Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category


Started reading “My Name Is Red” by Orhan Pamuk. Found the writing style so engaging that I stopped reading the other book I was reading and kept reading this one instead 🙂 Hope to finish this one during the upcoming Eid holidays!


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Finished reading this book by Nadeem Aslam just now. What an engaging and intense book! Confession: Not much of an English fiction fan, especially the books set against the background of wars. However, this book entranced me to the point that I couldn’t keep it down, finishing it in 3 days. This is the second book in one month to affect me at such an emotional level. Feels like I have gone through the tiresome and excruciating journey with the characters of the book. Exhausted I feel.

“For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.” (Isaiah 9:5)

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During my recent visit to UK, I went to the Lake District. Spent a night and a day there. On top of my list of things to do in the Lake District was ‘visiting Dove Cottage‘ where the great English Romantic poet William Wordsworth lived with his sister, Dorothy. My friend and I took a day pass for the bus and went from Windermere to Grasmere. The tour of Dover Cottage was worth the journey, and the sights on our way were breathtakingly beautiful, especially for a city-dweller. It was amazing to see Wordsworth’s room and the window from which he would look out at the beautiful surrounding area. On our way out, we stopped at the book-and-gift shop at the Dove Cottage. That is where I found this book. The tour guide had mentioned it during the tour and, after reading a few lines from the book, I decided to buy it along with another book by Wordsworth himself.

I started reading this book on my train journey from Windermere to Edinburgh. Having been through some of the places mentioned in the maps included in this book, I felt I could relate to the book more. This time, I made sure to note down the things that I noticed while reading this book.

Book: The Grasmere and Alfoxden Journals

Author: This book is the published version of Dorothy Wordsworth‘s personal journals. Dorothy was the younger sister of the famous poet, William Wordsworth. The journals were not meant to be published and were used by Wordsworth as a source of inspiration for his works.

Editor: Pamela Woof is the editor of this book. She’s a lecturer in Literature at the Center for Lifelong Learning, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Editor’s Notes: The book comes with a detailed Notes section which helps the reader understand the individual journal entries in much more detail. From the detailed Notes section it is evident how much research has been put into compilation of this volume. The person at the bookshop had advised me to read the book without the Notes first, followed by another reading with the Notes. I have only read the book once but have used some of the Notes and found them very useful.

Sections: There are two sections of this book. The first one consists of The Grasmere Journal (written during 1800-1803) and the second one consists of The Alfoxden Journal (written during 1798).

My Observations: What did I notice when reading this book? Dorothy’s beautiful writing style. She is a true journal writer. The Alfoxden Journal is a short journal spanning only a few months. The style and focus of writing in the Alfoxden Journal is different from that used in The Grasmere Journal. The Alfoxden Journal is more detailed, more focused on describing the natural beauty surrounding the author. When you read the journal entries it feels as if the author has taken her time to compile the entries. The sentences in this journal are complete and not hurried. Also, the entries are less personal than those in The Grasmere Journal in that the scenery is more prominent than the author observing the scenery. Towards the end, one can notice the presence of the author and the entries become more personalized. Some sample phrases from this journal: “very delicious pathway“, “the young frisking and dancing in the sun, the elderly quietly drinking in the life and soul of the sun and air.” We read more about William and Dorothy’s walks, especially late-night walks. Also, Mr. Poole and Coleridge seem to be regular visitors at the Wordsworth house.

The entries in The Grasmere Journals are more hurried and use short phrases to describe the daily experiences. Dorothy also uses lots of short forms e.g. Wm or W for William, C for Coleridge; Rd for Richard. Maybe because Dorothy became busier during her stay there? Whatever the case, the contrasting styles are hard to miss. We see more personalized accounts of events and the surrounding beauty. Themes of this journal’s entries include: walks; cooking; mending; sewing; gardening; weather (cold, rains, hailstorms, winds); headaches; staying up till late at night while walking, reading, writing or simply talking; writing letters; receiving letters; reading, writing, and walking for letters on a daily basis; writing or reading literary works; sending notes for daily communication (no phones!). Nature seems to be part of the Wordsworths’ daily lives. Multiple, long walks almost every day was a common feature of Wordsworths’ lives. Dorothy walked alone, especially till late at night, which is something I envy. Dorothy was a keen observer and paints vivid pictures with her words, even when she uses simple phrases and not long sentences. Another thing I noticed here was that the spellings of many words differ from their current spellings (e.g. Sate instead of Sat). At some places, punctuation marks are missing. It is good that the editor has kept Dorothy’s punctuational nuances as it gives the reader a true feel of reading Dorothy’s journal. It does, however, mean that sometimes one has to re-read a sentence to understand it completely.

