Book Review: Displacement and Desolation in Perumal Murugan’s Characters

When you don’t feel belonged, you are isolated, lonely, and then the voices in the head become larger than life, and the fine line between the real and the perceived diminishes.

The short story is a strong but difficult medium. In many ways it is more potent than a novel because it can leave an impact with few words, consuming little time. An observant writer can concoct many stories using everyday themes and images, telling extraordinary tales about ordinary people, evoking emotions and reactions from a diverse readership. In the preface to The Goat Thief, prolific Tamil short story writer, Perumal Murugan, talks about his own tryst with the skill of story writing and how he came to evolve his own style and rendition.

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The List – A Short Story

It started with the small blue notepad his mother handed over to him. She was busy in the grocery aisle; he was running around, getting in the way. She ripped out her shopping list and gave the notepad to him to entertain himself. His 6-year old fingers doodled and channeled his tiny self out of trouble.

Waiting in the checkout line, she entertained him by dictating all the items in her shopping cart. He was proud of his first list. He felt almost grown-up that day. After all, writing and list-making was the effortless skill of adults. A notebook became his constant companion.

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Book Review: Inventing Ourselves

Mid-morning, I got into bed ready to embark on a long and unproductive journey of browsing through my phone. Luckily, for me, the charger was not plugged in properly and I saw a mere 24% battery life smirking at it me. Well, I plugged it back in and picked up a book from my bedside pile. This was one I had read before but it is such a storehouse of knowledge that you can read it again, and again.

I bought Inventing Ourselves by Sarah-Jayne Blackmore to prepare as a parent for the crucial stages of my 10-year old son’s adolescent development. But, its more than a parenting book – it’s a scientific book and even a self-help book for it helps to understand your own life when you were a teenager. Inner child therapy is an important part of healing and I think this book provides information that can help in that exercise. The most important lesson is that teenage is the life phase of developing self-worth and obviously family has an impact on this milestone.

Scientifically, it gives significant information that all parents should know, example: schizophrenia is a genetic, developmental disorder that manifests between ages of 18-25; or the psychology of risk-taking; or that the mean age for substance abuse is around 25 years. I am reading this book a second time and marking stuff. It’s insightful and educative, a reference book and yet a story of the teenage brain

This is one of those books you need both as an ebook and a bedside copy. If you are interested in the functioning of the brain and the social influences on our mental growth and well-being, I recommend this as a great weekend read. It is lucid, succinct, and informational.

Social Media and the Problem of Plenty

Social media is exhausting, specially if you are intending to garner an audience or self-promote. There are myriad channels of communication and showcasing; all are craving your attention and content. If you are a writer, artist, or pursuing any creative channel, you are immediately in the snare of the social media octopus. There is Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and I am ignorant of so many other channels.

All demand that you place your content in the most presentable way, on each one of them. There is information and design overload – the same content flooding the data stream with tags and hashtags. More than the creative pursuit, it is the pressure of pushing your content into these channels to grab the maximum eyeballs. Social media feeds on your deep FOMO – fear of missing out – in showcasing your content and following the trends.

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Men Gone!

The face of fear stands exposed
In the cowering silence so bold
Possessed with the burden
Of a dying, decaying world:
Rotten rivers and furrowed mud,
Fallen trees and yellowed fields!
Last of the spirits must now leave,
Poisoned by the air they breathe.
Howling waves and the silver moon
Shed crystal tears on a barren Earth
So bony white, eroded to the core
Men gone; their destruction stays on!

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