literature

Sodomising Literature

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Tuesday morning at school. A classmate sets her bag down at the bench in front of mine and takes out two volumes, parts of a series, and sets them down on the desk for a brief moment as she zips her bag close. And my eyes go wide and immediately I am gritting my teeth. What could possible be that horrifying about, well, books?

I’ll tell you what… Fifty Shades of Grey.

(Follow the link if you don’t know about the ‘book’. You should. It would be easy to put in a picture here, but somehow that makes me feel like I am encouraging the book… I’ll skip a picture.)

Behind her stands a goofy girl, obviously waiting to collect the volumes. So Girl 1 is lending these… these… texts, to Girl 2. And my first thoughts are: WRONG! This shouldn’t be happening! Because I know for a fact that Girl 2 is not a reader, so why the hell is she starting with graphic sexual text!

I wonder if any of these two ‘extensive readers’ have had the great pleasure of knowing, just knowing, that books like ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ or even ‘Hardy Boys’ exist.

Nope, English literature to them will mean insane screaming of ladies in bed.

I wouldn’t really say it’s the writer’s fault that teenagers put these books on their list. But it a definitely a crime, that the reading and writing world has let these books go scott-free. I wish we had talked enough about the books that these two girls today wouldn’t casually flip through them, but have real reason, and be readers before they picked these.

An era infatuated with sex and its not-so-hushed intricate details.. THAT is what literature is for these girls.

I cannot help but say, we should have done something… I should have done something.. But if looks and tones could say everything, that other girl wouldn’t have taken those books after I articulated my thoughts at that very moment.

The girl who was lending them to her, I can still accept that she owns those books. Though she too is a rather innocent girl (innocence is subjective) she does read widely. And when a reader picks books, of any kind, there is no need to judge them. But when a girl like the second girl does that… Sad…

Owning, reading, or even liking Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t a sin… but it’s acceptable only if the reader displays some guile! Random impressionable teenagers, or even adults for that matter, that have never felt books an important thing, suddenly start saying they ‘read’ on the basis of reading this series.. NOT okay. Not for me.

Nice Vocab, said the girl who owned them. Which caused me and one of my sensible classmates to erupt- What vocab? Bondage? Masochism? What!

E L James… author of this series… I have no reason to smile back at you when I see your gleeful grin on magazines and newspapers. Its a grudge I have to carry.

I may be very wrong in my entire judgement, and if you do think I am, I would wanna know how… How does a girl as far from books as sky and land, suddenly start with E L James’ disastrous texts and start saying she reads “books”. How is that okay?

I find that an insult to literature, an insult to books in the very essence of their meaning.

In fact, I will go as far as saying this, that girl, and girls like her, don’t have any right to even go for books like that. At one point they say they don’t want to even think about a boyfriend cause having one is shameful (What?) and then they pick cheap graphic sex books. This is just wrong.

I feel like someone should defend real literature.

Honestly, I never bothered much about E L James and magnanimous articles dedicated to her and her books, and I never cared much for her books either. But today, I don’t know, I just got rattled beyond reason.

Now I am wondering if I should check the books out again, myself. I would have to, of course, cover the front and back with newspaper… Like any other book, I would give them a fair chance too. And I would read with that in mind that I am not guilty of reading just frivolous naughty books, (if it can be called that even) I read real books too.

Makes you wonder, why would someone publish it… It makes money I’m sure. But I believed publishing houses have honour.

Last word of the day… It wouldn’t have mattered if the book was rich in sexual detail… We already have a lot of those, Mills and Boons being legend… But the book is cheaply written in bad BAD English, and to put it on the same rack as someone’s real intellect is plain SHAME.

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Delhi Book Fair

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Living in Delhi has its advantages.

You have three governments, so whatever the situation is the rest of the country, you will never run out of water, electricity, parking space and shopping malls.

You have the historic monuments that I love so much. You have the Golden Quadrangle Highway. You have the music concerts, the right institutions, and the film promotion. What more could one ask for?

But what I also love about being in Delhi is the biennial Book Fair. The lavish week-long fete, the haven of book lovers, and the opium of people like me.

