Posts Tagged ‘literature’

pop goes the world: you can dish it out, but you can’t take it

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  14 March 2013, Thursday

You can dish it out, but you can’t take it

Roman Catholic Church bigwigs in Bacolod City who started a campaign against pro-Reproductive Health bill senatorial candidates were red-faced when a text message circulated naming five priests of the Diocese of Bacolod who sired offspring.

The Church in that city hung huge tarpaulins marked “Team Patay” (Team Dead) identifying the candidates they were exhorting people not to vote for, but the tables were turned when the “Team Tatay” (Team Father) messages spread.

Seems the embarrassment could have been avoided if certain people had used contraceptives, hey?

Clergy having children are nothing new; one of my first cousins is the daughter of a monk. It was a scandal in the town where they lived, but not among the unconventional Ortuoste family, a tolerant and liberal bunch. They understood and accepted the situation especially because the monk in question was my uncle. (He left his order, married his partner, and they set up as a family in the United States.)

This problem is so old that no less than the nation’s superhero Jose Rizal wrote about father “fathers,” making the muddle-headed heroine of his iconic 19th century novels the daughter of a priest.

While those randy priests in Bacolod might justify their actions by saying they at least brought their children into the world by not using contraceptives and by not having them aborted, they and like-minded others always fail to take into consideration the welfare of the children. My cousin told us that she had to bear taunts like “anak ng pari!” (child of a priest) from her playmates, and this took a heavy mental toll on her. This was one of the reasons my uncle decided to make their home in the US.

What makes this incident of the Team Tatay – Team Patay appalling is that when the tables are turned on those holier-than-thou, they harrumph and claim they are being “blackmailed,” as Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Commission on Family and Life, alleged.

He said, “We do not deny that there are instances (of priests fathering children) but that is not the issue now,” adding that Team Tatay were “changing the topic.”

“Do not throw stones because we all live in houses of glass,” he also said.

Look, if you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.

Why are they meddling when separation of Church and State is embodied in the law? If they insist on poking their noses into the things that are of Caesar then they had better get used to having the skeletons in their closets brought out into the light.

* * * * *

Good news for fans of poetry-in-Filipino enthusiasts in general and of poet-activist

Axel Pinpin in particular – his latest collection “Lover’s Lane” is finally in print in a limited-edition version.

The poems are on fire with erotic need, longing, and unrequited love – the stuff of much other writing, stemming as these emotions do from the natural human condition. Yet Axel’s work adds a revolutionary twist that makes these works different from the mainstream, and thus fresh and interesting.

Says writer and activist Ericson Acosta, “In “Lover’s Lane” continues our discovery of the extraordinary range of topic, style, and revolutionary possibilities of the poetry of Axel Pinpin. And here too, in “Pinpin Lane,” in truth, are our own voice – feelings, desires, dreams…”

“My poems are non-fiction,” says Axel, “they are not imagined narratives. They come from my own experiences and the stories of others.”

Here’s “Pusod” in its entirety:

“Ang lalim ba ng iyong pusod / ay siya ring lalim ng iyong puso? / Hayaan mong sukatin ko ito / ng aking daliri at salita / at nang ako’y malunod / at maglunoy sa iyong katubigan, / at mahulog din sa iyong bangin.” (Is the deepness of your navel / The same as your heart’s? / Let me measure this depth / With my fingers and words / That I may submerge, wade in your pools / And tumble into your clefts.”

The poems in “Lover’s Lane” are stories from real life, a curious look into and taking apart of the myriad emotions that war in the heart and soul of each person. In each phrase masterfully crafted by Axel Pinpin are the heat of love and desire and the chill of loss and leaving.

Place orders for the volume on Facebook – search for the open group page “Lover’s Lane ni Axel Pinpin” and leave a message there.   *** 

taste more:

pop goes the world: celebrating love and literature

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  7 February 2013, Thursday

Celebrating Love and Literature

Once in a while I feature in this column the literary events of the season, and here’s what’s happening in this month of love:

* * * * *

When you have a lost a loved one, how do you mourn?

Each person finds a way of coping. Support groups help; articles and books yield valuable tips. But ultimately, each one deals with grief and the pain of loss on an individual basis.

University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Arts and Letters associate professor, published poet, and performance artist Nerisa del Carmen Guevara lost her beloved to violence last year. This year, she spearheaded an interdisciplinary project at UST that brings together 11 colleges including the College of Science and the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery in a collaborative effort that explores the many different forms and faces of love.

