Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Baka-raptor is awesome!

Monday, October 24th, 2016

It took me five years, but I actually got the book he sent through Fed Ex as his gift.

Opal Mehta is an okay book, but it fell apart by its end.

Please visit baka-raptor.com for awesome posts. 🙂

Selling affordable classic books

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

I’ve been gone for about two weeks because I was organizing all the books I could live without. In a few months we will really be moving to a smaller house so I decided to get rid of some of my less loved novels.

Please visit or share The Classics Bookbin at http://www.facebook.com/theclassicsbookbin

I’ve really tried to select only the best, so I hope you also enjoy my selection. 🙂

Top 10 Books Read for 2013

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

To me, this has been a pivotal year for me as regards literature. It’s probably the first year that I’ve read more than 100 significant works of prose, and it’s a great feeling that I finished reading 140 at the end of the year.

I’m writing this note as a reminder to myself of what I deemed the best books I have read over the course of this year, as well as a sort of instructive write-up of sorts to those who may be interested in reading books that I (among others) highly esteem. Here goes.

10. Persuasion – Jane Austen

I don’t like to read romances for the most part. It’s not that I’m a cynic regarding love; it’s just that I don’t like escaping from my failures in love into fantasies. That’s probably the reason why I read classics for the most part. Rather than being entertained, I like reading for the sake of edification. I like to combine observation with reflection, and I like learning, and that’s why I read.

Persuasion is Jane Austen at her most mature, though. Anne Elliot is no longer youthful: she toes the line of spinsterhood, and yet she still waited for the only person she loved. It was, of course, her fault that she was persuaded against her heart, but I totally understand: in the final analysis, love is not the only thing that keeps us alive. There are so many factors and intricacies involved in living that romance is merely an aspect. Anne, being a pragmatic person, simply silences herself while paying the dues for her repudiation of Wentworth.

She is intelligent, forbearing, and patient. She watches her tongue. I like her, because I’m reminded of myself by her.

Aside from that, though, it’s really Wentworth’s letter that sealed the deal. It’s probably among the sweetest, most loving words I’ve read from the entirety of literature: ‘I am half-agony, half-hope. I have loved none but you.’

9. The Art of Clear Thinking – Rudolf Flesch

This was a zeitgeist, a history book, and a tome that taught one how to be more organized with thought. It had some fun tests in it, and was a joy to read.

8. How You Can Be a Better Student – Rudolf Flesch

This was a book that gauged one’s intelligence in most mental aspects. Not only that, it also helped one boost his vocabulary, and write better. I made friends with this book, but it was also very helpful to me in the aspect of more efficient studying.

7. Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

I read this novel over the course of two days.

I’d say this wasn’t even a romance novel, because Scarlett wasn’t really effusive with love. Despite her demeanor, though, to see her struggle through the Civil War from destruction to rebuilding and then to failure once more was really breathtaking. I lost sleep over this novel because it was just that exciting to read.

The ending was also very apt. Scarlett deserved every bit of what Rhett did to her. I can’t remember most of the details, but the panoramic breadth and the color of the novel is more than enough for its price of admission.

6. Some Do Not and No More Parades – Ford Madox Ford

I’m glad I first watched the mini-series. It made understanding the first two novels of Parade’s End a lot easier.

I really like this novel because its protagonist, Christopher Tietjens, is essentially ‘the last gentleman.’ Even though he was cuckolded by his wife, cheated by her lover, and left hanging by his friend, he persisted to being upright and proper even as his world fell around him. Although he finally capitulated with his love for Miss Wannop after his wife took everything that could be taken from him, he still remained a true gentleman, and the Last Tory.

The two novels are both complex and beautiful, and beautifully represent the decline and fall of conservative values as modernism loomed. Great work.

5. The Bridge over the River Kwai – Pierre Boulle

In a certain battle, the Japanese defeated the British and brutally treated them as prisoners-of-war. However, as the Japanese require a bridge across Burma to transport supplies, they needed the help of the POWs to build the bridge. Despite abuses, Col. Nicholson staunchly opposes being made to work as if they were privates, and refers to the Hague Convention for their rights in war. Eventually, the Japanese leader capitulates, and a bridge of wood was made with speed and efficiency.

