jungle, hoping not to meet a T-Rex, when I was watching Jurassic Park over and over again.

I still want to do that, however now it’s only because it sounds much better than wandering around. They are synonyms, you know.

Here’s what else I have always wanted to do:

  1. I want to elucidate concepts or ideas instead of simply explaining them.
  2. I want to be able to articulate well in French instead of being fluent like everyone else.
  3. I want to dispose papers or other materials instead of throwing them away.
  4. I want someone or something to kindle a thought in me instead of just inspiring me.
  5. Once in a while, I would like someone to sway me with their arguments instead of just trying to influence me.
  6. I dare sounds to reverberate instead of simply echoing.
  7. I would like to quiver when I see a wave come crashing to the shore instead of standing there shuddering.
  8. I would like to look around to find people in a pensive state instead of finding them in deep thought.
  9. When was the last time you thought to decipher something instead of just figuring it out?
  10. I would like to savour moments that I share with people instead of carelessly enjoying them.

68: You’ve got one month left.

To distract myself, I’ll count off all the things I’ve achieved in 30 days. That’s a reasonable coping mechanism, right?

Our French professor greeted us and cheerily declared, “You’ve got one month left!” It’s one thing to tell us sternly that we’re running out of time for our certification exam, but it’s quite unnerving to have him be happy about it. He’s excited about it because he believes in us. We’re worried because you can never be prepared enough for the big day.

A part of me thinks I can do it for there are 1080 hours between me and exam, but that’s just a total of hours, not the total hours I’ll spend studying. Another part of me thinks it’s better to wait and appear for the exam in time. The part that’s at the forefront is the one with her head on fire, running around in circles; this one counted all the hours I didn’t spend studying and it’s a terrifying number.

I will calm down, hopefully soon enough to compose my ever-famous list of topics to study, which I shall tackle day-by-day. Until then, I’ll mull over the fact that I have one month left.

To distract myself, I’ll count off all the things I’ve achieved in 30 days. That’s a reasonable coping mechanism, right? What would you do?

67: Find your pace in anything you do.

Picking my pace and having the conviction to stick to it is the biggest challenge I have to face in anything in that I do. What about you?

On a daily basis, I come across people trying to be better than the person sitting next to them or a counterpart they have in any space. I understand how it is to be competitive and petty because I do dabble in that art at times. It’s very easy to point at someone else before owning up to your mistakes and it’s very easy  to yank on someone’s leg and send them tumbling down the ladder you’re trying to climb.

Sometimes have to learn to dodge those falling off the ladder while you climb at your own pace. So far, I have never said you should have a steady pace; you will have to pick up the pace if you see a few rungs empty and waiting to be occupied or slow it down if it’s too crowded on the ladder for anyone to do anything.

To clear up another assumption about ladders, I’d like to point out that they exist in spaces other than that related to your career. It could be your relationship with your family or your pet, or maneuvering lanes in traffic, or learning something new, or relearning something you thought you were an ace at. You’ll find challenges or they’ll find you.

You’ll find challenges or they’ll find you.

And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a ladder all the time. It could be synonymous to trying to reach something on the top shelf, looking for the best route on the map to get to some place, an obstacle course in kindergarten or simply fighting the urge to be too lazy to grab the remote on the table in front of you.

Picking my pace and having the conviction to stick to it is the biggest challenge I have to face in anything in that I do. I find myself wanting to emulate other people’s routines or habits and it never works out.

When I was a kid, I had, and I still do have, the ability to grasp information with little to no effort. I can memorise content, routes, songs, words, faces and places, at times involuntarily. I used to think everyone could do the same things I could. It’s different for everyone. The realisation hit me when I found people who had more of this ability than I did; I then noticed people who didn’t have this ability at all.

Everyone has their own pace, goals and means that they’ll use to achieve the same; it is up to you to find your own pace, play with what suits you best and be willing to change it up to go further than you planned or cut it short before you reach your goal. The challenges are always evolving and we’ll just have to catch up or fall back.

66: Do you believe in the impossible?

I believe in impossible things because they are lot more gratifying. What about you? Do you believe in the impossible?

AIW Quote

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is one of my all-time favourites and it’s the kind of book that grows with the reader. I have written about books that offer new elements when you read them at different ages; they change with your perspective, maturity and experience and evolve as much as you do as a person or/and as a reader, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of them.

The first time I read the book, I was eight years old. I loved the animals and odd characters, and that was all. The Cheshire Cat still holds a piece of my heart! I have read it at least 10 times since then and I am still counting.

