Wallflower’s Wisdom

An eight-hour zig-zag ride to Isabela gave me the eye-damaging opportunity to finish Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This collection of “Dear Diary” entries is perfectly stitched together in a very creative 90’s fashion.

The anthology of daily thoughts is owned by Charlie who confides a bunch of secrets in his diary in a span of one year. Starting off with his high school experience dated August 25, 1991, the epistolary novel revolves around the life of a “loner” who actually isn’t alone after all, thus, giving the perfect identity for someone who is called a ‘wallflower’ – often a shy observer and a good listener, contented of being just in the background of people’s lives.

Charlie would have been the perfect ‘blogger’ of his time and I bet his posts will be read by a multitude of followers. Aside from being very profound in tackling adolescent issues such as independence, sex, love, and even
homosexuality, the diary entries are filled with rich reviews on literary classics, television shows, films, and music during the 90’s.

I can’t help but feel gloomy when I reached the final entry and Charlie had to say goodbye to his so-called ‘friend.’ This 14-year-old boy’s life is so interesting and realistic I felt so engrossed and wondered what happens with those around him – Bill, Mary Elizabeth, Sam, Patrick, and Brad. All characters come alive and have their own fascinating stories told vividly in this book.

Chbosky’s work is very revealing and brave. Four out of five stars for this soon-to-be-movie starring Emma Watson (Hermione of HP) and Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson).

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A complicated (new) way of storytelling

Maybe the judges of the Man Asian Literary Prize are amazed by how Miguel Syjuco’s version of telling a real story in a fictional manner. The trend of “fiction-tied-with-facts” style of writing has been the greatest advantage for Dan Brown. But I have never felt so close to reality while reading a book until I Syjuco’s “Ilustrado” meets my eyes.

The story is about Miguel (incidentally the author himself) who investigates the death of his literary mentor and friend, Crispin Salvador. Throughout the novel, Miguel narrates his travels in different parts of the country while searching for the ultimate reason why Salvador died. Miguel – with CSI-style of investigation – is also finishing the Salvador’s biography. At the same time, Miguel is looking for some information on Salvador’s last book entitled “The Bridges Ablaze.”

Salvador’s character was so realistic that I Googled his name on the net, and just like the others who became curious about his life. The novel is very brave as it almost cited names of actual personalities in the Philippines – the real ilustrados, trapos and artistas. Towards the end, the story opens you up in the realization that the story is as real as the controversial Arroyo administration.

Some of my favorite high-impact lines include:

·Honesty before glory – the apt motto for all politicians

·Compromise is when nobody is happy – a harsh reality

·..I know that when I one day earn my PhD, instead of being proud, he’ll instead remark: “Oh, I have four, even if they are all honoris causa from provincial schools – another harsh reality. What a shame for provincial schools who are giving away honoris causa like candies.

I was a bit confused at times while reading the novel. A mixture of excerpts from novels, some poetry lines, even text messages makes it complicated. On the other hand, its complexity heightens the interest of readers. It is also a documentation of how real Filipino ilustrados live from Syjuco who is an ilustrado himself.

Congratulations to Syjuco for introducing a new style in writing novels.

Two J’s and a bunch of laughter

I am talking about Jessica and Julie. Their books are perfect breathers since my mind is already saturated because of Garisson’s Managerial Accounting.

Jessica should rule the universe
Twisted Cover.indd A month ago, Mark (a schoolmate) invited me to become one of the minions of Jessica Zafra through Facebook. I felt that Jessica and I have some personal connection through her write-ups (don’t laugh). Back in 2003, I brought with me Twisted 6 during a writing contest in Nueva Ecija and the book became a handy companion that eased my tension (thanks to a few laughing breaks, I won). I didn’t like the close-to-newsprint paper of Twisted 7. Last year, I finished Twisted Travels while on a road trip from Baguio to Pampanga.
Now, I’m done with Twisted 8: The Night of the Living Twisted. This book is a hilarious knock-out. Zafra’s crazy ideas were compressed in a 159-page reality show-like narration. The sarcasm, humor and drama of it made me giggle a lot. I love her take on Philippine politics, customs and society. Readers get an overload of tennis facts, movie reviews and showbiz gossips (or should I say – unwanted truths?). I, as one of her minions, declare: “Jessica should rule the universe!” (Her blog: jessicarulestheuniverse.com)

