Books to Read: August 2013

Books to Read: August 2013

I do not know if it would make any sense to post a reading plan for this month because I have only finished one book for July and I am only adding one new entry. Shame, shame. But for the sake of keeping up with this monthly post, here we go.

The Left Stack (books I want to read soon and books I need to read soon):

  • The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis – from June.
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – from July.
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski - from May.
  • A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes – from May.
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan – from July.
  • Steps by Jerzy Kosinski – from July.
  • Tall Story by Candy Gourlay – our book of the month.
  • Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver – from July.

The Right Stack (books I have finished and books I have yet to finish):

  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - from June. Currently on page 191.
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace - from May. Currently on page 258.
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – from January. Currently on page 359.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez - from July. 3 out of 5 stars.

I have to confess something. I am not good at reading multiple books concurrently. So what I intend to do is that I’m going to finish all the books that I am currently reading. Yes, that includes Les Miserables. It’s most likely that you’ll see the same set of books every first of the month, unless I manage to finish all of them this month. Then I’ll go back to monogamous reading.

And yeah, I’ll be on vacation next week. I am not going anywhere though; it’s just that I managed to get a short break before I start on my new job. If you really want to know, tomorrow is going to be my last day with my current employer. At the moment of typing, the music blasting from my earphones is Keane’s Leaving So Soon; I’ve been here for 25 months. It was fun, but I think I should try doing something else.

Anyway, the short interim period gives me time to finish Great Expectations and to catch up on Infinite Jest (and Les Miserables). I am excited to just lie on my bed and read and reset myself.

F2F19: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

TFG’s Book of the Month for July: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Love in the Time of Cholera Face to Face Book Discussion Details:

  • Date: July 27, 2013
  • Place: Gayuma ni Maria, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City
  • Time: 3 PM to 7 PM
  • Discussion Leaders: Bennard and Rhena
  • Attendees: Me, Aaron, Aldrin (with girlfriend May), Alexa, Berna, Camille, Cary, Chika, Emir, Gay (newbie), Ingrid, JL, Mae, Mavic, Monique, Patrick, Pauline (my first recruit; with Alyanna), Ranee, SherylTina, Veronica, Ycel
  • Food I Ate: Please Be Careful with My Heart (baked chicken with lemon and garlic), Beats Sex Anyday (chocolate cake), I Love My Banana (banana cake), Twisted Pavlova (I stole bites of the three cakes from my seatmates)
  • Post-discussion Activity: Sharing of short anecdotes about love. Enough said.
  • After the Book Discussion: Bookay-Ukay, then dinner and beer at Tomato Kick.
  • Other Nominated Books: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Discussion Time

Discussion Time


Thoughts from the Members:

[From Anna:]

What I love about this book is its ability to establish the love story, without having the romantic lines. I hate romance books. Love can be everywhere. But this is the most seductive and sensual book I ever read.

[From Camille:]

The characters are shown in such a unique light, so much that their personalities are so intense, they almost seem to be talking to you off-page. Ariza himself is not shown as an angelic fairytale prince; rather, he is shown as a man who, though loyal and true, has within him faults, mistakes and failures. (Let us also not forget that Fermina Daza, the woman he loves so dearly, had looked at him with disdain and disgust at more than one point of her life, due to his physical attributes.)

[From Marian:]

I liked how Marquez was able to portray the frame of thought of different people from widows, old maids, wives & whores. How these women cope with their tragedies and triumph, the naughty thoughts they bear beneath those compassionate faces. But how come, Marquez has less thoughts from a male perspective? As I can remember with all of his male character, it was only Florentino who had elaborate thoughts..and it made him look weak and helpless. Florentino IS the damsel in distress.

[From Monique:]

The love story of Florentino and Fermina is one that will forever be remembered, the perfect novel to illustrate “fate” and “destiny”. I appreciate this book so much more than “100 Years of Solitude” not because this is a love story, but because it was a much more compelling read. Years after I first read this book, I can still imagine the central characters and the unfolding of their story.

[From Ranee:]

This book is set in the majestic backdrop of the Carribean and the change it had to endure in those 50 years. It places us in that period where revolution was everywhere. It reeked with deaths found in the mountains by militant men who talks of war when the battle was really about not respecting each other’s opinions and in the sewers because the people only know of trash but not of sanitation. But the city was also the scene of the greatest lover of its time. Marquez has a penchant for such livid words that could infect his readers to either fall in love with his characters or hate them. His formula for this story, even if it was set in a different period is still relevant in this day and age. He was able to show the ability of a civilization to change the topography of its city, to bring in culture with its art and music. And, he was also able to show that civilization may be detrimental to its natural fauna and flora. But above all,he was able to show the tenacity of people to fall in love in all circumstances, may it be constructive or destructive.