Each time I read it, I am left wondering about the number of metaphors in the story I had never noticed before (more about that in a post, someday!). Alice’s imagination takes her places and it’s strong enough to make her and the reader believe it is real. What stops us from doing the same?

If Alice never mustered enough curiosity to follow a rabbit, a formally-dressed, talking rabbit at that, down a rabbit-hole, real or otherwise, she would have never found Wonderland. If we never strive to achieve something that seems impossible, and if we never believe enough to take any road that may lead us to our goal, we’ll never get there.

A goal doesn’t necessarily need to seem impossible, it could be simple, of course – grow a garden, write poems, paint every week, learn hairstyles, drink enough water. It’s the overwhelming ones that truly seem impossible – establish and sustain a business, be fluent in a handful of languages, scale peaks, swim across an ocean,  be kind to everyone – but people have done it.

It begins with simply wondering about what would happen if  you really did follow your dreams. Once you have seen the end result or destination in your mind, it’s motivation enough sometimes. That’s all it takes. Wonder is a powerful thing if you use it right!

I dream at my desk about a whole lot of things. I make possible plans and envision fantastically impossible outcomes and that makes me want to work myself to the bone to get to it. Along the journey, if you feel like you are losing momentum or inspiration, stop to take a rest like you would on any other journey. That stop could be for a day, an hour, a year or a minute, but it’s up to you to continue and find out if the goal is as impossible as it seemed when you began wondering about it.

What impossible things do you think of, Dreamers?

65: Let’s face it, shall we?

On some days, all the facts gather to beat you up in an alley because you have been running away from them for so long. 

There are moments when you know for a fact that something has gone wrong, that you have said something wrong or something is about to go to pieces. It’s like waking up from a bad dream or losing your hearing after an accident. You see it happening, but you can’t stop it.

It happens when you know you are lying and you can feel the words unravelling as you speak them. You can’t slurp those words like noodles back into your mouth and save everyone some misery.

It happens when you wrong someone without meaning to. You’re either trying to save them from something or most of the times, you think you’re saving yourself. You know you could have used the honesty card, but you save that for later in the game. More often than not, the game ends before you use it.

It happens when you know your choices aren’t leading you anywhere, but you shake off that numb silence to fill it up with empty words to assure yourself that it’s all fine. And if that isn’t enough, you set out to show or tell people that you are fine, even when they didn’t want to know.

On some days, it happens all the time. All the facts gather to beat you up in an alley because you have been running away from them for so long.

Take facts one at a time, and you’ll really be fine. It takes courage and stamina to face truths about yourself that you don’t like. Perhaps, you’re trying to change something about yourself, or you’re trying to make up for something you have done, or you’re on your way to present a fact to someone else, and it won’t be easy, but it is gratifying.

64: My guide to thought-processing

Organise and own your thoughts!

Over the past few years, I have tried to come up with a process to help me think. I know we think all the time and that it never stops, but I am talking about the kinds of thinking when you choose a point to base the thought on – when you want to comprehend, imagine, summarise, or consider something, to say the least.

My process comprises of the following elements:

    1. Time: I set a limit on the amount of time I spend on a particular thought. This is quite difficult because the more you want to stop thinking about something, you do it anyways.
    2. Place: To solve the time riddle, I choose a place to think. I have a list of places assigned for thinking, mostly while I’m doing some other activity simultaneously. Some of them include my bike (when I am riding it, of course), the shower, the terrace, my bed (right before I fall asleep) and the gym.
    3. Thoughts: The most important element in a thought process, obviously, but I place them third on my list so that I know where to send them. Once I have the time and place in mind, I assign slots to the thoughts. I think a particular thought in a designated time and place. It’s kind of like handing out appointments. This takes practice, but it’s possible.
    4. Filter: Thoughts come at you suddenly and you may not always catch them all. So, by the time you get around to processing them, a lot of filtering has already taken place by way of your inability to retain those thoughts. The ones that you do have remaining are not all important. Filtering is personal and it can be done in many ways – sort them as the thoughts come to you, write them down, choose what to think about or you can save some for later. Thoughts can be random, creative, worrisome, epiphanies, questions or answers, so find different filters that work for each.
    5. Spend or Save: Now that you have a collection of thoughts, you can choose to utilise them, if they were ideas, solutions or answers or you can choose to save  them for later, if they are questions, plans, projections or solutions to probable problems. They are your thoughts and you get to take that call.

The order of this process changes based on the frequency or the speed at which the thoughts arise, but the components are constant. This process eliminates over-thinking or an over-flow of thoughts and allows me to take a step back, which usually isn’t my strong suit.

What’s your process, Dreamers?