A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. ~Oscar Wilde

Archive for the ‘reading moments’ Category

Who does the Bhagavad Gita belong to?

DP and MG

It has taken me the better part of two years to complete my first reading of Devdatta Pattanaik’s “My Gita”. I am sure that I will go back to it time and time again, for it is a treatise on the Bhagavad Gita, that ultimate “lifestyle” manual. The current remarkable obsession with “self-exploration, self-examination, self-actualization”, and, apparently, “selfies”, may have had its beginnings in the “self-realization” discussed in the book, through the millenia spanning the composition of the “Bhagavad Gita”.

I have often picked up a “Gita” I purchased while still a fledgling in the thoughtful world, (I still am), but have not got beyond the first verses. It’s heavy Sanskrit text and lumbering translation kept the book on my bedside stack, always as a to-be-read.

Devdutta Pattanaiks’s “My Gita” is not a translation or transliteration of the Bhagavad Gita. Instead it is series of 18 essays on what Pattanaik considers to be the 18 themes of the Gita. It does not cover the Gita sequentially, as the themes he has identified are not isolated by chapter, but rather sprinkled within multiple discourses through the whole collection or “song”. It is important to remember this while reading the book, as it gives it a very different experience to reading the Gita.

To my mind, this book has been about understanding the value of the Gita in my 21st century hectic, and often seemingly rudderless existence. On days I have felt the buzzing of restlessness, the pages have soothed me. On days I felt calm, I have had moments of eye opening wonder.

I am delighted that I can come back to this book time and again in order to calm myself, and experience more moments of blinding understanding. I might even attempt the Sanskrit version again, one day. I just need to understand that I do not need to read either in a linear, consecutive manner. I can open them to any page, and attempt to absorb the wisdom they contain.

Ultimately, while this book is Pattanaik’s take on the Bhagavad Gita, the original, as seen in these essays belongs to all.

Hopefully the few editing oversights have been corrected in future editions of the book.

Arjuna_and_His_Charioteer_Krishna_Confront_Karna,_crop

pictures from the friendly World Wide Web –

  1. Scroll.In
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_Gita

 

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Tough to love

Believe, and it exists. A bit like Schrödinger’s cat. The Americans did not, or do not, believe, and their gods are dying.

For the first 25% of the book (thank you, Kindle), I was not getting much out of the book at all. I had started reading it at my sister’s insistence, and her taste in books can be a little gritty. It took me about eight months to get through the first 25% of the book, and when I started reading it again during the hiatus between Christmas and the New Year, I found that I had forgotten much of the beginning. I kept going, as I was determined to finish it, so I could tell my sister that I had. Since I had seen “The Last Jedi” during that time, Yoda kept murmuring in my ear “Page turner, it is not”. 

Then with progress, at about 60% of the book, I became invested in Shadow. I pushed through to the end because I wanted to know what happened to Shadow, and because I believe in magic. Which is the same thing as a belief in gods. Sort of.

In the end, I liked the story. Through most of it, I rued my lack of knowledge of the gods, ignorance of their stories, and felt that I was not quite “getting it”. That caused a certain amount of pain. It turned out, though, that I did not need to know about the myths. It had pull just at face value.

Essentially that is all Art needs. Pull. And a good feeling at the end. This has both.

Now, should I get “Mythos” by Stephen Fry? Mythology has always had pull, and now, even more so.

American Gods

Who won?

It has beenThw winner stands alone strange to read such a cynical story by Paulo Coelho, whose books seemed to me the anti thesis of cynicism. I had loved “The Alchemist”, and I had liked “Veronica Decides to Die” as well, very much. Somewhere along the line Coelho may have decided that he was no longer going to be the Mr. Nice Guy. He may have felt that he needed to write a story about the superficiality of the very rich, very famous in show business. He may have been disillusioned. So he wrote a cynical novel.

