felix felicis

felix felicis: November 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Two more book reviews

Mario Puzo | The Godfather

Source: http://cdn.desktopwallpapers4.me/wallpapers/movies/1280x800/1/9313-the-godfather-1280x800-movie-wallpaper.jpg

This American gangster novel had been in everyone’s most recommended fiction fix. I never really minded but I got that rare opportunity to find a worn out copy at a local thrift shop so I just bought it. Spent about a hundred quid for this one plus two more Ken Follett novels. Quite a good bargain, eh.

I was looking for something to pass the time when I tried to read the first few passages of the book. There wasn’t electricity at that time and classes + work were suspended due to a typhoon. It wasn’t until sundown that I realised I was too enamoured by the story because I was still trying to read even with little light. 

Suffice to say that I like the story. A lot. I’m never really into crime or gangster novels but this one made me like one. I loved how the Italian culture of strong familial ties played a central role in consolidating and eventually entrenching mafia networks across America and even overseas, to the poorer areas of rural Italy. It brings to life the oft-invoked quote of blood being thicker than water. Readers are also given a glimpse of how the values of good and evil are balanced or even stricken out when making decisions. For one, it is easier for the characters to decide between good and bad, but what’s difficult is deciding which one is a lesser evil. At one important point of the story, Don Corleone as the Godfather has to decide whether to allow his businesses get involved in a budding drug dealing operations. The decision he makes creates a lot of repercussions on everything that happened in the next chapters.

After reading this, I thought I wanted to be a consiglieri but I guess I’m more suited as capo regime. Hahaha! My favourite characters were Peter Clemenza and Don Vito’s eldest son, Sonny. It’s only Capo Peter who can eat a mouthful of spaghetti while talking about the next shoot-to-kill job. And Sonny’s temper is just way off the roof. Hahaha! It’s annoying and interesting at the same time. His attitude spices things up in the story. 

The vow of omertà forbids me to speak more about the Family. Rest assured that you’ll enjoy reading this one too. No doubt about it. :)

Oh, and by the way, marathon the three film adaptations for that hung-over feel. Haha!

5 out of 5.

Mark Haddon | The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time

Source: http://blogs.isb.bj.edu.cn/elainec/files/2011/12/The-Curious-Incident-of-the-Dog-in-the-Nighttime.jpg

I finished this book during my travel to Seoul this September. Mark Haddon’s novel is narrated at a first-person perspective by a 15-year old kid named Christopher John Francis Boone. The blurb at the back of the book says that he has Asperger’s syndrome or savant syndrome, a type of high-functioning autism. After wandering around their village, Christopher saw his neighbour’s dog dead and bloody on the garden. The police thought he killed the dog but eventually released him when his dad came for him. His father tells him to stop investigating about the death of their neighbour’s dog but Christopher insists. The rest of the story revolves around Christopher’s investigation and the many other discoveries he unearths. Siobhan, his teacher, had always been present to guide and provide him with nuggets of wisdom on dealing with adults and life in general.

The book is generally interesting because of the main character and his unusual dilemma. Plus the fact that its pages used prime numbers instead of the usual cardinal ones. Readers can actually hear Christopher’s voice on the narration— it is bland and matter-of-factly and Haddon succeeds in bringing life to him. Also, I felt that the story provided us a glimpse of how people with mental disability think and perceive things— that they also have feelings similar to us, albeit less emotional. 

I recommend reading the book if you want something to pass the time off. It is an easy read.

4 out of 5.

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On elaborate plots and managing expectations

With street photography lessons already done and the stock of movies almost run out, I had to look for alternative things to be busy with. I still had two months to kill then before grad school classes opened again in August. Aside from small art projects, reading became a go-to habit. Throughout the third quarter of the year, I finished four books, two are written by acclaimed Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, one an American classic obsessed with warring families and gangster crime in the 1950s, and the last one is by a British writer writing a simple story about a mentally challenged child.

So where do we begin? Aha.

