When I was a kid, before the usage of the internet was popular, I bought my books exclusively by browsing through the bookstore and picking up what looked interesting. I didn’t always buy and read books belonging to series in the right order, allowing my imagination to fill in the bits that didn’t quite make sense. But the overleaf or the last page of the book would contain the names of the other books in those series and I would keep an eye out for them. When I finally found and read the prequels of the books that I had read first, it was a cathartic experience. I’ll never regret reading my books in this strange way. But it did mean that I ended up getting stuck reading a certain author or publisher a lot.
The only reason my reading didn’t stagnate is because I tended to gravitate towards books about people that read a lot and write a lot and want to be writers or are writers, as a kid. (Whom am I kidding? I still gravitate towards such books)
In these books, there would be those treasured times when these fictional people that I felt I could relate to so much, read real books by real authors. And then I would get extremely excited and go hunt down those books. I found one of my all-time favourite children’s books, A Little Princess, this way. New books! New worlds! So magical.
To date, I adore reading books about obsessive readers and writers; about people who didn’t drop their reading habits, blaming adulthood for their default. And I adore books about writing and the writing process even more. My all-time favourite book (Spoiler alert: It may be toppled soon by a new book) Bird by Bird is about writing. And nothing– NOTHING– can beat the joy of getting book recommendations from such books even in the age of Goodreads and Booktube.
One such book that I had been reading for a while now is M Train by Patti Smith. It’s her second memoir, and it released in 2015. I took some time to get my hands on it because of Amazon’s idiocy, and it took me some more time to make myself read it because of the enormous number of unread books I have. I decided to start it over after reading about a third of it because I wanted to annotate it. After all of these obstacles keeping us apart, I finally finished reading it last morning. She reads like me, but more so; getting obsessed with authors, with stories, with the lives of the fictional people in those stories, etc. And she has made me fall in love with her and with all of the things she loves. She thinks of writing as prayer, the way I do. I feel like she just gets me. I got so many book recommendations, so many author recommendations from her, that I felt cross-eyed. I wonder how many books I’ll own and have read by the time I’m her age.
In one part of the book, she speaks about how much she loves Mikhail Bulgakov, and I’ve had one of his books on my shelf for absolute ages and I bought another one recently. So… I’ve decided that it’s time to give this Russian writer a chance, even though I have a rubbish record of finishing Russian books. I haven’t finished anything by Tolstoy, I didn’t finish Doctor Zhivago, or anything by Gogol till date. I just think that the Russians have a style of writing that involves a hell of a lot of backstory and digression, and I’m unused to that style. Maybe once I’m accustomed to it, I’ll actually be able to read the other authors too: Especially Pasternak, because Doctor Zhivago has such an interesting premise, which is right up my alley and I really, really want to be able to finish it.
So get tuned for two Bulgakov books in a row, and stay tuned because it’ll take me forever at the speed I’m reading these days.
What do you guys think of Patti Smith’s books? Her music? Do you like Bulgakov? Do you read any Russian literature? Tell me in the comments!
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Keeping reading, guys!