April 16, 2012

The Spark Project [4]: JZHUN


The Spark Project is a monthly blog feature where a reader and/or book blogger is invited to talk about that one book that sparked his/her interest in books and reading. He/She will tell us about the what-when-where-why-and-how of this topic, how his/her reading habits have evolved since encountering that book, and so on. Wouldn't it be fun and interesting as well to know how a fellow book lover discovered the wonderful world of books? :)

Hello, dear readers! It's time again for this blog's monthly feature, and this time, the guest blogger/reader is another moderator of the Goodreads-based book club, The Filipino Group. (Tina and Angus, who were priorly featured, are the other two. Kuya Doni Oliveros completes the list of moderators.)



Our guest for April, Jzhun, of Dark Chest of Wonders, has been around Goodreads-TFG for years now - one of the few true pioneers of the group. If you will poke around the TFG threads, you'll see that Jzhun's welcoming posts and friendly comments are a constant. He will chat up new members, share his two cents on any given topic (especially on books that he loves!), and vehemently debate the merits of anything that he truly believes in. Case in point: during the group's 1984 Face to Face discussion last January, he had been one of the most emotionally and ardently vocal ones who willingly argued his views about the book. Make no mistake: beneath that geeky, intelihente exterior lies a passionate and fierce book lover who will speak his mind whenever he finds it necessary. :)

Jzhun enjoys a myriad of genres, and among his favorite authors are Stephen King, Ken Follett, C.S. Lewis, and currently, he's into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes detective stories. He moderated the book club's discussion of The Little Prince last February, which (I heard) was a great success. :)

Having said all those, let's now see how much Jzhun spoke his mind about this blog feature. Your attention, ladies and gents.  ;)

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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.

I don’t know if it may come shocking to you (and for your readers as well), but in all honesty my first exposure to reading was mainly due to Filipino horror pocketbooks and komiks; yes, the ones we usually see sold at sidewalk newsstands then! I think my liking for them may have stemmed from my love of horror movies when I was in elementary (Yes, folks, I have seen all of the Child’s Play movies and I have fond memories associated with  TV series like HBO’s Tales from the Crypt — watched most episodes on VHS, remember those? — Goosebumps, and, my favorite of all, Are You Afraid of the Dark?). The scary, hand-drawn gory covers are the factors that drew me to read some of them, aside from the fact that most of these books are sold cheaply, or for ten pesos each.  I remember that I even went all the way to Divisoria one time when the usual ones sold by the neighborhood newsstand vendor tired the hell out of me (or maybe when it failed to frighten me just enough). I heard from my aunt that it’s the place they call bagsakan ng iba’t ibang babasahin.

I can’t recall now most of what I had read, but if you’ve already watched some of the films from the Shake, Rattle and Roll franchise then you are more or less familiar with its plot involving ghosts that typically haunt an old house or mansion because it has an unfinished business (the usual motive) here on Earth before it can move on to the next plane, or those stories that involve creatures from Philippine lower mythology with the likes of aswang, manananggal, engkanto, duwende, kapre and others.

Corny as it may sound, I had a fun time reading those and it helped to while away and kill time, and they provided an easily-bored kid like me with cheap thrills. *laughs*

Then came that fateful day when the tantalizing wonders of the written word will open up to me like the gates of heaven, full with the regal background sound of trumpets, leading me to discover the marvels of Literature, its sundry avenues, nooks and crannies.

All because of this one particular book!

It all started during my second year in high school when the classes were (miraculously) cut short because of this monthly general teachers’ meeting our school holds. Not keen enough to go home early, I and a bunch of friends were invited to spend time at a friend’s house which is just a few blocks away. As is usual when friends get together, we chipped in our money, bought some snacks, cooked instant noodles for our lunch, watched noontime shows, and generally horsed around.



Suddenly, my attention was caught by this bookshelf that contained a lot of old issues of Reader’s Digest and its hardcover line of condensed novels. However, it’s this book titled Birdy, tucked away in the remote corner, that somehow got me interested. I initially found the title funny, and I think you do too, you naughty reader. *sniggers* For no reason at all I just felt like reading the book. So I asked my friend if he wouldn’t mind if I borrowed the book from him, to which he indifferently replied that I can keep it for myself if I like as he (and his family) had no use for those books anyway since it was owned by his grandfather who died years ago. With a smug smile painted on my face I took it home — in hindsight, I think that was my initiation on how it feels to receive a book for free.

