The following piece from The Guardian inspired me to indulge in a similar exercise, which is, to identify reading matter that my current self would (if I could) go back in time and give to my younger self as a must-read. But as I think about it, I must say, I can’t really, except for the Grand Master of High Fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkein–him I didn’t discover until after I was 22 or so, and was so immediately absorbed that I missed sleep and school (everything in fact, except meals and even those desultory) until I’d read the entire Lord of the Rings. The experience was heady and my only regret is that I would have squeezed in reading it a couple of more times than I have already. Two other books that I can think of that I would have loved are The Book Thief and The Kite Runner, but both of these were written long after I was in my adulthood so I couldn’t have read them earlier. And well another fantasy series, I think I would enjoyed growing up with is Harry Potter, but again the ship of youth had long sailed and I was probably even past my tweens (Tolkein reference that) when J.K. Rowling put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard as the case may be.

I am glad I read the C.S. Lewis Narnia series and Gone with the Wind when I did because I think an older me would have never gotten past the issues of religious and racial prejudice that pose serious hurdles when I read them now. They do deserve to be enjoyed for what they are–and especially for their ability to transport me to their worlds–but the not too subtle anti-anything-not-Christian flavor, especially of The Horse and his Boy–and the wistfulness for the privileges of being rich and white in the American South rub me the wrong way. Especially these days with the politics of Trump holding sway there.

I am also glad that I read the works of Hindu mythology and fictionalized mythology for the first time as a youngster. Rajgopalachari’s versions especially are simple and may seem over-simplistic now but they were great to read to get the basics down. Interpretations can come later–nowadays I will confess I like Shashi Tharoor’s Great Indian Novel just a wee bit more, but there’s no way I could have enjoyed it without knowing the plot and characters of the Mahabharata.

Are there books that I regret reading too soon, as some of the authors seem to have done? I don’t think so… younger self was too avid a reader.

So back to the original question–if I had the chance to head to the past armed with a bag of books to give myself at say 14, I think I’d repeat my experience of that summer when someone gave me or the owners of the home we stayed in for the summer two large grocery bags full of the novels of Agatha Christie. Impeccable English and interesting characters… what was not to love? (#27)

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A long time ago I expressed my desire to live in a Peter Mayle (the first PM in this post) novel, and then in 2008, experienced a realization (of sorts) of that fantasy after a visit to the gorgeous Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, about which I’ve rhapsodized at length–just check out posts under the’08-Italia category. It wasn’t his stories or writing (in fact I have friends who positively dislike his writing) that I fell in love with as much as his descriptions of the food and environs; I wanted to be there, eating thatwhich depending on the particular book was a cassoulet from Bordeaux, the last morsel of truffle-imbued foie gras chased around the plate with a piece of crusty baguette or simple a really fine cheese with a glass of equally fine wine.

A good many years later, but still quite some years before today, I find myself writing about another PM–Patricia McKillip–about whom frankly I have no idea why I’ve not yet written anything in this blog. In my defense though I have rated & reviewed her books both on Amazon and Goodreads. Now here’s someone whose writing I imply love–her books are a wondrous mixture of fantasy, good food and the world of academia of some sort (schools for bards or magicians for example) all packaged or presented in, as I just said, really fine writing. Any wonder that she is one of those people that I would, if I could, be? I recently found out she lives in Oregon, which might explain not just her foodie leanings but really great descriptions of sea-food.  Food doesn’t always play a role in her books but one of my favorites, called The Bell at Sealey Head and the recently completed Kingfisher, both featured food and beautifully, although there was a complex relationship with it and the protagonists.

I am not, these days, the happiest of people, but I have to say, her books are a lovely escape for a time at least… (#28)

Arrgh… just when I thought I was on track to made good on my once a week blogging resolution to myself, I’ve fallen off the wagon again. In my defense I have been writing a lot–just not here. I was trying to get a paper done–or rather the revisions–done and submitted–which goal I sort of reached today. At least a version of the rewrite is now sitting in the online submission site of the journal. I just hope the results are closer to getting published .. will report on that in a few. days? week? weeks?…  not more than that, I can only hope.

Meanwhile I created a new category–to which I’ll quickly assign various past posts, because I realized how much I write and reflect on writing. Not always meaningfully–here for instance I’ve been mostly whining, but sometimes–but I recall even in my pre-blogging Dear diary-type days too I would look over something I’d written earlier and write about it. Not today though–today was just to acknowledge the fact that I’m behind.. and having done that, move on.  (#29)

And add some thyme to foods that rhyme? A writing-from-the-senses inspired title where I’ve combined 3 food items whose names imparted a certain rhythm and which I feel would be a good prompt to write …

Except that it’s been years since that I wrote those words down and nothing has been forthcoming. But something about them won’t let me delete the prompt and be done either. What can one do with those three things anyhow. Combine the first two to smoke the third, as in a hock of ham? Or how’s this to keep with the rhythm of the original rhyme?

