[Book Review] One of the wittiest autobiographies

Naked by David Sedaris seems to be his attempt to sell the humor of his life. David manages to  create out of the saddest events, some reason to make us smile. While the attempt is worth the shot, the emotions around it are too intense to let a good laugh out. The detachment he tries to pose makes be question if I am reading his own life story. Parts of it seemed exaggerated to maintain the rhythm of his thoughts and keep the reader interested.

So why did I read it till the end? While there are 100s of authors who would write an autobiography, what makes David’s stand apart is the ease with which he himself looks at it not in the hindsight, trying to figure out what went wrong, as Elizabeth Gilbert or John Sculley , nor as an effort to educate or propagate an ideology, like Jawaharlal Nehru or Mahatma Gandhi, but as a reality show he might have seen and decided to write about. He has the capacity to find fun and satire in his life situations. It is only when a particular emotion is touched the second time in some other context, that his true feeling about it is revealed. In one of the initial chapters, he is looking at his father as his mother’s American-culture loving, unwary, chastising husband. In another chapter, much later, he shows his own distress of being a son of that father. Initially his friend Veronica is a play and adventure mate. Later when his only means of contact with her is through exchange of mails, does his reminiscence and love for the friend shows up.

The satirical start

For the first 100 pages, David has written satire on his own family describing seemingly unavoidable but extremely unpleasant circumstances. These are mostly anecdotes from his childhood. I assume that this is the key in allowing him the freedom to relate the emotions he felt then and create some other details to knit a satire without seemingly hurting anyone. So even though he loses his grandmother or his entire family hates his father, it is adroitly put. There are a couple of chapters interspersed with the tragic confrontations, on hilarious situations his family finds itself in.

Sharing the real adventures

As David’s story grows into his teens, his tone gets more emotional as he unfolds his perception of the cause and effect of the events. While the immense struggle of his life is apparent from the very start, he seems unable to hide it behind his wit anymore. He introduces parts of his character just the way they might have dawned upon him. The story telling takes some scenes to laborious lengths that it seems more apt to skip a page or two. By the time I reached the end of book, it seemed less of a pull and more of a necessity to get to finish it. But overall, worth picking up!

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The awkwardness of forced socializing

Human beings are social animals. When my civics book claimed that, I could see how it made sense. I could not enjoy my lunch all by myself. It was always fun to have as many members in a pitthu team as possible. When my best friend left town to meet her grandparents, it made me upset. So it fell into a completely logical place. I think this blog itself to one extent is a reflection of this desire of being social, albeit digitally.

What I fail to see however, is why would someone force socializing on another being?!

Here is what I am talking about: My parents would have endless friends. Most of them would have kids in my age group (+- 4). The worst times of the childhood were when we kids would meet, not get along and would still be bound to ‘go and play’ almost once every 2 months. So while I recognize that unwarranted gatherings will invariably be there, I have always been looking at ways to get past them.

Societal games

My parents got me a lot of board games. I can say beyond doubt, board games are a comfort, at least in situations when you don’t really understand what else you can ‘play’ within the house, without breaking a glass. Also, my parents loved buying educational games. So the likes of Memory, Word boggle and Branvita easily got added into my favourites. I was quick and sharp in these games. So these social gatherings became more tolerable. But it wasn’t always true for the other party (the other kid). For all you know, he might suck at those games and would want to play carrom. Then that became a question of who was the host of the party. If you are partying in my home, you have no option but to play what I offer. So even though you see the carrom board peeping from behind the almirah, I cannot remember where I kept the stricker. And since it’s my territory and we are both forced to stay within it, you got to play by my rules. That I think is rule of of handling the social gatherings.

The situation always favours the host. There are times when I have witnessed exceptions though. For instance, if you are the host, but your parents tend to favour the other’s child over you. Though this will not happen very often and I would never wish this upon any kid, I think at times it happens when your parent’s perception of an ideal child is met more closely by the other kid. In that case, in their attempt to ‘help you become better’ they may intervene and favour the external party. Too unfair. That moment either makes the two of you, enemies for life, declaring a cold war, or if the parents are lucky, you actually get their point.

Subconscious reactions

There are days when you meet your friends and wish your parents and their parents got along. That would mean more time to spend with the people you like! Even though you try real hard and it may in turn become a reality for one off case, it is a difficult bet. So the mind starts plotting its own zone of comfort in unpleasant social situations. l remember counting the number of balloons in one such birthday party. I would estimate a number and see if the actual matches the estimate. Their can be any version of the balloon story the minds develop. But one thing is sure, you sub-consciously develop your own dialogue when you can’t have one outside, without sounding offensive. Another way of enjoying the moment is when people are able to create their minds space in their surrounding. For instance, when I met these ‘friends’ I would wait for the discussion to move to ‘how I am a good girl’ or ‘how my school was amongst the best in the city’. Those were things that concerned me. I had an opinion about them and I get the opportunity to share my mind. Another case would be, when I downplayed the fact that I wasn’t the host, and got my way of spending the evening. This last one wins for being the best possible scenario!

