Category Archives: Readings

Book Review: Siege and Storm (Grisha Trilogy #2) – warning – some minor spoilers

siege and stormSiege and Storm picks up almost immediately right where Shadow and Bone ended in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy. Mal and Alina have escaped the Darkling and crossed the ocean. However, when they are forced to return to Ravka, Alina, more powerful than before, is faced with an overwhelming mission. Will she be able to overcome her self-doubt to fight and defeat an enemy whose power has taken on new and darker forms?

Overall Opinion

I am so glad that this book is a great improvement on the first installment in the series. I enjoyed reading it and seeing the characters grow. And I have to say that the story’s climax and ending is heart-stoppingly spectacular.

Writing

I feel that I enjoyed reading this book much more than Shadow and Bone, and this was partly due to the writing. One of the best examples is the description of the flying ship, which was well-written, reminding us once again that this book is set right at the advent of modern warfare – guns are still primitive, yet developing quickly, and airplanes had yet to be invented. Additionally, the flying ship also lends a bit of believable magic and fun to the novel, and its mere presence makes the character of its creator, Sturmhond, all the more interesting.

Having said that, there were some minor parts where the writing was confusing. For example, in the beginning of the novel, there is a scene in which Alina keeps Mal talking because “she knew when she slept, she would dream.” But on the very same page, we are told that “The dreams were the only place it was safe to use her power now, and she longed for them.” So does she or doesn’t she want her dreams? Another example of writing is the use of foreign words. I didn’t understand the need for words that weren’t the proper names of something within a fantasy novel. The premise is that the setting is a fantasy world, with countries that don’t exist in our world, so why the foreign words? If an author is going to use foreign words, then they should either explain or provide a glossary.

Character Development

Mal: We keep being told (by Alina) that he’s handsome and charming and that everyone loves him, but we see very little of that charm. Instead, for much of the book, we see a primarily sullen, jealous (both of Alina’s power and other men’s interest in her), and somewhat simple character. The short scenes with lighter banter between him and Alina, when they aren’t being jealous or possessive of each other, help to make him slightly more likeable. I only wish there were more scenes like this.

Alina: Let me start by saying that Alina changes throughout this book, which is definitely a good thing. I generally dislike both excessive impetuousness and excessive hesitation in characters. Somehow, in the beginning of the novel, Alina has both these qualities, which, when displayed over and over again become annoying and childish. At this point, her main goal is saving herself and Mal. She has no interest in saving her country. There was a glimmer of hope when she embraced her power and used it confidently. That’s when I thought she was finally a character I could come to love. However, just when you think she’s about to finally step into the role that was meant for her all along, she has to burst your bubble by either doubting herself for the millionth time or by asking stupid questions. ***SPOILER ALERT***An excellent and eternally frustrating example of this is when she is told that as the new commander of the army, she will have guards. Her first question is: “Do I really need guards?” Why? Why must she ask such stupid questions? You’re going to be the commander of an army, facing off an enemy whose power you have yet to understand, but have felt and been defeated by over and over again, and you’re still asking if you need guards?***END OF SPOILER*** I find this trope of a heroine being difficult and contrary just for the sake of being difficult and contrary irritating in YA literature. It is overdone and makes it almost impossible for me to like these characters. However, she slowly but surely starts becoming more serious, more focused, and more confident, and the more she does so, the more I root for her.

Sturmhond: I have to admit that I am officially in love with this character, and so far, he is my all-time favorite in this series (with the Darkling coming in second). ***SPOILER ALERT***One of Sturmhond’s most endearing moments (to me) was when he replied to Mal’s accusation that his proposal to marry Alina with the following: “Did you think you could just carry off one of the most powerful Grisha in the world like some peasant girl you tumbled in a barn? Is that how you think this story ends? I’m trying to keep a country from falling apart, not steal your best girl.” I think I almost cheered at this point.***END OF SPOILER*** Finally, someone takes it upon himself to knock some sense into these two self-absorbed characters. As the story progressed, I often found that he would articulate my exact frustrations with Alina and Mal, and wonder whether the author created him specifically for this purpose. Seriously, the more I get to know about Sturmhond, the more I wish this novel had been about him, rather than Alina and Mal. I hope he shows up in the third book.

Themes

One of the best features of this novel is how deeply it delves into the politics and power dynamics of this world. This gives the book much more gravity and substance than its predecessor, making it a much more satisfying read. Important and universal questions are explored: should we seek to gain dubious, almost infinite, power to destroy evil? Is all power bad?

