Literary Snobbery Series

The LSS Book List, Part 3

Visit the The LSS Book List page for more information about this post.


The Gathering by Anne Enright
The Gathering by Anne Enright

The Gathering by Anne Enright (2007, M) – Liam commits suicide and his surviving siblings gather for his funeral. Veronica, the sister closest to him, goes back to their family’s history to understand what led Liam to take his own life. As she discovers ugly truths about her family, she also discovers many truths about herself. I consider Veronica as one of the most unreliable narrators ever, but at least she arrived at some truth.

Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer
Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer

Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1957, H) – Gimpel is a baker. The town calls him a fool because of the things that his wife makes her do and believe. More stories in this collection also talk of characters with modest professions. Some stories have religious overtones in them, so one shouldn’t be surprised if angels and demons appear to interact with the characters.

The God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza
The God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza

God of Carnage (Le Dieu du carnage) by Yasmina Reza (2008, H) – Two kids have a fight in the park. Their parents decide to discuss the matter like civilized people must do. However, their talk does not resolve anything. They instead devolve into puerile beings, even worse than their children. At once dark and humorous, the play shows us how tension can create chaos not without the irrational arguments that people can trap themselves into.

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler (1992, H) – If you’ve never been to Vietnam or if you simply want to read beautiful short stories about the immigrant experience, this is one book to pick up. The main story tells the life of a dying grandfather summoning visions of his home country, not without touching on the topic of the Vietnam War. A lot has been written about it, but what makes this book different is that the refugees are the ones who are given voices.

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by José Saramago
The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by José Saramago

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ (O Evangelho Segundo Jesus Cristo) by José Saramago (1991, H) – Jesus Christ tells his own gospel in this reverse retelling. Instead of a savior, he is depicted as a human full of shortcomings. Instead of the source of all evil, the devil is depicted as his mentor. And instead of the creator, God is depicted as an autocrat. Dismissing it for all its blasphemies means that you’ll miss a deeply provocative work. Still, it is not for the faint-of-heart.

The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing
The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing

The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing (1950, H) – A murder is being investigated: Mary is killed by her black servant. The initial assessment is for money. But is it really that? Why didn’t Moses run away then? The reader takes a look back at Mary’s life and read about the complex politics and relationship among white farmers and black servants. The tone is matter-of-fact, which only makes it grittier.

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (1940, L) – Two deaf mutes, also best friends, are separated because of one’s mental illness. Singer, the stable one, moves to another town where he becomes the confidant of four characters, all of them sharing their struggles and passions with him. They find solace in the Singer’s presence, but where does the lonely Singer find his? McCullers’s musical acumen is clearly demonstrated in some parts of this lyric novel and her writing makes it sing despite the muteness of the protagonist.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (2005, L) – A literary sensation about the power of words, history, and love, this book has multiple plots intersecting against each other with full control. The past and the present mingle seamlessly in the stories of Leo, haunted by his first love and estranged son, and Alma, obsessed with the mysteries behind a novel with the same title.

Home by Marilynne Robinson
Home by Marilynne Robinson

Home by Marilynne Robinson (2008, TBD) – This is a novel that runs concurrently with Gilead, making them perfect companions of each other. It is as tender and miraculous as Gilead. Rev. Ames has taken the focus in the first novel. In Home, the center shifts to the Boughton family, particularly Rev. Boughton, Glory, and Jack, Rev. Ames’s namesake. Some mysterious matters about Jack left in Gilead can be illuminated in Home.

The Homecoming by Harold Pinter
The Homecoming by Harold Pinter

The Homecoming by Harold Pinter (1965, H) – Teddy , now living in the United States for many years, decides to go home to London and introduce his kids and wife, Ruth, to his family. Sexual tension takes over when Teddy’s father and brothers meet Ruth. The family members become rivals of each other as they battle it all out for Ruth’s attention. This is one surprising and cryptic homecoming.

Stay tuned for Part 4.

Format: [Title] ([Original Title]) by [Author] ([Publication Year, LSS Meter Level])


This is part of the Literary Snobbery Series (LSS).

Filipino Friday

Filipino ReaderCon 2014 – Filipino Friday 2: Have you ever wanted to write a book?

Hello, Friday! What have you been reading? We still have less than a month before the Filipino ReaderCon 2014. So while waiting, let’s participate in this annual meme.

