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.
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.)
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?
I just finished reading Sartor Resartus (The Tailor Retailored). I can’t say it was pleasurable, but I usually finish what I start, whether with books or life choices: I’m still in medical school, after all. It was one of the earliest examples of postmodern literature, essentially being metafictional in the sense that it’s fiction about the creation of fiction: critics have classified it as a poioumenon.
For me, it was extremely boring. The combination of dry and archaic wit with an absence of any plot progression was just difficult to withstand, in my opinion. It is nevertheless one of the recognized English classics, and its historical presence cannot be undermined. As quoted from Wikipedia (because I’m lazy and the short entry is quite believable, at the very least):
Poioumenon (plural: poioumena; from Ancient Greek: Ï€Î¿Î¹Î¿ÏÎ¼ÎµÎ½Î¿Î½, “product”) is a term coined by Alastair Fowler to refer to a specific type of metafiction in which the story is about the process of creation. According to Fowler, “the poioumenon is calculated to offer opportunities to explore the boundaries of fiction and realityâ€”the limits of narrative truth.” In many cases, the book will be about the process of creating the book or includes a central metaphor for this process. Common examples of this Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus and Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy which is about the narrator’s frustrated attempt to tell his own story. A significant postmodern example is Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, in which the narrator, Kinbote, claims he is writing an analysis of John Shade’s long poem “Pale Fire”, but the narrative of the relationship between Shade and Kinbote is presented in what is ostensibly the footnotes to the poem. Similarly, the self-conscious narrator in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children parallels the creation of his book to the creation of chutney and the creation of independent India. Other postmodern examples of poioumena include Samuel Beckett’s trilogy (Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable); Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook; John Fowles’s Mantissa; and William Golding’s Paper Men; and Gilbert Sorrentino’s Mulligan Stew.
I have also read Sterne’s Tristram Shandy (because of Daniel‘s suggestions), and I have found both to be unappealing to my tastes. Both are too particularly English for me to love.
The novel is essentially an unnamed Editor writing about the complex Philosophy of Clothes written by Diogenes Teufelsdrockh. The Philosophy of Clothes is essentially a smorgasbord of philosophy, theology, culture, and a massive amount of tangents. I do recognize some of the wit in the tome and the attempts at humor, only that I believe it hasn’t aged well with regard to its comic side. Frankly speaking, it is about everything and nothing at the same time. If I were to compare this novel to anime, it would probably be a slice-of-life series dealing with the mundane coupled with a bit of wit. Hataraki Man comes to mind, although that series was a lot more entertaining with the issues it tackled. It’s also less forgettable compared to Sartor Resartus, because it at least has a proper plot that drives it forward. Sartor Resartus is a compilation of musings that were probably intriguing 180 years ago, but seem too trite nowadays. It would make a pretty bad anime series.
Over the past week, I prioritized what little extracurricular reading I could do over solely watching recently-aired episodes of series I’m currently following, as I have always believed that it’s easier to watch anime than to read extraneous material during school time. Reading simply takes more time to do, as it requires more focus and forces the brain to think, at least, as compared to the more passive act of watching anime. With this reasoning, I spent a good amount of time reading.
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One of the most haunting lines written by James Joyce was a quip from Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses. Dedalus says that ‘history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.’ It seems ironic, as it is due to the seamless intertwining of history and fiction that made Ulysses an enduring novel to many a critic. I think that the best stories serve as historical tracts at the same time, and this is especially true in novels.
Petersburg in revolution
Petersburg, written by Andrei Bely, is both brother and father to Ulysses. It was written earlier than Ulysses, and implements that magical mixing of mythology, history, and philosophy that was found in spades in Joyce’s novel. It inculcates news reports (history), mythology, psychology, and anthroposophy in a certain city, Petersburg, just like Joyce did with Dublin in his Ulysses.
Vladimir Nabokov and Anthony Burgess, among the most prominent writers of the 20th century, had nothing but praise for this novel. The premise of the story is quite simple: a senator, Apollon Apollonovich, was marked by an unnamed Party (note that this novel was situated during 1905 in Russia) for death by means of a bomb, which was a popular method of assassination during those times. The catch was that the assassin was going to be his son, Nikolai Apollonovich.
Bely made sure this wasn’t going to be just a rendition of Fathers and Sons. There are even instances in the novel where he parodied Turgenev’s works himself, such as mentioning a certain revolutionary who died of consumption (applicable to Fathers and Sons, as well). Petersburg was something more tasteful than that, and by avoiding being moralistic, Bely was able to elevate his novel into something much more.
The fundamental opposition of the story is between father and son. It is illustrated by the difference of their ages, but more subtly by the incongruity of their philosophies: whereas Nikolai Apollonovich was progressive and a liberal, his father was a Tsarist to the core. It was the reason why he was a high-ranking official in the monarchist government, but it was also one of the reasons why his son and him did not agree with one another (and barely even talked).
