By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept by Paulo Coelho: A Book Review

by-the-river-piedra-i-sat-down-and-wept-book-cover“All love stories are the same.”
Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

If I were an idyllic reader, I would give it 5 stars. Paulo Coelho wrote something unique about the twists and turns of the common story.

If I were a dreamer, I would give it 5 stars. I would dream and work. ^^
If I were a deeply religious reader, I would give it 5 stars. Paulo Coelho inspired people to be more faithful.

If I were a Creative Writing and World Literature teacher, I might give it 5 stars. Paulo Coelho is such a genius; he writes a book peppered with beautifully and poetically written passages. But if I were an absolute atheist reader, I would give it 2 stars. Luckily, to some extent, Paulo Coelho put some emphasis on the traditional customs of Christendom beyond human logic and reason.

Also, if I were some kind of bookworm with taste for horrors, thrillers, or cliffhangers, I would give it 1 star. I would find it boring.

The story is about a woman who has “forbidden love” for her childhood friend who later on sought his life by leading a monastic life. A story that is very common in TV dramas and films. Thanks to Paulo Coelho’s writing skills. He is indeed a wizard; he can make readers fix their eyes on it IN TRANCE. No doubt he is one of the most beloved writers of our time.

Writer wannabes have difficulties in putting their ideas in a sentence, particularly how they begin with their first draft, so in doing so takes a lot of time. One needs to draw a deep inspiration from one’s experiences. So you might wonder how the writer of this book forms such inspirational passages, enough to convert a wisdom of atheists to a mosque of Muslims, to a church of Catholics, to a temple of Buddhists, or to a mandir of Hinduists.

The remarkable thing is that Paulo Coelho is a Brazilian. Kudos to the translator.

The book, on the other hand, might cause the skeptical to raise some questions:

(a) Does love originate in religion?
(b) God is found in everything since one can never find God in any books of religions. Therefore, this kind of ideology is an example of New Age.

For the satisfaction rating, I found this book pretty good. I want to try his other books more, especially the Alchemist

Rating : 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

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Quotable: Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

One of the habits a literature lover like me loves to do is  to commit the quotes from the books he/ she has read to memory and  ponder over  them by heart at the same time . In doing so is like what a bright person puts it, “Words are my livelihood.”

As  a book blogger, I would love to  include a new menu and category on all quotes I  have highlighted and dog-eared in all the books I have read under the pretext of  education.

So, let me start with Charlotte’s Web  by E. B. White I read recently.

Quote # 1

 "I don't want to die!
 Save me, somebody!
 Save me!"

I won’t forget this heart-breaking  line from Wilbur. I put it down for a while to blink my tears away. Imagine if you were a pig aware of this savagery. Gee, blood-curdling scene. I remembered how Franz Kafka described   death  in his short story In the Penal Colony.  His description was so bloody and gory that  you could even imagine the small details how the  convict feels while his body is being dissembled.

Quote # 2 

“What do you mean less than nothing? I don't think there is any such thing as less than nothing. Nothing is absolutely the limit of nothingness. It's the lowest you can go. It's the end of the line. How can something be less than nothing? If there were something that was less than nothing, then nothing would not be nothing, it would be something - even though it's just a very little bit of something. But if nothing is nothing, then nothing has nothing that is less than it is.”

Wilbur, the porcupine protagonist, philosophized when the lamb in the barn refused to play with him.

The line is so deep that I wanted to beat my head against the wall.I turned it over and over until at my wits’ end. In the end, it turned out to be the apotheosis of the ancient question, ” Why is there something rather than nothing.”

Quote # 3

“Don't write about Man; write about a man.”

The word man in uppercase must be referring to God whereas the one in lower case to human. Another animal in the story advises  Wilbur to whom he should turn for help since he is said to be killed by Christmastime. Does this line have something to do with the author’s  spirituality or probably with his other acquaintances’? There is nothing new to this for an atheist like me. It is not a big deal but for a holier-than-thou.

Quote # 4

 “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that.”

 One of the moving parts in the story-existential. Wilbur asked why Charlotte is so kind to him.

Quote # 5

 “Trust me, Wilbur. People are very gullible. They'll believe anything they see in print.”

You can apply Emmanuel Kant’s philosophy to this line if you want to  get at it.

Quote # 6

 “I don't understand it, and I don't like what I don't understand.”

Sometimes, the cliche , “ Ignorance is bliss.”  is debatable.

Quote # 7

 “When your stomach is empty and your mind is full, it's always hard to sleep”

 A witty line when Wilbur has been obsessed about his ominous death before the Christmastime.