Enjoying tea and food at friends’ homes was also common. Every time I read Dorothy mention tea, I wanted to drink some myself. At some places, Dorothy mentions about carving their names in a tree or a stone. I wonder if that stone is still there. At one place, she mentions a bridge where William worked on a poem. Is that bridge still there, I wonder. Should refer to the Notes section. The bad weather and its effects on daily lives is also a constant theme. I wonder if this weather (cold and damp) affected the people and their health, even making them depressed to some extent.

But.. no theme is more prominent in The Grasmere Journal than William. The journal starts with William and ends on him. Maybe because Dorothy and William were very close and had to depend on each other for support, especially emotional support. Dorothy’s journal provides a rare insight into William’s daily life and, especially, his writing. How he obsessed over his work, be it an original poem or a translation. His issue with sleep is also evident from this journal’s entries. Dorothy shares her concern about her beloved brother’s sleep issues and sometimes reads to him in the hope that it would help him fall asleep. William’s long walks, his time spent in the orchard, and his writing or editing poems is the theme I loved the most. Sometimes, Dorothy mentions when William wrote a piece, where he wrote it, when and how he edited it, or what inspired him to write a particular piece. This is surely a treasure trove for anybody interested in William Wordsworth as a poet and a man. His exchanges with Coleridge are also an important theme of both the journals. Coleridge was a regular visitor and stayed with the Wordsworths quite often. His health issues are also mentioned in quite a few entries.

While reading these journals I couldn’t help but compare the way Dorothy and the people of her time enjoyed the simple pleasures of daily life, with the current obsession with keeping a photographic record of everything. Living in the moment was more important than recording it. Yes, Dorothy did record her observations in her journal as William did in his poems, but these were more of a reflective exercise. Are we missing something by being too focused on capturing every image instead of focusing on the sights and sounds around us? I also cannot help but compare the lives of the people from those times with the message from Pico Iyer‘s book about “The Art of Stillness“. Isn’t this what he is taking us back to? To live in the moment.

Simply put, I LOVE Dorothy’s journals. They offer a peep into the lives of the people who lived in the Lake District over 200 years ago. Dorothy was a keen observer and excels at describing what she observed in such details that it felt as if I was observing the scene myself. Best of all, she took me closer to Wordsworth – the poet and, more importantly, the man. My introduction with him was through his poem ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud‘ (aka The Daffodils) which was part of our school curriculum. This phrase has been with me over the years. But now, after visiting the Dove Cottage, and the Lake District, and especially after reading Dorothy’s journals I feel much closer to Wordsworth. The journals are a must-read for anyone interested in Wordsworth and the life in English countryside 200 years ago.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0 (can be read multiple times, especially some sections)

Afterthought: Dorothy would’ve loved blogging!

I end my review/observations with some pics from my visit (yes I am also a photo-taker like many of you) to the Lake District and the Dove Cottage. The rest I will upload in a separate post.

The Dove CottageThe Dove Cottage

View from the Dove Cottage

View from the Dove Cottage

The street view - albeit with houses built much later

The street view from the Dove Cottage – albeit with houses built much later

View from the vantage point near the Dove Cottage (Dove Cottage is the white colored cottage hidden behind the trees)

View from the vantage point near the Dove Cottage (Dove Cottage is the white colored cottage hidden behind the trees)

The Daffodils Garden - managed by local volunteers - the sights and sounds here bring you peace and tranquility

The Daffodil Garden (managed by local volunteers) – the sights and sounds here bring you peace and tranquility

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Embrace me then, ye Hills, and close me in;

Wordsworth – Home at Grasmere

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Further to my post about my Goodreads.com Reading Challenge 2014, I am happy to document that I’m at 92% achievement. i.e. 22 out of 24 books. The last one I finished was The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. I started reading this book (print copy) while I was reading Azazeel (English translation, e-book) by Youssef Ziedan. The Azazeel book was taking time to pick up pace, so I moved to the 4-Hour Workweek book. Being on a 10-day long field visit with natural beauty around didn’t help much with Azazeel either. Anyway, I read more pages of Tim Ferriss book in 3 days than I had read from Azazeel in 10 days. Sorry, but this book is SLOW. I finished the Tim Ferris book and have started reading Adultery by Paulo Coelho in parallel to Azazeel (140 pages and continued). Let’s see which one I finish first.

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So, I finished reading Arianna Huffington‘s book ‘Thrive‘ during the 6-day long Eid holidays. After reading an e-book it was time for a normal p-book. I chose Biblioholism – A Literary Addiction by Tom Raabe. I have read this book back in 2006/2007 when a friend graciously brought it for me from her NYC trip. My online order receipt from 2006 is still inside this book! My reunion with this book is the result of my sister’s cleaning spree mentioned in my earlier post. I don’t remember if I read the whole book when I read it the first time; so, I decided to read it again. It is an easy and light read. Tom’s humor is quite good and reflects his true biblioholic side.

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