August 19, 2016

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

by Milan Kundera

I've heard many things about The Unbearable Lightness of Being but I've always shied away from it. I remember a time when I browsed a copy and got intimidated by the first chapter, which talked of philosophical stuff. I obtained my copy from a book club friend during our club's Christmas exchange gift some 2-3 years ago, and since then, it had always sat on my shelf, begging to be picked up.

Thankfully, I have a bingo square for "Philosophical Fiction" so this time around, no more excuses reading this book.

Contrary to my initial perception, the novel isn't all about philosophy. Of course, Nietzsche was mentioned, there's stuff about past and future lives, lightness and being, heavy stuff. But there was also the story of Tomas, his wife Tereza, Tomas's mistress (among many) Sabina, and Sabina's lover Franz. Also, there were underlying political themes in the novel, regarding Russia's occupation of Prague. It was deftly interwoven into the story of the main characters, which I appreciated.

August 3, 2016

Brave New World

by Aldous Huxley

Curiosity is what made me read this book. I liked the idea of a "brave new world" with genetically-engineered humans, a society made up of individuals and not families, test-tube babies, drug-induced happiness, and every manner of convenience within reach. It all sounds fascinating, doesn't it?

Recently, some book club friends and I discussed speculative fiction short stories, and our conversation veered towards Huxley and this book. We talked about how genetic engineering has evolved and is being performed nowadays that you can actually get to choose your child's future traits. It came up that Huxley, through this book - originally published in 1932 - foresaw the future, how genetically-engineered embryos and test-tube babies would someday be actually, genuinely real. Indeed, less than a century after Brave New World was first published, here we are cloning animals and picking blue eyes and blond hair for our babies.

July 20, 2016

Bel Canto

by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto is a story about human relationships, notwithstanding differences in race, upbringing, and stations in life. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking as well, and the sadness of how it all ended up left me feeling mixed-up inside.

It begins with a dinner party in honor of world-renowned Japanese businessman Katsumi Hosokawa, hosted by the President of a small, unnamed country in South America. The party - held on the day of Hosokawa's birthday - was held at the official residence of the Vice President of that country, with statesmen, VIPs, and international personalities from various fields in attendance. Famous soprano, Roxane Coss, was the special guest of honor, invited because she is Hosokawa's favorite opera singer. Unfortunately, the President himself was unable to attend, and the Vice President - his name is Ruben Iglesias - was host.

In the middle of the revelry, armed men and women - some of them barely out of their teens, a few were actually children - barge into the mansion. They've been planning on taking the President for weeks, and just a few hours before the party, had been hiding inside the mansion's air vents. But because they were not counting on the President to be absent at the dinner party that he himself had staged, the terrorists, in an impromptu resolution, decide to take everyone in the mansion hostage until such time that they had a backup plan concocted. This is where the story unfolds.

July 4, 2016

The Danish Girl

by David Ebershoff

I finished reading The Danish Girl last week and wanted to see the film adaptation right away. Unfortunately, despite efforts to procure a copy, I was unable to do so, which, perhaps, is just as well so that I can write my thoughts about the book without regard at all to the film. It’s also to prevent this write-up from becoming a comparison between the book and the movie. 

The Danish Girl is about Einar Wegener, a Danish painter, and his wife, Greta Waud, an American. Set in the 1920s, the Wegeners live in an apartment in Copenhagen where they have set up their living as painters. Einar paints bogs and landscapes, Greta paints portraits.

When Anna, an opera singer and Greta’s current subject, fails to show up at her studio one day, Greta asks Einar to sit for her. Greta needed to finish Anna’s portrait, so she came up with the idea of asking Einar to put on Anna’s stockings and shoes and sit for her. Einar agrees, and that single moment in Greta’s studio stirs something in Einar, something deep inside him – something feminine – and right there was “born” Lili, the transgender artist.

June 23, 2016

On The Road

by Jack Kerouac

This is, by far, the worst book that I least like that I've read this year. I've been racking my brain for things to say about it but I can't, because nothing happens in it. Nothing.

There's just a bunch of guys who go on a road trip across the country. I don't understand why. Sal Paradise, the protagonist, decides to go from West Coast to East Coast, running out of money in the process and needing to be bailed out by a relative, and then when he's there, he goes back again. Dean Moriarty, his "friend," is his companion who cannot, for the life of me, decide who between two women he'd rather be with. Both of them waste waaaay too much time traveling and driving and that is all there is to this book, really.

June 14, 2016

Bingo, again!

And so today, I complete my second pattern for the book club's book bingo.

Second pattern is the F-N column. Now which pattern should I complete next? :D