Showing posts from 2012

A semblance of home

The premise of the entire novel was intriguing: a very famous Filipino writer by the name of Crispin Salvador was found dead, his corpse floating in the Hudson river. The manuscript of his final book The Bridges Ablaze is gone as well, a book that will expose the crimes of many ruling corrupted political families in the Philippines. His apprentice Miguel, an aspiring writer, sets out to Manila to investigate and untangle the mysteries surrounding the Salvador family, going back as far as three generations. In doing so, Miguel has to re-visit his mentor’s poetry, interviews, novels, polemics and memoirs, and this made Ilustrado not a linear work of fiction as a reader may hope it would be. In fact, as much as there is a consistent plot being followed, the entire novel is so fragmented that it’s visually challenging to read. Syjuco has invented Crispin Salvador as a prolific writer and therefore quotes ‘excerpts’ from the fictional author’s works. Reading this book required time because…

"The toughest membrane imaginable"

This was an extraordinary find while I was sifting randomly through the dusty boxes of a booksale outlet store. The price tag was shocking as well; it only cost 10 pesos. I enjoy reading anthologies, whether they're short stories in fiction or non-fiction essays. Lewis Thomas' The Lives of a Cell falls in the latter category. The book is composed of 29 of the most succinct but unforgettable essays on subjects not just narrowed down to scientific fields but also about their ongoing connection to more humanistic fields of knowledge and endeavor such as mass communications and music. Thomas' aim is to show readers that everything in Earth is connected even if such connections are microscopic and neglected by the human populous.

Recommending this book to a general audience may seem like a strange thing, especially since most people would view this as an academic piece of literature that not everyone can enjoy in passing. True, Thomas's work belongs to classrooms and for st…

Walking with a mask on, believing it's your face

The novel was a combination of fictional and true accounts which are loosely based on “the history of psychology and the real-life experiences of British army officers being treated for shell shock during World War I at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh (The War Poets at Craiglockhart)”. It consisted of four parts centered mostly on three characters (Rivers, Sassoon and Prior) but also delved on mental struggles of other discharged soldiers suffering from their experiences while in the battlefied; and how individuals cope and move on from these burdens.

The protagonist Siegfried Sassoon declares that the war the British are fighting for is no longer a justifiable course of action, and he laments that they no longer have a true cause that empowers them through their service as soldiers. This he used as inspiration and form of catharis in the various poetry he writes. He was dispatched to a mental ward in the care of the psychoanalyst W.H.R Rivers who was a recognized doctor in hi…

Down, down the rabbit hole..

I should state from here on out that I intensely identify with Lewis Caroll's Alice and that I've considered her as a fictional counterpart, most especially Alan Moore's re-imagining of this character in Lost Girls. Last year, while working late night at our student publication's office, I came across a manual for artists which belong to the art section, and it listed Bryan Talbot's Alice in Sunderland as one of the references. I was immediately intrigued because it was an Alice-based graphic novel, and I knew Talbot from his illustrations in The Sandman volume 6. I was able to download a .cbr copy and I only scanned through the pages and realized that it was not a linear narrative structure but more of a historical thesis in sequential art form.

It was only in the Manila International Book Fair that September when I was happy to see a singular hardbound copy of this book. I took it home and began to read. Alice in Sunderland is a challenging visual experience; it&…

Going, going, going, gone

I knew little of Michael Cunningham’s work (I just knew that he wrote The Hours which was an Academy Award-winning film my parents loved) so I had no fixed expectations. I gave myself four days to finish this book but managed to do so in three days. That’s how captivating it was. Cunningham’s experimental fiction was masterfully told, like a musical composition that rises and falls with the right notes. In Specimen Days, he writes in three genres, dividing the book into three breathtaking novellas.


