Epoch

karl-chor-11429(Note: I wrote bits and pieces of this poem years ago when I first met a certain boy I liked. I was an awful poet back then (still am, actually) so I never bothered to show it to him, but we ended up dating anyway. Today, exactly two years hence, it seems liked a good idea to finish what I started, and, more importantly, to properly preserve a moment that changed both our lives forever.)

Our eyes met but once,

brief, desultory. Somewhere in

the distance a burning ball of fire

laid claim to a singular planet.

Glaciers rose and fell,

swallowed up by a fathomless

sea. A baby let out its first cry.

Bombinating bees stole nectar

from an unsuspecting flower.

Two lovers danced, laughed,

cried, forgot the taste of

each others names. The tip

of the Great Pyramid fell, crumbled,

melted into the boundless Nile.

All in one infinite epoch,

your lips, aquiver, turned to smile.

Our brief dalliance paused;

You laughed at a joke you didn’t hear

I tucked my hair behind my ear

Somewhere, whilst stars fell to disuse,

a possibility rose to formation.

*

Our eyes met again (twice).

I wondered, briefly, as laughter

and conversation floated amid,

if I’d ever retell this tale.

(As it turns out, I did.)

 


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The Aesthetically Pleasing Book Tag

I’m not generally fond of blog tags, nor do I regularly get tagged in them (and thats probably why), but recently I was exposed to one that made me obscenely excited to replicate it. I know the whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” theory is generally expected to be true, but I’m pretty superficial, and I do judge a book by its appearance. Sometimes it’s looks alone that can convince me to buy a novel, and at other times its what persuades me not to.

This tag, known as the ‘Aesthetically Pleasing Book Tag’, celebrates good design in books, all the way from the cover to the endpages. It was initiated by Book Syrup on YouTube (you can check out the video here), and has been recreated many times over by many Youtubers and bloggers. I’ve answered each of the questions except one, which is about chapter headings, because I couldn’t find one I particularly loved.

So, without further ado.

1. Best Colour Combination on a Book Cover –  The Muse by Jesse Burton

Themuse

I haven’t read this book yet, to be honest, but I’ve seen it appear multiple times on my Pinterest feed and have always paused a minute to admire it.

2. Best Typography on a Book Cover – The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

the chaosofstars

I picked this book not simply because of how pretty the type is, but also because of how seamlessly it fits into the backdrop. The entire cover seems to have been designed around it.

3. Best Simple Cover – 1984 by George Orwell

1984 George Orwell thecornercoffeeshop

This was the most difficult one, because there are way too much books with great minimalist covers, but this one definitely takes the cake.

4. Best Endpages – Zombies Vs Unicorns by Holly Black

zombies vs unicorns
Picture Credit: @bibliocat4 on Instagram

5. Best Naked Hardback – The Diviners by Libba Bray

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Picture Credit: onthewingsofbooks

I haven’t seen a lot of naked hardbacks (mostly since I’m too broke to buy hardcovers), so I can’t say that this is the best one out there, but it’s certainly the prettiest one I’ve seen.

6.  Best Back Cover – This is Not the End of the Book by Umberto Eco

this is not the end of the book umberto eco

I realise this is cheating because I’m looking at both the front and back cover together, but then again nobody pays much attention to the back cover alone, and so I couldn’t find one I genuinely loved. Please ignore my folly and place all your attention on the beauty of that typeface.

7. Best Illustrations – Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

where the wild things are

This book was written and  designed by Maurice Sendack. I couldn’t find a picture of the actual copy, so this separate illustration will have to suffice.

8. Best Spine – Penguin x Anna Bond Collection of Classics

rifle paper books

This was probably the easiest category to pick. I’ve been a fan of Rifle Paper Co. and its creator Anna Bond for a long time now, and have often come across this gorgeous collection of classics. If I could, I’d nominate this collection for best colour scheme as well, but that would be unfair, so I’m going to confine it here to a singular win.

9. Favourite Cover on Your Shelf – The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

the watchmaker of filigree street natasha pulley best book cover

This is the only picture in this post that I’ve clicked myself, because all the others I either don’t own or only have a copy of on my Kindle. Again, this was an easy win. Although I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I wanted to, there’s no doubt about it being the prettiest book on my shelf.

Three Thoughts on a Tuesday (Russian Edition)

1. I have recently been overwhelmed by the sheer brilliance of Russian literature. I’ve always been a Dostoevsky fangirl (I even wrote a research paper on Karamazov last year), and last week I finished reading The Bear and the Nightingale, an absolute brilliant book based on Russian folklore that begged me to revisit the genre. This led me to spend a good five hours ruthlessly hunting and devouring any short stories by Gogol* that I could find for free on the internet, refusing to get off my laptop until I was done with all of them. There’s just something about the Russians that seems inherently timeless and chasmatic, isn’t there? They might be a bunch of stuffy old dudes with a weird accent but they never fail to resonate with you. (I googled this, as I do all random thoughts that enter my head, and found a fascinating article about 19th century Russian literature. You can read it here, if you’re interested.)

dostoevsky

*Nikolai Gogol is a brilliant Russian writer with countless short stories under his belt. My favourites ones are The Overcoat, which you can find here, and The Nose, which you can read here.