I am definitely looking forward to reading the third book in this series, and hope that the story keeps getting better.

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An interview with Shelina Zahra Janmohamed – Part 1

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed, author of Love in a Headscarf

"My book has been described as a ‘Muslim Bridget Jones,’ and I have mixed feelings about this."

I’d heard a lot about Shelina Zahra Janmohamed’s Love in a Headscarf before I read it. It was supposed to be about finding love and a husband, in a chick-lit fashion, but it was also about Divine love. How on earth did she manage that?

Janmohamed is a young British author and commentator who caught the attention of people searching for a Muslim voice through her writings on www.spirit21.co.uk.  A blogger since March 2006, Janmohamed’s writings are intelligent, as well as cool, calm, and collected. Her book has been published in several languages.

As soon as I finished reading Love in a Headscarf (LIAH), I just knew I had to interview Janmohamed. Reading the book, I felt as if I was having lunch with a friend, discussing all the strange, often sad, often mad, and often hilarious situations in our search for love.  Contacting her for an interview, I discovered that she was as friendly and approachable as her book.

This is the first part of my interview with Janmohamed. She discusses her book and how it was received, among other things. In the second part, she discusses writing, gives some advice, and tells us what she’s been up to lately.

M: It’s been more than a year since Love in a Headscarf was published. How do you evaluate it and the reception it received?

Janmohamed: I’ve had a very warm reception to the writing in the book – coverage from all the big national and international media in print, radio and television. I constantly get messages from people all round the world who write to tell me that the book has reached out and touched them, and they’ve been moved to write to me – a response I find very humbling. Most exciting of all is the fact that the book has been published and translated internationally, which says to me that it is reaching across cultures and boundaries.

M: Is there anything that surprised you by how people reacted to the book?

Janmohamed: I’m just delighted that the warmth and humour of the stories has been embraced, and that my motivation in trying to create a new story and a new narrative about Muslim women being empowered, lively and enchanting, is starting to take hold.

M: How did you expect your Buxom Aunties and the mosque Imams to react to the book, and how did they actually react?

Janmohamed: I’ve personally given the book to some younger Imams in the hope they will read it, and use it to understand more about the female experience. I treat both with respect and compassion in my book as I feel they do a difficult but very important job – I hope they get that from my writing. And I hope they realize that my contribution is an optimistic one that will make their work more and more effective.

M: Right now in Egypt, there is a flurry of female writing about the pursuit of “a suitable boy”, and all the comedy and

The UK cover of Love in a Headscarf

The UK cover

tragedy that comes with it. One writer that comes to mind is Ghada Abdel Aal, whose I Want to Get Married has become a tremendous hit, growing from a blog to a book, to a TV mini-series, It’s  been translated into Italian and is now also coming out in English from University of Texas Press.  Do you think that Muslim female writing about courtship and marriage is becoming a trend, and do you think there is an audience for this kind of writing in the West?

Janmohamed: Love and marriage are universal topics, and as human beings we are intrigued by the processes used by other cultures.  I think that’s one of the reasons such stories become so popular. However, the popularity of such works also makes me cautious because whilst they are a good first step towards opening a dialogue about Muslim women, we need to ensure that marriage is not the new one-dimensional definition of women. That’s why I was careful to include deeper insights in my book as to the motivations and development that filled my own story.

M: You’ve said that you wanted to provide the unique experience of a British Asian Muslim woman, but at the same time, I find that there are a lot of shared experiences of Muslim women today all over the world searching for “Mr. Right”, especially since increased travel and globalization have created a lot of hyphenated identities. What do you think is unique about the British Asian Muslim experience?

Janmohamed: Britain has a specific relationship with the Muslim and Eastern world due to its colonial past.  Compared to the Americas also, Britain’s trading, cultural and intellectual relationship with the Muslim world is also much older – we have evidence in the form of coins dating back to the 8th century.  This long history means that many of the Muslims who came to Britain the 20th century already had longstanding links either in their own lives, or through their previous generations. Britain also has an incredibly diverse Muslim population – some says that outside of the hajj it’s the most diverse in the world. These two elements combine together in a very vibrant and lively manner.

M: I’ve read in an interview that you said that you wrote because you “couldn’t find anyone that was expressing a view based on critical thinking and, following the success of the blog, her audience began to suggest she write a book about being a Muslim woman”, and that love was a universal theme, so you brought those two elements (critical thinking and love as a Muslim woman) together. But at the same time, you wrote the book in the tradition of chick-lit memoir. Do you think this choice of genre made some people dismiss the book as being trivial?

