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Dreaming books

  • Published at 11:16 am March 13th, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:59 pm March 25th, 2018
Dreaming books
The year seems to have started without me! I have not had a moment to put pen to paper, and as far as a new book-reading year is concerned, it feels to me as if it were a rider-less horse that has already galloped away leaving me behind. To bookish me, the world of reading and writing is what open fields would mean to an equestrian, and yet, here I am at the end of January, dusting books present, past and future, still dreaming of the works of fiction I read last year, and the sunlit pages of my notebook that remained blank. Since mid-November, when I arrived in Dhaka to participate in the Dhaka Lit Fest, I have been away from my Roman home, and from my routine as both reader and writer. At DLF, breathing the same air as other writers, especially some inspiring international ones like the Booker winning author of The Famished Road, Ben Okri, made me want to get back on the saddle of my novel, long languishing in the stables of my procrastination, or to crack the whip on books that I had started and not finished. Of the volumes I devoured, I left a teetering tower of Ishiguro books on my study desk in Rome, most read through and scribbled on in appreciation and in anticipation of writing an essay on this favorite author of mine, who’s also the 2017 Nobel Laureate. Then there’s my hurriedly thumbed through George Saunder’s Booker winning novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, lying face down on my nightstand, its purgatorial excesses slashed with my editor’s pen. I found the book original and praise-worthy, but far too wordy and weird, dense and black! On the table in my TV room, half-read and gathering dust by now is Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust. On our way to Dhaka, we stopped to see our elder son in Dubai, and I dashed to what I consider the real jewel in this desert: My oasis, the Kinokuniya bookstore at the Dubai Mall. Among the books I dived into like a happy dune-buggy was Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Though I skimmed through some pages towards the end, I was mostly happy with her long awaited second novel, which should have been called “The God of Large Issues.”
At the DLF I developed special bibliophile’s biceps carrying bags of books that I bought from the many bookstalls at the Bangla Academy premises.
At the DLF I developed special bibliophile’s biceps carrying bags of books that I bought from the many bookstalls at the Bangla Academy premises. My mind bubbled and simmered for weeks with these books, wanting to write my impressions for my column. But it was not easy to extricate myself from the miasma that is socializing in Dhaka in December. As for most of January, the delights of grand-parenting took me away to Bangkok, where I gladly sent to pasture any literary desires I might have had beyond reading aloud to my year-old grandson certain gems of children’s literature, such as, Fiona Watt’s That’s not my Monster! or Cressida Cowell’s Hiccup the Viking Who Was Seasick, or the classic, The Cat in the Hat written and illustrated by Theodor Giessel under his better known nom de plume, Dr Seuss. I also learned from my grandson the art of critical book-shelf rearranging. From his shelf in the nursery, he regularly tossed out a dozen books, and even in play, I noticed that those books that he disfavored he never went back to. I have to learn to similarly strengthen my resolve to finally toss out some books from my library, like War and Peace, and accept the fact that I will never read it. Books and book spaces go hand in hand. I discovered with delight the Open House on the 6th floor of Central Embassy in Bangkok. The elevated world above the teeming Bangkok streets, with its airy, sprawling floors and soaring ceilings, the giant book cases and sunken reading areas, the restaurants and galleries, the dining areas, playgrounds, the greenery, the shimmering views from floor-length glass windows, the live music punctuated by silence, the sense of freedom as if we were in a leafy park atop a cement jungle, made me envious and wishful for such a space in Dhaka. If wishes were horses, every city would have a place to dream, books in hand. As for now, I realize that I’ll have to wait to return to the tranquillity of my other home in Italy to find time to read, and to write about the books that are already stomping to canter into my column. Till then, I’m still in Dhaka and reining in my creativity with small doses of light or inspirational reading in traffic-stalled cars, such as Ben Okri’s slim collection of poetic essays A Time for New Dreams. And so, till next time: Tally-ho!
Neeman Sobhan is a writer, poet and columnist. She lives in Italy and teaches at the University of Rome. Her published works include a collection of her columns, An Abiding City: Ruminations from Rome (UPL); an anthology of short stories, Piazza Bangladesh (Bengal Publications); a collection of poems, Calligraphy of Wet Leaves (Bengal Lights).
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