Friday, December 24, 2010

Finish Line

Early this year, I decided to join a few reading challenges. Here's how they turned out:

1. The Quantity Book Challenge - as of Dec. 24th, 2010, I have finished 199 books. This number earned me the Most Voracious Reader Award at my book club's Christmas party earlier in the month. Yay!

2. The Chunkster Challenge - did better than I thought on this one, with a 5th hefty tome completed last month. Since the rules require a review, pardon my brevity:

- For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (471 pages, read March 3-8)- a man's book, if there ever was one. War and love from a very masculine perspective. Classic Hemingway, with very vivid descriptions, and his wonderful prose style. This book struck me as written from a very personal experience, which made it all the more moving. Everyone should read this book.

- The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris (572 pages, read April 6-7) - sequel to her first, and very enjoyable novel Chocolat, this book brings back familiar characters and places them in a similarly challenging setting, particularly with little Anouk beginning to grow up. Harris writes her own version of magical realism, and this book is worth a read for those who enjoyed the first one.

- Middlemarch by George Eliot (795 pages, read May 19-24)- It took me years to get around to reading this novel, but when I finally did, I was not at all disappointed. Interesting characters, a readable plot - one just needs to be in the right frame of mind to read this, because one started, it will be enjoyed and appreciated.

- The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks (480 pages, read May 24-28) - interesting premise, but not-so-excellent execution. Too many things going on at once, and it seemed like everything had already happened before (in a television series or another book). Read during a weekend beach trip, and it was good entertainment.

- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (650 pages, read Nov.1-8) - A brilliant slice of life in the time of the Sun King, but I did wonder why it was called Wolf Hall when the Seymour family didn't feature particularly strongly in the story, though they would play a significant part in the period following where the novel ended. History, politics, intrigue, and one very compelling, intelligent and admirable man.

3. The A-Z Challenge - here's a list of the new authors and titles I've read this year.

4. Filipino Books - the five I read in 2010 were:
- Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco
- Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal
- The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker by Gilda Cordero Fernando
- Connecting Flights edited by Ruel de Vera
- 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country by Alexander Lacson

5. Classics - I managed 22 new reads and rereads, listed below:
- The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
- David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
- For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
- To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
- Beowulf
- The Invisible Man by HG Wells
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
- Middlemarch by George Eliot
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- My Antonia by Willa Cather
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger
- Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
- Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal
- Towards the End by John Updike
- Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
- The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
- Macbeth by William Shakespeare
- Therese Raguin by Emile Zola
- The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
- 1984 by George Orwell

6. 20 Award Winners - a combination of new and rereads, I didn't think I'd finish this year but managed 21 in the end.
- Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (Booker)
- Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (Guardian Fiction)
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Newbery)
- The Stories of John Cheever (Pulitzer)
- Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary (Newbery)
- For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (Nobel)
- Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco (Man Asian)
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Pulitzer)
- The Dancing Girl of Izu by Yashari Kawabata (Nobel)
- March by Geraldine Brooks (Pulitzer)
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Pulitzer)
- The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Newbery)
- Soliders in Hiding by Richard Wiley (PEN/Faulkner)
- Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia McLachlan (Newbery)
- Holes by Louis Sachar (Newbery)
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Booker)
- From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg (Newbery)
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (Newbery)
- A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L'Engle (Newbery Honor)
- The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Guardian Children)
- The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Costa)

That's all for the books I've read this year. As for the books I purchased in 2010, well, that's another challenge altogether.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Clap Clap

Unlike other babies, who applaud at the littlest thing, Little A was never much of a clapper. He learnt how at the right time but preferred to watch other people doing it, and when commanded to clap would bring his hands together once or twice at most.

Like all other parents, when he does something properly or well, we applaud him. He enjoys this, and sometimes makes us just sit down and clap while he performs for us.

Most recently, he has discovered another use for clapping. Since he still does not speak, but realizes that clapping makes people feel good, whenever he bumps into me, spills or does something by accident, he claps repeatedly while looking at me with a worried face, as if to say, "I want to make it better." Lately, he claps when I scold him as well, as if to say, "I know I did wrong, it won't happen again." He doesn't stop until I tell him it's okay, and show how we can fix whatever went wrong.

Most cultures use applause to show appreciation. In his own wordless way, my boy does so too. I know he claps to show us that he knows how much we care.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Connecting Flights

The Filipino diaspora has been widely documented over the past decades. People are undeniably one of the country's largest exports. Step into any hotel or hospital in the world or onto any large ship in any port and you are likely to run into not one but several Filipinos.

Whatever the reason for their travels overseas, be they education, work or wanderlust, travel they do. "Connecting Flights" is a collection of poetry and prose pieces by contemporary Filipino writers in English edited by Ruel S. de Vera, an award-winning writer himself and my former university professor.

A slim volume, this book features the Filipino voice writing from elsewheres ranging from Russia to Hong Kong. For me, the crown jewel in the collection is Yvette Tan's story Seek Ye Whore, a retelling of Ira Levin's "The Stepford Wives", the book for which this blog is named. Her version puts a fine twist on the traditional story, and is, from a female point of view, infinitely preferable.

Another wonderful piece is Charlson Ong's Of That Other Country We Now Speak, a fine story that merges myth and legend with real life, and showcases the Filipino's belief in one having a definite effect on the other.

Karla P. Delgado's Barcelona Breathing resonated with me, as I too found myself when at school abroad, and hope to return to the country I call my second home one day.

On the whole, this book is worth a read, whether you are Filipino or a foreigner, an armchair traveller or a real one.

Coming Up to Christmas Break

On Wednesday, Little A's preschool will have their annual Christmas program. He started attending a little over a year ago and had a difficult time adjusting, so last year's program was something we didn't even consider him joining. Since then, we've had a whirlwind of a year.

This time round, he's as ready as can be. We'll find out on the day itself whether or not he will perform, but he's been practicing with his classmates and his shadow teacher. Yesterday they did a rehearsal at the nannies' Christmas party, and he only had a panic attack towards the end of the number, due to the sheer volume of people crowding a tiny space.

I haven't seen the parish hall where the show will be taking place, but I do think Little A will perform better on a stage than simply in front of large crowd. In a few days, I'll post the outcome.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Learning Curve

December already. Argh. The first birthday of the little shop saw the opening of a second, albeit temporary, one for this Christmas season. This meant hiring new staff, training new staff, observing the new staff, and keeping up with the corporate orders and retail customers.

Also, Little A went back to school and had to adjust all over again. A one-month break from thrice a week classes resulted in a behavioural backslide that extended to his therapy sessions. Suddenly he was having major mummy separation anxiety tantrums that required a gradual (two week) weaning-from-my-immediate-presence process.

Now that he's nearly back to his school-happy self, it's only a week until the Christmas holidays begin. So we will do this all over again in January.

Never mind. No one ever said parenting was easy, regardless of whether one's child is typical or not.

On a good note, he learned how to read and type the word "duck," his current favourite thing. One day, he pointed out something on a text heavy page, and I said, "Yes, those are words, and letters." He looked at me, disgusted, put the page down, went to his bookshelf, opened a book, took it back to me, pointed to a specific word on the text page again, then to a picture in the book.

I looked closely at the size 6 font and saw he was pointing to the word "duck." Then he pointed again to the picture of the duck, in a totally different book. To show me he could knew what the word said. I was beyond proud. My boy may not yet speak, but that he has begun reading, and typing, means that perhaps he will soon find a new means of communication.