The Writers I Met in November 2015

In my imaginary world in November, there I  met some famous writers whose  literary works shattered my illusions. I met a philosopher, an education reformist, a humored tomboy writer, and an Anglicized Filipino joker. They changed the way I look at the world.

First:  Albert Camus. I was into his suprising   novels such as :

  1. The Stranger. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. It took me time before I drew my review of it. I didn’t want to admit something, that I saw myself in the character. His personality reflected in me. Something entangled deep inside of me was pulled out. The feeling was indescribable, ambiguous until I realized that the pain was trickling off. I could not hold myself any longer. I cried.
  2. The Fall. I did not give a hoot about giving it 5 stars. Who cares about someone ranting if it is as though Camus just scribbled it? Sometimes, in doing so makes sense. My experience was just like the one with whom the conversant struck up . I was all ears ,kept on nodding at his cathartic confession. Ok! Ah! Ok! I see!
  3. The Guest. I liked it , so I gave it 3 stars. I put myself in the main character in bind ,unknowing how to deal with the Guest. Besides, I did not focus on the trivial dilemma of the character much but on the panoramic and picturesque imagination described by Camus. I remembered then the beauty of the Alps described by Johanna Spryi in her novel Heidi.
  4. adulterousThe Adulterous Woman. Although I made a fuss over its title, I still gave it 3 stars. Camus was just so skilled in associating the mystical world with his story.

Second: Willa Cather. The first time I knew Cather was through her novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop. Through   this novel, she impressed me with her august writing skills- pure, original, something  which styles I cannot find fault with. As a matter of fact, her novel My Antonia, for the second time, has made me put her on the pedestal of the best writers I have encountered in my imaginary world. The latter  made me stand and hop in joy. Yahoo! I wish I were in a prairie where I could shout it out that I would give it more than 5 stars.

                 antonia        archbishop

Third, Malala Yousafzai. Malala is now one of the inspiring people I look up to. She has made a big difference to me, to everyone, to society. For me, she is the perfect epitome of a reformist in the modern world  where   conservative ideas still exist. In her autobiography, I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, she showed her  dauntless dignity being in the center of the distorted reality. Her book moved the heaven and earth.

malala

Finally, Elbert Or.I do not much about Or. It is my first time to have read one of  my fellow Filipino’s works. Obviously, his book , The More the Manyer and Other Words of Wisdumb, has something to do with Filipinism, the Filipino English. It deals with the common mistakes  in English among Filipinos. His examples are supposed to be for the heck of  fun with some somewhat funny illustrations. But I do not want to laugh at them, for I am a consummate stickler for correct English grammar and structure.  Look who’s talking?  ( blushing)

 

There the authors  are, in my imaginary world- my nook of comfort  where I read   8 books in November. Not bad. Better than 4 books  which might predispose me to throw into tantrum. I do not want to have this pang  of  guilty feelings again. (laughs)

My prediction last month that I might not be able to complete my 200 reading goals on Goodreads   came true. I really cannot do it. There are many things I have been busy with. But I promise that I will do it again next  year! Hooray!

Happy Reading, buddies! ^_^

 

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My Ántonia by Willa Cather: A Book Review

antonia

“Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen.” 
 Willa Cather, My Ántonia

My first perception about Willa Cather as a writer herself upon reading her Death Comes For  the Archbishop was that she could have been  as “ impartial a writer “ as Graham Greene ; I admire writers who have never been abandoned to their   deep-seated beliefs beyond logic. Although her former book   did not placate my taste , it  proved me that she was an exceptional writer who was able to  put her  exploratory imagination  into a story anyone for sure would be engaged in.  Eventually, my literary prediction turned out to be true in the   name of her  My Antonia ,  a master piece everyone should read.  It is spell-binding, page-turning; aside from the fact that it is beautifully-written, it opens your eyes to the reality of life in all aspects. I still   have a long list of adjectives   at the tip of my tongue   that I want to pronounce more on lavishing praise on this book.

“That is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.”
― 
Willa CatherMy Ántonia

As I had observed in her Death Comes For the Archbishop, Cather  knew her stuff well how to write a story  full of beautiful prose  that is as appealing  as the  enchanting  and breath-taking  widely-stretched prairie  in Nebraska ( although I have never been to such a place.) She was still able to write it  in narrative way  without much details  and importance to systematic plots  as what  a narrative story  must be. Still, her vivid  description, nostalgic narration about the life in the lonely countryside  was enough to bomb picturesque  imaginations. I loved them!

If you  grew in a province, far from the civilized city, I am cocksure that you  find this book nostalgic. I loved the story a whole lot as did Willa Cather, it reminds me of my very young memories  in a countryside where  I had learned  to lead the rustic  life. In my countryside, I grew to be  a farm boy helping my mother and grandparents  plant some  crops , especially rice plants on the farm  beyond the three golden hills watching us on errands as if they were all the goddesses of the harvest cordoning us off. There, I would often go fishing with my older brother, or sometimes go sightseeing with my friends along  the muddy river dividing the vast, flat rice field  before the twilight came on. There,  my friends and I would roughhouse  or frolic and gambol around the grassland  besides down the river the herds of geese afloat. There  I would climb the trees in the  orchards to pick some fruits I did not care about their names  unless I  found them uneatable. There I would ride cows or  water buffaloes  on weekends   with this pang of worries that they might  throw me off or gear me with their pointed horns since I was still a babe in the woods. There my grandfather and I would bushwhack on the way to make sure that no any kinds of snakes would bite us on the sly. In fact, my grandpa had killed several times. Gee!  All those memories were in my younger days prior to living in the city. So, I can   totally relate to the story.