I swear, every time I enter the cool halls of the Fair, I take in a different breath, as if I must fill in as much as I can. I must. I can’t help it. The feeling is euphoric.

So there I was. Breathing in heavy gushes at the door, at the 18th Delhi Book  Fair today.

Can you imagine the feeling of being in a chain of four long halls filled SOLELY with books and books and books? And every one of them awaiting the touch of your hand, that should you desire it, you could HAVE the book for ever and ever and ever? Can you admit the thought isn’t giving you jitters?

Happy as a bee, I hopped through aisles and aisles of books mounting all around me, and people occasionally picking one or two and peering in, and children crying out in delight as they ran with the glossiest prints of their favourite fairy tales…

Today I went with the agenda of looking at non-fiction, specifically, the Interesting and mysterious parts of history and Greek Mythology. I brought back two tomes, both of history, slightly grunting that not even Oxford and Cambridge kept Greek Mythology. Where is Penguin when you need it?

I had interesting adventures.

I pride myself in knowing quite a lot of fairy tales that we are taught as toddlers, but I had somehow missed Sindbad the Sailor. So when I saw a children’s book on the same, I took it and in three minutes flat, filled in that inadequacy in my knowledge. 🙂 Feeling good.

My mom left of the tomes at a stall and we had a rush looking for it. We found it at the first place we checked, sure, but that was enough to make me carry both the heavy books and my bag even as it hurt so.

While my mom was searching for some books I was not interested in, I started reading a book. I little girl came and sat down beside me. At first, my sugar questions didn’t suit her. But as I turned the page to a chart of dinosaurs, she peeled in delight and I made a new friend. But remind me, since when have toddlers liked dinos and ignored even candies? I had even tried talking about Barbies! Well, all’s well that end’s well, isn’t it?

But now I have to go. Because one of the tomes told me a Marlowe guy might be Shakespeare, and that he might have been a spy in the Elizabethan era, and an atheist and hence his mysterious death might just have been staged.

That hit it right.

Shakespeare, atheist and mysterious deaths have to. 🙂

Good cannot produce Evil

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Good cannot produce evil. This was the topic we were given to write a 12-16 line poem on as part of a project in school. But hold on-

Roses have thorns on the plant they grow on. Everyone loves the rain, but they create irksome puddles that always manage to squish on you their dirty water. And black is a fab colour, but it makes nights so much more dreary than they need be.

So- how does good NOT produce evil? It does. So- what do we write?!
We have two options-

One. We say this point, that Good CAN produce Evil. But to go against the given topic would mean making our poem very very strong, and the words very very powerful- something none of my team mates could do, since we were not much into poetry. So there were huge chances that we would fail to write anything good.

Two. We could completely ignore the logical reasoning our brains instantly came up with, and write a romanticist poem on Good this and Good that. Yeah, that would get the marks. 🙂

So after much brain-hitting, and finger snapping (me), frowning, and dreaming (me), scribbling, and keeping from tearing the paper apart as we wrote (me); we came up with the following poem. It managed to impress the right people, and we have good grades, Thank You. So here it goes-

As a flower springs from the soil

Fragile and timid and soft

And as it blooms and grows

And holds its fair head aloft

It germinates and grows its young

And the babe seeds rise out

And when the bee strikes they spill

All around, ALL around

Young flowers spring out naive

And the goodness surrounds!

There is good even in the Devil!

Only, in Him, dominating is Evil

Our thoughts should be good

Good will never produce crude

For good is incapable of just one

And that, is Evil.

– By Ruchika, Varun, and maybe Akshit

We weren’t done by then. We had touched upon the Devil, and we so wanted to go on. But our 16 lines were up.

Fortunately, some other group members had come up with so many lines that we were able to put together TWO poems!

And though that was bending the rules, submitting two poems when we had to put up one, we did so good that no one bothered to yell. Why?

Because good poems hide the way for scolding and shouting.

Because good cannot produce evil.

