Category Archives: book review

notice of errata to the caveat emptor

George Mallory, a Himalayan mountain climber perishing on Mount Everest three decades before Sir Edmund Hillary reached the highest peak of the selfsame mountain, gave the simple reason for doing what seemed to be impossible to an inquisitive interviewer: “Because it’s there.” The answer echoes Leonardo Da Vinci’s axiom of “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” It also chimes the bell of my reason for writing: “Because it’s my pleasure.” It is what I like doing for the sheer egotistical practice and for the aesthetic pleasure expressed in my literary world. Hence, my blog is my library, a kind of the Mathom-House in the Shire, inhibited by Hobbits.

Here’s caveat emptor to using this library: (1) Frivolous subscriptions to a catalog of my writings without legitimate appreciation results in deletion; (2) Tramping by unidentified readers with fake accounts and cretin marketing websites to peep into the words of the mind is a violation of privacy; and (3) Whimsical changes of like and unlike of my writings for reasons clandestine are to be curbed. Since I do not write to cause a traffic jam in my statistics of posts, I don’t pursue a high number of the melee or rabble intent for awards or thousands of comments or fans for their “blogs”.

Writing is an act of translating one’s inner world into a textual reality in which others can pass over to the world of the author as members of Humanity. As William Wordsworth would have agreed, I fill my paper with the diamonds of my heart. Therefore, I write. Hence I deem it fit to conclude this post with the following axiom by C.S. Lewis: “You can make anything by writing.” Ditto.

P.S. One never learns. After I published this post, those lumpish ones kept following my Blog without even appreciating it. Woe to those who plague my sovereign library! Hark! I monitor my Blog every time I get notifications via e-mail and suss out the profiles of readers of my Blog. Deletions are, therefore, purely subject to my discretion. What else can I say? Albert Einstein speaks for myself: 

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

‘Cat Power: A Good Woman’, by Elizabeth Goodman – review

Cat Power: A Good WomanCat Power: A Good Woman by Elizabeth Goodman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first saw Chan Marshall singing in 2007 Chanel Haute Couture, while models were swanning around like ethereal fairies in gorgeous Chanel wardrobes. Better known as her stage name “Cat Power,” she was the Queen of the Show in her graceful poise whimsically mixed with her super cool urban retro chic fashion singing a soulful and powerful melody of ballads like a stylish bohemian troubadour. So I downloaded her songs from iTunes and loved her solitary lyrics imbued with Southern blues soul and offbeat timbres probably as a result of her elbow room in the beloved New York City. To top it all off, Chan Marshall became one of My Nine Muses.

Cat Power: A Good Woman by Elizabeth Goodman is a beautifully written memoir of the enigmatic singer as a result of Goodman’s own adoration of the singer as a fan. Of all other books on Chan Marshall, this book is par excellence in the context of regarding the beautiful play of words, the elliptical table of contents, the journalistic efforts to sleuth for buried truths, and the audacity to publish all of it against her adored heroine’s own disapproval thereof afterwards because the book seemed to lay it all bare in public. But Ms. Marshall’s worries could have been rest assured, for the book makes her all the more human and real, imparting a sense of empathy and sympathy because all her frailties and foibles, in one way or another, strike the chords with ours as well. Does every body not have a dark registrar and think the cold star on a wide sea seems to betoken one’s life? Goodman whose writing feat had achieved grace in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and NME (“New Musical Express”) knew the universal ethos of such human conditions that had also enveloped the beautiful musician in the person of Chan Marshall. The title of the book is a summation of Goodman’s reality of the star.

In sum, the book is a comprehensive memoir of Chan Marshall, who reminds me of a cross between Francoise Hardy in style and Patti Smith in music. In the peculiar alchemy of literature, Goodman wielded her writer wand to conjure up the image of Chan Marshall in the book that also appositely strikes the cover of the book. Pace the criticism of the book as a rip-off from Ms. Marshall’s privacy and of the author as a jilted ex-friend for the reason unknown, it is worth the reading by the sheer enjoyment of good writing and Goodman’s affinity for popular culture, especially in music.

