Monday, February 18, 2013

Pride and Prejudice: the Peacock Edition

If I could collect only one book, this would be it. Isn't it gorgeous?

Saturday, February 16, 2013


NW represents an evolution in Zadie Smith's writing. She begins with a stream of consciousness page a la Virginia Woolf, or that she no longer uses quotation marks for dialogue, and tells a story of one of the main characters entirely in numbered headings. 

Her new style may be a result of motherhood. She's written that having a baby means that she only has four hours of writing time in a day. But it may also be just her exploring.

Smith remains one of my favorite authors, and rightly so. NW examines issues of class, race and privilege, as well as the First World problems of educated women. Sometimes it seem like you still can't have it all.

When reading fiction, I am often reminded that it is easier to write about sad families than happy ones, but despite all the insecurities and failed achievements mentioned in this book, there is also the strong, enduring friendship, of two girls, one black, one white, who were brought together entirely by chance. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Taking Stock

Now that 2013 has begun, it's time again to take stock of what I've been able to achieve for 2012:
  • Continue taking a regular yoga class
  • Try zumba
  • Write regularly
  • Date (which I didn't think I'd do but September came around and whaddaya know...) 
  • Read 50 books
  • Travel to somewhere I've never been
  • -El Nido, Masbate, Mts. Bahay Kalo, Banahaw and Mangisi and Namal, Ifugao
The game changer this year was the UP Mountaineers, which I had no no intention of joining. But I pushed myself physically, met some good friends, and climbed three mountains. Who knew that I had it in me to run 15k? 

I now have biceps. 

My biggest goal for this year are to prioritize my writing and start my MFA. I'm filled with hope for the coming year, and I can't wait to see what's ahead of me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sexing the Cherry

Ah Jeanette Winterson, you slay me every time.

I admit, our first meeting didn't leave a lasting impression – I was too young to read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. I didn't even get that the main character was a lesbian until much, much later.

And then came college and The 24-Hour Dog. That story is still with me. Sometimes I go back to my tattered photocopy and read it again to be dazzled by the sheer luminosity of your prose.

Even when I found Art and Lies too obfuscating, I didn't give up on you. And I glad that I didn't. You bowled me over with Gut Symmetries. And now, Sexing the Cherry, which is my new favorite book.

It's been used so often that it's become a cliché, but this time, my mind was truly blown. I've been fascinated with theoretical physics for a long time, even before I read Gut Symmetries. But the idea that the journey within our own depths is greater than any trip we could ever take is astounding.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

On Failure

It wasn't until after college that I began to fail. Before that, I coasted. Best in English, editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper, Journalist of the Year, it all came easily and without much effort.

I graduated in the top ten of my class and hurdled the Intarmed qualifying exam, all without really trying. Sure, I studied and did my best on exams, but I didn't really work. College was a dizzying whirl, but I managed to balance all of it. I didn't excel in academics or at the campus newspaper where I wrote, but I wasn't too bad either. You could say that I was complacent, content just to get by.

All this would later have a detrimental effect.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Marriage Plot

"There were some books that reached through the noise of life to grab you by the collar and speak only of the truest things."

Unfortunately, Jeffrey Eugenides's The Marriage Plot isn't one of them. But it does make you remember all of the books that you've ever loved. I have a special bookshelf in my room for such books -- they're protected by glass sliding doors.

I've read each book multiple times and I know many of my favorite lines by heart. The list includes Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, Cynthia Voigt's A Solitary Blue, Zadie Smith's On Beauty, and many many other old, cherished friends.

The Marriage Plot takes you back to college, when you were in love with books and ideas, and with life in general. It follows three people: Madeleine Hanna, self-avowed Victorianist and sheltered privileged girl, and her two suitors, the depressed Leonard Bankhead, and Mitchell Grammaticus, who's on a spiritual search.

Watching Madeleine fall in love with Barthes's A Lover's Discourse, reminds me why I fell in love with it too.

Madeleine has her books, while Mitchell has his quest for religious enlightenment. I like that of the three, he was the one whom "education had finally led...out into life".

Meanwhile, Leonard has his manic depression. It's interesting to see how Eugenides deals with this illness - sure, Leonard has a crappy family, but he also revels in feeling melancholy, until suddenly, he can no longer control it. Having friends and loved ones who are dealing with depression, it's helpful to understand what they might be going through. There's something to be said for the limits of empathy -- sometimes you can never really know how something feels like until you experience it for yourself.

Like Margaret Atwood's Moral Disorders, this books feels intensely personal. I can see Eugenides in all three characters.

The Marriage Plot is based on the premise that while the old Victorian novels ended happily with marriage, modern life (and plots) aren't quite as neat. This book deals with a marriage (I won't say to whom) and examines what happens after. The Marriage Plot even follows the division of novels into lengthy parts instead of chapters. It's yet another sign that the Internet has drastically shortened my attention span that I found myself impatient with this device. But Eugenides's wry insights and deft prose makes this book a rewarding read.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Karen Russell has a way with words. Swamplandia! is simile-heavy, but I don't mind, not when they're like this:
The ice-blond foreign couples yoked into thick black camera straps like teams of oxen
I fell in love with Russell's work after reading her first book of short stories, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.

Swamplandia! initially seems to be tinged with the same magical realism as the title story in St. Lucy's...but in this book Russell carefully creates a myth, only to suddenly raise the curtain and show that illusion doesn't really exist.

Needless to say, I'm eagerly awaiting her next work.