Thursday, 27 February 2014

This is How You Lose Her

This is a book written by the upcoming author Junot Díaz, a Dominican-American. I was keeping an eye open for potential romance novels for valentine (yes, I know that was two weeks ago), and this seemed reasonably suitable.
This book contains several short stories about a Dominican called Yunior. He isn’t born in the best circumstances – his father is working hard in America so his family can one day join him, his brother is quite a player and his mother has a praying group that he calls the horsefaces of the apocalypse. Things go further and further downhill – he himself can’t quite keep it in his pants as he cheats time and time again, as a sort of comfort blanket he keeps returning to, his brother is diagnosed with cancer, America is cold, and his true loves keep abandoning him when they find out about his cheating.
The short stories cut the book in easy-to-consume chapters, which aren’t chronologically and you can’t quite work out the whole story until you’ve finished the last short story. They are all laced with Spanish, which was a bit of an obstacle for me. I can understand the basic ‘por favor’ and ‘puta madre’ but then there are these:

…My mother would take food out of Pura’s hands, but as soon as mami turned around Pura would be back in the fridge helping herself. Even told mami that she should paint the apartment. You need color in here. Esta sala está muerta.
I shouldn’t laugh, but it was all kinda funny.
And the horsefaces? They could have moderated things a little, don’t you think, but they were, like, fuck that, what are friendships for if not for instigating? They beat the anti-Pura drums daily. Ella es prieta. Ella es fea. Ella dejó un hijo en Santo Domingo. Ella tiene otro aquí. No tiene hombre. No tiene dinero. No tiene papeles. qué tú crees que ella busca por aquí?...

And of course I can put it all through google translate, but I get the gist and I’m lazy. Also if I try reading next to the computer I end up closing the book and scrolling on 9gag for the next hour instead. But I do think that if you studied Spanish for a year or know the basics you’ll get more out of it than I did.
Still, the book wasn’t really my style. I loved the similes, but I’m a sucker for happy endings.

Until next time,


Thursday, 20 February 2014


I promise, this’ll be the last Shakespeare for now.
I doubt that I will have to explain much about this book – it’s one that everyone (I know) has already read, for school or for pleasure. Reading it for the second time felt comfortable.
You might remember that I wrote about Shakespeare’s plays that he usually focuses on one emotion; and here it’s betrayal. Hamlet’s uncle kills the king and marries his wife to boot, and although Hamlet is clearly upset about that and is looking for revenge, he rather speaks in riddles like a madman than to take action and actually kill the sonnuvabitch. It’s only toward the very end that he stabs his uncle – but the king pretty much shoved the sword in his hand. And Shakespeare probably did that because what’s a Shakespeare tragedy without at least three deaths in the last five pages?
(I still love his words though.)
The true puzzling character for me in this play is Ophelia. She’s confusing, and seems confused as well as she tries to be obedient to her brother’s and father’s will, who are both reluctant to let her open her heart to Hamlet. She never seems to have an opinion of her own until her father dies; then she is so uncontrollably stricken with grief that no good advice reaches her, until at last – a scene often painted – she falls in the river and drowns. I can never quite figure out if she loved Hamlet, or what her thoughts were about the other characters. She seems quite empty indeed, until the death of her father.

If you haven’t read this play, I suggest you do it, even though Shakespeare might not be your thing. Even if it’s just so you won’t quote the “To be or not to be” scene whilst pretending to hold a skull. Those are two completely different scenes; and the right quote would be “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.” (just in case you want to wet some literature students’ panties)

Until next time,


Friday, 14 February 2014

Henry IV

Yes, still working my way through some Shakespeare.
I got a copy of Henry IV at my library, and it had a part one and a part two. I don’t actually know how many parts there are or  if I’ve actually read the whole thing, but I would like to think this chapter (or at least book) closed.
This play wasn’t a walk in the park like Othello. Well, Othello wasn’t, but it feels like it was, now I look back on it. Henry IV has more characters who all have something to say but don’t contribute very much to the core of the story, which makes it all the more confusing to keep up – especially if you, like me, only have time for a few pages here and there.
Henry IV is different from all other Shakespeare plays I’ve read, and I must say that I must alter my opinion about our popular English writer: his plays are not always purely about emotions. This play felt more like a historical piece, which tries to give a background to the dry facts to make the reader understand what was really going on. We meet a young prince Henry, who hangs around with men any parent would frown upon, and we get the impression he frequently goes to inns and isn’t too shy to steal a purse or two. His friend Falstaff especially is a very memorable character, someone who has a knack for getting into debts and troubles, and a nose for getting out of them.
During the play, we get to know this prince as someone who will not try to shove his responsibilities aside, but rather takes responsibilities for his friends. When his father asks him to prepare for battle, he does without moaning, and he wins the battle as well. His father is suspicious that he might be after his crown or the treasure chest, but Henry V proves him wrong. And at last, when Henry IV draws his final breath, Henry V takes up his throne with a heavy but dutiful heart. His bachelor friends rejoice, thinking he will grant them titles and riches, but Henry V does no such thing, and sends them away until they sin no more; in this, the transformation is complete.

most of this book I read when I had a four-hour break between two shifts, which is not enough to go back home for, but too much time to go “shopping” in a barely-busy town with only two streets you could deem worthy of browsing. Eventually I ended up reading in the train station, because you don’t need to keep paying for cups of tea there to drown your guilt for sitting there for hours. Anyways, on my way there I passed a café and I noticed its name for the first time- Falstaff. And then I felt good and educated and stuff because I got the reference.
I felt like I needed to share that titbit.

So yeah, definitely not an easy work to read, but if you liked Shakespeare so far, you might want to give it a go, because some of the characters are very memorable.

Until next time,