‘Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild’, by Dav Pilkey – review

Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild (Dog Man, #6)Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild by Dav Pilkey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Half humanoid, half canine guardian of justice and humanity in league of his unforgettably formidable allies saves the city from evil villains set out to plague it in as much annoying way as fleas on a poor dog’s body. Hip, Hip, Hooray for Dog Man, our unlikely but likable hero that deserves of our heartfelt hoot and hollow. To contradict the usual glorification of hero-worshiping façade, Dog Man is none of your familiar super heroes in Marvel Comic Strips, nor is he like Batman, Superman, or even Iron man who seems to possess vulnerable human traits, and yet is equipped with wondrously technological gizmos or alien superpower. Contrariwise, Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man wonderfully embodies all things related to our unfavorable human tendencies that cloud our wondrous potential abilities – insecurity, disappointment, loneliness, and diffidence as deeply felt by Pilkey himself as a child diagnosed with Dyslexia and ADHD at school.

Pace the generalization of the book as being intent for children, this book is inclusive of literature, philosophy, and sociology contextualized in the story and delineated in the characters without gravitas of the academia. Take Dog Man, who finds himself estranged from his colleagues at his police station except his boss, Chief. Dog Man cannot talk for the reason because he’s a dog with a human body used to belong to his K-9 policeman killed in action. As the title “The Brawl of the Wild” adumbrates, Dog Man is in a way reminiscent of Buck, the sled dog in Jack London’s classic The Call of the Wild that comes to term with his fate and even reconciliation with a treacherous human in the person of Thornton. Then there are Petey, who is supposedly a sinister jailbird, but in fact softy inside, his cute young son Li’l Petey, who never gives up on his jail- bound father Petey in his joint collaboration with Dog Man in rescue operation of the city, and stern but benevolent Chief, who seems to defend Dog Man against unjust and unfair treatments from his fellow policeman/policewomen and the pompous judge. Wisecraking and heartwarming, hilarious and sentimental, intelligent and vivacious, each of the chapters is smoothly linked to the next one with amusing in-between intermissions that deserves of the separate theaters of appreciation.

The book is an enjoyable parade of laugh and compassion wrapped up in delightful amusement of vivid colors and elegantly profound dialogues, which can be made possible by an insightful and observant author who stands with the reader and sees hope and goodness mired in the despair of hopelessness and wickedness at the heart of humanity. I recommend this book to all who want to spend their time reading something jovial and funny after a long hard day or just to fill their minds and hearts with a fresh breath of air. This is a scintillating read that evokes a wide arc of thoughtfulness and imagination in the minds of readers both young and old, and the young at heart.

 

‘The Wehrmacht: Last Witnesses’, by Bob Carruthers – review

The Wehrmacht: Last WitnessesThe Wehrmacht: Last Witnesses by Bob Carruthers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The pomp and pageantry of polished military parade was a handsome sight to behold: the glory of valor, the canopy of military prowess marching in illustrious formation to Beethoven’s mettlesome “Yorckscher March” all seemed ebulliently auspicious for the Fuhrer, for the Fatherland, and for the People of Germania. And then was heard no more. Woe betided the soldiers lured by such sensual grandeur of militarism meticulously embroidered on piquant propaganda into the March of Carnage at the expense of their youthful dreams and hopes shattered by shells and shrapnel of weapons of killing. Or those whose existential dilemma left them but a choice of going to war found themselves hostages to Goddess Fortuna.

The detritus of destroyed arms, scorched earth, and blood-stained uniforms might have been washed up by the tides of time, but the memories, willed or unwilled, still remain in the minds of the former Wehrmacht (German military forces of the Third Reich) veterans and tell the stories of their firsthand experiences of war in their own words like tesserae religiously put together in a mosaic of humanity. It’s all here in this book, bereft of acerbic decry of the “Nazi” soldiers, packed full of imperturbable accounts of the fading warriors.

