Ernest Hemingway’s advice for #writers

writers

Ernest Hemingway was one of the great american authors. His slick, straight-forward and meaningful prose serves as direct contrast to flowery and purple prose, and it was this quality in his writing that earned him the Nobel Prize of Literature and a seat among the classic writers of the past. Reading Hemingway feels like stripping away everything that isn’t basic and primordial. It’s like studying the fundamentals, like reading raw feeling and thinking. His style serves as a great example of profound yet concise expression.

And as such, I find his advice for writers to be invaluable. Here are a few snippets it:

Pace yourself.

Take the time to sit down every day and put your thoughts into words, But finish when you still know what is going to happen next in your story. Don’t write until you burn yourself out and run out of ideas, but rather stop while you’re still excited and let your subconscious mind work on it. Next day, when you sit down to write again, you’ll start at a point in the story that you’re excited about, and the words will flow more easily onto the page.

Write, and then re-write. 

However, before jumping back into the story at the point you left off, take some time to go over what you wrote the day before. This serves to refresh your memory as to the mood and setting of your earlier scenes, so that the continuation is coherent with what you already wrote.

Edit as you re-write. 

As you go over what you wrote the day before, take out everything that is extraneous, and leave only the best. Stephen King also refers to this as “killing your darlings.” Everything that is not pertinent to the storyline has to go, no matter how fond you are of the way you structured a sentence or the words you used to describe that scenery. Don’t be afraid to move sentences around, as well. Look for the best structure in all the paragraphs you write, but make sure they are meaningful and add to the story instead of slowing it down with unnecessary fluff.

When you’re cutting things out that would be great in any other story but are not pertinent to the one you’re writing, you know you’re doing a good job.

Once a week go over your entire story, from the beginning until where you left off. 

This is important because you need to see your story as a whole every so often, and edit and re-write as necessary. Doing this is what makes your story all of one piece. I usually do this on the weekends because it’s very time-consuming. Going over 50 pages of my work takes me around 4 hours, so don’t underestimate how much work this is… but it’s also probably the most necessary thing to do. This way you become more familiar with your story, as well. You get to know it better, and can even get inspired to connect different ideas within the story and make it even more rich and ineresting.

Read the classics. 

The truly great writers of the past were great for a reason. You shouldn’t compare yourself to any existing writer, because we don’t know whether his or her work will outlast the passing of time or not. Classic works, however, have already stood the test of time. Read them often, and learn from them. Feel free to compete with them, if you’d like. It’s a good standard to measure yourself up against.

This way you’ll also know which ideas have been executed well by other artists. A writer who doesn’t read the classics isn’t really an educated writer, and his work will suffer for it.

Don’t think of yourself as being talented. 

We’ll never know whether we are talented writers or not, no matter how much praise or how much criticism we receive. So instead of focusing on that, focus on your creative work and becoming a better story-teller and writer in your appreciation every day.

upon a time

A-lot of this advice is technical. But writing well is a very technical process. The important thing is to find a balance between feeling inspired by your story and also working to refine it as you go along. Writing, re-writing and editing should be done simultaneously according to Hemingway, and I agree with him. It takes more time during the day (two hours for me, instead of one), but it’s worth it.

I know many writers work on their first draft without looking back at what they have written, and if that works for them and they’d rather not look back, then that’s up to them. But there’s a reason one of the great american writers worked this way. Personally, this advice has helped me become not only more disciplined in my writing, but also more familiar with it and more involved and invested in my own story. So I invite you to look over these tips, think about them, and implement what works for you.

Happy writing!

Source: Hemingway’s Advice on Writing, Ambition, the Art of Revision, and His Reading List of Essential Books for Aspiring Writers

Mustang #MovieReview #FilmFriday

mustang

Mustang is a movie set in a middle-class town in the Turkey countryside, centered around five teenaged sisters and what becomes their claustrophobic, nightmarish home situation. In the beginning the sisters were all normal girls. They were a little raucous and mischevous, like some girls that age are. They went to school, they played around, and they were interested in what girls that age are mostly interested in: looks, clothes, having fun.

But everything changed when the girls are caught playing around on the beach with some boys on the last day of school. It was all pretty innocent play. A westerner, for example, would make nothing of what happened. But to the extremely conservative Turkish society, what they did represented a threat to their integrity as women and affected their chances to get married.

