Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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For One More Day

April 17, 2007

A couple of years ago, I gave a friend Mitch Albom’s Fab Five as a birthday gift. I remember being hooked on Albom even before his Tuesdays With Morrie became a global phenomenon. I would put him in the middle of Coelho and Fulghum – not too “emo” as my cousins would tease, Albom is just right.

The day I received For One More Day from a very good friend, I also received a SMS message from a priest – an anecdote about a little girl who was supposed to be saying her prayers. Her parents were alarmed that she was just reciting the alphabet. Upon inquiry, the little girl answered that she is, in fact, praying and since God would know what she needs without her even asking for it, she was certain that God could discern what her heart desires . Yes, God probably understood her plea somewhere between A, B and M.

Based just on the preface, it was the one book that needed to find its way to me. The office of a preface is to introduce the contents of a book and to convince the reader that what is written after is worth their time. Towards the end of For One More Day’s preface, Albom urges us to:

…ask yourself this: Have you ever lost someone you love and wanted one more conversation, one more chance to make up for the time when you thought they would be here forever? If so, then you know you can go your whole life collecting days, and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back.

It got me determined not to close the book until I finished it. We all will be a little wiser at the end of it.

A “wish granted”

King, my cousin, and I sometimes joke that we are “love children” – conceived out of wedlock but our parents got married just in time before we were born. In my early teens, I have wondered if my parents would’ve married even if my mother wasn’t pregnant with me. There is this one line in the book that would have quelled that doubt and watered down the rebel in all of us – “..now you know how badly someone wanted you…[children] forget that sometimes. They think of themselves as a burden instead of a wish granted.”

Rotten

What usually happens when we have a bad day? No, we don’t belt out “You Had A Bad Day” and happily shrug it off. We take it out – on the people who had nothing to do with our bad day. I am guilty of that. After putting in sixteen hours of work and lecture, most of us would no longer have any energy to make time for family and friends. Indeed, as Albom declares,“[when] you’re rotten about yourself, you become rotten to everyone else, even those you love.”

Back-up

“That’s the thing when your parents die, you feel like instead of going into every fight with backup, you are going into every fight alone.” I wonder how children survive. In all honesty, I do not think I am strong enough to go into the fights that everyday living throws at us without my parents. I will forever marvel at how people who have lost a parent – or worse, have lost both – find their bearings.

Mothers and illusions

Chick Benetto, the main character, deduced that “[mothers] support certain illusions about their children, and one of my illusions was that I liked who I was, because she did. When she passed away, so did that idea.” I agree. We all are beautiful because our mothers said so. No matter how much we mess up our lives, we pick ourselves up again because our mothers said we can do it. What we see in our mothers’ eyes is the illusion that we live.

“Perdonare”

“Perdonare.” Forgive, an old lady in the novel urges. Forgive God, forgive the world, and most of all, forgive yourself.

An author onced enthused that Albom is a “fearless explorer of the wistful and the magical” and a “devout believer in the power of love.” Please include For One More Day in your summer readings. I attest that it will “make you smile. It will make you wistful. It will make you blink back tears of nostalgia. But most of all, it will make you believe in the eternal power of a mother’s love.

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On “Memories of My Melancholy Whores”

March 2, 2007

MMW_GGM.jpgI bought this diminutive Gabriel Garcia Marquez book thrice. The first was for Mayor Ferdi and Ma’am Eva as a keepsake from a trip to KL. I was so intrigued by the title so I bought one for myself and the third for someone I hope could find meaning in its pages.

Devoured, again, is the proper word. I am willing to bet that most of us who love books would finish it off in under an hour. This is by far GGM’s most expensive – number of pages vis-à-vis price – release but then again the brevity worked.

Pretty much like how most of us feel when, out of desperation, we open the Bible (or whatever book that has offered us solace) and find a passage that just speaks to us, Memories does that. A few excerpts, along with the little inane musings of this blogger:

On Old Age

“First symptom of old age is when you begin to resemble your father…the first changes are so slow they pass almost unnoticed, and you go on seeing yourself as you always were, from the inside, but others observe you from the outside.”

“It is a triumph of life that old people lose their memories of inessential things, though memory does not often fail with regard to things that are of real interest to us.

I truly hope that in a few years, this will still be true. People my age are aghast that our memories have begun to fail us. This should be good news to them. The things that we are beginning to forget are the “inessential things.” The tragedy would be the late realization that all we had were all inessential.

