The heavens suffered from diuresis after a full day of intense heat and humidity. The asphalt road sizzled as the unceasing rain poured into it. I was brewing tea when all of a sudden all the water from the sky came down with a vengeance. Babar, my dog, and I rushed towards the front door. The amount of downpour washing away the dust in the air of this arid city is a beautiful sight. Babar wagged his tail excitedly and I was smiling ear to ear. We both love the rain. My plants on the front yard lifted their heads and arms to welcome the long awaited shower. I can almost see them smiling too. I looked gratefully at the sky and sent my thanks to the heavens for this blessing. The terrible heatwave that cursed the land for more than a month is now over. Relief for all has come. Of course, I am trying not to think of the flooding that will inevitably follow this. I wanted to enjoy the cool, wet weather for now.
So with a warm cup of darjeeling tea and my dog dozing cozily near my feet I settled on my cushiony sofa and I opened the book, The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, with anticipation. The one I picked from my bookshelf to snuggle with in this special occasion. Finding this book was quite a tale in itself.
I have been reading lots of novel in iBooks and Kindle lately but the novelty of reading books that way was fading for me. I started longing to hold a real book in my hands. I was craving to feel the texture of the paper as I turn the pages with my fingertips. To breathe in the scent of an unopened paperback. I was thinking about this when my feet led me to a bookstore one Sunday afternoon after totally abandoning the the weary task of trying on new clothes. Discount sales were going on and madness greeted me at every shop I poked my head into.
Scanning the titles on the shelves I was alarmed to see how the books in the fiction section were greatly reduced. The corner was looking so forlorn with only a scanty selection of best sellers huddled together. Children’s interactive books dominated the aisles now. Last time I was there the shelves for fiction were occupying half of the area. Books then were easy to find with the author’s name arranged neatly from A-Z. I wondered if most of the publishers are now opting for the e-book edition of novels. I can see the appeal in trying to cut down production costs but it saddens me.
Dejected that there were very few choices left to choose from, I browse the titles unenthusiastically not at all hopeful that I would find the kind of books that will be worth my time to read. I picked up an Amitav Ghosh novel since someone recommended it to me. But still I was not satisfied. I want a book to speak to me. To beckon me. I was about to give up when a book hidden from under two more books caught my attention. The cover was a black and white photograph of a woman immersed in a book. I could instantly relate. The title was familiar and promising. ‘ The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.’ Now the word notebook for me is romantic. As a young kid my notebook where I scribbled my thoughts was always firmly clasped to my chest. I love notebooks. I fell in love with the book instantly before knowing what it was about.
So now, as a wet breeze kissed my cheeks while sitting in front of the garden ( which is now getting deliciously soaked in the rain) my anticipation and expectation mounted as my fingers opened the front cover. My fingers delicately glided over the title page and excitedly flipped to the first page.The novel started with a conversation between two female friends. It sounded kind of sterile and not what I was expecting from such a romantic title. The first paragraph always sets the tone of the story for me and I was hoping for something that would enhance the ambience of this lovely rainy afternoon. Not something like this,
The two women were alone in the London flat.
“The point is, ” said Anna, as her friend came back from the telephone on the landing, the point is , that as far as I can see, everything’s cracking up.”
With the beautiful symphony of rain falling on the treetops and on the pavement as my background music I was kinda hoping for something like this instead,
I remember, in no particular order:
– a shiny inner wrist;
– steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it;
– gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house;
– a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams;
– another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface;
– bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door.
Now, isn’t that the most charming and captivating first sentence for a cozy weather such as this. But I have already enjoyed, Julian Barnes ‘The Sense Of An Ending’ on a rainy day very much like this last year. I was hoping for a similar experience.
As I read on, it occurred to me that the Golden Notebook is about communism or socialism. The time frame of the story was about 10 years or so after World War II. The women’s lib was just beginning. I groaned. I’m not sure if I am interested in that subject right this moment
Although the initial chapters contained many insightful observations about art,” Art is the mirror of our betrayed ideals”
about writing, “the important part of writing is living”. You have to live in such a way that your writing emerges from it.”
about novels,”One novel in five hundred or a thousand has the quality a novel should have to make it a novel – the quality of philosophy.”
and the hypocrisy of war,” This war was presented to us as a crusade against the evil doctrines of Hitler, against racialsm, etc., yet the whole of that enormous land-mass, about half the total area of Africa, was conducted on precisely Hitler’s assumption–that some human beings are better than others because of their race.”
This is not really the kind of novel I want to get lost into today. Come on, it’s raining. I was thinking more along the same genre of ‘ The Book Thief ‘ or the same tone as “Inheritance of Loss’ or at the the very least something poignant as ‘Atonement ‘.
With” my enthusiasm doused I closed the book. I am sure it’s going to be an amazing read later on. Just not today. No. Not today. I sipped my tea, watching the rain. Babar, my dog is awake and begging for a tummy rub. I delightfully obliged.
“I am sure everyone has had the experience of reading a book and finding it vibrating with aliveness, with colour and immediacy. And then, perhaps some weeks later, reading it again and finding it flat and empty. Well, the book hasn’t changed: you have.”
― Doris Lessing