Filipino ReaderCon 2012: Introductions

by joanabagano

Favorite Books All-Time (not the top 3 and definitely not the only 3)

1. Under the Eye of the Clock by Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan (not the Hollywood director), is a pen name for renowned Irish writer Joseph Meehan. This particular book by him, Under the Eye of the Clock, is a retelling of his rather peculiar life lived as a quadriplegic which left him completely unable to communicate. The author “writes by having someone hold his head while he taps at a typewriter with a stick attached to his forehead — his “unicorn stick.” I put this as the topnotch book on my list because of its exquisite and experimental language which I find really interesting to study linguistically. It has been through Nolan that I got to appreciate how a single writer can bring immense change and wonder in language just by speaking through his or her own experiences of the world. As such, the reader will find the book a bit vague and hard to understand on a lot of levels but as one goes along, one will understand that the book was written primarily to create a different reading experience. A bit of my love for this book also comes from my love of history which includes the great religious divide between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. Nolan touched on this topic in a few of the pages of this autobiography. If you are going to read this book, expect some compassion, anger, crying and laughing all at the same time.

Fun fact: Nolan was widely compared to classical writer and fellow Irishman, James Joyce.

Quote: “You instinctively judge my life by looking at it through your able bodied eyes, you almost see it as a failure or a tragedy… but to me, you see, it isn’t like that at all. It’s just life. It’s as normal to me, as grand to me, as complete to me as your able bodied lives are to you.”

2. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

One of the book categories that I love to read are about protagonists who are in themselves budding writers and passionate writer wanna-bes. Examples of these books are The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Unlike the two mentioned which gave passing attention to the writer dream, I Capture The Castle puts great weight on Cassandra’s hope of becoming a known by-line in the future. What also captures me about this story is Cassandra’s domestic life — she is fathered by an eccentric writer who has lost all passion in publishing another bestseller one day, taken care of by a naturist stepmother Topaz, surrounded by equally different siblings — the beautiful but whiny Rose and their younger brother Thomas, and last but not the least, befriended by the son of a deceased servant who is currently living with them, Stephen. We go through Cassandra’s adventures with a family that comes to town — the rich Cotton family who are so unlike the bankrupt Mortmains who only have their castle to be really proud of and we witness this inquisitive seventeen year-old fall in love with the Cotton boys and begin to write her own book. This girl is one of the protagonists that one is sure to remember for a long time.
Fun fact: Dodie Smith is also the author of 101 Dalmatians. This is for my friends who always ask me, “Dodie Who?”

Quote: “I only want to write. And there is no college for that except life.”-Cassandra Mortmain

3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This 83-page book is something I loved as a youngster  even though I had difficulty deconstructing its meaning years ago. Rereading it gave me a new perspective especially because I’ve grown a lot and I’ve been exposed to more of the world, now “an adult,” as the Little Prince put it. Exupery used interesting symbols such as the fox and the rose to bring into light definitions of wisdom, love, naivety and cynicism which can be related to by children and adults alike. It was  a heartwarming read of innocence and practical optimism (although I do not particularly believe in optimistic philosophy). There have been wide acceptance and acclaim of the book but there have also been criticism saying that it’s too idealistic and naive, but to each his own. I would also like to point out that reviews of the book are also affected by the childhood of those who read it and as such most people who think the book bland and uninteresting may have had a childhood which wasn’t like what the Little Prince may have described as ideal. It’s okay and understandable but a little defamiliarization would do reviewers a lot of good if they start reviewing a book. Anyway, this is an excellent book to dedicate to grown-ups who are generally jaded by the world.

Fun fact: Saint-Exupery was able to write this book from experiences in a crash on the Sahara desert. He was an aviator who disappeared over the Mediterranean on his last assigned mission in 1944.

Quote: “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”

Genres I Love:

1. Biblical Speculative Fiction

Favorite on shelf: 666 by Salem Kirban

2. Historical Fiction

Favorites on shelf: Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier, All the Finest Girls by Alexandra Styron

Genres I May Not Be Reading Anytime Soon

1. Manga

As a reader and a writer, I don’t want to devoid myself of the pleasures one can get from reading different genres. Although I’ve never laid a hand on any kind of Manga, I would love to try reading some in the very near future.

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