To make a long story short, I didn’t finish the book right away, being the student that I was, swamped with  homework, class reports and various school activities that preoccupied my time. It was only during the summer break and for the lack of worthwhile things to do that I managed to finish this 300-plus-paged book in a month’s time. That vacation is now forever etched in my mind and I can still recall the excitement I had with the book clasped in my hands as I curled up on a chair in front of the electric fan to beat the summer heat.

Birdy tells the story of the friendship between the eponymous character and Al, teenagers during the onset of World War II. The novel was my introduction into the first-person point of view narrative and I was entranced by how it was cleverly told from the alternating voices of the two protagonists in between chapters. What attracted me to the story was the strong friendship and loyalty the two characters felt for one another, particularly the comic and tragic series of “adventures” they had from their experiences with girls, their travel to the coast and how Al goes along with his friend’s obsession with birds (hence the nickname Birdy) and his dream of being able to fly. These factors — plus the fact that the characters are not far from the age group as mine — made me able to relate to the story well, and it didn’t even bother me a bit though I have no idea what the hell World War II was about and its significance to world history (which I will later learn on my third year history class).

I just went along with the ride and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading the book. But the true shock of the moment was only made obvious right after I closed the book, when the thought struck me that I managed to finish a thick one without pictures or illustrations at all!

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

Finishing a 300-plus-paged English book was such a revelation.

For the first time I found out how reading for pleasure — without the pressing weight of the book being a required or assigned material for a subject free from the (terror) teacher breathing down your neck — was a rewarding experience!

This is also the primary book where I tried to use this little game of mine by imagining what I’m reading like seeing a movie in my mind’s eye. I know this is kind of weird, but this has been my manner because it helped me in reading a book. In years to come this little game will become elaborate as I cast Hollywood actors in my head as the novel’s characters, as I try to visualize places and scenes from stock knowledge I got from the several films I had seen.

At that moment too did I begin to think: if I had such a grand time with this one book alone, then what of the others just lying out there and waiting for me to read? The question paved the way for me to discover other books and gave rise to that mindset that “thick” or “doorstopper” books are not necessarily burdensome but really are a challenge to get through.

Thus commenced my adventures and life-long love affair with the written word, and in no time at all I started devouring Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead (which I started to read before my third year in high school got underway) followed by Stephen King’s The Stand; both books I bought for fifteen pesos each from one stall in the palengke that sells used magazines. Those two books are memorable, the former being the first book na pagpakilig sa akin (Howard Roark and Dominuque Francon have a weird love affair, I tell you), and the latter as my initiation to science fiction about this virulent disease decimating America’s population overnight (there are certain scenes that just made me all out paranoid!) which in the end escalated into a full blown battle, pitting good against evil (this apparently is where my present Stephen King addiction took root).

My third high school year marked a great time for me to discover more books, and I was introduced to the wonders of the library and the joys of being able to borrow and take home books, fueling and encouraging my passion for reading.

I got many more to share during my early phase as a reader, but I think I’m getting long winded or I’m getting you bored just enough at the right places. Anyway, I really had a lovely and worthwhile time recounting that one that kick-started my life as a reader. It is a pleasure to be able to (finally) do this and to tell the tale once and for all.

So in ending this post let me express my gratitude to Atty. Monique for giving me a space on her blog and the honor of being one of the (bookish) people to be featured in her Spark Project.

My warm regards and happy reading!

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Now that was a truly detailed story of how Jzhun became a book lover! :) Jzhun blogs about his love for books and such over at Dark Chest of Wonders - with elaborately-written and very much thought-of reviews. Hop on over and say hi! :)

And thanks, Jzhun, for regaling us with your stories. The pleasure is all mine for having you on The Spark Project. Cheers to more good books! :)

7 comments:

angus25 said...

Hurray for Birdy! Very entertaining. Kudos!

Monique said...

ANGUS: This is the first time I've heard of the book, haha. :)

Lynai said...

Now, I am curious about Birdy. :D

Hurray, Jzhun!

Looking forward to reading the next feature in this project, Monique!

Peter S. said...

As always, this meme is quite fascinating to read! And now you've posted about Jzhun! Woot woot!

Monique said...

Lynai: You can look it up now on Amazon and load it on Elle! ;)

Peter: Well, I thank you for your patronage. I know you're quite fond of Jzhun. :)

jzhunagev said...

Again, my gratitude for choosing me as your guest reader/blogger for this month.

I had fun doing this.

And oh, thanks for those remarks!

Sige na nga intelehente na ko, sabi mo, e. Haha! :D

My warm regards and happy reading to all! ^_^

Maria @ bookchilla said...

yay! Are you afraid of the Dark fellow fanatic! *high five*