Love and Growing Old

There is a sort of sadness in being an artist, no matter how to the point your work is, it will always be perceived differently by people. At the end, the artist remains confined to the imagery that the reader conjures of him, and then fades away with time. Julie Varion is a victim of this, as she is perceived differently by every character is Lessing’s “Love Again”.

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Julie Varion is at the heart of the novel. A personality so epic, so different, that everyone is influenced by her. To an extent that the fascinations and wishes related to her itself gives the novel fuel and runs parallel to the life of its protagonist Sarah. In a sweep, Lessing does two things, creating a translucent image of a woman who we invariably fall in love with, and creating a protagonist so in love with the character that we cannot help but, sympathise. Then, again there is Stephen, and his love is so different, almost childish in the whole spectrum of things, and he is in love with an artist that has been dead for many years. He calls her his “anima”, a person that completes him. Lessing’s landscape is large and she welcomes in characters with a flourish, each with his personal struggles, and his professional ones, and in this she creates a work that can be treated both as an homage to romance, and a chronicle of growing old.

The best romances are indeed the ones which depict the impossibility of falling in love. And in this book Lessing does so with gusto. Sarah feels attraction and is courted but, her own self stops her from going the next step. The judgement of society, her own experiences, both being a weight tied to her neck. In a way she sees herself growing old and she tries to put it behind her. However, she is herself aware of her age, aware that she is growing old, that she is indeed fading away. In a way, the depiction of how Julie’s perception changes and how the reality of her fades away in the course of the novel, is a parallel to Sarah’s own perception of herself, the self-confidence in the first pages, the professionalism, the analytic mind, all fade away by the end, just leaving the essence of the person.

The reading of this novel is jerky at it’s best. It follows an uneven pace, and sometimes the authors gets lost in her own world while writing the novel. However, it provides a more complete view of the novel itself. So, when in the end Sarah looks at a child in a scene that seems more the stuff of dreams than of reality, there is an emotional connect forged, that makes us think more. Lessing creates an unsettling novel, and many would find it hard to read. But, that might partly have to do with the fact that we ourselves never want to admit that we have grown older.

And about love?
Lessing says ‘Love is merely a madness and, I tell you, deserves as well the dark house and whip as madmen do, and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too.’

Rating – 4.2/5

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Adieu old man

Last night I was up till late. I was trying to make sense out of insensible things I created and then I noticed the news article at the corner of my profile. I don’t cry often but, by then, the tears had been let lose. I was crying. Gabriel Garcia Marquez had died, at the age of 87, still young in the works he wrote. The voice of a generation had gone to rest. A final abode for the person who showed us the world that was Latin America, when few others would. He succeeded too, with his novels, he made images that would capture the minds of thousands and thousands across continents. So, I would message my teacher from the States telling him how I cried at the end of “Love in the Time of Cholera” and though his perception of love is different he would know what I referred to.

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The thing about books it, there are thousands and millions  of books out there that help you grow as a reader. There are very few books that would make you grow as a person. Marquez wrote those books, that forced us to look into ourselves and question, and he told stories like an angel. I remember when I was teenager, I had just suffered a painful break up. It broke me inside. For throughout life I had been told that school relationships and everything would work out, that we had only one true love, and that someone would arrive on a horse any day now, to save us, to take us home. So, when I sat crying on my bed, trying to find the reason why I didn’t deserve love, I ended up reading “Love in the Time of Cholera”.
Did it change me? Perhaps.

Mostly, it left me with more questions and thoughts than I could care to understand or answer. Yet, his poetry hit me hard, it hit me and it made me see things in a different perspective. It left me with hope and tears. Florentino, Fermina, they were closer to me than I could ever hope any character to be. They were mirrors you could stare into and something of yours would stare back. Yes, his writing was not easily read, yes, I encountered problems in following the narrative, but, in my heart I knew that i could read him easily. Because at the end of the day, the guy was a storyteller. It did not matter what story he wrote, of gunfire, or of romance, he would write it with mastery that left you agape, with wonder racing through your mind. And at the end you were left with a story that touched your life, and characters you would never forget.

I feel like I have lost a mentor in the writing world, that I have lost someone who was vital to my growth. Possibly because his stories made me grow up, they were my introduction to an adulthood of sorts and I have never really looked back.

