Haibun (literally, haikai writings) is a prosimetric form of writing. The verse of this form is haiku. I have always believed that any reviewer should read the book as a reader first, and not as a reviewer. This book is different. As a student of haiku and haikai forms, as I read this book, it’s as a student first, then a reader and finally, a reviewer. Quite simply because the form that this book showcases, haibun, is one that I’ve attempted quite a few times, but have never been completely satisfied with the outcomes.
When many authors come together in an anthology, they bring their own style to it. And some are better to read than others. The common thread that ties these together is important. In this book, that thread is Love.
Twenty four authors come together in this anthology compiled and edited by four people. The cover is one that I liked, and felt draws the reader in. I’m reviewing the stories in random order.
When different styles of writing come together in an anthology of short stories, the overall impression left on the reader varies. Some might impress more than others, probably. First Brush on the Canvas is an anthology that goes one step further and brings three genres as well as short stories in each genre.
Anthologies are particularly difficult to rate or review, because each story will have its own positives and negatives. There might be few which appeal to me as a reader, and some which feel out of place. When the topic that binds the stories together is one as beautiful as friendship, I feel I can’t help but have raised expectations from it.
Friendship: Bonds Beyond time is an anthology of twenty five short stories from authors residing in various parts of the country. I’ve read each story at a stretch, and then noted down what works, and what doesn’t, and rated them individually.
In a time when the call for women’s empowerment is finding a real voice, the written word doesn’t seem to want to fall behind. I am someone who believes a story can make a difference if it is written well and aimed correctly to tell what is much needed. This book, Her Story, is an anthology of short stories that aim to make that difference. Stories related to matters that actually happen, like gender bias or backstabbing, objectification etc. written by different authors selected from an all-India contest. It sounded interesting. I like it when a book appeals to my muse immediately. It is a positive vibe and most of the time, that brings a wonderful book into my collection. I liked each story and the intent behind the collection as a whole, so am not pointing out least favorite stories, but three of the stories which appealed most to me.
1. A Daunting Journey Indeed, by Neelam Saxena Chandra: What I liked in this story is that the protagonist doesn’t bend to the will of the “babu” no matter what. And does what she can to take him to task too. Even when that possibly becomes a hurdle to her good life, she is determined. I liked that strength. What I would have loved to see was something like an epilogue. What happens to her a few years later, how she’s doing well where she is. That’d have been even more inspiring.
2. A Letter to the World, by Khushi Gupta: This story needs to be read to see that even a situation from which there seems no escape does have one if you believe. And it feels real. I don’t want to believe that it can be real, but even these days, it is. The daring escape of the protagonist and her belief felt nice. What could have made the story even better is a little more length into the mindset of the protagonist. I know that that is not an easy thing to write, but here, it felt hurried through.
3. The Beginning, by Vivek Banerjee: I liked this because it isn’t about a protagonist rising up from a sad state to reclaim her life. Rather, it’s about the nervousness that the protagonist, a doctor, goes through when handling the situation on her own for the first time, and how she comes out on top. And how the next time it happens, she’s surer of herself than before. Perhaps, this is my favorite story from the lot.
I would also like to mention the poems in the title story, which were nice. And the cover design which felt like one trying to break the shackles that bind them to darkness.
Some stories could have been edited better, I feel. The grammar/language felt odd in places. Also, in the hope that a second edition of this book will come out, I would also suggest that Neelam Saxena Chandra’s stories could be spread through the book than put at one go. That way, the styles, which differ with each story, can be seen more prominently. The author profiles could be put at the end of the book to aid this change.
These are, in my humble opinion, stories that need to see the light. So I hope the book does well.
|Title: Her Story|
Neelam Saxena Chandra
|ISBN/ASIN: 9788192982700||Publisher: Petals Publishers|
|No. of Pages: 272||Price: 195|
(© 16th April 2015)
“Obsession is the single most wasteful human activity, because with an obsession, you keep coming back and back and back to the same question, and you never get an answer.” – Norman Mailer
And yet, that’s what most of us tend to do. We obsess about some things and continue to do so, at times without even realizing it. The thing might be something that’s deep or something that’s frivolous, but it means something to us, or we think it means something to us, so we do it, we look for it, we hold on to it, we obsess about it. Frankly, we’re sometimes obsessed about obsession; though when it came to this book, it was more the cover page than the title that intrigued me. It showed loneliness, and that to me is one aspect of life, which is central to the book.
“Obsession: Stories about Life and Death” is a collection of short stories written by four authors. Each story explores human character, where lies that tendency to be obsessed with something. It explores emotions, both of the one who is obsessed as well as those around them. The stories made me smile at times, and at other times, shake my head in exasperation noticing their foibles and sometimes relating them to my own life.
My favorite story from the book has to be “Letting Go”. It’s the story of a death and life of the family after that death. It felt real. It felt very real. It strengthened the thought that death may take a person away from the world, but only the body dies. The person’s soul stays on, their presence stays on, and it’s hard to let go of that presence. Love keeps that presence there, and in that obsession with that love, one might not look at or understand the state of mind of others around them. The overwhelming feeling of sadness is such that another’s sadness will not seem big enough. The story showed this very well.
My least favorite story was “The Making of a Married Woman”. The reason I didn’t like it was that it was too long, and too one note to hold my interest completely. After few pages of the story that goes on for nearly 60 pages, I could know where it was headed, what will happen at the end, what the obsession was and who was obsessed. It didn’t hold my attention from page to page and I flipped quickly through pages rather than look at every word. I accept that there are people like the protagonist(s) in the story though.
Every story in this collection has a voice. Some I listened to eagerly, and some I just heard nearby. Most were beautiful, all were different and I liked reading them. The writing style is simple, fluid and at times, intense. It’s a collection that I will read again (at least the stories that I loved).
Title: Obsession: Eternal Stories of Life and Death
Gurpartap Khairah, Suraj Sinha,
Bishwa Sigdel and Stormy Hazarika
Genre: Short Stories
Publisher: Tara India Research Press
Price: INR 299
(30th December 2014)