In the historical tradition of Thucydides, whose credo was to examine the validity of any popular beliefs for historical objectivity based on factual information, this book follows the ancient credo of providing factual reports of the reality of war in the context of the soldiers’ individual experiences of life and death based on unambiguous, substantive eye-witness account. The reader will get to see the phantasmagorical display of images of war as filmed by each of the veterans presented in a way that it creates a feeling of watching a neorealist film of straightforward nature made by a hand-held camcorder. In all considerations, this book is worth the reading to appreciate the tribulations and personal experiences of the soldiers of the much despised and feared military forces during World War II because after all, they were also humans who fought for their own lives against the showers of shells and shrapnel. To conclude, no other poet than W.H. Auden could have chimed the bells of emotions and feelings of the soldiers this resonantly in his poem Spain:

To-day the deliberate increase in the chances of death, the conscious acceptance of guilt in the necessary murder; to-day the expending of powers on the flat ephemeral pamphlet and the boring meeting.

To-day the makeshift consolations: the shared cigarette, the cards in the candlelit barn, and the scraping concert, the masculine jokes; to-day the Fumbled and unsatisfactory embrace before hurting.

The stars are dead. The animals will not look. We are left alone with our day, and the time is short, and history to the defeated may say Alas but cannot help or pardon.

 

dare to be an egoist

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Charles Lamb (1755-1834), an English essayist and a clerk in the Accountant’s Department of the East Indies Company, rhapsodized about a solipsistic ritual of mealtime. “Oh, the pleasure of eating my dinner alone!” Seraphina also liked to have lunch by herself. No, she’s not antisocial or misanthropic into the bargain. It’s just that after enduring what with blaring tempers of her lawyer bosses and what with her worldly wayward female co-workers who shared none of her character and interest, a solitary lunchtime was her much-needed lull before the second part of a daily drama or comedy at work. However, these days Seraphina’s lunchtimes had been punctuated by almighty workloads and ceaseless insipid tweets of her co-workers, whereupon Seraphina wrote a letter to Wise Mary for motherly advice and received her heartwarming and feasible reply promptly.

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Dear Seraphina,

What I gather from your account is that you yearn for romantic independence and existential freedom in the sense that this reality of daily life is unbearable to deal with to your introverted self that longs for pure selfhood defined by a proud indifference to social convention, forced socialization. I see your dilemma: whereas professional artists who earn their living by their pictures and letters achieve grace through their oeuvres, you can’t live your life like theirs that seem far-fetched, abstract, and impractical to lead a solipsistic life. Today’s world of hyperactivity and self-promotion has made an outlaw of silence. Hence, the contemporary culture pathologizes sui generis individuality, contriving a perfectly sane person into a classic basket case. Notwithstanding all this public animosity toward your deposition, you can still keep your studied solitude and sovereign independence by keep focusing your creative spirit on your reading and writing and making it as your primary reality, while fulfilling demands placed upon your daily tasks at work as an existential means to your ultimate cause for self-confidence and self-esteem. In this regard, modus vivendi is needful to make your life easier; you compromise your way of life with existential needs of life without losing your personal independence. And think simply and act smartly. Have patience with all things but first of all with yourself. Refrain from anxiety, turn from impatience. Do not fret, for it only leads to trouble. Hope this helps.

Yours in Love,

Wise Mary

fe8e1396fdfe9fd607d647a2fce31842Upon reading this thoughtful and caring reply of advice from Wise Mary, Seraphina’s doldrums were cast away in her emotional course charted in the sea of unknown tomorrows. And her blithe, proud rendering of reclusiveness and independence encapsulated in her refrain of “Let it be me.” She recited that her wallowing egotism and studied aloofness were not toxic traits of punishable narcissism but a manifestation of human nature to glory in the sacredness of solitude to distill things heard, seen, and experienced in the world into her own realm of consciousness to construct a reality of the world from within. Dared to be a proud solipsist, Seraphina would make sure that she would enjoy her lunch alone reading and writing with a cup of coffee no matter what.