A Little Life By Hanya Yanagihara: Book Review

The book opens up with a scene where four college friends, JB, a painter, Malcolm, an architect, Willem, an actor, and Jude, a litigator, are having lunch on a bright sunny afternoon in New York City. They are laughing, bantering, and eating like all other friends, but as you move up in the story, the breezy life of attending parties, finding apartments, going on dates, and gossip diminishes. The writer has very intelligently made you comfortable in your reader seat only to stir discomfort in the book’s latter pages. The prose is written in an eternal present day by scrubbing away references to any historical events. The effect is that it brings the character’s emotional lives to the foreground rendering the political and cultural Zeitgeist into vague scenery. As the pages turn, the ensemble recedes; with it, Jude comes to the fore and remains at the center. 

Jude, who’s 16 when he arrives at an affluent New England college with only a backpack of baggy clothes, parentless and horribly scarred. His legs disfigured in an incident whose details he guards as closely as everything else about his past, he’s profoundly aware of his “extreme otherness.” The book slowly discloses luridly gothic episodes from his life before college. “You were made for this, Jude,” he’s told by the only adult he loves, a monk who betrays his trust. Consequently, Jude comes to believe that his suffering is the result of his abandonment “He had been born, and left, and found, and used as he had been intended to be used.”

The book is scaled to the intensity of Jude’s inner life. The cutting becomes a leitmotif. Every fifty pages or so, we get a scene in which Jude mutilates his own flesh with a razor blade. It forces the reader to squirm with a queasy experience of the brutal world. Jude’s suffering is so extensively documented because it is the foundation of his character. His sense of self comes in waves of elaborating metaphors: he is “a scrap of bloodied, muddied cloth,” “a blank, faceless prairie under whose yellow surface earthworms and beetles wriggled,” “a scooped out husk.” His memories are “hyenas,” his fear, “a flock of flapping bats,” his self-hatred a “beast.” 

“A Little Life” keeps the queer suffering at the heart of the book. It uses the middle-class trappings of naturalistic fiction to deliver an unsettling meditation on abandonment, horrifying physical and sexual abuse, prostitution, abduction, and the difficulties of recovery. The collective traumas like sickness and discrimination, which have deeply shaped the modern gay identity, are approached obliquely. The writer has avoided the conventional narrative of coming out or the AIDS issues. 

For Jude, the relief comes in the form of career success and friendship. In addition to his law degree, Jude pursues a master’s in pure mathematics. At one point, he explains to his friends that he is drawn to math because it offers the possibility of “a wholly provable, unshakable absolute in a constructed world with very few unshakable absolutes.” Yanagihara has balanced ruthlessness by swashing us with the warmth and sunshine of friendship. Each friend of Jude’s tries to make innumerable accommodations to his daily needs. Malcolm, by designing spaces that will accommodate his disability; JB by painting kinder portraits that the eye alone would see; Willem by being the one person to whom he can tell his entire history. Willem and Jude invent their own type of relationship, which isn’t officially recognized or immortalized through words, but is truer and less constraining than legalized ones.

Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified.” The prose beautifully depicts how friendship can be the primary relationship for some people. I loved how the book portrays the lives that are rarely depicted in popular art – a life without marriage and children. How, in periods of crisis, Jude’s friends monitor him like hawks, taking turns to feed him and keep a close eye on his self-harm.

For Jude, his friends are his only refuge and savior in this toxic world. Yet the ending makes you realize that in the end, you are really left on your own. Even though so many friends come in and out of Jude’s life, nobody is really able to save him. And that part is a very accurate reflection of, lot of adult lives. 

Published My First Story

Hello everyone, I know, I have been out of writing spree for too long. It’s been more than a month, and I haven’t written any post here. But in my defense, I have been busy with personal stuff.

Firstly, I was traveling overseas. Being my first travel abroad, I took time off from writing and instead put my focus on engraving the vibe of the city. 

Then I was busy celebrating Diwali with my family after a long time. 

When I returned to the city, where I live currently, I was in chaos, cleaning up my home like a mad person. 

After I sorted out everything, I took the challenge of writing a short story for the PentoPublish2019 event by Amazon. 

A huge thank you to all the people who have helped me in the journey of writing my first published short story.

Honorable mentions: 

Prats, I can’t thank you enough, from sharing the first link of pentopublish2019 to asking me now and then about my writing status, I will always be indebted to you. 

