Reblogging because I wish I have my favorite authors on speed dial whenever I’m feeling sad. I’m pretty sure they will understand even if I just blather on about anything and everything.
“A bookshelf is like a framed collage. Every book is a photograph; every spine tells a story. Friends you left behind, enemies you’d long forgotten, places you’d once visited. This is why I keep my books.”
— Emily Daniels (Naturalistic Benevolence)
Last April 26, I met bestselling author Ransom Riggs in person and he put “pen scratches”—his words, not mine—on my copy of Hollow City. He also saw how big of a nervous booknut I am when I get starstruck. My meet-and-greet moment went like this:
STAFF: (Joking after hearing how an oldish fangirl before us screamed an I LOVE YOU to Ransom) These people need to remember the guy’s married.
ME: (laughs) And his wife’s here, too.
RANSOM: (overhears our exchange and looks up from signing the books, smiling) What is it about my wife?
ME: (gets instant cold feet)
RANSOM: Hello, how are you?
RANSOM: (smiles some more)
ME: (covers face) Oh my god, sorry! Oh my god, oh my god.
RANSOM: (laughs good-naturedly and motions me to come closer, then points at the camera) Let’s keep it together for the picture, then after that we can fall apart.
ME: (realizes that I wasn’t looking at him when he’s giving me the Keep Calm coaching, but flashes what I wish was a decent smile anyway)
And then we hugged.
THAT SECONDS-LONG HUG MADE THE ALMOST TEN HOURS OF WAIT WORTH IT.
Bookay-Ukay. Bearing a name that is a pun on the Filipino word for thrift store (“ukay-ukay”, pronounced “ookai-ookai”), this homey little bookshop in the UP Village, Quezon City is a piece of heaven for bookworms. They have massive collections of cheap reads (both pre-loved and brand new), custom bookmarks that range from cute to creepy, and CDs/CD jackets.
Warning: The old book smell that may assault you upon stepping in is notoriously sweet and addicting. One might experience a little hesitancy to leave. :p
Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
GAIMAN: "We’re working on seeing how many smart-alec answers we can come up with when people ask us how we collaborated."
PRATCHETT: “I wrote all the words, and Neil assembled them into certain meaningful patterns… What it wasn’t was a case of one guy getting 2/3 of the money and the other guy doing 3/4 of the work.”
GAIMAN: “It wasn’t, somebody writes a three-page synopsis, and then somebody else writes a whole novel and gets their name small on the bottom.”
PRATCHETT: “That isn’t how we did it, mainly because our egos were fighting one another the whole time, and we were trying to grab the best bits from one another.”
GAIMAN: “We both have egos the size of planetary cores.”
Review: A Long Way Down
Author: Nick Hornby
Genre: Humor, Contemporary
My Rating: ★★★ (3 of 5 stars)
At every tail-end of a published book about suicide—or an attempt to commit it—is a potential for controversy. Authors know that; the bravest ones refuse to pull punches and went on telling their stories the way they know how, steeling themselves for the future salvo of questions and accusations. They are willing to risk being pulled out of shelves later if it meant they would get their tales told first.
Nick Hornby emerged as one of these writers, but of an unconventional kind. In his book A Long Way Down, he relays the accounts of not only one, not even two, but four people about to commit suicide. And he finds that the best way to decline treading on eggshells for anyone is to shower his book with a dry, black humor.
A Long Way Down follows the story of four strangers who met atop a London building and ended up foiling each other’s plans to plunge to their own deaths. They are Martin, an ex-TV presenter who has “pissed away his life away” by sleeping with a minor; Maureen, a fraught single mother taking care of her disabled child; Jess, a stroppy teenager who was left by her boyfriend (and sister); and JJ, an ex-rock god who feels like a failure-on-two-shoes. They “postponed” their plans after a few heated arguments and some cold pizza slices. But would their unlikely alliance be reason enough to stop them from retrying to take their own lives?
Unless you are someone who gets fascinated by hearing other people’s tales of personal anguish, this book’s gist didn’t sound appealing at all. But Hornby’s deft hands made it so that his story would work, and it did nicely, with a number of brilliant, unforgettable moments in it.
The thing I liked the best in this book is how Hornby executed his fourfold delineation of the characters’ voices. The narrators are so different in a way that not even some misery-loves-company magic would be able to bind them together. Hornby spoke effectively through their mouths like they’re honest, live people—so real-like, in fact, that they did not click easily together as friends even after meeting the way they did. Hornby didn’t detour to the formulaic “we’re going to be friends and everything is going to be all right” road, because he did not intend the novel to become a self-possessed echo of a self-help book. Even though he can pull these people together to sew up some semblance of miraculous hope, he did not, and just let them be their own individuals.
JJ is an instant favorite of mine. It’s not only because his issues are very relatable (they hit so close to home at the time I read the book) but also because he’s four-dimensionally human enough to feel shame about how “shallow” his problems are compared to others’. He’s so embarrassed that he fabricated an incurable disease from the initials of his favorite band as his reason to commit suicide. Does being a failure in something you consider your “everything” equate to your life suddenly becoming disposable? Does it really mean it’s the end? Does it mean you can’t start again? The fact that Hornby didn’t need cheese to touch this issue is laudable.
