Friday, May 25, 2007

Interlude: Weirdness.

My lovely -- and newly-wed -- friend, Frances, just tagged me to play this Six Weird Things About You game. But since my little blog here is all about reading, I'm going to improvise a bit and limit my quirks to those that deal with books. Heaven knows I have enough weirdness about me.

Rules: Just cut and paste if you decide to participate in the tagging game. Each player of this game starts off by giving six weird things about themselves. People who get tagged need to write in a blog of their own six weird things as well as state the rules clearly. In the end, you need to choose six people to be tagged and list their names. After you do that, leave them each a comment letting them know you tagged them and to read your blog.

Anyway, six weird things:
1. I used to eat my books.
It was a high-fiber diet. I'd unconsciously tear out dog-eared portions and eat them. The older books tasted better. I know, I know -- my poor books! You should see my copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I stopped some time around high school. Maybe I learned something from Etiquette class.

2. I keep books in my bathroom.
I have a narrow glass shelf where I place my toiletries and a steady rotation of books to keep me company. It's fun to reread stuff while you're immobile. Last ones that were there before the shelf collapsed where China Mieville's Perdido Street Station and Jude Deveraux's The Raider (oooh, wicked). Maybe a lot of you won't find this too weird since you prolly do it, too.

3. My bookshelves are genre-coordinated.
To my bed's right are my fantasy and sci-fi books (my biggest collection at four to five rows), with two rows dedicated to mystery novels. Perry Mason has to sleep beside me. To the left are the young adult and children's fiction. On the shelves beside that are my romance novels. The shelves right next to the door hold the classics and general fiction, where Asian writers have a row to themselves. I used to have a small space for my manga, but they've threatened war if they weren't allowed to expand their territory.

4. I buy multiple copies of the same books just for the covers.
I wouldn't call myself a collector, though, because I'm not anal about getting every edition in existence. But I do like having my series in the same edition. I have four editions of the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy: 1)TSR's 1994 ed; 2) WotC's 2000 ed; 3) WotC's paperback annotated chronicles, and 4) the Special Collector's Edition (because an embossed leather cover and gilt-edged pages deserve title caps). And yes, I won't be ashamed to admit that I got the Wizards of the Coast edition because I thought Tasslehoff Burrfoot looked mighty fine on that cover.

5. I read while walking. Or should that be 'I walk while reading'?
I did that a lot back in high school and even when our agency was located along Ayala Ave. It's easy to do when you have a long stretch of sidewalk before you. Now that we moved offices to Gamboa St., I have a harder time navigating the walk. I try to do Sudoku puzzles instead.

6. I like smelling books.
Okay, maybe not that weird, but I was at a loss at what else to put. No other book-/reading-related quirk comes to mind. :P

There! Tagging Claire and Arvin, Tina, Didi, Kamelle, and Eman, if you're up to it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Giant's House (Elizabeth McCracken)

I like the idea of librarians; unfortunately, I have never known a librarian that I really liked. Sure, they were pleasant enough, and helpful enough, and sympathetic enough to a first grader who wanted to find out who Nancy Drew was because she was being bullied by second graders for not knowing. I always thought that the books that surrounded them would lend them some of their magic -- together and by association. But the librarians I knew have been far from magical.

Peggy Cort from Elizabeth McCracken’s The Giant's House has no delusions of being magical, either. She knows she is just a small-town librarian, reserved, withdrawn. At twenty-six, though, she meets a remarkably tall eleven-year old, and under these ordinary circumstances emerges Ms. McCracken's National Book Award Finalist.

Ms. McCracken pens a woman's loneliness with much familiarity. 'I loved him because I discovered that day, after years of practice, I had a talent for it (p. 89),' she lets Peggy narrate, as her odd friendship with the brilliant and sensitive giant, James Carlson Sweatt slowly develops into something more. The story takes place over a span of some nine, ten years so no, it's not as offensive as it sounds. The boy grows legal and reaches eight foot seven. There is no pedophilia. There is a lot of crying in the end, mostly from me.

Anyway, back to loneliness. Peggy Cort is a study in quiet desperation, although I wouldn’t really say that it is desperation that leads her to love a boy fifteen years younger than she is. She can admit to anyone that her life 'is a small, hesitant thing (p. 281).' But the advent of James opens it to more joy and more sorrow that she ever anticipated, and the wake of James leaves her to an amazement 'the way a child is amazed to discover, holding his thumb to his eye, that he can blot out a mountain (p. 282).' Thirty-five now, and still an innocent, our Ms. Cort.

Forgive me if I find the other characters a little less striking. Even adorably awkward James, memorable mostly for his height and very little else. He is very sweet though, and sensitive for a boy who has come to terms with his own freakishness and mortality at a young age; still, these traits alone do not win him places in the literary hall of unforgettable characters. I loved how Ms. McCracken imagined him up, though, placed him in the middle of a library so a spinster librarian would catalogue him into her life.

But maybe this is where the force of Ms. McCracken's writing comes from. She writes of ordinary people (yes, even in James the Giant's case), with everyday fears and hungers and manages to find the poetry of the mundane. True, readers who want epic romances or magical realism may not find that encouraging. But while The Giant's House might not be for everyone, I'd still highly recommend it. It is a carefully-paced and well-conceived look into an unconventional romance that isn't really as strange as it seems.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


That indolent but agreeable condition of doing nothing - Pliny the Younger

Certain invetabilities carry with them an air of fatalism, especially on days like this. Anyway, I haven't been entirely unproductive with my reading list. On the nightstand: The Conjurer's Bird by Martin Davies, The Crimson Labyrinth by Yusuke Kishi, Mr. Thundermug by Cornelius Medvei, among others.