~ Ernest Hemingway
It rained yesterday, a good, earthy summer rain. It has been raining now and then since the last couple of weeks - the first moody spells of the year that have washed away the lifeless, sun-baked stagnancy off one and all. I hope they'll wipe the dusty panes of my mind too, and let me see the world more clearly so that some calm can be restored in my writing/blogging hours.
And so, somewhere between waiting for it to pour while grumpily editing a convoluted manuscript and the echoing persuasions of "you should write more often" from friends and family, these strikingly illuminating words of Hemingway happened. They further took me down memory lane, to a good ten years back when I had to present a paper on Hemingway's short stories as part of the semester-end evaluation for our Modern American Literature course. As an ode to his bizarre, very shortly-written short stories (there are some that are barely a page long), the title of my paper chuckled, 'The Difficulties of Reading Hemingway'. Being someone who worshiped Hardy and Keats and tried to emulate their romanticism, I wasn't too enthusiastic then about his curbed expressions and economic usage of words. Literature meant to describe, to paint a world laced with words. I remember the awkward look of our professor, who was quite the proverbial taskmaster, when very emphatically I ended my talk with how the great writer of his times finally shot himself in the head. Yes, I was that thoroughly tired of his brilliance that apparently the whole world got, but me. In stark contrast, over the recent years, I'm amazed at the candour that I find in his writing. The very understated style that once annoyed me now astonishes me - the art of saying so much in just a handful of words. Not for nothing they say, you don't read a book once. As you grow, so does its world and the characters living inside it.
PS. My current reading stupour comes from Elif Shafak's The Bastard of Istanbul. A plot that skids between two completely different geographies - Istanbul and Arizona (peppered with bits of San Francisco as well) - and houses at least thirty characters of which about fifteen carry the narrative forward, it's a whirlwind of a read. At times I felt the urgent need of drawing a family tree so as to not lose track of who was where and when. But like I have said here before, the element that tugged at my heart amid this chaos was Istanbul - its charming cobbled streets, the call of the simit seller, the greedy seagulls hovering over a ferry on the Bosphorus, and the history that coats almost every building of the city. There lies the pull of the novel. So yes, go for the atmosphere and for a detailed critique of the general Turkish attitude toward the Armenian genocide.