The bridge, however, has to be destroyed, and eventually allegiances are questioned. Should pride be placed above duty? Should honor be placed above work? These are questions that the book posits and offers no answers to. All there remains is a pithy, well-written tragedy.

4. The Mansion – William Faulkner

‘But you can me’

When Faulkner writes a love story, it becomes a classic.

Liberal Arts and The Mansion have a similar age-difference in their love stories. But unlike Liberal Arts, however, The Mansion features vicarious love. Because Gavin Stevens, the protagonist, could not love the mother as she wouldn’t allow it, he takes care of the beautiful, energetic child instead and tries to lead her toward the right way. Her name is Linda Snopes: her father is one of the most devious representatives of the Snopes family, the American representation of Faulkner for uncompromising avarice. Stevens tries to give her books, direct her to become a more educated, more knowledgeable lady, and she slowly gets to appreciate all that he had done and was doing for her. But he could not love her the way she needed to be loved, and he could not give what she wished for.

This is a love story and a thriller at the same time, and is the final novel of the Snopes trilogy. It’s proof that a ‘lesser’ Faulkner work is probably most other writers’ masterpieces.

3. The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoevsky

‘If Jesus Christ were placed in the 19th century, would he have the same fate?’, Dostoevsky asks.

He answers with a resounding yes. The Idiot features a sweet, angelic prince in Myshkin who comes into fortune after some coincidences. Two women fall in love with him: the first is someone totally virtuous, and the second is ‘a fallen woman.’ The fallen woman cannot accept love from him, so she ruins herself; the virtuous lady could not understand that his love for the fallen woman is different from his interest in her, so she runs away.

Ultimately, he retreats into his own shell, still full of goodness, but never returning to the world.

The novel is a great reflection of the evil that man possesses, and the goodness that man can no longer have. Revelatory and prophetic, The Idiot is one of Dostoevsky’s greatest novels, and arguably one of the greatest novels ever.

2. The Violent Bear it Away – Flannery O’Connor

Before I graduated from my clerkship, I strongly reacted when one of the consultants told me that she did not know who Flannery O’Connor was. In our graduation party, the novel was used to identify me. I unhesitatingly grouped this novel into one of my all-time favorites – and it remains to be so.

Nearly a year removed from reading the novel the very first time, I’m still thoroughly impressed. O’Connor tackled the question of faith through her grotesques, and although I may have misunderstood some of its parts (it’s a highly complex novel), just reading about the reality that one never really can run away from God was a great catharsis of sorts for me. No matter how much Francis Tarwater tries to run from God, he is nevertheless still drawn toward him. Indeed, only those violent with the love of God can carry the Church away from its demons. It’s a dark, difficult work, but it’s made me reassess my faith and actions towards God.

1. The Glass Bead Game – Hermann Hesse

I thought nothing could beat The Violent Bear It Away. I was so sure.

Then I read The Glass Bead Game. I don’t think both works could be compared to one another, but I saw myself in the struggles of Joseph Knecht. To become the Master of the Game, he had to sacrifice everything else except knowledge: he was intelligent, diligent, and responsible, and that was the reason why he had reached the highest possible post in Castalia. Even then, however, it wasn’t enough. Or rather, it wasn’t right.

Eventually Joseph realized that hiding in the high tower of one’s intelligence was no better than those people who hid in caves just to escape the light. Both were equally wrong, and equally contemptible. Knowledge and wisdom in a human being remains to be nevertheless steeped in the real world. One cannot live without being in society, and one cannot escape society. In the end, he still wanted out of their cabal of intelligence because he argued that life isn’t lived inside a glass bead.

I realized that he was right. I pursued intelligence and knowledge so much that I had ignored and was insensitive to the needs of other people. Before, people were mere stepping stones to the build-up of my intelligence. Feelings were insignificant. While I had changed for the better even before the book, The Glass Bead Game elucidated what should be done: wisdom is useless in solitude.

