The Paravan that We Loved

The God of Small ThingsThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“...the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again.

That is their mystery and their magic.”

If there is one thing that got me engaged in the verbosity of Roy, it is how she elicit the context thru the little things; and the accumulation of such creates a big narrative as grandiose as the South India, and as huge as the backstories of the countries Caste system. Such histories gives me an avenue of introspection of how the people behaved in such a way throughout the story.

The God of Small Things is about the story of fraternal twins, Estha and Rahel, on how they were able to see each other 23 years later after that sudden change in their lives. Part family saga and part social commentary, the book does not only dwell with these two; but also to the lives of their mom, their Chacko, their Baby and Mamachi and Papachi, Sophie... and the Paravan whom they deeply loved.

What I loved in their story is how the context was built up. One clear example of this is the scene (view spoiler). In that page alone, you have seen the collective sentiments of Kerala at the time, their religion and beliefs, their passion, and their desire to establish change. This vivid imagery is comparable to the Zengakuren books -- books that tackle 1969 Ideologies -- like Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and like Haruki Murakami's Norwegian wood.

What the book made challenging though is the build-up on the first few pages. Perhaps this was because of the intention to give us a context of the environment we are about to immerse to. Through its slow pace, we engage our senses; so authentic, that we can almost smell the scent of Ayamemnen, hear the Malayalam language, and see the depth of the river near the Paradise Pickles.

In here you don't discover untold stories; rather, you have encountered them before. Just the same, such a story was told magically that you want to hear it again.

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Silver Lining

The Silver Linings PlaybookThe Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I cannot deny it. After all those long episodes of me hating Patrick... I shed a tear as I closed this playbook of his.

Why Silver Linings? And why Playbook?

The metaphor of this book is the resolve of the protagonist Pat Peoples in addressing the unresolved issue that currently lingered in his life. Told in a scratch-slash-composition-slash-playwright-slash-reflections-in-a-first-person-perspective, Pat writes his "situations" from the last day in the bad place, and his daily situations as he deal with moving back with his mum and dad, looking for more ways to be fit, being in-sync with understanding the essence of reading classic and contemporary fiction, and his ultimate goal of being with his wife again. After all, every person has this one shot at the silver lining.

I, for one who is brutally frank and blunt to tell this: (you may rant but this is still my review) I don't fully comprehend the rationale of Pat's way of thinking, somehow made me appreciate where Pat's way of thinking coming from. He has suffered enough out of loving too much, and his search for his way home is very passionate. I admire him for that because I believe men (like him) who are very passionate in doing things and putting all efforts to make something happen is getting fewer and fewer as the day goes by.

It may not have the same picture of way home he was expecting, but he has found a solace as the book ends. It gives a not-very-mushy feel like any romantic-comedy-flicks, but after all his effort to losing lots of pounds, getting back in touch with his interest in football, his perseverance to understand the author's perspective in The Bell Jar, and practicing difficult dance steps... we see that he has achieved the feeling that he is needed, just like how much he needed someone to be with.

I watched the movie first because of the actors Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper (with the black garbage bag he kept on wearing which I don't really get at first), but I was glad that the movie director gave a different interpretation from the book. I am glad that both the book and the movie are wonderful, however different their takes in Pat's case are.

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Three Men, One Woman: One Nation, Three Stories

It has been a while since I read Ermita by F. Sionil Jose. When a bookish friend demanded a review for this goodread, I was pressured at two situations: (1) How can I convince my co-members from the TFG to vote this as the book-of-the-month for Buwan ng Wika thematic read; and (2) How can I convince my other co-members from the PRPB to read the same.

Yes, I am a member of two book clubs. If this is compared to Ermi Rojo, she is a product of two nationalities.

A daughter of a Japanese soldier who raped a Filipina socialite, she used her situation of being an outcast  – from a student of an elite school to being a prostitute in Camarin; for using this as her weapon to have revenge on men, and for being used as a byproduct of a rotten society.

For a rotten society is composed of bleak political situation, fake economic progress, and false promises sworn to men.

