I buy books. And sometimes I read them. This blog is for the times when I do more than just store shelf candy.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday : Ogling a Fashion Icon

Marcia started Mailbox Monday a long time ago. She has since turned over its hosting to other hosts. This month's host is Library of Clean Reads. It's a good thing the book I'll feature in this post is wholesome and is "free of explicit sex, profanity, graphic violence and paranormal themes." ;)

"Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles, and humongous wish lists."

Last week's mailbox delight did inspire my envy and longing when I saw it posted for sale or mooching by my current favorite book pusher, Andy B.

I mooched this for more than the usual one point for local mailing, but it was well worth it. It's a gorgeous book that I will be scanning every so often when I'm down and in need of visual pleasure. Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years showcases the gowns, dresses, and suits Jacqueline Kennedy wore while JFK was President.
Photos of individual pieces are juxtaposed with photos of the events when the pieces were worn. The former show the detail of the dresses, and the latter give context and story to the fashion.
It's a bit text heavy for me, because I'd like to just look at a lot more photos. But then again, when I have the time, I might be interested to read through the different essays that combine thoughts on fashion, style, politics, and personal history.
Jacqueline Kennedy is such a style icon that to admire her fashion seems so cliche. But when you go through this book, cliches will be the last thing on your mind. She was an original, a gem that no one can come close to replacing as the ultimate paragon of style. Her exterior style bespoke of the woman beneath the clothes -- elegant and intelligent. Every piece is gasp-inspiring, making me wish I lived in that era well before grunge was ever invented. My heart ached looking at all those gorgeous dresses.

Thank you, Andy B. for mailing this book to me. It was so well packed, I almost kept the books in the plastic wrap, as I sometimes do with my books. But the eagerness to see the photos inside the book won out.
Thank you, too, for the freebie!
By Manila standards, I'm writing this post a day late, but it's still Monday in some part of the world, so I still make the cut.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Seeing Double

The memory is the first to go.

That is based on my experience. That's why things like this happen.

During my bookshelf spring cleaning, I discovered I had two copies of Paul Auster's book, The New York Trilogy. And I remember on one (or more) one recent occasion staring at a copy of this book in some bookstore and thinking to myself, I'll buy that next time. Not knowing that two of its ilk lie dormant, unread, and largely ignored, gathering dust, occupying prime prime realty space in my very limited bookshelves.

And look at the dates of purchase. Just one month apart. Short term memory malfunction.

And this is not the first time it has happened.

This kind of mistake only happens to books. I don't think that will happen to clothes, shoes, bags. Because I buy them less frequently and will not likely forget a purchase.

We can chalk that up to old age. Some may call that a desperate, rabid greed for books. I'd like to think I'm compensating dead trees, that they have not died for naught. And rescuing Paul Auster's reputation by not allowing his books to linger in the discount bins.

Things like this are what keep my Bookmooch inventory alive.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I Flipped through John Fowles's Mantissa

F is for Fowles.
Backlog from 2010's A to Z Challenge
My copy:
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 0316290270
Read: April 1, 2010
195 pages

I pulled out this book from my TBB (To be Blogged) pile and stared at it perplexed, trying to retrieve from the faulty data base called my mind a memory of what this book is all about. So far removed is its story from my reality, that I did not connect enough with it to make it memorable.

But as I flipped through the pages trying to remember, I wondered to myself how I could have forgotten. This is the one of the strangest, most fantastic stories I've ever read. Not so much a story, but glimpses of the life of a writer -- the secret life of a frustrated, sick, maybe starving, maybe even sex-starved writer. And his muse.

A muse who is not your typical luminous feminine figure floating just above your head, dressed in a diaphanous Grecian gown demurely whispering prose suggestions, coaxing you out of writer's block.

No, this is a muse who barges into a room wearing a skimpy nurse's uniform ready for sexual cosplay, flirts, cockteases, insults, and fights. A muse who gets jealous. A muse who complains about being used, abused, and taken for granted. In her words:

"Her voice rises. Never a thought for her as a person, only for what can be got out of her. Never a moment's consideration for her emotions. Never enough imagination to realize that she may be secretly dying for a little tenderness and sympathy, that she's also a woman and can't help it if certain combinations of circumstance and mood do make her need the services of a male body in an entirely natural female way..."

The story is narrated by Miles Green, an author whose relationship with her muse can be described in present day phraseology as, "it's complicated." His muse, aside from being his muse, is also his lover, his sex slave, his doctor, his tormentor, his conscience, and many other things. My own memory is foggy as I blog about the book 2 months away from the anniversary of reading it, so I'll let Amazon summarize it for me:

"Most of the book is dialogue between Miles and Erato as he alternately romances and berates his muse, the essence of his creativity, and is repaid in kind. It's an animated metaphor for the process of writing, and many times the characters seem to know they are merely characters in a book. It begins in a hospital where Miles has just recovered, having lost his memory through some accident, but that scenario quickly ends as Erato takes on numerous personalities and attitudes in her interaction with Miles."

