Child Psychology in 'The Namesake'

Jhumpa Lahiri, the celebrated author of 'The Interpretor of Maladies'(a collection of short stories) also penned down the Pulitzer Prize winner 'The Namesake'. The theme of cultural alienation dominates the whole novel. But what I am going to discuss here is the psychological insights provided into the working of a child's mind by the author. When Gogol, the main character of the novel, is young he responds only to that name. Even in school he refuses to accept 'Nikhil' as his school name. He doesn't respond when he's called Nikhil. It is but natural for a child to do so. Nikhil is not known to him. He only knows Gogol.
But he grows conscious about his name later on till a time comes when he finally declares he hates the name 'Gogol' and formally changes it to 'Nikhil'. But for the whole of his life he is unable to detach himself from his former name. The name 'Gogol' keeps propping up at different times.
Again after his father's death he feels guilty about the change in his name, now that he knows the background of his name.
The tale of the names reminds us of Shakespeare's saying "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But here we see what difference a name can make. Of course, as a person he will remain the same called by any name. Nevertheless, names have a psychological impact too over the personality of a person.

"In real life, unlike in Shakespeare, the sweetness of the rose depends upon the name it bears. Things are not only what they are. They are, in very important respects, what they seem to be."
-- Hubert H. Humphrey (38th Vice President of United States).

Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest'

Recently I was lucky enough to lay my hands upon Oscar Wilde's play 'The Importance of Being Earnest'. I had earlier read this play, I don't know how many years ago. But any way it was a real funny experience. All of us need to have such breaks while reading serious literature.This play was very famous in America also. The play 'The Importance of Being Earnest' is sheer comedy, at moments it is just hilarious. There is a touch of realism too. The conversation that takes place is so natural and spontaneous. It is so close to real life that it could have happened anywhere.
The incident - when Gwendolen and Cecily decide to remain quiet when Jack and Algernon come but are first ones to break the silence with their questions put forward the moment the latter two enter - is not only comic but also shows the universal human nature of reacting overenthusiastically, of uncontrollable inquisitiveness.
There is a use on irony also to create humour. The word 'earnest' as in the title 'The Importance of Being Earnest' means 'honest'. The Christian name referred to in the play is 'Ernest', that again hints at the same word 'earnest'. But Gwendolen and Cecily are bent upon marrying a person whose Christian name is 'Ernest'. Both Algernon, who wants to marry Cecily, and Jack who wishes to marry Gwendolen, are ready to get christened for the sake of their marriage to their beloved partners. Both have at some time called themselves by the name Ernest (pretended to have Christian name of Ernest). But in reality they have not been honest.The final comment of Jack :
"I've now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest."

is very meaningful. Even a few speeches earlier he had said: " is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing bu the truth..."

Toadstone in Shakespeare's 'As You Like It'

Shakespeare in 'As You Like It' talked about toadstones in the following lines:

Sweet the uses of adversity.
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.

Even in earlier literature toadstones have been mentioned and many myths have been woven around them. They find a mention in literature as early as the Roman writer Pliny the Elder. It is a stone that was worn as a charm and believed to have been formed in the body of a toad.

Harry Potter alive?

(photo courtesy: SCHOLASTIC)

Harry Potter fans can now heave a sigh of relief. The latest news is that Harry Potter is very much alive in the seventh book 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'. But this news is no substitute for reading and relishing each chapter as you go through the book. So just like the protagonist of majority of other novels, he lives on, victorious over the evil or something else is in store? Let's catch hold of a copy of the novel and find out.
Actually the book was leaked four-five days before it was released. It was available for download on some sites. The New York Times even published a review of the final book of Harry Potter on Thursday, that is 19 July, before its official release. These are proof enough of Harry's popularity. What I believe is that all kinds of illegal activities won't deter die-hard Potter fans from purchasing the book. Afterall, we read a book for aesthetic pleasure and because of our literary interest in it. Just knowing what happens is not sufficient for a book lover. At least this is what I think!
And anyway this book is expected to be the world's fastest selling book ever.

Harry Potter fans in a Frenzy!

Finally the day is here. 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' is released today. The question being raised now is - will Harry die? Will he kill Lord Voldemort and die in the fight? Due to this anxiety among Harry Potter fans helplines have geared up to take care of distraught fans. Earlier at a press conference Rowling has confirmed the death of two characters. Fans have reacted violently to the idea of Harry's death. But Rowling is of the opinion that after his death no other author would be able to write about him without seeking her permission.

