Bicycles: Love poems

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The crown and other stories/ Rabindranath Tagore; translated by Ranjita Basu

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The Crown and Other Stories
ISBN: 8129101815

These shorts would be excellent discussion topics for bookclubs. And among older children and teens, even adults. Different age segments would be able to talk about the stories from different viewpoints.

The writings are concise, though I suspect the translated works convey an old-style English quality that may seem more to “tell” than to “show” the reader, but still flavourful enough.

“The Crown” is about three princes, who are brothers. We learn how the youngest sows the seeds of discord, playing on the second brother’s need for affirmation to the first; and the eldest being seemingly too straight-forward for his own good.

“Giving and Owing” tells a tale that made me wonder if it is still happening today: a man marries off his daughter at an enormous amount of dowry he could not afford. He resorts to borrowing the money but still falls short. His snobbish in-laws ill-treat the daughter because of the inadequate dowry payments. The man is saddled with debts, his entire extended family suffers. Eventually his daughter passes on from neglect by her in-laws. Ironically they spend lavish amounts of money on her funeral and even incurs significant debt to do so.

P48. “The world is a scientific laboratory for the workings of Destiny”

Story structure architect: A writer’s guide to building dramatic situations & compelling characters/ Victoria Lynn Schmidt

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Story Structure Architect: A Writer's Guide to Building Dramatic Situations and Compelling Characters
ISBN: 9781582973258

As the title says, this is a guide for writers on how to create dramatic situations and believable and compelling characters.

I thought it’s also a good reference guide for media studies students, who may need to analyse/ critique plots and scripts.

I thought the various “scaffold” provides a way to plan the overall story. Writers often face the problem of not knowing how to continue (or begin, or end). Though this guide was not meant to be the prescriptive text, I thought it would help get past writer’s block.

The book comes in four main parts:
Part 1 – on drafting a plan
Part 2 – on building the story structure
Part 3 – on adding stories (this is the bulk of the book, explaining the “55 dramatic situations”)
Part 4 – on finishing touches (talks about research and how it applies to writing; famous authors say their secret to success is research; book poses a series of questions for consideration, to prompt for areas for further research).

P28. The traditional story structure has a clear beginning/ setup (Act I), middle/ development (Act II), and end/ climax & resolve (Act III). There are usually turning points at the end of acts I and II.

Structures include: The roller coaster ride, the Replay, Fate, the Parallel, Romance, the Journey, metafiction, the slice of life.

Example, the Melodrama elements has: in the traditional Act I, the hook, mood/ tone, villain, main characters, turning point. New elements are: conflict comes between characters, the villain could be one of the main character. The guide also poses questions for the writer, like “how does the character rub the villain the wrong way?”, “will you add betrayal to the turning point?”

The 55 dramatic situations (for creating believable characters as well) include: “Vengeance for a crime and Rehabilitation”, “Revolt and Support”, “Adultery and Fidelity”, “self-sacrifice and self-preservation”.

Example: in the “enigma and invention” situations involving a Seeker and Interrogator, the questions posed are “what is the main cause for the seeker to approach the Interrogator?”, “how do the seeker and Interrogator meet?”

Between water and song: New poets for the twenty-first century/ edited by Norman Minnick

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Between Water and Song: New Poets for the Twenty-First Century
ISBN: 9781935210078

You need a certain level of consciousness/ mindfulness to appreciate poems. I suppose that applies to most aspects of life. The best and most expensive wine in the world tastes like water if we merely gulp it down.

Some poems in this collection made me re-read it over and over, replaying the imagery in my mind’s eye. Some poems just make me want to go “Yeah!”

The title itself was pure poetry (probably taken from the title of a poem by Maria Melendez, who’s also featured). I mean, “between water and song”… the sound that water makes while bubbling through a brook and cascading down a fall. Akin to a song, and yet not quite. But not to mean it’s incomplete, for poetry is music in a class of it’s own.

“It begins in the leaves,
a hush that precedes all weather…”
– Kevin Goodan’s “Theories of Implication”.

Some are concise, right to-the-point, profound in its simplicity. Like Ruth Forman’s “Risk”:

You cannot discover
new oceans
unless you have courage
to lose sight of the shore

Jay Leeming’s “Apple” is another favourite of mine, bringing out new perspectives from a seemingly ordinary thing (i.e. the fruit). I read this with a touch of familiarity and wonderment:

Sometimes when eating an apple
I bite too far
and open the little room
the lovers have prepared,
and the seeds fall
onto the kitchen floor
and I see
that they are tear-shaped.