Hot haute
some-like-it-haute-cover1 A book by Julie K. L. Dam is one of the best finds I got from a recent bookstore sale. My mom used to buy boring classics for a few hundred pesos. Last month, I was lucky enough to find a very cool book for only fifty pesos! Some Like It Haute is the book I am talking about.
The novel is about the funny story of Alex Simons who writes for the fashion section of a magazine. Her misadventures in Paris has led her to a lot of memorable antics – humiliating herself during a fashion runway show, meeting her former French professor, and falling in love with Nick. Aside from funny narrations about true-to-life problems, the novel randomly advertises high-end haute couture. The book is can also be called ‘fashion for dummies.’ It is the perfect ‘breaktime’ novel.

Next book assignment: Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham.

Best Lines from ‘Kafka’

Here are some of the best lines I picked from Haruki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore.” Some came from famous writers, philosophers and leaders. Others were from the brilliant mind of the author:

– In traveling, a companion; in life, compassion.
– Even chance meetings are the result of karma.
– It’s not a good idea to make decisions so soon. There’s no such thing as absolutes.
– Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness is a story
– Man doesn’t choose fate. Fate chooses man.
– Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s what it means to be alive.
– As long as there’s such a thing as time, everybody’s damaged in the end, changed into something else.
– The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future.
– Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing piece of themselves.
– Memories can warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.

Seven Hours

What happens in Tokyo from 11:55 at night up to 6:55 at daybreak? Haruki Murakami tells it all in his captivating novel entitled “After Dark.”

Night life in Tokyo is portrayed in a vivid manner through Murakami’s narration in “After Dark.” The story revolves mainly around a girl named Mari and her 7-hour experience around the streets of Tokyo. She meets Takahashi, a trombone-player who admires her sister Eri Asai.

The novel’s plot is so simple yet I find the storyline very complex. It involves not only the typical city nightlife but also tackles the nocturnal lifestyle of people who are still awake during wee hours. I myself thought about Manila several times while reading “After Dark.” I remember the nights I strolled along Manila streets alone, or drank coffee together with friends, or moments I had intimate talks until 4 in the morning. The setting in “After Dark” is very similar to some my college night life. Considering that we are in the same Asian continent, it is not unusual that both people in Manila and Tokyo have a similar way of life.

Individuality

The value of individuality is one of the highlights of “After Dark.” In the novel, the boyish Mari compares herself to her beautiful sister Eri Asai. Today, people give high regard to beauty and physical appearance. Whether we like it or not, people judge strangers primarily by looks. I am a victim of insecurity when it comes to how I look.

Creativity

It is important to look at things ‘well and creatively’ according to Takahashi (one of the main characters in “After Dark”). Relating it to my current occupation which involves marketing and advertising, mere knowledge is not enough. We should look at all things in a different way and always criticize your own work. This way, you can come up with unique ideas to improve anything you do.

Voyeurism

The voyeuristic approach of “After Dark” becomes the clearest way of telling Eri Asai’s story. Readers are immersed by Murakami into the room of Eri Asai herself. I, as a reader, imagined myself looking into a security camera observing everything Eri Asai was doing.

“After Dark” is just one of the many works of Murakami which are gaining popularity nowadays. I’ll definitely read another Murakami soon.

