Sunday, May 30, 2010

Review: Tuck Everlasting

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“All things shall perish from under the sky.”
So says a line from an old song I remember singing as a child. It is true that everything in this world, breathing or not, is transient. People die, rocks corrode, plants wither… everything vanishes because that’s the way it should be. But how would you feel about an eternal life? Would you consider immortality as a gift or as a curse?

Natalie Babbit’s ground-breaking novel, Tuck Everlasting (published 1975), tackles the abovementioned questions. Ten-year-old Winifred Foster gets bored with her too-prim-and-proper life and decides to run away one day. She chances upon a teenager named Jesse Tuck drinking from a spring—perhaps the fountain of youth?—and discovers a secret that a certain family keeps for almost a century. Being the only person who learns of the secret outside the line of Tucks, Winnie must join the family in protecting the secret from someone who wants to make a fortune out of the spring. Rich and compelling, the book justifies its shortness by a good reading experience brought about by flawless prose and a series of events that will keep you turning pages.

The book, surprisingly, does not focus on romance; at its core it is about Life and Death, without touching overly serious matters that might lead to something related to the Bible and stuff.  I loved its flick adaptation as a kid—yes, including the romantic bits in it. But the book has a little girl as a main protagonist and Babbit is a well-known children’s lit writer so it is quite understandable that it wouldn’t go too deep into the stuff the movie zeroed in on. The book-verse Winnie “adores” the seventeen-year-old (in actuality a 104-year-old) Jesse, and the latter offers her a chance of living forever with him by giving her a vial of water from the magic spring. With a world teeming with greed revolving around her, the choice Winnie makes at the end is a mature, touching one. She does not fear death—she fears an unlived life instead.

I can vaguely remember the scenes from the movie so I wouldn’t be pointing out more similarities and differences. All I know is that they’re both beautiful in their own unique ways. I will post something about the movie once I re-watched it sometime next week (I’m downloading it now :D).

Digressing a bit, while reading the book I have to admit that I sort of remembered Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. It starts in that scene in the woods where Winnie asks Jesse his age. His body is eternally seventeen, but he’s over a hundred and four years old. This bears a striking resemblance with Edward and Bella’s meeting in the woods, including that asking-of-age stuff. Also the thing with the Tuck family—aren’t they moving every twenty years or so because the people are wondering why they are not getting old? Same with the Cullens. As for Bella wanting to be a vampire—wanting to be immortal, technically—so she can be with Edward…didn’t Jesse try to convince Winnie to drink from the stream so they can live together forever? The choices of the female protagonists of both books differ and I have to say I prefer Winnie’s more mature choice over Bella’s.

But really, that’s not the whole point, yes? As I go read more and more books, I get to know how many derivatives the Twilight Saga has. *le sigh* Just saying.

Anyway, this review isn’t about Twilight. Tuck Everlasting is a satisfying read, it’s a modern classic you would enjoy in one sitting so go grab it now. :D

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Wicked

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(UBER!LATE CROSS-POST from Tumblr!)

First-class fairytale sequels, re-imaginings, and parodies are forming a quite successful trend in the realm of literature today. Neil Gaiman’s pen is dangerously viral when he rewrites tales we have come to love as children: his darker version of Snow White, Snow, Glass, and Apples, forever changed (in a deliciously twisted way) my perception of the bedtime story; his adult version of Troll Bridge still makes me shiver whenever I remember it. Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty erotica and Garth Nix’s grim take on Hansel and Gretel did the same thing to me, I swear I’ll never be able to think about those tales the same way again.


The abovementioned stories are on the first notches of my favorite retellings, and along with them goes Gregory Maguire’s revisionist Wicked.
Indeed, so much happened before Dorothy dropped in.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West zeroes in on the untold story of the green-skinned villain of L. Frank Baum’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Elpahaba. What makes her wicked? What is her connection to the Wizard and why does he want her dead? What role does Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, play in Elphaba’s life? You can find all the answers in this unconventional story that tackles the true concept of good and evil, love and friendship, religion, discrimination, magic, and politics all crammed up in an overly bizarre but wonderfully crafted setting—who would’ve thought that Oz could be so intricately beautiful?

That is one of Maguire’s strengths, I guess: he was able to effectively recalibrate the unexplored realm Baum created. Many readers, including myself, were dazzled by the phantasmagoric world and its equally surreal events.