BTW, Leeming’s “Supermarket Historian” is another nice one. And I’m not the only one who thinks highly of his works.

I’m inspired to write about my childhood, as a poem, after reading Terrance Hayes’s “The Blue Terrance” (excerpt):

I come from a long line hollowed out on a dry night,
the first son in a line of someone else’s children…

The collection is edited by Norman Minnick.

Ruth Forman
Ilya Kaminsky
Malena Morling
Kevin Goodan
Jay Leeming
Terrance Hayes
Luljeta Lleshanaku
Sherwin Bitsui
Maria Melendez
Valzhyna Mort
Eugene Gloria
Brian Turner
Joshua Poteat
Maurice Manning
Chris Abani
P312 – poet’s biographies.

In-cover page says: “The publication of this book has been made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency.”

Peng’s complete treasury of Chinese radicals/ Tan Huay Peng

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Peng's Complete Treasury of Chinese Radicals
ISBN: 9789814302418

I thought this was about dissident Chinese nationals through the ages. But I was wrong, in a good sort of way LOL.

It’s about the origin and explanation of various sets of root characters (radicals) in the Chinese written language.

Didn’t read the entire book, but it’s a easy-to-understand reference. I’ll be buying a copy for myself. Useful and handy-sized reference material for my home.

Macbeth: The graphic novel, plain text version/ William Shakespeare; script adaptation, John McDonald

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Macbeth the Graphic Novel: Plain Text (Classical Comics)
ISBN: 9781906332044

Complete play, in full colour, translated into modern English (like titles in the Classical Comics series, there are the ‘Original text’ and ‘Quick text’ versions).

End section – interesting factual info on William Shakespeare, the real Macbeth (Mac Bethad; “Son of Life”), Macbeth and the Kings of Scotland, the history of Shakespeare’s Macbeth (possible reasons for writing it, and why the script may have developed in that manner), how the graphic novel pages were created, about the Globe theatre, and organisations and initiatives carrying on the Shakespeare tradition.

Hamlet: A novel/ John Marsden


The blurb made me borrow the book:

“John Marsden has done what a legion of educators, my parents, a great number of my more literate friends, and my read-anything-you-can-get-your-hands-on grandmother failed to do. He has made me, for one glorious moment, love Shakespeare. Marsden’s version of Hamlet is smart, tough, lyrical, thoroughly readable, and uncompromisingly engaging… I now get Hamlet.” – Chris Crutcher, author of Whale Talk, Deadline, and Angry Management.

ISBN: 9780763644512

Which turned out to be true for me too.

I got Hamlet.

The opening line: “”Do you believe in ghosts?” Horatio asked him.”

Very different from the original, as to be expected.

The fear, of a more accessible version, is that it would dumb down a classic. Marsden’s version assuredly does not. It does bring out the prose and plot more vividly.

I tried reading the original play to be sure. It confirmed that without Marsden’s work, I would not have gone past a fifth of Act I.

For sure, Marsden exercised creative license in accentuating the parts that modern audiences would relate to. Well, the Shakespeare purists should stay away from this book, if only to prevent a blood vessel from bursting (no fault of the book but more due to anal-retentivity, heh).

I bet teen readers would identify with Ophelia’s teenage angst, complicated by the onset of puberty and desire for Hamlet. Also of Hamlet’s spiral towards what may seem like insanity; of his rage upon confirming his uncle’s betrayal; the tension between his anger and disciplined respect for his mother.

Marsden retains aspects of Shakespeare’s word play, like in Hamlet’s retorts to Claudius’ lackeys, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

What I couldn’t quite remember was whether Marsden used the classic line, “To be or not to be, that is the question”, in his version.

I see this as an excellent primer for modern readers, before they attempt the more “serious” Shakespeare.

I enjoyed Julius Cesear for Literature class in Secondary School. But only because my teacher made sense out of Shakespeare.

While I appreciate the texture and imagery that Shakespeare can conjour from the reader’s mind, attempting Shakespeare on one’s own was a challenge, let alone trying to force it down an already reluctant bunch of kids.

Marsden makes sense out of Hamlet. And in doing so, he makes the wit and drama of Shakespearean plays more accessible.

This is a YP book, but also relevant for adults who have not read Shakespeare.

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