Books with Pinoy Touch

A lunchbreak stroll at WalterMart gave me the opportunity of coming across a store selling second-hand books. While looking for a good title, a small black paperback caught my attention. It was Joseph Gangemi’s INAMORATA. It is a story set in the 1920’s and the characters were historical and familiar (which included the name of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). This mystery become more interesting as the story goes on. Martin Finch, an ivy-league school graduate, leads to quest in finding the ultimate proof of the existence of the spiritual world. His group found Mina Crawley; the rest of the book carries on with several ‘spirit quests’ that were a little frightening. Interestingly, the butler of Mina’s house was a Filipino, and whenever he speaks, Tagalog words would come out of his mouth. I am not sure if Gangemi has a Filipino blood running through his veins but from the looks of it, he knows my language. Although I am happy for a fact that the author used Tagalog, but again, the Filipino was portrayed as a ‘butler,’ (more like a domestic helper). Good thing it wasn’t a “the butler did it” story. Inamorata is the Italian word meaning ‘a woman whom one is in love with.’ From the title itself, one can guess that there is a love angle. I finished the book in one reading because of my interest in these mystery-type stories. It is a good book.

If one wants to visit the 1980’s during the time of the Marcos era in the Philippines, the critically-acclaimed DOGEATERS by Jessica Hagedorn is one of the best books to read. This novel-turned-play is a classic bestseller that directly narrates what is happening during the Martial Law regime. The true culture of the Filipinos were shown in vivid form. Although I was bombarded with so many characters (I blame myself for the lack of focus. haha!) the book filled with a mixture of prose, narrations and songs made me think and imagine how colorful Filipino life is (although set in the 80’s, tradition never changed that much). Social stratification in the Philippines is recounted side by side with Filipino religiousness. The story was mainly narrated by Rio Gonzaga, a ‘balikbayan’ from California. Other characters included those who reminded me of the Marcos era – the officers, the society people, and the shoe icon herself, former First Lady Imelda Marcos. It was entitled ‘Dogeaters’ because Filipinos eat dogs (well, I haven’t tasted one, but I am aware that it is really served). Any Pinoy reading this Hagedorn’s masterpiece will surely feel ‘at home.’

Greater Scheme of Things

This is not just a ‘How-to’ book or a ‘Dr. Phil guide on self-improvement.’

Scanning through the contents of Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage will make you think that this book is for the psychologically-stressed, over-sentimental readers who are in need of another tear-jerker from the author of The Alchemist. This is half-true. Paulo’s travel to Santiago de Compostella wasn’t that boring after all. In fact, I finished reading the whole book during my stay in Boracay.

The style of writing is in the form of a journal, somewhat like a ‘Dear Diary’ version of an adventure. Its opening page has a map which has been very useful for me. In search for his goal (which is a sword – a symbol of ultimate happiness), he passes through the difficult pilgrimage path called the Road to San Tiago. Historically updated and well-written, Paulo was successful in putting his striking quotations throughout the book. The last line was unforgettable:

“I guess it is always true that people always arrive at the right moment at the place where someone awaits them.”

While reading the book, I felt the difficult tasks that a pilgrim has to do in order to attain spiritual happiness. We are all pilgrims. The book explains 11 so-called ‘exercises’ that would help our spirit find its way toward its ultimate goal. I remember the song entitled ‘Pilgrim’s Theme’ sung by Bukas Palad Ministry with the chorus that goes – “I think I’ll follow the voice that calls within, dance to the silent song it sings, I hope to find my place so my life can fall in place, I know in time I’ll find my place in the greater scheme of things.”

Thank you:
Brix, for the wonderful book.
TJ, for letting me hear ‘Pilgrim’s Theme’ for the first time using your iPod.

An Epic Ends

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

At 12:20pm of July 22, I finished reading the last installment of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I never thought the book would gain so much popularity when I first bought a paperback ‘The Sorcerer’s Stone’ when I was in high school. A few hours after the sensationalized book release, I swam through the pages and met familiar and unfamaliar witches and wizards once again. Rumor has it that Harry would die in this book, as the prophecy said in previous installments: ‘Neither can live while the other survives.’