“Making: Love in Fourteen Collaborative Acts” will run from February 11 to 15 at the Main Lobby of the historic UST main building. It will showcase fourteen literary works – poems and excerpts from stories, essays, and plays – translated into other forms of art and science, all focused on love.

The project is organized under the wing of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies (CCWLS) headed by Dr. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo (also professor emerita of the University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters).

“Making: Love” carries further the old UST Creative Writing Center’s project “Brushes with Words and Chords,” which featured works of literature, painting, and music.

The artists and collaborators will be at the exhibit for meet-and-greet and photo opportunities. On closing night, they will read from or perform their work.

Professor Guevara invites the Thomasian community and the public to the event. She adds, “I will be performing on February 15. This performance is called “Elegy.” I have collaborated with an architect, a mathematician, and a musician. I asked them to build me a bridge between life and afterlife.”

This is a love-in of literary, artistic, and scientific proportions. Bring your Valentine to UST to witness, experience, and taste “Making: Love.”

* * * * *

This event comes soon after the revitalized CCWLS under Dr. Hidalgo revived the UST literary journal “Tomas,” during an event that also saw the blessing of the Center’s new offices.

Established in 1998, the center used to be under the Faculty of Arts and Letters but is now an autonomous unit under the Office of the Rector. “Tomas” will be published every semester.

But wait, there’s more from UST. “The Varsitarian,” UST’s 84-year-old student publication, is organizing the 5th UST J. Elizalde Navarro National Workshop in Criticism on the Arts and Humanities and is now accepting applications.

The workshop will be held in Baguio City from May 26 to June 1 this year.

Fellowships will be awarded to 12 promising young critics who wish to enhance their analytical, research, and writing skills. Applicants must submit a scholarly, properly documented essay, 15-25 pages, on the following art forms – painting, sculpture, architecture, dance, drama, music, film, photography, and literature – on or before March 15, along with an updated resume and a recommendation letter from an academic mentor or art critic.

Send email to workshop convener Associate Professor Ralph Semino Galan at ralphseminogalan@gmail.com for details.

* * * * *

The admirers of Jose Garcia Villa will have a chance to see books and papers from his personal library at the Ateneo de Manila University starting today, February 7, 4:30 pm, at the Pardo de Tavera Room of the Rizal Library Special Collections building.

The Villa Estate donated rare Filipiniana, documents, and ephemera to the Rizal Library. The exhibit runs until May 30.

* * * * *

Tomorrow, February 8, the Literature Section of the University of San Carlos will hold “Minugbo: A Forum on Contemporary Visual Media” in Cebu City.

The forum will feature lectures by Jiji Borlasa (who will speak about Cebuano filmmaking), Anne Lorraine Uy (storytelling through pictures), and Diem Judilla (cinematic writing for short films).

This is a parallel event of the short film contest sponsored by the Section.   *** 

taste more:

rumi says: where lovers find each other

“The minute I heard my first love story,
I started looking for you, not knowing

how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.” 

- Rumi

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi, or Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, was born 30 September 1207 in Wakhsh, part of the province of Balkh, in what is now Tajikistan.

Rumi was a giant of Persian literature, a poet and a mystic.  In his writings he explored how the human Ego seeks to reconcile with the Divine from which it sprang forth. It is through love, he said – through love.

taste more:

pop goes the world: words wild and wondrous

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  8 March 2012, Thursday

Words Wild and Wondrous

“Poetry is a great deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.” (Kahlil Gibran)

Poetry is story; it is experience and emotion described in words carefully chosen and combined in such a way that they exude cadence and rhythm. Set to music, poems become songs. Filipinos are a poetic people more so because we are also a musical people. We can point to a poetic tradition in the old epics such as Lam-Ang, in the works of Francisco Baltazar, Jose Rizal, and all the way to the modern-day versifiers.

One such makata was lauded in the international arena recently. Romulo “Joey” Baquiran Jr., assistant professor at the University of the Philippines College of Arts and Letters, received the 2011 Southeast Asian Writers Award (also known as the SEA Write Award) last February 16 in Bangkok.

The award has been presented annually since 1979 to poets and writers in SE Asia, though not all countries are represented every year. The award may be given for lifetime achievement or for a specific work. The award was organized by the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, with backing from other corporate sponsors, and is supported by the Thai royal family, a member of which graces the awards night each year.

Among the 32 other Filipinos who have received the award are Nick Joaquin, Greg Brillantes, Jose Maria Sison, Bienvenido Santos, Virgilio Almario, Alfred “Krip” Yuson, and Vim Nadera.

