Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

Whenever I think about A Tale of Two Cities, I will always remember that eloquent, haunting ending. I haven’t read a lot of books so I am not sure how much weight this statement carries, but I will say it anyway: that was the most powerful ending that I’ve ever read in all my years of being a reader.


A Tale of Two Cities has been one of those classics that I’ve long wanted to read. When I was a child, I had a bunch of those mass market paperback-sized illustrated classics for children, with hardback covers, colorful illustrations, and huge typesets, but with no authors. I remember distinctly that I had a copy of A Tale of Two Cities along with Pinocchio, Little Women, and The Jungle Book. What I couldn’t recall, however, is if I had actually read A Tale of Two Cities because unlike the other three, I couldn’t remember the story. I’m more inclined to think that I haven’t, because if I did, I think I’d remember the names of the characters, at the least.

But it doesn’t matter now because I’ve finally read A Tale of Two Cities – the novel in its original, serialized version – and totally, completely loved it.

*

This classic Dickens novel is set in, well, two cities: London and Paris. It begins with a journey from London, as young Frenchwoman Lucie Manette travels to Paris to be reunited with her father, Doctor Manette, a former Bastille prisoner now in the twilight of his years. With the help of a trustworthy businessman, Mr Lorry, the Manettes travel back to London to start life anew. There, their lives get intertwined with those of two men: Charles Darnay, an exiled French gentleman, and Sydney Carton, an English lawyer who has alcoholic tendencies. Both men fall in love with Lucie, and while Lucie makes her choice easily, a well-kept secret complicates things. This secret takes Charles, Lucie, and Sydney back to Paris – to the French spies, to La Guillotine, the Reign of Terror, and to their fates.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Filipino Fridays 2014 #2: Have you ever wanted to write a book?

My answer to the prompt is a resounding OH YES.

"As a reader, have you ever thought about writing a book? What kind of books/stories do you want to write? Or are you now a published author, and what compelled you to go fulfil this dream? How was your journey from reader to writer? How did you go about getting your book out there?"

In fact, I began writing stuff when I was still in high school - this was in the early 1990s - something similar to the YA series that was popular back then: Sweet Dreams novels. Understand that at the time, these books were my main reading materials (apart from school readings, of course) and I was largely enticed by the way the American high school students lived. Also, I thought, how difficult is it to write a book like this, anyway?

So I tried my hand at writing, using the old typewriter that my father used at home. My plot was simple: a high school Filipina goes to the United States to live with an aunt for a year, and there she meets a gorgeous American boy when she auditions for the high school glee club. I had grand fluffy scenes in mind (one involved a public serenade, hahaha) which never got written. I think I was able to write up to two or three chapters before I completely abandoned the idea in favor of school. 

No, I am not a published author, as I have (for now) jettisoned the idea of writing anything creatively. My work involves much legalese and I'm afraid all my literary/creative juices were dried up by the legal gobbledygook in my head. Perhaps, I could try to publish something when I'm more, shall we say, accomplished in this field, but not fiction. Reference books, perhaps, or a compilation of essays on the legal profession? I am open to the idea.

*


The fourth Filipino Reader Conference will be on November 14, 2014, and you can check out more information on that right here. See you again next week for more Filipino Fridays! :)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

House of Leaves

by Mark Z. Danielewski

“This is not for you.”

So the book warned, as if telling me, This book is all fucked up. You still have time to change your mind.

But I’m not one to heed this piece of unsolicited advice (from whom, the book? Its author?) so I plowed on. Besides, I had three friends who similarly ignored the warning, so why should I?

Reading it is like an expedition; you'll need tools.

House of Leaves is an e-reader-proof, labyrinthine work that poses more questions in the end than answers them. I say “e-reader-proof” because its peculiar typography, unconventional layout, and bizarre footnotes make it nearly impossible to enjoy through an electronic reader – the entire reading experience is just not the same as on print. I also say “labyrinthine” because it will take its reader through mazes and labyrinths and hidden codes as the story unfurls. And the questions pile up, one at a time, chapter through chapter, footnote after footnote, until the reader, filled with mixed emotions, comes to the end of the book with no hope of any answer.