The topic of Filipino Friday 2 hits a little too close to home. Deep breaths.

As a reader, have you ever thought about writing a book? What kind of books/stories do you want to write? Or are you now a published author, and what compelled you to go fulfil this dream? How was your journey from reader to writer? How did you go about getting your book out there?

Yes. In fact, before I became a big reader, I fancied myself as a writer. I used to write for our school publications in high school and college. Writing workshops were introduced to us staff members. This gave me the opportunity to be a fellow of the Pamiyabe Creative Writing Workshop, a regional workshop with writer-panelists from the University of Santo Tomas, such as Lourd Ernest De Veyra, Eros Atalia (before they were famous), et al. And Ophelia Alcantara-Dimalanta, God bless her soul.

And you know what they advised us? Read, read, read. I wasn’t a voracious reader before this workshop. What nerves I had to write short stories! After this, I made a conscious effort to read more. I have never stopped since. I may experience reading slumps now and then, but I always manage to recover with aplomb.

So after reading many books, I decided to join another writing workshop, the Write Here, Write Now workshop helmed by Jessica Zafra. Instead of submitting a short story for everyone’s butchering, the participants wrote their novels during the months-long workshop. These will be considered for e-publishing, if we choose to publish with the author.

I thought I was ready to put out something for everyone to read, but I failed. I did not finish my novel. I managed to reach what I imagine to be the first quarter mark. Writing a novel for me is difficult because I get too attached to it. During those six months, I had frequent anxiety attacks that I could only ease by stopping, which is a paradox to my so-called writing life.  Because of the frequent breaks, I felt that I needed more than six months to write a 60k-something novel.

But if I were being honest with myself, I just don’t have the discipline. If there’s anything that I learned from the workshop aside from more read-read-reading, one should establish writing hours within his or her daily routine. And one should stop talking about his or her writing in social media, or idling hours away in social media while writing.

I’m thinking of returning to my novel after the holiday season. So if you notice that I’m withdrawing from social media, you already know what I’m doing.

See you next Friday!


For more information on the Filipino ReaderCon 2014, visit any of the following:

Literary Snobbery Series

The LSS Book List, Part 2

Visit the The LSS Book List page for more information about this post.


Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (1927, TBD) – Father Latour and Father Vaillant take the mission to build a diocese in New Mexico, a place still occupied by Native Indians. The two priests have different temperaments, but they work in perfect harmony. This is a portrait of the rustic life in New Mexico after the American-Mexican war in the early 1800s, and an almost sacred marriage of religion and culture.

A Death in the Family by James Agee
A Death in the Family by James Agee

A Death in the Family by James Agee (1957, M) – How does a young child perceive a person’s death? How can one describe their grief or the approximation of it during such an event? What are children taught about the fate of the dead, of the society’s norms during deaths, of the afterlife, and of God? Based on Agee’s own experience as a young boy, this novel is one of the few unfinished manuscripts that do not feel incomplete, and that is a strong testament to the author’s talent.

The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen

The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen (1938, H) – Portia, orphaned and sent to live with her stepbrother, falls in love with Eddie, a family friend. She keeps a diary to understand the people that surround her in the new household. Her sister-in-law finds and reads it, and she is unsettled, enraged. Set right between the two world wars, it captures the mood of that period, a period when people thought that everything was fleeting.

Deliverance by James Dickey
Deliverance by James Dickey

Deliverance by James Dickey (1970, TBD) – This novel is like an action movie that borrows heavily on the themes of Joseph Conrad. Ed and his friends plan a canoeing adventure for the upcoming weekend. What is unplanned is the presence of hillbillies who crash their trip down the river. The novel tells us of a man’s transformation after he is given a huge dose of adrenaline rush, one that puts their lives at stake.

Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis
Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis

Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis (1899, M) – A resurgence of interest in this Brazilian work is witnessed in the past few years, and why not? It’s a classic tale of love, jealousy, and adultery. Told from the unreliable point of view of the cheated husband, it’s an entertaining dark comedy without the magical realism that we usually associate with South American literature.

Fatelessness by Imre Kertész
Fatelessness by Imre Kertész

Fatelessness (Sorstalanság) by Imre Kertész (1975, H) – This is an important concentration camp literature largely based on the author’s own experiences in Auschwitz. One day, Gyuri is sent to a labor camp, first resisting the fate that descends upon him and then finally accepting it. The forced labor becomes his life. He finds his happiness in it. When the war ends, he faces the world outside the camp, and this is just the part where the real strength of the novel lies. What does Gyuri make of it?