One of the book buddies say in our sessions that if other works of F. Sionil Jose (i.e. Poon) is the novel for the patriotic spirit, Ermita: A Filipino Novel is the book for the heart. And it is. It doesn’t only limit to the life of Ermi as a Filipino and as a prostitute, but also how she deals with life as a woman – and so her interactions with men, particularly the loves of her life.

I cannot discuss the patriotic side of the novel for the story spanned from the Japanese occupation to the Marcos’ times. What I can share are her episodes with three men – with Mac, with Rolando Cruz, and with John Collier.

For me, Interactions with Mac is the most vulnerable since this is the first man she interacted with. Mac is the son of those housekeepers in the Rojo household, ergo, became her childhood friend. Grew in hardship, he envied Ermi for having the opportunity to study in an elite school, while he has to toil just to be able to study and graduate and help his own family. Mac fell in love with Ermi during teenage years. But he feels entrapped by fate – knowing that Ermi is a prostitute, and motivated by hate and revenge. Adding personal ego into the equation, Mac drifted away, and said his goodbyes, taking the hard road of earning success in the other side of the world.

(Side note: an incomplete review, since I have to read the novel again to fully note the other two male characters.)


Sakaling Hindi Makarating: Entry 2

Some side-notes: I wish to have lots of entries being sent to different friends, rather than concentrating on one. That way, you get a variety of letters in a specific moment in time. If you want one, I can send you. Kindly message me your address, together with your ZIP code. 


Dear Joseph, 

Kapag naiisip ko na palagi kang busy, naiisip ko ang tambak mong labahin; ang mga uniform na hindi pa napa-plantsa, at ang pagkain mong hindi sapat kasi hindi mo hilig ang gulay (or ako lang ang may akala nito?)

Sana palagi kang maayos, pakatandaan na ang pera naibabalik, pero ang oras, hindi. Kapag may sakit ang isang tao, parang hinihigop nito ang oras mo na dapat ginagamit sa ibang bagay - tulad ng paglalaba. 

Worried ako. O siguro, medyo guilty. 

Kasi naiisip ko kanina sa bus kung deserving ba sa tulad ko ang isang linggong bakasyon, or baka... 

Tumatakas ako sa bagwis ng buhay...?

At kung busy ka palagi at nauubusan ng pagkakataon para sa isang mahabang kwentuhan, paano na ang kakarampot na oras para pagsaluhan?

How do you build connections from fragmented conversations, Joseph? Do we write long letters like this one? Sa akin, okay lang. Mahilig talaga ako magsulat! Ikaw kaya, hilig mo ba ang pagsusulat? Or baka, tulad ng Messenger memas mo -- pure one-line endnotes lang? 

It's actually a wonder how do you make time to connect. Siguro kailangan nasa sa iyo na mismo ang hugot ng pasensya at disiplina. Sana maisama mo ako sa listahan. Na bigyan ng mahabang pasensya sa mga pinagsasabi ko rito.

Mag-iingat ka palagi, pogi. Aasahan ko na sumama ka sa amin sa Vietnam nina Ric & Michael. Ay siya, balik labahan na! Hehe.

See you, 

(wrote in a bunk bed, Mori Hostel, Singapore)

Sakaling Hindi Makarating: Entry 1

I started the entry only after sending this post from Singapore! It's actually a gift from a barista friend who just came from Kuala Lumpur for holiday, but the photo's too pretty not to share halfway across the globe.

Speaking of, I forgot the message I put there, but I remember that there is a hashtag in the postcard:


OH MY GOSH. Hahahahaha

Sakaling Hindi Makarating?

I was actually in touch with a long distance friend but I was afraid that all my posts will not be able to reach him, or if it does, perhaps a significant event on the post already died, or the time it arrived came too late.

Which is why I come to this entry.

I want to save all my mementos before I send them over to that person. I want to keep track, like all those memories that I want to remember.

You can never tell, but maybe he can make ways to return the favor. He might write me, too. Or at least, send me a postcard.

I remember Em and Dex in David Nicholl's One Day, where they exchange notes. I guess this is where my interest in post-crossing started.

