Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Juggling work and play :D

Taking a break from my 'stint work'!

This is what I get from procrastinating a lot: sleepless nights, while Morpheus stands beside me ready to sprinkle sand on my eyes. Guh! I donned imaginary sandman-proof goggles anyway and made myself a mug of hazelnut coffee (which is not particularly helping, since I go to the loo every twenty minutes or so while silently cursing diuresis).

At any rate, even though I'm so busy I can still say I'm enjoying my work. That's good I think. Working on something you love doesn't feel like working at all. And following the advice of my writer friends who are now so busy with their jobs, I always find a time to enjoy myself while I still can. So last Saturday, I joined the International Photo Walk (was part of the Escolta team). It's actually for the camera club, but I had a lot of fun. It's refreshing to wander around and clicking away at old edifices in the busy streets of the city. Well, I know I'm seeing a lot of those buildings in Intramuros, but there's a light feeling I had when I was walking in Escolta. Maybe it's because it's been a while since I last did something like this. I miss traveling with the photography peeps. XD Also, I got to banter a lot with the kids--third year students, I mean. Two of them are older than me and two are eighteen like me, but they insist on calling me "ate". So I let them be. I'm an 'ate' and they're the 'babies'. :)

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International Photowalk 2010

Last Monday, I met again with Robyn. I think I'll be meeting her regularly; I have set the days in my mind as "Hedonistic Mondays series", so I wish my Mondays will always be sort of free from stress and work. At least on the second half of the day. Haha! There's nothing like chitchatting with a co-fanfic writer about your interests, not only in fandom but in other things as well, like studies...and love lives. LOL.

Actually our meeting last Monday at Xocolat felt more like a date. :D We ordered the same food (which I didn't finish again...dang rice, it's always making me readily full), eat the messy chocolate fondue (which dripped and was smeared everywhere, a couple food indeed!), and shared an ultra yummy cookie dough cheesecake. I enjoyed the whole thing, including the furtive smile exchanges with a cute dimpled counter girl at Xocolat (if I were I boy I'd simplify that sentence by saying I'm just flirting), the little walk inside the Ateneo campus where Robyn saw me on one of my ungraceful-klutz-days, our photo sessions in front of a "balete tree" sculpture, and my coaxing Robin about the translated prologue of the Frozen Teardrop novel. The only thing I didn't enjoy were the train journeys. Really, those giant Sardines Can With Wheels and their grumpy security guards...*shakes head*


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The "Balete Tree" sculpture inside the Ateneo campus, done by an art student. Don't ask me how that became a balete tree. I have my own surreal interpretation of things when it comes to art, but I think I won't ever come up with that kind of "tree".

I hope this week will be more enjoyable despite--or maybe even because of--the work-and-play juggling act I'm doing at the moment. But for now, I need to get back to work and finish it as soon as I can because...Morpheus is now...preparing a sandstorm already because I resist his little sprinkles.

Sorry for the abuse of smileys and parentheticals...Ow right, this isn't formal writing *hang over from stint work*

Byez bloggy! :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Press Peril

Last Friday, the 8th month commemoration of the Ampatuan Massacre was held in front of the UNTV office. I, along with two other LPUCC officers and our school paper's news editor, covered the event. I arrived a little too early at the venue, so I sat waiting in the establishment's lobby for almost an hour. I didn't get bored though, because there was another early bird who chatted with me: a media professor from Southern Illinois University who's now researching about the media in the Philippines.

She started our convo by asking me if I'm a reporter, and I quickly replied that I'm just a journalism student who will cover the event for the school paper/camera club. That's enough springboard for more discussions about the media in my country. She shared how she has spent almost seven years traveling across Southeast Asia just to study their media cultures then going back to SIU to teach what she has learned from her travels. She as well told me that she wouldn't let me become a journalist if I were her daughter, given the hazardous state of media in the Philippines.




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Prof. Brooten lighting a candle during the 8th month commemoration of the Anpatuan Massacre.