Baquiran says among the memorable moments at the SEA Write awarding ceremony was meeting fellow ASEAN writers. “One awardee, Nguyen Chi Trung,” he said, “from Vietnam, is more than 80 years old. He has been active in the people’s army most of his life. He wrote novels about the struggle of his nation. Amazing lolo.”

He also found interesting the reverence that the Thai people bestow upon the members of the royal family. “When Princess Sirivannari Nariratana entered the room, everyone bowed and deferred to her with their whole being.” Even a dog she had with her “was treated with the utmost respect.” It’s cultural observations like this that inform his writing.

“Writing is a social act,” he says. “Writers must always externalize their concerns, for it to resonate in their community. I will stick to this concern.”

Baquiran teaches creative writing and literature in Filipino to undergraduates, and literary history at the graduate level. He has published two collections of poetry with another one due for publication soon, and a collection of personal essays, among many other published works.

Various awards-giving bodies have heaped recognition upon him; he has won several prizes from the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature and two Manila Critics Circle National Book Awards (poetry and creative non-fiction).

On the present state of Philippine poetry he says, “We have a writing boom right now among the young writers, both in English and Filipino. It’s pretty exciting. And the veterans are very productive too.”

Baquiran is completing a poetry collection titled Kung Nanaisin (If It is To Be Wished) to be published by the UP Press, while a Thai publisher will soon be releasing a Thai version of his essay collection Hospital Diary.

The significance of his achievement is such that the Academy of American Poets and the United States-based Poetry Foundation have Tweeted the news to their tens of thousands of followers, with the latter even posting an article on their website.

May the day come soon when international-award-winning Filipino writers and artists will be feted by the nation with as much enthusiasm as they do the boxers and singers. Literature carries within it a nation’s history and narratives, even those of its singers and boxers, and, along with other art forms, is the repository of a people’s soul.

Let Baquiran have the last word, with the opening line from his “Gagamba” (Spider): “Heometriya ng pagnanasa ang hinabi ko sa hangin…” (I wove the geometry of desire in the wind…)

* * * * *

The UP College of Mass Communication celebrates its 47th Foundation Week from March 3 to 9 with various activities including an alumni homecoming, launch of the latest issue of its journal Plaridel, and the blessing of various new facilities.

A recognition ceremony of outstanding students, faculty, alumni, and staff will be held tomorrow morning. Congratulations to the honorees and to my alma mater on reaching another milestone! *** 

Image of Prof. Baquiran here.

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kahlil gibran: the prophet

It was in a small indie bookstore in South Pasadena – The Battery – that I came upon a little book by Kahlil Gibran that I had not read for couple of decades.

 The Battery bookshop, South Pasadena, California. October 2011.

It was The Prophet, Gibran’s tour-de-force of poetry. I was introduced to it in my teens by The Beloved, who pointed out to me the wisdom in its mystical, Biblically-cadenced passages.

I bought that little book  - hardcover, 4.5 by 5.5 inches, with dust jacket, pre-owned – for six dollars, and consider it money well spent. It’s just the right size to tuck in a back pocket or purse, and take out from time to time to immerse in the flow of language and philosophical ideas.

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) was born in Lebanon and migrated with his family to the United States in 1895.

He was a painter, writer, and poet. His most popular work, The Prophet, has never been out of print. He is the third best-selling poet in history, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.

From the chapter on Love:

Then said Almitra, Speak to us of Love.

And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:

When love beckons to you follow him,

Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.

And when he speaks to you believe in him,

Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Image of Kahlil Gibran here.

taste more:

learning the way of the tao

From my bookshelves: Tao Te Ching, ascribed to Lao Tzu, translated by John H. McDonald. (Arcturus, London: 2010).

Tao Te Ching is translated to mean “The Classic/Canon on the Way/Path of Virtue” and is a book on the philosophy of Taoism, written over 2,500 years ago.

Authorship is ascribed to Lao Tzu, a record-keeper at the Zhou Dynasty court, who was a contemporary of Confucius (551-479 BCE). However, some scholars believe that the work is an anthology of sayings compiled over a long period of time.

The work has been divided into chapters by later transcribers of the text, perhaps to make memorization easier. Many of the concepts are difficult to understand, such as wu-wei, or non-action, which is not the same as inaction.

Says John Baldock in his introduction: “The Tao Te Ching tells us that ‘true sayings seem contradictory’ (78), and there are possibly few sayings more contradictory than those relating to the principle of non-action or wu-wei.

