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abundantly rewarding

In bits & pieces on November 24, 2006 by carinasuyin

I offered to accompany her search for the books she wanted to get while the others finish their dinner. I was done with mine and she would need my student card to get the special discount anyway. In truth, I was dying to get away from a most uncomfortable dinner whereby the most interesting thing amidst the accented banter was the plate of Waldorf Salad. So there I was, seeking refuge among shelves of books and fluorescent lights as we spoke about writing, favourite authors and books. Much to my delight, she loves travel writings too.

I recommended Tiziano Terzani’s A Fortune-Teller Told Me which I had read and enjoyed several years ago. In return she introduced me to Pico Iyer‘s writings. She wasn’t sure if I would like them but said she found them to be excellent reads, very celebral ones in fact. There were several of his books on the shelf and I picked out Tropical Classical: Essays from Several Directions. Ethiopia, Bombay dabbawallahs, Dalai Lama and Salman Rushdie were some keywords in the blurbs on the back cover. The author’s introduction mentioned that he writes for Time magazine and lives as much as possible in Japan. Sounds promising, I mumbled as I scanned the content page and promptly added the book to the stack in my arms.

Seven months later, I finally finished reading it. That has to be my personal record for longest time spent on reading a single book. The Books chapter took the longest to read because it was hard work digesting his reviews of works by Kazuo Ishiguro, Anita Desai, Paul Theroux, R.K. Narayan, Vikram Seth and Henry Miller, among many others. Pico Iyer has a way of making literature most fascinating by making one appreciate why and how different authors write.

Many of my favourite essays in the collection are those on people, places and themes. Iyer’s wit, humour and aphorisms had me smiling to myself in the bus, laughing out loud in my bedroom in the middle of the night and on many a times, read and repeat whole sentences or paragraphs aloud in the bus, the MRT, my bedroom or reciting quotes from memory while taking a shower. His attention to details and his descriptions are so wonderfully thoughtful, humane and vivid, I find myself often pausing in time to wander in his observations and narration. Thanks to Clara, I have found myself a much admired writer.

“Where Naipaul addresses the mind and Rushdie takes off on the imagination, Narayan – like those around him – returns always to the heart.” – an excerpt from The Mailman from Malgudi by Pico Iyer.

“The seasons, in fact, teach us two lessons that both steady and chastise: all things must pass and all things shall return. They tell us that every new beginning brings us closer to an end, and every elegy has within it the echo (and the promise) or a future celebration. They say that love that seems eternal now may soon be a distant memory; and that a new love may come along to revive our sense of eternity. They teach us that suffering is inevitable, and in that inevitability is a constancy that helps to take the edge off suffering. We cherish flowers more than evergreens, precisely because they do not last.” – an excerpt from The Competitive Advantage of Seasons by Pico Iyer

“We have to earn silence, then, to work for it: to make it not an absence but a presence; not emptiness but repletion. Silence is something more than just a pause; it is that enchanted place where space is cleared and time is stayed and the horizon itself expands. In silence, we often say, we can hear ourselves think; but what is truer to say is that in silence we can hear ourselves not think, and so sink below our selves into a place far deeper than mere thought allows. In silence, we might better say, we can hear someone else think.” – an excerpt from Silence by Pico Iyer

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3 Responses to “abundantly rewarding”

  1. Phoar, so long ah. I read halfway and then gave up… it made me feel I was like lazy or something.

  2. Harro Carina, I really enjoy your blog, and look forward to each new post. Found it via the cuppacakes link šŸ™‚ I’ve read Pico Iyer years back, and found it super-duper long. Perhaps I’ll pick up his work again, since the quotes you’ve posted are quite appealing. Thanks for writing =)

  3. Lekowala: Muahaha… alamak deyyy…

    Chun: Hallo hallo! Yeah, it felt like it took forever to read but it’s worth the effort lah because of the many gems e.g. those quoted. Just got another book of his, Global Soul; hope it won’t take another seven months to finish! šŸ˜€ Thanks for reading, Chun!

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