Their grandmother, who lives with them after the death of their parents, gets paranoid, and their uncle, who is not a good man, decides to take strict measures to safeguard the virginity and purity of his nieces. So they start marrying them off one by one, starting with the two eldest, who are only 16 and 15, respectively.

It’s a horrid situation when viewed from a modern perspective. Especially because it seems none of them are lucky in their unions, except the eldest one who married the boy she liked. But things got even worse as the home environment becomes more and more oppresive. When summer ends, the girls are not sent back to school. The grandmother’s aim is to marry them off as quickly as possible, and school serves no function in this plan.

Basically it’s like the family decided to retrograde into the middle ages. This part of the movie really shows how an ultra conservative mentality in these countries harms the education and upbringing of the woman, all to keep her subdued and chained to a patriarchal system which ends up hurting women more than helping them. What happens to some of these sisters is truly horrifying.

Without giving too much away, I’ll only say that it seems like having teenage girls with blossoming womanly bodies at home all day does not give the girl’s uncle any good ideas. And so as the two eldest sisters are married off, and the middle one’s life ends in tragic circumstances, the two youngest ones, especially Lale, the little one whom the movie is centered around, are forced to fight not only for their freedom, but also for their decency and life.

And this really is what shines throughout the movie. The Spirit of Lale, the little girl, who out of all her sisters refused to give up or become a victim of her circumstances. Because of her resourcefulness and smarts, she manages to escape the worst. The movie has a great ending. It cannot be called a happy ending, not after everything the girls went through, but it was an ending filled with relief for the two youngest sisters, who managed to escape their dire family life.

I greatly recommend this movie to anyone who likes / is interested in / is not bothered by foreign films and having to read subtitles, and who is willing to wrap their heads around the different realities of peoples around the world, specifically Turkey in this case.

Rating: *****

Los susurros invisibles

spirits

Estoy segura de que anoche me enfrenté a alguna clase de espíritu, de esos que caminan sobre el techo de tu casa, buscando un lugar donde entrar para atormentarte.

Todo comenzó cuando me desperté a la una de la mañana y no me pude volver a dormir. Me llené de rencores extraños que había acumulado durante el día, y mi mente no los dejaba ir. Es más, los incrementaba y los desnudaba de toda razón. No podía conciliar el sueño, pero tampoco estaba totalmente en vela. Estaba en ese extraño mundo de por medio, en donde no estás ni despierto ni dormido, y los sueños se mezclan con los pensamientos para construir una extraña y oscura realidad.

En ese estado aluciné muchas cosas, entre ellas que había cambiado mi alarma para más tarde, para poder dormir más y no levantarme temprano a escribir, como es mi rutina usualmente. El espíritu no quería que me despertara temprano, seguramente. Dicen que el diablo habita en la cama.

Luego, sucedieron cosas peores. Comenzaron las pesadillas. El rencor que había nutrido en esas horas de la madrugada se transformó en algo verdaderamente demoníaco. Soné que estaba humillando a una persona por una rabia inmensa que traía encima contra ella. Le pegaba, le insultada, no la dejaba hablar ni defenderse. Hasta que la persona se fue. Por fin se escapó de mis garras.

A las 5:30am sonó mi alarma, a la misma hora de todos los días. Desperté de ese sueño horrible, y en ese momento creí escuchar unos pasos sobre el techo de mi casa. El día amaneció triste, nublado, y yo con el corazón pesado después de haber pasado una noche cargada junto a las tempestades nocturnas. El rencor que tenía encima no lo quiero volver a sentir jamás. Era algo tan venenoso, tan serpentil.

Nuestra perrita tampoco durmió bien, se la pasaba despertándonos a cada hora, casi desesperada. Cuando amaneció, se calmó. Y yo también. Me desperté, practiqué mi meditación vespertina, y me puse a escribir. Como lo hago todas las mañanas. Y aquí estoy.

Que si realmente fue un espíritu, o simplemente una mala noche, no lo sé. El día sigue nublado, y yo me siento pesada, cansada, exhausta después de haber soportado tanta rabia y tanto rencor.

Ojalá llueva más tarde, y que el agua se lleve todos esos malos sentimientos y pensamientos, y que limpie nuestro hogar de cualquier intruso invisible que busqué divertirse en sus horas de vigilia con nuestras psiquis susceptibles.

Prenderé un incienso, solo por si acaso. De algo debe servir.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi #BookReview

the star-touched queen

YA fantasy

Where to begin! I am conflicted about this book. On one hand, it representes everything I love about fantasy: Interesting mythology, beautiful and intricate world-building, a fast and engaging plot-line… and on the other hand, the book could also be accused of being juvenile, of having an uneven pace, and at moments, of even being guilty of falling into the dreaded purple prose.

