The Untethered Soul : Book Review

This beautiful book was recommended to me by a dear friend @Sabah who has introduced me to so many new aspects of life, the journey within is one of them. The Untethered Soul is written by Michael A.Singer. The book comes from Michael’s years of spiritual experience. The book is divided into five sections: Awakening Consciousness, Experiencing Energy, Freeing Yourself, Going Beyond, and Living Life. Each section has three to five chapters under it from The voice in your head to Infinite Energy to Stealing freedom from your Soul to Contemplating Death. 

“This above all: to thine own self be true,/ And it must follow, as the night the day,/ Thou canst not then be false to any man.”  

The above lines from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet are the lines that the author uses to give you a glimpse of what the book has in store for you. The deciphering of the above lines by the greatest playwright goes like this: To maintain an honest relationship with others we must be true to ourselves. And from here the author leads you into the first question room of the book. Which “self” is the great author talking about? The one which comes surging high when someone throws dirt on us and we contemplate on taking revenge or the one who gets humbled by the outpouring love of strangers when we speak up the truth. So with this, you begin your journey in the book. 

The author doesn’t pour you with statistical data nor does he call upon psychology experts. There aren’t any religious views or philosopher quotes. He in fact turns to a single source that has phenomenal direct knowledge on the subject that is you. 

In the first few chapters I had a lot of questions but as I moved in the question receded and the understanding of the author’s words started playing its magic on me. I was reading this book along with my cousin @prashant with whom I had a long discussion on the initial section. But then I remembered my friend’s advice to always go with open arms into a subject, the more you open yourself the more wisdom you will find. So after the initial hiccup in the first section, I found myself finding peace and some workable advice on improving myself. There are things that you might already know and there are things that you might have no idea about, this book is an amalgamation of the known and the unknown and bringing it to the forefront. Once it hangs in front of you, you can’t escape to Netflix and chill. You will want to implore and work on yourself. 

The last chapter of the book is “The loving eyes of God” where he talks about our deep direct connection with the Divine which is beyond the personal self. And Michael gives a beautiful analogy here saying that the connection with God is just like your connection with the sun, you might hide from it and live in dark corridors for years but it doesn’t stop from shining and the moment you decide to look for it, you will see it’s there, shining for you.

The writing is very simple and very connectable and the chapters are small, each giving insights on different aspects of self. The book doesn’t boggle you down with information about what generally happens when you are reading spiritual books. I have been recommending this book to everyone who has asked me about a reading suggestion in the past week. More than ever the time requires you to go deeper within, and once you do so you will see the ecstasy you have been searching outside has been there all along.

PS: Please buy the hardcover especially if you are buying from Amazon India a lot of spell check-off in the paperback version. Also as per me, this book is a keeper, so it’s good to buy a Hardcover.  

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders: Book Review

First and foremost a huge thank you to Damyanti Biswas for recommending this beautiful book to me. Once or twice I have reached out to her for writing advice and she remembered that, so thank you for keeping me in mind.

I haven’t read many books on writing, in fact, I can count them on the fingers of my one hand. Not because I don’t like them but because there is too much information out there and half of it is repetitive. But this book, it’s different, trust me. It comes from a long experience of being a writer and a professor of Creative Writing.

George Saunders gives you a sneak peek of his classroom at Syracuse in this book. Here through the stalwarts of Russian literature Tolstoy, Chekhov, Gogol, and Turgenev, and their stories. The book has seven stories from these great writers and each story has been deciphered by Saunders for you, both as a writer and an attentive reader. But at the crux of it is more like listening to a great lecture by a passionate reader who has spent decades understanding these masters of storytelling. You might have read these stories before but somehow when you read Saunders’s assessment of these stories, you sometimes nod your head in agreement, and other times you “Oh!” with wonderment. But for me the highlight of the book was the “Afterthoughts”, after each assessment, Saunders shares his thoughts regarding the story more as a person rather than a professor, and here is where the goldmine is. 

The major themes that the book covers are what is storytelling, what is the base of a story, what as a writer you should be looking out for when writing, how to edit your own story, and to what level. But it also talks about our inner instincts as a writer, how there is no story until we start writing it and how the story becomes its own person, and how it comes alive when you begin writing. The book is more concentrated on the art of short stories where you don’t have a framework like a novel, you have an idea or thought which turns into a story. I think all the writers will agree that most of the time your story ends up being far too different from their initial idea of it. And that’s the beauty of writing, it not only evolves your story but it also evolves you as a person. 

The book ends with a chapter “We End” where George modestly talks about why fiction exists and why we write it but most importantly why we read it. Because our journey of being a reader started way much before being a writer. As Saunder said “So, if something in this book lit you up, that wasn’t me “teaching you something,” that was you remembering or recognizing something that I was, let’s say, “validating.” If something, uh, anti—lit you up? That feeling of disagreeing with me was your artistic will asserting itself.” I have too many highlights from the book, don’t worry I will not share all those here, but if you want to read those, check my Goodreads 😉 But I would like to end the post with one quote that I really liked as a student of writing. 