Haruki Murakami | 1Q84

Source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-xCCAIMXTPgg/TrBCq4QPROI/AAAAAAAAAyI/zXzuzME0IHA/s1600/Murakami_1Q84.png

I tried Norwegian Wood before, but after the first fifteen pages or so, I gave up. The novel was too lonely for me at that moment; I decided to save it to a later date. Either I’m affected by Norwegian Wood’s melancholic narrative or I don’t have enough time to read, weren’t really good excuses. So when the opportunity to try out Haruki Murakami’s three-volumed science fiction novel 1Q84 came, I happily took the book. The nice reading experience and the sneak preview from New York Times encouraged me to also read through his recent offering, The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

So how did the books fare? In general, I like both novels but I felt that Colorless Tsukuru was more relatable and heartwarming than 1Q84’s science fiction/ fantasy premise. 

But let’s start with 1Q84. A friend kept recommending the book to me, so I countered why should I, considering that the volume is too thick for an easy read. She told me to just read it and then talk after. Because I am gullible most of the time, I began scan-reading the first few parts. What turned out to be skimming went to reading in full swing. I began Monday and finished by Sunday afternoon, then I slept before telling my friend I am done with the novel.

Murakami’s 1Q84, I felt, is a beautiful love story meshed in an elaborate plot filled with fantasy and science fiction. Murakami was able to conjure vivid images with the beautiful language and story telling he used— something I always look forward when reading fiction. I was also able to create different voices for each of the characters he brought to life. Weirdo me. Anyway, my favourite character was Aomame because of her irony— her stealth and agile strength masks the many vulnerabilities of her secret life. At one point, I thought I wanted to try out her double life. Tsarot.

Overall, I liked it. My friend did not. Or well she liked it but was quite disappointed especially with the way the story ended. Hahaha. Sorry, I can’t tell you. Read through then let’s compare. 

Haruki Murakami | The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Source: http://www.theomnivore.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/murakami-620x350.png

As said, Colorless Tsukuru was more heartwarming and relatable than 1Q84. It may be classified as bildungsroman or those novels that tackle various aspects of human life and man’s subsequent coming of age. The story introduces us to Tsukuru Tazaki, a train engineer in his early 30s, trying to make sense of everything in his life. He finds living mundane, going through rounds of eating, working a 9-to-5 job, drinking a few bottles of beer, sleeping and then waking up to do the same things. 

Like any other human being, Tsukuru has life issues. And like many other people, he dodges these issues; on several occasions by taking his life. His girlfriend Sara encouraged him to resolve these issues by confronting the past and the people who caused him such grief. Eventually, Sara helps him locate his four friends who abandoned him all of a sudden, for no apparent reason. The journey Tsukuru takes while finding his friends in nearby Nagoya to Finland which is at the other end of the globe brought him that much needed vigour and new-found hope. 

Murakami’s new work sounds all too familiar for readers especially those who like stories with coming-of-age and maturity themes. But what makes this special was how Tsukuru’s like unfolded before us. The realisations he had were like unspoken thoughts for us. I guess what I’m saying is that at one point or another in our lives, we were Tsukuru. We tried “to make” things or “build” dreams, similar to what his name suggests, but more often than not they crumble before our very eyes or they happen but not to our usual liking. Or maybe I’m analysing too much from the story. 

Anyway, the point is that Murakami wrote a masterpiece that touched my heart and the many other feelings that come with it. By the time we leaf through the last few pages of the book, we ask what had happened to Tsukuru? Murakami chose to write an ending without a clear resolution. Much like real life. 

The writer sits at his desk and makes us a story. A story not knowing where it is going, not knowing itself to be magic. Closure is an illusion, the winking of the eye of a storm. Nothing is completely resolved in life, nothing is perfect. The important thing is to keep living because only by living can you see what happens next.

(Patti Smith in New York Times Sunday Book Review "Deep Chords: Haruki Murakami's 'Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage'", 5 August 2014)
Two more books are reviewed in the coming post. :)

Meanwhile, some nice fan art on 1Q84 which I found in the vast cyberverse. Hehehe :D

Source: http://fc04.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2012/097/e/b/1q84_by_lerms-d4vdp2y.jpg

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lucid interval

This week on pop music feeds.

Because Nick Jonas... 

and #Swiftie :)

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