February 8, 2012

The Spark Project [1]: Angus


So, here we are: the pilot episode, if you will, of this new (and, so far, only) features post that I have come up with for this blog. I have explained what this project is all about in a previous post, so let's skip that part and proceed with the introduction for the project's buena mano.

ANGUS and I first met at the fourth anniversary meet-up of TFG-GR sometime in April last year where, like him, I was a neophyte attendee. Two things I distinctly remember about him that time: (1) he has a lot of piercings all over, and (2) boy, was he skinny, and I mean reaaally skinny. I was already at the designated table for the group, talking to our moderator Kuya Doni, when Angus boldly approached and asked,"TFG?", directing the question to no one among those present in particular. Unfortunately, it was Kwesi, one of the younger members, who took it upon himself to reply and said, "Ay hindeee." I didn't actually see how Angus reacted to that, but I giggled inwardly. In hindsight, I realized that Angus must have exercised (great?) self-restraint when he failed to come up with a witty retort. (Parenthetically, that incident eventually went down in history as one of the most memorable moments in TFG-GR.) :)

We developed our friendship online when we became reading buddies for several books: The Grapes of Wrath, A Passage To India, and Gone With The Wind. We have more or less similar thoughts and opinions on all three books (especially A Passage To India), and the reading experience for each one became more enjoyable especially with a bright and sharp mind like his with whom to compare notes. It's no wonder he's a favorite reading buddy at TFG - mine, especially.

He is one of the current moderators of TFG-GR and is one of those alleged "weirdos" who enjoy reading the classics more than any other genre. In the relatively short time I've known him personally, I can definitely say that Angus is one of the most articulate and frank persons I've ever met.

So friends, without further ado, let's read on as Angus reveals and talks about that one book that changed his life. :)

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(1) What is the one book that sparked or kindled your love for reading? Describe the circumstances in which you found or discovered it.

What book should I blame for making me the kind of reader that I am and for making me love books more than anything else in this life? Let's answer the question directly: it's To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.



I know it sounds a little serious and even a tad pretentious to claim that this novel sparked my reading life. But it did. So how did this happen? I encountered this novel during sophomore year when our English teacher required us to do a book report. I noticed that most of my classmates were picking Sidney Sheldon and Danielle Steel. I asked my senior friends what book I should pick. The would-be valedictorian of the senior class suggested that I do To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. He read that book for his own book report. So yes, I followed his suggestion.

The book didn't immediately make me a voracious reader or a reader of the types of book that I read now. It's a long, convoluted process in my case. If you really want to know, I only got into heavy reading years, many years, after my book report on Harper Lee's only novel.

Now, how did this book influence my reading habits? One time, during my college years and during an extended reading hiatus, I was roaming around a newly built mall in my hometown when I saw Book Sale for the first time. My jaw almost dropped when I saw the cheap price of the books. I thought of resuming my reading. While I was browsing the shelves, I saw a mass market copy of The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. The cover said it's a Pulitzer Prize winner. My high school book report came back in episodes. I was overwhelmed with fuzzy feelings because I am really fond of Scout, Jem, and Atticus.

I started collecting the Pulitzers. When I got disappointed with some of them, I did a little research on what books to read next. There are the Booker Prize winners. And then there are the lists, things which I am a sucker of. There's Time Magazine's 100 Novels. There's Modern Library’s list. And all those literary awards and book lists. These have greatly influenced my choice of books.

(2) How has it affected you - both your life in general and as a reader?

Books that are placed under the same category of To Kill a Mockingbird strike most people as serious. Yes, they may be high-brow and intimidating, but these books helped me shape my opinions and form my opinions. They also helped me become myself. I stopped trying to be cool. I stopped copying other people's preferences. I stopped following trends. I stopped trying to win people's approval. I stopped not being me. There. These aren't such bad things.

I also have to somehow give credit to the books that I read as a kid. Those books must have founded my taste in books. My appreciation for vivid characters (X-Men comic books and Disney fairy tales), beautiful settings (atlas and a globe), well-done background research (encyclopedia, book about birds, dogs, and dinosaurs), attention to details (books on trivia), masterful use of language (illustrated dictionary), and diversity (Children around the World – a collection of short stories) are fundamentally influenced by my readings as a kid.

I am donating a brand new copy of Harper Lee's book to the kids of Virlanie, a nonprofit organization that supports the education of homeless and underprivileged kids. Who knows, another life might shift tremendously thanks to the beauty of To Kill a Mockingbird and the wonders of literature.

♣ ♣ ♣


Angus actively blogs about his favorite books and reading journals at Book Rhapsody, and when he has the time, he occasionally updates his personal blog, too. You may also visit him at his Goodreads page, where you will find virtual shelves overflowing with award-winners and never-before-heard authors and titles alike. :)

Thank you for readily agreeing to be my first interviewee, Angus, and for cam-whoring specially for this project! :)

12 comments:

angus25 said...

Oh my, thanks! It feels a little surreal reading this because it's not on any page that I control, hehe. Thanks!

I propose a toast for the success of The Spark Project! :)

jzhunagev said...

Congrats on the launching of your first Spark Project, Monique!

Angus is indeed a very good "buena mano" choice for the blog feature.

And I love "To Kill a Mockingbird", too! :)

My warm regards and happy reading!

Monique said...

ANGUS: Thank you! Did you like the collage of your pictures that I made? :D

JZHUN: Thank you very much! I haven't read "To Kill A Mockingbird" yet, but with all of you who attest to it, I think I'll make time to read it soon. :)

Oh, and I will be contacting you soon for this project too! ;)

angus25 said...

A.Monique: Yes, I did! My boss saw me reading the post, and she was like, "Wait, isn't that you?" And then she went on about my face being more prominent than the book, hahaha!

Lynai said...

HURRAY FOR ANGUS AND FOR THE SPARK PROJECT! <3

I wonder why I wasn't able to finish "To Kill A MOckingbird"? Maybe I should buy a newer edition. Yellowed na kasi ang pages ng copy ko and the font is small kaya I lost interest. :D

fanarchist said...

Excellent first installment! I was a little surprised to learn that Angus wasn't very bookish until college. He reads so many intimidating books, lol.

Shamefully enough, I've never read To Kill a Mockingbird. I don't know if that means I forfeit my geek cred or something. :D

Tina said...

Aha. Did Angus cut his hair na? :D

I love To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the first classics that I love when I started consciously reading classics. :D

(Speaking of this feature, I will reply to your email this weekend! :D)

Maria @ bookchilla said...

OMG, Chami you look like a guy!!!

Congrats, Monique :) very nice feature!

Monique said...

TINA: Yes, in time siguro for Valentine ang pagpapa-gandang ito ni Angus. Haha!

MARIA: Thanks! O di bah, new look ang trip ng lola mo?! :))

kwesifriends said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kwesifriends said...

Who is that guy in the picture? I'm not sure if that's Angus or not! Maria said it right! You look like the opposite... you know. Haha.

angus25 said...

A.Lynai: A new edition might help tremendously. There's a 50th anniversary issue, but it's too expensive, hehe.

Kristel: High school was a shameful reading phase for me, hehe. The books that I read then were a far cry from what I am reading now. Besides, I was too self-absorbed with my identity crisis, hahaha.

Tina, Maria, Kwesi: Yes, I did cut my hair. Off with the damaged curls! Don't worry, I can get another perm once my hair gets longer.

A.Monique: No, I'm not doing it for Valentine's! (Do I smell bitterness and contempt? Hahaha!)