Sunday, August 21, 2016

Of love and other demons - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Another delayed review... Sigh getting lazy at this. 
I quite like the prose in the book and the plot was relatively enticing- priests, a mysterious girl, demons, exorcism, mysticism.... 
It did get a little creepy at some parts of the book yet there's a hint of romanticism as well, albeit a strange one.

The book opened with a foreword by the author himself, recounting a visit he made to the burial crypts of the convent of Santa Clara. Tombs were being hacked and remains were to be transferred to a common grave. He was taken aback by one of the crypts, when upon hacking, a stream of vibrant copper hair flowed out. The hair measured more than 22 meters long and belonged to a girl named Sierva Maria de Todos Los Angeles. This Sierva Maria became the title character of the book. 
Sierva was a beautiful, enchanting girl who was bitten by a dog who was later found to carry the rabies virus.

After being seen by a multitude of physicians, mystic healers, pharmacists, she was suspected to be demon-possessed. This brought the intervention of the bishop and his assistant (for lack of a better word), Father Cayetano Delaura, a learned man who loved books. Sierva Maria was brought to the convent of Santa Clara and locked up in a cell, to await her exorcism. Cayetano was tasked to do the job. However, he began to fall for the wiles of Sierva and began to desire her so much that he was ready to give up his priesthood. 
He was constantly tormented by the images of Sierva Maria, eventually he began stealing into her cell and spending time with her reading poetries and in each other's arms. 

We couldn't be quite sure if Sierva Maria was truly possessed or if it was superstitions at work. At one part of the story, her hair coiled like serpents and she spewed green spittle and displayed an insurmountable strength, leading Cayetano to despair at the fact that she truly was a demon. 
Yet he was unable to free himself from her. Cayetano was then banished to a hospital for lepers and never was he able to return to Sierva Maria. Sierva Maria waited in vain for him and eventually died of what I supposed was starvation and sadness. 

On her deathbed, Maria looked radiant and lovely copper hair sprung from her shaved head mysteriously. 

A very strange story but captivating nonetheless. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

There are days when lethargy sets in and you just want to disappear and give up. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Into thin air - Jon Krakauer

One really shouldn't delay writing a book review because the momentum just gets lost and you tend to forget the story. I thought Krakauer was really brilliant to be able to bring to life the Everest tragedy of 1996. However, one also gets the sense that he is trying a little too hard to over-write his guilt. Krakauer was lambasted by Beck Weathers and Boukreev (?) for not helping the victims and instead stayed in his tent when the tragedy unfolded on the mountains. At several points in the story, Krakauer mentioned how he had helped with tasks such as hacking ice for water, setting up tents and ropes, etc. he also mentioned that he had offered to help Beck Weathers down to camp when he had found him waiting in the miserable cold for Rob. I guess the book was one of the avenues he used to explain his actions. He also seemingly vilified Sandy Pittman, a millionaire socialite mountaineer married to Bob Pittman, the co-founder of MTV. Pittman was on the Scott Fischer's team and was filming the ascent for NBC interactive media. Krakauer mocked the fact that Pittman had brought a ton of filming equipment, an espresso maker, dean and deluca's coffee powder, and chocolate eggs for Easter, etc, which taxed her porter/Sherpas. He added that she had arranged for delivery of fashion magazines to base camp and had her sleeping bag and backpack packed every morning by a Sherpa. I think he did a pretty good job in casting a bad light on Pittman. You can't help but feel a little disgusted at Pittman's whims and demands. In the later part of the story, when things went awry, Krakauer observed that one of the Sherpas (Lopsang?) had been short-roping Pittman to the summit, which implied that she was kinda ferried to the summit instead of getting there through her own efforts. It was because of this that Lopsang was too exhausted to help out Rob hall and the rest of the expedition members when tragedy struck. 
I admit that I really disliked this Pittman character but after reading a little bit more about her on the Internet, the dislike diminished a little, as I agree that perhaps Krakauer had over-dramatized her "Queen-like" behavior. 
It's also really funny that people were being overly-critical of those who died on the mountains, as well as those who survived. Krakauer was critical of Broukeev, who was on Fischer's team as a guide. He claimed hat Broukeev had went ahead of the expedition members when a guide should have stayed close to them and that Broukeev had guided without supplemental oxygen. Krakauer also seemed to imply that competition between Rob Hall and Scott Fischer might have clouded his judgement in pushing for the summit when it was beyond the "deadline" he had set. It seemed that Hall had really wanted Doug, who had previously failed to summit on another expedition with Hall, to make it to the summit this time round. The decision eventually caused both of their lives. 
The amazing part of the story was that of Beck Weathers. He was left to die when the rescue team decided that his chance of survival was very low and hence, not worth the risk involved in ferrying him back to camp. Weathers was left exposed in the freezing weather overnight and suffered severe frostbite in his fingers and nose. He was unconscious for 12 hours when a light just went on in his mind, and he awoke. With one eye blind, he was able to navigate safely to camp and even there, no one thought he would make it through the night but he did. He was a miracle. 
I really hated the part when Rob Hall was trapped and no one was able to rescue him because of the severe weather. Yet, it was beautiful at the same time that he was able to talk to his wife before he died and that his words were not that of a dying or fearful man. His parting words were: "I love you. Sleep well, my sweetheart. Don't worry too much."
All in all, I really liked this book and I am truly amazed at how detailed the narration was although one can't be 100% sure of its accuracy. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016


