Goodbye Childhood

Your inner child, it is gone
It has been gone since the day
You realized you can’t play with dolls
Or hide and seek or any of that
And it’s not because of society
Or because you’re too busy

You simply don’t want to

You can sit back and remember
The days back when you seemed happier
When you were able to enjoy Sailor Moon
And Teletubbies and dress up games
When you never made friends out of politeness
And you couldn’t care less about politics

But now it is gone

You never realized it was leaving you
Until you reread your favorite childhood book
And it just wasn’t the same, now
You actually liked getting socks on Christmas
And you hadn’t felt careless in ages
And your shoes with wheels in their heels
Didn’t fit you anymore
Not that it would matter

Goodbye childhood

Thoughts On “Holes”

Always at the wrong place, at the wrong time Stanley Yelnats is convicted of a crime he did not commit. He is given a choice; he will either go to Camp Green Lake or jail. When he chooses Camp Green Lake he does not know that it is a difficult discipline center in the middle of a hot dry desert where the campers are required to dig large holes every day as it “builds character”.

Me and “Holes”, we go way back. I read this book when I was 9, 16 and now when I am 21. It kills me, what happens with books I loved as a child. I end up re-reading them and they are not as good as they were. Maybe I should just leave my childhood favorites alone.

Still, when I say it is not as good, I do not mean that it is bad. I still think Holes is amazing, it is just that in my mind I have very exaggerated feelings about all my old favorites. I am almost afraid to re-watch Avatar the Last Airbender for this reason.

Holes is very simply written, and the writing really flows. The tone is very matter-of-fact (which I am beginning to think is a common tactic many well-written children’s books have). And the things that amazed me when I was 9 still amaze me. I would think it was genius how the three plots were woven together, and all the people within them. That chain of coincidences where the descendants of everyone just met each other at Green Lake. How the promise that was broken four generations ago was finally kept.

And also, the pig lullaby is the poem of my childhood. I would think it was very sad and beautiful and I still do. It is etched into my memory.

“If only, if only” the woodpecker sighs
The bark on the trees was a soft as the skies
While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely
Crying to the moon
“If only, if only”

Thoughts On “A Pale View Of Hills”

Etsuko, now an old Japanese woman, has lived half her life in Japan and the other half in England. Her life in both places were filled with tragedy- she lived through the bombing of Nagasaki and lost everything, and years later her eldest daughter Keiko hanged herself alone in her flat in Manchester. When her youngest daughter comes for a visit, she starts thinking about an old friend she used know, Sachiko, and how her life used to be in post-war Japan.

“A Pale View Of Hills” had a style that was familiar to me from “Never Let Me Go” – the feeling of dread starts from the first few pages and you can’t help but read on to find out what is wrong with it all. You are put off by Sachiko’s obviously terrible parenting, and you fear that something will happen to her daughter Mariko because of all the neglect. And it is strange how Mariko seems to be almost afraid of Etsuko.

We also get to see other aspects of Etsuko’s life such as her relationship with her husband who she doesn’t really seem to be connecting with emotionally, and her father-in-law Ogata-San who despite seeming to care a lot for Etsuko, doesn’t really think she has a bigger role to fulfill than be a good, submissive wife for his son. We see the shifting of ideas, the way that households are changing in Japan after the war and the views of both the older and the younger generations.

Some spoilers may be ahead… As you are reaching the end of the book, you feel like you were cheated by Ishiguro. He had all these storylines, the fates of Sachiko and Mariko, the suicide of Keiko, how Etsuko came to leave her first husband to settle in England- and he was going to explain none of it. But then he did, and in just a single page…

It takes a while to set in. You knew that Etsuko was an unreliable narrator all along. She warned you, she said that her memories may not be very exact. And she knew all along that she wasn’t being very honest with you, because she spent that day on the hills with Keiko, not Mariko, and you had no idea until the last ten pages. And now you will sit and think about it for days. And there it is again, that familiar feeling you get from Ishiguro novels, of guilt over time lost. And you will never really know how much of Sachiko was Etsuko all along. Maybe the Etsuko she remembers in the past is how she feels she should have acted. Maybe if she had been that Etsuko, Keiko wouldn’t have killed herself.