John Fowles writes with copious wit, intelligence, and sardonic humor. He seems like the kind of person you'd like to invite to dinner, and every minute will be filled with fascinating, clever banter. You don't get all his jokes, but you know they're funny.

It's not the kind of book you read while waiting for your turn in the bank. Not unless it's okay for you to endure the stares of people as you snicker, or even laugh out loud. The repartee between author and muse is extremely entertaining.

The downside is that there is a minimum IQ requirement for reading this book described by the front cover blurb as, "clever and wickedly funny." And mine falls slightly below the quota. There were spots where the literary allusions were all lost to me. But still, I did enjoy the read even though half of the time, I wasn't sure what he and his muse were talking about.

The book starts with this killer of a first sentence:

"It was conscious of a luminous and infinite haze, as if it were floating, godlike, alpha and omega, over a sea of vapor and looking down then less happily after an interval of obscure duration, or murmured sounds and peripheral shadows, which reduced the impression of boundless space and empire to something much more contracted and unaccommodating."And I knew right away, this book would require my complete attention and the use of more brain cells I'm used to using.

And though this is fiction so fantabulous, and the story supposedly happens only inside the narrator's schizophrenic head, I wonder how much of this is autobiographical. For how else could Fowles have come up with such wicked imaginings if he didn't enjoy the same kind of ever so slightly demented relationship with his own muse?

I highly recommend this book to writers. Though I said this story is so far removed from mine, I can relate to the frustration of writer's block so bad you go a bit crazy. At the very least, you'll be immensely entertained, albeit slightly disturbed or disgusted depending on your ability to handle prurience.

Monday, February 14, 2011

So, it's 2011. And My Reading Challenges are:

  • to read 80 books in total, averaging 250 pages per book - That's to prevent me from cheating all the time with picture books;
  • to read 26 authors I have not read before, with surnames from Z to A in that order;
  • to read at least 4 classics;
  • to read all assigned books for our book club discussions.
I'll be updating my progress in shelfari here.

I have no book buying restrictions. But I'm bracing for a no book buying year in 2012, when they say the world would end.

And I'll still try to have some kind of life outside books.

My A to Z Adventure - 2010, and a Backward Run for 2011

I don't know what came over me. I never figured myself to be a masochist. In fact, I fancy myself to be a lazy, underachieving, pleasure-loving creature of comfort, a lollygagging, navel-gazing lady of leisure, a spa-inhabiting sloth.

But last year, I decided to read 26 new authors; by new I mean I have not read them before. I did this to make a substantial dent on my TBR. To assuage my book-acquisition guilt. To finally read Theroux.

And if that was not hard enough, the authors' surnames had to start with the letters A to Z.

And for somebody who is so impulsive, so non-linear (I can't even click on my Farmville plots in order), the hardest part was reading them sequentially from A to Z.

I didn't do it alone. Some silly, sick, and probably sexlifeless people did it with me through a shelfari group page. These wonderful, over-achieveing people were probably the only reason I succeeded in completing the challenge. How embarrassing it would have been to have started a challenge that I would fail. What a good motivator shame is.

So, through this stupendously difficult challenge, I met:
Alvarez, Julia
Byatt, A.S.
Chabon, Michael
Roald Dahl
Enright, Anne
Fowles, John
Gaiman, Neil
Hoffman, Alice
Iyer, Pico
Jose, Sionil
Kerouac, Johnv
Le Guin, Ursula
Miller, Sue
Naipaul, V.S.
Oe, Kenzaburo
Picoult, Jodi
Quigley, Sarah
Rushdie, Salman
Sebold, Alice
Theroux, Paul
Updike, John
Vonnegut, Kurt
Weldon, Fay
Xiaolong, Qui
Yamanaka, Lois-Ann
Zola, Emile

And my reading life was made so much richer.

Insert fireworks here! I did it! I did it! This sloth did it!

As for blogging reviews, I only got as far as letter E, but that was not a requirement of the challenge, anyway. So, there! Stop looking at me as if I'm a failure!
Here's the Leaning Tower of Reviewable Books giving me something else to be guilty about, guilt being one of the inspiration behind this challenge. But I'm a recovering Catholic; I know how it was to deal with guilt. And I'm ignoring this one by starting on another challenge for 2011.