On growing up

With time, you have to consciously get involved in forced gatherings. You know they are ugly. They don’t relax you. The spoil your TV schedule and eat into your ‘me’ time. But they are all around. Of so many people I meet at so many different places, not many seem to enjoy, unless they are their my their own will. But they are trapped their like a mouse in a trap, only entering it by choice. Choosing against will, is one of the traits of growing up. So while childhood has taught me multiple ways of turning the perceived drudgery into a fun time, I do have some key guiding principles.

  •  The larger the gathering, easier it is to excuse yourself.
  •  Closer the relationship dynamics, larger the role of mutual consent.
  •  For unavoidable situations, offer yourself small enticements.
  •  Always keep some board games.

Choosing your best way to turn an unwanted meeting into a pleasant time is one of the timeless arts one should not have to do without. It takes some experience, experimentation and an inevitable role of gut. The character that it builds is another key dimension you would seldom appreciate. But if you pull this well, there is one thing less to fret upon. Looking at the frequency of such situations one encounters, the subconscious weighs mastering this art over the risk of going gaga. But for all the mastery and lessons, those occasions that fail to attract you, as a grown up you can choose to reject. THAT indeed is growing up!

The unacknowledged creativity of wits

One thing that didn’t dawn upon me until recently, was this: If I were to choose from being a producer or a financer, what would I choose?

The owner class

When you have made a product, you want it to stay. You wish to see it go big and grand. When you own the product, you have seen its birth. But more than that, you have nurtured it, and its dream, even when you weren’t working on it. Creation is a very passionate and emotional process. Just like an artist would savour his painting, sculpture or design, any product is developed through the same mesh of dedication, dreaming and the intense desire to ‘build’. So whenever I meet people who have generated an idea and given it a form, I see their love for the product in their demonstration. It will be technically precise and sharply placed in a bigger picture, as that piece of a puzzle that will now complete the maze. The sense of conversation prompts you to wonder if you agree that there was indeed a missing piece. If there was indeed, then you may wonder if this product really is the answer. That product guy might have similar thoughts and will tend to question himself a million times about how that piece really fits into this invisible puzzle. Eventually, if the prototype manages to attract enough attention and find its practical utility to pay back the expenses that went into the process of shaping it, it might be onto something. From that point, begins the journey of the creator, into the unknown adventurous path to immortalise his identity.

The observer’s lens

People work hard to make ends meet. With ever increasing scope to own things and establish new levels of comfort (and eventual discomfort), money becomes the key to a lot of problems (and solutions). So when this ‘creator’ wants to grow big, he meets one of those who have an appreciation for this process of creation and hopefully sees the potential of commercializing it. By the way, I think there is nothing wrong with the idea of commercialization. It in fact, is an obligation upon the artists to create value for their work. So unless the world finds an alternate means of exchanging goods, attracting money will remain an essential ingredient to the potpourri of living. So this dear person, the investor ensures that the business concept gets funded. He also looks into the process which brings the product in the most easily consumable and widely desirable form. The love of the product remains seated only as deeply, that it can wither some clouds of uncertainty. At the end of the day, this person is here to make money. So, for all the parallel lines he may wish to draw in the organizational structure, the process of commercialization alone reflects his merit. The moment this piece of art loses starts losing its monetary value, the investor knows he made a wrong decision. This one wrong decision may cost him his money, reputation and credibility. He believed in the claim of the creator-that-and insufficient scrutiny are his career’s nightmare.

The believer class

The creator will remain the originator and face behind the product. If the product fails, its short lived fame may still leave him fulfilled with an eternal sentiment of having made a contribution. But this investor, who didn’t own the product, risked his money, placed bets on the traction, is left empty handed. So even before he enters the game, he knows his risk. So very simply, he can only be that much involved with the product. The process of discovery for the investor is to establish validity in one of the dreams and take that idea to be a monetized success. It involves the complexity of creating a business and striking a balance between the product and its demand. This person can be as dedicated as the founder himself. But at the end of the day, he needs to remain objective. Also, living all by himself, untouched by the sacred bond of ownership, he knows the value of his gamble. But gambling is another art all together. A bet where there is no product to establish the validity of wit. The only testimony to a successful execution is money.

Which side would I rather be? I would choose being an inventor, the creator. Betting has never been my stronghold. Neither has been objective detachment.

100 Writing Days

So I really liked the way #100happydays created true value of happiness in so many individuals (and their friends on social network, especially facebook)

When I talk to myself, I know, for me, it can only be a ‘100 writing days’ challenge that I would love to take up and make it through.

I am sure I am not the only one who feels it is difficult to write everyday. Even though our lot yearns to express themselves through writing, it is difficult, because it needs a lot of dedication. It needs that undying spirit to not be able to go to bed before writing your piece. So I am starting with #100writingdays

It’s my way to keep up with my life by giving in to the fantasy of being able to share by writing and reading.

I think I will make a quick rule book for myself, so that the blog, despite being an attempt to instill discipline, does not end up being a drag. So here is what I promise myself:

1. Every entry shall be re-read twice before it is posted

2. I will try to keep it over 200 words everyday

With this, I declare, #100writingdays OPEN!