Life And Loss In A Foreign Yet Familiar Prose

I first encountered Kyung-sook Shin, a renowned South Korean contemporary writer in her bestseller, Please Look After Mom, from one of my thematic reads. Seeing her seventh novel in English translation during the Manila International Book Fair this year, I did not hesitate to buy it, even the discount was so tiny.

What attracted me into reading I'll Be Right There is the significance of the setting used as the backdrop for the novel. Knowing that the country also underwent Martial Law for years, it hit me closer to home.   

The dominant role of Professor Yoon and snippets of European literature added up to the sensitivity of the plot. It captured my sentiments on life and death as the professor imparts his final message upon leaving the university - 

Therefore, I leave you all with one final thought: Live. Until you are down to your final breath, love and fight and rage and grieve and live.

Set in 1980s Korea, the protagonist Jung Yoon recounts the memories of her college life triggered by the phone call of an ex-boyfriend after eight years of silence. Some would have guessed that this is a cheesy love story prologue, but what surprised me is the book is anything but. It reflects the lives of the youth on the Gwangju Uprising - the student and citizen protest and fight for democracy after more than 10 years of authoritarian rule. 

Some readers may find the prose with the same air as Murakami's Norwegian Wood in using 1970s Zengakuren as literary backdrop, but unlike the Japanese author, Kyung-sook Shin manages it without the aid of sex or magical realism or making the character feign indifference throughout the book. What did the latter wrote are true accounts of deaths and disappearances, and the sharp melancholia brought about by the irony of life an death: participating in a massive demonstration without knowing that your close friend is living her remaining days.

Unlike the first translated work of Please Look After Mom, the prose is of lesser guilt-inducing, and rather ending with a hope of re-connection after a long detachment. This touched the raw emotions of the youth in those days, in dealing with ideology of bringing out the change, and carrying the consequences to it - may it be a loss that will never be restored, or a birth of something new.

A certain good read, as I would say.


Returning to Two Homes

The Promise of IcelandThe Promise of Iceland by Kári Gíslason

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'I just want to be home', I replied.
'You are home, dear Kári.'

A heartfelt memoir of keeping a secret and breaking a promise, Gíslason laid out snippets of his life in the dramatic landscapes of Iceland, bringing us to the land of the Sagas, to the sky of the Northern Lights, and to the ashes of Eyjafjallajökull. He also brought stories of the hot summer, the long beaches and the cheap wine of the Australian continent.

What I love about this book is how he wrote his big love with the land at the edge of the world. He made me piqued my interest in the paradoxes of the Icelandic culture - like you are being owned but you are on your own, or how the people are reserved and intrusive, and how much they frown while giving you a warm welcome. As a writer and a PhD in Medieval literature, he convinced me to read the dramatic family sagas of the Iceland, naming Egíl's and Njál's as his top favorites.

The unhurried prose made me imagine how his parents fell in love. And this book does not even try to patronize secret lovers or dangerous liaisons, but it is to see the struggles of the result - a lovechild outside of the wedlock. We are given a point of view of Kari's - for us not to be bitchy about adultery, because prejudice does not help in welcoming a child into the world. By acknowledging one's existence also mean's welcoming in one's home.

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Spoken Word and Meet-cute

Have you had your own meet-cute?  

A meet-cute is a random encounter with a total stranger whom you felt that you shared something. It is not necessarily your significant other, or your soul mate, but in that random circumstance, not expecting anything, you say hi to this person and then both of you clicked - like a switch.

This is what Nick and Norah's infinite playlist is about. A random encounter where you share that one interest that made you click - in a random Saturday night.

Nick, who is about to move-on with his ex-girlfriend, is a bassist of a gay band called The Fuckoffs, have had a meet-cute with Norah, the daughter of a record company executive - who is also about to move-on with her ex-boyfriend.

They met in a bar full of Underground / Indie music scene. What they experience the whole Saturday night makes you cringe at the profanities (if you are that sensitive) at first, but later on, you feel the giddiness. Just because.