It seems like her research is zeroing in on the situation of press in Burma, because we kept on coming back to that no matter how much we stray away from that country. XD We chatted about the press status in the US, in Thailand, and many other countries. Seeing that I could learn a lot from her (and that I could use whatever I will get from her in my thesis subject), I asked her if she could give me some of her research about the Philippine press. She kindly said she could, and gave me her email address and the permission to ask her whatever information I need. :)

After our conversation, I felt really bad about the Philippine Media. Freest press in Asia, huh? Aside from the laws infringing on press freedom that our lawmakers created, power-hungry vultures are always on the loose to prey on the people who only wanted to inform the public about the truth about the government. It's sad to know that our press is being compared to that of Burma, which is still under a dictatorial government. Usually I'm a skeptic to these kinds of things, but I really hope PNoy can do something about this. Please prove me wrong about what I'm thinking about you. :/

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Fences

A battered soul erects fences
around itself
to guard its still pulsating wounds
from eyes that pry for its fragility;
from lips that speak of plastic barbie cars and real-life soap operas
from a tongue that derides people’s most minute gaffes ;
and from a heart under the illusion of a peach-colored veil.

Sometimes, a soul dies too many a times
before it bolts out
of a slumber that has just been unconscious
self-flagellation.

When that soul wakes up,
it will know that the monster may not be under its bed
that the eyes will squint at the not-too-brittle fences;
that the lips will continue to utter the same litany but now with hints of suspicion
that the tongue will lick away the indelible stain and finds out it can’t;
and that the heart will show shreds of carmine slabs of odium.

Sometimes, when a soul dies,
it does not become a ghost, but it becomes more alive.
Those that prey on it
will forever hunger for its
nondescript spice.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Eventful (Start of the) Week

Technically it's not the end of the week yet, but it kicked off with quite a good bunch of activities that somehow forecasts how eventful the following days will be. Or so I think.

Monday, the first meeting of this year's Sentinel staff. Hopefully there won't be any 'heavy' problems aside from the real business of the paper. *hint hint* Haha. Also, I met the assistant literary editor, Raisa, and we talked about how we'll prepare the page. She's smart and easy to work with (loves poetry and books too, so we definitely click together as a team).

Later in the afternoon I went to Katipunan to meet one of my co-fanfic writers, Robyn. I found the National Bookstore in Katipunan--our meeting place--cute, just a small store but with wide selection of books; I might visit there again one time, since I spotted Chuck Palahniuk's Lullaby there as well as the Absolute Sandman volumes. Anyway, I and Robyn dined in the cozy Xocolat, where we ate a freaking lot (had to take out some viands because I'm too full) and stayed for at most three hours. We chatted about fanfics and school lives and whatnot (with some occasional side comments on the PDA-ing couples nearby). She gave me her spare copy of The Last Outpost and chatted some more about fandoms. Dang, I wish I can watch more series like her. Clock, please have more than 24 hours? XD

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In the future I wish there will be a worldwide fanfic writers meet-up day. :) Robyn's just one of the few Filipino fanfic writers that I know. Every one else lives in the other side of the globe.

I got home at 9PM already, and since the internet's acting up, I went to sleep a bit disgruntled and tired. The next day I have to get up early because I need to update our literary theme for the first Sentinel issue. I discussed a few matters with Raisa, posted our finalized theme on the corkboard, gabbed for some minutes with some of the staffers, and off I went to the moviehouse alone. XD What can I do? I want to see Inception so bad and my little sister don't want to come with me. It's the first time I watched a movie alone, but it didn't matter much: the movie's one heck of a mind-bender you have to pay close attention in order to know what's really happening. The recurring theme is a dream within a dream within a dream. I like how it's structured, and gosh I love the Arthur's fistfight scene in zero gravity. Darn, so kick-ass! XD Would try to review the movie some other time. I just remember we have prelim exams on statistics tomorrow. Ugh.