Hickory Chicory Hock,

They all went into my stock.

When the stock was boiled,

The hock I broiled,

And poured it all into a crock.

Corny in the extreme, what? But it counts as writing (#30)

 

… you ever read, or at least that I ever wrote! Read on…

So, I found this creative writing exercise online and was intrigued enough with one of the prompts/stories to give it a shot.  One of the mandates seems to be to make it difficult to arrive at the end.. which it should have been anyway. Else why make someone do it? But for the caveat it reminds of the a word ladder game I used to play as a kid to go from one word to another changing one letter at a time. e.g. from black to white.

black to slack to stack to stalk to stale to shale to whale to while to white

Below are a couple of one-sentence stories. Each has a beginning and an end. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to insert six steps after each beginning, making it as difficult as possible for the characters to arrive at the end. Airline strikes, evil stepmothers, phobias – whatever you like. Just make them work for it.
 
A couple fall in love in the supermarket and adopt a tiger

I thought I try the word game for a lark by going from “adopt” to “tiger” but couldn’t think of enough words… I mean adopt can only become adept or adapt and I got stuck beyond that, and working backwards from tiger did not work either since I can’t even think of one word (Tiber? but that’s a proper noun) so on to the main task at hand…

Couple fall in love in the supermarket [I guess I don’t need to worry about flirtation since the falling in love is done already]

Step 1.

“How did you know” she asked. “How did you figure out I was the one so quickly?”

“It was your tiger’s eye pendant,” he said. “It’s so unusual and it matches your eyes so beautifully–I figured anyone with such unique sense of style was my kind of gal. May I take a closer look?”

To his utter dismay those same beautiful eyes suddenly  filled with tears and without a word she turned and ran.

Step 2. “Hey what’s wrong” he shouted in consternation before following in hot pursuit. “That was a compliment!”

She didn’t answer.. only ran faster. But suddenly another figure appeared out of nowhere and made a grab for her neck. She tried to dodge but unsuccessfully. The assailant had clamped her neck too tightly from behind and was now determinedly trying to work the chain with the pendant off. With another shout Leon (the guy–we don’t know his name yet, so we’ll call him that for now) jumped on his back to pry the assailant away from her. They both fell backward and rolled over but when he came to his feet, there was no trace of her.

3. “Where is she?” he demanded fiercely at the same time as the assailant, yelled “Now look what you’ve done!” Without answering the question or waiting for an answer himself the assailant darted around a corner and… disappeared. Without a trace .. just like the girl, the love of his life. Though he didn’t even know her name.

Dejectedly he turned to pick up whatever meager belongings had fallen from his pockets in his scuffle,  when he noticed a small bag–the kind one gets at a jeweler’s though he wasn’t to know that–that presumably, his assailant had dropped. Pebbles, he thought feeling them, but then remembering her pendant opened the bag to see if there were more gems.What tumbled out instead was candy. Crystalline and glittery bits of sugar, that looked sort of like her mesmerizing eyes, but were leaving his fingers sticky. “Don’t..” he heard someone say the instant before he licked a sticky finger clean and also disappeared.

4. Elsa–that was her name–didn’t know his name either–and wasn’t sure  she’d be able to find out. Having made the first dash away as fast and far as possible to escape he would-be captor, she needed to make sure she hid and stayed hidden. And hiding wasn’t easy in for a tawny-eyed tigress wearing a fortune in tiger’s eye  around her neck. Going to the local zoo was not the answer–its how Sim had found her in the first place. And while he wasn’t evil.. he was a pest and needed her tiger’s eye as badly as she did. Well.. she wasn’t going to give it up … not without a fight. Especially now that she had found him. Whatever his name was. Trouble was without human help she had no way of either hiding or changing back into human form,  Baying at the moon–that was for wolves, she thought disgustedly. Even crooning to the sun, the preferred heavenly body for the leonine, had no effect. Whatever was she to do?

“Rest” she though wearily. “First I need to rest.” Furtively she slouched along the streets when near the Public library she looked up to two stone lions resplendent in their indifference to the problems of the world. “Close enough” she thought to herself and leapt up on one of them and sunk into the stone for a much needed nap.

5. When Leon–as we shall continue to call him–came to, he was in completely unfamiliar surroundings–a cross between hall of mirrors at a carnival or department store dressing room, and a cathedral with stained glass windows, except here all the windows were stained in the golden browns and deep bronzes.

“Where am I?” he wondered bewildered, and as if in response, he heard the opening chords of the Survivor’s song (what else?), The Eye of the Tiger!

“Get up, get up” he heard a voice say. “If you want to rescue yourself and your true love you need to fight your way out of this tiger’s eye chamber.”

Completely disoriented, he got to his feet and staggered into a boxing ring that had inexplicably sprung up right in the middle of the chamber. “That’s right” said the voice. “It’s like the TARDIS–bigger on the inside.”

