Vox by Nicholson Baker : A Book Review

Keep up with the Joneses that the fastest and the most convenient medium of making new friends  is using  Messenger , IG, Twitter, Blued, and all that jazz.  All you need is a smartphone in which you can download the apps since free or paid data connection is accessible to everyone. In light of these modern media of social communication, straitlaced , Victorian , or blue nosed  you may sound , deny it or not, you must be aware of the grim reality that people who find sexual thoughts and habits natural in their lives  can also now  easily pour out their  suppressed and restricted desires  through these backdoor outlets. This way of meeting new people to find someone to be in relationship with appears to be the modern way of ‘ sexual’ courtship. Back in my university, text messaging and ‘telebabad’, a Filipino nomenclature for having a long conversation over the phone, were the quite common things to do.

Vox is a short erotic novel about the two opposite sexes knowing each other for the first time through the telephone, talking about their sexual experiences and fantasies. In fact, this was published in 1992, and there is no question why the setting of getting along with each other is through the phone since “telebabad” was for all the rage.

The novel is loaded with   steamy sexual descriptions. Every page is sexually page-turning. The wind of your imagination would drift out somewhere in the erotic world. You might prudishly cringe at every bizarrely sexual anecdote the characters share with each other. I was like reading a sex magazine article and about to storm out of my room toward the relieving room. ( But I didn’t, of course! ) However, the ending is so tempting that I could throw it aside and abundantly squeeze out the seminal scenes that had still been lingering on in my mind. ( laughs)  But I swear! I really brushed off that green stuff you might be playing now. That ending is not that as erogenous and pornographic  as the other scenes I have internally devoured  from the other pulp books, but that is quite simply beautifully written. I won’t forget that!

Warning: Young readers should never lay a finger on it. Otherwise, their ignorant and innocent mind would be polluted. That’s why I stashed it underneath the other books I consider worth reading to keep them out of genius children’s reach. (laughs) Well, do not get me wrong. I am not that prudish either; let the children explore the world themselves.   Besides, it should have been expurgated, but I doubt because it would have been boiled to a thinner version as the  inside-the-box mind of the religious people inculcated in superannuated and ultraconservative teachings beyond logical and scientific understanding.

As far as I have learned, Nicholson Baker’s works are more on erotica. I’m not sure of why he is so monomaniac about such genre.  So, it has still been a question to me about the essence of this book. What is his real intention? Did he just want to write something the sexually preoccupied ( SPO ) would patronize, and he would earn a lot of money at the same time? In fact, I have been trying to trace some quotable lines which could be the brainchild of his hidden motive, but after all, it could be a read for entertainment value. Apparently, it is all about the bird and the bees. Nevertheless, what I realized was that the desire to express one’s sexual desire. I could say that sex is an art. It is not a tabooing matter.

Before reading it, I didn’t have the foggiest idea of what the title Vox means. When I googled  the word, there are many meanings which boggled but aroused my curiosity. It means voices or vocal or a telephone device.  It is also an American news and opinion website established in 2014, younger than the book because it was published in 1992.  When I came to understand the concept of the story, the stress on the capital X  turns out to  indicate that it is an X-rated novel.

Despite the meaning of the title is vocals or voice, I am still in a state of bewilderment about its connection to the concept of the story. Nevertheless, if I interpret it in a sexual context, I can understand that in order for someone hyper-sexualized to be sexually excited, he/ she has to hear the voice of the person he /she talks to over the phone, especially if both of them are sexually reciprocal. Well, I don’t opine that both characters are technically sick. They are just literally flirts.

While putting it aside for a while, abstinently preoccupied with the sex scenes playing in me, I could not stand nor perch still on my chair because all I wanted to do is to  turn to someone I wanted to share it with,someone I miss talking with about  such a taboo topic. Hahaha I miss you Baifern! 🙂

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

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Studying Korean and My Irresistible Urge

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I’ve been so as busy as bees these past few weeks that I’ve not been able to post any of my book reviews. I’ve not even been able to keep up with the books on my list. The culprit? My new interest in studying the Korean language.