I've been wanting to start a spiritual journal since God knows when and yet, it's almost coming to the end of the year, and I've not done anything. The power of procrastination. Sigh. 
Things have been a little strange these days and I'm starting to believe what our mentor said about spiritual warfare. I've never been truly convinced about the spiritual realm and believed that it's mostly man's doing or evil nature that causes chaos. I guess sometimes you just have to believe that these things exist, that sometimes our flesh is weak, and we can't fight against the thoughts the evil one tries to plant in our minds to cause division. 
I've not been praying much nor have I been reflecting on the way things are now. A lot of discord has been sown in our cell group and it's weird, one by one people start dropping out like flies. It's been one incident after another. At the end of the day, I think, man's downfall is his pride. I admit that I've too much of it and always remain the one unwilling to back down from a fight. If only, I've such endurance for other things in life... anyway, I'm determined not to let things affect the group. 

In other realms, work has not been great. I'm feeling a sense of lethargy and wonder where I'm getting to. I absolutely abhor the secretariat work that I've been tasked to. Relationship wise at work hasn't been all roses as well. Difficult times. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016


I was disappointed to say the least. It's funny how the most "spiritual" community/place in the world, is one that is full of pettiness, frustration, anger, etc. I can understand why people oftentimes give up on the faith and end up being disillusioned and disgruntled. I admit sometimes I feel like a hypocrite myself- I can't practice what I preach. It's easy to find excuses that it is not easy to follow God's way, that we are mere humans, that we are bound to sin. Are these reasons justifiable? Can we always use these reasons to not perfect our ways? I am not even sure what I am getting at. 
There have been times when I thought of leaving the church (but not the faith). There's an often misquoted line from Gandhi that says "I like your Christ but not your Christians". We are not sure if Gandhi really said that and we are not sure what his idea of Christ was. As I was sulking, this quote came to my mind. I know it isn't even right for me to think this, let alone wanting to quote it. To a small extent, however, the quote rings true. I think we expect a lot more from fellow Christians and upon seeing a small transgression from one of them, we stumble in the faith and doubt whether the faith is truly life-transforming. We tend to overlook the goodness but focus only on the bad. In the current situation, I can only see the bad coz I chose to turn away from all the goodness. It's always about our own choices/will but to make the right choices, I guess we have to defer to God.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Efferent vs aesthetic reading

Louise Rosenblatt [110] explains  that readers approach the work in ways that can be viewed as aesthetic or efferent. The question is why the reader is reading and what the reader aims to get out of the reading. Is the text established primarily to help readers gain information with as little reading possible, or is the site established in order to create an aesthetic experience? 

  • Efferent reading: reading to “take away” particular bits of information.  Here, the reader is not interested in the rhythms of the language or the prose style but is focused on obtaining a piece of information.  Rosenblatt states, “the reader’s attention is primarily focused on what will remain as a residue after the reading — the information to be acquired, the logical solution to a problem, the actions to be carried out.” An example would be a deep sea fishing guide to decide where to go fishing, or a textbook to learn about the economic causes of the Great Depression. 
  • Aesthetic reading: reading to explore the work and oneself. Here, readers are engaged in the experience of reading, itself.  Rosenblatt states, “In aesthetic reading, the reader’s attention is centered directly on what he is living through during his relationship with that particular text.” [110, p. 25 ] An example would be reading Hemingway’s Old Man and The Sea to live through a deep sea fishing adventure, or the Grapes of Wrath to plumb the emotional depths of living through the Great Depression. One would not read the Old Man and The Sea to learn how to deep sea fish, nor the Grapes of Wrath to examine the economic factors that caused the Great Depression.