The writing is beautiful when it’s done well. The descriptions and word-usage are unique and very evocative, especially when describing the other-wordly beings of the magical lands, but the author goes overboard. She uses these descriptions in dialogues even when it’s not needed, and towards the end of the book it begins to be somewhat tiring. I don’t need an evocative description when fewer and more straight-to-the-point words would suffice. However, she does hit the nail on the head on many ocassions, and her elaborate words and descriptions did manage to make me feel almost drunk on their beauty, at times. So it’s a hit and miss situation.

The main character, Mayavati, suffers from being too YA. Her feelings are inconsistent throughout the entire first half of the book. At one moment she trusts and loves the King she married, and at other moments she distrusts and grows cold towards him, without anything necessarily having changed between them. It is an inconsistency that bothered me. Her incoherent feelings could be explained by a revelation that comes later on in the book, but this doesn’t stop from making the character seem immature in her feelings at the begginning and well on to the mid-point of the story. Her betrayal, also, felt much too impulsive, impatient and sudden, which could attributed either to a character flaw or not enough elaboration on behalf of the author to explain why she suddenly felt that way.

It comes down to me not understand where Mayavati was coming from when she started feeling all distrustful. The King specifically told her to wait until he could tell her about himself fully at a time when the magic worlds would allow him to speak, but instead she made up her mind without hearing both sides of the story or even giving him the benefit of the doubt. Her feelings felt flimsy, which annoyed me.

Either Mayavati is very immature, or she just wasn’t developed well, at least not this part of her. Either way, it resulted in me not liking her very much at all, something which is somewhat remedied by the second half of the book when she finally started acting like the heroine she was supposed to be, albeit after having made a major mess of things.

Also, the pace of the book. The first half of the book is filled with luscious descriptions of the magical worlds, of echanting riddles and a castle filled with shadows and secrets. It moves along at a nice pace, allowing the reader to fully immerse themselves in the world. The second half of the book, however, is so fast that I felt like I was left scrambling for breath. There was no pause, no down-time, no reflection, everything was go-go-go. I usually like this in books, but the character didn’t even pause to sleep, or eat, or rest, or anything… And I don’t know if  all the scenes from the second half of the book happened all in the space of a day, or a morning, or what. This contrasted greatly with the first half of the book, where the weeks were neatly spaced out and the reader could follow the character development at a more leisure pace.

Now, I’ll move on to the good things about the book.

The worldbuilding. This is probably the best, most interesting aspect of the story. The author combines elements of ancient hindu mythology with modern fairy tales, and things like reincarnation and gods and goddesses make repeated appearances throughout the story. Demons and the spiritual worlds of death, life, and the in-between are also very much commonplace, immersing the reader in the extraordinary. It was the aspect I enjoyed the most and definitely what makes this book stand out. I loved getting lost in this world, and in great part this made up for the book’s perceived flaws.

The writing, as I mentioned, is not bad and can even be very lovely at times, but too flowery at other times. I liked the fact that the main character got an unusual sidekick in the second half of the book in the form of a flesh-eating demon. It was an original twist, and the demon was funny.

I will probably read the sequel to this book, A Crown of Wishes, just to get lost in the world that was truly marvellously built and in the mythology that felt so new, fresh and unique. I recommend this book to fantasy fans who are looking for worlds that feel different. Just be aware and ready for the main character to feel slightly annoying and immature, for the pace to throw you off, and for the writing to be flowery at times, and you should be fine.

Rating: ***

Full Moon in Pisces

full moon

On September 6th the full moon will be in the sign of Pisces. I’m a believer that the signs can sway human behavior, but not define it. I also find it quite magical to follow the phases of the moon and see what sign they are at in their new and full phases.

The new moon is usually representative of the lunar energy when it is just beginning, and the full moon is representative of the lunar energy at its peak. So the full moon is a perfect time to set intentions and connect with these cosmic energies that are greater than ourselves. New moons, on the other hand, are ideal for letting go of everything that no longer serves you, to be washed away by the night.

Pisces is a water sign. It’s the sign of communication, compassion, and gentleness. As such, this full moon could be a chance for us to reconnect with the softer side of ourselves that we have perhaps been neglecting.

I always like doing little rituals during the new and full moon, it makes those nights more special. An example of a ritual could be something so simple as lighting a candle, giving thanks to God or the universe for all the blessings in your life, and saying a small prayer of reverence to pour out some positive energy into the world.

You can also take advantage of the full moon to set some intentions and goals for your life, such as being kinder and more patient, or anything else that you would like to see accomplished or manifested. Whatever you decide to do, may it be a magical night.

Happy Full Moon everybody ❤

Namasté

pisces

The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott #BookReview

swan kingdom

The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott is the second book by this author that I read (I had the delight of reading Shadows on the Moon a couple of years ago), but it is her first published work. Comparing both titles, the reader can tell this is her first book. Marriott writes beautifully, and the story comes out strong, but it does suffer from a few plot and story lacks that are not evident in Marriott’s later works.

shadows on the moon

The Swan Kingdom is set on an ancient land that for some reason reminded me of Atlantis, because the main protagonist (and her mother, the Queen) have the gift of connecting with nature and feeding the land with their magical powers, which is something that–myth has it–atlanteans were known to do.

The main character describes herself as plain, which is a YA trope that I don’t like, because it just denotes insecurity and frivolity. Especially when the character, it turns out, isn’t so plain as she believes herself to be, as is the case in this book. Less focus on the character’s looks would have been better.

The main character’s kingdom falls into a great disgrace and curse from an evil sorceress, and her three older brothers are turned into swans, stuck between the realm of the living and the dead, while the girl is sentenced to live in exile. The concept of being stuck in a realm between the living and the dead fascinated me. In fact, it kept me reading until the end of the novel because I had to find out what happened to the three brothers that had turned into these incorporeal swans. The story is loosely based on the fairy tale of the same kind.

There were a couple of scenes that didn’t make much sense to me and that I didn’t think were relevant to the plot, such as when the main character contacts her ancestors through magic. It felt like the story could have done without this, like it wasn’t all that necessary for the plot. I expected more to come from it rather than just several inane conversations.

Also, the ending didn’t quite do it for me. It felt much too gratifying, while the tone of the book was tragic throughout. I’m not saying she should have ended it on a tragic note, but the change of tone between the rest of the book and the ending was a little jarring to me.

I would recommend Zoe Marriott’s other books to readers, rather than this book. Shadows on the Moon is a beautiful work of art that I absolutely recommend. The Swan Kingdom, although delightful at times, isn’t nearly as masterful or complete.

Rating: ***

Story Structure: The Basics

structure

An important part of story-telling is the structure. Compelling stories usually have a very defined structure which keeps the pace going at an appropriate speed and engages the reader to the point where the story begins to feel like it comes alive for him or her… which is what every writer wants.

Not every book has to have structure. Literary books, for example, can get away with having a looser structure and a more abstract plot. Speculative fiction, however–such as fantasy, science fiction, or horror–benefit enormously from following a defined structure. The story has a better foundation that way. Structure doesn’t limit us, but rather guides us and teaches how to better craft a story.

Here is the basic structure of a speculative fiction story. I try to follow this structure in my own stories, no matter their length. So if my story is 100,000 words, for example, then the 20% mark would be the 20,000th word, and so on.

Inciting Incident

The story must begin with a hook. It should pull the reader in. A writer I admire once said that if you manage to really hook the reader for the first 15 pages, then they will follow you anywhere. Something interesting and out of the ordinary must happen.

Even if the event itself is completely ordinary, it must capture the reader’s attention with something different. Starting from the inciting incident up until the first plot point, the writer must introduce the main character, some backstory (not too much because this bores the reader, not too little because it confuses him), and goals.

incitng

1st Plot Point: 20% mark

Also known as the point of no return. The main character is confronted with a change of destiny. The first plot point always marks a major change of direction. Whereas the first part of the story serves as an introduction to the characters and a set-up for the plot, the first plot point marks the beginning of the conflict, which is when the story actually gets juicy.

plot

1st Pinch Point: 35% mark

The first pinch point serves to show the antagonistic forces of the novel. Here we get to see who–or what–the protagonist is really up against. The main character or protagonist is faced with external conflict, which serves to build tension within the story and to give him or her something to fight against and overcome.

pinch point

The Midpoint: 50% mark

It’s the middle of the novel, and usually there is some unexpected twist that the reader (hopefully) didn’t see coming. It’s different from the pinch point because this twist doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the antagonistic forces of the book. Whether the twist complicates things or makes things easier for the main character is entirely up to the writer.