In the next days, my calendar will be filled up with more Sentinel-related stuff. I tried my best to cram some time for myself on the first two days of this week because I kind of foreseeing that I won't be able to do that once thesis writing begins for real and the Imagginaccion competition nears.

Tata for now. :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Book Vendo Machine

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Cross-posting this from my Tumblr simply because I need it here. :) Having this anywhere near my house would be one of the best things ever. :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Guys who love poetry and reading books are an endangered species.

Or rather, a “rare breed”.

Bookworm girls, there’s a gazillion of them out there—I have a bunch of girlfriends who I can talk to about books since I was in elementary, and I always have fun with them just by chatting about our current reads. Female poets are countless as well, and in their company I can always be my own poetic self without them thinking I’m too weird/too deep/too nerdy. But male counterparts of these? Consider yourself lucky if you can find half a score in your class.

In grade school, I have this seatmate who lent me some of his R.L. Stine books (most of which I was not able to return because I failed to keep in touch with him after the graduation). In high school, the only bookworm bloke is our valedictorian. He liked Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes very much. I didn’t get to finish the whole wizard series, but I knew enough of the stuff for us to talk animatedly about it (AND I was positive that each convo was littered with our favorite potions and spells). As for Sherlock Holmes, he’s actually the one who introduced me to detective stories. My addiction at that time is the Old Kingdom Series (Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen), and even if he didn’t get to read the books, he still listened and commented patiently to me when I blabbered about it. He gave me a book for Christmas, too. As for poems, as far as I can remember he’s also the only boy in class who I think likes to read and write.

Now, in college, I’m quite glad that these 'rare breeds' are increasing in number. I have a classmate, who, even if is extremely lazy and irksome and all that jazz, has a good taste in books. He also writes poems and short stories which he sends to me for constructive criticism. If only he would fix his life, and I mean really fix everything in his life, I know he would have been a nicer person.

Then I discovered Imagginaccion, our school’s art and literary folio. Imagine how gleeful I was when I saw the number of male authors who wrote for that. Everything in the compilation was filtered so I know they were the best. Seriously, the freshman me was weak-kneed with awe. They were so good I suddenly felt so small. XD I began writing more and more, sending contributions and stuff, joined poetry writing competitions and have my entries published in the last two books. Just recently a friend’s friend sent me a message in Facebook, asking about my poem in the latest Imagginaccion. What it means to me, if it has a personal touch. He was the boy who bagged the first place in the short story writing category so I found it a tad too flattering for him to say he liked my poem very much (and yes, apparently, he’s nowhere near prude). I’ve always wanted to know how he speaks in person because I feel like online conversations are somehow flat. A ‘real’ talk with a writer whose literary preferences are the same as mine would be awesome. :D

This afternoon, I passed by the Sentinel’s office and chatted with a few staffers. For some reason, the conversation went to books and I found out that one of them is a freaking NEIL GAIMAN FAN. Man, really. If he were a girl I know we would be squealing in there already. XD

Ok….don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that in a perfect world, all boys should write poems and read books. I’m just a normal person who, like everyone else, likes to find other people whom I share a lot of common preferences and hobbies with. It just struck me—it took me quite a long time to notice it— that the male population of these people doesn’t even occupy the half of my pie graph. Then this entry was born.

As far as I know, I’m not the only one who thinks like this. :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Of Old Textbooks and Nail Polish Doodles

After finishing one free writing piece two nights ago, I feel so refreshed suddenly—I think my writing hiatus will officially be ended (I’ve finished drafting a fanfic, a poem, and the first part of a random short story tonight when the power was out). The exercise was so cleansing, I recommend anyone who think their creative juices have dried up to go try free writing. :D

Anyway, the exercise did not just hurl me back into my comfy writing turf, it as well made me recall my earliest encounters with Madonna’s. Just so everyone knows, the Madonna I mentioned in my free writing piece is not inspired by the musical icon—it’s the Madonna in art, aka a portrait or sculpture of Mother Mary alone or with the infant Jesus.

