The Art of Words

There are days when fiction exerts a strong pull on the mind. We are, after all, children of stories.

The nature of the allure is in the constantly changing nature over time. Some days demand active adventure, mysteries to be solved, and battles to be won. These flights of fancy can be just as fascinating as the timeless nature of love encapsulated in the pages of P G Wodehouse and Jane Austen – the balm for the soul. Just as special is the quiet, kind, and often humorous companionship among humans written by the likes of Miss Read, L M Montgomery or RK Narayan, especially for one who is tired after a day of dealing with people and their problems at work. Revelations that give us tiny insights into the possibilities and depths of the human spirit.

Some days, the allure of poetry is there like a soothing essence of the night. Like a lavender enhanced bath drawn up – cocooning one in the safe tendrils of the fragrance. Could you not be the imaginative child drawing up a Block City, or the crane standing quietly in the marshes waiting for the right time to strike? Or the star far away twinkling and waiting for us to absorb some of its light and magic into our very being?

Then, there are days when non-fiction calls out to one with a clear call like a foghorn in a tempest. The days when the most delicious pieces of revelation are nestled as innocuous facts in a book. A book in which the writer has graciously shared their enormous love for the universe and their learnings kindly with the rest of humanity. A giving of their very soul – a sharing of knowledge so deep, so pure, it feels almost visceral to read through the contents and absorb as best as one can.

In all these genres, there are stellar writers, writers who have their streaks of brilliance, and writers who strike it big with or without the art of craft, for popularity and merit do not always go together. Nevertheless,  most of them are united by the common thread of striving continuously in their art. 

As I read Conversations on Writing with Ursula K Le Guin compiled from a series of interviews with David Naimon, I felt a thrill of the art of words once again. 

As David Naimon points out, Ursula K Le Guin is probably one of the select few authors on which one could have a conversation on fiction, poetry and non-fiction, having written all three to great acclaim.

Starting off from this simple place of:

“Children know perfectly well that unicorns aren’t real, “ says Ursula K Le Guin, “But they also know that books about unicorns, if they are good books, are true books.”

That was my experience of reading Tales of Earthsea growing up.

Wizards walk the earth and dragons fly the skies. yet the further they took me from “reality” the closer I felt to the real.

Conversations on Writing – Ursula Le Guin with David Naimon

Her conversations on fiction and how she was unable to insert her science fiction portion of her mind to her poetry was fascinating.

As the conversation unfolds in the poetry section, David Naimon observes that her fiction stems from her imagination, but her poetry from contemplation. How true and marvelous? The quiet contemplation of the wind rustling through the leaves has quite a different rhythm in the heart from the mind imagining the wondrous life of the creatures by the riverside

The book provides many asides, many references to other writers, poets and non-fiction writers who have inspired her. Little snippets inserted on black pages while referencing another’s work provide branches into other worlds to explore into such as Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. The reference to wu-wei (the act of non-doing) getting a smile out of me.

Oh! To be cocooned in the Magical Art of Words is bliss indeed!

Where is Mrs Lis?

The day was yesterday. I was all set to publish a piece of Fiction  that my daughter had written up for her school homework. I found the narrative style amusing and wanted to boast a bit about it on the blog. Of course, before doing anything and after doing something, one must waste one’s time wandering up and down one’s Facebook feed. One must not mess with the process, so I grazed lazily over my feed.

It was then that I read a post doing the rounds on my Facebook feed about how we chip at children’s self confidence one Facebook post at a time. Apparently, we find the fact that they can’t pronounce something right when they are 3 hilarious . We then go ahead and Facebook it for posterity. But when the 3 year olds go back and read it when they are 23, they might not like it.

I don’t know where they are going with this, because I remember the first thing my uncle told the husband (my then fiancé) when he met him was that I was a lovable child. Having caught the strapping young son-in-law’s attention, he went on to regale an entertaining tale of me at the tender age of one. The uncle giggled and laughed through the tale and thoroughly enjoyed the telling of it. I saw the husband flinch (The tale had a Eww factor as most tales of one-year olds do.), but he still gallantly married me.  The fact is that my uncle did not have Facebook or even access to a computer then: he just remembered. Facebook or not, embarrassing stuff from your childhood has a way of living on, often with elements of creative exaggeration added in.

Yet, this seemed like an educational opportunity. I broached the topic with the daughter and asked her what she thought of things I write in my blog. She looked at me seriously and said, “I don’t mind, since it really is funny stuff amma. I only mind when it is something informational.” She was careful enough to enclose “informational” in double quotes. With that, she went back to reading Harry Potter, while I was left pondering on the “informational” content in my blog. To be sure, there is hardly anything informational about it, is there? Or maybe, I should try to be more informational, but for that I need to be more informed… By this time, I realized I had already analyzed this thing past its prime time, and I found my daughter had buried her nose in her Harry Potter tome once more and was not to be disturbed. After a while, she looked up and said, “By the way Mrs. Lis** came back to class today, and she read our fiction pieces. She said she liked mine. ”

Her class teacher, Mrs Lis, was out for a few days and they had a substitute teacher who asked them to write a piece of fiction on where Mrs Lis had gone. That is what I had wanted to put up on the blog, when I was side-tracked. So, here it is:

Where is Mrs Lis?

Mrs.Lis is gone. Aaaaaahhh! Where is she? Is she on the other planet? Is she on the moon? Is it a family emergency? What if an alien ate her? Is she on vacation?

I’m pretty sure she is on vacation. There’s another problem. Where did she go for a vacation? Did she go to India or Hawaii? Don’t forget Disneyland and Russia. What about Scotland, London or China? I think she’s most probably in Hawaii since its relaxing. Just what she needs after teaching us.

Hold on. I just thought of something .What is she doing? Is she lying down on the beach with a drink in her hand? Is she snorkeling or splashing in the waves? I got it. She’s doing all of that. I know where Mrs Lis is.

I asked her what the most popular theme was for guessing Mrs Lis’s whereabouts. Apparently, a good percentage of them thought she had been abducted by aliens. I am not sure Mrs Lis would like to read her welcome back packet, if half of them thought she was off trooping with aliens.


** Not her real name

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