“Inside of what?” he asked? Instead of an answer, what should he see but a beautiful tawny tigress facing him in the ring, the patterning of her stripes a perfect match for the light that filtered through? Elsa, for it was she, was as bewildered as he to find herself there, but she unlike him was was elated. She after all, knew who he was. Joyfully, in a single bound she leapt on top of him.

“Whoa!” he said in some consternation, and tried to roll away but she was too big and too strong and too affectionate.

6. And so began a romp the likes of which had never been seen in the tiger’s eye arena, then or since. There was shape-shifting and supernatural goings on as one might expect in a fantastical story like this one, and there was also a lot of sex, which one may not think appropriate to mention, but which both parties hugely enjoyed especially since the audience had long disappeared, and by then he too had become a tiger. Or at least sometimes. Since he was a tiger now, calling him Leon no longer seems appropriate, and we should probably reveal his name, Calvin. Which was great because Elsa’s full name was E. Hobbes. And as everyone knows, Calvin and Hobbes are a magical pair.

Enjoyable as they found their life in the tiger’s eye cave, it was also limited and soon they wanted out. But they had to pay a price. Either live in staggered shapes forever, or go in for adoption (if the alternatives seem strange, remember everything about this alternate universe was strange). Furthermore they had to pay a price for the adoption–the candy–without which they could never return to this wondrous cave again. With such agreements in place they went to collect their baby, only to find out it was a baby tiger!

So they adopted the baby tiger, although it grew quickly and didn’t stay a baby for long.Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 10.17.33 PM Everyday they take it for a walk. Neighbors are getting quite used to the sight of the tiger on a leash. Sometimes the couple take it out and sometimes it’s just Calvin with a tiger. On such days, but only if you look closely, you might notice something different. One cannot be quite sure, what precisely the difference is, but it is there. And if you walk by the library, you’ll notice that one of the carved lions guarding the entrance has one tiger’s eye.

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 10.18.03 PM(#31)

 

A  bit of playing with the forms of two rhyming words that I have been using repeatedly over the part two months. Silly but hey I found it entertaining. Think of it as a Seuss-ian moment. Or a Nash-(via Ogden)-ly impulse:

A particle is an article, but an article may also have many particles.

One could have particular article but I am not sure if there is such a thing as an articular particle.

There are also particulate articles,  but articulate particles would be very strange indeed.

While an articulated particle is entire possible, I am not sure that an article can be particulated.

But an article might have a particularity where a particle cannot have articularity.

I could go on with this article which already has several particles (of information) but fear I am running out of my powers of articulation.

But not particulation … for it doesn’t exist!

And so ends this particularly silly article. [Full stop].

(#32)

A job application that I am down to the wire on in making the deadline wants me to write, in addition to the usual suspects–cover letter, research and teaching statements–a “statement of contributions to diversity.” And because I am having trouble getting started I thought it might help to free-think some ideas here (and get my weekly quota of blog writing up as well).

The main reason for my troubles with the statement is that I am not sure how to write something that won’t come off as whiny or strident, self-glorifying, trite or any number of other pejorative adjectives that I can think of in the context of the issue of writing about diversity. First there is a Duh! factor: which is that I contribute to diversity on any number of fronts just by being–I am a woman, a “mature” candidate (would I count as “post-mature” in the jargon of my social scientist colleagues I wonder) and ethnically an Indian. Even as I’m listing these features it occurs to me to create a new acronym, OBG–for “Old Brown Gal”–which just happens to bring to mind the “woman’s” doctor in medical science, the ObGyn (As I’ve said, equally sincerely in other blog posts, this pun or whatever wasn’t planned…it just happened, I swear). I also happen to be diabetic and while it does not affect my workplace activities or needs, it is still one of the featured conditions in the disabilities section of any Equal Opportunity/Demographic questionnaire.

Of course I can’t simply make that statement- “I contribute to diversity just by being” because not only is it trite, it is also simply not enough. Just being a minority does not do much, if anything, for the betterment of the community, and to be frank, I have never been much for identifying with a community based on one aspect of who/what I am. Furthermore the categories represented in the label don’t even begin to cover the gamut of issues on which we need diversity–which label is usually used for talking about women, Ethnic/racial minorities, people with disabilities, the LGBT cluster and increasingly religion. Age, which I included in the OBG category, is asked about for demographic purposes, but seems to…

~~~

Well I petered off at that point two days ago, but did manage to get the formal statement, and hence, the application completed. In the end I began by “outing” myself as an OBG, though I did not use that term. And the diversity I focused on for the bulk of the paper was linguistic diversity. Addressing the issues of ESL/EFL student support for one, and that of linguistic impoverishment (again, though I didn’t use that word) within academia and ways to address it. I also managed to sneak in some pop culture–outdated as it might be to most–with a reference to that old Adam West Batman movies. Holy Tower of Babble Batman! you might say à la Robin.  I thought it apropos, and hope the readers get a kick out of it. (#33)