I was probably eight or nine years old by then, and my favorite Madonna’s were Da Vinci’s Madonna of the Rocks and Raphael’s Madonna of the Chair. And then it struck me: those were the times that I really began loving to read. How, you say? Well, where else would I get to encounter those art pieces when I still do not how to use the Internet? Bingo: books. Textbooks, technically—the only books in the house by then were my cousin’s, who was studying at PUP. I was first engrossed with his Chemistry book. Just for the record, I’m no genius and I can’t understand everything written there except the scientific answer to the timeless question of every kid: “why is the sky blue?”and that water displacement thingy (the one where Archimedes sunk in his bath tub and then bolted and ran around yelling “Eureka!”, remember?). Next, I acquired his biology book and I remember copying a black and white illustration of a Venus flytrap on my composition notebook.

Then there came the second “eureka” moment: those were also the days I began to love drawing.

So back to the Madonna paintings, yes, I’ve seen and read about them in a humanities book. I’m an ordinary kid so I got easily attracted by pictures—I remember folding every other page of that poor book when I saw paintings, drawings, and outlines of churches (I think it’s in the architecture section). I forgot what artwork drove me to try painting myself, but from the bits I can dredge up, it’s exactly after seeing a full-page of that illustration that I first yielded a brush…

…a nail polish brush to be exact.

My first ever “painting” was done on the wooden kitchen wall of my grandmother’s house. The nail polish is red, and my model for that childish handiwork was Anne of Green Gables. Er, or perhaps just someone with red hair that flows in two long braids and wears a balloon gown; I thought it’s Anne because at that time I loved that morning TV series. My memory’s a bit foggy, I’m sorry, but I’m sure as heck that’s what I drew on the wall. I haven’t gone to my grandmother’s kitchen for years now but I doubt the painting was still there. Just in case it’s still there, I will try to take a photograph and post it here. ;D

The next thing I remember, I was making my own “illustrated book”, a couple of typewriting papers stapled together where I drew girls, dolls, and rainbows and wrote my description for them. :) At present, I’m a struggling journalism student who promised myself that someday, I’m really going to write my own novel and have it published. :D

It feels so nice to reminisce those days, and I wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for the free writing piece I mentioned at the beginning of this entry. I find it awesome that my love for reading, drawing, and writing were connected. :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Drabble: Madonna of the Jeepney

A/N: Freewriting time! My unconscious is really weird, and here's the thoughtless proof. LOL, I hope I can make a real story when I don't plan anything. I'd like to call this Murakami-inspired, but it's really not. XD

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It was at that moment that he discovered Stanilavski was right, after all: you can find fresh pain every time you discover what you pretty much already know.

He raked his fingers through his disheveled locks, worry surfacing on his skin as beads of sweat. Time and again his head would involuntarily dart towards the clock tower, and he would be unconsciously biting his fleshy lower lip so hard that it turned whitish. He clutched his canvas tightly to his side, and whenever he would close his eyes, swirling blobs of cadmium pigments would burn behind his eyelids. And then there’s this song: If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?

He looked down and cringed at his shoes. Personalized, these little pieces of trash—he sloshed Van Gogh on them, the crazy blue and gray and yellow swirls of Starry Night, and now it’s caked with the brown mud of the puddle he accidentally landed on when he jumped over the rusting fence. Now that he thought about it, he’s pretty much like Van Gogh—sans the cut-the-ear tendency, of course. Oh, paint your palette blue and gray….


His life is a big joke.

And he just missed the punch line.

He inhaled the polluted air, grateful that he’s still breathing. The putrid smell of the city, the flies swarming on piles upon piles of garbage; the putrid smell of immorality, the maggots gnawing at piles upon piles of masks on a single human face, hiding its real ugliness just to be covered by another…well, he’s still thankful to be a part of this diorama. But say, what beauty can he paint from this scenario?