My thoughts to follow.

The Attendees of F2F19

The Attendees of F2F19

Photos courtesy of Pauline.

Books to Read: July 2013

Books to Read: July 2013

Here are my July reading plans and my June accomplishment report:

The Left Stack (books I want to read soon and books I need to read soon):

  • The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis – from June.
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – it almost won the book of the month for our book club.
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski - from May.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez - our book of the month.
  • A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes – from May.
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan – I want to read something short.
  • Steps by Jerzy Kosinski – this is another short work, which resembles a collection of short stories.
  • Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver – a legit collection of short stories.

The Right Stack (books I have finished and books I have yet to finish):

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald - from June. 3 out of 5 stars.
  • Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis - from May. 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - from June. Currently on page 96.
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace - from May. Currently on page 240.
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – from January. Currently on page 359.
  • Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata - from June. 3 out of 5 stars.
  • This Is Water by David Foster Wallace - from June. 5 out of 5 stars.
No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Unmagical Realism – No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories consists of one novella, which is the title story, and eight other ones. These are dense with the seemingly insignificant lives of people living in a South American village. The unnamed villagers, each portrayed separately among the stories, are portrayed as despondent people who could either be hanging on to hope or resigned to utter hopelessness. After every story, the mood seems to get bleaker, but the compassionate writing of one of South America’s best writers makes the reader go until the end.


Readers familiar with the Nobel laureate’s books, particularly One Hundred Years of Solitude, will find this a strange departure from the regular Marquez oeuvre. Elements from the school of magic realism are rarely found and, in fact, only present in one of the stories. Readers who are looking for those must prepare themselves to prevent disappointment, but this collection will not go as far as that.

Cross out magic and you get realism. People and places are depicted as they are seen by the naked eye. In fact, the reader could perspire with the characters as they walk around the town under the sweltering heat of the sun, not to mention the pangs of hunger that they try to ignore and the troubles that tug their hearts.

The postmaster delivered his mail. He put the rest in the bag and closed it again. The doctor got ready to read two personal letters, but before tearing open the envelopes he looked at the colonel. Then he looked at the postmaster.

“Nothing for the colonel?”

The colonel was terrified. The postmaster tossed the bag onto his shoulder, got off the platform, and replied without turning his head:

“No one writes to the colonel.”

Most of the stories deal with people struggling through lives strained by poverty. The characters’ situations are both touching and funny wherein the former is considered with a heavy sigh as the last trace of smirk is gone from the reader’s face. Consider an unlicensed dentist extracting the tooth of another without anesthesia in One of These Days. Consider a man stealing billiard balls for nothing in There Are No Thieves in This Town. Consider a man giving away an ornate bird-cage that’s supposed to bring food to their tables in Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon. Consider a priest repetitively saying that he has seen the devil in One Day After Saturday.

[It was a lower wisdom tooth. The dentist spread his feet and grasped the tooth with the hot forceps. The Mayor seized the arms of the chair, braced his feet with all his strength, and felt an icy void in his kidneys, but didn't make a sound. The dentist moved only his wrist. Without rancor, rather with a bitter tenderness, he said:

"Now you'll pay for our twenty dead men."]

There is dark humor bubbling at the surface of each, but as we digest each story, we dissect the characters to a get a taste of the intentions behind the things that they do. In my favorite story here, One of These Days, the patient who gets the painful extraction is a corrupt government official. He intimidates the dentist into taking out the rotten tooth despite the latter’s efforts to hide from him. He does so, but not without vengeance. No anesthesia due to an abscess. He proceeds to pull the tooth out of the official’s mouth with a silent aggression that screams of triumph.

In a book discussion that I attended for this, it was pointed out that the pulling of the rotten tooth is a metaphor for the wiping out of corruption through quiet violence. It could be, and that is the beauty of it. One can interpret the actions of Marquez’s characters in many ways and no one will be incorrect.

And this story is just four pages long.

["It's a sin to take the food out of our mouths to give it to a rooster."

The colonel wiped her forehead with the sheet.

"Nobody dies in three months."

"And what do we eat in the meantime?" the woman asked.

"I don't know," the colonel said. "But if we were going to die of hunger, we would have died already."]

In the title story, the colonel patiently waits for his pension for a decade and a half. He keeps visiting the post office for any letter from the government only to come back to his wife empty-handed. They have nothing; they even pretend to cook by boiling stones just to the neighbors wouldn’t find out that they do not have anything to eat.

