Listening to Maya Angelou’s A Song Flung Up To Heaven

Listening: What it means to me
If a case has to be made for audiobooks, it is definitely when authors narrate their own works. Authors ensure tonal changes are exactly as they intend, and the listener need not rely on interpretations of a narrator. And Maya Angelou makes a superb case for audiobooks.

Maya Angelou
I just finished listening to Maya Angelou’s “ A Song Flung Up To Heaven.” Listening to Maya narrate her autobiographical work, will convert even the diehard opponent of audiobooks.

I am not reviewing the book here, but stating why listening to Maya was for me an exquisitely memorable experience. Not only is she a talented writer, but also a world class orator. She has a beautifully rich voice, and can control it as nimbly as classical dancers their muscle twitches. Her language and accent are moulded by experiences, in rural Arkansas, San Francisco, numerous US cities and four years in Ghana. Being a renowned poet, her voice has a lyrical ring to it. Continue reading “Listening to Maya Angelou’s A Song Flung Up To Heaven”

I’d Pick More Daisies

Pics of Daisies from a road side stall in Montreal Canada, pic by Arun Shanbhag

I’d Pick More Daisies

If I had my life to live over,
I’d try to make more mistakes next time.
I would relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been on this trip.
I know very few things I would take seriously.

I would take more chances. I would be crazier.
I would take more trips,
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I am one of those people who lives life sensibly and sanely;
have done so hour after hour and day after day.

Oh, I have had my moments;
and if I had it to do over again, I'd have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else.
Just moments, one after another,
instead of living so many years ahead each day.

I have been one of those persons who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a swiss army knife, a raincoat and a parachute.
If I had to do it over,
I would go places and do things and travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over,
I would start barefooted earlier in the spring
and stay that way much later in the Fall.
I wouldn’t make such good grades except by accident.
I would have more dogs;

I would have more sweethearts.
I would go to more dances, and
I would ride on more merry-go-rounds.
I’d pick more daises.

Author: Nadine Stair

Note: This is not in the form the author originally intended; There are a few lines which do not appear in the original.

Enjoy my other life-related posts:

Pics of Daisies from a road side stall in Montreal Canada, pic by Arun Shanbhag

Novels people are reading in Boston, June 2004

Novels people are reading in Boston, June 2004

A few months ago, I posted my observations on the reading preferences of commuters in Boston. With a new summer upon us, the trees have dressed up, the grass grown taller and the skirts shorter. To match pansies in bloom, toes captured for the winter in heavy boots, are finally jumping with joy, free in sandals, in bright hues and occasionally toe-rings. My earlier observations still hold, and I further emphasize that more women appear to read novels on the train than guys. The novels appearing now are very different from a few months ago.

Here is a quick list of what people were reading on the Red-Line in Boston over the last few days. As before, this is a random sampling. Any from this list you like? The novella seemed interesting to me.
Arranged Alphabetically by title:

  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, (L Volokhonsky & R Pevear, Translators)
  • The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger (Two)
  • Dirt Music, Tim Winton
  • Four Past Midnight, Stephen King
  • The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices, Xinran Xue
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond
  • In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences, Truman Capote
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
  • The Middle East and Islamic World Reader, Marvin E. Gettleman & Stuart Schaar (Editors)
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
  • Ruby River, Lynn Pruett
  • The Runelords, David Farland
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend, Laura Hillenbrand
  • Shopgirl: A Novella, Steve Martin & Martin Steve
  • The Stranger, Albert Camus,
  • Sword of Shannara: In the Shadow of the Warlock Lord, Terry Brooks
  • To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf

DaVinci Code: Layered Writing

Here are a few thoughts on the book’s writing style. I am not a writing expert, nor a linguist, just a discriminating reader.

In the book I sensed three distinct writing layers (for want of a better term) The strategic plot dealing with the catholic church, the secret society 'Priory of Sion,' and da Vinci's art are well thought out, very thoroughly researched, and provides very juicy historical and religious fact-based placement. This is what makes the book 'gripping' – the ability to smoothly intertwine fact and fiction. Overlaid onto this solid foundation is built a very amateurish tactical plot (descriptions of the characters, who runs where, who dies, how, why, etc.). The filler material (general descriptions, small details, nuances, jokes) was simply juvenile and bordered on silly. Pithy jokes about Rudy Giuliani (for eg.) were definitely out of place here.

The inconsistency in depth and style of writing leads me to believe that this author hired ghostwriters as many others do – (google 'ghostwriters') The author probably did a lot of research, laid out the main plot, outlined how the story should unfold and penned segments associated with the main theme. Then the ghostwritiers came in and “filled-in” the book. The author likely reviewed the entire copy, and made changes. This is the only way I can explain the complete disconnect with the different 'layers' of the book. As some of you are currently reading this book, or have already read it, I would love to hear your opinion on this.

If I were to read another of his books, I would subconsciously use this template and update my analyses. Thus I try to avoid follow-on books of bestselling authors. They fit a pattern. Once you sense it, then you hate it! Overall, a great fiction read! Highly recommended, except if you have upcoming exams, deadlines or pregnancies due! If you are looking for literary classics, try Hemmingway, or Maugham.

DaVinci Code: Mother of all novels

DaVinci Code: Mother of all novels!

