On Sharing Books When You’re a Margin Scribbler

There’s a general feeling among diehard book lovers that books are sacred objects and that they should remain pristine. Many dedicated readers feel this way, including my husband. My husband and I are both avid readers, and we consider an evening spent reading an evening well spent (except when Netflix gets in the way.) But we differ in how we treat our books. When I read, it is with a pencil in my hand. I like to write in the margins of my books – my reactions, connections to other things I’ve read – rarely profound, my scribblings can be as…

What I Learned From Reading Writers’ Memoirs

When I was a kid dreaming of becoming a writer (my role model was Jo March from Little Women), I didn’t have access to writing workshops or to any kind of constructive criticism. It didn’t help that I never shared my writing with anyone. But I wanted to know if my writing was any good and I wanted to learn to be better. I read a lot, but couldn’t build a bridge between the novels that I loved and my own writing. I didn’t have the tools or knowledge to make comparisons. I didn’t know how to read closely because…

How Novels Portray Consciousness

All writers of fiction are engaged with consciousness in fundamental ways. For starters, what we write comes from our consciousness. At the same time, we invent consciousness for characters in our novels. Novelists try to convey inner feelings in words, and expressing inner experience in a true and meaningful way seems like quite a tall order. Ever since the first novels were written, authors have done this in different ways. In his book, Consciousness and the Novel, author and literary critic David Lodge explores how the study of human consciousness has changed over time, and how this effects the representation of…

Reading a Book is like Falling in Love

I love serendipitous moments. While I was reading a book and falling a love with it, the character in my book described reading a book and falling in love with it. And it was during Ramzan (or Ramadan as it is known in the Arab world.) Why is that last part relevant? Read the beautiful passage below. The book is Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman, a portrait of a 72 year old woman living alone in Beirut. Ah… the deliciousness of discovering a masterwork. the beauty of the first sentences, the “what is this?,” the “how can this be?,” the first crush…