“We Need to Talk About Kevin” – A Powerful Book About Ugly Things

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“You can only subject people to anguish who have a conscience. You can only punish people who have hopes to frustrate or attachments to sever; who worry what you think of them. You can really only punish people who are already a little bit good.”

― Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Those lines summarize the whole personality of Lionel Shriver’s protagonist Kevin in We Need to Talk About Kevin.

“Had I catalogued the downsides of parenthood, “son might turn out to be a killer” would never have turned up on the list.”

What happens when you give birth to a child who doesn’t have any conscience, any emotion to speak of, and who is downright evil? You got to recognise the abnormality and get medical help (that’s the best one can do as a parent). But, in ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’, Eva Khatchadourian despite recognising the tell-tale signs, failed to do anything about it and lost everything that was life. Franklin, on the other hand, seemed blindly oblivious to his son’s faults and failed to see the things shaping toward a doomed end. Kevin, he was evil: born that way. Some kind of medical help could have helped him (or may be not). But Eva, I disliked her as a mother: for being so cold and aloof; for seeing Kevin for what he was and not doing a single thing about that. Although, in the end my heart cried for her as well (what else a mother could have done?).

 

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If you are a parent, do read it. Once, at least. But I warn you it is a powerful book about ugly things – difficult, depressing, dark, and soul-dampening. It will stay with you for a long time.

Neena has compiled ‘YOU left me, sweets two legacies:Famous Love Poems’, a collection of 61 famous classic poems under her pen name Avira N.

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“Hardships make or break people.” ― But what about kindness Scarlett?

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When I first read Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind”, I was completely blown away by this historical saga of a coming-of-age story of survival, of endurance. Despite the length of the book which was over 1000 pages, the pace never turned sluggish. I finished it in less than a week. Then, I eagerly waited for other members of my book club to finish reading it, so we could’ve a discussion. Everyone, as expected, loved the book but not for the reasons I imagined they would love. I was appalled to realise everyone else loved it because of Scarlett’s proto-feminist badass characters.

Surely Scarlett was strong, passionate, and brave. She was self-willed and a survivor. But she was also cold, calculative, and utterly manipulative. She was shallow and insensitive. She, for the entire part, could not respond to genuine emotions of those who loved her, pursued Ashley Wilkes throughout her three marriages for reasons that at most could be called inconsequential and vain. She literally seemed incapable of feeling genuine emotions. Her behaviour was considerate only in case of matters non-vital.

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Scarlett O’Hara was a spoiled, selfish girl in the beginning. The adversities of the Civil War turned her into a hardened, scrupulous individual. Whereas, Melanie never lost her humility despite going through the same set of adversities as Scarlet went through. It was really shocking to realise that many people dismissed Melanie’s goodness, her self-sacrificing nature, and her gentleness as a weakness of character.

For me, Scarlett came out as a negative character. I disliked her all through the book. I was relieved to know that even in the end, Mitchel didn’t change her. Because I don’t think a person can really change, not the soul at least. Change of attitude, behaviour, habits, interest do occur; that’s just personal growth over the period of time. But a person’s soul, the inner core deep down, it never changes. I loved Mitchel for that. She took a negative character and made it her protagonist. Now if we look at general definition of a psychopath, a psychopath is a person with a psychopathic personality, which manifests as amoral and antisocial behavior, lack of ability to love or establish meaningful personal relationships, extreme egocentricity, etc. If not a complete psychopath, Scarlett, definitely, exhibited enough personality traits to be put in the category of partial psychopaths. Many people would argue that she was considerate enough, however, her consideration was limited to superfluous matters. The things that mattered most, she couldn’t care enough.

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In an interview with a Sunday Journal, broadcasted on radio in 1936, in answer to a question about Scarlett’s character, Margaret Mitchel clarified how hardship, poverty and sorrow of the war changed Scarlett from a selfish, egocentric, but otherwise normal Southern girl to a hardened adventuress. That officially should clear the matter for those who perceive and suggest that Mitchel wrote a flawless character in Scarlet.