[Image to follow; my copy is lent to a friend.]

Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (1973, M) – I can already imagine eyebrows raising in the air, but I stand with the belief that Isadora Wing’s whinings on the zipless fuck, loosely a noncommittal sex, is something to consider given the context of the novel’s publication. Had this been written by a man, it could have quickly sunken into obscurity. And forty years later, accompanied by an anniversary publishing, how many Erica Jongs have followed? Exactly my point.

The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness
The Fish Can Sing by Halldór Laxness

The Fish Can Sing (Brekkukotsannáll) by Halldór Laxness (1957, H) – As if Laxness’s sweeping Independent People isn’t deserving enough, I still went on to select a less popular work. Shorter but just as beautiful, this is an idyllic tale of a small-town boy who dreams of taking on the world but at a cost that will take him away from the things that he holds dear to his heart. Will he make it? Is it going to be worth it?

[Image to follow; I lost my copy.]

The Food of the Gods by H. G. Wells (1904, H) – This might seem like another surprise entry, but what of it? It is one of the minor works of the author,  but it is a classic science fiction nonetheless. In the novel, scientists have developed food that can make creatures grow. What’s interesting is not this discovery but the aftermath of the boomfood’s introduction to humans. It’s not so tragic in the common notion of a tragedy, for the tragedy lies in how the normal people treat the giants.

[Image to follow; my copy is lent to a friend.]

Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot (1943, TBD) – This is one of the few poetry collections in this list, and it’s the main reason I opted to include poems and plays. Its themes on time transcends time itself. When reading this, one should expect stuff heavy on one’s intellectual faculties, but the meditations are so worth going through. The cosmos is held in the spaces between the line breaks. Let the four poems sweep you away.

Stay tuned for Part 3.

Format: [Title] ([Original Title]) by [Author] ([Publication Year, LSS Meter Level])


This is part of the Literary Snobbery Series (LSS).

Literary Snobbery Series

The LSS Book List, Part 1

Visit the The LSS Book List page for more information about this post.


2666 by Roberto Bolaño
2666 by Roberto Bolaño

2666 by Roberto Bolaño (2004, M) – One might encounter more dead bodies than the title in this sprawling novel about the unsolved serial crimes on women set in a fictional Mexican city based on Ciudad Juárez. One might also think that one would have enough of the author with this tome. On the contrary, one might be compelled to explore his other shorter works or even take on the equally heavy The Savage Detectives, particularly if one has not yet broken down from 2666.

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936, L) – The Sound and the Fury is considered by some as Faulkner’s masterpiece, but some object and view Absalom, Absalom! as the essential Faulkner book instead. Either way, one might need to know what Quentin Compson was doing before spending his last days in Harvard University. More importantly, the rise and fall of the sinisterly enigmatic Thomas Sutpen is a story that will haunt you after reading that last sentence about hating the South.

All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1946, L) – A quintessential novel on American politics, this novel has nothing to do with Humpty Dumpty. Willie Stark’s political life is narrated by his assistant, Jack Burden. From being an idealistic lawyer to a charismatic governor, Stark embraces the world of politics with tools that, guess what, are necessary for him to beat them all, not without making enemies, of course. His life is depicted in parallel with that of Jack’s. Their stories, therefore, are each other’s.

Atomised by Michel Houellebecq
Atomised by Michel Houellebecq

Atomised (Les Particules élémentaires) by Michel Houellebecq (1998, M) – The controversial Houellebecq can actually be popular without having to be controversial. Atomised, The Elementary Particles in some editions, is a delight to read, what with its beautifully constructed sentences, which could as well be a veil for the ugly and gritty stuff that the half-brothers Bruno, a teacher, and Michel, a scientist, meet in their daily lives. Their respective sadness and struggles are intertwined with graphic, very graphic, descriptions of sex here and there.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (1985, L) – A harrowing read about The Kid who joins a group of scalp hunters traveling around the West and massacring any Native Americans for money and for entertainment. One day, you read about a gang member playing with a child. The next day, that child is dead, scalpless. Or how about a dead tree filled with baby skeletons? Amidst all these images is the intelligent and hairless Judge, who seems to be an immortal representative of violence.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (1945, L) –  Subtitled as the Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder, it should be interesting to see how sacred and profane go together. There is something theological in this novel but I will not get into that. What I want to get into is this: are Charles and Sebastian merely friends or are they lovers? The former, hailing from the working class, is befriended by the latter, born into a noble family. They take trips together, spend summers at Brideshead Castle, drink all the wine like connoisseurs…