“For example,we are advised to ‘Act by not acting; do by not doing’ (63). And we are told that ‘The Master….acccomplishes much without doing anything’ (47).

“In mastering the ego or ‘self’ rather than allowing it to master him/her, the Master is freed from the need to act out of personal desire or self-interest and thus becomes an empty vehicle for the Tao. In this liberated state of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’, the Master enjoys that ultimate freedom – the ‘freedom of no-choice’ – because he does nothing; it is the Tao which accomplishes things through him.”

I like this particular version of the book because it translates the Chinese pronouns into “her” rather than “him”, so I can relate better to the sayings.

My favorite chapter, 43, gives advice on dealing with things:

That which offers no resistance,
overcomes the hardest substances.
That which offers no resistance,
can enter where there is no space.
Few in the world can comprehend
the teaching without words,
or understand the value of non-action.

I’ve tried resistance, I’ve tried butting heads, I’ve tried forcing my way. But these tactics often don’t work. It is when I become still, and calm, and allow the world to swirl around me unheeded, allowing other people’s actions to wash over and around me without being affected, that things go the way they should and fall into place.

I am learning the way of the tao. It is not easy, and for someone raised in Western ways, it is counter-intuitive. But in these stressful times, we need to find the path that takes us where we need to be, in the serenity and stillness of a self not controlled by the hunger of personal desires, a self that, through non-action, achieves.

taste more:

elegance and beauty in ancient japan

From my bookshelves: The Pillow Book (Makura no soshi) by Sei Shonagon (Penguin Books, London: 2006).

As a creative writer I am more comfortable writing non-fiction rather than fiction, and as a reader I find myself drawn to CNF books such as memoirs and biographies. In order to study the genre I’ve built up a collection of representative works, and this one is among my favorites.

Written by Sei Shonagon, one of the most lettered women of her time, the book reveals the mannered, elegant world of the court in 11th century Japan during the Heian period.

Shonagon was a woman of delicate taste and deep aesthetic sensibilty; the sight of an autumn leaf would send her into paroxysms of rapture. What set her apart from others of equally sensitive nature was her intelligence and immense writing talent, that allowed her to set down her thoughts into a work that is regarded as one of the gems of world literature.

The Pillow Book is written in diary format, but contrary to the popular definition of ‘diary’ as a private exercise to be seen only by the writer, Shonagon knew from the start, after she was given the gift of paper (see excerpt image above) that it would be seen by the public.

She was one of the stars of Queen Teishi’s court, invited to join it for the high esteem people gave her learning, wit, and talent as a poet. Teishi had assigned Shonagon to come up with a work that would show the accomplishments of her court, as opposed to the second consort Queen Akiko’s, which boasted another highly regarded writer, Murasaki Shikibu (author of the Tale of Genji).

Much of The Pillow Book is in the form of lists:

[84] Things of elegant beauty – A slim, handsome young gentleman of noble birth wearing court dress.
A pretty girl dressed somewhat casually…
A bound book of fine paper.
A letter on fine green paper, tied to sprig of willow covered in little leaf buds.
A three-layer fan. A five-layer fan is too thick, and the base looks ugly.
Long stems of sweet flag, laid elegantly on a cypress-bark roof that’s neither too new nor too old, are wonderfully fresh and green to the eye…
A charming cat with a white tag on her red collar walking along by the railing of the veranda beyond the blinds, trailing her long leash behind her, is also a lovely and very elegant sight…
A knotted letter of violet paper, with a long cluster of wisteria blossom attached…

[143] Things that make the heart lurch with anxiety – Watching a horse-race. Twisting up a paper hair-binding cord…
Your heart naturally lurches when you hear the voice of your secret lover in an unexpected place, but the same thing happens even when you hear someone else talking about him. It also lurches when someone you really detest arrives for a visit.
Indeed the heart is a creature amazingly prone to lurching. It even lurches in sympathy with another woman when the next-morning letter from a man who stayed with her for the first time the night before is late in arriving.

[160] Things that are far yet near – Paradise. The course of a boat. Relations between men and women.

taste more:

shopping in 15th century baghdad

From my bookshelves: Tales from the Arabian Nights (Avenel Books, New York: 1978), a selection of the choicest stories from The Book of a Thousand Nights and a Night (Alf Laylah Wa Laylah) translated by Sir Richard Burton and privately published in 16 volumes in London in 1885-88.

I bought this for fifty pesos, which was my Christmas money I think, on 9 December 1982 at the now-defunct Alemar’s bookstore in Makati. I had just turned 15 and at the time it was the most expensive book I owned. This volume is a limited edition run and contains illustrations from the 1859 edited edition of the EW Lane translation.