It’s ridiculous of me that only this year did I realize that speaking Korean is fun given the fact that I have been teaching Koreans for nine years. In those years, the only principle I held against was that I should only talk to my students in English since their primary reason for going to the Philippines is to learn English.I was so staunch in my belief that my ears would not catch any Korean words, or the words would just go in one ear and out the other. Instead, I would always encourage my students to strike up a conversation with me  in English. However, it’s a crying shame that this illusory belief shattered when I met a teacher who is able to communicate with the students around because he can speak Korean. With that skill, I found out that  a teacher can establish more rapport with his/ her students, especially if a student is a beginner. Besides, the fact that when-you’re-in-Rome-do-what-the-Romans-do effect turns out to be efficient given that the community I am into is merely small. Students would adore you when  you know their mother tongue. Finally, the heart of the matter is that I’ve wanted to read Korean novels and other reads alike.

So far, I have been plowing through the  new characters I have not been used to yet. I can read like a kindergarten trying to get the hang of them. I can somehow speak with my students and catch some words whenever I eavesdrop on my students’ conversation s or within earshot of them. I just have to widen my Korean vocabulary  and study Korean grammar at the same time without cease. As a matter of fact, I’ve been all wound up because the examination day  for TOPIK is a few weeks off. So, I’ve been exerting a lot of effort to study my butt off despite that I usually busily spend time preparing lesson plans.

However, no matter how much resistance I do, I can’t take off my mind the irresistible urge to read novels or non-fictions. Whenever I pass by my favorite stomping ground, I will hold myself from entering it. But…recently, in the long run, I did.I couldn’t help it. I looked around, and was so excited to thumb through the spines of the books stacked on the shelves. As usual, I stayed around for  few hours or so ,determined to not leave the place. In the end, I lucked out and  found two  cheap books included in my 1001-books-you-must-read-before-you-die list.Then, I left  right away  because I saw some more as soon as I paid. Otherwise, I could have bought another sack of books to drag home. Gee whiz!

I’m no longer finicky if the books are  tatty . 🙂

The books are Captain Corelli’s Mandolin , a historical, romance , and war novel written by  Louis de Bernières, and Vox , an erotic novel by Nicholson Baker. Don’t get me wrong. Baker’s books are said to be kind of Anaïs Nin’s styles.  In fact, I’m now giving it a shot. 🙂

In My Own Words by Henri Nouwen :An Advanced Birthday Gift

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I am sure that one  of the things a bookworm would love to receive on his/ her birthday is a book. What else ? He/she  is a full-time reader, a book lover, or a bibliophile, whatever names or slang  you can make up , all he/ she wants  on any special occasions is a book. So, although a few days off before my  30th birthday, a special friend of mine has already sent me  her  love with an advanced gift recently. It is another work by Henri NouwenIn My Words compiled by Robert Durback.

Book Description: 
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published September 5th 2001 by Liguori Publications

Synopsis: 

This is a thematic collection of memorable writings of Henri Nouwen inviting readers to share spiritual intimacy with this popular writer about prayer, depression, friendship, peace, and other topics.
His works connect to or touch the lives of people in a language they can understand, and lead them to places where they need to be. Henri J. M. Nouwen, a Dutch Roman Catholic priest who died in 1996, was one of this century’s most popular spiritual writers. His accounts of his experiences as a leader in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s and in the antinuclear movement are models of balance between the political and personal aspects of Christian faith.

Portrait of Henri Nouwen  in the 1990s taken by Frank Hamilton (Photo: Wikipedia)

Nenri Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian.He had deep passion for psychology, pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice and community. In fact, he authored 4o books on spiritual life.

He caught the attention of the world  for his working with mentally and physically handicapped people at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond HIll, Ontario.

As far as I remember , I learned of Henri Nouwen when my Korean nun student brought  him up in our class and told me that she wanted to follow him. Thereafter, I started to be obsessed with his works, curious about his  strong passions for others, how the man made a difference to her. At that time, I was still religiously bothered and agitated as how I  looked up to Thomas Merton a lot. So, I had access to one  of his works when one of my other nun students  lent me the  Aging: The Fulfillment of Life. You can read my  simple review here .

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Given the fact that I am now an advocate atheist, reading such a book   still piques my interest, especially I find Henri Nouwen an influential person, a la Thomas Merton or Mother Theresa. Besides,  I love reading people’s works which give a profound impact upon the world .