I agree, and that’s why The Glass Bead Game is my best book of 2013.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Book Review: A Grammar of the English Tongue

Friday, October 18th, 2013

For the past few weeks I have been borderline anal with regard to English grammar. Mere peccadilloes seem to incur my wrath. As I reflected on my thoughts, I’ve grown to realize that my anger was uncalled for. To remind myself of my fallibility, I have decided to brush up on my English grammar. This serves a two-fold purpose: first, I can sublimate my irrational anger towards the procurement of knowledge; second, by reading about wise people and their works that reflect their wisdom, I become humbled as I am reminded that I still have much to learn about the synthesis of perfect sentences.

My plan has been mostly successful: instead of being angry at others, I have directed my energies to honing my ability to speak and write in English. I’ve also realized that I had no right to judge other people’s inability to speak or write proper English seeing that I still have much to improve on.

Anyway, the book was great: despite the age of Samuel Johnson’s hortations, the work still brims with wry wit and humor. I find that his descriptions of the letter ‘Y,’ then considered a vowel, to be quite funny: ‘Y is a vowel, which, as Quintilian observes of one of the Roman letters, we might want without inconvenience, but that we have it.’

Johnson has this to say about adjectives: ‘[t]he comparison of adjectives is very uncertain, and being much regulated by commodiousness of utterance, or agreeableness of sound is not easily reduced to rules.’

While a lot of the rules and observations regarding English grammar still apply today, the asides to me were more entertaining and offered a colorful picture of what the English language was at that time. It may not be as successful nowadays as a guide for grammar, but the book is enlightening as a zeitgeist of the English language during that time.

Books and the man

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

First, about two days ago, I read (or more accurately) skimmed through Thesaurus of Book Digests, looking for new novels to read: I’m not very much fond of plays, and while I can appreciate well-written poetry, I’m partial toward the art of prose. Out of the 800 pages I was able to single out seven works:

1. Hyperion – Friedrich Holderlin
2. Man’s Fate – Andre Malraux
3. Meek Heritage – F. E. Sillanpaa
4. Pepita Jimenez – Juan Valera
5. The Vortex – Jose Eustacio Rivera
6. Nonsense Novels – Stephen Leacock
7. The Wandering Jew – Eugene Sue

After realizing that The Wandering Jew was more than a thousand pages long, I scratched it out from my to-read list, and realized that aside from Man’s Fate (after careful searching on eBay and other online book marketplaces), the other novels were out-of-print. Most unforgivably expensive is Rivera’s La Voragine (The Vortex), which would cost me $80 if I ever planned to obtain it. The rest are within my spending capabilities, although they would still cost me more than run-of-the-mill popular novels. I hope to buy one novel for the each of the succeeding months: perhaps The Vortex may be the last among them.

The list made me realize only one thing: I guess I am a bit more than merely peculiar with my book choices. I did skim through a Thesaurus of Book Digests so that alone is already telling. I plan to read Marcel Proust next, because I don’t think I can properly assess either my dislike or like for him if I never even read through a single work of his.

Second, I am surprised that I like Jane Eyre as much as I do. But then, its Wikipedia entry says that ‘Charlotte Brontë has been called the “first historian of the private consciousness” and the literary ancestor of writers like Joyce and Proust.’ Before Joyce went mad with Finnegans Wake, his writing was excellent, intelligent, and introspective – I found certain similarities between his Portrait of an Artist and Jane Eyre’s explication of herself.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised now. 🙂

No longer an anime fan

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

I’m no longer an anime fan.

I have no excuses.

I’m an anime fan has-been. I don’t have Internet right now, so all I do is read books and go to work. Being a medical doctor is harsh. There’s really little time for anything else than duty, and that sucks.

I still love anime, though. I saw the first episode of Psycho-Pass and was quite impressed with it. I honestly miss my analyses on Tatami Galaxy, however – or my excursions on Code Geass years ago. I want to have an Internet connection, but I have to make do with reading instead. All I can do now is go online at certain times, and that really doesn’t bode well for anime watching. Currently, I am taking back my life, trying to decimate the backlogs of novels to read.

Anime should be next. I’m quite hopeful, but I need an Internet connection to do that. It’s frustrating.

The Dead Poets Society redux

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

I know I shouldn’t be feeling so down. For better or for worse, I am graduating tomorrow from Medicine. Three years of challenging study, a year of hell, and I am at the precipice of graduation. All I am feeling, however, is relief. It’s not really even happiness: I’ve never had something akin to love for Medicine, or even passion, and yet I’m literally only a day away from being officially a doctor of it.