2. Speaking of Russians, my favourite one right now is Catherine the Great, the longest-reigning female monarch of Russia. I happened to chance upon her during my above-mentioned Gogol hunting and have not stopped reading about her since. Not only did she stare down dozens of rebellions and dismiss terrible rumours (including being called a horse-fucker), but she also actively promoted art and literature in Russia and was a lifelong friend of Voltaire (yes, the Voltaire). Culture flourished under her rule, giving rise to what is considered the Golden Age of the Russian Empire. And if that isn’t enough, she was also pretty unabashed about her many lovers and gifted them with hefty titles and land deeds, a tradition more commonly practiced by the male rulers of that time.

I absolutely love reading about powerful women from history, and, although she may have allegedly murdered a few people here and there, Catherine is probably the coolest one I’ve encountered so far.

catherine the great catherine II of Russia
Catherine II of Russia, aka most badass woman in history

3. Nothing I’ve read about her so far seems to be enough, so I recently purchased Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie. It seems to be the most popular and detailed text about her life, and was also highly recommended by a friend. I’ve haven’t read it yet so I can’t recommend it myself, but if you’re still interested, you can purchase it here.

10 Great Novels You Can Finish In One Sitting

10

There’s something immensely satisfying about finishing a novel in a single day.

The thrill of changing that ‘Currently Reading’ marker to ‘Read’ on Goodreads is hard to replicate, which is why, over the years, I’ve amassed a collection of brilliant novels than can be finished in a single day. Most of them were picked for the pure purpose of catching up on my reading goal, but that hardly means they weren’t enjoyable. I’ve tried to avoid the more popular novels in this group and focus on the ones I’ve actually read and enjoyed. After all, ‘the bigger, the better’ is hardly true when it comes to fiction.

1. We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson

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Goodreads: 4.05/5

This sinister and bizarre novella is probably the finest piece of horror writing I’ve ever picked up. Not long ago the seven members of the Blackwood family were reduced to three when a fatal dose of arsenic was slipped into the sugar bowl during supper. Now Constance and her sister Merricat live in isolation, far away from the morbid curiosity of the villagers, until their cousin Charles comes to visit and threatens to disrupt their peace.

 

2. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez

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Goodreads: 3.95/5

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of the best magical realism authors of all time, tells this tale of surprising strength and integrity inspite of its brevity.  When Angela Vicario is returned home after her wedding night as her husband claimed she lied about her virginity, her twin brothers swear to avenge the man responsible. But when everyone in town knows of a murder, and nobody tries to stop it, can the murderer alone be held responsible for the heinous crime?

 

3. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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Goodreads: 3.72/5

Hemingway’s twentieth-century classic tells the story of a Cuban fisherman and his relentless battle with a giant marlin. Barely a hundred pages long, this novel uses simple and timeless prose to discuss powerful themes of courage and personal conquest.

 

 

4. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

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Goodreads: 3.62/5

Published in 1899, Chopin’s portrayal of women trapped in their suffocating, loveless marriages shocked readers of that time, and still continues to do so with its beautiful prose and off-hand treatment of controversial subjects. Despite its age, this American classic isn’t easy to put down.

 

 

 

5. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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Goodreads: 3.99/5

This is probably my favourite novel on this list. Neil Gaiman’s incredible gift for storytelling and charming ability to provide insight into the deeper mysteries of humankind all come together in this brilliant book. When a middle-aged man returns to his childhood home only to find it demolished, he is inadvertently drawn to an old farm at the end of the lane, one where he uncovers a long-burried incident from his past.

6. The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

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Goodreads: 3.84/5

It’s hard to go wrong with an Agatha Christie mystery, and this short read, like all others, promises to keep you engaged with Miss Marple’s enjoyable intellect and a frightening game of murder.

 

 

 

7. Animal Farm by George Orwell

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Goodreads: 3.86/5

There are very few people I’ve met who haven’t read this book already, but I’m going to include it in this list anyway. Orwell’s allegory and critique of the political climate of his time finds itself on every single classics shelf, and for good reason. If theres one book one this list I’d recommend everyone read at least once, it would be this one.

 

 

8. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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Goodreads: 4.2/5

Right before the earth is about to be demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is picked up by his friend Ford Prefect and finds himself in the bowels of an alien spaceship. With the help of the book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the two men and their companions find themselves on an unforgettable journey across the universe. Adams’ humour and unparalleled wit make this perhaps one of the best sci-fi books ever written.

9. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Goodreads: 3.97/5

Another classic, Bradbury’s dystopian novel talks about a world where firemen exist not to put out fires, but to create them- specifically, to create ones that will burn books. But when one of these men picks up an illegal piece of literature, banned by the government for promoting free-thinking, he decides to steal it, putting him and his wife in danger of being burned along with it.

