100 Books, Uncategorized

212/ Life After Life

I run to death, and death meets me as fast. And all my pleasures are like yesterday.

The thing about life is that it’s our one shot at everything in this world. Our one and, fortunately or unfortunately, only shot. After that, who knows what’s next.

Perhaps we leave everything in this world behind us as we move on to a new world where death is that great beauty that transcends all.

Or maybe we get to go back here on earth and lead a new life after new life after new life. Like Ursula in Kate Atkinson’s “Life After Life”: “She had obscure memories of elation, of falling into darkness, but they belonged to that world of shadows and dreams that was ever-present and yet almost impossible to pin down.”

If that were the case, what to do with life then?

Ursula opts to go after Hitler and see if this world can be rid of Holocaust. I’ll probably take my aim at Marcos and see if my country can be rid of Martial Law.

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100 Books

211/ Netherland

Life goes on…and on. .and on. Then it grinds to a halt. Because sometimes we need to see what the fuck really is going on.

So we get to ask profound questions. Like this in Joseph O’Neill’s “Netherland”:

In the space of a few pages, his winter self was crossed out by his summer self which in turn was crossed out by his next self. Told thus, the story of my son is one that begins continuously, until it stops. Is this really the only possible pagination of a life?

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210/ Adverbs

I say happiness is a state of mind and one can choose to be and stay in it. For 2016, I choose happiness and I choose love to take me there.

For starters, here’s Daniel Handler’s “Adverbs”—where characters, story lines, and magpies bleed from one chapter to the next without orienting the reader.

This is love, and the trouble with it: it can make you embarrassed. Love is liking someone a whole lot and not wanting to screw that up.

I want to love you and take you pretty places. Yes, I have things wrong, but also I can walk through walls if you’ll let me show you.

“Adverbs” is not the most inspiring and exciting love story out there (sleep-inducing comes to mind most times) but it has interesting moments. The chapter called “naturally” is the best, where this comes from and it feels so real: “This is a love worry, of course. It is the trouble all the time with love. You see the person and you want to cry…But all the time you know the depressing thing: she doesn’t even know you exist.”

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209/ Nicholas Nickleby

It’s Hallowe’en! This passage from Charles Dickens’ “Nicholas Nickleby” I find most chillingly appropriate:

There is a dread disease which so prepares its victim, as it were, for death; which so refines it of its grosser aspect, and throws around familiar looks unearthly indications of the coming change—a dread disease, in which the struggle between soul and body is so gradual, quiet, and solemn, and the result so sure, that day by day and grain and by grain, the mortal part wastes and withers away, so that the spirit grows light and sanguine with its lightening load and feeling immortality at hand, deems it but a new term of mortal life—a disease in which death and life are so strangely blended, that death takes the glow and hue of life, and life the gaunt and grisly form of death—a disease which medicine never cured, wealth warded off, or poverty could boast exemption from—which sometimes moves in giant strides, and sometimes at a tardy sluggish pace, but, slow or quick, is ever sure and certain.

“Nicholas Nickleby” also tells us that, with hard work and beauty and grace, there’s no difficulty that cannot be overcome. Dickens essays: “Poverty should engender an honest pride, that it may not lead and tempt us to unworthy actions, and that we may preserve the self-respect which a hewer of wood and drawer of water may maintain—and does better in maintaining than a monarch his.”

There are people out there—a porcupine’s a featherbed to them and they’d be happy to bed you with them. Say no.

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208/ Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

Yet I was coming to understand something of the greatest importance: all stories were part of one great story, the story of who we were. I hadn’t seen it so clearly before, but now it was so clear that it thrilled me.

I was expecting “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt” to be irreverent. Or flippant at the very least. It’s after all Anne Rice re-imagining the supposed lost years of The Divine Savior.

The Vatican has nothing to fret about though. For “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt” is almost the missing Gospel of the New Testament. This here is Anne Rice the Believer—respectful of the Christian Faith, careful of historical details, thoughtful of Jesus’ humanity.

More than intriguing and dumbfounding, Jesus coming to terms with his divinity is quite affecting. There’s that heartbreaking moment when He was in so much pain because he could not understand why His birth goaded Herod into effecting unspeakable violence against the first-borns of Jerusalem. Understand that Jesus was only seven years old here, still delicate and impressionable as any human babe. And here one must appreciate Mary, Joseph, and Cleopas for being constantly and kindly around Him—Joseph especially, because no one, even those from his own tribe, could claim Jesus being bar Joseph; for which reason his name was ridiculed and his wife derided. Yet Joseph loved Jesus like any protective father would a son.

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207/ The Old Man and the Sea

Then the fish came alive, with his death in him, and rose high out of the water showing all great length and width and all his power and his beauty. He seemed to hang in the above the old man in the skiff. Then he fell into the water with a crash that sent spray over the old man and over all of the skiff.

At 40, by today’s sickening standards of youth and beauty, I’m already Santiago. Sometimes I catch myself thinking of and looking for who would be my Manolin. Most times I dream of solitude—being at peace with myself and happy with what I have.

But I’m not quite there yet. I still have to meet and vanquish my own Great Big Fish. I imagine it would be a Farm. The soil will bend my back, burn my skin, and make my fingers gnarled and knotted. Yet I will have peace. Unlike Santiago, though, I hope my harvest will not be put to waste. I will love my Farm, but I will not kill it.

To be sure, there’s a lot to be learned from Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”. But, for me and for now, it’s this: be careful what you wish for, be more careful what you do with it.

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206/ Getting Even

When to take Woody Allen seriously? When comically?

“Getting Even” is funny, the laugh-out-loud and rolling-off-the-chair-then-on-the-floor variety, chiefly because of the outrageousness of The Gossage-Vardebedian Papers and the hilarity of Mr. Big.

But then Woody, without fanfare, pulls out cerebral punchlines like these:

The universe is strictly phenomenological. Nothing’s eternal. It’s all meaningless.

The manifestation of the universe as a complex idea unto itself as opposed to being in or outside the true Being of itself is inherently a conceptual nothingness or Nothingness in relation to any abstract form of existing or to exist or having existed in perpetuity and not subject to laws of physicality or motion or ideas relating to non-matter or the lack of objective Being or subjective otherness.

Death is an acquired trait.

Man does not bring on his own happiness, and suffering is really God’s will, although why He gets such a kick out of it is beyond me.

It’s settled then. Woody Allen is to be taken for being both, smart and funny. I don’t think he can be one without the other.

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