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Until a few years earlier only the term ‘feminist’ was considered trendy; the era where a woman was celebrated for her accomplishments. Nowadays, the term ‘badass feminist’ has become a trend. The term ‘badass’ was originated in 1950s: from the adjective bad + ass. Badass is defined as either — a tough, uncompromising, or intimidating person or — a formidably impressive person. Nowhere, it’s defined as selfish, egocentric, corrupt person.

Badass feminism implies celebrating the women for their kick-ass attitude, but seemingly, it is purposely, insistently, and widely misrepresented and misunderstood. Instead of idolising a selfish and awful protagonist like Scarlett how about idolising Charlotte Bronte’s Jane of “Jane Eyre” or L. M. Montgomery’s Anne from “Anne of Green Gables” or Louisa May Alcott’s Jo from “Little Women” and of course Melanie! The list goes on and on. It’s disheartening to think how people in general prefer a Scarlett over a Melanie.

Neena has compiled ‘YOU left me, sweets two legacies:Famous Love Poems’, a collection of 61 famous classic love poems. The book is:

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Being A Mother – A Short Prose

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I love my kids.

I love their laughter and their voice, their thousand little questions about anything and everything.

I love smell of their bodies and touch of those little hands, the thousand kisses and the big bear hugs.

I love how they love everything I do for them — make a cake or read a story, massage their heads or bake an apple pie.

I love how they trust me to fix anything and everything—an aching ankle or the bad dream, a bad day in school or a broken heart.

I love how they think I’m always right—be it a disagreement or an argument, a war of words or a real quarrel with their dad.

I love how they awakened the emotions—raw and deep and sharp, I never knew existed inside me.  I love how they were part of my body once, connected to my soul.

I love how they taught me the meaning of selfless love and putting others first.

And most of all, I love how they gave birth to a new me; a Mother who was not there before and how they taught ‘that new me’ to stop judging my mother and father and recognize their selfless love.

Neena has compiled ‘YOU left me, sweets, two legacies: Famous Love Poems’, a collection of 61 famous, classic love poems under her pen name Avira N. the book is:

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Confessions of a first-time writer

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It’s been a month since I finished writing my first book and I’m still in vacation mode: plenty of library, bookstores visits, and once again, I’m on a reading spree. Although writing definitely was fun, it took out the biggest pleasure out of my life-cut my reading time to almost nil. I hated that in the beginning. There were moments when I wanted to leave my book midway and go back to my old routine of a few hours of compulsory reading squeezed into otherwise hectic hours of my days. Countless times, I regretted my decision of taking to writing. Being a full-time mother of two young children and doing thousands other chores around the home was difficult enough. What kept me going in the beginning then? My vanity! Yes, it was vanity that wouldn’t let me quit. I didn’t want to prove myself a failure in others’ eyes. Before I started writing, I had proudly announced my new undertaking to the world (well, not the world. But yes, many people other than family and a few friends). I had no choice other than to stick to my writing then. No matter how humble we consider ourselves, we never can escape vanity completely. Not us, humans. I was no exception. And then, as I would make progress, another idea would pop in my head; a better idea, more appealing, utterly tempting. Countless times, I resisted the urge to leave the current work midway and work at the new idea. Sometimes I wrote a wonderful episode or a chapter and realized I couldn’t use one of my other chapter. Then to make the matter worse, I loved both my chapters too much to cut either one. And thus, I had to change the plot once again to fit them together. Painfully, slowly my book started taking shape. It was gratifying. I knew I was in love with writing then. It was still exhausting; to manage kids, home, and writing all at once. My hands itched to write, but there were thousand chores I had to finish first. I wrote everywhere and anywhere I could carry my laptop and had more than half hour on hand. I wrote at my kids’ swimming classes, my daughter’s dance classes. I wrote while I chatted with my sister on phone. (yes!). I wrote like a maniac. I was so happy the day I finished my first draft. Little did I know that was just the beginning. The editing was tough. I had to rewrite many episodes again and take out previously written ones out. It was difficult enough to part ways with words and sentences I had written with passion. Taking out paragraphs and full pages killed my spirit. By the time I finished my final draft, I had taken out around 35,000 of words. Now, one and a half year later, my novel is complete. I haven’t found publisher yet but hoping to get one soon. Now, I’m contemplating whether to start my second book in the series or write a standalone. It’s a difficult decision. And again, thousands plot ideas are sitting in my head. All I have to do now is zero in on one and I will be good to go.

