Si by Bob Ong: A Book Review

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After putting it down in awe, I imagined myself attending a forum held by the Bob Ong Fanatics somewhere in the vacuous universe of   Goodreads, standing before them ,  groping for words to break their silence .

Me: Magandang araw, Bob Ong fanatics! Forgive me for speaking in English although what we will be discussing today is Si  by Bob Ong. Supposedly, the medium of communication should be Filipino. However, we have foreign friends on Goodreads who might feel out of place.

(Clearing my throat)

 Before l share with you my thoughts of Si written by Bob Ong. Let me touch on little information of who Bob Ong is for our foreign friends to have an idea who the good old  man we will be talking about.

If you look him up in the Wikipedia , Bob Ong is the pseudonym of a contemporary Filipino author known for using conversational writing technique to create humorous and reflective depictions of Philippine life. The author’s actual name and identity is unknown.

Despite that his books   have been best-sellers, he has never been known in public. That’s why some documentaries have been made to find out who this Promethean man is.

There are some prominent Filipino writers or TV personalities who have been mistaken for Bob Ong, but all of them  have turned out be different from Bob Ong’s writing styles.

Now, let’s get down to business. My very first impression on Bob Ong’s books was that most of his books were like students’ write-ups for a journal campus.

(One reactionary reader would interrupt.)

Fanatic  1:  With all due respect, … Joey? If I may I address your first name…

Me: Yes, you may.

Fanatic 1: Joey, uh… You seem to being an armchair critic.  You’re being subjective. I believe that  you were still a student at that time. Admit it. You were addicted to his books, weren’t you?

Me: Yes, I am being subjective, so I believe that all reviews on Goodreads are not objective, aren’t they? And  I wasn’t addicted to his books. I happened to read his books because they were being  hyped  up until my friend suggested that I read one of his.  I was such an ignorant and poor reader at that time. I did not have any access to a lot of  best-sellers, especially Philippine ones. All I always read were stories in school textbooks. But when I started to read his other books in university, at that point, I realized that I was sick and tired of them. I wish there were Goodreads already at that time. I could have written my thoughts of them. Besides,  I could have been a hypocrite if I  had insisted  that Bob Ong was my favorite Filipino writer.

Fanatic 1: If so, who was your favorite author?

Me: I’m sorry  we seem to be getting around  the subject. Given that Bob Ong can write whatever  genre s as what others have noticed as what you have ( gesticulating at Fanatic 1) such as conversational, essay, horror, stories that deal with social issues  in the Philippines, but for me, I would say that his works are not on the par with other critically acclaimed  and award winning books. Apparently, his books appear to be intended for money.

Fanatic 1: That’s a cheap shot. I believe that Bob Ong writes such books because he wants to inform, to educate, and to entertain. And of course, in a capitalist country, books have something to do with money. Besides, you can’t deny the fact that because of Bob Ong , young readers are motivated to  read and support our Philippine literature. In fact, as far as I know, because of Bob Ong, many writers now follow his style. In short, he is the beginning of all the writers today such as  Bebang Sy, Genaro Gojo Cruz, Noringai, to name a few. Don’t you think so?

(Provoked by his words  cheap shot)

Me: Exactly. No doubt his other books have never been nominated by National Board of Books Award except this SI. And this has something to do   with what I want to tell you about after reading his Si. Plus, if you don’t mind, let me first finish my review of it instead of heckling me. 

(heaving a sigh)

Fanatic 1:  (irritated) Noted…but NBBA must have the requirements whether a book is eligible or not.

Me: Definitely. Its requirements must be standardized, intended only for books that are considered critically acclaimed.

Anyway, thank you for heeding my request.

After reading Si, I realized that Bob Ong can write something award-winning. In Si, he wrote beautiful Filipino prose. He wrote lyrical , poetic , quixotic sentences. I was impressed. I fell in love again with whoever I pushed downward in the darkest part of my subconscious.  In fact, I enjoyed repeating the passages as if I was chanting a yoga prayer. I was asking myself then if it was Bob Ong who was telling me a story. It seems like he is not the author of this book. Did my friend lend me another book? Yes, it was him. Because somehow, I felt his trademark, the way he collected all the realistic and vicarious information and other people’s experiences to form one conceptualized story although there are some parts  I found “corny” like the ones in his other books.  Most importantly, I fell prey to his creativity. This is his style. He wants to make a twist whenever a reader goes into the climax.  I guess you know what I am talking about if you have read it.

