Plot Twist: This blog isn’t dead yet.

My ability to procrastinate never fails to amaze me. 

I’m so incredibly good at forgetting priorities and even better at getting preoccupied with distractions and I swear on every poet that ever walked the earth that I am not proud of this.  I wish I have words for the intensity of shame I feel whenever I remember how long since I last wrote an entry, how grotesquely behind I am on my list of book reviews to draft, how I’ve somewhat lost my focus in getting through my reading plans for the year. I am my worst critic and I get so ruthless with myself sometimes that I feel unworthy of catching up and stealing the momentum back, of starting all over again.

Before my eyes, the months waltzed by to the tune of techno-grunge apathy, routines in pop ballad rhythm and anthems of neglect. August, September. I sing in high-pitched nothingness and the concerto of regrets wouldn’t stop replaying. October, November. A crisis of forgetfulness. December. Dear 2016, how the hell would I ever be ready for you?

I keep thinking: this blog deserves a better blogger.  Someone who actually writes book reviews instead of someone who writes about excuses for being unable to do so. Someone consistent, no matter how the world infinitely shows no mercy at shattering schedules to chaos, instead of someone who succumbs to assorted whims on a daily basis. Someone who just keeps going, instead of someone who just keeps going away.

But then there are days like this when I also think about how there are bigger, more urgent things than the torture of being a spectator to your own failure. I think:  what this blogs needs most of all is a resurrection.

I try to coax myself out of this self-induced amnesia to recall the heart of a phrase I have written so many years back. I don’t believe in epilogues because I don’t believe in things ending—everything is an introduction.

So even if the pain of self-scorn burns me raw, I return to the madness of the written word to remember why this is the kind of love I will never let go of: because the pages never runs out for a reader who keeps on reading. Because the ever-after is endless.

Because the fiction goes on forever.

 

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The Game That Plays Us

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I tried looking for the best word that could describe this book yet failed big time not because of my limited vocabulary but because this book resisted, no, defied, being boxed in a one-word description. At first I decided ‘thought-provoking’ is accurate enough because it had me thinking from the first page down to the last, had me conflicted about the multitude of themes it touched on, had me revisiting things I learned from college (I graduated with a degree on Consular and Diplomatic Affairs, what a coincidence!). But then I also like to tell you that it’s also just as equally intense, compelling and just well, for the lack of a cooler adjective, fantastic. So kindly excuse the lengthy, pretentious-sounding review ahead, friends. You are warned. Continue reading

A book can be your best friend too

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I think part of what makes me such a heavy reader is the fact that I love books like I love people. Because when you think about it, books are very much like people in so many ways. They speak of lives and hold secrets. They keep you company, they become a refuge. You can love or hate them. They can have odd first impressions and feelings that you could shake off a few days later or probably they could linger a little bit longer than you think they would, and if you’re lucky, sometimes they can also change your life.

Case in point: reading Alice Hoffman’s lovely novel Local Girls (1999), made me think that aside from a lifetime love affair, books could also offer friendship—tender, heartfelt, warm. It’s a quick, light read which is poetically narrated in vignettes of short stories by its central character, Gretel Samuelson, about the lives of women and others around her. If this book is a walking person, it’s definitely close to a picture of someone who could seamlessly be a candidate for being best-friend material, mostly because it explores the theme of friendship between women so magically beautiful. In Hoffman’s heroine’s very own words in the book:

“It was the sort of beauty you feel so deeply it becomes contagious and somehow makes you feel beautiful too.” 

Continue reading

Precociousness

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“I am not in the least anxious about her education,” Captain Crewe said, with his gay laugh, as he held Sara’s hand and patted it. “The difficulty will be to keep her from learning too fast and too much. She is always sitting with her little nose burrowing into books. She doesn’t read them, Miss Minchin; she gobbles them up as if she were a little wolf instead of a little girl. She is always starving for new books to gobble, and she wants grown-up books — great, big, fat ones — French and German as well as English — history and biography and poets, and all sorts of things.'”

-A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Wrong Boy, the right book

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There are many ways to know if you are in love with a fictional character. Do they make you think? Do they make you feel? Do you find yourself imagining what it must be like to be friends with them if they ever existed in real life? Is there a dull ache in your chest when the truth sinks in that they are merely imaginary beings trapped on paper? Do you still think about them and what could have happened with their lives even when it’s been ages since you finished reading their story? Do you hope to be as great as them someday?

This is how I knew for sure that I have fallen head over heels for the wrong boy for all the right reasons, and let me tell you: I didn’t regret it one bit.

This book in one word: unforgettable.

It made me howl in laughter, got me misty-eyed, had my eyes nearly pop wide open because of a clever plot twist, made me wish I could hug the protagonist when I reached the final page.

