Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Favorite Five: Books Edition

I've been remiss in posting my Friday Favorite Fives, sorry! But I'm here again. A number of these books are geared toward the juvenile set, but then, that is just a label. These books are equal levels of awesome (to me) and are randomly arranged.

1. The Godfather, by Mario Puzo. "Bonasera, Bonasera. What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? If you'd come to me in friendship, then this scum that wounded your daughter would be suffering this very day. And if by chance an honest man like yourself should make enemies, then they would become my enemies. And then they would fear you."

Although I was hooked from the start ("Amerigo Bonasera sat in New York Criminal Court Number 3 and waited for justice; vengeance on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonor her."), it's the former line, gravely [hahahaha! pun intended] and darkly said by Don Corleone, that did me in [seriously, the puns are just begging to be said]. I was just browsing in National Bookstore and chanced upon this book, and I remember not having money to buy it, and for a few days, after work, I'd read a few pages, alright, I admit, a few chapters, till I couldn't take it anymore and bought the book (saka malamang eh a-kinse or a-treinta na nun kaya may pangbili na ako). The film is equally gripping. More than the morbidly fascinating details about the mob, it's the frank moral duality of the main characters, Don Vito, and eventually, his son Michael, that held my attention -- the family man, a loving father and husband; a Catholic who frowns upon bawdiness and believes in eternal damnation, who, at the same time, is a mob boss in control of a syndicate responsible for murder, manipulation, bribery, and well, all manners of sins (okay, except drugs); an astute businessman who knows the greatest strength of his allies and foes and uses it to his, and his "company's," advantage -- I'd even dare and say that the Don is a just man.  

2. The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford. "That night they became immortal, had they known or cared, for the ancient woman had recognized the old dog at once by his color and companion: he was the White Dog of the Ojibways, the virtuous White Dog of Omen, whose appearance heralds either disaster or good fortune. The Spirits had sent him, hungry and wounded, to test tribal hospitality; and for benevolent proof to the skeptical they had chosen a cat as his companion--for what mortal dog would suffer a cat to rob him of his meat? He had been made welcome, fed and succored: the omen would prove fortunate." 

I got my tattered copy from Book Sale for 20 pesos, I think, yet it went on to be one of my most favorite books -- "Scotch-taped" all over and with frayed edges and spine. It is sweet, happy, poignant, and melancholic, sometimes all at the same time. It is full of wit. Unlike its film adaptation, the book didn't anthropomorphize the three animals by giving them lines,  but the author has deftly "humanized" them with their emotions and distinctive characteristics. 

3. Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling. “Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
I held off reading Harry Potter for as long as I could. It was creating quite a buzz then, and my mind associated it with the R.L. Stein scary series, so I was not inclined to read it. Onyxx lent me her copy, and initially, to humor her, I read the first book -- boy, was I hooked from the first line!!! (Thanks, Onyxx!) While I'd like to say that it's seamless, it isn't, yet, Dumbledore's death and Snape's  backstory more than made up for the oddities. Each installment was eagerly awaited, and I'd spend hours on stretch, sometimes days, reading till I finished.

4. Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins. “If you lack the iron and the fuzz to take control of your own life, if you insist on leaving your fate to the gods, then the gods will repay your weakness by having a grin or two at your expense. Should you fail to pilot your own ship, don't be surprised at what inappropriate port you find yourself docked. The dull and prosaic will be granted adventures that will dice their central nervous systems like an onion, romantic dreamers will end up in the rope yard. You may protest that it is too much to ask of an uneducated fifteen-year-old girl that she defy her family, her society, her weighty cultural and religious heritage in order to pursue a dream that she doesn't really understand. Of course it is asking too much. The price of self-destiny is never cheap, and in certain situations it is unthinkable. But to achieve the marvelous, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought.”

This book explored themes of immortality, deities, love and sex, religion, the sense of smell and its connection to our memories and experiences. It has four storylines that ultimately and wittily meshed together in the end. I find it hard to find words to describe this book, yet I will throw all caution in the wind and say that it is an epic, in the truest sense of the word, and it is, indeed, epic! And to me, all the things in the book, never mind that it's fiction, oddly made sense.

 5. Cannery Row and Sweet Thursdays, by John Steinbeck. “Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitant are, as the man once said, 'whores, pimps, gambler and sons of bitches,' by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, 'Saints and angels and martyrs and holymen' and he would have meant the same thing.”

The charm of these two books lies on the characters --Doc, Mack and the boys, Lee, Suzy, Flora and Fauna, etc. -- all ordinary, unremarkable people going about their daily lives. Not everybody can win the Nobel or be famous or be filthy rich. Most of us will have a family, endure boring jobs, have some sort of fun at one time or another, get sick, experience fundamental joys and happiness and sorrow, and that's it. And it's okay. There's nothing wrong about it, and for me, that's the gist of Cannery Row and Sweet Thursdays. The ordinary lives of ordinary people such as myself. 

NOTE: In my bid to post regularly, I'm going, or at least try, to post every Friday five of my favorite things. They might be current or past possessions, though others might not be necessarily mine -- could be a wish for my fairy godmother (where are you, by the way?), could be something I saw and found interesting, but it will always be driven by beauty and functionality, hopefully both, but that's a tall order.

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