😀

Sonnet 55, Shake-speare

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I am in Tenth Grade. And in tenth Grade, we are taught this particular Sonnet of Shake-speare’s. I find it gently pretty, but then, gently. And with all the aura Shake-speare has to his name already, and the added mystery around the Fair Youth and Dark Lady, I find it makes a great blog post- soemthing you and me can talk volumes about. (Remember what this blog is all about?) 😀

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments shall
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear’d with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
‘Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

Isn’t it pretty?

We are taught in school, that the poet has so much love and admiration for this person he has dedicated the Sonnet to, that he immortalises him/her ( 😀 ) in his verse, and is so confident that this person will find a place in all future worlds, that he is sure to pass the ravages of Time, War and Death, the superpowers, and go on till Judgement Day. Did you understand as much? Frankly, I didn’t expect Shakespeare to be this simple, but maybe it’s the hype that’s more complex that his real work.

Anyway, I love the concept. And I admire the stern devotion, the irrevocable love, but I have questions. These are questions that are often deemed ‘beyond class discussion’, because, let’s face it, not everyone is interested to talk about this poem they don’t enjoy at all, and they can’t care less what the poem really really means. Cool. But what’s not cool is that the people who should be interested, literary geniuses and teachers, are also put-off and are more than willing to just frisk through it, take the Test and get on. Big problem for me.

Who will talk to me now about Shakespeare being gay or not, since his poems to this young, fair lad are at times pretty lovey-dovey? Who will research and decide, with me, who we think Shakespeare dedicated these Sonnets too, since there are speculations, and a shortlisting? Who will do all the debating, and all the deep thinking?

I was furious to find that I had not many people for this discussion. So I planned my revenge. And here it is.

I have a story, fiction pieces, for each of the two theories I so wanted to discuss and couldn’t. Now here, if you like any, all you need to do is write in in the comments and I’ll get back to you. Of course.

Story One; Theory one- Was S gay?

The night was heavy…

It had come suddenly, like a dark veil of ungainly dark, and had enveloped the entire town into eerie silence. There wasn’t a lamp that had burned against the ravages of that deathly dark, and the people sat in their homes, beside the fire in fear. A small winding road leading down the main path was exceptionally ghastly. The pebbles crunched furiously as the hooded figure walked down it. The road was wet, though it hadn’t rained a drop for the past day. The wind didn’t stir, as if it had rejected that part of town. The hooded figure soon gasped for breath. Faint, and pale, it reached the cottage at the end and clutched the rotting handle tight, in fear of slipping down. White knuckles rapped against the sallow wood door, and promptly, a man flung open the door. The frail figure fell with the sudden gush of the door, causing much alarm to the man who was expecting no visitor.

The figure was carried to the sofa and sat down, and water was brought. As the figure slowly came about, it pulled back it’s hood, to show the fair head of a young lad of twenty, and the boy was terrified.

“I am sorry sir, that you should find me in such timid a state, but I was rather hoping that you would dedicate all your Sonnets to me, henceforth, because you see what you write already pretty much sucks and you copy from here and there, and writing on me, hence, will give you the edge of being the first famous homo. What say you?”

And the man, for it indeed was Shakespeare, threw up his hands, and hugged the Fair Youth and danced and did a jig, and became famous.

There you go. Nothing great about his sexuality after all.

Story two; Theory Two- If S was gay, why the erotic mentions for the Dark Lady? Were they smart enough to invent Bisexual?

So Shakespeare wrote the Sonnets and people couldn’t understand half the context and half the mystery of the youth so they named him a maestro, and Shakespeare became famous. In fact, he got so famous that the Queen called for a meeting. And here, our story continues, which I remind you is fiction, and I have no clue what queen or what era or what fame.

Shakespeare looked outside the coach-window, and wondered if the people would like a Sonnet on grass and bees. He decided to ask the queen, as he was going to see her shortly. The queen. A nervous frown appeared on his intelligible forehead. What did the queen want to see him about? Surely he hadn’t yet won her heart. Was it to punish him? Had he gone too far? Was it the end of his career, was he indeed going to be sacked o his job? He tried not to think. Instead he tried to write and though the thoughts came easily, as he just had to twist famous tales, he soon felt tired. He admitted to himself, he was scared.