——————————————————————————————————————–

Most of the quotes above  in the book deal with life and friendship.

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful day, lovely people! ^_^

The Secret of the Cave and Other Stories for Young Readers by Ed Maranan : A Book Review

IMG_20130110_035026What really made me decide to grab it  in a flash apart from the fact that I bought it  at  reduced price is its cute paperback picture. A boy ,  whole -naked  except with a “bahag” ( garment ) draped around his  waist like an underwear , typical of an indigenous  Igorot in the  Cordillera Region in the Philippines, is drawing some pictures in the cave wall   with a pair of  wood sticks as his brushes. Besides, the color  of the background  was beautifully illustrated. As a result, it is so appealing to my eyes that I was eager to absorb myself in its contents.

Ed Maranan , the author of the book, compiled his four short stories which reflect in the typical life of the Filipino.

The Secret of the Cave

The story centers around Masino and Simona. You can notice the anagram  in their names.

Masino ,   a native boy lived in the primitive time ,  was so enthusiastically eager to learn what  adults usually do.  His  parents found his ideas such as his dream to fly like birds strange. His character was like an impulsive child who had many bees in his bonnet and ants in his pants. Out of this character, he died from  his plan to climb a high mountain. A tragic part.

Simona , a young  , introvert  geek who prefers to be left to her   reading  books about  human culture and geography . She  is inspired to be an anthropologist someday. Like Masino,  her parents find her strange too because of her out-of-this-world ideas such as her being maudlin toward the nature. She becomes obsessed  about the graffiti  Masino draws  in the cave wall .

 Lolo Magno and The Sweetest Mango in the World

I never used  to be fond of  eating  yellow  mangoes ( different from Indian green mangoes) , but now I love them since my cousin brought some mangoes back to Manila from Zambales. The mangoes grown in Zambales are said to be the most delicious mangoes in the world. As far as I know, then retired Pope Benedict (Joseph Ratzinger)  once said  that he likes the mangoes from Zambales in the Philippines. In fact, the  unripe mangoes there  are already sweet . Thereafter, I have been searching its aftertaste unparalleled to the other mangoes I buy in the market.

In this story, Lolo Magno Senior gave his favorite grandson , Magno  Junior , a book as a gift rather than  his favorite toys.  He wrote the book himself which is about the accounts of his mango farms in the Philippines. Later on Magno will appreciate the  present as he grows up until he has made his own family. He will come back to the Philippines to see the  mango orchards  his grandfather built. There he found out why his  Lolo Magno ‘s mangoes are considered as the sweetest ones in the world.

The Day the Crocodiles Came

I did not enjoy it much because I have some ideas of  how the story will go in the end. I don’t like listening to legends or myths which are completely out of reality, but somehow I enjoyed it  because I remembered  my grandfather.

Neighbors

There is a tricky one in this book. Ed Maranan must have intended to make Neighbors as the last part because  ,similar to other heart-rending novels , readers   become emotional . Nevertheless, I appreciated the story since it had an impact upon me. Everyone  could for  sure relate  to it especially those who were born in country sides.

I liked this book for some reasons:

(a) Typical of Filipino life. Filipino custom and values  are reflected in the short stories . In The Secret of the Cave, it deals with the modern and old life  of the Filipino families. In Lolo Magno and The Sweetest Mango in the World is about being proud of our mangoes  and working  abroad. In The Day the Crocodiles Came ;of  how  life and  love among couples were being intertwined in the past. Finally, Neighbors ;of poverty experienced by a poor family causing  the pillar of the house to take the plunge in working abroad as a domestic helper- typical of a domestic helper who comes back lying in a horizontal position.

(b) Ed Maranan’s ingenuity. He used anagram to add excitement and interest in the story. For instance, the names Masino and Simona in the Secret Cave. Lolo Magno if you scrabble his name is Mango. Another thing is his namedropping  some  historical figures such as Andres, Jose, and Leonora.

( c) All the  stories are  too light  to read. It is not as hard as the other westernized books that I still have to turn over in my mind.  Besides, its English command is really typical of Filipino- English, not as native as American , but grammatically correct. In this way, I can learn how to form   correct English sentences. This is the good thing about Filipino fictions written in English and which I will not get sick and tired of.

On the other hand, when it comes to combining short stories in one book, it is important that the publisher knows how to organize each story according to its qualitative contents and elements. If the tones and concepts of the stories are  joyful,  magical , surreal, then they could  be preludes to the book. If they are a little serious , philosophical, or otherwise cliffhanging ,  then they could serve as  the climaxes to the finale , which  readers might find  so complicated to get out of. If they are tear-jerking, bitter-sweet, tragic, melodramatic, then they could be the denouements which might render readers speechless or maudlin. Perhaps the above-mentioned techniques could be done vice-versa. It depends on  of what organization the publisher thinks  marketable. In this respect, Ed Maranan’s publisher really knows his stuff.