On Domestic Tyranny

“[p]oor children who attended school as the easiest way to escape the tyranny of their parents.”

An aunt who took care of me while I was a child made sure the tyranny followed me everywhere. J Kidding aside, I am thankful that this wasn’t true for me and my brothers. That we always hurried home and would longingly search for reasons to head home is proof that what we wanted to escape was school.

I wonder, if I will be blessed with a child, should I likewise subject him to the ordeal that children nowadays undergo? Almost every toddler who is turning two is enrolled in some sort of learning center. And gosh, it is taking forever to finish kindergarten. It doesn’t end there. I see elementary pupils lugging heavy books with assignments of all sorts – teachers (though I love their profession dearly), it seemed, want to ensure that they will not rest when they arrive home.

No way. I want my child to play more and study less. The years before he turns seven are the most critical. True but that isn’t warrant subjecting them to the rigors of schooling – even the non-formal ones like the day-care centers.

I no longer see children play siatong and kingking. I used to be addicted at both.  Very rarely do I see kids climbing guava trees or running around and getting their knees skinned. Children are so pale nowadays. Pale and lampa.

Parents, please. A little sun, sweat and scratches please. Let your children be children. My thesis is that whole angst about men not growing up is just a manifestation that they were deprived of their childhood.

New York, New York

“New York … that’s where I supposed condemned souls go in order not to endure the truth of their past lives.”

I liked this. No, it doesn’t malign the Big Apple at all. To me, it gave a new home to second chances.

Imagery

“When the cathedral bells struck seven, there was a single, limpid star in the rose-colored sky, a ship called out a disconsolate farewell, and in my throat I felt the Gordian knot of all the loves that might have been and weren’t.”

The image that the passage created in my mind was so vivid that I drove – alone yet again – to the nearest beach and attempted to catch a sunset. I arrived minutes too late though. Too late. No cathedral bells, no star, no ship. Just recollections of “all the loves that might have been and weren’t.”

OC

“I discovered that my obsession for having each thing in the right place, each subject at the right time, each word in the right style, was not the well-deserved reward of an ordered mind but just the opposite: a complete system of pretense invented by me to hide the disorder of my nature.”

My God. That is seeing thru several layers of pretense already. What Fulghum gentle broke to us in his books, GGM simply rammed it down. This “disorder” took on a different face today. “OC” or Obsessive-Compulsive behavior as a psychological disorder was popularized by that Jack Nicholson film. That movie made being OC almost endearing. Now I am having second thoughts.

The old man in the novel lamented that his “pointless rigor that [made him] lose so many lovers.” Pointless rigor. Ouch there.

On Love (and its demons)

We had made love without love, half-dressed most of the time and always in the dark so we could imagine ourselves as better than we were.”

Sex is the consolation you have when you can’t have love.”

The two selections paint a rather dark almost sinister dichotomy between sex and love. Sad.

“Do whatever you want, but don’t lose that child,” she said. “There’s no greater misfortune than dying alone.”

There’s nothing like one last warning to us who believe we can steel ourselves for a life of solitude. Sigh. I take heart though that the novel unequivocally declared that “love was stronger than reason” yet forewarns us that, we all should keep our hearts open because “[i]nspiration gives no warnings.”

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Anticlimax

August 1, 2006

p_devil_1-book-cover.jpgI originally bought a copy of The Devil and Miss Prym and The Zahir, both by Paulo Coelho last year at the Kinokuniya Book Store in KLCC. Upon arrival in the Philippines, I decided to read this novel first. I was immediately engrossed with the tale of the devil tempting a catatonic little village and the pivotal role that a lonely young woman was to play. Sadly, I lost my copy in my rush to head home to Ilocos.It was only this year that I saw copies of the novel in the bookshelves here. And since I no longer want to keep guessing as to what happened to poor Miss Prym, I used my three hundred to get one.

It would be unfair to conclude that it was disappointing. Anticlimactic is more like it. The build-up was too grand compared to how it ended and the reader is left wondering why ending was too abrupt. It could be that I was expecting a little too much from an author who has given me another imperative to relearn Español because some of his books still have not been translated into the English language. Veronica Decides to Die and Eleven Minutes remain my favorites though.

By the way, I am going to start my Steve Berry reading. Pathetic way of trying to exorcise someone’s ghost but it might just work.