But Shakespeare arrived at court all sound, with no mishaps. And when he finally saw the queen who had asked for his presence, his heart melted. Such fair a lady, such beautiful a face… he would embrace death if that was what this holy entity wanted today. The sun fell soft on the queen’s small face, and it only brightened her deepest beauty. Her eyes, wide and dark and her mouth, so red and so firm, Shakespeare knew at once that his contract with the Fair Youth was off.

When he returned to his dismal cottage later, he remembered not what the queen had talked about, but set off dedicating his other Sonnets to her, and to save them both from the careful scrutiny of the king, he turned her fair white skin as lush but dark and wrote on about her.

And that’s how Shakespeare completed his Sonnets.

I do wish he had a smaller name, I would like him much better.

Anyway, this was me being ridiculous, and I expect you not to put much judgement into these words. I most certainly have nothing against the man, as yet, and I am very much willing to listen to critics or lovers alike. As I said, just a little piece of revenge.

😀

This was added on the 21st of August, in response to certain comments and queries made to this post-

When I was writing this piece, I hadn’t thought of this aspect actually, that such a question could come up- whether I was questioning Shakespeare’s credibility on basis of his sexuality. I confess it was lame not to. However i intend to make it very clear it does not affect the work of art one bit if the creator is ‘straight’ gay lesbian, bi or trans; or for that matter, white black grey pink blue green; or Hindu Muslim christian atheist or the devil himself. maybe not the last, if there is a devil, but the point i was really trying to make, and the revenge that i really wanted was that in schools generally we ignore any topic that may be even remotely ‘uncomfortable’ …. that is a shame. So much for holistic development we boast about. So much for curiosity, so underrated, so much for wanting to think.

Roger McGough’s Countryside

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Update: The writer’s block prevails. Hurray!

The countryside must be preserved

(Preferably miles away from me)

Neat hectares of the stuff reserved

For those in need of flower or tree.

I’ll make do with landscape paintind

Film documentaries on TV

And when I need to escape, panting,

Then open-mouthed I’ll head for the sea.

Let others stroll and take their leisure

In grasses that wade up to their knees

For I derive no earthly pleasure

From the green green rash that makes me sneeze.

– Roger McGough, obviously not a countryside lover.

When I first read the first line of this poem, I had half a mind to ignore the rest. But the brackets in the second line made me say- ‘Fine one more line’. Oh wait? Miles AWAY from me? My first thought was that I hadn’t properly understood the line. Maybe it was deep. So I went through it twice over and realised to my greatest satisfaction that dangerous humour, I repeat, dangerous humour is not yet dead. Wuahahaha! Hi-five if you had a similar experience!

I can’t remember what this poem was titled in the original place I read it. But I can guarantee it wasn’t Countryside because then even the first line would never have gained my audience. Because I am no fan of countrysides. (And like McGough, I too am a VERY ocean person. Though nearer to shore.) I have long found poems and prose on the country overrated. And even if one just has to write on the endless stretches of plain crop, a better title is a must. (By the way, any one still on the same page as me, and disliking countrysides  similarly, could try sleeping when you need to pass it.)

Back to Roger McGough. It’s obvious he cares not for the countryside. That is, the narrator McGough, because we can never really judge an author on his creations, specially poems. That would require a great deal of background check, which I, honestly, don’t have time or patience for.

Roger McGough’s poem was gently titillating, a good read. But nothing as spectacular as yesterday’s The Oyester. That was one real string of words.

But I get to my main point. This was a gentle panning, fine. And if Roger McGough was in the government, he might have made some likewise changes, still fine. But what about writing that has much more dangerous implications than this? What about influential writers, and revered literary geniuses that affect their readers so deeply? I know because I love Jeffrey Archer,  and I just realised, that if he had (or indeed has) tried to make me partial against the Prison Service through his diaries, I know I wouldn’t have questioned much.

Roger McGough, I can only say to you- cute poem. But I hope your views on other topics and themes do not often take similar lines.

Ironee

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Manuel was having a hard time creating his second vamp. She only needed to live a dozen pages but she had to be good- sultry and mystical, she was the character who would create his hero’s first obstacle. And it needed to be splendid because that was going to be the root event of the entire book. He already had the perfect set up. All he needed was the perfect girl.

Diaz watched his father crumble yet another ball of paper and and throw at an invisible target at the opposite wall. Diaz giggled, just as he had done after each misdirected shot- seventeen till now. He didn’t understand what daddy was doing, all he cared was to see him frown funnily over and over again, and mutter inaudible ramblings and write furiously and throw the paper away again. Diaz would later collect all that paper and straighten it out, and keep it in daddy’s desk again. Daddy had taught him never to waste paper. As the eighteenth cannonball striked the wall, Diaz giggled louder and rolled over on the floor.

Lea lost the grip on her pen when Diaz laughed again. She had been tense all evening. She was often lost so deep in thought that she would zap back to reality with such a jerk that she felt disorientated and dizzy when she did. Lea knew the things troubling her were serious. She was not doing well in school. In fact, she wasn’t doing good in anything but writing, but then that had been her natural flair. Having an author for a father has it’s benefits.

Diaz was troubling her. She was having a hard time concentrating on the lesson anyway and Diaz’ sudden bursts and gasps and giggles were pinching her more so. Lea had noticed that daddy wasn’t disturbed by Diaz. It made her even more determined to focus better. She was doing an assignment on Figures of Speech. It was, honestly, very lousy. Lea could use whatever figure of speech required in her writing, she just couldn’t work with the technicals…
“Irony, Metaphor, Simile, Hyperbole…” Lea was reading the list again.

Diaz laughed again. This time it was a high pitched squeal because daddy had hit the paper ball right on top of the fan and there it lay, resting on top of a blade.

Manuel saw his flicked ball and smiled at his son. He motioned Diaz to turn the fan on so that the ball may drop. Diaz ran for the switch and when the fan moved, the ball dropped down and landed on Lea’s head.

Diaz rolled on the floor, clutching his sides. Lea frowned at him and threw the ball amidst daddy’s pile. Manuel got back to writing.

‘He was walking along the pavement, stepping into each pool he passed, but not caring. He had too much on his mind.’

Lea read the example given in her text. ‘It’s ironic that she posted a video of how futile Facebook was on Facebook and is sitting there tracking Likes.’ Lea didn’t understand that. What was the difference between irony and mockery? She would have asked daddy but he was obviously very busy.

Manuel was still writing.

‘He thought about her. How she had picked him up easily, at the bar. How he had shown no resistance. How he had been wishing she leave her phone number. How he had liked it, he had really liked it, when she did.”

Diaz had been waiting for too long. He was getting impatient. Daddy had got an idea at last. How boring. Diaz picked up a paper ball from the mounting heaps, and tossed it in the air. He tried to catch it on the tip of his nose but it fell off. He played with more balls… dropped some… rolled some far across the room… and he kept playing till the entire room was littered with crunched papers. But the game was really off when one ball went and hit Lea in the face.

“A large dog called Tiny is an- OWWW!” shrieked Lea, as she caught the ball in her eye.

It was war.

“Diazzzzz! What do you think you are doing hitting people with paper balls in their faces when they are doing their work and minding their business!!!” Diaz stood still. Manuel looked up. He didn’t want a fight now.

“You don’t suppose any one has anything to do, do they?! Just because you can sit around and do nothing and laugh and play doesn’t mean everyone can! Have you ever thought about studying?! Or letting others? Of course not! You are just a lazy boy, who knows nothing! And here I have to sit and learn the most useless of things like Simile and Irony and what not-”

Diaz smiled, all of a sudden.

Lea stopped, shocked. Then she burst out- “WHAT?”

Diaz giggled. “I-run-eeee?” He giggled more.

Lea looked on, quiet. Was he really giggling? Manuel was just as silent.

“Iruneeeeiiii! What a funny name daddy!” Diaz giggled.

Manuel looked at his son. Irony. I-run-eee. Ironie. Ironee. Irounie? No… Ironee… yes, he could make her Russian probably. Or just tacky. Yes… she would be his own personal joke. His hero’s joke! Her own joke! And then, the name he would laugh at and call his own would turn out so alien and the joke… it would be on him… yes… his second vamp… Ironee.

