Monday, December 05, 2016

Reading and Reflecting

Recently I've somewhat got back into reading - perhaps with the realisation that pretty soon I may not have the luxury of reading for pleasure anymore. Although what I read are from the fiction genre, with every book there is a certain realness when I'm immersed in it and it is inevitable that the mind starts drawing parallels with real life.

It all started with Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie

Image: Penguin

This was a magical journey where Luka stumbled left into the World of Magic in a quest to save his father, who was slipping away in an unexplained slumber. His father, Rashid, was a storyteller and had an analogue in the World of Magic, in the form of Nobodaddy. His adopted pets, Bear the dog and Dog the bear could speak in this other world, and were his faithful companions in advancing each level, like in a video game where there was a life counter and a save button after completing each level. They met many other characters along the way - Soraya the Insultana of Ott who seemed to be modeled after Luka's mother, Captain Aag and the Aalim who were the villains, the elephant birds, coyote and the dragon sisters. Luka's edge in the World of Magic was that he had memorised his father's stories and Rashid knew everything about that world.

It was a fun and thrilling read. Occasionally I had to remind myself that this was fiction, as the imagery in my mind was so vivid. Sometimes I would wonder, 'what if there was a World of Magic?' but of course I'd snap out of it.

Reading up on Salman Rushdie, I didn't know he was such a controversial author with assassination attempt and his early copywriting work with O&M for Aero etc. For many years, since my teenage days I have seen his books on the shelves but never bought any. This is one author that I would search for his other books henceforth.

Next was The Bridget Jones Omnibus: The Singleton Years by Helen Fielding

Image: panmacmillan

I couldn't bring this book around because it was so thick! But that didn't stop me from finishing it within a week plus. I'd watched the movies, loved Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth (of course!). There were more references to P&P in the book compared with the movies, particularly an absurd interview by Bridget Jones with the "real" Colin Firth in Rome.

I couldn't help laughing when I read the first page and knew this was going to be a fun read. I've cold-storaged chic lits for some time now but this was an exception since HBO/Star Movies would keep repeating the movies until I could memorise the script. Some parts of Bridget Jones' self indulgence reminded me of Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series, but I think Helen Fielding's books have been out much longer than the latter. Perhaps it's that annoying thing that all females do - "Ok, I'll just get/eat this first and work on discipline tomorrow!"

There were parts where I found familiar as a 'singleton', like the family/neighborhood parties and awkward treatments by the smug marrieds. It's really ironic to be given advise by some who's marriage isn't particularly emanating with vibes of love. I'm just saying...

But I guess the moral of the story is that even if you make an ass out of yourself (multiple times) and that someone still undoubtingly accepts you, then that relationship will go the distance.

I haven't had a chance to catch the latest installation of the movie series (although I briefed upon some bad reviews), but I'll definitely try to watch it.

I just finished Waiting by Ha Jin

Image: Google books

This is another author which I have seen on the bookstore shelves for many years, but never picked up a copy. I bought Waiting and The Crazed (yet to read).

Waiting is set in communist China during the 1960s till 1980s. It was apparently based on a true story, but obviously with fictional details. It is about Lin Kong, a doctor working in the city of Muji who develops a 'special friendship' with Manna Wu, a nurse who grew up as an orphan. Lin is a quiet character, studious in nature and described as thin (not masculine). He was married to Shuyu in his hometown, Goose Village and had a daughter, Hua. Shuyu had bound feet, which at that time was no longer a practice and Lin feared ridicule from the city folks. Throughout, Shuyu was the dutiful wife taking care of Lin's parents till their passing, serving Lin whenever he returned during summer and even agreeing to divorce every year. The routine of divorcing attempts kept on every summer where Shuyu would break down in tears after agreeing to divorce in court and the local judge would deny the request.

Manna had given up relying on Lin to make the divorce happen and was waiting for the law which states that after 18 years of living apart, a husband may divorce his wife without her consent. Through a rape and gradual changes in characters, the 18 years came and Lin and Shuyu were divorced in Muji. Lin married Manna and had twin boys but their marriage wasn't as happy as they thought it would be.

The story ends with a fiery Manna having a progressive heart murmur condition and Lin realising that he was never in love with Manna; it was just a crush. In a drunken moment during a visit to Shuyu and Hua, he had mentioned endearing comments to Shuyu, who agreed to wait for him until Manna was gone.

It left me a bit sad, disturbed and unable to blame any of the characters. The setting of communist rule showed how rigid it was back then. Western books were not allowed, marriage in official uniforms, having to obtain permission from higher officials for personal matters, food coupons... I can't imagine living under such conditions.

But above it all, the question arises of how do we know whether what we feel (or have been feeling for a very long time) is love or just an infatuation? And is it alright to flip flop between partners if the first is willing to take you back?

Now, I've just started Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday


Another book that I have watched the movie interpretation ahead. I liked the movie, I hope I'll like the book better. I usually end up doing so ;)

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