Tuesday, December 11

After Dark - Haraku Murakami

(the first book I enjoyed on my Kindle paperwhite!)

In After Dark, Murakami uses a detached narration in the sense that “we” are looking in from a camera lens to observe the characters, which are mainly 19-year-old Mari and her sleeping sister, Eri. It’s easy to grasp the explicit theme of the story, which is that the soundness and logic of the day disappears as the Sun does and the world blurs into a caricature of hidden stories and flared emotions. It’s a beautiful easy read. A little daunting at night, because Eri (who is portrayed to be psychologically trapped in her own sleep + is literally sleeping in “real life”) gives an air of metaphysical mystery to it. It is also because the brutality of the night (a Chinese prostitute getting beaten up by a married psychopath) is shown.

What is stark is the narration in which we are drawn into the history and ramifications of these characters from a single “camera lens”. So, I thought about it. And at first all that dawned on to me was what we had learned in lit class i.e. how T.S Eliot portrayed Silas Marner in the same “zoom-in / zoom-out” narration in order to give an arching view. But that didn’t tally with the After Dark because I didn’t feel as if the lens view gave me a clearer picture of what was portrayed but rather, because of the first person narrative “we”, it hindered the peripheral vision that it ought to give.

So then I started thinking deeper through the theme of the story and more importantly the emotions it implicated. And surely, the mystery is heightened with this single-lens view. But then I started thinking of the title “After Dark”, and how it is supposed to portray life after 12am. And more than that, it is a portrayal of confusion and mess in life (most characters are running away from their past yet conceding to the fact that “memories are fuel”). But that’s not the point. The point is that the characters in the book have this unknown relationship with each other. They are all indirectly related and they themselves do not know it. Only “we” know. Also, in the book, there are things that Mari tells to a certain character and hides it from the one we would think she would more likely tell. It kind of confused me, why she hid it. But just as the single lens portrays the story, the individual characters of the book leave dissimilar impressions on each other. This sense of detachment in relationships is set by the scene/theme of the night, when harsh light of the sun is dismissed and secrets are poured onto the streets, and we have no clue from where these secrets arise and how it ramifies into the day. It’s beautiful! It captures how we are only shown what people choose to show us and this gives such individuality in each person. It might not be congenial but the complexity of such is beauty. As for the book as itself, the fact that we are plunged into this night scene where mysteries are at its middle let’s us in on exactly that (how we are only shown what people choose to show us).

Therefore after careful scrutiny, I have concluded that the camera lens x first-person collective (“we”) narration (which could be said to be the defining aspect of the book) is a device which does not show us an clearer overview of story but a devices which makes us a character in the book. We are placed in the spot, where stories of a handful of characters are being thrown at us through this narrow conduit. And this is extremely clever because as books tend to emulate life, this device is used to serve exactly that purpose. It is extremely apt in the sense that the book is about the detachment of one person from the other, even though they’re just a touch away. We know the characters only through the night. They are all running away from their past. For some, we know snippets of their past. For others, we know nothing but that they are running away. We know nothing of their origin (or their destiny). What Murakami portrayed to us is what we are unalterably faced with, in the reality of our multitudinous relationships. We are fueled by memories of these relationships yet the clarity of our understanding their individual is incongruous to our dependence on them. This: conveyed with a simple story and an ingenious device.

 true art right there!

I beg you to take me back!

The beautiful sentimental 60s vs brash vile Today

(is it just nostalgia?)

Tuesday, August 21

East of Eden - John Stienbeck


Picked up this book because it was some user's "book of the year" on Goodreads. I was kinda afraid that it was that consumer compelling kinda book, like Lolita. As in, I was afraid that it was going to be a book where you knew it was good, because it outrightly screams so, and not one where there is a meaning sifted so closely behind. But anyway, it was the latter, obviously. 

This book is based on the biblical allusion of the story of Cain and Abel (which I had no idea about until reading this). It is not empyreal, in any sense, if you think the allusion might make it. Steinbeck has a flair for excessively describing normalcy with the greatest depth. And this skill came off as verbose when I attempted to read Cannery Row, but it is palatable and intricate in this book. I love it so much. Together with the biblical allusion which puts forth the perpetual struggle between good and evil, it is philosophical (obviously) and has historic platforms (which I love!). It has destroyed my sentiments on the farming life as being simple and smooth-flowing. Which is good. The story seems so unbelievable yet distinctively real. 

Apart from being a wondrous story, it is a teaching. The book revolves around the Hebrew theme of "Timshel' // "thou mayest" i.e. there is a choice between sin and prudence as well as redemption and eternal damnation. It tells us that it is a choice and not a compulsion, and that all sins can be redeemed... (beautifully).