But was it a winner name?

Diaz danced. “Ironeeeeeee….. Ohh Ironeeee….. funny name! Ironeeee!”

It was. Manuel could make it as sultry as he wanted, even as much as Hell. She could be so much. So powerful. So evil.

Manuel threw up his arms in joy. “Yes!” he shouted and scrawled his pen across the blank sheets with a maddening rage.

Diaz joined in his father’s elation, and did a little jig to a tune that comprised majorly of variations of Ironee’s name.

Lea looked on, awestruck.

What irony, she thought.

Her eyes widened. Irony! I know irony!

The brother she had been scolding had come to her poor father’s rescue, and he knew nothing what so ever of writing! Ad he had explained Irony to her!

Figures Of Speech 101. Surprise. Specially when you have a darling brother.

 

Writer’s Math

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How math is important to a writer.

Math Problem
Though I don’t mean this! Phew!

Let’s say you are creating a scene where four are dining together and as is often the intent on such occasions, having a conversation. One says something very shocking causing the others to stare at him and you write something like this-

‘And the words weren’t even out of his mouth when three hands stopped, holding spoons midway and eight eyes bore into the speaker’s.’

Okay, that’s a scrappy description, thanks to the mid air spoons. But the point is- the eyes. Eight eyes? Either you are being very smart and creating a spying-on character right there (in which case you must give hints to point this out and not confuse the reader) or very stupid because why, and HOW, in God’s name will the speaker look into his own eyes? We don’t like characters with squint and we JUST don’t like them at the dinner table.

Squinting Kid
Only kids look cute with the squint. But imagine him in a suit, hosting a dinner. It’s a No-Winner!

So, that’s why Math is important.

We have to learn that six eyes or two three pairs will stare at the speaker.

😀

And other instances where knowledge of the numbers is so important:

  1. Talking of shares
    Your character is a fraud. A common trick is to create a fake company, spread a rumour of hitting gold or something which makes the shares go up. The goat-character comes to market hearing the discreet rumour and considering it luck, and buys say 50 shares (for simplicity’s sake) at 2 USD. The fraud character just made 100 USD (50X2=….. yes, 100!) but you make a mistake and write 120, which he bets in a Casino and so on… Sounds lame? Exactly.
  2. Spending a fortune is our favourite short paragraph. We write a whole chapter dedicated to collecting one and then we write off the expenditure in three lines, to show how trivial an amount that was and make the reader awe-eyed. But, BUT, but. The trick’s on you, when its adds up to more than the earned amount. Of course the character must have had more money back in some account but We Don’t Take That! What he earns in front of the reader IS what he is expected to spend. So, add properly and double check. Do we need to remind you that 1 + 1 = 11? Oh sorry, 2. Mistakes happen!
  3. Chapters if you must number, shouldn’t go out of sequence. THIS ONE IS ABOUT DIGNITY! Because if I found you jump 14, I would be cracking jokes. “Mr. X learned well how to write books but unfortunately, he missed the day they taught the counting. Poor soul, let’s all give him credit for fighting his handicap, and never backing down!” Also, there are some books that don’t number the traditional way (1-2-3..) but take up some sequence. Like Mark Haddon’s ‘The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time’ gave them prime numbers, with reason too. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. And I couldn’t keep checking them very soon. (137…. 619…. WOULD you check 1789?!)
  4. The 5 formula
    If you often the use the number 5, STOP! Five people, five cars, five birds, five mistakes…. it’s too fake. Actually, the less you use the numbers 5 or 10, the more real you sound. It’s not me, it’s common! 5 sounds too perfect, too complete. In real life, which you want to create in your story, use a range of numbers. We don’t care if you love 6, we won’t feel comfortable reading about 6 things all the time!
  5. Royalty 🙂 As writers, you MUST be looking forward to these. But if you insist to be un-money-minded, it also tells you how many people have bought your books so yes, you DO want these. Well, gotta learn how to count them no?

Have fun, writers, bloggers, READERS! And don’t forget that 1+1= …2!!!