The problem does not lie in its cynicism, or depiction of the dark underbelly of the “superclass”, which, apparently, is a real term. The problem lies in the fact that Coelho does not show. He tells. Page after page after repeated page. He tells us that the super class is superficial. They lead tired empty meaningless lives. They manipulate. They form cartels. They have surgery to enhance their looks. They are afraid of growing old. How do we know? Coelho tells us.

This information has no relevance to the story of murder and mayhem that is “The Winner Stands Alone”. No matter. It is revealed again and again, woven into a story that has potential.

I cannot believe what I just wrote. Paulo Coelho’s story has potential! Ouch!

The question now remains, did the story get lost in translation? Or did Coelho just want to write something different, and make a hash of it?

I also failed to discern the relationship the name of the novel has to the story between the covers.

All in all, a sad disappointment.

Perhaps there are two Paulo Coelho’s? One who wrote “The Alchemist” and one who tried to write a book called “The Winner Stands Alone”.

 

The Purer Motive

Ruthless kingmaker who united a war torn land under one wise and brave ruler. The chosen one, having shown great promise as a child and a student, goes on to rule, with wisdom, the land he has fought alongside his teacher to win. A king who is remembered with reverence in his own right. His mentor – learned, wise, cynical, quick to spot strengths and weaknesses- in people, in logic, in philosophy. Author of a book whose wisdom has transcended more than 2000 years. History knows him as Chanakya.

Soulless powerbroker who seems to mirror the deeds of the widely respected sage, and creates a king, wilfully escalating the mayhem across the land in the process. Other than a few smart questions, the king ( of the female gender) shows no wisdom, courage, or discretion. Having being handed platform after platform through deceit and thuggery, of which she is a willing participant, she gains her throne through years of political manipulation. She then  apparently rules India wisely through three terms. One is left wondering where such acumen has sprung from, since all she learnt from her teacher and life, was how to win position and power by  deceit, murder, mayhem and manipulation. Her mentor – now… what is his name?… umm.. oh yeah. Pandit Gangaprasad Mishra.

“Chanakya’s” chant? I think not. Ruthless and soulless are not synonyms, neither are kingmaker and powerbroker.

Chankaya's Chant

Samuel Barclay Beckett: Unfinished

Samuel Barclay Beckett, avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet, and wrote in both English and French. Formidable reputation. He is famous “for his writing, which—in new forms for the novel and drama—in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation.” Ironic, then, that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1969, a pointless gesture, surely if ever ther was one.

I was, uncharacteristically, quite excited when the young adorablescent brought “Waiting For Godot” home from school as a text. Uncharacteristically, because I have a phobia for books which are so deep and meaningful, that you have to be amongst the world’s top ten intellectuals to even get a grip on the topic. This seems to imply that all the regular people I come into contact with are lying when they say they understand it. I don’t think they are lying. I think they believe they understand it. I think that, it is so unacceptable to say that Samuel Beckett made no sense to you, that people are subconsciously afraid to say it.

It is hard to align yourself on the side of the “superficial”. I know how much it hurts to be called superficial, because I have been called it. I have watched people look at the hundreds of books lining my shelves, and assume, that someone else in the family has read those books, and not me. When I have said that most of those books are mine, and many of them have been read by only me, I have had people look at me in wonder, trying to understand how such a superficial person as me could actually have read so much, and some of those books are, by commonly agreed upon standards, not kindergarten reads. (I have not read too much, but a wall full of shelves overflowing with books can dominate a room). So I have always taken with a pinch of salt when someone regular like me, waxes all lyrical over an obscure book by an obscure author. (Using obscure as: not clearly expressed or easily understood, Beckett is not unknown, and his play “Waiting for Godot” even less so).

I was excited because, I thought that, here was a short book, that I would be able to quickly read and not get bogged down in existentialistic nightmares for months. Pick up. Read. Put Down. Tick off to-read list.

I will just assume everyone reading this has read the play. A play about nothing, in which nothing happens, and ends before any point has truly been made. I get it. That is the point of the play. That there is no point. Nothing happens in our lives. We do nothing, remember nothing, have no significance or maybe we even don’t exist.

