Reading Corner with Tazeen Javed
Tazeen Javed has lived in Karachi for most of her life before she decided to get out and see something of the world. She has worked as a journalist, teacher, salesperson, activist, tour guide, international election observer, fruit picker, copy writer and television producer in the past. She plans to keep discovering new aspects of her life this way.
What is one thing about reading that makes you want to read more and more?
I have been a reader since I learned how to read. I don’t recall a time when I didn’t have a book of some sort on my bedside.
When it comes to genre, which one do you prefer reading the most? Why this preference?
I am open to most but I have read literary fiction the most. No particular reason for it, I guess I am drawn to beautiful prose and heartfelt emotions and literary fiction the place for it (No offence to the genre but you cannot find that in suspense and thriller). One genre that is a big no no for me is fantasy. The only fantasy books I have read are Harry Potter books but then everyone has read them, right? I also don’t do young adults because I am an actual adult adult, have been one for quite a while.
Recall an Aha moment you had while reading. How has that changed your perspective to life?
Not exactly an aha moment, but while I was reading Kate Bolick’s Spinster last year, there were so many moment that I felt that I have lived through or that she has written what I didn’t even know I was feeling. Like how she dealt with her mother’s death and her anxiety about her career and writing and all that jazz.
If you were to re-write a book that you have read, which one would you? Why would you change it?
Pride & Prejudice. I would make Lizzie Bennett less of a gold digger than she was. She fell in love with the house, not the man. I would like her to own that up.
Do you have an emotional bond with any specific books? Why did you develop that?
I don’t know if it can be called an emotional bond but there are certain books I always go back to. I absolutely love Alain de Botton’s Essays on Love. I call that book a therapist. Every time I am feeling sad, I would pick up the book, start reading it from somewhere and I would instantly feel better. I absolutely love everything Mushatq Yousufi has written with Aab-e-Gum has to be my personal favourite though.
Do you keep going back to any books that you have? Why? Any books(s) you have not been able to finish? Why?
I have started and stopped reading War & Peace many times. Like I start, then stop to start all over and then drop it again. Another book that I was unable to finish, despite trying a couple of times, is Catch 22. I don’t think I am ever going to visit those two again.
Who are your favorite writers? Any writers you think are under rated? Your favorite Pakistani writers?
I have quite a few favorite writers. I have mentioned Kate Bollick, whose Spinster speaks to me on a spiritual level. Alain de Botton is another favourite writer and I have read everything he has written. I quite like George Orwell; people love his fictional work, I do too, but I think his “Down & Out in Paris” is an absolute gem and doesn’t get its due recognition. Paul Beatty, who wrote this year’s Man Booker winner ‘The Sellout’ is my new favourite author.
Among Pakistani writers, Mushtaq Yousufi remains my absolute favourite. Like he is heads and shoulders above everyone in my estimation, whether it is command over the language, his sense of humour, his biting satire or his sensitivity towards his subject matter, he is just wonderful. Other favourites are Shafiq-ur-Rehman, Ibn-e-Insha and Pitras Bokhari. I first read them as a teenager and loved them and they still give me joy if I ever revisit any of their books. That kind of longevity is extremely admirable in a writer.
Any short stories or essays that you would like to recommend to our readers?
I absolutely love anything that is published in New York Times “Modern Love” column. When I find myself uninspired, I go to that section and read old favourites. It always helps me gain some kind of perspective. Ibn-e-Insha’s Urdu ki Akhri Kitaab is also recommended.
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