Thus, according to Rosenblatt, reading — and meaning-making? — happens only in the reader’s mind; it does not take place on the page, on the screen, or in the text, but in the act of reading. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The book thief- Markus zusak

The book is classified as young adult fiction but I think it's suited for an older audience as well. The story is so beautifully written that it kinda takes one's breath away. 
The story was narrated by Death. Death first encountered Liesel Meminger, the title character, on a train to Molching when her six year old brother died in his sleep. Death was intrigued by Liesel enough to keep watch over her. Liesel stole her first book when a grave digger dropped a grave digger's handbook in the snow while burying her brother. She was illiterate but she kept the book, perhaps to remember the moment her brother was buried forever in the ground. On Himmel street in Molching, Liesel found herself with a new set of parents - Hans Huberman and Rosa Huberman. Hans was a kindly man and Liesel immediately bonded with him. Rosa was loud and argumentative, and perhaps slightly abusive but she too had a big heart. It was Hans Huberman who painstakingly taught Liesel how to read. For her birthday, even though the family was scrapping by, she received books as gifts (Hans had traded his beloved cigarettes for them).
On Himmel street, Liesel befriended Rudy Steiner her neighbor, after a race in the mud. The bet was a kiss from Liesel if she lost the race. They tied and became the best of friends. Of all the characters in the book, I love Rudy Steiner the most. He was fiercely loyal to Liesel and cared for her in the tenderest of ways that a boy of 13 could ever care for anyone. Rudy was there when Liesel decided to steal books from the mayor's house out of spite for firing Rosa as their laundry woman; Rudy was there to cheer her on when she was humiliated for being illiterate; Rudy was there when Viktor the bully threw Liesel's book into the river-without a second thought, Rudy had jumped straight into the freezing waters to fish her book out of the river. Rudy asked for his kiss whenever the opportunity arose but we knew deep down that he was afraid of that kiss, just as Liesel was afraid too. There were several occasions when Liesel so wanted to kiss Rudy but decided not to.
Rudy eventually grew disgruntled after his father was sent away to serve in the army. He proclaimed his hatred for the Fuhrer and he empathized with the Jews. Rudy began giving out bread to the Jews who paraded through their town and on one occasion, witnessing a crashed enemy plane and a dying pilot, he placed a teddy bear next to his shoulder to offer a little comfort to the dying. Rudy stood up for his weaker friend, Tommy Muller, who was bullied in the Hitler's Youth training school. He got himself punished for helping Tommy. Rudy was such a beautiful character but we knew about halfway through the book that he was going to die. I found myself wishing and hoping that it wouldn't happen, that somehow a miracle would happen, and Rudy would be kept alive. Unfortunately that was not how the story went. Rudy, the Hubermans and all on Himmel street perished during a surprise bombing. Liesel was the lone survivor as she was writing her story in the basement of her home.
The basement was previously used to hide a Jew, the son of a man who had saved Hans' life. Because of a promise he made to the wife of his savior, Hans risked his and his family's lived by helping Max Vanderburg. Liesel and max became close friends, with Liesel treating Max like a precious pet. Liesel was worried when Max fell ill and became unconscious for days, she was grieved when Max eventually left after a careless (but kind) act by Hans. It did feel like Liesel was in love with Max but in the end, we knew who her heart was for. 
My heart broke at the end of the book when Liesel found Rudy's body. She finally told him how much she had loved him and gave him what he had always asked for. It was all too heartbreakingly late. I was reading this part of the story on the subway and was trying really hard not to cry. I had to close the book several times and distract myself with other thoughts, when the tears threatened to fall.
Strangely, I couldn't imagine how Rudy looked like. In my mind's eye, he was scrawny, with lemon hair, scruffy looking and with tattered clothes but I just couldn't "see" his face.  
the story of the book thief was lost during the bombing of Himmel street but it was picked up by Death. The book was returned to its writer when Death came to retrieve the soul of an old woman -Liesel. 
I really like the ending of the book when death wondered "how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and it's words and stories so damning and brilliant." I agree that human beings could be so ugly when we perpetrate violence and hate on each other and yet, human beings are capable of such great love and courage at the same time - we are a real paradox.
13/7 - 20/7/2016