If you want to read along the entries, have a look. Maybe I can add a label to the blogsite. Happy reading! #IfItNeverArrived


Today's Hanash With The Tita

(this is the First Draft of the Book Discussion log for the Pinoy Reads Pinoy Books #BookTalakayan that happened last July 21. Final print shall be published in the PRPB website)


The Quiet Made Some Noise – A Book Talakayan of Glenn Diaz’s The Quiet Ones

It was out of the PRPB monthly routine, the event was the third Saturday rather than the first. And, it was the author’s last hurrah, before flying out to the land down under. Last July 21, in the middle of the rain, flood and traffic, we conducted the Book Talakayan with Glenn Diaz. We found our safe haven in SGD Coffee in UP Teacher’s Village, Quezon City.
Usual events first took place – introducing oneself, what do you do in life, and what is your favorite part of the book. In a circle of more than 15 participants, the common favorite was this:

“We are the City! What is a city without inhabitants? Nothing but plants and hills and rivers. Or flood plains and esteros... The city is not a place. It is a social arrangement. Defined by concession. By consensus. It is us. A city ends when there are no longer people to define it.”

This striking quote is a birthplace of multiple short stories created as sub-plots, and remapping the interweaving narratives of Glenn’s first novel The Quiet Ones. As I asked where this work started, he zeroed in to Kilometer Zero, his short story of a Filipino and an American Anthropologist who wanted to write about Manila, coming from a foreigner’s point of view.

Glenn claims he’s Manilenyo, born and  grew up in Sta. Mesa, with Ilocano parents. For us who have read the book through and through, this explains the alluring noise of Manila, and its stark contrast with the disturbing peace of Pagudpud. He does his research not as intently as I thought it would be, for he is not like the writers I imagined (those who do the mind-map and tried to bleed out the ideas from shelled-out themes).

For me, he broke the current tropes of poverty porn by creating a white noise in the daily lives of the Pinoys. By the novel more humane, he actually made bus routes, LRT tracks, and the concrete pavements of the Ayala Business District immersive and alluring – creating romance in the mundane. It was an effort, he says. “Let’s demystify writing, it takes hours of labor to put it into a piece of work.” Elaborating the unlearning, he says he desynthesized the angsty tones in his young working student years (he used to be a work in People Support from 2005-2007), making the familiar places more sentimental. He sees his former workplace with a nostalgic tone – the Lung Center, Paydays and American Holidays and  Pecha de peligo – that he even thought that this phase will delay his graduation to finally get a move on with life.

The discussion were a bit disjointed; like the novel itself, series of questions were not made in linear form, but instead, it is a traverse between multiple moments, interjecting personal questions in between. Let’s say, more of probing the author himself. Instead of continuously reflecting into the quiet, it oftentimes got escalated with the [Questions of the Tita], triggering bluntness and candor in snippets of serious questions.

And the noises came in.

In a series of candid questions – reflecting on the romantic moments between Carolina and Reynaldo, Philip and Eric, Alvin and Scott – these subplots with partnered characters is a work of fiction. I see it as a staple statement to veer away more personal questions, but to be able to write a female perspective is his way of channeling Lorrie Moore. And actually, seeing himself as Carolina. He did say about an old couple he saw in Pagudpud. Perhaps, it also gave an inspiration to create a female character and a summer romance with build-up tensions at the end of the chapter.

In discussing the Palanca stint, he actually did not expect it to win. He just wrote the novel to get the project done, made an impulse decision (more of #YOLO) to submit it for Palanca Awards, and actually won without any backups, or so-called politicality of it all. He has this look that he doesn’t want his work to be tagged in the words of “Palanca Winner”; more of he was happy if he hears about a reader raving reviews without the knowledge about the award-giving body.

Calisthenic writing, is there such a thing in The Quiet Ones?

He says the first chapter itself is a writing exercise. He wanted to challenge himself if he can write an action-filled part, focusing more on the plot rather than the character’s stream of consciousness. But alas, it cannot maintain it’s consistency. I guess, it is more of his buying in to the readers to get engaged before immersing. In addition, having WE as the first-person-plural point of view is an observation from the creative writers and readers alike – and he says it is not him being part of an equation (i.e. Alvin + Glenn Diaz), but rather, it is a collective term for The Workforce.

