Tall Story by Candy Gourlay: A Book Review

tallThis book is  bittersweet, hilarious, witty, and magical although some parts are sad. I laughed my head off when I read it. Besides,  I could relate to the story because it reflects in the Filipino customs and values, especially I used to be a “provinciano”. I grew out of the folk lifestyles, either in a province or in a modernized city: for examples, illiterate Filipinos speak “barok” English; we still use a plastic beaker or a mosquito net tucked under the edge of a mat; we are mad about playing basketball and we know Michael Jordan; our stereotype about people working abroad is that they may be rich ; we are still instilled in superstitions and black magic despite the fact that we are now living in a modern era, and so on. All about Filipino life!

Tall Story resembles Like A Brave Man by Nelson Carunungan, the first Filipino novel written in English  that I have ever read. The only dissimilarity between them is that the former depicts the life of the Filipinos in an old-fashioned- modern period while the latter is steeped in the life of the Filipinos after WWII.

What I liked about this book is its author, Candy Gourley, a Filipino immigrant in London, married to a foreigner. Despite being miles away from her native country, this first debut of hers shows that she is still proud to be a Filipino. So am I! ^__^

The story centers around Bernardo Carpio, the protagonist, burdened with Gigantism. He is the epitome of an “unsophisticated person in a strange world”. But all the rage for the story is the fact the Philippines is the capital of “Rock and Roll” in the world. In other words, the Philippines belongs to the Pacific Chain of Fire. On the other hand, Candy Gourley did not overlook to paint the real portrait of the dirty politics in the Philippines; for instance, the under –the-table government projects wherein the story, a sports arena has not been built completely yet. Instead, the quality of materials used are poor. Boom!

I am now taking to reading our Filipino writers’ works.^__^
Clap! Clap! Clap!

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


Tolstoy Marathon # 1 : The Emperor’s Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy : A Book Review

emperor's questionsAfter reading Anna Karenina ( 5 /5 stars )  a few years ago , the time when I was still looking for a job; plus  this recent  A Confession ( 4 /5 stars ), and  being  borne upon the fact that Leo Tolstoy is  considered by prominent literary lovers from different aspects of society as  the  unparalleled best novelist in  the world  , I promised myself that I would read all his books at my disposal , more even so that  we  can have now an access to any classics  in the internet.  Since I cannot  splurge on his other books yet , that I want to collect in my  own library someday, I would begin with his short stories as one of my friends on Goodreads put it and thus I would call this  mission from now on :  “ Tolstoy Marathon”.

Tolstoy Marathon #  1 The Emperor’s Three Questions or simply  known as The Three Questions 

An emperor   philosophically existentialistic would give a great reward to whoever could   best answer his three a la riddle  questions :

 First: What is the best time to  do each thing?

Second: What is the most important people to work with?

Third: What is the most important to do at all time?

 Unsatisfied with the answers of the persons who had at once made way to the palace , the emperor turned to a hermit  living in a far forest. As the emperor only saw the  small forest of the forest, he ended up realizing the answers based on his experience with the said hermit and a persecutor.

 The emperor learned  that :It is important to live at the present time, with whom the people you are , and how to make them happy.


Somehow enlightened, the Emperor promised  that he would apply the insight by heart. As he wanted  to have a second opinion, it occurred  to him that there was one person known throughout his kingdom he had not turned to yet: the bookworm , living in a house  filled with  books to the rafter somewhere in Timbuktu.

 Reaching the book lover’s dwelling place, the emperor found him sitting on a sofa, burying himself in a voluminous book   and around him was  the  musty stacks of books he had to keep up with.

 “ It must be  a novel by James Joyce  “, thought the emperor.

 When the bookworm saw the emperor, he nodded his head in greeting and continued to immerse himself in the book.

 The emperor approached him and said, “ I have come here to ask your second opinion with three questions:

 When is the best time to do each thing?

Who are the most important people to work with?

What is the most important thing to do at all times?”

 Hearing these, the bookworm  put down the book; his eyes  popped out, sparkled with interest in the questions. He looked as though he had not gone  to bed yet, for he had been reading the whole night.

 “ Your Majesty, just read and read and read.”

 Blushed by the answer, “ How about the most important people to work with? “

 “ Your Majesty, make friends with the other bookworms and be part of their book clubs.”

 Noticing the bookworm unmoved from his crossed- sitting position ,and  his eyes backed  to the book, for he was used to being paid homage.

 ” Seriously, what is the most important thing to do at all times?”

 “Share your ideas you have learned from the books with the people .”

 Weird he looked for the Emperor and stifled   an air of  disappointment,  off he went leaving the  bookworm with his business.

 Rating: 4/5 stars





The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing : A Book Review

Since Goodreads, the world’s largest book club site , honed my appetite for reading books, particularly gave me the ideas of  what books I should read, I have been  updated with the  famous  and acclaimed literary writers , not only with the classic but also with the contemporary writers-I have the  list of 1001 Best Novels of All Time as well as  the magazine, TIME’s 100 Best Novels since 1925, and now I want to include the Most Banned Books- I tend to be getting more familiar with the authors ‘ names ;and at the same time, I search for them in the Wikipedia. I can know them more when I read  and hear them in the news. One of the writers known to me now is Doris Lessing.

Doris Lessing is considered as one of the most celebrated and distinguished writers of the second half of the twentieth century. She is mostly known for her novel The Golden Notebook– the novel , not to mention her other books, that has  been  elusive at my stomping ground. If I lucked out to spot it there, I would definitely, without balking, make a grab for it and fork off at any cost. Nevertheless, I am fortunate to have found it.

dorrisThis is the collection of  Lessing’s  four novellas:

The Grandmothers ( Rating: 3/ 5 stars )

 “ Lunacy is one of the great invisible wheels that keep  worlds turning .”