And perhaps after years when i face gunfire, I would remember the moment I opened his book and got lost.

Some Issues with Romance

Romance is possibly the most readable genre on Earth. And no matter what age you started reading, sooner or later you would have come by a romance novel. One of my own first novels was “Love Story” by Erich Segal. The fact is, a tryst with romantic novels is one you simply cannot avoid. And it is probably good too. Romantic novels are one of those novels which because of the topics they cover are quite simply things could lift your mood. However, right now, I have become more and more distant from the genre because reading any romantic novel seems to instill this sense of deja vu in me, this feeling that am reading an old work again.
Romantic novels have basically become a form of fantasy where love seems to be the ultimate medicine for everything. The writers write in characters with flaws and then basically a love interest coming along makes those flaws disappear automatically. Love can apparently cure cancers and AIDS now. Hell, I am sure if someone was writing “love in the Time of Cholera” other than Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Fermina would be fit as a fiddle in that age, and have no wrinkles at all. While optimism in this form is good, it offers a very bad idea to the reader. There is this thought process that a lover can cure anything that you have, and it will all be alright, just because you have a lover. This is basically a very sad way of thinking about love. Love can obviously increase your self confidence and that goes a long way for people to become better but, it does not cure you. You have to aid yourself through that.
When someone abuses you, or you are in depression, you consult a therapist. You get with a doctor that will help you with the issues. Or else you work through those issues yourself. The first point in it being that you should love yourself first of all, before anyone else extends that courtesy to you.
This attitude that romances have of “you are meant to love someone and to be saved by someone” is basically detrimental to characters. Can you believe that? Someone born just to fall in love with someone else? It falls immediately under bad characterization when your character’s ingenuity lies in their soul mates. You cannot write in characters that exist because they have to fall in love with someone else. A feeling that many seem to share. Not only is it wrong from a social perspective, at the end of the day it is a very escapist form of story writing, where you are basically writing a character for the story, and not a story with the character.
There is in fact no problem in writing a fantasy but, you must follow the canonical laws of your own universe. 

The characters themselves are cliche. Love as a matter of fact is a boring entity when you think about it. It is about two people coming together and having escapades, and changing things with themselves and around them. It is romantic to think of it as something ethereal and beautiful but, at the end, love’s nature does not change. What is so different with one love and another is basically the participants. And that is the problem with today’s love stories. The characters seem to fall into this very narrow spectrum. You have to be a certain age, be a certain amount of beautiful and have a certain kind of charm to be in a love story. So, what we get are novels after novels which end up reading exactly the same. The characters are more or less attractive, and are somehow noticed by the other protagonist (who by the way seems to be the player and gives no other girl the time) and it ends up being an experience. Their are many variants. The male protagonist becomes an alpha, an incorrigible fool who seems to have no issue in calculating his years lived with the amount of women have ravished.
“But, cliches are cliches for a reason right? I mean they work their magic”
Oh yes, they are important but, the basic fact is, their past and their actions do not weigh down upon them. Their status is not affected at all by the decisions they take or by the kinds of person they are. if they are insecure about their position to an extent that they must “conquer” women to make themselves feel better they would be the same even while in a relationship. Relationships may change a person but, their decisions taken before the relationship does not stop bearing on them just because they are in love right about then.
Plus, this cliched look at characters also leaves a lot to be desired. Are the other sections of society completely devoid of love? Or just because your rose tinted glasses cancel out everything that is wrong with the society, is the society right now devoid of all wrongs?

Also there is this feeling there which seems to say “Go big or go home” which leads to this huge fights hige decisions and everything. However, as a fact of the matter, small decisions matter the most in a relationship. No one is saying that going big is bad, but, for the chance of going big if you go ahead and make the small things stop mattering it weighs down the story and ultimately makes it look bad. Look, things matter ok. You are going to live with a person, small fights and disturbances do occur. Hell, one of my biggest fights with a friend was about the movies we were going to watch. If you are condensing the story, leave some little details in, leave some rituals. Because hell, those things matter more than the huge fights.

At the end of the day romance has become boring and oft repeated. Almost always containing a particular young and attractive character. It has become a genre which is filled with novels that end up reading like re-tellings. In fact in today, I would admit, a best selling romance novel for me is more of a red flag than bad reviews.