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder (1927, M) – Five people, one bridge. A friar witnesses the collapsing of this bridge somewhere in Peru and the plunging of the five people to their deaths. He goes on to wonder about this event. Who are these people? What were they doing before they crossed the bridge? Did they have to die? Is this an event controlled by the cosmos or is it just some random and inconsequential accident? Big questions from a small book, indeed.

The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan

The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan (1981, M) – I could have easily put Atonement on this list, but seriously, everyone should have already read Atonement before even checking this out. And so I selected this slim novel about a couple, Mary and Colin, who takes a trip to what can be assumed as Venice and meets an accommodating stranger, Robert, who asks them to dine over his house. But what does he want? Why is this stranger’s wife so submissive? And are you ready for a disturbing ending caused by a crazy fetish?

The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer
The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer

The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer (1974, H) – I thought this was a dubious choice for Flavorwire’s list of 50 tough books. Upon Gordimer’s death, I immediately read this and realized why it’s on the list. It is not easy to attune yourself to its tone. You read about Mehring’s life: wife and son left him, so-called friends find him so-so, farmhands practically do not need him to manage his farm. These things about the uninteresting life of Mehring makes up only the crest of a powerful and flooding statement of the novel on apartheid.

Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

Darkness at Noon (Sonnenfinsternis) by Arthur Koestler (1940, L) – Rubashov is held as a political prisoner and is tried for treason. The novel is divided into three hearings. With each hearing, the reader is egged to read on to find out if Rubashov will admit the false accusations against him or not. It is a rather suspenseful allegorical novel that brings us to mind the malpractices of Communism.

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Format: [Title] ([Original Title]) by [Author] ([Publication Year, LSS Meter Level])


This is part of the Literary Snobbery Series (LSS).

Filipino Friday

Filipino ReaderCon 2014 – Filipino Friday 1: Surprise, Reader!

Hello, Filipino Friday! I welcome you with open arms. Your arrival could only mean one thing: Filipino ReaderCon 2014 is just around the corner.

Let us now get to Filipino Friday 1‘s topic, shall we?

Surprise, Reader! Hello, it’s the first week of Filipino Fridays 2014! Whether it’s your first time to participate or not, tell us a bit about yourself. More specifically, tell us about your favorite book discoveries for this year. Any author you started reading this year that you can’t get enough of? A book you didn’t think you’d like, but you ended up liking/loving? Any book series that you just have to get your hands on? Have you discovered anything new from Filipino authors this year?

Hi! I’m Angus, a technical writer and a member of Goodreads – The Filipino Group (TFG), an online/offline book club. Below are my responses to this week’s meme:

  • Favorite book discoveries for this year
    • The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford – Darn those precocious kids!
    • Tenth of December by George Saunders – the deserving inaugural winner of The Folio Prize.
    • Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson – my new all-time favorite.
  • Authors I started reading this year that I can’t get enough of – The same authors of the books above.
  • Books I didn’t think I’d like but ended up liking – I don’t have anything of that sort because I’ve long adapted a mindset of not pre-hating a book, but I do have books that I think I’d like but ended up disliking. They are:
    • If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino – overdone.
    • The Trial by Franz Kafka – convinced me that unfinished manuscripts should be left alone.
  • Book series that I just have to get my hands on
    • Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling – I’ve munched on the first four installments during the 2013 Christmas season up to January 2014. I don’t understand why I couldn’t make myself read the fifth book.
    • Twisted series by Jessica Zafra – I’ve reread the latter installments, particularly 8 and 8 1/2.
  • Discoveries from Filipino authors this year – None, but I’m excited to get a print copy of Ana Tejano‘s Fall Like Rain.

That’s it for me. See you next week for the next installment!


For more information on the Filipino ReaderCon 2014, visit any of the following:

Bookish rants & raves. Rhapsodizing thoughts & feelings.

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