I can’t say this book’s a real page-turner though because admittedly there wer some parts that were a tad too dry to be able to fuel the readers to go on. I think that’s why some of my friends who borrowed the book never really finished it. XD The prose was at times too florid for my taste.
However, I have to admit that Maguire was able to establish his own milestone with this work, something that was completely separate from Baum’s success. He breathed into full life the characters that were propped up two-dimensionally in the original work (which is not a fault in itself, for the original work’s target audience is kids): the Munchkin(lander)s, the Wicked Witch of the East, and many more.

Despite its apparent flaws, I still enjoyed this book. I believe that any book, however weak the other elements may be, if it has drool-worthy, well-developed characters, will always stand out and emerge as a good work. Why, a character can pull the whole story with himself! That’s why Wicked will always be one of my favorites. The characters, and some of the philosophies that sent my thoughts about good and evil haywire—I will never forget those.

Three point five out of five stars for this!

(Wicked has sequels, Son of a Witch and A Lion Among Men)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Amihan

I’m not sure if I posted this poem here already. It’s the first tagalog poem I wrote this year, passed as an entry in this year’s Imaginaccion literary contest.

AMIHAN

Nalagas na noon
ang mga huling talulot ng krisantemum
nang muli akong iduyan ng hangin—
malamig, ngunit tila humahagkan,
isang oyayi na nagpapapayapa
sa mga multong sa dibdib
ko na naninirahan.

Ngunit anumang pagdampi
ang gawin nito sa akin
ay hindi nito matatanggal
ang elehiyang tumatakbo—
paulit-ulit, pabalik-balik,
sa isipan kong nilamon na
ng halimaw ng pagdadalamhati.

Nakiramay ang gabi sa akin—
nanaghoy ang mga tala at
lumuha ang kalangitan
habang ang kahapon ay sumipol
kasama ng paglubog libu-libong beses
na tumatangay sa
natitira kong katinuan.

Ano pa ang silbi
ng paghehele nitong amihan
kung ang mga bangungot ko rin mismo
ang sa aki’y gumigising.

Ano pa ang silbi ng paggising
kung ang hanging sa aki’y bumubuhay
ay siya ring nagpapagunita
sa mga yakap mong
nanlamig at tuluyan nang nawala.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Good Omens Goodness :D

Apparently I still have a Good Omens hangover, and the closest thing I have here that I can use to vent my “literary drunkenness” (LOL) for the night is the laptop. It’s sorta reminiscent of The Fountainhead days...but I’ll say it’s worse.
I created a Good Omens blog at Tumblr. Good thing’s there's a lot of Gaimaniacs in the site, the three-day-old tumblelog is doing quite well. It’s always nice to meet people who you can go fangirling (or, as one user who I mistook for a girl says it, “fanpeopling”) with. I’m a book pariah here at home. :( My sister Aila is showing some interest in this novel, but I really doubt she’s going to read it. She pushes me to just tell her the story chap by chap, and I agree, but only when we are doing the laundry or washing up. :D

I and mama are discussing the book’s topic for straight three days now, diminishing my regular online hours. I haven’t attended/taught in our community’s VBS this year (in point of fact I’m not positive if there’s one...which is kinda prompting me to think we need a change of cabeza lol), but these days made me feel as if I’m in one, only with standards a notch higher. What prolonged the discussion is when I brought the topics discussed in the documentary Zeitgeist..bad idea. We’re not done yet actually, but papa’s here tonight and if I start again I know there will be no end to the little confab. That’s an ineffable fact, I learned it from experience.

O’right! Babbling ends here! I’ll post mini character profiles and my comments about them nao. :)

DRAMATIS PERSONAE
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Crowley and Aziraphale (art by Zelu)

CROWLEY
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(art by Zelu)

Crowley is a fallen angel (or in politically correct terms, an angel who did not so much fall as sauntered vaguely downwards), and he’s present in the world as early as the Eden days. In fact, he played a rather important role in the Garden: he’s the serpent who tempted Eve to eat the Forbidden Fruit. He’s my favorite character in the book; I said so in my review. Reiterating why: his outgoing personality is more or less just a facade. He maybe a flash bastard, an almost-always smiling demon whose job is to make the lives of the people miserable, but he is hurting inside. He’s got bottled up emotions against his immediate superiors in Hell. “He hadn’t meant to fall,” the book said, “He’d just hung around with the wrong people.” Also, I think his character has the nicest voice in the book, but perhaps only because he’s got the philosophical voice. I love his introspections so much.