midpoint

The 2nd Pinch Point: 65% mark

Here the reader is once again reminded of the antagonistic forces working against the protagonist. Things get uglier, harder, and more complicated for the main character. They definitely don’t get easier… remember, it is always darkest before the dawn.

pinch points

The 2nd Plot Point: 80% mark

Things start turning around for the protagonist. Everything seemed to be lost, and now there’s another chance to fight. It is also the cutting off point for new information being introduced into the story. After this, it is advisable to not expose any new information to the reader, because you run the risk of overcomplicating the story. So if you want to turn things around, this is the point in the arc to do it. The rest of the story will be dedicated to the resolution.

plot

The Resolution

It is the ending where the consequences of every action taken by the main charatcer come to light, the point where things get resolved for the protagonist either for the better or the worse. It is the conclusion of everything that has happened in the story so far.

Whether it is a fitting or satisfying conclusion depends on the writer and how he or she wants to end the story, either in victory or defeat, comedy or tragedy, elated or completely destroyed. Some writers have an eye for concluding their stories well. Others completely ruin it without wanting to. Much of the quality of the story depends on its resolution, and it’s what most readers remember.

Of course, if you want to continue the story you can always end on a cliffhanger, which can be defined as another inciting incident introduced at the ending of the first story.

resolved

And there you have it, the basics of story structure. It’s up to the writer to use these rules as guidance or not. I have personally found my story-telling to become more coherent when I follow these rules. But like I said, these apply more to speculative fiction. If you’re writing a literary book on existentialism with traces of magical realism spread out throughout the story, then perhaps this structure isn’t for you.

Thanks for reading! What rules do you follow (or break) while writing, and has it worked for you so far?

7 points

“The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera #BookReview

IMG_3303

“The Unbearable Lightness of Being” was published in the 1980’s and written by the Czech author Milan Kundera. I knew this book was considered a modern classic but still wasn’t quite ready for the impact it would have on me. Kundera’s writing is a nice flow that ranges from reflective, philosophical monologues directed to the reader and the life-spanning narrative of four major characters in the story: Tomas, Tereza, Sabina, and Franz.

What I liked best about the book was that I could relate to each character. I could understand them deeply, which is a testimony to the power of the author’s writing.  I could understand the dichotomy between Tomas’s love for Tereza and his philandering, womanizing ways. I could understand Tereza’s melancholy–her whole life, indeed, seemed like one melancholic episode after another. I could understand that sadness was at the core of her being.

I could understand Sabina’s selfishness, and Franz’s idealism. I didn’t judge these characters for their actions, judging was out of the question. I couldn’t judge them, because I knew where they were coming from. Kundera’s understanding of the humanity of these characters breathed life into the story and into their actions. Their lives were all exaggerated, of course, or at least it seemed so to me, but I could still relate in small ways to all of their perspectives and points of view.

The philosophical, reflective parts of the book are a gem. The theme of the novel is the dichotomy between heaviness and lightness– and whether life is ultimately a tragedy or a comedy. Tomas is more of a comedic character. His affairs with women are light-hearted, but his love with Tereza is tragic, because he could never give her what she wanted, which was a faithful marriage and love. Tereza is a tragic character. She had an upbringing devoid of beauty, and a marriage devoid of the fidelity that would have completed her love for Tomas.

Sabina and Franz are less defined. Sabina’s life is a tragedy because she could never commit to anything, but she refuses to acknowledge it as such and clings to the lightness her transient decisions, though it ultimately brings her nothing of value. Franz’s life is a comedy, although he views it as something grand and important. These are two characters who do not understand themselves and whose lives, therefore, seem incomplete in comparison to Tomas’s and Tereza’s lives, who–despite everything–have lived fully, and are whole.

Is life ultimately tragic, or ultimately comic? Does it mean everything, or nothing at all? Is it worth being sentimental about our personal affairs, or is it all just some grand and elaborated joke that will be erased by the inevitable passage of time?

unbearable

These questions all remain unanswered, because there is no answer. Tomas and Tereza cannot decide if they are either happy, or sad. Actually, Tereza is mostly sad and a little happy, and Tomas is mostly happy and a little sad. It is all a mixture between these two extremes, it is a contradiction which doesn’t really contradict itself in the end. It is the unbearable lightness of being.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in a tragi-comic read and who is up to reflect on these matters of the human condition.