In the context of this book, the first story’s literary atmosphere is surreal.  I was fascinated. Then, the middle parts are bittersweet, notably  the Lolo Magno and The Sweetest Mango in the World.   Finally, its finale; romantically idealistic,  but melodramatic  , with the feelings  you have  been imbued all along . This last part made me elevate the book to 3 stars.

Obviously, the  title suggests that  the book  is intended for young readers. I am now in my twenties , but I still read such genre. Did I feel reading like a child? I did, but not as much as a child does. If I were, I would just have hopped   with  joy around my room. ^_^

Anyway, I will still read YA’s at any costs.

Rating: 3/ 5  stars ( I liked it. )

Home (Gilead #2) by Marilynne Robinson: A Book Review

home1

“You must forgive in order to understand.” Marilynne Robinson, Home

There may be different kinds of readers. Readers who read something exciting that you almost tear or crumple the next page, something intriguing which  scenes or characters dwell upon you, something compelling that you would be keyed-up about and share with your friends, or something that you are excited to wait for its sequel. I may be this kind of reader. However, it has always occurred to me how a reader puts up with something quiet, something that does not show liveliness among the characters in the story, and something that a writer intends to tell in a smooth, calm voice, and something that can make you throw it up in the air, for you find it so boring. HOME by Marilynne Robinson is the one that could be mistaken for. Nonetheless, there is something far different about this book, something newer, more unparalleled than I had expected.

This book does not only beg the question of what HOME is, but also this is conducive to catharsis. If you have these pent-up emotions, reading it can somehow soothe you. You might not help yourself holding back your tears, welling up in your eyes. If you have been nursing a grudge against your father or even against any member of the family- brother, sister, or mother- you might cave in to forgiveness. You may not harbor ill will toward them. In fact, this book is reminiscent of your childhood. You might remember all the moments you spent with your family at a place you considered your HOME, and now they are gone. So when you read this book, you might have these indescribable feelings whenever you turn each page as though you are being healed, for you may relate to the story. But I believe whoever reads it can be vulnerable.

This book, no doubt, won the 2009 Orange Prize  for fiction, Long  Angeles TIMES Book Prize  , one of the “100 Notable Books of 2008” by The New York Times, one of the “Best Books of 2008” by The Washington Post, one of the “Favorite Books 2008” of The Los Angeles Times, one of the “Best Books of 2008” of The San Francisco Chronicle, as well as one of The New Yorker book critic James Wood’s ten favorite books of 2008. (Source: Wikipedia)

Despite the fact that its author has received a good deal of prestigious awards and is well-known for her other critically acclaimed novels such as Gilead  and Housekeeping, I had not  laid a finger on nor given a thought of buying it even though it is almost dirty cheap in BOOKSALE branches . In addition, its common cover in any publishing edition, illustrating a rocking chair, known as Morris chair in the story, had given me an idea that this book might have been monotonous. But not at all! This turned out to be a good read and I would highly recommend it to everybody.

Mmm,I want to get healed more by Marilynne Robinson by reading her Gilead which is a companion to Home. Although I should have first read the Gilead,giving it 4 stars is reasonable; I really liked it.

I can predict that M. Robinson will be one of my favorite writers. ^^

Rating : 4/ 5 stars  ( I really liked it. )

Endgame by Samuel Beckett: A Book Review

endgame“HAMM: We’re not beginning to… to… mean something?
CLOV: Mean something! You and I, mean something!
(Brief laugh.) Ah that’s a good one!”
Samuel Beckett, Endgame

It is my first book of Samuel Beckett, and I intended to read a thin one in order to get an idea of how remarkable the writer is since I have read a plenty of positive feedback about his writing styles from the literati . Unfortunately, this one is soooo confusing to make out. I cannot get at the sequence of the story- the characters just seem to talk incessantly. There are apparently two characters who seem to talk to one another philosophically; then, another characters appear out of nowhere making a la cameo appearances. I said to myself , “ What’s going on in here? “ (laughs) Still, I kept on going. But when I looked it up in Wikipedia, I found out the real concept of the play: I was impressed. I have never seen nor read such kind of play that two characters have conversation next to their own habitats- dustbins. What an out-of-this world scene!

The play has just four characters: Hamm , unable to stand and blind; Clov , servant of Hamm; unable to sit; Nagg , Hamm’s father; has no legs and lives in a dustbin; and Nell , Hamm’s mother; has no legs and lives in a dustbin next to Nagg.