I guess I’ve never expected to be awarded anything. Obviously, I know that I haven’t been the best clinical clerk in any department. Two weeks ago, however, I was told by the intern-in-charge for Internal Medicine that I belonged to the top ten after she tallied our cumulative scores. I mean, she wouldn’t have called to congratulate me or enumerate the names of those that belonged. Since we went through a lot together, I trusted her congratulations and expected to be recognized during the Graduation Ball.

It all fell apart yesterday, however. I think nothing was going to come out of it when the sixth-best intern was called and I still wasn’t called up. That’s what I hate, you know – false confidence. I mean, when you say something wrong, I think you should own up unless it’s understandable that doing so would destroy one’s life. I’ve always tried to say sorry when I recognize that I’m in the wrong, but always kept silent whenever I know I’m right, or actually stuck to my guns. I guess it was bad for me to be confident on something still in the future, but I thought the egg was as good as hatched.

I guess I just wished to be told beforehand that I wouldn’t probably receive any award and that she had made a mistake because I made my parents and relatives rely on me. I know it’s a small, insignificant token but at least I wanted to show something for all their support. I most definitely know that I did what I could to survive internship even though I don’t even have any love for medicine. I’ve had to eat my words, and I probably will do so again and again, and it irritates me.

Should I not have trusted, then?

She was our intern-in-charge. She wouldn’t have twirled me around her finger given the hell that we overcame together. I guess there are just some things I would never know about. I’m still going to graduate tomorrow, anyway. I just hope I won’t disappoint my aunt who came simply because I was going to graduate.

I wish we were rich, because I want to be a writer. I want to study more about the people I admire in literature, and create that one novel that would solidify my reputation for the rest of my life. But since we’re poor and I try to be a proper child to my parents, I guess being sidetracked by medicine would be all right. I’ve studied for four years to be knowledgeable enough – I don’t think I should stop now. I want to be a decent doctor that I could help my family, but this will never be my passion.

I just want to write. As long as I don’t live like a beggar, I think I can manage. It would be a good thing if I could find a beautiful lady with feline eyes and a sharp mind to love me, but if that’s not feasible I think I would be all right anyway.

A self-inflicted non-conundrum

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

It’s not that I don’t have money: I do, but I don’t want to overspend, even if it is for an occasion. A few days ago had been my birthday, and I bought a few items online: I bought a vintage Pilot ballpen, an Ico pen that looks a lot like a Parker Jotter and wearing my favorite color, and Sigismund Krzhizhanovsky’s ‘7 Stories.’ The three probably cost me about 2,000 pesos, although I didn’t have any regrets since they would probably be among the last items I would purchase here in Iloilo. After all, God willing, I’d be going to General Santos City later this April to start my post-graduate internship.

There was another novel that had seeped into my mind, however, and it was Flannery O’Connor’s [The] Violent Bear It Away. I’ve read a good amount of O’Connor’s short stories and am impressed with her work. I think, however, that it was just the purplish cover of a previous edition that invited me to purchase it. (Of course the novel has literary merit: Flannery O’Connor is considered to be one of the best Gothic writers of our time, and a good number of critics consider The Violent Bear It Away to be her best work.)

To make a long, tedious story short, I bought the novel at nearly 1,000 pesos, and that was my gift to myself. While I may get these books by the last week of March at the earliest, I want to read the books that I’ve bought and a birthday, I believe, is a cause good enough for the purchases I’ve made. I’m up to 3,000 pesos spent, now, but I still have 800 more in surplus, if ever anything else comes to mind. I’m pretty sure that I’m good with those four items, however. I hope none of them get lost in the mail. 🙂

1Q84 and season’s greetings!

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

As one of my close friends told me, I make too many excuses. So I won’t make one right now (although in the future, I just might). I didn’t watch any anime, or much television, for that matter, because I spent the first few days of my vacation here in Davao to read 1Q84 intently and conscientiously. I finished it four days ago. I wish Murakami wins the Nobel Prize next year, because I really think he deserves it. 1Q84 may not be as good as Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, but he sure proved his worth as a raconteur, telling stories of two different people that gradually converge through the course of the novel. I find that while there were some overwritten parts, the ending was probably one of the best ones I’ve read from him. I also like the novel because it seemed like a continuation, if not a fulfillment, of his short story ‘On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning.’ The book is filled with colorful and quirky characters only Murakami can paint, but one of the differences between this most recent novel of his and his other works is the hopefulness of the ending in contrast to the rather bittersweet (with emphasis on the bitter) endings his past major novels had.