I couldn’t even discern why the word “house” – or any of its equivalents in any foreign language – was printed in blue each time it appears on the text. Every. Single. Time.

*

House of Leaves offers three layers of stories, told simultaneously: (1) the story of Johnny Truant, an alcoholic tattoo shop employee who starts off the book and continues to narrate the rest, and who comes upon (2) a manuscript written by the recently-deceased blind hermit Zampano, which entirely dealt upon (3) The Navidson Record, a Blair Witch-esque documentary film about a family’s horrifying experiences in a house that appeared to be bigger on the inside than it presents itself on the outside.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Filipino Fridays 2014: Surprise, Reader!

As I’m typing this, there’s only one hour left before Friday is over. So I will try to beat the buzzer and fork up a decent post for this year’s first Filipino Fridays meme, one of the activities pre-Filipino ReaderCon that I’ve always loved participating in for years now.



For this first salvo, here are the questions for the participants:

Surprise, Reader! Hello, it’s the first week of Filipino Fridays 2014! Whether it’s your first time to participate or not, tell us a bit about yourself. More specifically, tell us about your favorite book discoveries for this year. Any author you started reading this year that you can’t get enough of? A book you didn’t think you’d like, but you ended up liking/loving? Any book series that you just have to get your hands on? Have you discovered anything new from Filipino authors this year?

My name is Monique, and I’m an eclectic reader. I read both print and digital formats of books, and my Kindle Paperwhite’s name is Oscar, from my favorite Junot Diaz book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Required Reading 2014: October

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to experience the turning and falling of the leaves in autumn! Someday, I will. For now, though, I will content myself looking at pretty photos or videos of bronzed leaves falling away from the trees as soon as October rolls around.


And Halloween! Suddenly everyone is busy preparing for the few days that connect and transition October to November. This year, though, Halloween is more exciting for me because it’s my daughter’s first trick-or-treat party in school! I’m excited to put together a costume for her. I'm thinking that she could go as one of these three things: a pink pirate, a Lalaloopsy character (her favorite dolls), or a cowgirl. What do you think? :)

Anyway, I have some new titles on my reading list for October, but before that, a recap of my September books:

  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell – The latest genre-defying, mind-bending novel from one of my favorite authors of all time. Nothing but 5/5 stars.
  • The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee – The second traveling book of the book club. Loved the historical bits! Quite interesting. 4/5 stars.
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – The book club’s book of the month which, unfortunately, I was unable to read because my copy is still with my friend. Thankfully, she was able to attend the joint discussion with another book club. [Carry-over.]
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton – Currently on page 505 of 832. So far the book I've been reading for the longest period this year. I can do this! [Carry-over.]

And now, for October:

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Sense of an Ending

by Julian Barnes

The Sense of an Ending is my first foray into the world of Julian Barnes’ lyrical prose, and I am bowled over. There is hardly any place in the novella where you won’t find a passage worth quoting. But the writing is just the tip of the iceberg; this Man Booker winner begs the question, how infallible is one’s memory?


Tony Webster – once married, successfully divorced – is quietly enjoying his retirement when a letter from a solicitor arrives with an enclosure. The enclosure is a letter from Sarah Ford, the mother of his erstwhile college sweetheart Veronica. Tony met Sarah only once, when Veronica brought him home over the holidays to meet her family several decades before. In her letter, Sarah bequeathed upon Tony two things: the diary of his old friend, Adrian, with whom Veronica had taken up after breaking things off with Tony, and “a little money.” She also apologized for the way her family had treated him during that isolated visit to their home, and wished him well, “even beyond the grave.” In answer to his silent questions, the solicitor’s letter informs Tony that Mrs Ford has drawn up her will five years prior, and that the diary mentioned in her letter is still in the possession of her daughter, Veronica.

The letter comes as a surprise, after nearly 40 years of silence, and its contents baffle Tony even more. Why was Sarah in possession of a diary owned by his friend Adrian? Why was she leaving him money? His tumultuous relationship with Veronica decades ago had ended even worse than the actual affair, which was already bad enough, and Adrian had committed suicide at a time when Tony had severed ties with them both. Sarah’s letter, therefore, prompts Tony to re-examine a cache of memories involving himself, Adrian, and Veronica.

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