Monday, May 12, 2014

Home is where the books are.

For booknuts like me, the closest thing to home is a place that is also home to books…especially if they’re pre-loved. This is why I didn’t hesitate to go when my friend MJ invited me to two such places in Quezon City one Saturday afternoon. :)

Bookay-ukay

Bearing a name that is a pun on the Filipino word for thrift store (“ukay-ukay”) this miniscule bookshop in the Maginhawa Street, UP Village is a piece of heaven for bookworms.

Bookay-ukay

Shelves

Bookay-Ukay houses an impressive arsenal of cheap reads and hard-to-find titles, both pre-loved and brand new. Being a perfect Happy Hunting Lit Ground, it’s understandable that the whole place will look like a horror house for folks with an OCD-ish tendency to treat books like precious babies—for people who delight in seeing paperbacks in their proper shelf spaces, neat and all spines out (for people like me, basically).

But I guess it’s part of the shop’s charm. I imagine regulars rummaging through the shelves to find a book with a title, back-cover excerpt, or even cover art that will strike a chord with them. When they do find it here—I call it literary serendipity—they’d be too happy that they’d somehow forget to set the books around their newfound treasure upright again.  :) Ah, the footprints of a book-hunt!

cyclist stops by

The bookmarks

Staying for a few more minutes made me wish I live nearer the place so I can visit as often as I want, without having to go through a migraine-inducing commute because of the heat and hassle. Aside from books, the shop also sells CDs of underground music artists and various photographed and hand-painted/drawn bookmarks, which range from cute to creepy. :)

stt

I didn’t get to buy books from there, as part of my pledge to NOT spend money for new titles as long as I still have a towering TBR novel stack at home (needless to say I’m proud of my self-control). Anyway, it won’t be the last time I’ll visit Bookay-Ukay. I’ll go here again sometime soon, hopefully after I’ve devoured at least half my “unreads”.


Cool Beans Cafe

A few minutes’ walk from Bookay-Ukay is the small but cozy Cool Beans Cafe.

There’s a  friendly sign on the door saying “Please wipe your shoes before entering :)”, which reminded me of one of my grandma’s little commandments involving her immaculate white floor and all the kids in the house with mud-caked feet.  If that doesn’t scream home (and nostalgia!), I don’t know what does.

interior

Cool Beans

Cool Beans’ mini-library shelters almost all lit genres you can think of: there are  history books, biographies, magazines, comics, art books, photography books, poetry, essay anthologies, novels (Haruki Murakami! Arundhati Roy! Neil Gaiman!), and even a bunch of self-help titles.

Its library-esque silence is only broken by relaxing music, the soft chitchats of its patrons, or someone’s drink being called out to them. And to my initial bafflement, the picture frames on the walls contain either nothing or just the filler paper indicating the frames’ sizes in inches and centimeters. Later on I thought it’s because they are maintaining that “soft launch” feel they were still bannering outside the cafe.

Cool Beans

pastries

Aside from their Highland coffees and frappes, they also sell pastries. MJ and I only get to try their red velvet cupcake, which admittedly wasn’t the best we’ve tasted. But hey, with a price like that, who’s complaining?

carbonara

Always on the prowl for the best pasta recipe around, I also tried out their Cheesy Mushroom Carbonara. For Php150’s the gigantic serving is enough for two. It’s quite tasty, too. :)

find

We sat there ‘til the sun set, just browsing through books and talking. The ambiance will make you stay for hours!

When it’s time to leave, I swore that I have to find more of cafes like this. :)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Book Review: Running with Scissors

Review: Running with Scissors
Author: Augusten Burroughs
Genre: Humor, Memoir
My Rating: ★★★ (3 of 5 stars)

Running with Scissors

Everyone has probably tried attaching punch line-hugging ends to the ‘when life gives you lemons’ proverb; I’ve heard phrases that are as hip as those involving tequilas and the beginning of a citrus monopoly. But I haven’t heard or seen anyone did it like Augusten Burroughs. Life has practically cannonaded him with thousands of lemons in his childhood and instead of feeling miserable about it, he used all the fruits to write his bestselling memoir, Running with Scissors.

The book follows a big slice of Burroughs’ childhood life. He was only a little boy when his parents—a manic-depressive poet mom with Anne Sexton delusions and a professor dad with "the loving, affectionate and outgoing personality of petrified wood"—divorced. His mom gives him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who is a dead ringer for Santa Claus: Haven’t Bathed in Weeks edition. Burroughs then  befriends the doc’s abrasive children, starts a relationship with a thirtysomething pedophile residing in the backyard shed, and slowly accepts that playing with electroshock therapy machine when things get dull, or substituting dog food for popcorns, or even consuming Valium like candies, are normal…as long as he lives in the midst of this Victorian squalor. But this is one thing he is 101% sure of: when you inherit a family as dysfunctional as the Finches, you’d know you’d just jumped from the frying pan into the fire.

I was full of head-shakes, of smirks and snorts, of this-couldn’t-be-real’s, and of oh-my-god’s (in varying intonations) while reading the book. From the reactions Running with Scissors elicited from me, you’d know that Burroughs is a man of talent. I turn the pages and see his ‘70s to ‘80s life unfold in full color. I like how his style of storytelling balances between complete wack and sheer cynicalness. Aside from being mostly hilarious, his darkish tales are effective in a way that it makes his readers yearn for a life that is—in his own words—“fabric-softener, tuna-salad-on-white, PTA-meeting normal”.

But one does not need rocket science to know that behind all the gags and sarcasm, it’s not as funny as it sounds—a sad Burroughs must be somewhere beneath all the kookiness. Sure, there are stuff  that can be a real barrel of laughs at one point (scatological fortune-telling, anyone?), but on the other side of the scale there’s staging a suicide attempt to avoid school (supported eagerly by Dr.Finch), being sexually abused, the fact that you’re having guardians that cannot guide or guard you in life at all, among other things. It’s awesome that Burroughs can joke about the whole thing David Sedaris-style, but something tells me it would have been more honest if there’s a little poignancy thrown in there somewhere. He’s a bloody kid! I’m all for positivity, but no one is that positive; too much cynicalness for a situation comedy-like effect sometimes takes away all the humanity from a character.

Speaking of lack of humanity, that is my main beef too with the supporting characters. The author failed to sculpt them into something the readers can feel as real people, and I’m not even talking about their colorful craziness. They’ve become hackneyed paperboard-cutouts in a sitcom-ish set of tales.

Towards the end the book becomes more disjointed, the anecdote-chapters reading like standalone vignettes. It’s only on the page before the epilogue that Burroughs made an attempt at sentimentality, about how taking risks to reach his dreams is like running with scissors (or something to that effect). It was quietly hopeful, but the buildup to the moment was shabbily constructed that there wasn’t a big impact at all.

It was still a good read, although I’m having second thoughts about reading its sequel, Dry.