Janmohamed: My book has been described as a ‘Muslim Bridget Jones,’ and I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, Bridget Jones really captured a zeitgeist and spoke to something very intimate in many modern women. To be compared to something that is now an entrenched part of popular culture is a great compliment. On the other hand, Love in a Headscarf has many deeper elements about asserting your identity, finding your place in the world, and standing for what you believe in. That these have become secondary is difficult, I admit, but overall the book has had such great success and been so widely published and read that the genre I’ve chosen has served the story very well.

M: As a writer who has chosen to write consciously as a Muslim, how do you see the current scene of Muslim writing? Why do you think there aren’t more Muslims writing their own narratives?

Janmohamed: Gradually more and more Muslims are writing, and I think that’s fantastic. I hope the trend continues.  However, I think part of the problem is confidence and encouragement – writers are still perceived rather dubiously in many parts of the Muslim community. And of course it takes practice to write well, and if you’re not encouraged to write you never gain that practice. The other problem is the gatekeepers to the media and publishing industries don’t ‘get’ the commercial and literary value of such works. I’m afraid the misery-memoir and the political ex-jihadi memoir seem to be the only ones that generally get commissioned.

M: Reading your book, I found a lot of explanations of rituals, traditions, values, concepts that would otherwise be self-explanatory to a Muslim reader. Do you think that this bogs down your writing? And does this mean that you are writing more for a non-Muslim audience than a Muslim one?

Janmohamed: For those who are not familiar with Islam, I wanted to ensure that they weren’t lost in jargon, and also that any assumptions that they brought with them as they came to the book were cleared up. For those more familiar with Islam, I felt it was important to take them through my own journey in Islam, so that they could make sense of my stories and decisions.

Read part 2 here.

Here’s more Janmohamed:

Her website: www.spirit21.co.uk

To read her articles on The Guardian newspaper, click here.

Read more about her:  Sense and Serendipity.

Interview in Marie Claire.

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Reading binge makes for a magical week

Last week was magical. I grumbled into the phone when friends called, and snapped at anyone who dared interrupt me. That’s not the magic part, though. You see, I treated myself to a reading binge and discovered not one, two, or three, but four amazing authors. Most of these  novels are not recent publications, and I’ve had them on my Kindle since last year, but never got around to reading them. Here they are in the order I read them.

1. Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden. With a little bit of The Secret Garden, a lot of going back and forth between three different time periods, and a delightful dose of original fairy tales, this novel bowled me over. What can be more exciting than a forgotten garden, an old book of original fairy tales, and a family mystery?

From the book description:

“Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace – the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century – Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of [her recently dead grandmother] Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.”

One of my favorite quotes:

“Ever since Eliza had discovered the book of fairy tales… she’d understood the power of stories. Their magical ability to refill the wounded part of people.”

2. Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees.  I emerged from between the pages of this book half-wishing I was a beekeeper. Maybe I should put that on my list of “things I wish I can do sometime in my life.” This list includes things like becoming a marine biologist and a wildlife photographer for National Geographic.

From the book description:

“When [Lily’s governess] Rosaleen insults three of the deepest racists in town, [teenage misfit] Lily knows it’s time to spring them both free. They take off in the only direction Lily can think of, toward a town called Tiburon, South Carolina – a name she found on the back of a picture amid the few possessions left by her mother.”

One of my favorite quotes:

“I was wishing I had a story like that one to live inside me with so much loudness you could pick it up on a stethoscope, and not the story I did have about ending my mother’s life and sort of ending my own at the same time.”

3. Kathryn Stockett, The Help. Like To Kill a Mockingbird, this novel reminded me of just how deeply entrenched racism was in the (US) South. Told through the voices of one white woman slowly realizing how little she fits in with her childhood friends and hometown, and two black women working as maids in Jackson, Mississippi, this novel traces the stories of black maids working in the American South in the 1960s.

From the book description:

“Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. ”

One of my favorite quotes:

“She gave me a lemony smile.”

4. Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible. Told in five different and distinct voices, Kingsolver tells a powerful tale about family, missionaries, and politics. Her novel follows the fates of the wife and four daughters of an American missionary who sends himself and his family to the Belgian Congo to bring Christianity to a small village. Despite the serious subject matter, Kingsolver surprised me by making me laugh out loud at times, with her characters’ observations on situations that are so horrific or pathetic that they become darkly comic.