Rating: *****

“El beso más pequeño” de Mathias Malzieu #reseña

IMG_3163

“El beso más pequeño” del escritor francés Mathias Malzieu es un libro bastante corto, de apenas 142 páginas. Su brevedad marca un paralelo con el mismo título de la obra. Se puede leer fácilmente en una o dos sentadas, y su narrativa es lo suficientemente encantadora para que el libro se sienta como uno de esos pequeños placeres de la vida, como saborear un bombón de chocolate, o tomar el té por las tardes.

Originalmente escrito en francés, “El beso más pequeño” es una historia infundida de realismo mágico sobre un beso entre un hombre insatisfecho y una mujer tímida que causa que la mujer se vuelva invisible. Después de esto, el personaje principal se vuelca en una investigación obsesiva para poder encontrar a la mujer invisible, de quien se ha enamorado. Más allá de esta trama, es una historia que se trata sobre el amor entre dos personas. Qué significa amar, qué es el amor realmente, cómo se puede cuidar, cómo se puede nutrir para que no se marchite.

La invisibilidad de la mujer realmente tiene mucho que ver con su temor a amar, o el temor a que su amor no sea correspondido. La obsesión del hombre por encontrar este ideal del cual se ha enamorado es una reflexión de sus deseos de amar profundamente, de volcarse completamente en su propio amor, aunque éste tenga que ver más con sus propios sentimientos que con el objeto de su admiración. Claro está, que cuando la mujer por fin aparece y su ideal se convierte en realidad, las cosas se complican, como usualmente sucede en la vida real.

No es un libro pesado ni melancólico. Por el contrario, es bastante ligero. Por momentos me recuerda un poco a la película francesa “Amelie”, ya que comparte ciertas excentricidades simpáticas que comienzo a creer forman parte íntegra de la expresión artística del francés. Curiosidades abstractas, la mezcla de lo trivial dentro de lo importante, la forma y el fondo convirtiéndose en uno y el mismo, la concordancia de las impresiones con la realidad.

Para no pasarme de largo y mantener esta reseña dulce y corta, como lo es la misma historia, concluyo recomendando este libro a cualquier persona que quiera pasar un buen rato en el mundo imaginativo y encantador del realismo mágico francés, y que quiera leer sobre la teoría del amor enmarcada en una historia vivaz, informal y coqueta.

Rating: ****

The Anachronism of Reading

reading

I learned a new word today: “Anachronism”. It means old-fashioned. I learned it from a book I just finished reading that moved me in mysterious ways, not least because I could identify with many–if not all–of the characters. But there was one specific character that I could identify with the most. She was described as “Anachronistic” within the narrative becuase she was always carrying a book with her and reading in her free time.

And that made me think… has reading really fallen out of style? The art of thinking certainly isn’t much in vogue anymore. In the time when humanity did not have the comfortable option of recurring to endless forms of immediate entertainment (twitter, facebook, instagram, netflix, the internet in its entirety…) people used to talk to each other more. They used to share their thoughts with each other (face to face and not through a mechanical apparatus), and refine their points of view through actual speech.

Conversation was both eloquent and elegant, because people used their minds as they spoke. I believe that becasue of this, the minds of people in the past had much more space and were far less busy than the minds of people today. That was the beauty of it.

pride and prejudice

In those times, reading was also in vogue. And since people could think more freely, without the burden of the constant buzzing and noise of the modern world, people could also write more clearly and more elaborately than they can today. At least that is my theory. I am nostalgic by nature, however, and do look at the past as a sort of golden epoch, better than the times of today, which is a sort of illusion in itself.

But looking at it objectively, the majority of the books from the past were far more complicated than the books written today. The language was richer, the thinking more elaborate. Today people seek to be shocked and immersed rather than challenged by the words they read. So many things are competing for our attention, after all. Books have to compete with film (a worthy art form) and television shows, and compared to the immediacy and the visual immersion that these mediums offer, books grown more and more old-fashioned.

I do not see people walking the streets with books under their arms, as they did in the past. I sometimes sit down to read alone at the park, or at a restaurant (having no qualms about eating alone) and people stare at me. Granted, I live in Panama, a country not necessarily known for its wide readership. But I cannot help but think that books, overall, have fallen out of style. They are no longer a part of our wardrobe, like our purses or our briefcases are, even though they make for interesting accesories. There are of course exceptions, like those people who read on the metro (bless their hearts).

I, for one, cannot imagine my life without the pleasure of a good book under my arm. Anachronistic or not, I will continue walking the city with a book under my arm (or tucked away safely in my purse), waiting for the day when it will come into style again.