Perspectives

September 2, 2009

Today I saw a crow on a white birch. The tree had no leaves, and the sun fell on its top branches. I wondered if crows can see colors and if they feel the warmth of the sun.

Today I felt cold and I digged in my closet for a sweater. I looked at the thermometer and saw summer pack its things and leave. I dreamed about living in a place where it is always warm and cloudy.

Today I saw a high school couple kissing. They held each other like they were the most precious, fragile thing. I smiled and turned away and hoped they were happy.

Today I watched a maple samara dance in the wind. It soared and swirled for minutes, as if the life it carried inside had somehow found a way to express its joy.

day-and-night

Today I saw a black crow on a white birch. The tree was dead, bereft of leaves. The sun fell on its top branches, suspending the morning up high where I couldn’t reach it. I wondered if crows ever have nightmares in which they are falling and they can’t  move their wings.

Today I felt cold and I remembered fear. I looked at the thermometer and saw summer betray me. I told myself that when the sun is tired, it lets the cold burn us instead.

Today I saw a high school couple kissing. Checkered tights and a buzz cut were imitating what they thought they should be feeling. I smirked and turned away and wondered why some people even bother.

Today I watched a maple samara swirl madly in the wind, and I wondered if the seed inside felt nausea.


Paper Towns

January 9, 2009

papertowns-rightJohn Green’s latest and greatest novel. After an inspiring debut and a less relatable second novel, Paper Towns was a very pleasant surprise. It is definitely the best young adult book I’ve read this year; and it will be interesting to see if another will take its place as the year unfolds.

In the first part, the book takes us on a dizzying to-do list of adventures (I tend to like novels that contain lists). It promises to be a page-turner with tons of fun and no  deep moral. But the second part makes a character disappear, veering away from such a prediction completely. There is a lot of meditation on understanding other people, and in particular, on misimagining others by seeing them as idea[l]s.

The hunt for clues left by the missing person continues almost until the end, making this another novel for whose answer-in-the-lack-of-answers ending I feared. Although the characters do finally reunite, the message Green sends out is not one that inspires comfort. Basically, he puts Maugham’s tower of brass into words intelligible to the impatient Google generation. True and complete understanding between people is impossible; you cannot be someone else.

The novel ends with a brilliant metaphor about human suffering and understanding.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

January 4, 2008

This book was heavier than I expected. Many of the author’s ideas were understandable and I even agreed with some of them, but at the same time those I did not agree with, and those which completely left me in the dark, will make me return to the book and read it again eventually.

This is another book that can hardly be called a novel. First, its characters are deliberately sketchy and incomplete. Second, there is no obvious plot, only a bunch of recurring themes throughout the work. Third, and most pleasantly surprising to me, the author uses an original approach to story-telling: he makes believe he is the omniscient narrator, using the third person to convey the story. But beneath this “believable lie” he stays in the mind of a single character in one part, then he switches to another character in the next (7 parts total). While he is in the mind of one character, he does not infiltrate the consciousness of others. Consequently, he is actually a first-person narrator in disguise, not omniscient in the least. As if that were not enough, he also uses ‘I’ to talk about his characters directly, as if discussing his novel with somebody. Whereas in most of what I’ve read so far the narrator tries to be as unobtrusive as possible, here he steps right out of the shadows, openly admitting that the characters are mere playthings of his imagination. Amazing.

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