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.

View all my reviews


"Please Stop Judging Me"

是-ZE 1 (ZE, #1)是-ZE 1 by Yuki Shimizu

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Don't judge me! I was influenced by my brother's interests in these kinds of stories. But to note some citations - the plot is like Fruits Basket, with lots of pairings, back stories, and supernatural. It's about a new housekeeper being thrust into the live of a powerful family who uses paper dolls as their protectors. Not sure if there is a legit Japanese folklore about them, but this perspective is very unique. Sketches are nice, so are ecchi scenes, hahaha. But it is still weird that there are innocent pairings, vulgar beyond repair, and those two-straight-guys-doing-sex-because-they-need-help. LOL.

I would recommend this to the open-minded manga readers who likes the manly sketches. The art reminded me of Kyou Kara Koi Wo Hajimemasu (forgot who's the author, though)

View all my reviews


Back to the Basics: #LaslasReads

Puppy Love and Thirteen Short StoriesPuppy Love and Thirteen Short Stories by F. Sionil José

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"How could two very young people get to know the arcane ways of loving, caring? I did not know then what love was but I did know feeling - unexpressed, compulsive - "
-Puppy Love, an excerpt

A collection of stories by the National Artist F. Sionil Jose, he coincided the them of love into his foray of genres - from magical realism, to taboo tales, to Noir-ish takes, and even a shot of a children's story. The red book is romantic but is not cheesy. He weaves the words like a household chore, like washing the dishes - so mundane, yet so extraordinary.

My personal favorites from the collection is the children's story entitled The Molave and The Orchid, where the author wrote this -
"Someday, I will love someone for we are destined to do so."

Other notable story here is the Waltz, which appealed to female readers (most of the bookish friends gush in this work, remembering the way the two characters danced and talked).

I suggest you read it in random. You never know what story is in store for you. And if you are a guy who doesn't prefer flowers as a gift to a special someone, give a copy of this instead. Introduce her to that children's story. And give the feels away.

View all my reviews



Ola, Lang.

Of all the poems that she wrote in this second collection, this is the worst. She made mention:
"Lullabies is a book that, over time, will reveal itself to you slowly."

What actually revealed to me is that she is trying to sell an anticipatory heartbreak, for you to appreciate her "whimsical rhythms". In addition, she is trying to be the next E.L.James, selling BDSM as a YA read. She wants her nursery rhyme about "I’d take you out, fuck you up against the car." to appeal to teenage jejemons who cannot ingest malayang taludturan.

Just saying.


Navigating Connections

Navigating EarlyNavigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Our stories are all intertwined. It’s just a matter of connecting the dots."

There is something subliminal in the prose that made me shed a tear or two, or something sincere in the voices of the two boys, Jack and Early, that made me go on reading the adventures. The voyage may be a series of coincidences, but who are we to judge the technicality of fiction-writing to kids when we, kids-at-heart, are ready to receive the message being sent across..?

In the first point-of-view of Jack Baker we see the sentiments of being lost. And yet, it is through the characters around him that create a wonderful landscape, adding tones and texture and sensory overloads. Female readers might find the story too superficial, but again, who are we to judge the book that caters kids of all ages?

The part that marked so special in my heart is when Jack and Early stayed with the "big whale", looking at the stars. I remember imagining myself hearing the telltales - the Sagas - that for me, adds us to the essence of life. Or in Icelandic, I might say, is kvöldvaka.

View all my reviews


Bad Joke?

Batman: The Killing JokeBatman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“So when you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember there's always madness. Madness is the emergency exit.”

I do not normally read these kinds of Graphic Novels, involving a superhero. But since my chief is a fan of Alan Moore's story and art (and I suppose a fan of this kind) he let me read one of his brother's collections in one sitting.

The Noir vibe of Joker's back-story made us look into the Sepia-colored-past of one of Batman's biggest villains. In the first few panels of this brownish tones, we saw that he lacked the self-esteem, feeling desperate for his wife and the incoming baby. This part of his life portrayed some of the make-or-break scenarios that tug our sensitivity, or might as well, increased our sympathy quotient.

In mere less-than-a-hundred pages, we tried filling in the gaps. The open-ended sequence of 9 panels in the last page - when the police light became visible and the rain got stronger - Alan Moore nailed that cliffhanger.

It made me wonder at our protagonist - if he, known as the more rational, used the emergency exit.

View all my reviews


The First National Hero: Take Two

Lapu-LapuLapu-Lapu by Francisco V. Coching

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Iyan si Lapu-lapu... Ang dakilang kayumangging may pusong kasintigas ng kanyang pananalig, na hanggang siya'y buhay, ang Mactan ay hindi malulupig!

That is how the National Artist ended his series of romanticized episodes of battles and adventures of our first National Hero.

In the 50's Manila where the Television is for the upper classes, the masses considered a 25-centavo komiks as their form of entertainment. This is where the Filipino language is very tagalized, and the colloquial terms are not much rampant. This is where the male are drawn as alpha-male, and women are drawn as very feminine. I loved the sketches, the six-panel conversations per page never fails to amaze me - the ability to convey the conversations in mere six boxes is, for me, one of the best inventions comic book writers ever devised in the old times.

What made me realized is that many of us patronize the romantic element in a plot. There are lots of tandems in the series, unlike the thesis that Tepai Pascual formulated in her Mactan 1521. In addition, the sharp contrast of Lapu-lapu's representation between these two novels only enlightened me how fast the time went by - making the first hero a bit metrosexual in the latter's work (view spoiler).

If you are a curious reader and you want to explore the life of the National Hero, I suggest you start with this one. Start with the oldies style, so that you can see the transition of Coching's work to Pascual's Opus.

View all my reviews


The First National Hero: Take One

Maktan 1521Maktan 1521 by Tepai Pascual

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Maktan. Ang aking bayan.
Ang islang sapilitang inaangkin ng mga dayuhan.
Ang islang may nag-iisang Lapu-lapu.
Ang aming Datu.
Ang aking ama.

The author might have declared that this work is considered a historical fiction, she gave justice to our Sugbu ancestors by bringing their culture and lifestyle into the limelight. She broke the convention of reiterating the events from Fernando Magallanes' travels, and focused rather on the people of our land.

This work reinforces my belief that the Chief of Mactan island is our very first hero. I am proud of Tepai for influencing me as a Pinoy Reader.

View all my reviews


Throwback Trip to 2014 Komikon

Trip to TagaytayTrip to Tagaytay by Arnold Arre

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kinurot ang puso ko sa huling panel nito. Gusto kong umiyak pero andaming tao lang nang binabasa ko ito sa Jollibee, habang umoorder ang mga kasama.

It really deserved the National Book Award because it reflected the Society ay a futuristic century where smart phones are already considered as throwback, yet the reality of floods and the dirty society remained. (WOW ME MASABI LANG AHAHAHAHA)


View all my reviews