Thanks Sister Clara. 🙂

I  wonder what is the next gift someone will give me. 🙂

Age is a number and mine is unlisted. –Anonymous–

 

 

 

 

 

Book News:The 37th Manila International Book Fair

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Maybe, among the book fairs,  The Manila International Book Fair is the only one I really can’t wait for . This special event  is considered as a godsend  to us book lovers because, aside from the fact that it has many booths  of books you can  drop into, you can have the opportunity to meet and greet  some famous  Filipino authors who will be launching their new books. As a matter of fact,  one of them I would love to meet is Edgar Calabia Samar,  famous for his  award-winning novel Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog. He will be launching his  book three  for Si Janus Sílang at ang Tiyanak ng Tábon and Si Janus Sílang at ang Labanáng Manananggal-Mambabarang. Also, I hope to stumble upon one of my favorite Filipino children book writers, Genaro Gojo Cruz.

By the same token, you may  have the chance to make new friends as well as meet  your invisible friends you  hold a conversation with in  the social media like Goodreads. Let’s see. 🙂

The Manila International Book Fair is usually held in September yearly.  It is considered as  the country’s biggest and longest-running book fair. It exhibits various large collection of literature from fiction and nonfiction best-sellers, to academic books, to graphic novels, and so on.

For more information  , visit its  website here , or  its FB fanpage  here

So,  book lovers, you still have time to scrimp and save to buy all the books you might grab there.   See you there. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Book News: BOOKS for LESS Warehouse Sale

Filipino book  lovers, get a load of this!  BOOKS for  LESS  will be having  a Warehouse Sale in August.

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Thousands of books cost 20 pesos each.Good for those  bibliophiles who have a lot of money to burn. Yahoo!

I hope I’m  able to go even though the place is a bit far from our office and  expected to be jam-packed with the book lovers or book sellers who will take advantage of the  dirt cheap price.Besides, I have never been to such a grand sale event  yet, so I want to jump at this chance in a million. Hohoho

Its official Facebook account posted some directions on how to get to the  warehouse and  helpful tips   before going there.

For more information, visit  the  official book store’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bflbookstore/

Good luck!!! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iain Banks, Pat Barker, and My Backsliding into Buying Books

I feel as though I am no longer a book teetotaler, anorexic, or shopaholic because I’m now in the habit of buying books every Saturday again ( just when I have enough money). I have abstained  from this uncontrollable behavior for almost two months because I realized then that there are still a great deal of books I have not read yet. Besides, I thought that they are a waste of money because some of them are now getting ” blighted” despite that they are safely stored in two big boxes. Their pages are getting  withered, blotched, dappled, dotted, eye spotted, flecked, mottled, patched, speckled. Oh, I’m now hyperbolic. I can’t stand being obsessed over them changing like that. In fact,I am now persnickety about book covers. I enjoy reading books  more if they are in pristine conditions.

Even so, I was at ease for a short while  because I could save money unlike before despite that I had this persistent withdrawal-symptom-like situation. I tried to restrain myself from dropping into the book store. The idea of dropping into that place was always haunting me like a ghost  appearing out of nowhere. Indeed, I’m sick. It was just as well that I was engaged in a charity event every Saturday- my moral compass.

However, I could not stand my impulse any longer. I had the chance to visit it when I didn’t have classes at night during the typhoon last week. There I was, after two months, surrounded with the stacks of books higher than me. I basked in their musty musk ,and was riveted on their iridescent covers. I was like a book vulture again, scavenging on a heap of second-hand books. I was making sure that the names of the authors still sounded Greek to me. Usually, I read my list of the best novels in the world before I go to that book store, but I didn’t do so since it was a capricious decision.

The outlet of the book store has not changed yet. Luckily, there were a few customers at that time , so I didn’t need to elbow myself through the crowd . The cashier is still working there who must be familiar with me already. I was reading his mind .

“Look, the bizarro man is back. I’m sure he will be staying here until we are closed.”

As usual, I am familiar with one distinct pattern of behavior common among us bibliophiles- to look after the books you have found or you will pore over whether you will buy them or not.