From the book description:

“[I]t isn’t long before they discover that the tremendous humidity has rendered the [Betty Crocker cake] mixes unusable, their clothes are unsuitable, and they’ve arrived in the middle of political upheaval as the Congolese seek to wrest independence from Belgium. In addition to poisonous snakes, dangerous animals, and the hostility of the villagers to Nathan’s fiery take-no-prisoners brand of Christianity, there are also rebels in the jungle and the threat of war in the air. Could things get any worse?

In fact they can and they do.”

One of my favorite quotes:

“White men tell us: Vote, bantu! They tell us: You do not all have to agree, ce n’est pas nécessaire! If two men vote yes and one says no, the matter is finished. Á bu, even a child can see how that will end. It takes three stones in the fire to hold up the pot. Take one away, leave the other two, and what? The pot will spill into the fire.”

Lesson to be learned from this latest reading binge: If you call me and I answer the phone in a distracted grumble, that probably means you interrupted me while reading and I was too polite to snap at you.

Have you read any good books lately?

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The results are in

I just took the BookBrowse quiz to find out what kind of reader I am. Yes, I know, these quizzes are usually just for fun. But this time, I believe the results:

I’m an “all-rounder”, which means that I fit equally into all four reading personalities. Here’s what BookBrowse has to say about me:

Involved Reader: You don’t just love to read books, you love to read about books. For you, half the fun of reading is the thrill of the chase – discovering new books and authors, and discussing your finds with others. Yes, oh yes! The “thrill of the chase”. Only a true book lover understands that.
Exacting Reader: You love books but you rarely have as much time to read as you’d like – so you’re very particular about the books you choose. Well, I do have much more time than most other people I know, but I am a bit picky.
Serial Reader: Once you discover a favorite writer you tend to stick with him/her through thick and thin. How true! And woe be it if my favorite writers disappoint me! It’s only happened once, and I still haven’t gotten over it.
Eclectic Reader: You read for entertainment but also to expand your mind. You’re open to new ideas and new writers, and are not wedded to a particular genre or limited range of authors. Yes! I love discovering new genres and new authors. I read all types of fiction, narrative nonfiction, poetry, children’s books, and YA novels. I have yet to conquer my extreme reluctance to read sci-fi, though.

And now, over to you. I’m interested to know, what kind of reader are you? Take the BookBrowse quiz here. I don’t think you have to be a member to take it.

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Books you should read (summer 2010)

Now, all that's missing is a good book.

It’s summer, and for some reason, everyone’s putting up a summer reading list, so I decided with all the reading I do, maybe I should choose a few books for people to read. Most of these books aren’t newly published, so there’s really no earthly reason for you to read them this summer, other than the fact that I really enjoyed these books, and people who take my advice on what to read rarely regret it. The list is bilingual (sort of).

The List:

1. The Mercy of Thin Air, by Ronlyn Domingue (first published 2005). I don’t remember what induced me to buy this book when I was stocking up my Kindle way back in November ’09, but I’m glad I did. I haven’t read The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, which a lot of people say The Mercy of Thin Air echoes, so I can’t offer a comparison. And because I haven’t read Bones, I can say that Mercy is a beautiful story of love, loss, and regret. I’m not really into “ghost” stories, and Mercy is not just another ghost story, but it’s much more than that. It’s also a historical novel, a love story, and something else that manages to mix all three genres with a dash of feminism, and the result is breathtaking. The fact that it’s a debut novel is just all the more reason to love it. I always enjoy brilliant novels by first-time authors. Domingue hasn’t published any other novels, but she has published a few short stories in literary magazines (all in 2005 – it must have been one hell of a year for her).

2. Island Beneath the Sea, by Isabel Allende (published 2010). I haven’t read it yet, but it’s high on my to-read list. Read it because Allende wrote it. Enough said.

3. The Unknown Errors of Our Lives: Stories, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (published 2002). Oh. The beauty of Divakaruni’s language doesn’t bog down her writing, unlike that of another work I’ve been reading for the past few months. I’ve read a lot of Divakaruni’s works, and I must say that I enjoy her short stories more than her novels. She always has a good story to tell and a lyrical way of telling it, with flashes of utter verbal brilliance that make me go back and read a sentence or paragraph again and again. If you enjoy this book and want more, then you can read Arranged Marriage: Stories, which was her first collection of short stories.

4. Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, by Laila Lalami (published 2006). I haven’t read this book or any other book by Lalami, but this is another case of being seduced by the title. Ok, I admit, I’m also intrigued by the subject: it’s apparently about Moroccans who long to emigrate from their country. Coming from a country (Egypt) with a lot of people — especially increasingly disillusioned youth — who want to immigrate to any other place on earth, I’m interested in reading about the Moroccan experience. I’m also planning to read it this summer, so if you also read it, we can discuss it in a future post, right?

5. Catch Me If You Dare, by L.D. Alan (published 2010). Why? Because the author is a friend of mine :). No, seriously, because I’ve read some of this author’s other writings and am impressed. Also, the subject matter is intriguing: this is the first of a new mystery series. Detective Rainey Walker has to catch a serial killer called the Scarf Killer before he gets to his next victim, but Walker’s investigation is hampered by the mistrust of a post 9/11 Muslim community. If that doesn’t make for a good story, I don’t know what would. I’m planning to read this book this summer, and I’d suggest you do too. For more information about the book, the author, and where you can buy the ebook version, check out the blog for the series: http://raineywalkerseries.wordpress.com/.

6. Al-Asra Yuqimun al Matarees, by Fouad Hegazy (published in 1976). Roughly translated, the title would be The POWs Build Barricades. I haven’t read much Egyptian literature on the war years (pretty much 1948-1973), when Egypt was more or less at war with Israel. This novella tells the story of a group of Egyptian prisoners of war in 1967. The back cover of the Dar El Shorouk edition says that it deals with the author’s own POW experience, but it’s also categorized as a “novel”, so I don’t know how autobiographical it was. Also according to the back cover, it’s been translated into English and Russian, but I don’t know who the publisher of the English edition is, so if anyone knows, I’d appreciate the tip-off.

7. Lam A’rif An al Tawawees Tateer: Magmu’a Qasassiya, by Bahaa Taher (published 2009). Roughly translated, the title reads: I Didn’t Know Peacocks Can Fly: Stories. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, Taher’s short story collections — unlike his novels — haven’t been translated from Arabic. His short stories are enjoyable, and worth reading. One of the strangest and most interesting of the stories in this collection is the first one, “Sukan Al Qasr”, or roughly, “The Palace Residents”, which relates the somewhat spooky story of the relationship between the residents of a street and a seemingly deserted palace in an old Cairo neighborhood that is inexplicably under tight guard (complete with dogs, security forces, and cameras equipped with ultra-sensitive audio recorders). I’ve linked the Arabic title of this collection of short stories to the Alef bookstore page where you can order it. I’m saying this because Alef has a 15% discount for all online orders until mid-June.

That’s the list for now, but you’re all welcome to add to it or comment on any of the books I’ve mentioned above.

Happy reading!

And for another reading list (with a competition to boot!), click here. Be warned, it’s an Arabic reading challenge. But you’re allowed to read the books in translation 😉

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Maps for lost imagery

Random House edition of Maps for Lost Lovers

The Random House edition of Aslam's novel.

I’m currently reading Maps for Lost Lovers. I’ll be the first to admit that I was first attracted to the book by its incredibly beautiful title. I’m a sucker for really good titles, and more often than not, if I like the title, I’ll buy the book.

Since its publication in 2004, Nadeem Aslam’s second novel has won two awards (the Encore Award 2005, and the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize 2005) and was shortlisted for two more (the British Book Awards Decibel Writer of the Year 2006, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2006).

Let me first tell you what I think the book is not. It is not a thriller. It is not a page turner. But it is also not a waste of time. Being someone who reads quickly, finding that Maps is taking me so long to finish is rather disconcerting. When I found myself finishing another novel (The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue) while still in the first 100 pages of Maps, I started wondering if maybe I was wrong to get seduced by the title.

What was so slow about this book? Aslam’s writing is poetic, sensual, tends to ramble a little, moves back and forth between characters, locales, and time, but the thing that struck me the most is the overwhelming number of metaphors and similes and other figures of speech Aslam uses. No wonder it took him over a decade to finish writing it!

I agree with Irish author Colm Tóibín, who called the book “a superb achievement, a book in which every detail is nuanced, every piece of drama carefully choreographed, even minor characters carefully drawn.” Many of these images are beautiful in and of themselves, like small half-sentence poems, but there is such a thing as too much beautiful writing. At first I enjoyed them, because one of the functions of metaphors and similes is to create relationships between–sometimes unrelated–things, and that is always an interesting exercise (for me, that is). However, take a look at this excerpt (no page numbers included, as I’m reading this on my Kindle):

“From the car parked under a nearby street lamp, he takes a net of oranges, his sketch pad, and a dozen pastel-sticks held together by an old wristwatch like a comic-book time-bomb, and returns to the lake, sitting on a piece of driftwood that is heavy for its size the way a lobster is.”