Editor David Shumaker says in the foreword that the tales, while spoken of as early as 944 by Mas’udi, may have been collected in Cairo by a professional storyteller in the 15th century and recast in the form familiar to us now – of the clever princess Shahrazad avoiding death by telling a story each night to King Shahryar.

From the story “The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad”, a description of a shopping expedition to the market:

…she stopped at a fruiterer’s shop and bought from him Shami apples and Osmani quinces and Omani peaches, and cucumbers of Nile growth, and Egyptian limes and Sultani oranges and citrons; besides Aleppine jasmine, scented myrtle berries, Damascene nenuphars, flower of privet and camomile, blood-red anemones, violets, and pomegranate-bloom, eglantine and narcissus, and set the whole in the Porter’s crate, saying, “Up with it.”

So he lifted and  followed her till she stopped at a grocer’s, where she bought dry fruits and pistachio-kernels, Tihamah raisins, shelled almonds and all wanted for dessert, and said to the Porter, “Lift and follow me.”

So he up with his hamper and after her till she stayed at the confectioner’s, and she bought an earthen platter, and piled it with all kinds of sweetmeats in his shop, open-worked tarts and fritters scented with musk and “soap-cakes”, and lemon-loaves and melon-preserves, and “Zaynab’s combs”, and “ladies’ fingers”, and “Kazi’s tit-bits” and goodies of every description; and placed the platter in the Porter’s crate….

Then she stopped at a perfumer’s and took from him ten sorts of waters, rose scented with musk, orange-flower, water-lily, willow-flower, violet and five others; and she also bought two loaves of sugar, a bottle for perfume-spraying, a lump of male incense, aloe-wood, ambergris and musk, with candles of Alexandria wax…until she stood before the greengrocer’s, of whom she bought pickled safflower and olives, in brine and in oil; with tarragon and cream-cheese and hard Syrian cheese…

The device of using lists to add description, depth, or provide background to a story was also used to great effect by many other writers in both fiction (for instance, Oscar Wilde in his collection of original fairy tales, The House of Pomegranates, 1891) and non-fiction (Sei Shonagon in her memoir The Pillow Book, 1002).

The Arabian Nights tales are exotic and bawdy, set in a time and land so far removed from our own that many of the references would be incomprehensible if it weren’t for the footnotes Burton thoughtfully provided. Yet the themes – of love and betrayal, passion and pleasure, heroism and humor – are archetypal and resonate to the present day.

taste more:

harry potter and the never-ending camping trip

I had waited for it for years. Being satisfied with the first through sixth films in the franchise, I expected “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” to be as riveting. Unfortunately, the film’s producers seem to have misplaced their riveter this time.

Getting down to nuts and bolts, this interpretation is lackluster and slow-paced for two-thirds of the film, but after that redeems itself with a selfless death and other advances to the story.

To be fair, the book was the longest of the seven in the series and really, it was nearly all about a long and interminable camping trip. After upheavals in the Ministry of Magic, and more skullduggery by He Who Must…okay, Voldemort and his henchmen, the lives of Harry, Ron, and Hermione are forever transformed by having to flee their homes and go into hiding. In the woods. In a tent that emerges from Hermione’s tiny beaded bag that seems to extend into another dimension and thus possesses infinite space within. Now that bag is cool.

Harry is still on a mission from Dumbledore to find the other horcruxes and destroy them before Voldemort gets to them first. No spoilers here, but if you read the book (if you haven’t, I highly recommend you do so), you’ll know how it all turns out.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) and her beaded bag that extends into a parallel dimension – I WANT ONE. Image from here.

What’s to like about the movie? It captures the bleakness of Harry’s soul, the internal suffering that he carries from his unloved boyhood into his late adolescence when people around him are getting hurt or dying to help him on his quest.

At first Harry thinks it’s all about him, and the guilt gets to be too much to bear so he attempts to strike out on his own, but Ron tells him, it isn’t all about you, it never was. Harry then realizes that though he is somehow central to the events, in the end he is just an element in the greater scheme of things and he must play his part.

But it’s not easy for Harry, it’s not just a matter of waving wands about and exercising limitless magical power. It’s still about the old-fashioned heroic values – belief in good over evil, perseverance, determination, self-sacrifice, friendship, and love. The film delivers that message, and it may be that the slow pace set the tone for that.