As a matter of fact, little did I know that the book store was selling on sale. So, eventually, I bought four books , 3 of which have the same author- Iain M. Banks

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I bought Canal Dreams, The Player of Games, and The State of  the Art . Each was only 35 pesos.

I decided to buy  Iain Banks’s works not only because he impressed me with his The Crow Road ( 5/ 5 stars ), The Bridge ( 5 stars ), and Dead Air ( 3 stars ) , but I was enchanted by their book covers given that I wasn’t cocksure if they are included on my list. Uh-oh, I’m a different book beholder. And my gut feeling was right upon checking them on Goodreads. I could  include them in my required reading this year.However, all of them turned out to be the sequels of the first books. Alas!

Book:Canal Dreams by Iain Banks

Paperback: Abacus Fiction, 275 pages
Published :1990 by Abacus (first published 1989)

 

Synopsis: Hisako Onoda, world famous cellist, refuses to fly. And so she travels to Europe as a passenger on a tanker bound through the Panama Canal. By the end of her journey she had ignited one soldier with an oxy-acetylene torch, stabbed another through the chest with the spike of her cello, clobbered a guard with the butt of a rifle and raked terrorists with machine-gun fire before frazzling the survivors in an oil-covered sea.

 

Book:The Player of Games (Culture #2) by Iain M. Banks

Paperback: 309 pages
Published :August 10th 1989 by Orbit (first published August 1988)

Synopsis: The Culture–a humanoid/machine symbiotic society–has thrown up many great Game Players. One of the best is Jernau Morat Gurgeh, Player of Games, master of every board, computer and strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel & incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game, a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game and with it the challenge of his life, and very possibly his death.

 

 Book:The State of the Art (Culture #4) by Iain M. Banks

 

Paperback: 216 pages
Published: May 27th 1993 by Orbit (first published March 1991)
Goodreads Synopsis:

The first ever collection of Iain Banks’ short fiction, this volume includes the acclaimed novella, The State of the Art. This is a striking addition to the growing body of Culture lore, and adds definition and scale to the previous works by using the Earth of 1977 as contrast.

The other stories in the collection range from science fiction to horror, dark-coated fantasy to morality tale. All bear the indefinable stamp of Iain Banks’ staggering talent.

To dissipate my frustration,I am just souring grapes that I will still read them. I’m curious about their stories since Iain Banks is considered as one of the best imaginative writers in his generation. The Bridge and Dead Air which I have read can bear witness to this. Much more of his The Wasp Factory which catapulted him to fame.

The other book that I bought was The Ghost Road by Pat Barker  which also turned out to be a sequel to  Regeneration . But I thought that I was still lucky to buy this, apart from the fact that it was cheap,  because I had a hard time finding other Pat Barker’s works. I have found some but  they were in bad conditions. Besides, I have always been curious about P.Barker’s works. Why is he so a buzzword among readers? I will find out sooner or later.

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Book :The Ghost Road (Regeneration #3) by Pat Barker

Paperback: 278 pages
Published : 1996 by Penguin Books (first published 1995)
Synopsis:

The final book in the Regeneration Trilogy, and winner of the 1995 Booker Prize

The Ghost Road is the culminating masterpiece of Pat Barker’s towering World War I fiction trilogy. The time of the novel is the closing months of the most senselessly savage of modern conflicts. In France, millions of men engaged in brutal trench warfare are all “ghosts in the making.” In England, psychologist William Rivers, with severe pangs of conscience, treats the mental casualties of the war to make them whole enough to fight again. One of these, Billy Prior, risen to the officer class from the working class, both courageous and sardonic, decides to return to France with his fellow officer, poet Wilfred Owen, to fight a war he no longer believes in. Meanwhile, Rivers, enfevered by influenza, returns in memory to his experience studying a South Pacific tribe whose ethos amounted to a culture of death. Across the gulf between his society and theirs, Rivers begins to form connections that cast new light on his–and our–understanding of war.

Combining poetic intensity with gritty realism, blending biting humor with tragic drama, moving toward a denouement as inevitable as it is devastating, The Ghost Road both encapsulates history and transcends it. It is a modern masterpiece.

