October 19, 2016

SHORTS: Poems and Essays

Last month, I read two wonderful works of non-fiction: a collection of erudite poems by Irish poet Eavan Boland and a book of essays by Australian writer Clive James. This is the first time I encountered these writers, whose works were recommended by good friends from the book club. I must admit that I wouldn't have read them were it not for our current book club reading challenge, the TFG Bingo, but I'm thankful that I've had this chance.

Domestic Violence: Poems
by Evan Boland

I liked this collection of poems that spoke about marriage, the home, relationships within the family, loss, and love of country and patriotism. What resonated with me most were the poems about mothers and daughters, particularly "On This Earth." I also liked the titular poem, "Domestic Violence," for its haunting yet powerful voice. I read these poems aloud because I found that hearing the words being spoken out loud gives them even more texture than when they are being read silently, and the meaning behind them comes at you full force.

October 12, 2016

A Woman In Berlin

by Anonymous; attributed to Marta Hillers

Historical novels have always interested me, and a favorite sub-genre that falls under the "historical" umbrella is war books. A Woman In Berlin is one such book, but distinct in the fact that it is a diary written by a German woman who witnessed and lived through the fall of Berlin at the end of the Second World War.

The diary entries were written in a detached, matter-of-fact manner. Perhaps it was the diarist's way of disconnecting herself from the atrocities that the Russians were committing right and left: mass rape, pillaging, among others. One can only speculate on her intentions for writing the diary: was it cathartic for her to record her experiences on paper, or did she intend for it to be an objective account thereof, for purposes of future public consumption? Again, this is subject of intelligent speculation.

Delta of Venus

by Anaïs Nin

Delta of Venus is a collection of erotic short stories, and by "erotic" I mean hard-core, detailed descriptions of the sexual act and deviant behavior, done in various positions and with certain peculiarities. I've read Little Birds a few years back, so I knew, more or less, what to expect from this compendium.

What is there to say about a collection of short stories that speak of nothing but sex, sex, and more sex? Books like this can only be read up to a certain point; after that, it can only get tiring and/or boring. How many stories can you make up about the same subject and its various forms anyway? There are total strangers giving each other the eye in a cafe or in a public place and then having sexual congress a few minutes later; voyeurism, necrophilia, incest, pedophilia, and bestiality; homosexual sex; women with huge breasts and men with giant penises; cunnilingus and fellatio, anal sex... Those are just a few of the themes I've read about, off the top of my head, and I think I haven't covered everything yet.

September 28, 2016


by Geraldine Brooks

If you've read Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic, Little Women, this novel is for you. March is a novel told from the point of view of "Father March," Marmee's husband and Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy's father who went off to join the American Civil War. So, except for a brief homecoming, Father March was largely absent from Alcott's novel. In this work, he tells of how he and Marmee first met and eventually married, their struggles and beliefs as they joined the abolitionist movement and served the Union, and how his work as a Union chaplain in the frontlines of the war nearly broke him and his family apart.

It has been many, many years since I read Little Women. I also remember watching the film adaptation, which I liked. Little Women was basically about the March sisters and their mother, Marmee, so this novel narrated from the perspective of the only male March family member read like the final piece of the huge puzzle that is the life of the Marches.

September 21, 2016

MIBF 2016

Earlier, I was looking for my MIBF post for 2015 – I always write about my “loot” just like everyone else – and realized that I never got around to posting one. The last MIBF post I wrote was in 2014. As the most recent MIBF just wrapped up over the weekend, I thought it might not be too late to catch up (yeah, it’s a year later, so what).

MIBF 2015
Last year, I went by my lonesome, as I usually do, and on a weekday. (It’s important to stress the day of an MIBF visit because it will save your life. Heh.) I made a beeline for the Adarna booth because I wanted to get a LOT of books for my daughter, and I also had the idea of getting duplicate copies for giving away to her classmates on Christmas. The Adarna dual language books are my favorite local children’s books and I always make sure to get Allie the new ones.

Scouring the shelves, I saw that we already had several of the titles, but there were still a lot of new ones that we didn’t have yet. So these are what I got for her:

September 19, 2016

The Lover

by Marguerite Duras

This year, I picked up a lot of books I wouldn't have otherwise read were it not for a bingo challenge at the book club. The Lover is one of them. Originally, I picked this one up for the "erotica" box but realized that I had been operating under the wrong assumption. I've read erotica, and this isn't one. The book's classification under erotica is, perhaps, due to the fact that the film adaptation focused largely on the sexual aspects of the story. But when you read this, you'd know. Instead, I put it in the "novella" box because it qualifies as one, having only a little over a hundred pages.

But I digress.

image from Goodreads

The Lover is an autobiographical work. Marguerite Duras was born and raised in the French colonial Vietnam, and this is supposedly the story of her life. I say "supposedly" because there was much issue later on about whether The Lover was an accurate depiction of her life in Vietnam. But she did say that it was autobiographical, and so the work reads like a memoir, with shifting POVs and jerky narration. She talked about her mother and brothers, who all apparently had no love for her, and her relationship - at 15 years old - with a rich Chinese man who became her lover. She did not love him, but he gave her comfort, and stayed with her until she departed back for France.