I highly recommend the novel, not only for Murakami fans, but for all fans of good literature. For the Murakami speculator, however, I suggest that one starts with either Norwegian Wood or Hard Boiled Wonderland, seeing that those are shorter works that also pack a lot of punch. I frankly have no regrets: I will most likely be unable to read any novel after March next year for a whole year, so I made sure by finishing the most recent novel by one of my favorite authors.

I admixed sauntering with purchasing gifts after those four days, leaving me with little time to simply sit down and enjoy anime. Currently, I’m trying to finish Naked Lunch before the necessity of studying for our upcoming exams this January 2. I didn’t lose my love for anime, but I think it would be infinitely easier to enjoy than reading pithy literature, especially during class days. I’ve been there before, after all. With that said, I’m sorry for my belated greetings, although I do wish everyone who reads this blog despite its intermittent updates a very happy Christmas and a joyful New Year. At least I made sure to fulfill one of my New Year’s Resolutions: I made a promise to myself to read 1Q84 prior to my clerkship, and I’m glad I’ve done so even before the New Year arrived! Like 1Q84, I may only offer questions sometimes, but I pray that these questions and positions are interesting to the reader. I also hope that I can keep positing those questions to the readers who have been continually loyal to my site despite everything.

(And yes, I will watch Madoka.)

Ano Hana’s end: flirting with bathos?

Monday, November 7th, 2011

I’ve been more productive as regards my blogging lately because we had a short, two-week break from class. In that span of time, I read four books, watched some Korean drama series, and watched Steins;Gate, in addition to some episodes of American serials. I think I have been quite productive. I am behind my anime, however, that I still hadn’t finished Ano Hana until today. I realized that I truly preferred [C] to the drama in Ano Hana despite the fact that Ano Hana is the better anime in terms of its technical aspects and tightly-wound story. That’s probably because I’ve been accustomed and conditioned to the plots found in Korean dramas, and the best among them (like My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox) more seamlessly integrate the supernatural to mundane problems such as love and romance. I’m not saying that Ano Hana is terrible or bad: I’m just saying that I find [C] to be a more original series despite Ano Hana’s excellence.

Forgive me for thinking this scene funny.

I think what made me jaded with regard to Ano Hana’s last episodes were the fact that the most well-rated Korean dramas were just a lot more evocative, and these were what I was watching for the past few weeks that when I saw the last episode, I was laughing instead of being in tears when they confided in one another that they had their own selfish reasons for wishing that Menma would go to heaven. In addition to the emotional dramas I’ve seen, I was also finishing up on Saturnalia, which is a collection of excerpts from classic perverse masterpieces. Perhaps that was the reason why I wasn’t affected as I should have been: after reading excerpts featuring the coprolalia of Sade and the perversions of Li Yu, Swinburne and von Sacher-Masoch, romance probably tends to be funny instead of affective.

But in all honesty, the ending just didn’t affect me as much as I wanted. Despite being disappointed with the ending of [C], it attempted to make sense out of its limited time and budget, and did it valiantly despite a multitude of flaws. Ano Hana’s ending wasn’t really flawed: it was just beyond the melodrama that I expected, although I still wouldn’t classify it as bathetic. I’m glad Menma was finally able to go to heaven, don’t get me wrong, but the ending was indeed a wake-up call: I recall that Honey and Clover‘s ending had Takemoto confess to Hagu after he had found himself through touring Japan in a bicycle. I didn’t think that was melodramatic: in fact, the way he confessed to her seemed so natural to me. It was what he simply wanted to say after realizing that he liked her, after all. This was in stark contrast with the saturnalia of tears and crying in the final episode of Ano Hana: I thought that it was a bit overdone.

The series was still a decent show, however, but I stand corrected in even comparing it to Honey and Clover. What did you guys think of Ano Hana?