I’m almost sad that I’ve finished A Pale View Of Hills. Now there is one less Ishiguro book I can read for the first time.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Today I took a stress test
And even in this modern world
Filled with stressed out people
It said I was even more stressed
Even more stressed than the rest

It really makes you wonder
Us people who’ve had the “fortune”
The chance to taste success
Are we really fortunate?

And really, what a mess
We find ourselves stuck in
This vicious cycle of stress
Most of us don’t even know
What to do with all the success

We hope it will bring happiness
Along with the compliments, of course
Once we get somewhere
We will all just relax
And be happy with our nice cars
Our proud parents, our jealous relatives
This is how we fool ourselves

And how lucky you are
If you cannot relate to this
Look around you and pity
Pity the people with success
With their exhausted frames
Sleeping on busses missing their stops
And with their guilty eyes
When they are thinking of a simpler life
A life without the stress
But they are addicts of success

But please, I digress
Let me get back to work

Thoughts On “Eleanor & Park”

Here is a book on teenage love. Love where you’re not driving yourself nuts thinking of the questions that are, to some people, important; to others, unnecessary. The types of questions that hurt when they are difficult to answer. “Are we compatible? Do we have a future together?”

Eleanor is a girl who has been through a lot, and is still going through a lot. She’s battling with poverty, bullying, and abusive parents. In this lonely chapter of her life all she has to hold on to is the boy on the bus, Park. Park, for the most part of the book, is clueless about the intensity of the difficulties in Eleanor’s life. He does just what she needs though, unconditionally loves her and makes her feel good about herself.

*There may be spoilers onwards*

In the end though, Eleanor’s problems get too big for two sixteen year olds to handle, and she has to move away.

There are many things about this book that I cannot understand. I did love this book, it kept me up at night, it was a bittersweet sort of love story that I appreciate to come across once in a while. Nevertheless I think I read through it without thinking too critically of it. And when I think through it, I do not understand.

What I do not understand the most is, why on Earth does Eleanor not even open Park’s letters in the end? I’ve read people’s opinions that she needed to muster a lot of courage to make even that tiny contact with him. It does not make sense to me. Wasn’t Park always her safe harbor? Was he not convincing enough when he said he hoped their relationship wouldn’t end with this? Were the hundreds of letters he wrote to her not enough proof that he wanted to keep in touch? Why does he not call him, when it’s so convenient, when she has her own phone line in her room, even? Did she not think that ghosting him like this would break his heart? Well, it broke mine.

And of course, I also have on my mind the same question as everyone else. What were the three words? I think it was a clever move on Rowell’s part to not reveal them in the end. I like to think the words are from the last issue of Watchmen. The words that Park wonders what Eleanor would think of, “Nothing ever ends.”

Thoughts On “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End Of The World”

Murakami weaves two very different storylines together. “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” is set in a realistic Tokyo, while “The End Of The World” is in a dream-like place with magical elements. Yet they are connected brilliantly through two intriguing plots.

This is my third Murakami and also my favorite one so far. It didn’t wow me, but it was a pretty decent read. Actually, I pretty much hated Murakami until I read this. All the male protogonists were egoistical, and oh-so-sophisticated in a “oh look at me I am well read and listen to jazz and classical music” sort of way. It was very annoying. And the women – very mysterious and cold and – ugh. I hate that sort of thing.

Really though sometimes it was even disgusting. Let me show you a part from “South of the Border, West of the Sun” and you’ll see what I mean.

“When I was your age I played around quite a bit. So I won’t tell you not to have affairs. It’s strange for me to be saying this to my daughter’s husband, but actually I think a fling or two on the side isn’t all bad. It refreshes you. Get it out of your system every once in a while and your home life will improve; you’ll be able to concentrate on work too. So if you were to sleep with other women, I for one wouldn’t say a word. Playing around’s all right by me, but be very careful in choosing your partners.”

I don’t know if it disgusts you too, but as a 21 year old girl reading that, I was pretty irritated with Murakami and his dumb male-to-male advice.

But with “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” I wasn’t so annoyed. The characters were a lot more likeable, and the plot was very intriguing. I couldn’t put it down, even. And it wasn’t a fiasco like 1Q84 (a reason on it’s own to never want to read Murakami again). The plot was coherent, enough of the mysteries were resolved in the end, and the story did not drag on and on. (I’m looking at you 1Q84.)

So it took me three tries to warm up to Murakami. The only reason I kept reading Murakami was because my friends kept gifting me his books. Though I don’t hate him anymore, I think it’ll be a while before I get to the next one on my bookshelf – “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.”

Thoughts On “Big Stone Gap”

Ave Maria is a thirty year old small-town pharmacist who is very devoted to her loving mother and her pharmacy. After her mother dies, she doesn’t really understand what to do with herself. When she unearths a big secret about her family she embarks on a small adventure of her own and tries to find some romance along the way (or actually, it tries to find her).

The first book (and the only other book) I read by Adriana Trigiani was “The Queen of the Big Time” and I was in 7th grade at the time. It became one of my favorites. The young girl who loves to read and is pretty good in school falls for the handsome intellectual man… and she becomes a pretty cool lady as the story goes on. Then there was Franco Zollerano, the romantic mechanic who didn’t brag about it but was pretty intellectual himself. Nella’s whole family had so much going on with their lives- births and deaths and marriages were all woven together… no wonder I loved that book so much.  And it sort of gives me an idea what’s missing in “Big Stone Gap”. Characters with character.

I really did like Jack Mac. He was gallant and kind of cool with his heroic mining feats. Ave Maria wasn’t so bad either. But they just didn’t really live up to the people of “Queen of the Big Time.” As for the plot, though there were some moving parts, the events seemed kind of trivial. But still, even though it started dull in the beginning, it was still funny and wrapped up nicely in the end. And the sexy book-mobile driver Iva Lou is amazing (a character with character).

This entry sort of reads like a “Queen of the Big Time” vs. “Big Stone Gap” rumble. It just sort of ended up being that way. In the end, I ended up writing a review for a book that wasn’t bad on its own, but when compared to the other books by the same author, is sort of disappointing. I’m not too sure about reading the rest of the series. I found out how it’s kind of sad and I don’t want books where Jack Mac is sad. Maybe I should re-read “Queen of the Big Time” instead?

Thoughts On “Tokyo Ghoul”

Though I rarely think of it nowadays, in my high school years I was a manga binge-reader. I would lose myself in the corniest, high school girl fantasy fluff with ordinary girls (and most of the time, the most weak-minded girl in the school probably) ending up with handsome boys. It was a time of regrets, mostly, as only about 1 of the 10 manga I read would have a worthwhile plot.

Now, almost 5 years have passed and I’ve stumbled upon another manga by accident, “Tokyo Ghoul.” I simply saw the first volume in my school library’s new arrivals shelf and it was sort of bizarre seeing it there- I never knew we even had a manga section. Out of curiosity, I borrowed the book and finished it in one sitting (once a binge-reader, always a binge-reader).

Tokyo is filled with ghouls who eat humans. Our protagonist Kaneki is a quiet human boy who gets attacked by a ghoul, then is transformed into one by mistake. Now he must hide his transformation from the human world and also find his place among ghouls.

And I’m no manga blogger, (nor am I a professional book blogger, I’m just a person with opinions) but this manga appears to be an intriguing adventure manga at first – the characters get into some serious trouble, some lives are staked, some people are hurt but things turn out fine in the end. UNTIL THEY DON’T. This manga, at some point, (if you have read it, you definitely know the point I’m talking about) turns dark. Then you go online and look up what type of manga this is, and see “Horror” written among the genres. And you think – well, I thought- great. I spent all these volumes creating emotional bonds with these characters, and it’s a horror manga. It was a sad revelation for me. The manga got a lot more interesting but at what cost? The naive, pacifist, best-of-both-worlds protagonist I loved is gone now – and I’ve always preferred heroes to vigilantes.

I really did love this manga though, and even though bad things kept happening (and things kept not turning out fine in the end) and my heart really did ache for Kaneki. That guy didn’t deserve any of the stuff that happened. I should have seen it coming though. He does say, at the beginning:

“I’m not the protagonist of a novel or anything. I’m just a college student who likes to read, like you could find anywhere. But… If, for argument’s sake, you were to write a story with me in the lead role, it would certainly be a tragedy.”

I do have a few complaints. Reading this manga reminded me of why I shied away from this sort of action/adventure manga in high school – the action scenes are difficult to understand. Sometimes it’s even hard to tell who’s fighting who. But perhaps this is what anime is for. Then again, I could never watch Tokyo Ghoul’s anime – too freaky.

Oh and, I’ve never been a member of a manga forum, and I never had a manga blog either. I’ve always wanted to share the few gems I found among the numerous junk I read. I’ll end this post with my favorites.

  • Dengeki Daisy (and other works by the author of this manga, Motomi Kyousuke)
  • Fruits Basket – This one had a cool storyline with Chinese zodiac but a dumb protogonist. You can’t have everything.
  • Kare Kano – The protogonist was actually cool in this one, and all the characters had a lot of stuff going on which made it a pretty nice read.

Thoughts on “Digger”

Imagine Alice in Wonderland but with wombats.

Digger is our Alice, who doesn’t fall down a hole but digs one into Wonderland. Being of a very rational and practical-minded species, there is nothing she wants more than to go back home. However, something bigger than Digger’s misplacement is at play and she must work together with the god Ganesh to find out what is going on in this strange land with its strange creatures.

This webcomic is something special. All the characters that are introduced have a huge effect on the storyline and will go through amazing character development throughout the comic. They are full of kindness and personality. Digger has her wit, her sarcasm, and her manner of being fed up with it all- but when it comes down to something important, she will always put in an effort to do the right thing. And that’s very admirable. You just sort of end up rooting for her and all the people she meets along the way. My favorites were Ed and Shadow. They were both a little vulnerable toward the world but wise, and sometimes the things they said made me tear up a little.

The drawings were beautiful (and adorable, when needed). Let that one speak for itself:
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And Digger is more than a story of magic and gods. It subtly talks about goodness, self-sacrifice, dedication to a good cause and a ton of things that matter to us. Maybe how Digger shows these things without getting preachy and flinging them at us is what makes it so special.

It’s always a good feeling to read something so good. Sometimes, you slug through tens of books, then you stumble upon something like Digger and your faith in storytelling is restored again. I’ve been desperately searching for something as good since, but the webcomics I found so far weren’t really on this level.

I must have stumbled upon a rarity.

Thoughts On “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”

Richard Feynman is a Nobel prize winning physicist with a knack for just about everything outside his field. He is a top-notch prankster, safe-cracker, musician (with a knack for the frigideira and the drums), artist. And while reading Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! I found myself thinking, “How does he find the time for all this?” It doesn’t add up at first. He obviously has a very successful academic life, a social life, many talents and hobbies that he has picked up over the years and manages to juggle them all perfectly.

After giving this question some thought, I guess I know how he finds the time after all. And this is also what I’ve learned from this book. When you’re brave and confident and not stuck on the details, when all you want is to have a good time with what you’re doing, you can make the time.

And this is what’s wonderful about Feynman. He enjoys everything he does. He loves his job, physics, teaching, research, all of it. And he loves life and adding to himself. This is the impression I get from the book, at least. It’s all very inspiring to read about, and funny too- the physics professor who had to sleep on the couch, the Nobel prize winner who went to schools under fake names to not draw attention and gave talks, the troublemaker who kept cracking the safes at Los Alamos.

This book was orally told by Feynman and edited by his friend, Ralph Leighton. Though I’m definitely no expert, (I’ve only read a handful of other memoirs) it sort of shows through that Feynman wasn’t a novelist, or maybe even a passionate reader (though I do not know if this is true). His style is wonderful in the way that it doesn’t exhaust you and his honestly is very endearing. Still, I just think that you can sort of see that Feynman wasn’t a literary sort of guy. And that’s okay because his book is entertaining as it is.

Before I end this short review, I want to talk about this part, which I adore the most.

“And then I thought to myself, “You know, what they think of you is so fantastic, it’s impossible to live up to it. You have no responsibility to live up to it!”

Isn’t it a wonderfully relieving thought? I wish I’d read Feynman back when I was in high school, preparing for my university entrance exams. It’s okay kiddo. You don’t have to rank so high on exams. No need to stress. You’re not obliged to be the pride of anyone. Not even yourself. As Feynman puts it: “It’s their mistake, not my failing.”

All in all, Feynman is a lot of fun to read. He’s really cool without being all in-your-face about it. It’s inspiring to watch him accomplish wonderful things through sheer hard work. And he gives some really nice advice in between.