He walked thoughtlessly to the sidewalk and took one last glance at the clock tower. He chose a rusting jeep to ride, one that’s half empty—or half full?—and slumped on the patched seat nearest the entrance. He looked past his long fringes—outside, it drizzled, it rained, it stormed. He looked at the gray painting of chaos just an arm span away from him. What peaceful beauty can he paint from this scenario?

The clanking vehicle screeched to a stop. A girl in a yellow windbreaker leaped from the tumult outside and slouched on the dented seat in front of him, just an arm span away, and the wheels rolled again. Nothing special about that girl. Hair unfashionably bobbed, a few raven-colored wisps wafting over her eyes. Nothing special about the eyes. Hollow pools of canal water, that’s the best analogy he could make. Just an ordinary, humanoid cardboard cut-out in the diorama they call the city.

Then she spoke to him: “It’s still four o’clock, right?”

He stiffened and remembered the clock tower. “Yes. Maybe five past four.”

She smiled.

He didn’t know why he talked again, and it was stupid: “Why? Do you have an appointment or anything?”

Her smile widened, and she clutched her books closer to her chest. “No. I just thought’s the sky’s telling me it’s 6:00PM already. I’ve lost track of time.”

She tilted her head to the side and then suddenly, he knew what to paint.

The way she cradled her fraternal paperback triplets (a Green, a McCaffrey, and a Pratchett), the way she lovingly flicked dusts away from their covers, the way she protected them against the splashes of dirty water bouncing from the window, the way she looked so obliviously peaceful against the violent backdrop of the rain. She’s the Madonna of the Jeepney.

Maybe he’s the one who made his life a joke, and maybe he himself missed the punch line…but the upside of being not a very good comedian is that no one actually laughs when he fails.

He knew what to paint, so he threw the canvas outside the window and shook all the colors away from his eyes. This peace is what he is actually looking for, and no paintbrush can ever put that peace on canvas. Especially by his mediocre hands.

Stanilavski was right, after all: you can find fresh pain every time you discover what you pretty much already know.

The rain reduced to a drizzle. The girl prepared to alight the jeepney, arms folded on the books. He motioned to help her and he sketched plans on his mind: maybe to accompany her to her destination, maybe even to chat with her while walking, maybe to ask her out the next day, so maybe he can see this ordinary girl again, and again, and again, and again.

“No, thanks,” the girl said curtly with a smile, waving to stop him reaching for the books. Protective of her babies.

She went away. Gone.

He heaved a heartfelt sigh and stared at his dirty shoes. It’s not like in the movies, yes? But you know, there’s always something that inspired those movies. Right? He closed his eyes, and started to paint with his most trusted medium: his memory.

He hoped he will see her again.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Three Favorite Authors (atm)

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Dear Neil Gaiman,

You don’t know how much you inspire me. :) I can’t remember when exactly I entered your realm, but I think that doesn’t matter now. Whenever I read something you wrote, I feel like a wizard’s apprentice: every word is a magical spell I need to learn how to cast properly, every character an anthropomorphic representation of my emotions I often fail translating into words. Your ink’s the potion, your pen’s the wand—with all of these, I did not just enjoy every masterpiece, I also learned to “trust my dreams…and trust my story.”
I’ll be a writer like you someday.



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Dear Haruki Murakami,

Really, why so awesome? Your hypnotic worlds have been my favorite refuge for years, and I enjoy the company of your eccentric characters. Poignant, morbid, weird, hilarious…you mix up all these themes and produce one of the best drugs in my literary world. You. Are. Simply. Addicting. I have to admit that I find most Japanese works weird—some of their gory movies like that pointless Tokyo Gore Police and random short fictions, I just could not fully grasp their meanings whatsoever.

It just so happened that your weirdness clicked with mine. :D *high fives*



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Dear Chuck Palahniuk,

You have this kind of literary magnet that I don’t fully comprehend—and I like it. I don’t usually like overly crass narration and whatnot, but you still managed to get me engrossed, gluing my eyes to your book until I reach the last page. What’s your secret? Where do you get your inspiration?