Daniel Radcliffe in 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' (photo courtesy: Yahoo! Movies)

According to a news Daniel Radcliffe, the teenage actor who played Harry in the film adaptations of the book, himself wishes Harry Potter's death. But later Radcliffe regretted having a death wish for Potter. "I wish I'd never said that. And I have started to think his death might be too obvious a route to go down," Daniel told the Daily Record. "But I have no idea and I know nothing about the new book." Moreover he is of the opinion now that killing Harry Potter would be "too obvious".

Rowling created the character of Harry Potter in 1997 and in these last ten years the present book is the seventh and last one in Potter series. Now the countdown has begun, the suspense of the two deaths will be over in some time. So for now, just wait and watch; rather just read on.

J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter

The name of J.K. Rowling needs no introduction. The character of Harry Potter has become a rage with not only kids but also with youngsters and grown-ups. She might have millions from the Harry Potter series now. But the beginning was not at all a cakewalk. Before the first book 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' (later published in the US as 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone') was published by the small publisher Bloomsbury, the manuscript was rejected by twelve publishers. The manuscript was accepted because of the publisher's daughter, who was curious to read the next chapter after being given the first chapter. Since
then there has been no looking back. She has many awards including Nestlé Smarties Book Prize, British Book Award. Rowling is not only a terrific writer but also a philanthropist has done many charity works.
She was born on 31 July, 1965 in England. She completed her first manuscript for the first in the Harry Potter series, 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' in 1995. It was published in 1997. The second in series was published 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ' in 1998, third 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' in 1999, fourth 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' in 2000, fifth 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' in 2003, sixth 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' in 2005 and the last to be released on 21 July,2007 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'. Her other books include 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'(2001), 'Quidditch Through the Ages'(2001).
The lesson to be learnt from the experience of Rowling is that don't give up if you have faith in your writing and have faith in your writing skills. People are not born stars, it is because of their
perseverance and determination that they succeed.

Ted Hughes' 'Old Age Gets Up'

I would like to quote here a poem by Ted Hughes.

Old Age Gets Up

Stirs its ashes and embers, its burnt sticks

An eye powdered over, half melted and solid again
Ideas that collapse
At the first touch of attention

The light at the window, so square and so same
So full-strong as ever, the window frame
A scaffold in space, for eyes to lean on

Supporting the body, shaped to its old work
Making small movements in gray air
Numbed from the blurred accident
Of having lived, the fatal, real injury
Under the amnesia

Something tries to save itself-searches
For defenses-but words evade
Like flies with their own notions

Old age slowly gets dressed
Heavily dosed with death's night
Sits on the bed's edge

Pulls its pieces together
Loosely tucks in its shirt

Old is such a stage of life when you have satisfaction of having lived a full life but at the same time prospect of growing old is frightening. This is because of the state of loneliness associated with old age and the unconcerned look in the eyes of others towards the old people. Ogden Nash in his poem 'Old Men' writes:

People expect old men to die,
They do not really mourn old men.
Old men are different. People look
At them with eyes that wonder when…
People watch with unshocked eyes;
But the old men know when an old man dies.

In the present poem of Ted Hughes, which we are to discuss, the poet begins by an image of starting again, of starting afresh, of getting up: "stirs its ashes and embers". He talks of the forgetfulness(amnesia) associated with old age. But still something, that is, life, the urge to live tries to save itself; and finally it "pulls its pieces together". Here the word 'pieces' is significant because we are talking of the old age when a person has only tidbits to gather from his experiences of life. A vivid memory evades him. Even, as Hughes writes, words don't come to your defence. "The window frame/ A scaffold in space, for eyes to lean on/ Supporting the body..." probably hints at the restricted and shrunken world in which an old man lives. He has only a window to lean on, the only outlet to the outer world. 'The light at the window' finally inspires him to get up and get dressed, ready to face the world again.

The interpretation of poetry is such a field that I supppose the meaning will vary from person to person. The above interpretation is purely what came to my mind after reading it. Let all of us strive to find more meanings.

Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes was born in Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire,in 1930 on 17th August. Later his family moved to Mexborough. He studied at the Pembroke College, Cambridge. He even met his wife Sylvia Plath there. He studied English there and then switched on to study anthropology and archaeology later. His first poem was published in 1954. He had written his first poem at the age of fifteen. In the following two years he was involved in odd jobs like that of a night watchman, zoo attendant. He also worked as a school teacher and then as a reader for J. Arthur Rank. Later in 1956 Hughes was a part of the team of six, which produced the literary magazine, St Botolph's Review. Another important event of his life that occured in 1956 was meeting Sylvia Plath and marrying her four months later.
Hughes' first book of poetry, 'Hawk in the Rain' was published in 1957, and since then over the next 41 years there was no looking back. ONe of his best known works is considered to be 'Crow' published in 1970.
There is a long list of awards that were conferred on Hughes, an acknowledgement of the contributions he made to the literary field. Notable among them are: Somerset Maughan Award, Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, Guiness Poetry Award, Queen's Order of Merit, T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry...and many more. He was appointed England's poet laureate in the year 1984.
Hughes' wife Sylvia Plath had died(committed suicide) in 1963 (after they separated in 1962). Hughes' biographer, Elaine Feinstein, claims that Hughes never recovered from his wife's death.

