TFG’s Book of the Month for August: Fear of Flying by Erica Jong

F2F32: Fear of Flying by Erica Jong

Fear of Flying Face to Face Book Discussion Details:

  • Date: August 16, 2014
  • Place: Titania Wine Cellar, San Antonio Village, Makati City
  • Time: 2 PM to 6 PM
  • Discussion Leader: Marie
  • Attendees: Me, Aaron, AlonaCamilleElla, Gwaxa, Farrah (newbie), Ingrid, Louize, MariaMelizaMonique, Peter (newbie), Ranee, Rhett (newbie), Tricia, Ycel, Veronica
  • Food I Ate: I had lunch at a nearby resto (buffalo wings, rice, quesadillas, beer), so I just sipped red wine. I forget what kind of red wine it was.
  • Activities: Charades. The words we guessed were, well, adult words. Such as the now infamous blowjob, thanks to one of our members’ “great expectations.”
  • After the Book Discussion: Most of us watched the musical The Last Five Years. A few of us ate dinner and had coffee. I was with the latter.
  • Other Nominated Books: The Lover by Marguerite Duras and Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller.
Discussion Time

Discussion Time

The F2F32 Attendees

The F2F32 Attendees

  • Next Month: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. If you wish to join us, please visit the discussion thread and the Facebook event for more details.

Photos courtesy of Monique and Ycel.

TFG’s Book of the Month for July: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

F2F31: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities Face to Face Book Discussion Details:

  • Date: July 26, 2014
  • Place: Cab Cafe, Kapitolyo, Pasig City
  • Time: 3 PM to 6 PM
  • Discussion Leaders: Camille and Ycel
  • Attendees: Me, Ella, Gwaxa, KristelLouize, Marie, Monique, Ranee, Veronica
  • Food I Ate: Cafe latte and violet guava tea (I already ate before arriving at the venue).
  • Activities: A trivia game à la Game of the Generals where you have to scream and send the other team to the guillotine. Well, not really but I guess it could work that way.
  • After the Book Discussion: Dinner at Cafe Juanita.
  • Other Nominated Books: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Discussion Time

Discussion Time

The F2F31 Attendees

The F2F31 Attendees

Photos courtesy of Camille and Monique.

Book Report: July 2014

Book Report: July 2014

This is super late. If you really want to know why I am only posting this now and why I haven’t been keeping you updated, I just moved to a new place. Hurrah? Hurrah! And I am still in the process of transferring my Internet account to our new humble hole.

So yeah, I’m using my break time at the office to blog. Here’s the July Report (plus the first ten days of August):

Books Finished:

  • Fear of Flying by Erica Jong – 4 out of 5 stars. I didn’t give a flying fuck about morality when I read this. Yeah, I just typed fuck because this is about a woman’s search for a zipless fuck. It’s our August book of the month. (Php 648.00, Fully Booked – Rockwell, July 12)
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – 5 out of 5 stars. Read with Kristel, Maria, and Monique. This is such a great book that I managed to post a review of it a few days after I finished it. A discussion over lunch with two of my reading buddies topped off my HoL reading experience.
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – 5 out of 5 stars. I’m a fan! Each character in this book is just so real.
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – 3 out of 5 stars. Our September book of the month. I’m ahead because I only borrowed Monique‘s copy. Should I get my own copy? If you read my rating again, you’ll find out the answer to it.
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – 4 out of 5 stars. Our July book of the month. This is my second serving of Dickens and I think there’s still space for me for more.

Currently Reading:

  • The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer – Currently on page 69 of 267. Gordimer’s death pushed me to read this. I’ve paused for a couple of weeks and now I’m back on track.
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – Currently on page 211 of 604. Now I can really face this again. I have more time for I am done with my required readings and I’m done unpacking my stuff. Wooh!

New Books:

  • A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion – Didion is known for her nonfiction, but her fiction is also great. (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, July 21)
  • The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart – How can you resist that cover? (USD 14.00, The Book Depository, June 26)
  • The Captive Mind by Czesław Miłosz – From a Polish Nobel laureate. (Php 200.00, Undertow Books, July 21)
  • Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman – My second Grossman. I haven’t read him yet, but I can’t resist this copy. (Php 200.00, Indio Bravo, July 23)
  • Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser – Instead of refunding money from TBD, I refunded a book. (USD 12.27, The Book Depository, July 31).
  • The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion – Another novel from someone whom I think will be another favorite writer. (Php 250.00, Undertow Books, July 21)
  • The Murderess by Alexandros Papadiamantes – This is also another refund. (USD 10.50, The Book Depository, July 31)
  • Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth – A National Book Award winner. I’m not keen on those winners, but since I have too many of those books, it wouldn’t hurt to add another one. (Php 180.00, Indio Bravo, July 23)
  • Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton – Yes, this is an NYRB Classics month. (Php 646.20, Fully Booked – BGC, August 2)
  • View with a Grain of Sand by Wisława Szymborska – From another Polish Nobel laureate. (Php 300.00, Undertow Books, July 21)

A Love Story Framed Within a House of Horror – House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

It is a curious thing to have a chat with a book store manager who is ardently recommending a book to a customer. I was such a lucky customer, and upon browsing the book being recommended to me, I was amazed to see the text artfully laid out on the creamy pages. Mirrored text, inverted text, scattered text, text grouped in tight squares, text running at the bottom of the page, and text forming circles. This is what I came to know later as an example of ergodic literature.