Marie meanwhile, as an omnipresent character throughout the novel was not a writing exercise, not even an intention to create tangent points with the characters across the novel. She is the missing link, but Glenn emphasized that it was our insight in seeing that way. She used to have her own chapter, but in the end removed. For me, she represented the essence of a person sans the spotlight; like an old friend who was always there, waiting.

After closing the book discussion, I personally have a renewed love-hate relationship with Manila. Perhaps if I look at Kilometer Zero again, I might see a ghost of a Scott saying “Mahal na mahal mo itong lungsod, ano...?”

What happened?

"Ikaw, nakakapagsulat ka pa ba?"

Rats. There's the conjuction [pa], a tone of freedom, of a luxurious item called time. 

As I look again into this old site, the latest post was a summer affair with Siri Hustvedt. After that is years of silence. Let's say, life happened in between. So fast - you cannot afford to stop and list them all down. Either that, or you are too tired to remember. 

After all, the moments that we write are those we want to remember. 

And please, let's demystify writing. It is a creative thing, yes, but it is also a laborious work. It takes more than five minutes of sitting down and construct ideas in your mind, put all the tone of angst or a passive nuances on the events happened through you and you let your hands do the work. Or in my case, letting my fingers type in my laptop. 

"Wala na, wala na kasi akong oras eh." 

Perhaps, what added up to the katamaran are distractions. Measured distractions. Measured, in a sense that I can just put my emotions and frustrations in a cohesive thought, filling the screen with 160-230 characters, or a simple photo with a short caption. Or better yet, getting offline and get a move - either thru reading, or immersive travelling.

Siguro, that blast from the past who came around four years later made me see my younger self again. What was I like before? Was I happier? Was I angsty before? Well, I am still angsty but in terms of being soci-politically woke, but maintaining that persona on a personal note is a tough job. I am too Tita to function now. Too tita, too much #Adulting.

But it feels good to write once in a while. It feels good now. This felt good. I do hope I can write more, just about anything. Not just about the books I read, but also the personal lessons on my travels. and I do hope I learn not to take the shorter route of 230 characters, and make it a blog post. Like this.

Thank you, Cyrus. And as I see your site, it's time to update yours. 😏


Feels Stranger Than Fiction

The highlight of my summer 2015 is very much different from the previous years.
This season, I haven't engaged in a summer romance or in any affair or a meet-cute that can be shelved in my library of personal anecdotes.
I engaged in the summer feels.

Current Affair
After tons of fast-reading Young-Adult fiction in participation to a game in our book club - the most recent getting the "Worst Read of the Year" award, I finally dedicated some of the hot days to reading a very feminine novel, Siri Hustvedt's The Summer Without Men

Hustvedt, from a generation of hard-pronounced Norwegian surnames, is the wife of the New York Trilogy's Paul Auster. Since I am no fan of the husband and I am yet to explore the works of the wife, this first read got me hooked. I am about to read her bestseller, What I Loved, and in preparation with the works of her prose, I read the yellow book first.

The first line got me engaged - 
Sometime after he said the word pause, I went mad and landed in the hospital.
All the while I made a sweeping generalization of this is a very very VERY SAD story of a problematic woman. But it is not, actually. It wasn't a sad story. It isn't also the coming of age; for the main character, Mia Fredricksen, is an old woman. No, not in the middle-life crisis, mind you, but actually contemplating life in general. 

The writing style Siri used in this book is "tell, than show". In a plethora of written diary entries, introspection, and letters (whether snail or electronic), she dealt with the departure of her husband after thirty years of marriage. It was bitter at first; her being mad with men, explaining the philosophical and the scientific battle of men and women. Some, I find it absurd, trying her best to put out whatever she is really proving in the realm of the Battle of the Sexes. I even researched on the scientists she mentioned, for all I know really are some studies of Sigmund Freud.  It is not dragging - I believe it is more of, you as a reader, letting yourself be her soundboard - you are slowly becoming a listener to her rants and debates and sometimes unsound "thinking aloud"s, if there is such a term.

The book is divided into three sections, made obvious by the doodles Siri drew. Three sections, or let us say, the three stages of getting by. (I think getting by is more proper than moving on. After all, she is torn between two stages of life: (a) Cue-ing nostalgia and (b) Waiting on death. This is on my personal note, because Mia is not actually on her #YOLO state, she is an old momma) 

Doodle 1: Grumpy with Summer Heat
Part one composed of her mercurial moments, the Summer after she recovered from the Brief Psychotic Disorder, triggered by the pause. This is also where she get to know The Swans, a group of friends under her mother's realm; her neighbor Lola (and her family), with all sorts of TV Dramas most Filipino mothers watched out for; and the Teenage Witches of Bonden. As a reader you get to know her daughter Daisy and her sister Bea.

Doodle 2: Chilling outside
Part two is more of her involvement with these women, and less of remembering men. Truly, the book composed of women and their presence and men and their memories. She slowly detaches from her rants and frustrated sex-y diary entries, actually dealing with the characters around her. If you are a man who is curious about the book, you may find this part tiring, because Siri writes more womanly, indulging in intuition and of the senses. If you are a man, you might not sense "that something is odd", unless Mia mentions "Something is odd". I hope you get my drift.

Doodle three: Feeling the Summer Breeze
Part three is where the action comes in - when all the events happen concurrently yet sequentially. She deals with the issue around her new community, getting a space in the TV Drama she previously a narrator in, and slowly reviving her mushiness after seeing an end in an interlude. 

This is the part I truly enjoyed. I felt Siri's writing the most sincere a woman writer ever written in this age of contemporary lit. It is also cinematic, some of the paragraphs feel scenic, making it stranger than Stranger Than Fiction. I felt like I was a camera rolling, without edit, capturing the candor of the character.
All at once, I felt sad for the whole lot of us human beings, as if I had suddenly been transported skyward and, like some omniscient narrator in a nineteenth-century novel, were looking down on the spectacle of flawed humanity and wishing things could be different, not wholly different, but different enough to spare some of us a little pain here and there.
Also, most of this part gave tons of heartwarming feels - the kind of feeling you have after a summer rain. A breezy feel after a very hot day. 
MF: What do you want from me now?
BI: Hope.
MF: Woo me.
BI: Okay. 
It is not actually mushy, the cheese you see in romantic novels. It is more of something is there, you have to sense it.  

A definite goodread, Siri's The Summer Without Men is striking with sincerity, beyond the usual bravado, and summery - may you as a reader is with a man or not.

Rating: 5 stars


A Letter For A Year

Love, Stargirl (Stargirl, #2)Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"The beam began to dissipate then, as the sun cleared the horizon and flooded the world with light. Still the people stayed, watching as the golden circle frayed and dissolved across the Blackbone. It reminded my of a movie that is so good the audience just sits there staring at the rolling credits after the lights go on. Suddenly the simple phrase "another day" had new meaning.

In this companion book with Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl, we see the lead character stripping off of her mysteries. More human, and very much, a deviation from the first book. In its epistolary style, Stargirl wrote a slice-of-life in her new residence away from the Mica High - away from Leo. These episodes are compiled in a journal, planning to be sent to the first (and future ?) love.

The magic within Stargirl's character has diminished from the first book (where we see her as a hippie-homeschooled-chic) but it was redeemed by the people around her, and by a significant astronimical reality - the Winter Solstice. This event, which is also the book's climax, is like a grandiose firework of feels, defining a fleeting moment hungry for more eyes. As a reader, it made me shed a tear or two.

I can say that the first has the longer linger effect, maybe because Leo showed more of his vulnerable side to us readers, rather than Stargirl, who is quirky. I guess we see more of ourselves to the normal boy rather than to the quirky girl. But I hope this review will not give you a prejudice to prefer the first book. It's just that, for me, Stargirl is better seen as a character of hippie-homeschooled-chic, not seeing the snippets of her daily homeschooled life.

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