It just makes me wonder. Why would I read/watch this play? The conversation goes nowhere, so paying attention is not necessary. Nothing happens, so ditto. There is only the point of futile existence, so why bother?

Can anyone tell me whether I should read the second Act of Mr Beckett’s play? Have I missed something? I think it will be a rehash of the first Act, just driving home the point. I already get it.

 

Bare tree sunrise sunset.jpg

Photo credit: Hartwig HKD

 

Read the book! Facepaint

lisa-eldridge-facepaint-photoSome books can be downloaded onto an electronic device. Some books cannot. The idea of reading an electronic version of this book scares me. I have never read an ebook. Yet, I am sure this book would lose half its magic if you could not hold it in your hand, move it around in your hand, watching the light catch the shifting mood of the pictures, running your fingers over the textured cover. This book is a visual feast. First and foremost.

Written for makeup lovers, it is a book with so much make up story crammed into its pages, it is sure to delight those who want to learn a little bit more about this fascinating art and industry.

It is pleasing that the focus remained on story telling, independent of any kind of brand focus, or subtle advertising. Lisa Eldridge has enough clout in the the makeup world that if she recommends one product, it will fly off the shelves. She has made no such recommendations, she has not stated a preference for one style of makeup over another. She has also not made any kind of reference to any kind of body image issues except as a historical commentary. No judgement. Whatsoever.

Instead we see a charming discussion of colour utilisation through the ages, the trends, the socio-political ramifications, the anecdotes. Who would have thought that the use of makeup through ages seemed to coincide with women’s rights, and freedom, even if only certain tiers in certain ages? Apparently courtesans and prostitutes not only wore obvious makeup through the ages, but also got accorded more rights than the genteel women. Mo’ makeup, did equate to mo’ fun!

 

The Eldridge Technique is widely known to be Lisa’s distinctive technique of making complexion appear flawless through makeup, while allowing the inner glow to shine through. I have just discovered another inimitable Eldridge Technique. The book is written in the same soft, often amused, always kind, voice that Lisa uses in her youtube instructional videos. A classic book from a classy lady.

Since this is such a vast subject, and this book had to be sketchy by necessity, I look forward to more books from Lisa.

 

This is one of the best gifts I have given myself on my birthday. My first book of 2016

First book of 2016: Facepaint

It is the First of January, 2016, and I just stumbled upon the “First Book of the Year” community.

1stbook2016

I have never made the first book of a year into any kind of priority. Usually, I would not think it to be such a special thought in as much as it should not really matter to someone who reads all the time as to what time of the year it is. To me the year is a man made concept, for humanity’s own need to compartmentalise Time (with a capital T).

But, having just written in my list for 2016, “I have read and reviewed 30 books in 2016” I feel it may be necessary to undergo this ritual. Read the first book, review it. A journey of reading and reviewing 30 books starts by picking up the first book, after all.

To those who are planning to read 100+ books during the year, I commend you. There was a time when I did read a book or two in a week. Now is not that time. My very modest goal of 30 books this year is doubling what I managed to read in 2015. I am content to take my humble back seat in the community.

So my first book is one that I have just started to read over the last couple of days: “Facepaint: The Story of Makeup” by Lisa Eldridge. I am also reading: “The Modern Art Cookbook” by Mary Ann Caws, “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens, and “Light on Yoga Sutras” by BKS Iyengar. This last book may also be finished as the last book of this year, depending on how many pages I read at a time.

First book of the year

Out of these I think it is easiest for me to finish Eldridge’s book, so I have chosen it to be my first book. It is filled with the most beautiful pictures. Her writing style flows like a conversation, and, as an avid follower of her YouTube channel, it feels like she is reading the book to me.

Thank you Sheila of bookjourney.net for the idea, and Ti of bookchatter.net for pointing me to the community. Happy reading adventures, fellow bookworms…..

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