Your writing prowess is raised to the tenth power. :D You freakin’ rock. Accompany me again before I hit the sack *places Diary and Pygmy on the bedside table*

Monday, July 5, 2010

Review: Choke

I’d be lying if I say I’m not shocked when I read the first chapter of this book.

For a reader who gets to hold a Palahniuk book for the first time, the most noticeable things, I think, would be the prose and the author’s tone. After that, everything else will fall loosely on the categories “shocking” or “darkly humorous”, if not truly “appalling” or “cynically sick”. Because of these remarkable elements, Chuck Palahniuk’s Choke easily soared up to be one of those literary works that I cannot easily forget.





Choke is the story of a man named Victor Mancini, a med school dropout who might be a sexual addict. He works in a living eighteenth century museum, sometimes attends sexual addiction support meetings (not to actually recover but to get sexual gratification from some nymphomaniacs attending the meeting), and pretends to choke up in different restaurants just so some “good Samaritan” will save him and therefore feel ‘responsible for his life’, send him checks and offer financial support, etc. He does the latter so he can pay the bills in the nursing home where his mother is confined. This tale, entwined with episodic flashbacks from Victor’s grim childhood and the mock mystery of his real (possibly divine) paternity, comprises the entirety of the book.

Maybe it’s just me, but while reading the book, I can’t help but imagine a flick rolling in my head (I’ve never seen its movie adaptation as I write this). It’s as if the prose is a tad done cinematically. Don’t get me wrong—I adore Palahniuk’s voice, especially the parts zeroing in on the narrator’s sickly comical thoughts. I instantly fell in love with the prose, and I’m thinking about adapting it for my short fic and fan fic writing for a while. As for the use of repetitive phrases, they do their jobs quite effectively, but there are times when the punch lines don’t register because the way of execution tends to get trite.

Plot-wise, it’s good—I loved the twist concerning Dr. Paige Marshall, the new doctor of Victor’s feeble mother. Most of the characters are fleshed out well. I particularly like how Palahniuk gave life to the old women in the nursing home. The readers are just given a small window about these lives, but each were remarkable in a dark, sometimes hilarious sort of way.

I think Palahniuk is the kind of author who has diversified his writing styles, each of which is easily recognized as his. I first bought Pygmy, which is written in Engrish; then just this afternoon I purchased Diary, written in, well, dairy-style. I heard Rant is penned in interview format. I’m not sure about the Fight Club, but I have this feeling that he wrote it in a distinct style as well. That’s so much talent, I must admit.

Giving this book a thumb up. :D

Review: A Wild Sheep Chase

As expected, Haruki Murakami’s quasi-detective novel A Wild Sheep Chase contains his trademark off-the-wall characters: a chain-smoking narrator who frequently dreams of a train to nowhere, which is pretty much the metaphor for his whole life; a girl with magically seductive ears; a big-time right-wing politico; a chauffeur who knows God’s phone number; an ovine-obsessed professor; and a manic-depressive in a sheep costume. Throw them all in a mock-mystery surrounding a certain sheep with a star-shaped birthmark (which may or may not be existing), sprinkle some rather zany humor and what you’ve got is a recipe for an entertaining read that will make you want to grab another screwball novel by this magnificent writer after you turn the last page.


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I have no idea at first that this is actually the predecessor of Dance, Dance, Dance, which I read months before I purchased this book. I found it out when I skimmed the pages and saw a chapter mentioning the “Dolphin Hotel”, which is an important setting in the said sequel. Dance, Dance, Dance can stand alone—in fact I did not feel as if I’m losing some important fact or anything when I read it. I have to admit, though, that A Wild Sheep Chase still erected a strong foundation leading to the events of Dance, Dance, Dance, particularly the disappearance of the unnamed narrator’s love. As for the tone, I am positive that there is quite a large difference between the two books; I liked A Wild Sheep Chase’s overall atmosphere, but its sequel has a larger tinge of oddball comedy (which sometimes slips into the “morbid” lane) so I liked it more.