The Radioactive Sago Project, a jazz rock band, first formed last 1997 and for a span of almost two decades, they made FOUR ALBUMS of spoken word - poetry - mixed with sax and bass and drums. I fell in love with them the first time I heard the first single Gusto Ko Ng Baboy. In my college years I followed them in underground bars. One might remember me as a random girl in one random night who sang in bars. I sang for food, pare. 

From the Sago's third album release last 2007, they made a public release last July that the fourth album is finally made and its launch would be at 19East - one of those bars who patronizes indie music.

So after the book club's meeting with Jun Cruz Reyes, the author of Tutubi, Tutubi, 'Wag Kang Magpahuli sa Mamang Salbahe, I went straight ahead. No company who's willing to go with me at Saturday night - just hell with it - FOR THE LOVE OF THE LORD SAGO'S songs.

And so I went alone.
And so I explained the above to a random guy who shared the same love with the Spoken Word.
And so I was amused that he wrote poetry too, and he listened to the whole discorgraphy since he was high school
And so I was dumbfounded the he also went alone.
And so I thought, just go with it.

That night I had my meet-cute. Just like Nick and Norah.

Remember, remember
It was 5th but not November
A feast of spoken word
Some talks of written word
Of life and love and making jazz with sax
Of battles and insecurities and shitty past

The book's plot and the meet-cute has a difference: when Nick and Norah are in the midst of hang-ups, him and I moved on with our previous exes - with benefits or not. But the same feel is present - we have had the not-awkward inhibitions, the career-talks and other shenanigans, conversations of social circles and other interests (aside from the love with the band), and comments on the partner bands who played with the jazz-rock band (UP Dharma Down and Yolanda Moon were there).

We talked through set breaks, we drank lights, we didn't smoke because we're in a place close to the stage so smoking was not allowed, and we both trash-talked when Gin Pomelo was played. The Lourd said they were not hipsters and have had many spiels, but we did not mind - because in the midst of the cacophony of the sax and trumpets, we looked at each other's eyes and we both wished that the night would not end. 

If Norah received a gift from Salvatore, I received my souvenir from the right-handed Bathala (the Bathala bequeathed his bracelet from his right wrist to the Babaylan's left wrist - all the while holding hands). The eating part was there too, and the smiles and the look and the gush and the giddy. Name it.

What I liked the most about the book is the part when the Beatles' single was mentioned - 
"You know the reason The Beatles made it so big?...'I Wanna Hold Your Hand.' First single. Fucking brilliant. Perhaps the most fucking brilliant song ever written. Because they nailed it. That's what everyone wants. Not 24/7 hot wet sex. Not a marriage that lasts a hundred years. Not a Porsche...or a million-dollar crib. No. They wanna hold your hand. They have such a feeling that they can't hide. Every single successful song of the past fifty years can be traced back to 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand.' And every single successful love story has those unbearable and unbearably exciting moments of hand-holding."
We both know that the Saturday night would end sooner than we expected, but we treasured it by holding hands as we commute the way home. 

It's so Nik and Nella~ 

Shit, that line above is SO CORNY. I knew this is corny, you woman! And no pare, this is not you - it's another guy.


Busy with Life and Stuff?

Yes and No.

Apologies for not being able to blast all my book reviews during these months. I cannot explain much, but a lot has happened this year... so far. HAHAH.

To recap?

March  - The Bank's Model Office Migration and after-office party. HEH. Relating to the newest team, we officially went live last 08 April 2014, meaning as an Accountant, we are now in charge of those off-shored processes from the other side of the world. I am no vampire accountant, but rather, I felt like an overworked student. Yes, a throwback of the Graduate School years.

And who am I to betray my itchy feet? I explored the Taal Volcano - up close and personal. The grandest #LakeCeption in the country, I stepped to that isle (crater's smallest isle) within a lake (crater lake) within a land (taal volcano) within a lake (Taal Lake) within a land (Batangas and Laguna).