Another thing that was added to my disappointment was that I regret not having bought a critically-acclaimed book because of its bad condition,The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers; it has been scrawled with some comments which must have been done by a literary critic, and two books which may be popular among the literati because of their compelling reviews at their back covers:Pure by Andrew Miller  and One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School by Scott Turow .I hope I can still find them. Better luck next time.

As long as possible I want to avoid splurging on books I will just store for a longer period of time. Besides, I realized that I can only buy a new one  if I have almost read half of the books I haven’t even laid a finger on, especially if  that one is  rare. What an oxymoron resolution!How about challenging myself to read  them within a year? In a pig’s eye! 

Just god’s will!  I will just read  and read and read. Hahaha

How about you, buddies? What books have you bought recently? 🙂

Happy Reading, everyone!

 

 

 

 

JANUARY BOOKS 2016

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Today, my  fellow Filipino-Chinese countrymen and the  Korean community living in the Philippines have been painting the town red in observance of the New Year according to the lunar calendar. In fact, our President declared Monday, February 08 as a non-working holiday -a long weekend for those who had  no office work this last  weekend , and especially for those voracious readers- to give respect to their most celebrated tradition. Unfortunately, our academy was open ,  par for the course conforming to Korean’s“ workaholic” culture-a custom I have almost adapted to. If I we didn’t have classes, I would definitely   have holed up in my library house the whole day. 😛 I  just want to keep up with the books I have laid on my table for a long time, the wrapped-up books  I scavenged on last year.

With no  further ado, here are the books I  ENJOYED in January because I gave most of them  high ratings:

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Book: The Professor’s Daughter

Genre: Comic

Author:Joann Sfar

Rating: 3/ 5 stars

Thoughts: I liked its concept of the story- a dashing  mummy  Imhotep IV  fell in love with an Egyptologist’s beautiful daughter. Besides, its ending is unexpected without clinging to the reality.

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Book: Salu-Salo Para Kay Kuya

Genre: Children’s Book

Author: Ergoe Tinio

Rating: 3/ 5 stars

Thoughts: A very touching story  that everyone who has the same experience can relate to.

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Book: Tolits

Genre: Children’s Book

Author: Genaro Gojo Cruz

Rating: 3/ 5 stars

Thoughts:  Another Gojo Cruz’s masterpiece which has proved his skills in being a children raconteur.

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Book: Man in the Dark

Genre:  Dystopian Novel

Author : Paul Auster

Rating: 4/ 5 stars

Thoughts: Auster’s book that endeared me to him more. I want to read his other works more.

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Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Author: Douglas Adams

  Rating: 4/ 5 stars

Thoughts: I belong to the readers who claim his  being a gifted writer. I will re-read it in  paperback.

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Book: Bread Givers

Author: Anzia Yezierska

Rating: 4/ 5 stars

Thoughts: A toes-curling but important book  we should read to understand immigrant life as well as ridiculous customs we should no longer observe in our modern daily life.

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Book: Crossing the Water: Eighteen Months on an Island Working with Troubled Boys- A  Teacher’s Memoir

Genre: Memoir

Author: Daniel Robb

Rating: 4/ 5 stars

Thought: A worth reading for educators and an eye-opener for narrow-minded society.

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Book: The Mercury Reader

Author: Pearson

Rating: 5/ 5 stars

 Thoughts:  A collection of gifted writers’  essays which  can move the world. Follow up with my review of it next week.

In this month, I will try to finish two voluminous novels ( when my tight schedule  permits)  that have still been collecting dust bunnies on my currently-reading shelf: Moby Dick ,The Last of the Mohican ,and S. Vagus’  Kasma Forma.  Probably, I will read at least one of them depending on my   reading condition. But I am determined to read S. Vagus’s ( Grammarian, don’t be confused about the possessive form. I just prefer William Strunk Jr.’ s The Elements of Style.) because I have been enjoying  it so far, especially it is somehow light,  and interestingly, has something to do with philosophy.  In addition,  there are some books in my huge tinned  “ baul” I found more  tempting to read.  Gee, little did I realize that I have been hoarding  a great deal of   books . Most of them   still look new since I no longer desire to read an old, tattered one. So, before they become  as crispy as dried leaves , I have to  keep up with them before the year ends.  Batman ( God ) willing!

Kung Hei Fat Choi, buddies! 🙂