TheGuest Post Series on “My Favourite Things” has contributions by those sharing my interests in travel, books, photography, music, and on issues that I am passionate about. Though the guest posts are not always by fellow bloggers, the guest authors are always those who have interesting experiences to share.
Today’s guest author is Deepa of Deepa’s Kaleidoscope. An engineer by training, but a writer at heart, Deepa writes fiction and on social issues with equal parts passion and reflection, which results in a unique perspective on a particular topic. Currently based in Melbourne, this guest post is a result of her exploration into the bewitching world of the many bookstores in the city. An exploration that has just begun and one, I suspect, is a never-ending one. 🙂
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so they say. This morning, I found a sweet little image that said, ‘The way to a woman’s heart is through a bookstore’. And if you’re here reading this blog post in the middle of your workday, night or while on the road, regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, the saying probably applies to you too!
Melbourne, where I am currently based, is well-known for its Arts Precinct, a part of which also includes the Literary Arts. And when we think of literary festivals and fundraisers, how can books be far behind? Walking through the streets of Melbourne, you would be pleasantly surprised at how you encounter a bookstore every 2–3 blocks. Some of them are the typical run-of-the-mill kinds boasting of sales and specials, some are steeped in history and every one of them has a story behind it!
Take two families, related families actually, and have them holiday together. They spend a week together in a neutral place, a holiday home, and interact and relate to each other, and attempt to be one big happy family. This is the plot, in brief, of The Red House by Mark Haddon (Jonathan Cape, 2012, pp. 264). But families are never simple are they, and the families here are no exception. And therein lies the extraordinariness of this book.
Richard and Angela are brother and sister, siblings who have buried their mother recently. Estranged for many years now, they don’t really feel like “brother and sister, just two people who spoke briefly on the phone every few weeks or so to manage the stages of their mother’s decline” (p. 6-7). A week after their mother’s funeral, Richard invites Angela and her family to holiday with him and his family. A surprised Angela accepts.
For Richard and Angela, this week gives them a chance to try to put their estrangement behind them and forge a new relationship. It is a week where 4 adults and 4 children try to “bond” with one another. So who are these 8 “family” members?
The Swiss Family Robinson was one of my favourite books growing up. I received an abridged version of this book for my 10th birthday and it was love at first read. For a 10- year-old girl with a rather active imagination, the story of a shipwrecked family living on a deserted island with nobody but each other for company was extremely thrilling and romantic. The family comprises Father Robinson (who is never named in the book), Mother Robinson (Elizabeth), and their four sons—Fritz, Ernest, Jack and Franz.
I read the book (which was first published in 1812) many times over the years and never failed to marvel at the resourcefulness of the hard- working Swiss Family Robinson who lived off the land, sea and air, or delight in their discoveries, inventions and adventures. In a way, it was one of my comfort books !
So when I recently found an unabridged, second-hand version of the book, I was delighted. It was a much-anticipated read and I was looking forward to reading all the details that an abridged version always leaves out. And the unabridged version of The Swiss Family Robinson did not disappoint on that score—the characters were fleshed out, the various adventures, discoveries and inventions were described in more detail, etc.
Willm Shaksp. William Shakespe. Wm Shakspe. Willm Shakspere. William Shakspeare.
These are the different ways in which the world’s (arguably) best known dramatist’s name has been spelt in documents dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. Funnily, the one spelling that has not been used is the one currently used today — William Shakespeare (1564–1616). One can also not be reasonably sure as to how the name was pronounced either. In fact, one cannot be reasonably sure about many things about William Shakespeare — what he looked like, what was the order in which his plays were written, did he ever travel outside England, his sexuality, his likes or dislikes… or even when he was born. It is quite ironical that while most of Shakespeare’s own works have survived, nothing about Shakespeare himself survives. It is almost as if he did not exist !
Although he left nearly a million words of text, we have just 14 words in his own hand… Not a single note or letter or page of manuscript survives… We can only know what came out of his work, not what went into it… It is because we have so much of Shakespeare’s work that we can appreciate how little we know of him as a person.
All this information and more form the basis of a biography on William Shakespeare by Bill Bryson. Simply titled Shakespeare, this book is based on information gathered from many sources, as well as previously published work and is presented in trademark Bill Bryson style. The book is not just about Shakespeare, his life and works, but is also about Elizabethan England, Protestantism, 16th century London and more.