And a few lines later,

“…the fans of colored dust on the ground are as though his breath petrified and preserved. White, and grey, green as a surgeon’s gown, and the chalky-red of a school’s cracked clay tennis court.”

Earlier still, an entire paragraph is taken up by similes:

“Dazzle explodes on the blade–like blood spurting from a vein–when the weapon enters a beam of sunlight. The air itself seems to contract away from Kaukab as a school of fish twitches itself to safety at the approach of a predator. The bowl that had held henna falls to the floor, spinning on its edge like the silver cups that revolve around the lights on top of police cars to make them blink.”

I appreciate beautiful prose just as I appreciate beautiful poetry. And one of the strengths of Maps for Lost Lovers is that it is a slow-moving, yet at the same time utterly compelling read. But like everything else (yes, I’ll admit, including even chocolate), there is always a limit.

In an interview in The Independent, Aslam gives an explanation of sorts,

“The characters are constantly comparing England with Pakistan, and I wanted the text to have that kind of fidelity with the characters. They do it so much that they don’t see their life in England. I wanted the read- er to feel that frustration. I wanted England to shout, as it were, ‘Look at me!'”

But does all of this imagery reflect that constant comparison between England and Pakistan? In my opinion, most of them do not, and I hate to say that for at least one reader, this parallelism between the text and the characters didn’t work.

I feel that it’s a shame that all this beautiful language is being used up in one go. Aslam’s book has enough figures of speech to last him ten other novels. Instead of being breaths of fresh air, his similes and metaphors come dangerously close to suffocating the reader.

I can just imagine this incredibly talented author agonizing over every action and thought of every one of his characters, thinking, “Now what could I compare this to?” But I’d rather he wrote more often than more beautifully.

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Too many…

Painting palette

A solution to "too many"-syndrome?

I’ve noticed lately that my life is full of “too many”s right now, so I decided to post a list:

1. I have too many books piled up on my desk right now. Most of them are recent purchases from a book sale in which the fact that the books were on sale (more or less regardless of their final price) convinced me that it is OK to buy them. After all, if they weren’t on sale, I would be paying at least 20% extra. Never mind that the 80% that I did pay was technically out of my currently beleaguered budget. Never mind that I don’t have enough space to have all those books. Never mind.

2. Building on #1, I have too many books and journals I now want to read. All at the same time. Part of this is due to #1, and part of this is due to a project I’m finishing up this month that involves revisiting and translating a chapter of my MA thesis for publication in a trilingual academic journal (I’m only translating it from English to Arabic, though). Revisiting my thesis re-sparked my interest in the academic side of literature studies, which made me want to read every single piece of literature on earth. As well as everything that’s been written about every single piece.

3. I have too many things I want to write and do — all at the same time. As soon as I mentally check off an item on my to-do list (which usually stays in my head due to fear of concrete documentation of all tasks that call for attention), more seem to pop-up. This makes me dream too often about a very cool productivity tool I learned about in a fairy tale more than 25 years ago (and I’ve been dreaming about it for 25 years). The fairy tale is “The Shoemaker’s Elves”, in which the kindly shoemaker and his wife go to sleep at night, only to wake up and find that elves have happily finished all their work for them. I don’t know about you, but this nifty solution continues to feature high on my wish-list.

4. I have too many hopes hanging on the outcome of my young balcony-garden. That’s the thing with gardening, which is something I’m new to on a large scale (I’ve grown the odd plant or two or three in the past, but nothing on the scale of the project I’ve embarked on a few weeks ago). With gardening, you basically plant the seeds, try to take care of them and create as beneficial an environment for them to grow, and then wait… and wait… and wait… Of course, once any seedling comes up, the excitement makes up for all the waiting, but then you start worrying about all the other seeds who still haven’t germinated. Like so many other things, it’s too easy to take a seed’s lack of–or just late–germination as a sign of personal failure.

5. I have allowed too many days, weeks, and *yikes* months to pass without updating my blog. Enough said.

So, am I diligently working at solving  all these “too many”s currently in my life?

Well, I guess it all depends on what you think about the fact that I’m ignoring them all (except for this post) and have decided that the best possible course of action is to sign up for a painting course. Woohoo!

What do you do when you have “too-many”-syndrome?

[psssst… by the way, I’ve missed you all. Really.]

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