Deepika, an already published author, gave me excellent feedback, I used a few of her pointers to improve the quality of my work. 

Sri, who is my soul sister and a fantastic writer, gave me the green signal and excellent suggestion, which I used in my final edition.

I also went to my brother, who gave me a good pep talk after reading my first draft, and to my dismay, it helped me a lot. 

Lastly, a huge thank you to my dear friend Gallimaufry, for reading my first three chapters and pushing me to complete it on time and suggesting various things when it came to designing the book cover. And bearing the frustrated me and helping in the final edit of the story. You are fabulous, and you know it. 

Here is what I realized while writing, every writer tells you that writing is easy, but its the editing after the first draft, which makes you mad. And you never understand this emotion until you work on your first edit. I was a little heartbroken after getting feedback on my first draft. In my head, I have written a brilliant piece that has no flaws. So I took a four-day break from writing and reading my story. When I went back to editing, I could see flaws in my writing and started editing it. I understood what everyone’s feedback and tried to apply the changes. But there were points about which I was very adamant; I didn’t change it even in the final story.

Here are the few suggestions, if you want to start writing :

  • Make a ritual when it comes to writing. I stuck to early morning writing with a cup of green tea, it helped.
  • I wrote every day at the same time; after two days, you realize your mind starts working at that particular.
  • Even if nothing comes to your mind, still keep staring at the page, after half an hour or so, something always comes up.
  • Last and foremost, write the story you would love to read. Don’t think about the audience when you are writing, write to unleash the unsaid words of your soul.

So here, I am sharing my short story with people who gave me honest feedback to date on my writing adventure. I hope you will once again share your honest feedback with me.  

Hazel : The untold short story of a ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances

Three ways

Sitting here, in dark,

I watch you,

Bathing in luminous pale light,

You glow,

With sheer whiteness,

Like a moon.

And I ponder,

The what ifs.

Will this proximity,

blur your innocence,

Or,

The purity of your heart,

will snuggle me.

Does my darkness,

Holds the power,

To engulf you.

Or is it other way round,

Where,

your light will seep in,

Filling the hollowness of my heart.

Will this,

Crossover jeopardize everything,

Turning your world upside down.

But what if,

The world looks glorious,

Upside down.

Or,

How about,

meeting in the middle,

Where your shine,

Sprinkled by my grayness,

As a silvery beauty.

What if,

The dark of my side,

Will open the chain,

Of your phosphorous glow.

Or,

Is it that,

Somewhere hidden beneath,

All the layers,

Of our worldly views,

there is us,

In all our nakedness,

Entwined,

Twin bodies,

With just,

one soul.

Building a simple,

Three way street.

A memory for my daddy

Dear Daddy,

On this birthday of yours, I want to unleash one beautiful memory that is part of you and me. I don’t know how much of it you remember now, after all, you have a terrible memory. But somehow as I am growing up in years, my mind wants to hold on to all the precious memories of my past. Unlike other families, we don’t have too many photographs of us. But I have memories that keep me going in difficult times. These memories remind me that I was, I am, and I will always be loved.

So please hold my hand, to walk back into the time when I was so little that you used to carry me in your arms and take me out for the simple pleasures of riding a bike.

The light breeze making my short hair sway, the rustling of our clothes against the wind, and the feeling of flying like a bird. You, me and our weekly Sunday rides, on your black atlas bicycle. The little me sitting in front, on the crossbar and you on the rider’s seat, taking us away from the chaos of the world we inhabited.

The roads awaited us, and we ventured on them as if we both were on a secret mission. The lanes were different each time, but the destination was always the same. The deserted road surrounded by Aravali range with big brickyards on the side, there stood a war memorial. Unbeknownst to many, it was a hidden treasure that you found for our outings. You would sit on one seat, smiling at me, and I would circle the memorial stone reading the names aloud. Sometimes you shared stories about different wars that the soldiers were fighting. You explained to me how the people named on the stone laid their life for the country we all call home. The little mind of mine would not understand everything that you would say, but it realized one thing at that time. The place of our outing is not a regular place, it was as sacred as a holy place.

At other times the two of us would sit in silence, each lost in musings of once mind. The silence taught me that sometimes it’s much more important to feel the same thing rather than having a conversation about it. After all, always talking doesn’t mean we are conversating. In that calmness, I learned to listen to my soul at a young age.