The book’s title itself tells what the ending of the story will be, but that will not deter the reader from enjoying the turn of events. Obviously the term ‘wild sheep chase’ comes from the original idiom ‘wild goose chase’, which means a futile search for something or a useless often lengthy pursuit. It is expected in the end that all the adventures our narrator and his girlfriend go through will turn out to be in vain. A score of pages from the last chapter, you know the ending will be inevitably hopeless and/or sad. You know, but when you read it, it’s not the kind of lonely ending you are expecting.

I liked the bits about Japanese history, sheep industry, the first settlement in Hokkaido, as well as the events circulating the Russo-Japanese war. Another good thing you acquire when you read Murakami’s books is that you’re teaching yourself something about Asian history without being attacked by severe ennui, the type you usually get in history classes. :D Of course Murakami would treat these facts with fictitious touch, but more or less the information is useful.

All in all, it’s a very entertaining read. Not as plot-driven as his works that I’ve read before, but still it’s getting a thumb up from me. :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Review: The Swan Thieves

Dr. Andrew Marlow is an ordinary psychiatrist and painter, solitary but completely comfortable with the familiar routines of his life. This drastically changed when Robert Oliver, a renowned painter, was arrested and incarcerated in a mental institution after attacking a painting in the National Gallery of Art. Marlow, with the painter under his care, must find out the mysteries that culminated in the peculiar assault. He was led to three women from Oliver’s past, each having their own stories that complete the enigma of Oliver’s life and, unexpectedly, fulfill the lacks in Marlow’s life as well.




This is more or less the gist of Elizabeth Kostova’s The Swan Thieves—a tale of art, history, love, and obsession. I must admit that I’m quite cynical when I opened the book for the first time. It looked like a doorstop to me and I have this feeling that it will be circuitous. My hunch is confirmed and that’s one of the downsides of this book: it is a tad too lengthy. While the writer’s long and detailed descriptions can be justified by saying that the story was told in the points of view of artists—all major characters in the book are painters—sometimes it seems to be getting overkill.

Now we move on to the characters. Even with the keen eye of the narrator for descriptions (or perhaps because of it) I must say that the characters were not very well-developed. Kostova took a lot of effort in describing the characters’ physical features and a few traits, but that did not help the characters to be inched forward in the level of “three-dimensional”. What I’m always looking forward to in a story is if the characters I would meet would feel as if they are just outside my window. I did not feel that way with this book; I think the characters need to be more fleshed out. The ending did not make much impact on me. If Oliver was molded into a more real guy, someone that the reader would actually care about if he was cured or not, I think the force of the ending would be felt. The same with Oliver’s ex-mistress—she had chapters chockfull of introspection about her love for Oliver and whatnot, but what about her feelings for Marlow? The readers were not given the view from that angle, and with Marlow’s side only shown, it felt a bit unreal and abrupt.

The story was told in the first person point of view. All in all there were three narrators and one frame story contained in the letters Oliver was obsessing over. My quibble about this is that reader would not be able to distinguish who was talking if it was not indicated at the top of ever chapter; their voices were the same. That, of course, goes again to the problem about character development. They needed to have more distinguishing characteristics.

What I enjoyed about this tale is the mysterious and rather insane bits about art and history of the Impressionist period. I felt like I was in my Humanities class again, meeting those painters and knowing the insights of some people about them. Truth to be told, the details in the book kind of sparked the little artist spirit in me. I used to draw a lot of still lifes and stuff before, and reading about people who were painting made me feel a bit nostalgic. Also, I think my impatient need to uncover the details of the mystery made me turn the pages, even if I have more or less guessed what was going on halfway through the ending.

It was not a bad book but it’s definitely not one of the stories I would strongly recommend.