-Dorris Lessing, The Grandmothers-

This is the story of two mothers, Rozeanne and Liliane, bestfriends since high school, become neighbors upon their marriage. Their  friendship will remain solid despite their family lives  crumble: Rozeana will divorce her husband whereas Liliane’s husband dies of a car accident. But the real center of the story that  readers will definitely find repulsive on account of conventional belief in our  society   is that Rozeana is  infatuated with Liliane’s son, and so is Liliane with Rozeana’s son.

If I were  such a deep-seated moralist, I would give it 1 star  out of 5 stars to express how disgusted I could be. To demonstrate my dismay more, I would  scream bloody murder by setting this book  on fire or  by singling it out on social media that Doris Lessing is such an immoral writer.   How dare  Doris Lessing write such a story educating  people that irrational infatuation with someone whose age gap is beyond your sexual needs? Ridiculously reactionary   I could be. But in the name of literary value, Lessing intends to write out such situation  which could really exist beyond our customs. In fact, the lesson behind the story is that life could be complicated when your moral choice is out of the sanity.

Victoria and The Staveneys ( Rating:  4 / 5 stars )

 “I If I say I am going to eat you all up, you must not take it as more than  a legitimate expression of my sincere devotion.”

-Doris Lessing, Victoria and The Staveneys-

A big challenge for a writer  is how to make  a very simple  concept of the story he/she has thought explode into  a pyrotechnic  novel- a novel that is so impressive that the author is almost put on a pedestal.  So writers could have their own alternative styles; it could be chronological, in a way that the  story  goes from the beginning to the ending; manipulating, in a way that the plots are jumbled until  you get lost the track; symbolic , in a way that the novel appears to be enigmatic, deciphering that you  are at your wits ’end, and many, many more. The examples of the novels – as far as I observe from the books I have  already – which styles are chronological are the classics  such as Charles Dickens’ and Leo Tolstoy’s’,  manipulating; Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin ( 4 stars ), symbolic; Martin Amis’s The Information ( 5 stars ). In other case, there are some writers whom I find genius, for not that  can they  write with the styles above, but  with the way that appears simple, but others are not very much used to , they put into their thoughts a story, as though writing is a piece of pie for them. So far , I have known one  good example of those writers, Toni Morrison. And  Doris Lessing has proven me that she could  be as good as Toni Morrison upon reading this novel. I was dumbfounded.

The concept of the story is  very common among us readers.  A black and orphaned woman gives birth to two children with different men. Her first child  is of a rich white man while the other one of a black man. In the end, she will find her first child slowly  absorbed in the world of white privilege until she becomes estranged from her.  As you know , a common situation on TV dramas, such situation exists in reality, but this novella impressed me , for the writing finesse of Doris Lessing  made it fantastic. She divided the story into different time and place with beautiful plots  and settings- a style I  bet my boots  only she has. Furthermore, she wrote it with beautiful sentences- sentences which are so light and meditating to read.

The Reason For It (  Rating 4/ 5 stars )

“ Tell it. Call The Cities together and tell it . Then it will be in all their minds and cannot disappear.”

Doris Lessing, The Reason For It

Among  four, this is quite deeper and more enigmatic and  philosophical which  requires higher level of critical thinking and a little background in history   to connect with what Doris Lessing is trying to drive at.

Simply  put, the story is about a member of Twelve, tells  of   the history of his civilization and of how  his said civilization is slowly disintegrated after choosing the  son of Queen Destra, DeRod as her successor and who turns out to  lead the barbarous  life . After much reflection, the narrator comes to the conclusion that DeRod should not much be  attached to the blame, for he is an idiot . Thus,  he , DeRod, does not know  what he is doing.

In the context of  literary analysis, the theme is probably about Barbarism and Civility: People tend to be simpletons  when they lead the life of barbarity, but when they embrace the life of Civilization, life becomes rational as the title puts it, “ The Reason For It”

Once again, I read  in awe, not even able to put my jaws back , of the writing styles as Doris Lessing  did in Victoria and The Staveneys.  Dear me! I could have even almost tossed it in the air.

A Love Child ( Rating : 3/ 5 stars )

“ I’m not living my own life. It’s not my real life. I shouldn’t be living the way I do.”

Doris Lessing, A Love Child

James, a young British soldier,  gets drafted and dispatched to South Africa and India during World War II. There in South Africa, he has a love affair with  a British woman, Daphene, She gets pregnant , but James never knows  it until he receives a  letter in reply to his first letter to Daphene expressing  how he  misses her. After twenty years, he flies to South Africa to look for his son; however, he ends up merely with   his picture he will keep, but remain incomplete and stagnant.

Comparatively, this is the heftiest among four. I could feel  not only the abject misery of the soldiers  but also the burden the protagonist keeps to himself. Perhaps, Lessing’s beautiful craft of writing conveyed her target feelings in the sentences. I have nothing to say more.

Indeed, Doris Lessing is one of the most celebrated writers in this century. There is something in her books, in her writing styles of which  only she  bears all the  hallmarks, at which some readers might not get, so they would  end up finding  this boring. I may  have  compared her with  Toni Morison, but Doris Lessing is Doris Lessing whereas Toni Morison is Toni Morison. I wonder if I can still find this so-called “only-the-writing-style-she-has “  in her The Golden Notebook.

Upon reading it, I have  shattered all my  illusions that , “ Writing  at any cost is not impossible. “ Eureka! ^^