You gave me a precious gift daddy, and here I am merely attempting to preserve the memory of the beautiful experience you gave me. Thank you for the best childhood a child could ever ask for, from a parent.

Happy 64th birthday daddy, I wish good health and blissful days for you, in the years to come.

Love
Your only daughter

Missing you

I miss you,
Miss you terribly today.
The warmth of your hug,
The serenity of your smile,
Those love filled eyes,
Your fragrance,
Your fingers holding mine,
Telling me things will be alright.
I miss your silent presence
Next to me, in bed.
I wish I could crawl back
in the time,
lay my head on your laps.
I miss,
Your wet kisses on my face.
I miss,
holding your saree’s border
while crossing the street.
I miss,
You’re calling me Queen Victoria,
and bowing your head in front of me.
I wish,
I could go back inside your womb,
and be there always,
safe from the outside world.
I miss your hands,
wiping my flowing tears away.
I miss our laughter,
your jokes and our talks.
I wish,
I can be nine again,
where you were the cure,
for all my daemons.
I miss,
long head massages,
that you gave me
in my headaches.
I miss,
just being a daughter,
and nothing else.
I wish,
I could hide,
behind you,
like I used to do,
when someone unwanted approached me.
I miss,
Miss you Maa,
even though I know,
you are a phone call away,
But,
I miss being with you.
I miss you,
terribly, terribly today.

This song truly depicts my emotions right now. Listening it in a loop from last hour or so and letting my emotions flow freely, with my words and tears.

The Last Gift

In the crowded lanes,
Of the bustling city.
He kept searching,
for something,
that would glorify,
her alluring charm.
Something that will be,
like a missing diamond on a crown.
Wandering,
On the streets of the flea market,
his eyes fell,
on the palette of earrings,
hanging on a board.

#earrings #mumbaistreetmarket

Bewildered,
by the array of choices,
he closed his eyes,
envisioned her angelic face.
Choosing carefully,
he picked the one,
lying on the muslin cloth.
Holding it up,
in the sunlight,
he saw vestige of their,
fragile relationship,
in that exquisite,
Oxidized silver pair of chandbalis.
Paying with trembling hands,
he realized that,
this is, his last token of love,
to her.

PS: The idea of this poetry struck my mind when I saw a guy buying a pair of earrings in Colaba street market on my recent trip to Mumbai. I always find it fascinating when I see a man buying jewellery for a woman 🙂

Note:Chandbali Earrings were originated during the Mughal or Nizam era in Hyderabad.

Dear Moon

#moon #yourstruly

Lying on my black couch
I peek at your bright face
I see you
Blushing, with love
The love
You are holding
Inside your mighty little heart
For the one you love.
It reminds me of our old days,
Your tapping on my window,
My coming out in the balcony,
To look at your pretty face.
Late nights,
countless talks,
And sharing everything
Under the same sky,
You have been my companion
in my lonely nights,
You still bring the warmth
to my little heart,
but when I see others
proclaiming you
putting your
mesmerizing pictures out
I feel sad,
As none of them,
Share their story,
It is like putting,
Your half heart out for someone.
You can never love,
Anyone, anyone
Half-heartedly,
And if you do,
then I pity you,
Because love means
Giving all of you away,
to that someone.
I wish that the one you love,
Will let the words,
Bleed,
To declare,
Their love,
For You.

A Christmas to remember

“In this season of warmth,
Comes the memory of our year twentieth.
Filled with joy and laughter,
Making us believe this shall remain after.
Where every moment was brighter than the last,
That’s how I remember our glorious past.”

All the Christmas that I have witnessed so far in my life, the one I celebrated in 2008, stands out clearly in my memory. I was in my Graduation final year living in Gurgaon with a most fantastic set of friends one can ever have. We all knew that this would be our last holiday season with each other, we decided to have fun instead of lazing around in our college campus.
My friend L, who is a movie buff, decided that we should watch the upcoming movie Gajini, first-day first show. Now the thing was that this movie was Aamir Khan movie and everyone wanted to see it. Hence there were pre-booking of the tickets. L who was ever confident in his skills of getting tickets kept telling us to have faith in him. The funny thing about L is his overtly optimistic attitude, and we knew every group has its ticket except us. So I decided that the task should be given to H who is a go-getter and get things done. I called up H whining about the inefficiency of L in getting us the tickets and asking him to do the task. It was so last minute that though we ended up with seven tickets for our group, the theatre which we got was outside the city.