Alright, let me spill some beans. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is somewhat a ‘reunion’ book. Almost all the characters from Year I (ghosts, unpopular students, even dead people) are all here. Just when you thought Dumbledore was dead (he is, actually), he’s here again. Most of the pages were filled with historical accounts and answers to intriguing questions that bothered you since Potter survived the Dark Lord’s murder. Of course, Harry is still with his best friends Ron and Hermione. But now, Harry has already come of age (17 is the wizarding community) and he can now use magic without being summoned by the ministry.

The last book has darker scenes that before. Chapter after chapter, somebody dies. I personally found the whole book thrilling while imagining it as a motion picture. Here’s the catch: the ‘Boy-Who-Lived’ lives on. An epilogue entitled ‘Nineteen Years After’ was the icing on the ‘pentology.’ In here, Harry is bolder, Hermione is smarter, and Ron is wiser. For me, it was an 8 out of 10 for Rowling’s closure of the series that had me anticipating every year.

I wish the movie-maker good luck in transforming this wonderful epic into a motion picture. By the way, I loved Yates’ ‘The Order of the Phoenix,’ although less talk would be better.

Farewell to Hogwarts – to Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. I will miss the Quidditch excitement, also, the Professors at Hogwarts. And most of all, Ron, Hermione, and Mr. Harry Potter. (Now I sound like a fanatic).

Codes

Dan Brown has levitated me to heights of excitement.

Right after closing the book “Angels and Demons,” I saw myself sitting alongside volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica. I was taking down notes… on Michaelangelo, Raphael, Bernini… immersing myself into Art. I observed that my taste for fiction has shifted from imaginary, funny and unbelievable stories to real, serious and factual forms of literary bestsellers; I blame Dan Brown (Author – Deception Point, Digital Fortress, Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons) for that! Code after code, I ran with Robert Langdon as he cracked the mystery of the Illuminati. Personally, this is far better than ‘The Da Vinci Code’ but for critics, Brown’s works are not as good as one book I recently bought – “The Rule of Four” – ‘A Da Vinci Code for people with brains’ as London Independent describes it.

Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason, authors of ‘The Rule of Four’ were successful in sharing the revealing issues about the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (I couldn’t pronounce it well). Though again, fictional, the Hypnerotomacia is real (an ancient Renaissance text unsolved for centuries). After tagging along with the characters’ adventures at Princeton University, the ending is actually a self-discovery. It is not a puzzle that was solved after finishing over 400 pages of bits and pieces. After unraveling clues per chapter, things became clearer not just for the story, but for yourself as well.

Later on, I’ll leave these headache-causing books. But wait, somebody (Dr. Carlos) suggested that I should try reading Tom Clancy’s works, and I can’t wait to grab one. O-oh, too many books for just two eyes!

O.W.L.

O.W.L. – Overwhelming and Worse Long Exams.
That’s it!

At last, the four tough days of our Preliminary Exams ended. Now, it’s time for me to leave academic books (for a while) and grab my brother’s copy of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

I expected too much, I believe. Well, as everyone knows (even those who haven’t read the book yet) Dumbledore died! I thought the book would relieve my stress, but instead, more and more new characters were introduced. Rowling did a good job in tying up all those characters starting from Year 1 to Year 4. As usual, I hated Snape and Malfoy… and they even teamed-up in this volume (now, I wish I could use some Imperius Curse). Well, for the first few pages, my mind vividly captured the image of British Prime Minister Tony Blair as the Muggle Minister (funny eh?!).

Generally, my interest was not as high compared to the time when I was reading HP 1 to 4. Anyway, I always loved Harry Potter (the story that is) which I started reading when copies hit the book store. I was in first year high school then (if my biology-terms-immensed brain serves me right).

I can’t wait to see the next HP book, and the upcoming film, of course!

Congratulations for getting good remarks on your O.W.L. (Ordinary Wizarding Level Exams) Potter!