 

 

10. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

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Goodreads: 3.7/5

The Sense of an Ending is a book that follows a complicated timespan and an ever more complicated plot, but by the end of it you’ll be feeling nothing but elation and a queer sense of comprehension. Recent divorcee Tony Webster is surprised by the unexpected arrival of a lawyer’s letter, claiming that he is to be the benefactor of an ex-girlfriends mother, a woman he only met once in his life. On the hunt to uncover the purpose of this sudden gift, he is forced to reexamine all that he considered true about his past. The prose is brilliant, the characters complex, and the story impeccable.

I Expect Patrons

I have been thinking about book translations a lot lately.

A few days ago my very lovely friend gifted me the Latin version of The Chamber of Secrets. Latin is a language (a rather sexy one, actually) that I sometimes speak but mostly fumble around with like an ill-fitting key. My vocabulary is pretty basic. I only managed to translate maybe 60% of the words on the first page, but that’s no matter, as I used a translator alongside and marked down all the words that were unknown to me.* It took me about an hour to get through 20 pages, which I think is pretty commendable for a rookie.

*Fun fact that I found out while doing this: The Latin version of Privet Drive seems to be Rocking Drive, for some reason.

harry potter coffee book in latin next to wood and blankets translations

Anyway, there is a particular section that intrigued me. For those of you who have read the book, there is this part towards the beginning where a list of textbooks arrives by owl for the students at The Burrow, most of which are authored by Gilderoy Lockhart. I found that a lot of the names had been changed, albeit subtly, to better benefit the Latin reader; ‘Standard Book of Spells’ became ‘Ordinary Spells’, ‘Voyages with Vampires’ became ‘Roads with Bats” (sounds cooler in Latin, I swear), and so on.

This got me thinking about what the translator, Peter Needham, was planning on doing about the spells, a lot of which are originally in latin. Would it be exactly the same as the English version? Would, for example, Expecto Patronum be left as it is? If so, it wouldn’t be a very impressive spell as the entirely of the book is in that same language, and I’d probably just automatically translate it to ‘I expect patrons’ as I do with the rest of the prose. Can you image Harry (sorry, Harrius) running around haughtily demanding that he be given a sponsor? I’d imagine that that would drastically change the tone of the novel.

In my mission to uncover this mystery, I hastily skimmed through the pages until I found the use of a Latin spell peculiar enough to satisfy my curiosity. I finally found the scene where Draco and Harry have a one-on-one duel; spells like Rictusempra and Serpensortia have been left the way they are, which is fine, because unlike Expecto Patronum they aren’t actually Latin words, but have been derived from them. Somebody whose first language is Latin (unlikely, I know, but just play along with me here) wouldn’t have any difficulty reading that, unlike the Patronus spell, where they’d probably have read, “I expect patrons, Harrius yelled” instead of “Expecto Patronum, Harrius yelled.”

Unfortunately the expecto patronus spell isn’t used in this book, so I looked up The Prisoner of Azkaban in Latin, which I then realised doesn’t yet exist. Ah, well. Maybe they foresaw this problem and decided to discontinue the Latin edition. Who knows.

At any rate, if this book continues to throw absurd linguistic dilemmas my way, I think I’m going to enjoy it very much.

A Strange Introduction

I’m not good at introductory posts

I’m not good at a lot of introductory things, actually, even though I love the idea of new beginnings. Where does one start? Should I introduce myself? List down the things I like? (1. Coffee 2. Coffee 3. Coffee.) Perhaps mention my awkward habit of using brackets inappropriately? (Probably not.)

Where to begin.

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There is this library I like to visit that is a few minutes’ drive for my house. I won’t mention the name, but it’s a tiny brick-lined establishment at the corner of a crooked side-street. When you enter the place you’re immediately hit by the strong scent of freshly-brewed coffee; there is a coffee shop in a corner with a dozen different mugs hung on the brick wall behind it. The small space beyond is filled with shelves upon shelves of musty smelling books, a lot of which are older than you are.

 

Most are fiction. Some are about weather patterns or philosophical theories or rare types of underwater species, every possible topic under the sun. Usually I grab one I like and make my way to the very end of the store, where, hidden behind the mystery section is an old-fashioned leather armchair, the kind you’d expect to encounter in a Victorian study. It’s very cosy. The chair creaks slightly under my weight as I prop my feet up and lay back. The coffee I place on a fake tree stump besides the chair. Then I delve into my reading.

I decided to embark upon this blog for a number of reasons, but first and foremost of them is to make someone, somewhere feel as I do when I sit in the snug corner of that coffee shop. It’s a picture of absolute comfort and warmth, isn’t it? I love coffee, and I love books, and I’m hoping this little space will turn out to be a strange but interesting amalgamation of the two.

So. Here we are.

Blogging may be a “dead art” ( or at least that’s what they say), but this isn’t going to stop me from pouring my mindless wandering thoughts out onto the ether. I’m not quite sure what I plan on doing here, but expect a fair bit of fiction and literature things and pictures of coffee.

Also a lot of brackets.