‘Courtiers’, by Valentine Low

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Queen Elizabeth II left this world, she left the palace door open from upstairs and downstairs. And it’s not a Downtown Abby because it’s not a palace, and we are talking about King, Queen’s Consort, Prince and Princess, Duke and Dutches, and the people who serve them of all levels. Indeed, the Royals do not manage their affairs without their helpers. This is a book about those helpers, especially the upper ranks called “Courtiers,” who have existed since the days of yore. Glamorous and fanciful as they may sound, the courtiers are the royal equivalent of assistants and secretaries in bureaucratic and industrial organizations. This book is about these helpers who deserve to be cast spotlights for their physical and mental hard work.

Working with the royals, as it were, is not much different from working with lawyers or any corporate heads or any paying masters who are at the helm of your livelihood in the real world. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of your bosses for fear of rage-firing or losing their favor for your financial security, which will affect your and your family’s welfare. When I learned that King Charles III sacked his long-term employees in Clarance House who had been loyal in their service to him and his family before the coronation, I was immediately on the side of the forlorn subjects whose lives were now upended with the loss of their steady income. Indeed, some of them might have received compensation that would give them enough not to worry about their future. Still, losing a job is undoubtedly a blow to mental equanimity, let alone material necessities. According to the narrative, the royal temper is a legacy of Elizabeth I to his son Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. Harry is notorious for his tempestuous tendencies that have made the courtiers disaffected and displeased with the person. His precarious and unpredictable behaviors and inconsiderate remarks towards people who assist him contribute to the criticism of his wife Megan, who is also infamous for arrogant and unthoughtful deportment. The couple might have won the public’s sympathy, not in the least thanks to the power of Oprah, who took them under her aegis against the racist royal family and the British general, who discriminated against Megan for her being “exotic.” Stephen King once said that if you want to know what kind of person they are, you must go backstage with them. I am not hell-bent on slandering the duke and dutchess. Still, it will be an injustice, discrimination even, to forego or ignore what the courtiers witness and think about the famous glittering couple who has become one of the most scintillating Tinsletown couples in the world.

It seems to me that this book wants to give a fair chance to the people who rendered their services to these whimsical and capricious royal families, given that the courtiers have become targets of criticism for discrimination against Harry and Megan. Charles’s infamous temper is comparingly forgivable because that’s what kings and queens have been like, as it is their blood-blood characteristic. But Harry is a proud prince who champions equality on the one hand and hypocrisy on the other hand. If he really cares about his wife’s privacy and respectful treatment against racial discrimination that the couple so always clamoursuly voices about, then they should also equally care about those of the people who work for and under them, no matter how different opinions they may have. People who believe Harry and Megan deserve sympathy should look closely around them because there should be those who really deserve sympathy and understanding in situations far worse than the rich and famous duke and dutchess. In light of the above, I like reading this book that draws the curtains behind the royal stages where the courtiers busy themselves pleasing the spoiled royals. By the way, Princes William and Harry lounge around the palace in flip-flops and treat their guests or interview their employees at interviews to tea in a nondescript mug, not a royal china teacup.

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Later by Stephen King

What seems abnormal may be normal to you. Seeing dead people may not be the most pleasant talent, but if that’s what you are born with, then it’s normal, and you have to live with it through Kubla-Ross’s famous five stages of dying. That happens to Jamie in his narrative of the coming-of-age proclamation of his identity in this story.

Dead people are like quiet people lurking in the background of Jamie’s life. They appear to him as the last moments of their earthly lives, talking and joking to Jamie, who can see and hear them, albeit rather unreluctantly, because he’s not much pleased with his uncanny ability. But then it’s the discerning talent -says the Bible – that helps him know who he is, like an epiphany of a family secret locked in his uncle’s lost memories, thanks to nature’s force of dementia. However, this story is not so much a psychological thriller as a supernatural drama that is so characteristic of Stephen King’s novels, with a level of uncanniness combined with realism that makes his stories all the more real and relatable. The settings, the dialogues, and the jobs the characters have are not far-fetched, fanciful, or bourgeoisie, all of which attest to King’s engagingly realistic storytelling skills.

Later is a three-fold story of horror without goriness, mystery without glamour, and bildungsroman without teenage angst. King has a unique knack for incorporating popular entertainment with serious literature that attracts readers of all generations and classes. He is a literary descendant of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, and Edgar Allen Poe, who defined American literature in the constellation of the World’s Literature for the joy of the beholders from generation to generation. All in all, this book will be one of the stars in the constellation.

‘I’m Glad My Mom Died’ by Jennette McCurdy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first learned of this sensationally titled book with the pinky perky cover photo of the author from the New York Times Book Review, I knew I had to read it because of its boldness and frankness that I believe would strike the chords of many who must have felt or wished it (let’s be honest). However, it was more like seeking a kindred spirit in such a titled book because I felt exhilarated with camaraderie and, once exonerated from such membership, a desire to revolt against mothers.

But the book isn’t an angst-ridden, hate-filled, violence-saturated memoir nowadays in-vogue among celebrities who live to tell their dark life histories. Although it isn’t precisely wholesomely hall-mark like loving family history, it is worth pointing out the moments of love and warmth that childhood memories sometimes invoke because we thrive as human beings on those memories. McCurdy’s mother may not have been perfect, but who is an ideal mother anyway? The Bard once said that look not with the eye but with the mind. She was the one who saw talents in her daughter, encouraged them, and made them blossom into a pink dandelion when many parents either ignore or overlook the bests of their children for their future. Although I can understand McCurdy’s disaffection with her passionate mother controlling her life, I am envious of having such a mother who was willing to sacrifice her hard labor for her daughter’s success.

The cover photo is puzzling. The author has a smile but not smiling, or instead trying to smile but is subdued as if her emotions are changing instantly or frozen in the moments between joy and sadness, independence and confusion in the transition of belonging to freedom. I can’t honestly fathom what the author thinks inside, but one thing is certain she loves her mother, who is now unburdened with the cares and pain of the world. Perhaps, that is why she is glad her mother died.

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