“Randall Jarrell said about stories holds true for the writers of stories: they “don’t want to know, don’t want to care, they just want to do as they please.” It really is true: doing what you please (i.e., what pleases you), with energy, will lead you to everything—to your particular obsessions and the ways in which you’ll indulge them, to your particular challenges and the forms in which they’ll convert into beauty, to your particular obstructions and your highly individualized obstruction breakers. We can’t know what our writing problems will be until we write our way into them, and then we can only write our way out.”

PS: Highly recommended for budding writers and for readers who want to delve deep into the art of storytelling, or those who want to hone their skills on writing better book reviews. 

PPS: The book has some writing exercises at the end, though I haven’t done mine yet but I am hoping they are helpful.

Weather and more…

Sometimes I have nothing to say or maybe too much to say but everything is so scattered so incoherent that nothing comes out on the paper. Yet I have promised myself that I will write every single day canceling the cacophony of the world around me. I try to dig within to find something to say here. In my country, the most common phrase after how are you is, How’s the weather? And then people do talk about the weather at a stretch, sharing trivial to the most recent upheavals. The most common being rains in the scorching heat of Indian summer. The arid desert winds getting calmly caressed by the tiny tip-tap of the raindrops. The petrichor brings people out of their air-conditioned rooms, forcing them to feel the gentle breeze. The thunder and lightning exciting young kids, who run out of their homes to enjoy the showers. You look around and everyone is standing or sitting in their balconies enjoying this beautiful change. There was a time in my life I used to feel very melancholic during the rain. I think the company has a huge impact on how you perceive things. Here at my home, I embrace the rains as they embrace me. I no longer indulge in nostalgia instead I enjoy the gentle breeze and let it sway me with the molecules of happiness. I look at the birds who are searching for hiding places. Then a pigeon dives and settles himself on my balcony’s sunshade. He then flutters his wings in an attempt to dry himself. And I wonder what an amazing technique, how much cloth we would save if we too like them, could flutter and dry ourselves. No need for fancy towels or changing apparel, just flutter and you are ready for the day or night. I wonder what led us all towards these inventions which have turned our life so complicated. Fashion in itself is an industry of trillion and from making it to selling to wearing it, you name it and you will find people indulged in the business of it. 

And then voila, after all this jibber-jabber of nothing but weather, I finally feel I have something interesting to share with you.

A few months ago I read a French book called Ladies Paradise by famous French author Emile Zola. The book takes you back into the lanes of Paris of the mid 19th century and to the time where departmental stores begin their journey. In today’s world, it is hard to think of a market without giant Malls but there was a time when the world ran with small stores, it still does in developing nations but there too slowly the rampant development is paving way for the malls. So this novel comes alive where a man opens a store but his desire to be the richest and the most powerful giant in the world of fashion leads him to open the first department store. The protagonist Octave Mouret comes up with brilliant ideas of giant advertisement hoardings to no return policy to home deliveries and the world of fashion rapidly changes, leading to shutting down of smaller shops, eventually turning them bankrupt. 

The story showcases how Paris, the capital of Fashion led us all to the present-day Fashion culture. Why was the department store created? Mouret taps on women’s desire to have more, so he places sections in a particular order. So that if a woman enters his store, she leaves without a penny in her purse. His giant appetite to eat up other men’s money through the females of their family makes men vary off him. And amongst this giant world of Fashion unfolds an unusual love story. Mouret who constantly talks about women as commodities and his desire to make them all his slaves is warned by other men that there will be one who will take the revenge of all. And then enters Denise Badu, an orphaned girl of nineteen from a provincial place with her two younger brothers. And things start shifting in Mouret’s world slowly. 

Denise’s character is my absolute favorite, how she is first scorned in the department store for her background and her looks and how slowly with her sheer hard work and her ideas to run the business she turns into a department head. How unlike other girls she never let herself waver and how she kept supporting her younger brothers like a mother. How she is noticed by Mouret and how she resists his advances, refusing to become another notch on his belt; refusing, in essence, to be commodified.

The high points of the book are brilliant comparisons between the new Department store and the traditional ones. The showcasing of the demise of the independent trader by rampant consumerism. The mechanisms of seduction Mouret uses to transform everything for sale into an object of desire. The store leads women, driven by the euphoria of the sheer range of delights on offers and the bargains, into buying what they don’t need, spending far beyond their reach, and in the end resort to shoplifting. They lose their heads, even when they know they are out of control, they cannot stop. 

But the weakest part of the book is its love story, where you will continually question the attraction between Mourat and Denise. Especially Denise’s feelings for Mouret. If like me you want to pick it up for the sheer adventure of discovering the footing of a department store and to see the Paris of mid-nineties, I would surely say go ahead. 

Just a bit of warning, it’s a slow read but an interesting one. 

On this note, I will end my chitter-chatter here. Rendez-vous demain, until then Au revoir.