“This is reality, whether you like it or not–all those frivolities of summer, the light and shadow, the living mask of green that trembled over everything, they were lies, and this is what was underneath. This is the truth.”
― 
Willa CatherMy Ántonia

This book , for me, is one of the best books that depict  what is the reality of life. There is no hypocrisy  in it ,especially  Cather was so candid that  others  in the past , even now, must have been bothered about her. The story is apparently about life in Nebraska , but it underlies the life itself the abject poverty among the immigrants at that time.  The life that depicts how the spirit of the immigrants , even of us, figuratively speaking , tests our choice of what life we want to lead in order to survive.

In the story, Antonia and her family   came from Bohemia  who took the plunge into living in America in the hope of a better life.  But a challenge for her along with her family  is how  to  subsist on the barren , but beautiful prairie without muck knowledge of the English language. It is her  strong determination that will change her world. However, in the end, it is her choice how she was going to change the universe, in which I was very disappointed as was Jim Burden, the narrator and Antonia’s most intimate childhood friend.

Antonia, the female protagonist, is an epitome of a strong, positive woman who has good-will and stalwart spirit  to control the miserable life she goes through- a woman definitely resembles women out there, whom you expect to succeed in life. However, in the end, LIFE IS A MATTER OF CHOICE. She will live back to  the farm as a careworn mother to nine children. So, my heart broke as I paced the story from the beginning to the  end where I tried to blink tears away, but I gave up. I gave up on Antonia’s fate

Antonia’s fate is opposite to some characters who decide to be sensible , level-headed in their lives. For instance, Jim Burden, the narrator and Antonia’s intimate childhood friend,  chose to search his life in law study and abroad when  he realized to be falling for Lena Lingard. Lena Lingard, on the other hand,  is an ambitious country girl as to Antonia  who chose to find her life in the city where she ended up a successful businesswoman. She even decided not to settle down since she preferred to be lonely in her life.  I liked the philosophy of both the characters.

There is a   momentous, or you may call it mushy   discourse   between Jim Burden and Antonia  which made my both jaws drop:

“Do you know, Àntonia, since I’ve been away, I think of you more often than of any one else in this part of the world. I’d have liked you to have you for a sweetheart, or a wife, or my mother or my sister- anything that a woman can be to a man. The idea of you is a part of my mind; you influence my likes and my dislikes, all my tastes, hundreds of time when I don’t realize it. You really are a part of me.” 
― 
Willa CatherMy Ántonia

What a beautiful  line!

I noticed that Cather was so audacious about writing   some parts   which  could have been subject to racial and sexual   criticism. Just saying.

It is my first time to have read a novel that is narrated by a  boy , especially if the theme is about life in a countryside. I am more used to young female narrators such as Judy Abbot in Ann of Green Gable, Emily ; Swiss Family Robinson, and so forth.  For this reason, I could not doubt the narrator’s sexual orientation. Anyway, it is not a big deal, is it? I’d rather take Willa Cather’s interpretation that Jim as the narrator in the first person signifies everyone.

This is the final book of Willa Cather’s  “prairie trilogy” of novels ,  O Pioneers! and The Song of the Lark– the books I had ignored several  times in a book store despite their affordable prices, believing that they might bore me to death. ( As usual, my rationalization is that I’ve got to  read My Antonia  first. ) Alas, I was being mesmerized by their old-fashioned   hard-bound pictures . At this time,  I assure you that once I take a crack at them at that book store, I will swoon over them and shout at the top of my voice, “  I gotcha!!!” Then, all the customers as well as the clerks on duty  might wake up from their hypnotic trance . Dear me, my friend! (^_^)

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather: A Book Review

To get into the spirit of the Holy Week, I decided to pick this book I bought from a retired librarian last year. It is almost old, brittle, smeared with dust, but too legible to catch my interest and imagination.

I enjoyed reading this book despite the fact that I could be subject to heresy, agnosticism, nihilism, cynicism, or bigotry. It could be highly recommended for pious people. (I am not sure of atheists, for they might cast aspersions on it as “rotund’.)I liked the way Willa Cather depicted the real epitome of a missionary, passionate about his duty by helping uncivilized people back to their faith, restoring the Catholicism in a backward place, full of distorted beliefs and corruption. It was like as though I read a biographical novel narrates the life of a man who worked hard to accomplish his mission, faced with a lot of hindrances, humiliation, and endurance; as though a priest concentrated on his goals until he had made them through. So I finished it as gloriously as he died “of having lived’- not disgruntled but left hanging with some niggling doubt all along: Is Father Latour, the main character, credible? Does he appear to be hypocritical? On the other hand, Willa Cather portrayed the antithesis of such prelates who are given to greed, gluttony, avarice, and corruption- the fact that they exist in the Catholic Church. In the Philippines, they are the avatar of “Padre Damaso”.

After reading this, I was chastened more by the fact that leading religious life turns out to be a matter of “intestinal and cerebral fortitude”. Life could be tough when one is given big responsibilities. He needs to live simply and abstemiously. He needs to deprive himself of the luxurious trappings, particularly denying his human nature- the “concupiscence”. This kind of life reminded me of the nun, seminarian, and priest students I have taught. I am paying more homage to them. ^^

However, beyond a shadow of doubt, I could not blot out the idea of how the TIME ended it up as one of the best of all time since 1923. Probably this book is “rare and special’. Eureka! ^^

Rating: 3/ 5 stars