Guest-Editorial: The Book that Left an Impact on Me in 2015 (Issue 23)
The thrill of arriving home with a bagful of books and deciding which to read first is one of my most joyful childhood memories. I often wonder if ebooks evoke the same joy as the paper books do. I find the digital invasion very impersonal. However, I understand that their ready availability and the vast resource of titles are attractive to many and might even have helped shape what, how and why we read. But isn’t it possible that the pleasure of traditional reading getting lost somewhere in this digital world?
There is an immense gratification to be gained from curling up to read a real (read, ‘printed) book. Reading, for me, is a perfect way to disengage and free myself from the demands of everyday life. I also read for pleasure, for the love of language, and for the pleasure of discovery.
For this issue of Cafe Dissensus, we asked the contributors to tell us about a book that had made a real impact on them in 2015; a book that made them think, that moved them, excited them or informed them. We wanted to explore how the reading of that particular book affected their life.
We also wanted to find out how the advent of digital devices has impacted reading. While Mosarrap felt his ”obsession with printed books” has diminished due to easy accessibility of ebooks, James Goddard calls himself “a lover of real, printed books, with real covers, real pages and the real aroma of ink.”
We received submissions on a wide spectrum of books, read across the globe: from memoirs to narrative nonfiction to science fiction to diary excerpts to fiction. Surprisingly, no one picked up a poetry book. Being a poet, I wondered: does poetry not make an impact on the masses the way prose does?
Some books were revisited again and again. There was always something more that the contributors found with each reading. The impact of those particular books differed at different stages of their reading as with Suneetha’s reading of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl and RK Biswas’ reading of The God of Small Things and The English Patient.
There are two very interesting aspects that emerged from the submissions: one, the interest in the writers from the North-East of India, especially the women writers. Sabita Goswami’s Along the Red River narrates almost three decades of socio-political turbulence in the volatile state of Assam. One Sohra Summer is a fascinating blend of history and fiction set against the backdrop of late 18th and 19th century Khasi hills. It gives us a fine glimpse into the past history of Khasi society in East Khasi Hills, in Sohra, now known as Cherrapunjee. Both Sabita Goswani and Iadalang Pyngrope’s books have a very straightforward and lucid narrative. In the last one year I have read a few books by women authors from the North-East of India. I feel that there is a powerful sense of arrival in their work; their vibrant contemporary writing needs more readers.
English as a primary language has opened up the doors for translators to showcase the works of vernacular writers. The translated works have made possible an increase in the readership, too. It was interesting to see Rebecca Behar, a French poet, write about the Tamil writer, C.S.Lakshmi’s compilation of short stories, A Purple Sea, translated by Lakshmi Holmström.
I noticed that a lot of these books, read by the contributors, archived women’s lives, their history and struggles, beyond the geographical or social boundaries. Take for example, Amanda Curtin’s Elemental, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, the life of Anne Frank or the female protagonists in A Purple Sea.
I was rather surprised by Sumant Batra’s choice of a book. Not many would consider the Constitution of India as a ‘literary book to be read’. It was interesting to see how his in-depth study of the book has influenced him personally and professionally, helping him to find answers to the questions thrown up by the current events in India. It certainly nudged me to mark it as ‘to be read’.
Avirook Sen’s much acclaimed book, Aarushi, has deeply impacted Neha Malude, who asks a very pertinent question, “Would I like to raise a child in this country?” She talks of her love for “clinical” writing, which reminded me of a question I had asked Avirook through a group on Facebook. “In the last few years, there has been a surge of long-form journalism (The Caravan Magazine is one good example of narrative reportage) and narrative non-fiction. Do you think this form of writing is finally well-received by the Indian readers or is it just the political or crime genre in non-fiction, which deals with a contentious or controversial issues, that sells well and the rest have a very small audience? What seems to be the reason for this? We are talking here of Indian writers writing in English.”
I think I got my answer as I read these submissions.
My heartfelt gratitude goes to our talented contributors for sharing their views. I’m also thankful to them for posing difficult questions for us to ponder on.
I am thankful to Mosarrap H. Khan and the entire Cafe Dissensus editorial team for trusting me with this special issue and to the readers for their continuous support. Thank you for your contributions. It was indeed a pleasure to read and reflect upon the contributions.
Tikuli is a blogger and author from Delhi. Her short stories and poems have appeared worldwide in print and in online literary magazines. Her debut poetry book, Collection Of Chaos, was published in 2014 by Leaky Boot Press, England. She blogs at: tikulicious.wordpress.com
For more stories, read Café Dissensus Everyday, the blog of Café Dissensus Magazine.