"A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child?… .I do not know what it is any more than he.” ~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

(1) “In The Machine” A Historical Dickensian Tale

The first novella was written in the boy Lucas’ POV. It was set sometime during the industrialization age of America. Lucas’ brother Simon has just died and this left his fiancee Catherine uncared for and with child. Though aready shouldering the financial burde…

Unlikely heroine defying gravity

This was a marvelously entertaining book and I certainly appreciated the re-imaginings of Maguire about Oz, its inhabitants and principal characters. I enjoyed the social strife among the citizens of Oz, that crisp political atmosphere that enticed me for pages and pages—yet I wasn’t really as invested as I hoped I would be when this book was recommended to me two years ago. I knew about the musical, sure, and I love that, but my enjoyment of this novel was not attached to that anyway so I mean it objectively when I say that I was not satisfied at all when I finished. It’s definitely a mix of good and bad parts.

This is in no way to say that Wicked is not as amazing as people say it is; I find it charming and philosophical in such a quirky sense that kept me reading. And I will keep reading the next two books as well because I wanted to see how Maguire managed to develop the plot from here on. Truth for the matter, my slight (and very slight) disappointment was more on the fact that …

Dark wings, dark words

This is where the book series really escalates and there are tons of exciting, heart-wrenching events within these pages that shook me to my very core and even left me weeping on my bed for a whole day. A STORM OF SWORDS is how ASoIaF officially won me over. This book encompassed so many entangled tales among the most intricate characters. It was such a stellar accomplishment for Martin, to weave a cohesive plot within different narratives. I was blown away into tiny pieces just reading through. It took me at least two months to finish this masterpiece and it was the best 62 days of my life even if I had to struggle with the time. There is nothing like curling around a Martin book and be taken captive into Westeros and the prose that awaits to ravish me.

I am so lucky to have owned and known this literature. I can’t imagine how I managed to linger this long as a bibliophile without knowing A Song of Ice and Fire. Perhaps it was destined to be, to encounter and feel passionate about th…

This is thy kingdom come

I think it’s by this book that I completely fell madly in love with A Song of Ice and Fire series. AGoT was a great premise; the sweeping prose of GRRM in every character POV has a breathless poignancy and I must admit that after finishing the HBO series itself, I still chose the original novel because it was more powerful with the delivery, characterization and impact. I wasn’t all the way converted to a fan, however. But the second book—seven hells, the second book! I waited two months to start reading the sequel and so it took a while for me to get back to the story itself but as the plotlines progress in different directions and scattered about in every character POV—I was helplessly enthralled by the monstrosity of GRRM’s Westeros; the politics, the power play, the character developments, the brisk and seamless storytelling—everything about A Clash of Kings is to die for!

I was so hooked in every twist and turn of the plots. Character-wise, I have learned to love my favorites eve…

Winter has come with a vengeance

I was quite wary when someone was gracious enough to give me this book on my 21st birthday on April three years ago. I have heard nothing of this author at all. So I put it aside, though, because I was in no mood to read novels lately. But thanks to Spartacus, I was in search for a new historical/medieval drama to watch. And A Game of Thrones had been a stellar recommendation in the fansites I’m a member of. I have yet to watch the HBO series, actually. I decided that, in the interest of humoring said friend who gifted me with the book, to read it first after finishing Brave New World. I found myself terribly captivated by Martin’s quaint and lavish prose so far that I feel like the TV series might spoil me in some way. There is a certain charming quality to the expositions in the book that eagerly translated a beauty within each character development and made a reader like me pause and contemplate on the subtlety of it all. I was very bewildered by the way the prose reeled me in so s…

Cultural crosses we bear

The quality of life has always been quantified by one’s wealth. This is just how the world works—at least that’s what generations before us have imparted in classrooms and this lesson might be handed down just the same to the next generation after us. There is a truth to this statement which seems to be a continuous validation achieved through countless self-fulfilling prophecies done by the most ambitious, competitive and privileged of people everywhere. The struggle between classes of people is not a new concept, most notably between the rich and the poor that goes back from ancient civilizations. People used to believe that once you are born to poverty then there is no way to reverse that. The only difference now is that this belief has finally been defined more as a social condition attributed to many factors, and that people have also grown less apathetic and passive about the conditions they are born in.

The world has evolved—innovations and progresses of different types can at…