(Another fanatic would   ask me, but calm unlike the other one .)

Fanatic 2: So, why did you give it  4 stars instead of five?

Me: Bo Ong is an experimental and ingenious writer. He always surprises us whenever he has a new book. In this book, obviously, his intention is to surprise us, but that surprise is not natural for me. It is conspicuous that he included such tactic to have a great impact upon me. For instance, I did not know that I should have started reading it from the back. Such clever idea is like a friend of yours who will make a fun of you ,  taking  it back  as a joke , but  you don’t think it is  funny at all. You might snicker, “ Ang corny ha!” By the same token, obviously, there are some parts which appear to have been taken deep impression from TV news, newspapers articles, barbers’ stories, and so on- the style he has been known for.

Fanatic 1: Your standard is so high. Since you appear to be an armchair critic, what should Bob Ong have done?

( I could still feel the ill-feelings he had been harboring.)

Me: I dunno. It is just  my subjective analysis. But I  hope when Bob Ong writes another such novel , I mean something  more critically acclaimed than his other books. He should make it coherent as in his readers seem to be reading a real novel.

Fanatic 1: What do you mean ‘coherent’?

Me: I want to read a novel that I will just follow the stream of the story as if I were just there mingling with them- something I have not seen in his books. 

Fanatic  3: Since 4 stars means I really liked it on Goodreads, what parts of the book that made you really like it?

(It’s another fanatic who would be listening to me all ears, but tend to make faces when I explained something which he could disagree to.)

Me: The deepness of some passages about love. The concept  of the story because it reflects the typical conjugal and familial   life of our parents until they get older. It mirrors the universal fact that parents started to be parents from romantic life until they build a family, how they take care of their children well despite the challenges of life . I can see such situation in my parents and in my friends, and even in myself if I were predestined to build my own.

Fanatic 1: Therefore, you expect something more than that from Bob Ong.

( This time, he would appear to be composing  himself.)

Me: Yes, I am following him now. So, I profusely apologize to you.

Fanatic 2 : Well,  despite your acerbic thoughts, welcome to the club!!!

Fanatics: Welcome to the  Bob Ong Club!!!

( Back to the reality)

Writers  could  build a mass hysteria, gee!

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

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: A Book Review

I admit that reading romantic novels , except pink  ones, is not my cup of tea. I may be such  a consummate misogynist or misandrist, or  I just believe in the Filipino  bromide  , “Walang Forever .” ( laughs)  In fact, I have no any clues about Nicholas Sparks’s best-selling novels yet except their movie adaptions. I do not even include them in my required reading.  Nevertheless, there are two love stories that always remind me of whenever I think of this kind of genre: the classics Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Brontë and Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. Both  novels are the outcomes of  the writers’  desires  to paint the picture of what was love like in a suppressible generation. But when it comes to modern ones, so far, among the ones I  have read, this Me Before You is the one I would say is the catalyst of my elusive finickiness and  the springboard for  a new genre on my list instead.I did not expect to have read a book that would make a difference to   my reading preference. I hate you Jojo Moyes.

As a matter of fact, I did not find this book romantic as what I had expected. It is not similar to the ones you are giddy about in that you are almost gaga for the  main characters, typical of teenyboppers’  reaction. Oh, my gosh!  I feel like fainting! Instead , the book is  enveloped  in  bipolar atmospheres.  Lou Clark ,on the one hand, the main character is a funny lady who loves wearing weird getups. Will Traynor ,on the other hand, a  quadriplegic man who  emits gloomy ,sombre, and dour responses around him. It is a matter of black and white. Romantic? No. My heart broke for Will. I was just being amused by Lou’s  dramatic but optimistic and humorous dramas.So, it is  as though the love that prevailed is compassion. Furthermore, honestly speaking, I am fully aware of the controversial issue on euthanasia, the desire of a patient to end his/ her  life on account of unbearable  body pains and feeling of uselessness.  I  was subjectively reading it  in light of my pragmatic view. My opinion? Again, it’s  a question of white and black.