It is quite noticeable how the story didn’t dig too deep about the common issues surrounding suicide, like how the usual novel about it would. What Hornby tackled is more about lifestyles and the human condition.
The storyline is as non-linear as it could get with four different people telling it. The common things your book report format will ask you for will not be easy to find, so if you are looking for a fast-paced story with clear climaxes and resolutions, this book will be a difficult read.
I myself would admit that I had a hard time with some parts I call the “troughs streak” because they didn’t seem to get anywhere for a long while. The story then just seemed to drag, and when it happens you sometimes get tired to care about the characters, even if you like them well in the beginning. Your interest just starts waning. Fortunately, the streak did break at some point and I began enjoying the rest of the story again, until the (open) end.
For the record, the book has been translated into the big screen and the movie’s currently showing in cinemas. I don’t know how to feel about the “major recalibrations” they’ve obviously done to the source material (thanks, trailer), but I won’t react yet since I haven’t seen the whole picture yet. :)
For the curious, you may watch the movie’s trailer here. It stars Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Aaron Paul, and Imogen Poots.
(Reposting because I added a few ‘assessments’ there. Photo by Anty Diluvian on Flickr.)
For my current read, I decided to try a slice of non-fiction.
The Junior Officers’ Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars is the front-line life account of ex-soldier Patrick Hennessy. It follows his growth from being an arrogant enlistee to a fierce commander while fighting in the Middle East combat zones. The title refers to the book club he and some of his military academy pals founded to stave off boredom and sometimes to ride adrenaline come-downs.
So far, the book’s good.
SABRIEL. The first book of my favorite YA fantasy series—the underrated Abhorsen/Old Kingdom chronicles by Garth Nix—gets a new, breathtaking face from freelance artist Sebastian Ciaffaglione.
The top illustration is the covert art; bottom is the unused cover rough. Ciaffaglione got to paint the covers for ALL FOUR BOOKS in the series.Nix will be revealing his Lirael art on the fourth.
(Stop for a sec and let that sink in, fellow bookworms—we’re finally going to see Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen in all her ’necromantic’ glory! For more than a decade I’ve always wondered what Chlorr of the Mask looked like or what she was like before…well, before she got “lost”. She’s a villain I totally love, creepy golden mask and all. The US edition’s cover of Clariel was revealed last month. I admit, I was a little disappointed that she’s a dead ringer of Leo and Diane Dillon’s Lirael there. I
mean the only difference is she’s got a dragon instead of a Disreputable Dog)
The new Aus editions will be out in September 2014.
I rarely prefer books with characters/faces on the cover, but I’ll choose these over the ones with charter marks on them. :p
Oh, this reminds me of this “guerilla bookstore” that pops up in the sidewalk across our office building in Makati. I once picked up Le Petit Prince from their mat, and Kuya Joey, the seller, apologized and told me it’s reserved for a regular customer who asked him to collect The Little Prince books in ALL LANGUAGES he could find. He’d said yes, with no extra charge! I would like to collect them all too but it’s obvious I’m not going to be a priority even if I ask for reservations. Haha.
Anyway, I’d blog about this bookstore soon. The sellers are very knowledgeable and cool, and their books are heavily discounted. :)
“One minute I was a visitor just like any other, and the next minute I was welcomed in to this huge, historic community of writers and expatriates.”
One more item to add to my bucket list: visit this bookstore as a Tumbleweed. :)
On my Oz-sessed Radar
There can never be too many back stories, dark-themed retellings, or complex revisionist reboots of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
At least to me. Admittedly I’m still reeling from a post-Wicked: The Musical hangover, and I can’t help but scour the ‘Net for spin-offs or books that the L. F. Baum classic spawned. Minus the rest of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked Years books that I haven’t picked up yet, I’ve found a new series that I found interesting:
Dorothy Must Die
by Danielle Paige
“…Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still the yellow brick road, though—but even that’s crumbling.
What happened? Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.
My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas…”
No Place Like Oz
by Danielle Page, Dorothy Must Die 0.5
Dorothy clicked her heels three times and returned to Kansas. The end … or was it? Although she’s happy to be home with Aunt Em, Dorothy has regretted her decision to leave Oz ever since. So when a mysterious gift arrives at her doorstep on her sixteenth birthday, Dorothy jumps at the chance to return to the glittering city that made her a star.
Setting off for the Emerald City, Dorothy is eager to be reunited with her friends: the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion. But she soon discovers that in the time she’s been gone, Oz has changed—and Dorothy has, too. This time, the yellow brick road leads her down a very different path. And before her journey is through, Dorothy will find that the line between wicked and good has become so blurred she’s not sure which side of it she’s on.
Dorothy Must Die will be released this April while No Place Like Oz, its digital prequel, is already available.
“My cousin Helen, who is in her 90s now, was in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II. She and a bunch of the girls in the ghetto had to do sewing each day. And if you were found with a book, it was an automatic death penalty. She had gotten hold of a copy of ‘Gone With the Wind’, and she would take three or four hours out of her sleeping time each night to read. And then, during the hour or so when they were sewing the next day, she would tell them all the story. These girls were risking certain death for a story. And when she told me that story herself, it actually made what I do feel more important. Because giving people stories is not a luxury. It’s actually one of the things that you live and die for.”
— Neil Gaiman (via jaynestown)
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak