Archive | April, 2011

The Solitude of Prime Numbers

26 Apr

Author: Paolo Giordano

Published: 2010

Date Finished Reading: April 25, 2011

The prime number theory was beautiful. The bigger the number grows, the farther apart the pair of consecutive prime numbers. Prime numbers were the metaphor of the two protagonists of the novel — supposedly unique, rare and extrapolated from the populace. The concept, indeed, was beautiful. I was excited to read it. However, I was merely faced with two extremely unlikable characters who were broken beyond repair. Amazon says it “follows  two scarred people whose lives intersect but can’t seem to join”, which puzzled me because hardly anything was said about  relationship nurtured between the two of them in depth. To me, it was more of a story of two children who reluctantly, unwillingly stuck with each other because the rest of the world just doesn’t get them.  In short, their relationship wasn’t special enough to earn the prime number metaphor. Each suffered in his/her own special kind of hell. Alice, anorexia…Mattia, semi-autism — each handicap expected to be rich in psychodynamics. But the novel really was such a dismal read. Their characters were stagnant, changing minutely from their young self-conscious/fragile little selves. What was the point of bearing witness to sustained mediocrity?  Not that psychologically disturbed people are mediocre, mind you, but fictional character inertia begets mediocrity. After I flipped the last page, I let out a puzzled, “Huh?” Coz really, what was Giordano’s point about the hold darn thing?

Advertisements

Matched

25 Apr

Author: Ally Condie

Published: 2010

Date Finished: April 21, 2011

My second dystopian Young Adult read of the year (hopefully my last for the year) deals again with the same issues of idealism and the rebudding sexual impulse. For anyone wondering why the young adult fiction industry is populated with so many books on dystopia, provided that utopia or even a morally rigid society is a non-issue to most as of this time — it’s purpose is to externalize the inner tug-of-war of the typical female adolescent who transcends from following the poker-straight parental superego to understanding or experiencing all of these weird feelings, not just sexual in nature, but of wanting to basically just do whatever you want. A re-releasing of any form of gratification, so to speak. They may or may not coincide with what mom or dad wants, but it is the first step as an individual towards a more solid identity. In the real world, rearrangement of hormone levels, early existentialism (who the f*** am I?) and house rules are literally components of the typical teen’s dystopia.

I read this because the premise was cute but after the match, everything in the novel just goes downhill. The world Condie painted was too bland and boring– perfectly allocated calories, zero crime, no history, “mandatory” recreation, curfew. It can never exist. Why? Because everyone would die of boredom.

I found one part utterly interesting though. When granddad died expectedly at exactly 80 years old, surrounded by loved ones and with all his wits intact. As a constant witness to the injustice and cruelty of any form of dementia to elderly patients, I found this part comforting and peaceful — like listening to the beautiful last notes of my favorite Chopin piano piece then silence. Crazy but I’ll probably agree to a slow, expected, painless death right before my neurological synapses give way to wear and tear if it would mean seeing the world one last time, with full awareness, wisdom and great appreciation. Chronic paranoia and loss of sense of self will always be scarier than death. Better still to enter the abyss as me.

First 500 pages of The Idiot

25 Apr

Author: Fyodor Dostoeyevsky

Published: 1869

Date Finished Reading: ?

The world celebrates when a rare, seemingly superhuman individual is born every couple or so years, gifted with the ability to change almost everything. The exclusive club includes Leonardo Da Vinci, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, my absolute favorite, Salvador Dali…and then there’s Fyodor Dostoeyevsky.

Russian novels are scary. For one thing, they’re thick.  The Idiot has around 1,100 pages for a normal paperback. They’re reputed to be dark, sometimes cold, serious, intense and  deep — the same characteristics perhaps many people have stereotyped the Russian community itself.

I chose to read The Idiot because of the title. A story about a Russian simpleton will be, well, simpler.

So far, just a few pages of the book had made me stand in awe of how brilliant a writer he really is. The characters are so beautifully complex, and real. Very  3-dimensional, so to speak. Each person’s character is so well-differentiated, their histories explained at depth, such as you don’t judge anyone to be good or bad. We sympathize the infamous Nastassya Filippovna who is pompous on the outside but values too little of herself on the inside. We realize that Rogozhin, a foul-tempered, bipolar-ish man, merely seeks to gain/buy affection and admiration he has never gotten from his own parents. Ganya has made a balancing act of his integrity with relief of being a prisoner of  poverty (but aren’t we all co-acrobats?). Poor Colia is like any typical adolescent, desperately seeking  idealism. They are all victims of circumstance who are getting by through varying  degrees of ego strength.

My favorite though, will always be the prince. For anyone to dislike him is ineffable. He sees the world in a different colored lens. Or rather sees the world in more angles and perspectives than we do and thus is able to find any trace of goodness, no matter how small or obscure, in every person or situation. Dostoeyevsky has shown us through this man that pure goodness does exist in human form. However, the prince is an idiot.  His handicap is complete blindness to evil and corruption. He is gullible, overly sensitive and easily abused, in contrast with a wise yet good man who is aware of the power of evil and thus strengthens his barriers.

Ergo, the first half of the book throws us a question: Does a fine line really exist between idiocy (or being incapable of understanding other people’s evil mental states) and pure, untainted goodness?

April 2011

16 Apr

Jelly Belly

16 Apr

Author: Robert Kimmel

Published: 1982

Date Finished Reading: around  5th or 6th grade

A simple children’s story that never even reached Judy Blume level — this is one of the most influential books of my life. Eleven year old Ned was 4’8″, weighing 109 lbs and was forced into diet camp,  while my eleven year old self was also 4’10” weighing around 85 lbs who just happened to have a rusty 10-in-1 exercise machine at home. From 5th grade to sophomore year I steadily gained weight. Outwardly, I blamed it on the hotdogs and instant noodles I snack after school but deep inside I felt rotten because the truth was, I was just greedy.

Ok, what’s great about this book? The yummy description of food — Almond Joys, Hershey bars, egg bread, american cheese sandwiches, even. Same reason why I love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so much. But more importantly, as a preteen, it teaches you the value of responsibility. That everything that happens to you is mostly within your control — not your equally obese friends, not your loving, culinary-crazy grandma. I also love how it highlights the most important defense mechanism of all during this time, sublimation. In this case, you channel the energy harnessed within love for food to other productive, self-esteem boosting ways.

It took several years but the Jelly Belly weight program worked for me. I lost a staggering 32 lbs and entered junior year standing 5’6″ tall, weighing 108 lbs. Everything just fell into place — cheerleading stint, drama club, speech contest, etc.

I’d regretted losing the book a couple of years ago coz I wanted my own kids to read it but imagine my surprise when my bestfriend Anna handed me a package all the way from the US sent by my wonderful friend, Matt. I  screamed (mind you, in Gateway mall), when I held a copy of the book, nicely preserved/battered from a public school library. I’m slowly gaining weight again (damn you sedentary lifestyle and free catered food). I’m sure it’ll come in handy in the near-future.

Across the Universe

15 Apr

Author: Beth Revis

Published: 2011

Date finished reading: April 14, 2011

For as long as I am partly defined by being a dreamer and a romantic, I’ll probably grow old still reading Young Adult Fiction. Yeah I know, as adults, we tend to think of them as too simplistic and cheesy. When I read Twilight? Meh… but I get why it has sold milions of copies, pushing a couple of teenagers into brief psychosis along the way.

Romance will always sell to teenagers. Why? Because adolescence is the time of the  reawakening of our sexual impulses (Freud’s Genital Stage, what else?) when we look at the opposite sex in a different light and feel…weird. The same way Elder sees Amy for the first time — red-orange koi fish-like hair, translucent skin, breasts. Physical love at first sight, if I may, which sadly, more or less exists only in the teenager’s world.

Growing up with a dominant tyrant for a parent instead of an affectionate, caring one…having always been different from everyone else on the get-go…being raised in a Utopian, emotionless society… we expect Elder to be more of a schizophrenic, manic-depressive, a narcissist, or at least a robotic schizoid. With a trained eye,  Elder’s character would be easily dismissed as too perfect. But alas, submitting to the adolescent’s cognition, we give way to an audience who are just crawling out of a rigid, structured, rule-driven parental system and a predominantly idealistic mentality. A hero will only be a hero if he is good with just enough charming imperfections to still be human.

The most interesting part for me was in the end when Eldest, the older Elder and Elder meet because gives us a sampler of Kohlberg’s stages of morality. Eldest and older Elder choose authority and social order (Stage 4) to maintain a functional society despite succumbing to manipulation, tyranny and murder. Amy was appalled by their actions because it is not normal compared to the society she lived in and because murder and lying are just WRONG (Stage 3). Of course, kudos to our perfect protagonist Elder, who unsurprisingly has the highest level of morality (higher than his peers in present Sol-Earth, a whopping Stage 6!) of choosing what is inherently good which, he trusts, will eventually bring forth the ultimate common good in the truest sense of the term.

Will I read this book again? Probably not but the unique concept that’s reminiscent, albeit thinly,  of the likes of The Hunger Games series is greatly appreciated.

 By the way, I’m scoring through the perspective of an adult who really shouldn’t be reading YA novels at her age, anyways.

Sometimes, you can have a few essential pieces of technology and feel utterly content

14 Apr

Just the same way a little black dress and a white crisp shirt is essential to a tiny wardrobe, so are the gadgets piled up on my office table. Each day I gaze on my fuschia pink Nokia phone, netbook, iTouch and 3rd gen Kindle and feel at peace. I think the only way for me to even own an iPad is to join a raffle contest coz, honestly, aside from playing a large scale version of Angry Birds, what else am I gonna do with it?

Anyways, focusing on the Kindle. It’s something I’ve perused the internet for for months. My fellow consultant friend used to say, if you’re sure it’s not an impulsive buy, wait a week to know if the burning desire to possess it is still there. So I made sure and bought it 6 months later.

Sigh, what a wonderful, wonderful thing. All those fabulous ebooks just a click away. You lose the nostalgic smell but the paperback gray background with clear print contrast is still there. It’s perfectly simple — no Angry Birds to distract you, no eye strain from the backlight. A huge plus is, if you manage to fall asleep and roll on it, it’s still intact (at least in my case). So every bookworm out there will a teeny tiny salary like we medical residents do should just get one…now.

Ok, too much gushing. On with the reading!