Rather, its other themes are  realistically compelling  like Lou’s relationship problem with her boyfriend and family.Anyone out there except me may relate to her  love story. And for those self-proclaimed ” bread-winners ”  financially depended on by their ” poor ” families, Lou Clark be like. Hahaha  Besides, if you are a certified book worm, you will nudge at your chair in excitement because both the main characters discuss  different literary books I have read  such  as  Red Queen , Flannery O’Connor’s stories , to name a few. Oh, it  makes sense after all, indeed.

The themes would be inconsequential if it were not Jojo Moye’s  riveting and  beautiful sentences. She really knows her stuff. The pacing and prose  are natural  without  any smidgens of  conspicuously  patched  drafts that she had gathered for a long time.  That’s why I did not feel bored. I just kept on turning the pages  though as I was watching an  a la Mary-Lennox-and Colin-Craven  scene in the  Secret Garden.

Surprisingly, Jojo Moyes  was able to hold  me in  her unconscious target to  be teetering on the edge of  what we call  ” emotional attachment.” Its ending cracked the carapace  of my tough heart. I blinked my tears away, but I have learned  the same lesson again and again : Life is a choice. If you don’t think so, hang in your drama. Bow.

Trivia:

Jojo Moyes was inspired to write the story on euthanasia based on late American rugby player Daniel James who  took his life at the Dignitas clinic on 12 September 2008.

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

 

 

Twinkle Twinkle by Kaori Ekuni: A Book Review

twinkleMahal ko o Mahal ako? ( I Love or Loves me?)To make it grammatically clear, it means the man I love or someone who loves me? ) This is the title of the love song by our very own Filipino singer, KC Tandingan, which is now  popular in our country. According to the song, a woman has love affairs with two men. At the end , she has to choose between them: the man she loves or the man who loves her but she does not love. The story has complete resemblance to this book Twinkle, Twinkle. The only difference is that it is homosexual Mitsuki, who is in conflict with two personas: Shoko, alcoholic whom he married because of the pressure his parents foisted upon.; and Kono, his secret long-time boyfriend. Then, Mitsuki and Shoko will live together under one roof without making love. They will just live for the sake of companion love, but at the end, Mitsuki has to choose. ..

I could feel in the story the self-restraint of each character as though a lump in my throat blocked my desire to let off steam . Mitsuki is so understanding. He still considers Shoko’s feelings, whereas she can feel that he loves his boyfriend Kono more than her. I bet it is the conservative tradition that determines the personality of the characters. Mitsuki considers his parents’ and Shoko’s family values as well as prejudice against homosexuality. It is a matter of enduring love after all. So, such restricted emotional expression punches in my chest.

This is now my second Japanese novel, and reading another ones strikes my fancy more because I notice that Japanese novels- although I have not read Haruki Murakami’s completely yet, and I am now reading his first novel- seem to bear all the hallmarks of superficiality, gentleness, and idiosyncrasies. So I cannot brush the idea aside that Japanese literature has one distinction. Sooner or later I will get the wind of it.

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

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Book Review

gatsbyThis is an Americanized novel; it has something to do with the American society during the Jazz Age in 1920’s when there was atmospheric aristocracy in society. The rich were ostentatiously glamorous by throwing luxurious parties, so the people in the lower class were pigeonholed; they strove to meet the standard norms. In addition, bootlegging became prevalent, so the social situations, along with their psychological effects, at the time are illustrated in the novel. However, subjectively speaking, I did not enjoy it much. Its plot boggled my mind. I did not have the slightest ideas of what the characters are talking about; I did not know where they are going. (I should have concentrated well. (laughs)). In addition, the narrator is too quick to narrate the story as if he was making some shortcuts. I wish he went easy on each situation; I wanted to get to the deeper part. ( I guess it may be another form or style of writing a novel. ) I felt F. S. Fitzgerald may have written it slapdash or quickie. In other words, it was awfully written; I feel that the plot seems to lack of literary elements as if there are something in the story I wanted to know more. ) Nevertheless, I only felt its climax when the last two chapters cast the lights on the real characters of Jay Gatsby. He pulled the string of my heart. I could somehow feel his loneliness, overshadowed by his bereavement; his idiosyncrasies, and his idealism. ^^