But they do have a rooster. The colonel starves himself and his wife just so the rooster could eat. They wage everything on that rooster; who knows it might bring them a lot of money on an auspicious day in a cockfight. But there are mouths to feed and health problems to treat. What are they going to do? What are they going to eat?

The story was inspired from the writer’s grandfather, a colonel who also never received any pension. It was also boldly published shortly after the civil war in Colombia between the 1940s and 1950s. The political turmoil going on in the country is reflected in this collection; fragments of a corrupt government are depicted on the pages. In the last story, Big Mama’s Funeral, people clean up the garbage off the streets right after Big Mama, an absolute power, was buried. This collection will remind people to keep sweeping away any trash on the streets.


Dates Read: November 20 to 24, 2012

No. of Pages: 170

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Pre-Christmas Pile

I hoarded just a bit before the Christmas shoppers go crazy

I will try my best to make this pile (plus the secret pile that I bought for exchange gifts) to be my last book shopping for this year. For us bibliophiles, there’s nothing wrong in shopping for books that you know you won’t be reading anytime soon, but you see, I’m planning two trips in the next few months, so I have to save whatever money that I have remaining. Besides, it has been some time since I last shopped for books. It must have been four weeks ago, so you can just imagine those agonizing times when I go out of a book store empty-handed.

This pile is one of my favorites for this year. First, there is a collection of poetry. Second, there are two short story collections. Third, there is an assortment of trade paperbacks, mass markets, and hardbounds. Fourth, there are gifts. Fifth, there is a number of novels by a single author. Sixth, there is a study guide. Hmm, need I say more?

  • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda (November 17) – given to me by Kwesi. Thanks! This is supposed to be a Christmas gift. But I wonder why he gave it to me a month earlier? Probably because he felt the need to give back something when I bought him a copy of…
  • No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (November 18, Fully Booked – Gateway) – Yes, I also bought myself a copy. I promised Marie that I will attend her book discussion of this. So yes, my attendance makes me a participant of two book clubs, and I don’t think that’s bad. It’s actually fun. You have two sets of people that love talking about books.
  • Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (November 8) – sent to me by a representative of Doubleday Publishing as a review copy. You probably know that I am not attracted by HBs, but if it’s free, why not? And oh, I first thought that it was an ARC, but no, this is the real thing. Thanks!
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (November 9, Book Sale – Makati Square) – I felt that I had to start buying every Ian McEwan book that’s on my wishlist the moment I got the book above, so when Aenna alerted me that she saw a copy of this at a nearby Book Sale branch, I ran to get it. And I did that during office hours.
  • Saturday by Ian McEwan (November 24) – I got this at a book bazaar inside the University of the Philippines campus. I can no longer recall its price. It’s either Php 250.00 or Php 300.00.
  • The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan – I just wanted to include this here because I didn’t realize that I already have a copy. If you are wondering what McEwan novel I still have to buy, that would be Black Dogs. Looks like I’m going to be a fan despite the fact that I’ve only read one McEwan novel.
  • Point Counter Point by Aldous Huxley (November 24, Php 110.00) – I also got this at another book bazaar inside the UP campus. I’ve been hunting a copy of this for a long time, so I don’t mind that it’s a mass market edition. I’m shocked by its length though. It’s close to 500 pages, and the font size is so small.
  • Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (November 24, Bookay Ukay, Php 120.00) – I was targeting the trade paperback edition sold at regular book stores, but I decided to buy this mass market edition because it’s the ones at regular book stores are so expensive, and I feel bad paying a huge amount of money for slim books.
  • Cathedral by Raymond Carver (November 25, Fully Booked – The Fort, Php 630.00) – I have a feeling that I will become a Raymond Carver fan. I’ve already listed the Carver  books that I have to buy. Unfortunately, this is the only one that I could find, but it will do. I can wait for other titles to make their appearance at our book stores.
  • Sparknotes: Ulysses by James Joyce (November 24, Bookay Ukay, Php 60.00) – Okay, I admit that I felt like a loser when I paid for this. I’ve already mentioned in some of my posts that I am having a hard time with Ulysses, so I figured that I should seek help in understanding it. Some of the great writers that I’ve read revere this work, and as of now, I can’t see why. I want to know why, hence, this study guide.

How about you? What do you feel about study guides? Do you think they are necessary in understanding certain books? Do you think that they are merely the perspectives of other readers? Do they make you feel incompetent? Do they make you feel like a cheater?