Monday, January 31, 2011

The remains of the birthday.

"What can we ever gain in forever looking back and blaming ourselves if our lives have not turned out quite as we might have wished? The hard reality is, surely, that for the likes of you and I, there is little choice other than to leave our fate, ultimately, in the hands of those great gentlemen at the hub of this world who employ our services. What is the point in worrying oneself too much about what one could or could not have done to control the course one’s life took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and I at least try to make our small contribution count for something true and worthy. And if some of us are prepared to sacrifice much in life in order to pursue such aspirations, surely that is in itself, whatever the outcome, cause for pride and contentment." ~ Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And the pages turn and turn

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill. Blogged about it here. Bought it as a birthday gift to myself.

Short Cuts by Raymond Carver. These stories have been adapted into film by Robert Altman, who even wrote the foreword for the collection. I haven't seen it yet but judging from the stories it's the type Altman would really make good at. The stories are marked with simplicity and a keen observation of human behavior and emotion. Putting these stories together, one told in a poem, you create a milieu of suburban America, or perhaps any society for that matter, that is both restless and life-like.

Atomised by Michel Houllebecq. A story about twins who lived entirely different lives. Not Mara Clara, no. One is a brilliant scientist, the other a hedonist. Houllebecq might be referring to himself and his id, but clearly, the title also refers to how societies have become so divisive, thus its peoples.

Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik. When I go to Paris, and that will be someday, I will bring along Gopnik's incisive essays from his stint as Paris correspondent of The New Yorker. It brings light to every aspect of Parisian life but also sheds light to how he loves and loathes his homeland.

A Special Providence by Richard Yates. I loved Revolutionary Road and A Good School. A story about a single mother and his son who has been to war. Yates is probably one of the most acute chroniclers of the American 50s-60s era. He captures achingly the times that it resonates with contemporary fervor.

Dispatches from the Edge by Anderson Cooper. The guy is of royal descent - the Vanderbilts, but his accounts of his beginnings would tell you no trace of a lavish lifestyle, instead a painful memory from childhood which he carries and constantly looks back to, as we get acquainted with his insights from his known reportage and coverage of major disasters and war from the all over the world.

A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter. Last Night, which I copied and pasted from The New Yorker website so I can bring it and read it at home, remains to be one of my favorite short stories (not that I really read and remember tons of it) and one of my wait-what-the-fuck moments ever. The mood in A Sport and a Pastime is different, though Salter's staccato sentences makes wonders. Another of those American in Paris novels. It's erotic and features sex at least every other page. Or a couple pages.

Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews edited by Jonathan Cott. Finally, I finished the voluminous compilation of interviews of the most enigmatic musical artist of all time. Reading this omnibus feels like a worthy companion to Todd Haynes' I'm Not There, five ruminations on Dylan, as portrayed by 5 actors including Gere, Bale, Ben Wishaw, the young Marcus Carl Franklin, and the staggeringly amazing, Cate Blanchett, only that you have 33 interviews to gaze or peer at. Which only leaves you still in awe and enigma.

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. An amazing thriller from a long-hackneyed subject matter. Smith crafts this chilling tale of a fallen Russian spy who investigates a series of gruesome child murders in entertaining fashion that it works like a film. Is any in the works?

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. At times humorous, this classic tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, a captured American soldier who experiences hallucinatory bouts in a Dresden slaughterhouse, the book's version of prison. A must-read of post-WWII novels which explores the horrors of war and the evils spawned by it.

Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis. Another cult classic I read only after years of looking for a booksale copy. Finally, a copy is available at NBS which was also discounted, in tandem with the release of Ellis' Imperial Bedrooms. Such bleak, bleak novel but with unnerving tenacity and seriousness. Haven't seen the adaptation, which stars a young Robert Downey, Jr., but it's scary at best and deliciously written.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. "This is how the entire course of life can be changed – by doing nothing." Or, "All she had needed was the certainty of his love, and his reassurance that there was no hurry when a lifetime lay ahead of them. Love and patience- if only he had had them both at once- would surely have seen them both through." As usual, McEwan never fails to grip me and tear me apart and then lifts me up on such rapturous literary hallelujahs. The words work simply and beautifully. On Chesil Beach tells a very basic story of reluctance but oh how it resonates with such universal clarity on our failures and limitations. I hope Sam Mendes will get back on the saddle with to finally helm the adaptation rumored to reunite Garfield and Mulligan.

Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco. I have to read back to that particular chapter ending just to make sure because at the end of it I didn't know what hit me. A novel shouldn't be castigated for being ambitious, especially if it achieves and hits a lot of points. In Ilustrado, we see the Pinoy not only in its different time periods, but at his worst and best. Hopefully, the best churns into something good.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. It also took me a long time to finally pick this up from the unread heap, but glad that I did. When I finished it, I said, why the fuck would they sell a gem like this for 10 pesos even if it was in booksale? When I was reading it, Pynchon always come to mind. Franzen's incisive prose cuts sharp into the core of American-ness. By dissecting a dysfunctional family, Franzen creates a monumental landscape of our time - where, why and how we live in the contemporary troubling times. Read this towards Christmas. The family in Franzen's story is expecting their "last" Christmas. How's that for bleak and misery. My 2010 book.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll. Last month, I vowed to read a classic each month and that I have to finish 3 for December. This was fast and convenient and accessible and I ended up only reading this. As usual, the usual.

The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich. Oh no, this is the facebook book made into the now ginormous facebook movie. Contrary to what many think, the film, while borrowed heavily on the narrative, differs greatly in perspective. Saverin may still be the moral core of both sources but the film offers much more realized and entertaining characters. Of course there is Sorkin's explosive screenplay.

Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem. I like to hate it for selfish reasons but the magic, though not readily palpable, is there. The ambition and rare talent with those words are so difficult to top that it feels like Lethem invented them to work specifically for this novel. Maybe if I lived or living in Manhattan I would've related to it more? Perhaps in a setting like Manhattan, fictionalized at that, the hazy truth is hard to find. Maybe that vast distance between Chase and Janice, stuck in space tells us something about it. But it's fun to read. Marlon Brando, Criterion, just about the most quirky pop culture references, and weird names like Perkus Tooth and Strabo Blandiana. And malevolent migratory birds and an escaped tiger out in the city and an amputated dog in a hotel/apartment for dogs.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


That is, as they say, the croak of an American frog, whereas the Pinoy frog would say Kokak. Jeez, what a corny way to start the obligatory new year post. Napaka-echoserang palaka naman eh year of the rabbit nga. Which means, people will copulate more this year? A ballooning population from an already ballooning and burgeoning one? The RH pundits better get their acts together because the moral pundits would unleash their hidden powers and strengths and illogical and impractical wisdom. I should put quotation on wisdom. Bigla kong nasingit ang RH tuloy, and the way that this sentence is going you might say it's a cheapskate segue, because I'm going to say that the bottom half of the year has got me working with something related to RH. But no, that was just coincidental, or no, consequential? Or rather spontaneous. There I go again with spontaneity. It reminded me again of Jack Kerouac and his concept of spontaneous prose, which is like blogging actually. Mas enjoy kung bigla na lang dadaloy ang mga salita galing sa iyong brain transferred my neurons to your kinetic fingers and you find yourself typing more rigorously and faster than you can think of the next sentence. Perhaps what I'm really saying is that I should record my thoughts more. That's what you get from receiving tons of notebooks and planners and organizers. Which is not to say it's a bad thing. The notebooks are swell. There's this one notebuk cum planner which has the word PARIS Depuis 1968 in it and has this really cool stamp logo and really vintage look with a miniaturized Eiffel in one of the pages. The pages tell me to write. And maybe write more.

Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family, Choose a f—king big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose a three piece suit on hire purchased in a range of f—king fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the f—k you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f—king junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, f—ked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose a future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?

Renton, Trainspotting