Like Ulysses, however, the relationships and references did not end there: mentions of Saturn were made. In Greek he is known as Chronos, or as the father who devoured his offsprings so as they would not be able to displace his reign or dispose of him. This is in disagreement with his namesake, however, who is Apollo, the god of the sun. There remains something that still connects them as family to one another, even in all their differences: while fond of symmetry and logic, Apollon Apollonovich was soft toward his hussy of a wife; in contrast, despite his Kantian philosophies (which was one of the reasons that led him to the madness of carrying the bomb), Nikolai was a fool in love. The idiosyncrasies of their character blur their clash of ideologies and sometimes father and son are painted as similar individuals.
The sun is also a symbol of the Ego’s progression in anthroposophy, which compounds the story further. While they are seemingly just caricatures, their personalities and characteristics disallow easy generalizations, and in this regard they are just as dynamic as real people. The best thing about this novel, however, that for me made it better than Ulysses was the fact that it actually told a highly engrossing story despite its wordplay and complex narrative. Whereas Ulysses was one large sex joke hidden in magical prose and complex storytelling, there was actually an engrossing story in Petersburg. This alone made it a much better read and a much better novel, in my opinion, than Ulysses: it told me that reality and fiction can be intertwined in creative ways while still being able to tell a wonderful story.
I’ve never tried to dissemble my real personality in my writings, and I don’t think I will start soon: I’ve been engaged in a war against my urge to collect vintage video games via eBay for nearly a year now. While I can’t say that I lost the war, I also can’t say I have won: there are some times when I’m able to rein in these desires and not purchase anything for months, but there are also times when my resolve was just too easily broken (these were certainly at low points in my life).
I can easily say that I won this week’s battle, however. Instead of purchasing another impractical collectible, I instead channeled my spare time into reading novels and used some of my excess funds to purchase a pristine copy of Andrei Bely’s Petersburg. I have already somewhat triumphed on the wastrel in me, as in the previous weeks I’ve settled for one dollar items and nothing else. While I don’t know when this current self-control of mine will terminate, I do know that I’m trying to restrain this said impracticality by channeling my time into books. It has been decently successful: I think Devils is the first novel I have completed in four months.
Devils is one of the major novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky. As he is universally recognized to be among the best writers of all time, even his minor works are better than most of other authors’ major novels. Devils, like his other major novels, was a great novel. Unlike his other novels, however, this was primarily a novel of ideas. Nihilism was a budding idea among the youth at the time of the novel’s writing, and Dostoevsky wanted to offer his own opinion with regard to it: it is all the more impressive in retrospect because Dostoevsky was able to predict what would happen to his beloved Russia years from the novel’s publication. In addition, Dostoevsky differentiates the true nihilist (Stavrogin) from the politically-leaning ‘nihilist’ (Verkhovensky), alongside many other things. It’s a brilliant political tract, although it most definitely can’t be read without focus or lightly, like all of Dostoevsky’s major works. I have written about it to some extent in the past, but it was only this week where I re-read the novel and finally finished it, too.
As an idea, nihilism is extremely unsustainable (without going to its denotation), because it’s essentially a belief in nothing. It’s not anarchy, for example, which is the upheaval of the current social structures and burning that to the ground. That’s not a belief in nothing. When one truly believes in nothing, one shouldn’t care if no one else has faith in that belief: after all, he believes in nothing, not even himself.
Even at a cataclysmic event will not be enough to trigger a widespread belief in the beauty of nihilism. Nihilism is essentially a one-man show, something that even post-apocalyptic series and anime do not show within its characters. Man must believe in something for him to continue existing. Whether it is in God or in himself, he attempts to find meaning in the chaos that surrounds his world. This has been the case in a lot of anime series dealing with disaster, from Bokurano to even Neon Genesis Evangelion: even Shinji ultimately just wants to be accepted; Rei wants to be loved and so does Asuka.
Can you really believe in nothing?
I honestly never put much stock in Murphy’s law because I always sought to be the ‘true optimist’ in Sartre‘s words. In his seminal essay ‘Existentialism is a Humanism’ Sartre describes the true optimist to be the ultimate pessimist. Man can rely on and must rely on nothing else except himself. He must not find fate, God, or others to blame, because ultimately it is only he, and not these others, who can do anything about it. This is not to say that I’m perennially happy, but Sartre’s existentialist viewpoint has helped me put things into perspective. His existentialism is not the Gurren Lagann type of existentialism: he recognizes that we are situated in this world and we are all, as humans, characterized into a human condition. As humans, we are limited; we must, however, rely on no one but ourselves as we explore and develop within the world.
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I had some time to, so ...
Let’s make one thing clear first: I don’t read the novels of ToraDora, and I have no plans until the series is over. I don’t want my impressions on the wonderful anime series muddied by what I would have read in the novels: the anime is different from the novels, and that is simply that. Having said that, I wanted to know why people decried the recent episode, so I both did some questioning and some research (the answers that were given to me). Read the rest of this entry »
Today is the last day of our semestral break for this year. Because my days of being able to read freely were dwindling, I sought to read as much as I could the previous week (thus the lack of updates). It has become a ritual during the past years; I don’t think anything is bad with attempting to expound the horizons of one’s mind, however.
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One wishes there really were a book like that.