Also, digressing a bit...I’ve heard that film adaptation plans for Good Omens years ago went awry because of budget problems. I don’t really expect it to do justice to the book...but the fact that JOHNNY DEPP has been listed to star as Crowley...man, I can’t help but to feel a little down. :( Truthfully I didn’t see a Johnny Depp in my mind while reading Crowley, but it’s worth a try. JD’s a versatile actor after all.

AZIRAPHALE
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(art by Zelu)

Aziraphale is an angel (and part-time book-dealer) who guarded the Eastern Gate of Eden in the earliest days of Earth. While he’s not my favorite, he’s the one I can confidently say has the most similarities with me. The motherly possessiveness for books is one, I can totally relate with him! I find it amusing that his favorite book collection is composed of Bibles with error in typesetting (and OMG he had his copy of Nostradamus' book signed!!! He’s friends with the renowned prophet! Haha!). I’m also fussy, obsessing with the minutest detail of something, anything at all (I can’t control it though). And of course, the bit about sushi restaurants. I can imagine his horrified face when Crowley reminded him there’s no sushi resto’s in Heaven *smirks*. Oh, and don’t forget classical music—Tchaikovsky’s our cup of tea. :D
He’s a very funny character, I think, especially when he’s with Crowley. They’re the best frienemies ever, and the bromance atmosphere is so strong that the authors have to say angels are technically sexless unless they make an effort (oh LOL Gaiman and Pratchett!). Unlike Crowley, Aziraphale doesn’t question the workings of the universe so much, even if deep inside he wants to. I guessed one of the reasons why I liked Crowley is because of him. :D They’re the perfect foils for each other’s characters. Aziraphale often pisses Crowley off by saying he sees a spark of goodness in the demon. :D

WAR
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(art by jdillion82)
War, my favorite Apocalyptic Horseman Horseperson Motorcyclist from the Gaiman-Prachett collaboration, Good Omens. Neil Gaiman’s definitely got a knack for creating wonderful anthropomorphic personifications of abstract concepts. Usually, War is considered a masculine concept, but Gaiman portrayed it as a red-haired woman who calls herself many names like Scarlett/Red/Carmine Zuigiber and ‘creates’ fighting wherever she goes. :) It’s like what he did with The Sandman’s Death.
Why do I like her? The same way I liked Dorothy Catalonia. :) Dunwannasayanythingaboutitnow. :P


POLLUTION
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(art by jdillion82)
Pollution has only been one of the Four Motorcyclists of the Apocalypse since 1936, when the invention of penicillin caused a frustrated Pestilence to retire. He’s been called Mr.White, Chalky, Blanc, Albus, Weiss, Snowy, and many other names relating to the color of cleanliness—which is the very opposite of the concept he portrays. Pollution is seen as a pale young boy clad in pale garments, once described as a “hippie”, and is often ignored by people. I don’t know why, but I like Pollution so much. He’s by no means likable mind you, but I think he’s super adorable (er, at least not in the art shown above? LOL).


FAMINE
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(art by jdillion82)
Famine is the rider of the Apocalypse who takes the form of a thin black-haired businessman and names himself Sable. He invents “foodstuff almost indistinguishable from any other except for two things. Firstly, the price, which was slightly higher, and secondly the nutritional content, which was roughly equivalent to that of a Sony Walkman.” He is pleased to see his regular customers, who are mostly wafer-thin professional anorexics who called themselves supermodels. He’s a very intriguing personification, imho, and a creative genius.

DEATH
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(art by jdillion82)
Death is the omnipresent and most powerful motorcyclist of the Apocalypse. He isn’t described in physical terms, aside from the little detail that he sprouts wings made of ”night” in the Almost-Armageddon scene. While the three other riders vanish and go “back to where they truly belong” (the human minds), he is still seen in the end of the book, lurking around. All I can say about Death’s character is that he’s not the cheeriest folk in the group, talks in capital letters (LOL), and is funny in a scary sort of way.
I still like The Sandman’s Death more though. :D


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And that’s what I have to babble for tonight. :)