Toni Morrison's quote

I want to produce a few lines from Toni Morrison's masterpiece 'The Bluest Eye':

"And now when I see her searching the garbage - for what? The thing we assassinated? I talk about how I did not plant the seeds too deeply, how it was the fault of the earth, the land, of our town. I even think now that the land of the entire country was hostile to marigolds that year. This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seed it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live. We are wrong, of course, but it doesn't matter. It's too late. At least on the edge of my town, among  the  garbage and the sunflowers of my town, it's much, much too late."

Toni Morrison's 'The Bluest Eye'

Toni Morrison was the eighth American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. Her novel are characterized by epic themes, elaborately sketched African-American characters and vivid dialogues. She won Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 for her novel, 'Beloved'. Her other famous novels include 'The Bluest Eye', 'Song of Solomon'.

The last book I read was Toni Morrison's 'The Bluest Eye'. In 2000 this novel was selected for Oprah's Book Club.

The story has been narrated from the perception of Pecola, her mother, her father, her friend Claudia and Soaphead Church. This book has been attempted to be banned in schools and libraries because of its controversial nature of its themes of racism and child molestation.The way she begins her story saying that there were no marrigolds that season, suggests that there was something evil happening on that land. It also reminded of T.S. Eliot's line: "April is the cruellest month"('The Wasteland').

Morrison writes in 'The Bluest Eye':

"The damage done was total. She spent her days, walking up and down, her head jerking to the beat of a drummer so distant only she could hear. Elbows bent, hands on shoulders, she flailed her arms like a bird in an eternal, grotesquely futile effort to fly. Beating the air, a winged but grounded bird, intent on the blue void it could not reach - could not even see - but which filled the valleys of the mind."

What beautiful lines yet so poignant! They summarize the tragedy of Pecola.

'The Outsider' by Albert Camus

The hero of the novel 'The Outsider', Meursault is a typical example of an absurd character. His story parallels the story of Sisyphus - stripped of all illusions, extracts a grim acceptance of life from death and defeat, he deems life worth living after all he'd had. This novel without hope, even against hope, ends on a note of hope and promise.
When Meursault is condemned to death, he considers the question of beginning life afresh (here Camus is illustrating the absurdity through the myth of Sisyphus).
In a letter Camus wrote: "A man's greatness lies more in what he keeps to himself than in what he says." Meursault is an example of this great silence. During the trial one of the witnesses says about him: "Meursault didn't waste words."
Camus writes about Meursault's feelings at the end of the novel:
"I realized that I'd been happy, and that I was still happy. For the final consummation and for me to feel less lonely, my last wish was that there should be a crowd of spectators at my execution and that they should greet me with cries of hatred."

What an absurd yet so meaningful an end! I had read this novel as part of the syllabus of my post-graduation. I still feel this is one of the closest to my heart. I really sympathize with the character of Meursault. I feel his story is the story of all of us.

The 'Absurd'

The absurd is not, says Sartre, "a mere idea; it is revealed to us in a doleful illumination - getting up, tram, four hours of work, meal, sleep; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, in the same routine." This pattern is horrifyingly similar to the pattern of Sisyphus.
The essay 'Le Mythe de Sisyphe' ('The Myth of Sisyphus'), 1942, illustrates Camus' concept of the absurd and accepting it with "the total absence of hope, which has nothing to do with despair, a continual refusal, which must not be confused with renouncement - and a conscious dissatisfaction".
According to existentialist philosophers such as Camus and Sartre, "absurdity" is the necessary result of our attempts to live a life of meaning and purpose in an indifferent, uncaring universe. Another quality of the absurd man is that he will never be disappointed with life. He will want to live even if he visualizes a life without hope, without future.

(Albert Camus won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957.)

Samuel Johnson Prize 2007

UK's prestigious literary award for non-fiction, Samuel Johnson Prize was awarded to Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the former Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post. His book 'IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY' is about Baghdad's Green Zone surpassed the other five shorlisted entries, which include 'Murder in Amsterdam' by Ian Buruma, 'Having it so Good:Britain in the Fifties' by Peter Hennessey, 'Daughter of the Desert' by Georgina Howell, 'Brainwash' by Dominic Streatfeild, and 'The Verneys' by Adrian Tinniswood.