Monthly Archives: July 2013

Minority Report

I am of the firm opinion that if Salman Rushdie tried to make a living as an online writer, he’d starve.

Why? Because he’s a master of the loop, of delightfully long and punctuated sentences that would send editors of online portals, much like Microsoft Word, into a tizzy, and they’d both come up with eerily similar suggestions to the tune of: “fragment – consider revising”. The unfortunate truth is that few today appreciate the beauty of long sentences, articulately written.

Don’t get me wrong. I know well the use of periods and their impacts – as Isaac Babel the brilliant Soviet playwright who was shot by the Stalin regime, (not, I suspect, for his love of periods) put it : “No iron can pierce a heart with such force as a period put just at the right place.”  I am all for periods and their uses and well understand that brevity can have an impact in a way long-winded sentences can’t.  But, I believe that it takes a superior writer to write a lengthy, masterful sentence. There is nothing more pleasing than  reading a long, perfectly punctuated sentence, much like the ones Emily Bronte writes so adroitly in Wuthering Heights.

By whining about this issue, I am not, for a moment, pretending to be a superior writer, one that the world has not recognized yet but for whom it will hold a bicentenary two hundred years from now in a belated attempt to assuage the guilt of not having granted her due recognition (though that would be nice). I am merely lamenting the fact that editors today, and I generalize here so pardon me those who do not fall into this miserable category, are incapable of appreciating a bloody good sentence just because it exceeds what they feel is the right length.

Where is all this coming from? You guessed it. From someone who recently asked me if I could shorten my sentences – you write well, except that the sentences are a bit, er well, a bit long. That was his only gripe – that the sentences were long – the only disqualifying factor. If I made it short (like some of the extremely mediocre writing on his site) then he could consider hiring me for which, mind you, I’d be paid some measly amount until  “you prove yourself and get maximum hits”. It’s all about SEO, you know, he added sheepishly. Stuff it, I told him.  Not in so many words, though, unfortunately.  Gosh I do want to say it once to someone real and not on my blog!

We now live in an age of instant gratification – there is this mercenary, make-it-short attitude towards everything. Publishers look for the next quick book to become a best seller, one that’s produced quite magically and sells a million copies.  Who has the time for tomes, no matter how well written? So, what about the people who seriously love to read writers like Salman Rushdie? Well, one word clubs them all wonderfully together into a nebulous mass – minority.

And that is the essential problem. That I am in the minority. Not that I am not going to, or can, do much about it. I sort of like being here, in the minority I mean. Am used to it, really. Go to a shop and ask for party-wear dresses and be prepared to be treated to piles and piles of outfits that look more like layered, fluffy puddings than dresses. Ask for a shoe and you’ll be shown an array of super-shiny, high-heeled monsters that look more like miniature rocket ships than something you’d put on your little one’s feet.  Wonder aloud about who wears this stuff and you’d be told that this was very much in demand and was “fast-selling”.  Sigh.

Back to the editor, though, (yup, not going to forget him in a while) – maybe someday I’ll write that book which has been exploding in my head for, well for as long as I can remember. Then I’ll send him a copy with a note, which, of course, will not be short, but long, with many punctuations.

Now there’s a happy thought.

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Have It All. Why The Fuss?

I’ve been doing a bit of reading about women and their issues (not a fan of that word) – the whole work-life balance that’s quite suddenly become the thing to talk about in living rooms, when one is done venting about the government and the weather that is.  Not that I went looking for these articles in particular, but I guess it started with one article I read about women and related issues and surprise surprise suggested articles and blogs started popping up seemingly out of nowhere, but we all know how that works. Not that I care about being tracked, no really, I got bigger things to worry about.

Anyway, I digress (oh so easily). Point is, I’ve been reading stuff about how women can have it all if they do this or or if they do that (not relevant to the point I am making). It irritates me, this whole have-it-all discussion.

Who can have it all? Do men? Sure, in many homes they work and the wife looks after the family, but does that mean they have it all? I think not. Ask my husband. He’ll tell you about the grueling hours he puts in at work and only comes home to see the kids asleep – asleep when he arrives and out to school before he can say Johnny Cash, after a tornadoesque morning (three kids, two of whom are yet to be four, to get ready, feed and then drop to the bus stop by 7:20 – yeah, it’s a fun morning). He gets little time with them and does not have the moments I do with them (moments, I admit, I would now, after years of being home, trade quite happily for a teller’s job that requires standing on one leg – you can see I’ve had an eventful, tantrumy morning) But the point is, he has not had it all either. He’s missing their childhood in the aim to secure their future. He’s working his ass off, going through mid-life angst, well aware of the long road that stretches ahead of him. Not defending the men folk here before anyone accuses me of that (ironical that would be, really) but just making a point about this whole fuss about having it all.

What, by the way, is having it all? I don’t get it. Ask anyone if they have it all and you’ll get a answer in the negative. Any road to success (pecuniary success I mean) is paved with sacrifices and regrets, be it for a man or woman. Also, who says that having it all is the key to happiness? So much is in the mind. You could have it all (whatever that is) and still not be happy, or you could have some regrets in life and yet be content with the way things are. I made the choice to be at home and am living with it, angst et all. I got to do what I wanted with the kids – to bathe and dress them, to be there for the school drop and pick-up, to read to them in the afternoons, to take them to their tennis lessons – so I did. Now, I still want those things, but, my need to get out and work is higher, maybe because I’ve had enough of the domesticity and also because they’re settled in school.

I am also aware that for many women, it’s not a choice – they have to work and leave the leg-tugging baby behind. In my mind I was indispensable at home (with three girls I still think I am) and since the house did not depend on my income (though that would’ve led to less stress on the husband and thus on everyone else) I decided to stay at home with the kids. Sure they got looked after and the husband could work tirelessly without home issues clouding his analytical brain. But I too got to do what I wanted, at least initially. For many women, it’s hard because the house needs dual incomes.

What I want to say is merely this, as we were taught very early on in school – you can’t have your cake and eat it too. This little adage, for me, says a lot about the whole discussion around having it all. No one can have it all. No one.  It may appear so, but it’s not true. So why the fuss?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I don’t understand the issue at hand here. No one knows that better than me – since I’ve tried to strike that work-life balance and have, in vain, tried to get jobs that are satisfying enough and yet don’t threaten to consume you, leaving you to attend to your other full-time job of mommyhood in peace. It cannot happen. You either do some mindless work where you shut shop at five-o-clock  sharp and go home, or you find something meaningful, in which case leaving at will, or at a family-conducive hour,  is probably not that easy. Or you stay at home, and write (like I’ve been trying to do – yes, yes, a book is in the head). So I do get the point about how hard it is for women who want/have to work and have kids to go home to.

I guess what irritates me is a lot of hyperbole around having it all. I have a problem with the whole concept of having your cake and wanting to eat it too. Maybe it was how I was brought up, to believe that to get something you have to give up another. True, in an ideal world a woman (or a man) should be able to work and be there for the kids all at once. But, is that possible? Ask anyone who’s made it to the top. Or rather, ask the kids. If you are going to slave to get to the top of any organization, something will have to give. And that something will be your home.

Ask Enid Brighton’s daughter (or husband who she had a tumultuous marriage with) what they thought of their life with her. She wrote more than 600 books for children, but did she have time for her own? Did she have it all?

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