+ I dreamt that I told Dom to read it and he was star-struck, overwhelmed, transfixed in it.


outfits speak a thousand words

✿ bintan ✿


☆ dinner ☆

❊ !! arm parties !! ❊ 

Monday, August 6

Sunday, August 5

"In the final hour, suvivour, and devour"

Shiny Swamped Saturday

Topshop, glimmery top // some korean brand, golden skirt // YSL, wedges // Chanel, Mummy's vintage

This Saturday was another swamped Saturday! I was in a tricky outfit situation... in which I prevailed!!! I was to meet the (RJ) Tennis Team for Batman, followed by showing my face at my Godma's sister's wedding, and then meet Gui and Wy for dinner and then go back to the wedding. Plus, I didn't want to/had no time to go home to change. So, the genius in me had to be sieved out to find a single suitable outfit for the various proceedings. So this was it! Oh, except that I had worn my pinkish flower flats for the movie. Heels would've been way too much. But yup, this is my g o l d e n g a t e outfit! Mummy said, "just wear a skirt for the wedding, Singaporeans aren't that formal". And so my g o l d e n g a t e outfit was good-to-go! And I was pretty pleased with myself.

Saturday, August 4

Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami

So, another book. This book was a much easier read. It took me two days, unlike Lolita which took me around a week. Norwegian Wood is about Toru Watanabe (first impression was that it sounds like Wannabe), who has to deal with the suicide of his only friend, Kizuki, at the age of 17. Toru then starts having a romance with Naoko, Kizuki's girlfriend, who was "left" behind by him.

When I started reading this book, I thought it was purely based on death and romance. But further on I learn that Naoko has a mental illness that "is a lot worse than you think; it has far deeper roots". But thinking back, the theme of a mental illness started from the start, when Kizuki dies.

The book is spread over a myriad of themes (love, death, disillusionment, mental illness, sex, isolation) which, I don't like. I feel that a good novel has to be based on themes that closely cohere with one another. It may be intriguing and intoxicating, but having too many themes is just asking too much of oneself, as an author. I don't feel he has captured any one theme, let alone all themes, well enough that it makes me go, omgosh. Life + mental illness is the basis of his themes, and Life is just too broad to be captured in a novel.

His writing was easy. All contemporary novels are easy reads, which makes them nice, in a lazy way. Sometimes I feel as though I'm not reading, merely soaking in emotions. Which, is, destructive.

(I just texted this to Dom a few hours ago but nevertheless...) At the start, it made me cry. The theme + the fact that it is easy to read + certain quotes just reminded me of certain things. But after awhile, I got annoyed at Murakami. He had used way too many allusions, a lot of which I didn't understand, so yes, I got annoyed. But the one that I had understood, which was the one he had used the most, was The Great Gatsby. He not only used allusions to it, but his characters and writing is basically an affectation of it. I got so annoyed! Dom says, "he merely transfused a variety of styles and made it his own". But maybe that's what I don't like about it - that it was too wishy-washy/lacking concrete substance. If he had wanted a book on disillusionment, make it like Gatsby. If on illicit themes, Nobrakov or Nathaniel Hawthorne. Mental Illness, Sylvia Plath. Too many themes cause too much harm!

But I guess I understood when Dom said, "he uses it to fit the general mood of the story and of the characters and his disillusionment of society", but I don't know, I just repel "copycats". I think I have been reading too many classics to be aroused by affectations of it. Of course, I understand that "good artists copy, great artists steal", but I guess in this case, he did not even steal, he borrowed.

The ending was completely compelling. Which is good! I love endings that have elements of surprise. When I first read the ending I was like omgosh, and I became so sad. But after awhile I thought that it was stupid to fit such a scene in, just to get that impact. Because honestly, it wasn't exactly realistic. I don't believe that they were such senseless and sensual people... gross! Okay, I won't spoil it, so I won't dwell anymore. But ANYWAY, this book is H I G H L Y illicit. That was the other thing that annoyed me. I know he was trying to capture the essence of ribald adolescent love, but seriously, it was kinda overboard.

In all, I don't feel that I really loved the book. But if it were that bad, I wouldn't have continued reading it. So, it was a good, easy, read. Provoked many emotions, but not many thoughts. Way too pseudo-philosophical/pseudo-Fitzgerald for me.

Pretty quotable book though!