As the bus screeched to a halt at my stop, I alighted and the lady from down the street followed. She motioned to my headphones and waved goodbye (normally we say a few words before going our ways). Politely, I removed my headphones and mentioned the book I was listening to.

She nodded knowingly and said, “isn’t it gripping?” Not assuming anything, I asked how she liked it. “I haven’t read it, but my friend really liked it.” She continued, “my friend just delivered a baby. The entire time she was in the hospital, she just wanted to read that damn book. When we visited, she didn’t care to discuss her baby, she just stuck her face in the book.” Seeing my astonishment, she explained, “its her second baby you know, so the excitement was less.” As if!

I rolled my eyes and motioned a goodbye. If I do something similar, shoot me! please!

David Gergen: Eyewitness to Power

Just finished reading this outstanding book by David Gergen. Never mind that I started this more than a year ago. Read a couple of chapters here and there. Finally completed it yesterday.

David Gergen served on the White House Staff of four US Presidents: Nixon (as head of speech writing); Ford (Chief of Communications); Reagan (Director of Communications) and Clinton (Counselor). Considering that he served Republican and Democratic Presidents, tells more of Gergen's centrist philosophies. He debated Mark Shields beautifully on the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour. More than getting his point across, he aspired to educate the audience with his well positioned opinions.

In this book he offers behind-the-scenes accounts of the goings on in the White House, and analyses the strengths and weaknesses of each President. Drawing upon these experiences, he offers a well thoughtout Leadership Guide to future leaders.

It is not one of those books which you can speed read. I would read a chapter, take a break, digest it, and then move on. His language is exquisite, and thats why I would read some paragraphs again and again. My copy is marked up with sections I would want to go back to, as a reference. If you think of ever harnessing your leadership potential, start here.

Maya Angelou

If you ever get an opportunity to hear Maya Angelou speak, jump to it! You will remember it for the rest of your life. I heard her speak about 5 years ago, and by the end of her lecture I was reduced to tears. She is the best. Or read her books. You will feel like someone lit a fire in your heart. I had read Maya's “Even the stars look lonesome” before. This evening as I was icing my ankle after a long run (yes the sun was out and I went for a run) I picked up this book and started skimming. Here Maya is talking about how the African-Americans have concealed themselves and their pain in their art. I don't think its exclusive to Africans. All people do it.

Here Maya quotes Langston Hughes:

Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter
And my throat
Is deep with song,
You do not think
I suffer after
I have held my pain
So long.

Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter
You do not hear
My inner cry
Because my feet
Are gay with dancing
You do not know
I die.

Read also my post: Maya Angelou: A Song Flung Up To Heaven

What are people reading here in Boston?

Boston is unique in many ways. Reputed for its world class colleges and as a healthcare mecca, here everyone reads in the buses and trains. Yesterday I made a quick unscientific survey. Of the seven folks in my row on the train, six were reading. The remaining soul was dozing – can’t blame her, it was early. That’s pretty much the daily trend. So what are they reading? Here are a few observations and generalizations.

During the morning commute, its primarily the newspapers, Boston Globe, Boston Metro, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times (London) and New York Times. Metro readers usually finish it in a few minutes and then go back to their novels or whatever else. The other newspapers appear to have more meat to occupy the readers. Particularly during the morning commute, more guys read newspapers or magazines and girls read novels. During the evening, both genders are equal novel readers. If a woman is reading a newspaper, she is likely to be dressed in business attire as well.

Only a small percentage (< 10%) read magazines: Newsweek, Economist (London) and New Yorker. Occasionally a clothing catalog. Noticed a few people reading the bible – exclusively women and more generally of African-american heritage. Yesterday for the first time, the lady next to me in a head scarf pulled out a small green volume of the Koran and started flipping through it. Never saw the Bhagvad Gita, or the Ramayana.

Reflecting the academic crowd, it is common to see students of all ages reading college textbooks and doing homework. Many more are reading photocopies of journal articles – usually the post-docs or serious academic types. A few may be thumbing through dissertations. Morgan Stanley Report: “Assessing Insurer’s Terrorism Risk,” surprised me yesterday – but we do have a large financial services industry here.

What novels are people reading on the train?
In the last 48 hours I noted the following novels. Please note I could only see the titles of about half the books. Listed alphabetically

  • Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, “Random Family: Love Drugs, Troubles and Coming of Age in the Bronx”
  • Andrew Greeley, “The Bishop and the Beggar Girl of St Germain”
  • Arthur C Clarke, “Fountains of Paradise”
  • Augusten Burroughs, “Dry: A Memoir”
  • Dan Brown, “Angels & Demons” (two)
  • Dan Brown, “Deception Point”
  • Daniel Silva, “A Death in Vienna”
  • Gregory Maguire, “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West”
  • James Michael Thomas, “Script Analysis for Actors, Directors and Designers”
  • Jim Cymbala, “Fresh Power”
  • John Sandford, “Easy Prey”
  • JRR Tolkien, “Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King”
  • Marian Keyes, “Last Chance Saloon”
  • Phillipa Gregory, “The Other Boleyn Girl”
  • Sean Hannity, “Let Freedom Ring: Winning the war of Liberty over Liberalism”

In the train and bus, what are they talking about? Ha Ha Ha, that could be a whole dissertation.

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