In the end, I am still boggled at the philosophical discourse among the characters- a challenge I might get through in an attempt to read his other books, particularly his trilogies.

“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that… Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing. Yes, it’s like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don’t laugh any more.”
Samuel Beckett, Endgame

Samuel Beckett’s Endgame at the Dutchess Theatre in 2009 ( Photo:ALASTAIR MUIR)

If I watch its stage play, I will enjoy it more.^_^

Rating: 2/ 5 stars ( It’s ok. )

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien: A Book Review

tim

“They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.”

Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

I had just finished reading All  Quiet On The  Western  Front by Erich Maria Remarque ( 4 stars ) when I decided to dig it out although my mind was almost riddled with bullets of war stories , but this collection of stories by Tim O’Brien has awoken me more to the real miseries experienced by soldiers in the battle. Unlike E. M. Remarque’s- neat, moving, and straightforward without any padding pettifoggery, Tim O’Brien’s is steeped in war experiences –deeper, more pathetic, miserable, and  detailed. On the other hand, the thing they have in common with is that both of them made writing as the instrument of releasing their pent-up feelings the war brought about.

Tim O’Brien’s stories – not to mention about his fellow soldiers in the war- stuck in my throat. I could not express how sorry I am for how burdensome the things they had to carry. Also, I could not help imagining the brutal, “man-made” miseries befell him, along with his fellow soldiers. I was very, very sorry for them. In fact, reading his stories seems like listening to a soldier undergoing a cathartic therapy, smoothly narrating his traumatic experiences.

I liked Tim O’Brien’s craft of writing. The only problem with it is that some stories are redundant. They have been mentioned in the other stories.

If I were a soldier, aside from the things indispensable in the war, a bookworm like me would not mind adding to my load the following items such as: my very thick and hefty Longman Dictionary; my favorite books; my own toothpaste and toothbrush; and my mosquito net. Gee, my life getting drafted into army would turn to hell.

As far as I remember, I read from BOOKRIOT that it is one of the books young adults must read in their twenties. Yes, we must.

Once again, my sympathy goes out to all soldiers around the world. I am NO TO WAR .

Rating: 3/ 5 stars ( I liked it. )

Genghis Khan the World Conqueror Volume 1 by Sam Djang: A Book review

IMG_20130116_205327We  learned  from   World History  that Genghis Khan is known as The Scourge of God or The Destroyer of Civilization. He was an emperor   known for   killing  in cold blood  just to achieve his desire to conquer the world under his Mongol Empire.  So he went down in the history  as one of the most feared  leaders  in all ancient civilizations. In this historical-biographical book, Sam  Djang must have intended to distort the said universal fact . According to him, Genghis Khan is the greatest human conqueror in the world history.  

The problem with this  book, however,  is that it  seems to be poorly written. Sam Djang may have had a hard time putting the plethora of information about Genghis Khan he gleaned for 8 years into his own masterpiece. In fact, it is his first book he has ever written. In short, he is an amateur writer. For  instance, he may have copied out the style of the Bible, for he may have not known how to narrate Genghis Khan’s historical ancestral family tree. Why not? That part could just serve as padding. In addition, there are some repetitive parts which cringed me many times, which he may not have considered thoroughly. He mentioned the same situations  in different   parts of the chapters, so they sound to be monotonous and you might claim, “What?” Nevertheless, his effort paid off, for it won a special award in 2011 as Best Historical Fiction.Clap! Clap! Clap!

Despite some shortcomings, for me, this historical-biographical novel is informative. It gives me a lot of information about the Mongol Empire- how the Mongol conqueror was well on his way to conquering half of the world. I understood more what the  cliché goes : “Barbarians against Barbarians” is all about. Besides, I found it low-brow. I did not have difficulty understanding some words or phrases. ( It might have been his intention.) I even enjoyed some Mongolian words.

Genghis Khan

What struck me most is his deep brotherly relationship with Jamuka. I could not avert my thought from the suspicion that they may have had something deeper than that said brotherly relationship. Sam Djang is too euphemistic, cautious, and cliffhanging to describe their relationship, or I was just too quixotic to expect something  more than  this. (laughs)

Repulsed by his brutality and unsure of the credibility of this book, I revered Genghis Khan’s life stories- his philosophies in life, his political strategies, especially his religious viewpoints.

In the end, I may be convinced that Genghis Khan may be the greatest human conqueror in the world history. Also, I may be convinced that Mongol Empire is the biggest Empire in the world history. Not that I know of. I guess I still need a library of historical books. ^__^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked  it.)