Saturday, May 27, 2006

"Uniquely Portable Magic"

cover story

book /buk/
1. a set of written, printed, or blank pages fastened along one side and encased between protective covers;
2. a printed or written literary work;
3. that thing people used to love to read before television and the Internet took over the world.

A long, long time ago - back in the days when rational thought and proper diction still prevailed - reading used to be the world's favourite pastime. But unknown to mankind, somewhere in the vast expanses of the globe, conspiratorial forces - envious of the attention being garnered by those printed words - were hard at work, determined to do away with any interest in all things readable. Sure enough, the bounded sheets of paper were soon replaced by rectangular boxes of varying sizes, boxes that were designed to emit insanely addictive radiation that would enslave anyone the moment they were exposed to it.

As time went by, mankind ended up addicted to technology and trapped behind a pile of work, with little or no time left for reading, and fascination with books slowly started dwindling. While interest in the activity was somewhat revived by books like The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series, bibliophilia still resides in the endangered list. Most of us might go through an occasional paperback, but the number of avid readers is on the decline.

Not just the mere following of words on a page, reading entails actually processing what you read. Whether it's a piece of fiction, a religious documentary or a historic account, you won't understand it by merely scanning the words, and there's no better way of understanding anything than by actually 'reading' about it. In addition, reading not only enhances your expression, but researchers also claim that it develops the 'ability for concentration and imagination, and enhances culture and civic involvement'.

So here's what we suggest you do: read!

Thou shall read

From classics to contemporary literature, the written world is vast enough to offer something that would cater to everyone's taste. Classic literature includes works by writers like Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Daniel Defoe, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. The vast folds of genre fiction encompass everything from science fiction, which holds books by the likes of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, to the horror fiction genre, popularised by the authors like Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker. And even though a bestselling paperback might get nothing more than disapproval from critics writers like Stephen King, Jeffrey Archer, James Patterson, John Grisham, and (on rare occasions) even Dan Brown knows how to spin a gripping tale. Also, boasting of prolific names like Mirza Ghalib, Allama Iqbal, Saadat Hasan Manto, Shafiq Ur Rehman, and Naseem Hijazi, Urdu professes a treasure of literary gems.

And if fantasy isn't your cup of tea, then go for non-fiction. Read The Diary Of A Young Girl and see what a teenage girl had to go through while in hiding during the holocaust. Venture into the accounts of history, religion or the world of mythology. Or delve into a biography - the biography of a leader, an entrepreneur, a sporting legend, or even a rock star - and see what made that person great enough to have a book written about him.

Thou shall not judge a book by its movie

Hollywood has become so fascinated with cinematising everything from books and short stories to video games and comic book characters that they fail to see that not all adaptations make good movies. Not to say that all adaptations are bad; while some of the films can be really good, the book is almost always better.

Sure the James Bond movies are hugely successful, but, for many, the Ian Fleming books still hold a lot more charm than the movies. And while Isaac Asimov fans are left to recover from the shock of a mess that was 'I, Robot' (although, it wasn't strictly based on Asimov's work), many of us will be praying that our favourite books never go the big-screen way. Why? Because so much of an author's voice is lost in the book-to-film transition.

Many books have been turned into movies, stripping away the thought process for the audience, and enforcing boundaries to the imagination, whereas a book tries to do the exact opposite. So, sure, watch the movie, but don't forget to take a look at the work of the author who actually came up with the idea. Read how Robert Ludlum penned down the character of Jason Bourne, and what Alexander Dumas chose as the ending for The Man In The Iron Mask. And don't wait for them to transform His Dark Materials to film. Give the books a chance!

Thou shall allow yourself to experience the wonderful world of words

Whether it's the adventures of a silly old bear, the story of a girl chasing a rabbit into the world of endless imagination, an inspired-by-real-life account of football obsession, or a non-fiction cautionary tale of self-destruction, books can take you on a journey like no other medium can. Plus you can always count on a book to be there for you when you need it the most.

So whether you're reading a play by Shakespeare or the works of Ghalib, appreciate the power of language. Whether you read for fun or to write a book report for school, don't skim; peruse. And whether you're reading the works of the greats like D.H. Lawrence, P.G. Wodehouse and George Orwell, or modern fiction writers like Annie Proulx, Charles Frazier or Helen Fielding, allow the words to open the door to your imagination.

- By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 26th May, 2006

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