This time, I'm going backward. If you care to follow my Z to A adventure, track me here: http://www.shelfari.com/groups/48066/discussions/311471/Islandhoppers-2011-Z-to-A-

Hey you might even be silly/ masochistic/ demented/ jobless enough to join me. I promise you it won't always be fun, and there'll be times when you'll hate yourself for starting this, and you'll hate me for getting you into this. But you'll never hate reading and the discovery of new authors. And you're going to love the feeling of having succeeded in the A to Z challenge.

What Ever Happened to My 2010 Reading Plan?

Where did January go?

It's midway through February. So why am I still giving a report of my 2010 reading achievements. Because this blog is not the boss of me, and I write when I want to write, okay? *said assertively with arms crossed, eyebrows knitted together, mouth puckered in a pout."

I considered skipping this, but I don't think I can live with myself not tying up loose ends.

If you were already reading this blog at the start of last year, you may have read about my 10 point-reading plan for 2010.

I challenged myself to:
  1. read a total of 70 books this year
  2. complete the A to Z challenge
  3. read at least 6 classics, guided by Italo Calvino's Why Read the Classics
  4. read all FFP book discussion assignments
  5. read at least 2 books on writing (Margaret Atwood's, Stephen King's, etc.)
  6. read at least 5 travel/ travel writing books
  7. finally read 100 Years of Solitude
  8. read at least 3 biographies
  9. blog at least 50 posts here, and
  10. read the bible slowly, more deeply studying it book by book
So, how did I do? I:
  1. read a total of 70 books this year - check
  2. completed the A to Z challenge - check
  3. did not read at least 6 classics, guided by Italo Calvino's Why Read the Classics - fail
  4. read all FFP book discussion assignments - check, except for Carrie, which was our inspiration for our Bloody Prom Christmas party, but we didn't have to read that.
  5. did not read at least 2 books on writing (Margaret Atwood's, Stephen King's, etc.) - fail; got to read Stephen King's On Writing January 2011.
  6. read at least 5 travel/ travel writing books - check, but this was unintentional, it turns out I got to read travel related books as listed below, and Peter Mayle's Chasing Cezanne, though it was fiction, had me chasing Chezanne all over France and England, so that qualifies. So check!
  7. did not finally read 100 Years of Solitude - epic fail; i did not even come near the book.
  8. read at least 3 biographies - check
  9. did not blog at least 50 posts here - fail; I eked out 36.
  10. read the bible slowly (too slowly), BUT NOT deeply studying it book by book and not frequently. - fail
What would classify as travel reads for item 6:
My Life in France by Julia Child
Chasing Cezanne by Peter Mayle
Falling Off the Map by Pico Iyer
On the Road by Jack Kerouac

My Life in France by Julia Child
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Books from the Museum

One weekday in January, my friend Raymund and I met for a post-holiday lunch at Felix in Greenbelt 5. Dessert followed at Kaffe Ti Amo.

We had time to burn that lazy afternoon, so we decided to pop in at the Ayala Museum, where they were having an exhibit of portraits by Onib Olmedo, one of my favorite artists.

This post goes to show that a bookaholic need not go inside a bookstore to get some books. Here's my stash.

While I'm still saving up for an Onib, I have this book to give me eye candy. Though this book is mainly a catalog of the works displayed in the exhibit, it also paints a portrait of the artist as depicted by his wife and two daughters. I was elated looking at his works; his paintings are not pretty, but they are full of personality. It's sad that the artist is no longer alive to create more pieces.

Fernando Zobel's painting The Kite serves as cover art and inspiration to this children's book written by Carla M. Pacis and illustrated by Robert Alejandro. I enjoyed the read and the art.

I always get one or two bookmarks whenever I drop by the Ayala Museum gift shop. This time I got three. The design with a lady and her shawl is from a painting by Juan Luna. And the hat in the picture is from a 19th century collection of Philippine fashion. I actually bought the bookmark at the upper left thinking it was a gift tag. Turns out it was a cute magnetic bookmark that will go to my growing bookmark collection.
Museum. Books. Bookmarks. Love.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Searching for Rhyme

February is poetry month for the Flippers.

On February 12, we will discuss Pablo Neruda's Cien Sonetos de Amor (One Hundred Sonnets of Love). I'm disappointed that I'm going to miss this because of an important family affair. Not because I like poetry, but because I need to know more about it. I need something like a poetry appreciation course. Because I'm clueless.

Poems baffle me. I don't know how to tell a good one from a bad one.

The picture shows my paltry poetry collection, a teeny weeny fraction of my ginourmous collection of books.

I was staring at it this afternoon, trying to figure out where to start -- Rilke? Rosetti? Garcia Villa? I have no idea. Eenie, meenie, miny, moe.

Anyway, join us in our online discussion. It's not just about Neruda. It's about poetry in general. It's for those who love, hate, get, don't get, read, don't read poetry.


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