As per our itinerary, we decided first to visit the church in the city and then watch the movie. Anyone who has ever lived in Northern India knows what winter mornings look like in there. Dragging our bodies out of bed and layering ourselves with the woollen clothing we ventured together on this trip.
L and G were day scholars while the rest of us were living in the hostel campus, we decided to meet both of them at the nearest bus station. G being G was way before time, by the time we reached there she has turned into fire throwing dragon and L like always was putting water on her anger.
After throwing a few cuss words at all of us, she decided to calm down. Its then we took an auto and went to the church. G’s schooling was from convent school, so she knew her way around church and masses while the rest of us were clueless. We followed her around like little puppies. She bought candles for us; we lighted our candles outside as the inside was already overflowing with candles. Looked around the church, said a quick prayer and headed out. I wanted to see what a church mass looks like on a Christmas Day, but as we were short on time, we ditched the idea.

We took a bus from outside the church to reach the movie theatre. It was in a newly built mall where the only thing that was open was this theatre. As soon as we entered the theater, we saw a bunch of guys in the gajini haircut and wearing a shirt and vest. For more clarity, I will add the picture of both here.

The gajini haircut
The handsome sanjay singhania look

I must say the Sanjay Singhania look is the only Aamir look that worked for me, the only time I found him handsome.
We were shocked to see that people could be this crazy about an actor to get such a weird haircut.

We finally entered the theater, fought for seats, this was always an issue who will sit with whom, L who was movie crier like me always sat far away from me. So one side I had M, and on another hand, I had H to entertain me between the scenes. I must tell you I have a problem of talking between the scenes if I like something I will nudge the person next to me to see their reaction. Of course, this has stopped after I got married because my husband watches a movie with a pin drop of silence, in fact, he doesn’t even let me eat popcorn while watching a movie.

I will not write about the movie, as most of the people especially all Indians must have seen it, if not then you should watch it. The thing that makes this day a memorable one is the fact that all of us watched this movie in utter silence and when the film finished we were still in total silence. No one spoke anything, with a heavy heart we pulled ourselves out of the theater, hired an autorickshaw and sat silently for the next 15 minutes. Its then H said, “Itna sarnata kyu hai Bhai” (Bro, why everyone is so lulled). We all laughed together and then one by one we all shared that the scene where the actress gets hit by a rod, a tear rolled down our eye.

The thing that made me sad was that she died without knowing the true identity of the actor. This movie holds a special place in my heart due to several reasons. First this was the first tragic movie we ever saw as a group; otherwise, we always went for comedies or action thriller. Secondly this was the first time I ever cried seeing a romantic movie; otherwise, romance doesn’t make me sad, until its tragic. Third, this was the first time I celebrated Christmas Day.

We all felt uneasy for so many days while discussing this movie and its scenes. The film has beautiful songs in it, but the one that stands out for me is this one.

The lyrics are so meaningful that it melts your heart. I always wished that someone will dedicate this song for me someday, I think all of us did in our group 😛 But then no one did, in fact, I recently I asked my husband that would he mind dedicating this song to me 😀 After all he should feel lucky to have me in his life 😉

I want to write much more about us, but then words wouldn’t be enough to justify my feelings for this gang of mine. It was my first ever group, a group which made me value friendship and the love you share with your friends. It is the only WhatsApp group where I am an active member. It’s here where I go when I feel low, it’s here that we still find the past so funny and hilarious. It’s here we talk about the silly stupid crushes and all in between our college life.

We all are in different stages of life, most of our married except H and I think he doesn’t even plan to 😛 Some of us have kids others are still enjoying being happy :D, but we always find a way back to each other. We haven’t seen each other as a group from the last five years except me, M and G always end up meeting somehow once a year, but yet all of us are connected by what we shared once. After all, it’s not easy to keep the 12 years of friendship going without any fight amongst in the group.

So L, H, M, G,B, and P you guys are one of the best things that ever happened to me. I cherish every minute of our friendship and love, and I still read our last letters to each other 😀

PS for my friends: I might have mixed up a few things, so guys if you are reading this blog and you feel I have messed up the sequence of events then I can’t help it. After all the writer has the last say 😉

PPS: L we don’t have any picture where its just 7 of us, all thanks to you 😛 . The magnanimous one 😀 So whenever we meet next time its your duty to click a G-7 picture 😉

Ending this post with our group song 😀