Flummoxed by the fact why it is so popular among the literati, I made an effort to get through its essence in the Internet. I learned that the novel was not yet popular at that time. In fact, it distressed F. S. Fitzgerald a lot knowing that his books were completely forgotten. It only drew the attention of the Americans when it was one of the books distributed to the American soldiers during the WWII. ( I guess the purpose was to entertain the soldiers.) Consequently, among the books they read, The Great Gatsby caught their attention, and it became more famous. In other words, the novel developed an American psyche until it becomes nostalgic by including it in American curriculum. No doubt TIME and Modern Library both voted it as one of the best novels of all time. Naturally, the panelists may have been American, for they take pride in it. ^^

Now I have understood why my best friend likes it a whole lot. She may have deeper reasons .She must relate herself to the story. But pardon me Han Han for giving it 2 stars. Not bad. It is ok. Had F. S. Fitzgerald put it into another way, I would have loved it likewise. If I have seen its movie adaptations, I may like it , for Lionardo di Caprio was too handsome to play the role of Jay Gatsby; Tobey Maguire ,for Nick Carraway. I3 I3 I3

Rating: 2/ 5 stars

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides: A Book Review

marriageplotAs far as I remember, a few months ago, Ian McEwan, an English writer , famous for his novel Atonement, once said in an interview that he finds a very long novel boring. I was confused about his statement then because I have read some ambitious novels which are superbly amazing . In the middle of reading it, it came to me that one of the reasons may be PADDING– meaning to say to make a book thicker or its story longer, a writer pads it with unnecessary words or details. THE MARRIAGE PLOT is not far different from this kind of literary trick. The book has many parts which appear to be irrelevant and have no total significance to the heart of the story. There are some scenes which are described and narrated exaggeratedly, as though in English grammar, they are nonessentials clauses. They just serve as extra information, so they undermine the exciting and thrilling flows of the story. To put it bluntly, they add fuel to the boredom. In addition, they distracted my concentration on the crux of the three main characters’ stories. No doubt I came close to giving it 2 stars. Somehow, I was grateful for the previous dull stretch because it increased my eventual pleasure.

Nevertheless, I was brainwashed into giving it 3 stars for some reasons:

(a) The books the readers get into although I’m not very much familiar with them. Also, I enjoyed the academic discussions, particularly on the polemical arguments on the existence of GOD.

(b) The novel is steeped in hefty metaphors or semiotics to make the book sound very modern despite the fact that  it may almost reflect Jeffrey Eugenides’ la-di-dah attitude. Eugenides’s writing styles reminds me of Martin Amis.

(c) The engrossing characters of Madeiline Hanna, a graduating student who bends her mind to her thesis, THE MARRIAGE PLOT and moons over sexual fantasies, for she is inexperienced in sex; Leonard Bankhead, a Darwinian student, diagnosed with manic-depression (Poor Leonard. He broke my heart.) ; and Mitchell Grammaticus, a religious studies student who is generally acting strange – resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.

(d) The love triangle among the three main characters above and its  ending; it is very unique.

(e) Hilarity and transparency. It is brazenly written regardless of whatever kinds of readers will read it, for it has lot of sex scenes. Of course, it is not a total pulp fiction. It is what the real world people usually make the light of, or are scared to bring up. Thus, it is not good for the ultraconservative. For sure they would give it x-double -minus rating. f@$#$ hypocrites.

(f) Finally, before I read it, my friend on Goodreads warned that we read it carefully on account of its confusing plot. But by my troth, readers can manage it. In fact, its plot is the main reason why I eventually enjoyed it. It is a challenging story puzzle. The only problem is how to patch the stories together for someone. Hahaha Alas, only this part is deserving of 5 stars.

This is my first Eugenides novel. He has not let me down yet. I know his famous novels Middlesex and Virgin Suicides will drop my jaw once I get into them.

Rating : 3/ 5 stars