Friday, August 3

Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

I finished reading Lolita two days ago. It was... good! As in, at first I thought that it was extremely perverse and I felt pretty awkward reading it, but reading on, you get used to the fact that the main character is some weirdo, and you grow realize that you accept him.. subtly. Anyway, Lolita isn't straight-on perverse. It is in no way crudely descriptive, but Nabokov manages to dissolve the illicit manners into you, by going around it. It's so, inventive! And the ending is just scary. I don't know why, but I was pretty scared after reading it, in a good, omgosh way. Oh, I remember, this is a book where Humbert (the main character) has to be the author instead of Vladimir Nabokov. At first I read it as Vladimir Nabokov and it just felt really awkward. But reading it as Humbert, you'll come to realize that Vladimir Nabokov is extremely ingenius. Yeah, he portrayed the illicit theme really well. Chapeau bas!

Anyway, I have nothing else to say because I'm tired but mostly I have forgotten what I wanted to say. I wanted to blog about it yesterday, when I had a clear grip on the essence of the book, but ok here's what happened: After going to pick out outdoor furniture for my dilapidated balcony, I went for a full-body massage at Qi Mantra @ Great World, and IT WAS SO PAINFUL. I could tolerate the pain while she was pressing on me, but the aching afterwards was just too cruel. And you know how you're extremely weak after a massage, yeah, I was walking at the pace of a crippled turtle, and I had to buy a carrot cake from Cedele for my sis, because she wanted one. And it was extremeeely excruciating! But, I bought other cakes to make myself feel better.

Wednesday, August 1

Shouting, "I got shot! I got shot!"

Enter: I was a crocodile.

On the edge mountains of some Arabic dessert. It was a noisy mess but I could see no one. Probably too caught up being amused by my crocodile skin. Some Arabian men who had those cloths on their heads (a ghutra), passed by on a jeep, and I, unassumingly, or rather, naively, stepped out and waved my little crocodile hands at the gunned men. They greeted me back with sparks of gunshots, not at my body, phew!, but at my little ugly crocodile feet. And then suddenly, because of the capriciousness of dreams, I was human again.

So, (because of the capriciousness of dreams) human me became aware of the situation at hand: the "Arabian Knights" were dutifully scouring for some mysterious, potent and poisonous crab-like scorpion.

Suddenly, (because of the capriciousness of dreams) I was transported a glass jar of The crab-like mystery! It does not look at ominous as you would think it to be - really. Anyway, I screamed! Don't ask me why, my dreamstate does not allow conscious, prudent, me to participate.

Anyway, my scream drew back the "Arabian Knights" in a flash! (because of the...), in their jeep with their worried yet angered faces. And yes, the only manner in which they knew how to greet me with was with their almighty GUN. And this time they aimed at MY HUMAN body! What......

They were not good aimers, but I was as bad a runner as they were a shooter. "Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!"... still no bullet in me, phew! "BAANG!!" (for some reason, it was the loudest), and I fell. A sneaky bullet got a hold of my chest, right down the middle from my nose. And I fell, into the abyss of unwonted pain. It was not a sharp pain, but a casual, lingering one.

The pain stuck - ouch, ouch, I still felt it in my chest when I awoke - ouch, I could not move. When I reached to feel my bloody chest, I could feel the thumping of my heartbeat in my ears. I lied, motionless there, with gunshots and messy noises around me, in the unwonted pain.

The next few proceedings were peculiar (because of..). I was suddenly teleported, by the "Arabian Knights", to a bed in some secluded science sanatorium. They said they had to murder me. They also said it was strange that I didn't die from the sneaky bullet. But anyway, I was left there, with a telephone and, (because...), my grandma. She was calm, which very much differed from her real-life liveliness. So I felt a little strange, but the pain was overbearing, and so I thought I could possibly have been hallucinating.

The telephone: my un-grandma grandma told me to call my uncle, who was, I mean, is, a doctor. So I gathered up my bottomless courage, with that lingering pain in my chest and my hand perpetually there to alleviate the pain, stood up with dizziness, and called him. I don't know how I managed to memorize his number. But anyway, he told me to take the bullet out. And pour water over the wound. Sounds easy, and was also dreamlike-easy to do. And, unsurprisingly yet strangely, it did help alleviate the pain! - for awhile. I, sprawled on a random (but comfortable) bed, with my ungrandma grandma by my side, was in heart-aching, perpetual, numbing, pain, with a weird rock (the sneaky bullet) in my weakened hand. And I was going to be murdered.

After this, it got boring. The "Arabian Knights" came into the random room and shoved a plastic bag over my head, meaning to suffocate me. I was teleported back and forth the room and mountain edge, (becau...). The plastic bag suffocating technique did not work, obviously, because I could easy take it off (but somehow I did feel a little suffocated). And then I could suddenly see into another dimension, where my hero Dad was finding a way to save me. And then suddenly I was saved! Treated in some hospital and discharged immediately, back to the comfort of my older sister in some random modernized mall.

The End.

P.S. I felt so so heroic when I woke. And I absolutely love adventure dreams! And... I had always wondered what it was like to be shot!

"Lucky me"