April  - "Life's a Beach", as my banker friend said in his Young Blood article, we enjoyed the first wave of the Pinoy Summer vacation. Back-to-basic-beach-camping: including the bath problems and beach bumming. I learned the lessons that we cannot gather from book-reading - Burot Beach, Batangas. (Vanity? I wore that beach hat with the shadow play!)

May - PALAWAN AND SAGADA! Summer getaways that made my wish of being a mermaid came into life. These provinces will slap you the marvel of the mighty being. Swimming and Spelunking - check! And GOOD FOOD!!! Yes, with emphasis, because of all those junkies we city-peeps eat, seeing those fresh fruits and veggies makes your appetite jump for no reason. (If I have the blogging momentum reignited, I might make a separate post. In the meantime...)

"Lulubog-lilitaw sa Saradong Hukay": Aqua shoes at the Luli Island, Hundas Aguas, Puerto Princesa
"Hello, Mr. Sun" - higher than Pulag - Kiltepan Viewpoint, Sagada, Mountain Province
Spelunking Success: Ayban's element is earth and mine's water
June - YOLO BACKPACKING - Jumped 5 provinces in 9 days. Just because I woke up and said to myself that it's time to roam my own motherland, just like what I did more than two years ago in the other side of the world. 

Perfect view and place to play with the Dolphins, yay!

July - Cultured-like-Yakult escapades. NO ONE CAN STOP MY ITCHY FEET, even during the season of heavy Manila rainfall. American independence means time to roam the art galleries within the city. 

Ola! One of the best creations of the younger generations of artists - I named this "Ang Nawawala". The artist claimed it to be the 'objectification of his shy charater' as I asked him the rationale of this wire sculpture.

AND MAKE AN ART! Life of the bourgeoisie, haha. For three hours we channeled our artistic persona. I guess we did it. HINDI NA MAUULIT HAHAHA, I simply lacked that artistic side. I am an accountant, I was programmed to be more logical than artistic; more analytical than creative.

August - Cinemalaya X - a decade of Revolution for indie movies. I watched J.E. Tiglao's short film entitled "Mga Ligaw na Paruparo", internalized Jerrold Tarog's Mariquina, and drowned with Ten17p's production of Dagitab. It might take ten years to get the Pinoy public engaged with the festival, but it was worth it. Participating in the hype for the second time made me appreciate the aesthetics of the indie films. 

Wait, I did say Pinoy Pride. We also attended 9Work's adaptation of the Boston Musical, The Last Five Years, starring Nikki Gil and Joaquin Valdes.

Bookish escapades, eh?

The first quarter of the year dedicated to reading most of the underrated graphic novels. Come second quarter are the summer vacation travels and the full-blast marathon of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman.

Yea, not exactly a fan of Graphic Novels, but I am a fan of folklore and plots that are difficult to put into sketches. I might not give justice to the raves I have had with the 75 Chapters, but I wish to recollect my thoughts and properly write a homage to the personified ideas. FOR THE LOVE OF MURPHY! 

And no, I did not forget the monthly meet-ups of the Book Club. Inasmuch as I can, I participated in the Face-to-face discussions. Celebrated anniversary gathering and did the athletic amazing race...

became the Late Logger for the Modernist novel...

acted as the mute non-reader for the Flip-a-coin-like-adventure...

transformed into a loud commentator to the Classic serialized fiction...

and impersonated a hormonal drunkard who talks about sex frustrations of the feminist!!! 

So... to answer if I am busy with life and stuff? HELL, YEAH. There you go, I hope you enjoyed this random ramblings of whatever is happening with me recently. I love all of these people who keeps me engaged in the activities that simply provide the breakout from all the negative vibes.

Holler to the respective owners of some of the group photos. To Meliza, Ycel, Rhena and Monique! See you soon~