The Fluidity of Storytelling

And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep overlapping and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story, is part of many other stories, and there is no telling where any of them may lead. 

Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

True stories begin at the last page and never really end. It’s only when the reader has closed the book and put it aside that the words slip into one’s bloodstream, quickening the flow.

The moment someone’s fingers pry the secrets of a book apart, the book ceases belonging to its author. The author bequeathes the fruit of his toil and joy to the individual. And every single individual who has the willingness and the patience, who bubbles with excitement at the thought of tumbling through a crack to a new wonderland, is never exposed to the same story the creator crafted.

Stories flow; they can never be static for the simple reason that they are made out of words. And words carry within them the most indestructible, the most ancient essence of the element that sustains the universe: water.

Yes, narratives are always in motion. They breathe, grow and expand. Every reader will never envision the story the way its author did. And neither will two different readers. For each and every single traveler in the journey of reading enters equipped with one’s own pair of eyes, with one’s own memories, ideas, tastes, dreams, views and expectations

It’s because of this equipment that every reader possesses the ability to blow a unique life into a story, and through this new life the story mutates into another one where events and characters shift, intertwine and pour into each other like a river into the sea.

The stories worth being talked about are the ones forged when passion couples with imagination. The greatest gift an author can deliver is to engrave the story inside the grooves of the reader’s mind and stir the cauldron of endless possibilities. Once achieved, the story flares up, blazing with an inextinguishable fire.

The reader is never truly content with the way a book swings shut, because the world one has meandered into once brought to life refuses to die. So, the impassioned lovers gazing at the sunset and lapping up honey from each other’s mouth will have to go through more troubles and adventures to test and strengthen their love.

Once the forlorn queen finds the golden chalice, she will only enjoy a brief respite; she must jeopardize herself and lose it so as to saddle her horse again and begin her quest all over. The universe in shatters will keep on hanging on the edge of a knife because it cannot end as we know it; a great hero must rise, grit his teeth and save humanity from sliding into entropy and death.

It’s an unshakeable fact: we adamantly refuse to abandon the stories we love. We ponder over them, obsess about them. We weave a web inside which all stories cross paths and feast on each other in order to give birth to new ones.

The idea of an ending is inconceivable, almost a blasphemy. We rebel and revolt against it. It leaves us with a foul taste that our tongue needs to spit out. How many times did someone jot down a story as a reaction to the one he/she read but whose denouement couldn’t stomach?

It’s human nature to let our mind wonder and wander about that which beguiles us, to let the question of ”what if” quiver on our lips. After all, is there a bigger proof than fanfiction?

In the end, the eternal desire for narratives might be a token of warmth and affection, an open dialogue of equality through which we endeavour to reach out to each other and drive away our sadness and loneliness.

A Room of One’s Own- Women’s Right to Write!

IDLE MUSER (aka Aditi)

The world did not say to her as it said to them, write if you choose; it makes no difference to me. The world said with a guffaw, Write? What’s the good of your writing?

This book and writer that I’m going to talk about need no introduction. Virginia Woolf has been a much talked about writer from the course of twentieth century. I had heard of her ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ and had planned to read it but somehow chanced upon ‘A Room of One’s Own’ before and hence this review.

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Evolution’ and ‘Feminism’ are the two terms that can suffice the context of this book. But let’s get a bit deeper into it.

Whenever I get introduced to new writers (writers which I’m reading for the first time), I love to get to know about them (which isn’t unusual for any bibliophile)…

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Passages: From Love in a Bottle, by Antal Szerb

Yellow Crane in the Rain

“Do you love me?” I asked doubtfully, and stupidly.

She burst out laughing — with the same unfathomable drunken laughter that had so charmed me earlier. It did not charm me now. Back on the veranda, that earlier laugh has somehow soared into the summer sky, an endearing cry for help addressed to some far-off Dionysus. But now she was laughing at me, and into me, the way any woman might laugh at any man held in an embrace of perhaps half an hour. It was a common, rather vulgar, laugh, an utterly godless laugh, one that could have been heard a thousand times at that moment in any of the parks of Paris and the banlieue — and how was I any different from the thousand other poor wretches who at that precise moment were preparing for the stereotypical games of love?

— from the short story “A Garden…

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Book Review: The White People

Penguin cover

Arthur Machen’s The White People had been on my reading list for a long time.

The story starts as a singular, philosophical study on the nature of good and evil and evolves into a chillingly delightful tale brimming with dark, paganistic rituals, weird occurrences and sorcery only to break off abruptly on the cusp of some kind of supreme revelation.

The beginning of The White People offers to the reader an intriguing intake on the topic of saints and sinners. Cotgrave and Ambrose discuss the nature of sin. According to the second,

”So you see that while the good and the evil are unnatural to man as he now is—to man the social, civilized being—evil is unnatural in a much deeper sense than good. The saint endeavours to recover a gift which he has lost; the sinner tries to obtain something which he was never his. In brief, he repeats the Fall.”

To better illustrate his point and make his companion understand, Ambrose gives Cotgrave to read The Green Book, a pocket book written by a 16-year-old girl he once knew.

The girl, whose mother is dead and whose father leaves her on her own to take care of the affairs of his profession, is raised by her nurse who dedicates most of her time in initiating her into a queer, dark world through the narration of songs and fanciful stories.

The girl drinks the stories in, and the more she surrenders to the secrets she’s exposed to, the more she descends into another dimension through waxen idols, mounts and hills, pits and wells. And all this, as she spends most of her time sauntering into the black woods, uttering bizarre rhymes.

She refers to odd things like the Aklo letters, the Chian languages, the great, beautiful Circles, the Mao Games, the chief songs, the Nymphs, the Dôls, Jeelo and voola. Did the girl suffer from bouts of a superactive imagination? Did she have a mystical power to conjure the universe that haunted her imagination into the real world? Perhaps. As Ambrose hints,

”A child’s imagination always makes the heights higher and the depths deeper than they really are; and she had, unfortunately for herself, something more than imagination. One might say, perhaps, that the picture in her mind which she succeeded in a measure in putting into words, was the scene as it would have appeared to an imaginative artist.”

Was the girl ever truly touched by the White People and the fairies? It is never made clear. Ambrose remarks that,

”Powerful and sovereign medicines, which are, of necessity, virulent poisons also, are kept in a locked cabinet. The child may find the key by chance, and drink herself dead; but in most cases the search is educational, and the phials contain precious elixirs for him who has patiently fashioned the key for himself. She had poisoned herself—in time.”

Machen is not a writer who employs blood and gore to horrify the reader. No, he has an uncanny ability to freak out the reader by painting a creepy, unnerving atmosphere through allusions and cryptic references which are never fully explained.

The White People reads as a misty, dream-like, stream of consciousness tale sprung from the depths of childish imagination. It’s a dark triumph of fantasy and horror bound to excite and intrigue the mind.