It is a curious thing to see a single word printed in a different color. House, haus, maison, domus are all rendered in blue. Further scanning revealed footnotes on footnotes, extensive appendices, full-color collages, and index. I was sold, so to speak, but I didn’t manage to read this book after two years.

House of Leaves (2000) is popularly known as a terrifying story about a house that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. That is only one layer of narrative because that surface story is just as expansive as the story that happens outside of it, which is definitely bigger. Such stories upon stories, I feel, demand to be read with a support group. To be blunt about it, there are three main story arcs:

  • The Navidson Record, a documentary film that deals with the aforementioned house and the family that inhabits,
  • The story of Zampano, a writer who, upon his death, leaves behind the manuscript of an academic and critical study of The Navidson Record, and
  • The story of Johnny Truant, a tattoo shop employee who stumbles upon the aforementioned manuscript.

There are many references and parallelisms with the myth of the Minotaur and his labyrinth, which one might find really interesting. The Minotaur references are supposed to be not there, according to Johnny Truant, but even if the text about it were successfully removed, one would still detect them.

The narrative style depends on which text the reader is on. The Navidson Record reads like an expository report. It presents a lot of details that one might feel are irrelevant until the thesis is presented. An example is a discussion on the physics of sound. How fast does sound travel? How soon is an echo created? How far is the source of an echo once it reaches the ears? Once the formulas and the factors are presented, the reader, as a parent, will realize the horror of hearing his or her own children’s echoing voices, who are just playing at a seemingly nearby part of the house.

Additional story arcs are left for the readers for their own theories, which are best discussed with a support group. Although this book can be read alone like any other book, the urge to discuss this after is going to start aching, an ache that demands to be soothed with the balm of a book discussion.

The artistry of the text’s layout may strike the distrusting reader as gimmicky and pretentious, but this has its purpose. It serves as the cinematography of the book, creating images in the reader’s head and an illusion for the eyes. To illustrate, some text is cramped in a tight square at the center of the page, a square that gets smaller and smaller as the character crawls through a tunnel that gets smaller and smaller until he is squirming through it on his belly. This creates not only an illusory tunnel but a feeling akin to claustrophobia.

Another example is that as the characters get lost, the text runs on the top, bottom, or edges of the page, with footnotes jumping at each other, thus making the reader just as lost as the characters in this labyrinthine reading. One may dismiss it as drivel, but it does work.

The not Kindle-friendly design demands some skill from the publisher, but more skill is demanded from the author, Mark Z. Danielewski. It actually requires a different kind of talent and intellect to put together this seemingly mashed up pulp and let the reader make sense out of it. One is always on the lookout for any coded text, suspicious misspellings, or any winking clues that are left at various places. One wonders if this indeed is a début novel.

As if that task were not daunting yet challenging enough, there are the appendices, particularly The Three Attic Whalestoe Institute Letters, which all seem to push the story further and shed a different light when the story is supposed to have ended. The truth is it all might not make any sense but the reader is still left wanting to untangle the reality from the fiction.

Perhaps the attempt to do so is the point of the book. My support group and I might not have the best theories, what with so many questions still left hanging in the air, but we are quite happy to at least have unspooled our own threads of thoughts.

I do not know anything about Art with a capital A. What I do know about is my art. Because it concerns me. I do not speak for others. So I do not speak for things which profess to speak for others. My art, however, speaks for me. It lights my way.

This is the art of reading this book. In the end, House of Leaves will continually be that horror book with the unconventional text layout, but one must not forget that at the core of it is the story of a couple, a couple named Will and Karen, trying to save their relationship as they delve so deep into their respective psychological houses, houses which reveal something about the guilt of success, the trauma of the past, the depression that is never suppressed, the fear that we don’t know exists, and the complexity of human nature.

[Read in June 2014.]
[5 out of 5 stars.]
[709 pages. Trade paperback. New.]
[Read with Kristel, Maria, and Monique.]

TFG’s Book of the Month for June: The City and the City by China Miéville

F2F30: The City and the City by China Miéville

The City and the City Face to Face Book Discussion Details:

  • Date: June 28, 2014
  • Place: Balboa, Shangri-la Plaza, Mandaluyong City
  • Time: 3 PM to 6 PM
  • Discussion Leaders: Gwaxa and Meliza
  • Attendees: Me, Aaron, Aldrin, Allan (my guest), Cary (after), Ella, Honey, Marie, Monique, Rhena, Tina, Tricia (after), Veronica, Ycel
  • Food I Ate: Banana and berry shake (I already ate before arriving at the venue).
  • Activities: True or false trivia, word games, unseeing and unhearing, and book raffle (I won one of the three books).
  • After the Book Discussion: I left right after the discussion so I don’t what the others did.
  • Other Nominated Books: Embassytown and Un Lun Dun, also by China Miéville.
Discussion Time

Discussion Time

The F2F30 Attendees

The F2F30 Attendees

  • Next Month: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. If you wish to join us, please visit the discussion thread and the event thread for more details.

Photos courtesy of Rhena and Ycel.