The Wrong Boy’s plot is engaging enough to keep a reader leafing like mad through its witty and dark dialogue: it is a comic, coming-of age odyssey of a misunderstood teenage intellectual and die-hard Smiths fan, his painfully erratic past and his troublesome present state. Raymond, the book’s hero, chronicles his alternating (and almost never-ending) dilemmas with lots of heart and humour, evident in his laugh-out-loud narrative both in prose and poetry.

Written in the form of confessional letters and journal entries by 19-year old Raymond James Marks to his idol, Morrissey, this novel is in equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking; It’s sad, sweet, shocking and satisfying, which basically means it easily made its way to my lists of all-time favourite books ever and, well—straight inside my dorky reader-heart.

Like an intelligent teenage sitcom gone haywire, the book is filled with crazy turn of events which unsurprisingly heaved greater havoc in Raymond’s life. We get unusual ones, like the Transvestite Nativity Play Scandal in his early school years, to his accidental discovery of the flytrapping craze and his eventual expulsion. But we also get dark, disturbing themes like his having linked with the rape of a neighbourhood girl, his parent’s weird love affairs, and his admission to a mental facility. And he oh-so-beautifully captured each of these life-altering changes with such profound reflections and child-like honesty that you can’t help but love him so. The book is a screaming testament that a painful childhood is indeed the best preparation in the making of a wonderful writer.

Aside from the extraordinary detail given in Raymond’s persona, the other characters also shined with their individual oddities. From his always-anxious mother Shelagh, his cool grandmother aptly named Winnie, his best friends Twinky and Norman, and well, the Girl with the Chestnut Eyes. Raymond never met Morrissey but he was omnipresent in all of his stories that it’s impossible not to mention him. There’s a sad bit towards the end that just wrenched my heart open where he writes:

“Morrissey, I’m all right on my own. I don’t even mind being on my own. But I never wanted to be on my own. That was just how it turned out. And I tried to make the best out of it. You helped me with that, Morrissey. You made it seem all right, feeling lonely. And it was, in a way, it was all right being lonely and misunderstood, because I had my love of you and everything that went with that, all the records and posters and videos and all the mementoes and memorabilia. I had all of that.

But sometimes I find myself thinking about the future, Morrissey. And that’s when I’d get frightened. Because it’s all right being a bit lonely when you’re only nineteen and you can wear all that loneliness like it’s cool and defiant and a bit mysterious; like it’s something you’ve chosen. But when you’re not nineteen anymore, Morrissey, when you’ve ended up older and you’re still sitting there in your room, on your own, with a brilliant collection of Smiths and Morrissey memorabilia, what then? I’ve seen them, Morrissey, when I’ve been at conventions and all the fans have been gathered to wallow in all the wonderfulness of you and the Smiths, I’ve seen them, the older fans, the ones who were probably fans right back at the beginning…

 And do you know what occurred to me, Morrissey? What occurred to me is that you must despise them—fans like that. Fans so devoted that they became trapped inside their devotion, imprisoned by their idolatry; those who clung onto worship because they were afraid to let go; in case they discovered that outside of you, Morrissey, and beyond the bedrooms of their own minds, they didn’t exist. Which is why they are still there, at all the concerts and conventions, with all the right books and rare records and attitudes, all the right facts, dates and figures, discographies, bios and trivia and Morrissey-lore; those who adore you for just a little too long, Morrissey; those whose love is so needy that it blinds them to that look in your eyes, Morrissey; that look of pained contempt.

 And that’s why you have to understand, Morrissey, that I’ve not done all this just for myself; I’m doing it for you as well, Morrissey. Because I promised that I would never ever do that to you; never grow into the sort of fan whom you would have to despise. So it’s for both of us, Morrissey, me and you.”

Imagine all this goodness in every page, and it’s likely you can perceive a better picture of how precious this book is for me. The Wrong Boy is unflinchingly one of the most moving novels you will ever read, and this is all due to Willy Russell’s genius, a writer I now look up to with such great respect and gratitude.

What happens when you fall in love with a fictional character? You grow up with them. You celebrate their victories, no matter how small, and you mourn their losses and defeats. You cheer for them even when things get impossibly difficult, and you always have faith that they will make it through the end. And once you get through the final page, your heart is always hesitant to leave, but it’s okay: You will always come back.

We are what we read

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“All her knowledge is gone now. Everything she ever learned, or heard, or saw. Her particular way of looking at Hamlet or daisies or thinking about love, all her private intricate thoughts, her inconsequential secret musings – they’re gone too. I heard this expression once: Each time someone dies, a library burns. I’m watching it burn right to the ground.” 

-Sky is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson