07 November, 2005

Safari Notes: Of Reading

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body" G.M. Trevelyan

"Education..has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading" Sir Richard Steele

I like reading; really love reading. I know, what I like reading is not what some one else might like. And with time, my reading menu - keeps changing too. Some of what I used to love reading years back, I now find disgusting!

For instance: during my teens - my favorite novels were those by James Hadley Chase (ever heard of him!) and Harold Robins; Nick Carter, Sidney Sheldon and Jacqueline Sussan, came close by! Now, I find it impossible to even think that I used to read such books! And considering, while I was reading these 'books' I was reading Shakespeare and Penguin classics at times! But, well, I did read these books; one after the other!

As I was doing extremely well in Literature in school, my teachers tried in vain to get me to stop reading these books ; but I never did. I would hide the books in my school bag, and whenever I had free time - I was immersed in James Hadley Chase and the like! Not till my late teens, when I was almost twenty, did I gradually but surely start to shift my reading.

First, I discovered Thomas Hardy! What a writer! To date, I can not compare any other prose writer to Hardy except James Joyce: another awesome writer! As I was getting so hypnotized by Hardy, I read George Bernard Shaw's 'Anthony and Cleopatra' - and in the process got hooked to Mr. Shaw's works and ideas! I consider Shaw as the greatest playwright, not Shakespeare! I also read the works of : Maugham, Wa Thiongo, Senghor, Soyinka, Golding, Austen, p'Bitek, Achebe, the Brontes, Defoe, Huxley, Ibsen, Sophocles, Steinbeck, the one and only Harper Lee, D.H. Lawrence, Gogol, Keats and Yeats. But, in my early twenties, I again changed course.

Just as I was relishing these great writings, in particular those of Hardy , I shifted and started reading the works of: Jean Paul Sartre (almost every work of his), Albert Camus, Genet, Nikos Kazantzakis, Ayn Rand, Henry Miller, Dostoevsky, Zola; a little bit of: Kafka, Fannon, Dante, Hegel, Twain, Darwin, Marx, Isocrates and Homer. And, in the process - I, first became agnostic and then almost atheist. I had also become very restless and abstract; I was no longer tranquil as I usually was. These writers, with their radical and extreme ideas, had that effect on me! Thank God, I did not continue in that direction for long! I say 'thank God', because these writers were destroying my usual calm self and nature; and the more I thought of their ideas and works, the more I felt alien to them. Except for Dostoevsky. And so, I again gradually returned home, and this time - permanently!

In my mid twenties, I regained my spirituality, and indeed - my faith in God became even more strengthened and certain. My certain belief in God and His Hands in everything became much more convincing and objective than the theories of Sartre, Camus, Zola, Miller, Darwin and Marx. And, that is how I have remained ever since; and most likely will be always.

And now I am back to: Hardy, Austen, Defoe, Shaw, Joyce and such kind of works or books. I still read some of the 'pop' books - John Grisham and Fredrick Fosythe; I flip - in an hour or so - through Tom Clancy, and I can not stand Stephen King!

All my life, some of my reading habits have not changed: I love reading about nature especially about animals and wildlife in general. I also, love spiritual, philosophical and historical writings. I read a lot of newspapers ( the Tribune my best) and magazines ( Newsweeek and National Geographic being my best); I subscribe to a lot of newletters on the Internet. And the Internet, has become my main source of reading now; unfortunately! I love paper and books!

The One Book; the One Work, that continues to awe and inspire me most - is the Noble Quran. The more I read it, the more I understand its meaning and get awed by its power. It's not an easy book to read, and it's difficult to understand.

There is still ONE great book I have not managed to get through!

'Ulysses' by James Joyce! I have had a copy of it for the last four years, and whenever I try to read it, I lose interest just a few pages after! I have always been completely absorbed by Joyce's works - I can never forget his 'A Portrait of an Artist'! But 'Ulysses' is some thing else! It is a very difficult book to read! It is to me so! It is said to be the greatest literary work of the last century. I have to go through it! But I need the right mood for that; will I have it? And will 'Ulysses', again, change my course? I hope not! I am home and at Peace!

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