Neena has compiled ‘YOU left me, sweets, two legacies: Famous Love Poems’, a collection of 61 famous, classic love poems under her pen name Avira N. the book is:

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Kids, Books, and Reading- Getting My Kids to Love Books!

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The first time I learned I was going to be a mom, I knew my boy would be a voracious reader. I vowed to make him a book addict, in case, he inherited my husband’s genes who was awfully allergic to literature. Some people were appalled at my idea of forcing my interest on my children, readers among them. But I had a beautiful bookcase in our home office; its shelves laden with all my favourite authors from Tolstoy, Fitzgerald, Wilkie Collins, Steinbeck, Jane Austin, Alexandre Dumas, Gabriel García Márquez, Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, P. D. James, L. M. Montgomery, Sue Miller, Rowling (as Galbraith), John Irving, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Daphne du Maurier, Markus Zusak, Bernhard Schlink to countless others, all collected with passion and waiting for my boy (and his little sister) to grow up and read those one by one.

When he started kindergarten, I began my efforts of turning him into a reader. It wasn’t a problem. He loved books. He loved dinosaurs and woolly mammals. He loved books about bugs and spiders and lizards and snakes. He loved learning about wolves and sharks and extinct species. He loved books about cars and trucks and how the machines worked. He loved everything non-living and living (which has no feelings). He was hungry for knowledge. I was proud of his tastes, but at the same time, I knew he had to love fiction as well if he wanted to fall in love with reading on the whole. He was a practical, down-to-earth little boy, so unlike me—his mom: a sentimental daydreamer, and he had no love for anything fictional. Our library visits comprised bag full of tree house DVD’s and a solitary story book (that I never get a chance to read to him anyway) with ten books about wild life. I started with every available classic story for boys, tried storybooks with animal characters (considering he loved wild life), and shifted to comics like marvel, then in desperation tried almost every manga, superhero sequels and everything and anything I thought he would find interesting. Nothing worked. And then at the beginning of grade two he started reading fluently, got a fantasy book as home reading from school one day and fell in love with the book, the series, and the reading. It was so easy. I thought I had tried everything. Obviously, I had missed fantasy. By the end of grade two, he had read over two hundred books, mostly full series. Grade three introduced him to Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and many others. He is a hard-core reader now; the kind who never leaves home without a book. He takes book to family get-togethers, doctor’s office, grocery shopping (seriously!), long travelling, playdates with cousins (yes!) and anywhere else he knows he has to sit doing nothing over two minutes. He is equally passionate about fiction as well as non-fiction.

By the time his little sister started school, I was ready for her. I had experience. I started with my boy’s favourites. She hated everything her brother loved. Once again, I was left clueless. It took me all of her kindergarten, grade one to third term of grade two and countless books to learn that she loves manga (the mysteries). I started that way too; never could get enough comics. I know there are people who would roll their eyes at comics, manga. As a voracious reader, I know you got to read everything from bad to good. I don’t believe a book can be bad; it’s the writing that is good or bad. Every book teaches you a thing or two about life. Now I don’t care about the shelves full of my favourite books anymore. My kids might read those; it wouldn’t matter if they don’t want to. There are millions of books to read; thousands of awesome books to fall in love with. They will have their own favourite authors, their own favourite genre. I’m happy knowing they love reading. All of you who love books as much as I do will understand my bliss as a mom of hard-core readers.

Neena has compiled ‘YOU left me, sweets, two legacies: Famous Love Poems’, a collection of 61 famous, classic love poems under her pen name Avira N. the book is:

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