Monday, February 27, 2012

A Song for Monday

I heard this song yesterday on the radio. I'd completely forgotten about it and how much I used to love it. All it took was a quick google search to jog my memory. The song is sung by Des'ree and it's called You Gotta Be. Great lyrics! Here's a few lines...

Listen as your day unfolds
Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky
Lovers, they may cause you tears
Go ahead release your fears
Stand up and be counted
Don't be ashamed to cry
You gotta be
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold
You gotta be wiser, you gotta be hard
You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm
You gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day
Herald what your mother said
Read the books your father read
Try to solve the puzzles in your own sweet time
Some may have more cash than you
Others take a different view
My oh my heh, hey
You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold
You gotta be wiser, you gotta be hard
You gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger
You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm
You gotta stay together
All I know, all I know, love will save the day

Friday, February 24, 2012

Date A Girl Who Reads by Rosemarie Urquico

I've just recently come across this wonderful essay that's been going around the internet. I was surprised to learn it's actually written by a Filipina writer called Rosemarie Urquico. She wrote it in response to Charles Warnke’s essay, You Should Date An Illiterate Girl

You should date a girl who reads.

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.
She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.
She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things must come to end, but that you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.
You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.
Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

....he turned back to Madeleine and said, as if in pain, "There's a Fellini film playing at the Cable Car this weekend. Amarcord."
Madeleine gazed encouragingly up at him. There were all kinds of outmoded, novelistic words to describe how she was feeling, words like aflutter.

Ah, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. What a disappointment! I loved Middlesex and was so looking forward to this novel. There were moments of startling beauty in the book with sentences and paragraphs just like the above. I highlighted quite a number of passages that I'd love to remember. The book certainly had so much promise not just because it's written by Pulitzer prize winner Eugenides, but because it involves a love triangle (and who doesn't enjoy a love triangle?) of three recent college graduates one of whom is manic depressive. The first half was indeed wonderful but then it spiraled into a convoluted and tedious narrative in the second half. It almost felt like a showcase for Eugenides' wide range of knowledge on a variety of obscure topics. I'm surprised his editor didn't yell 'cut, cut, cut!' This could have been a great novel but unfortunately it's just ok. Make that a messy, ok novel.

*The above photo is a scene from the film Amarcord.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Reading a John Green novel is like being a teenager again and watching a John Hughes film for the first time. John Green has that in common with John Hughes - he remembers exactly what it was like to be a teenager. Though I'm far from being an adolescent, I still loved Green's award-winning novel, Looking for Alaska. I thought it was beautifully written with a lot of depth and wisdom that you don't usually find in young adult novels. In his new novel, The Fault in Our Stars, John Green is tackling not just ordinary teenagers but teenagers with cancer. When I first heard the premise of this book, I was afraid that it would be too depressing but it actually wasn't. Hazel is sixteen, with terminal cancer, when she meets Augustus at her kids-with-cancer support group. Hazel introduces him to her favorite novel, An Imperial Affliction by Peter van Houten, and together they embark on a quest to meet the reclusive author and finally find out what happened to the characters in his open-ended novel. But apart from this quest, the book is about love, friendship, death and finding joy in living even when one knows that time is short.

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.”  

As always John Green's writing voice is immensely readable and charming. I must say though that I preferred Looking for Alaska.  However, The Fault in Our Stars is still a very good book, one that took me out of my comfort zone. Normally, I would never read a book with this subject matter but since it was John Green I just couldn't refuse. It brought ideas and thoughts to the forefront that I would never have thought about. The fact that life has value no matter how short it is; that immense joy can be found even when you know your days are numbered; that deep friendships can be created even in sad circumstances.

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