On the visual side, the settings for their tent-in-exile were magnificently desolate – lonely woods, a barren rocky hilltop, salt flats. The tent got larger and grander until by the end of the movie it was a multi-room affair complete with sleeping bags, the omnipresent veddy veddy British teakettle, a dining-cum-conference table, and spoons and forks in a mug.

Harry and Hermione sport clothing of somber colors, in keeping with the landscape. I WANT HER CLOTHES. Especially that peacoat. Image here.

Since many of us have read the entire Harry Potter canon by JK Rowling anyway, I won’t go into deeper analysis except to say that it belongs to the fantasy/magical genre that British authors have developed to the highest point. No one does it as well as they do – among them Tolkien, CS Lewis, Carroll, and Conan Doyle along with the other Victorians who collected and wrote fairy tales – and now Rowling is carrying on the tradition.

On a lighter note, a dozen things I liked:

1. Emma Watson’s clothes. I love that blue peacoat!

2. Hermione’s beaded bag that holds everything in the world.

3. Dobby’s self-sacrifice. He died Apparating the good guys from a villainous stronghold.

4. Bellatrix Lestrange’s rat’s-nest hair and dagger-flinging accuracy.

5. Severus Snape’s billowing black robes that proclaim “I am a serious, traditional, magic-using academic”. I WANT ONE.

6. Dolores Umbridge’s pink kitten-head scarf. Meow!

7. The Godric’s Hollow set – a typical, storybook hamlet. I’d like to live in one of the cottages there. Yes, even with that creepy old lady Bathilda Bagshot for a neighbor, it would be magical.

8. Bathilda Bagshot’s creepiness. The ultimate in old-lady oddity! Remind me to be like her when I become aged and decrepit. It would be fun freaking everyone out.

9. The dirigible plums at the Lovegood’s – that was a whimsical touch.

10. Patchwork everywhere – on nearly all the beds and throw pillows in the movie, the curtains and tablecloths in the Weasley home, and Xenophilius Lovegood’s shirt.

11. Bill and Fleur’s wedding – sigh. So romantic. My next wedding will be like that, I swear, in a tent with all my most eccentric friends and family in attendance.

12. How much Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint’s acting have improved. Emma Watson was fantastic from the beginning of the series and has developed into an actor with solid talent.

Overall: you must see this if you enjoyed the book and watched the previous films in the series, if only to get one more step closer to closure. Though the producers could have cut much of the camping trip out and reduced the running time from three hours to two-and-a-half or even less without sacrificing important narrative elements, it’s still worth watching.

ACCIO BLUE PEACOAT!

taste more:

salman rushdie: the enchantress of florence

It’s been a while since I blogged about books, any book. Blame it on school. I’m in my first semester of PhD studies, and am feeling my way back into the social sciences after a twenty-year hiatus.

But with the sem winding to a close, and with my requirements done – well, mostly done, except for a couple of papers that just need finishing touches – I’m ready to hunker down for some serious reading. With that end in mind, I hit Fully Booked last week and carted off several inexpensive paperbacks, among them Salman Rushdie’s 2008 offering, The Enchantress of Florence.

I have admired his work ever since reading his The Satanic Verses, in 1998, which so offended the Ayatollah Khomeini. The Ayatollah’s regime slapped a fatwa on him for offending Islam, put a price on his head, and had every Muslim out for his life, forcing him to go into hiding for ten years. Nothing like notoriety to bring an author to the top of the bestseller’s lists! That and the scandal of a bald, aging writer mysteriously attracting the most gorgeous women on the planet. You have to wonder – what’s he got that isn’t obvious? Maybe if we read his books, we’d find out.

The Enchantress of Florence is pure Rushdie –  masterful use of language, deft story-telling, plots within plots. This novel is well-researched, mixing, as it does, the history of Renaissance Florence and the Mughal Empire in a rollicking tale featuring a European storyteller calling himself “Mogor dell’Amore” (The Mughal of Love); Akbar the Mughal Emperor; and the Enchantress, whom Mogor claims is his mother.

Though long-dead, she captures the imagination of Akbar and that of the populace of his city of Fatehpur-Sikri so intensely that she acquires a life of her own that makes her even more real than the other people in the book.

Indeed, the insubstantial ghosts of women are more important than those of flesh-and-blood. Akbar’s favorite queen, Jodha, is imaginary, created and sustained by the force of his will, inhabiting his palace like a shadow. Yet the resentment of his other queens against the phantasm is all too real. Later it is directed against the “Enchantress”, Qara Koz (“Black Eyes”), the sister of Akbar’s ancestor Babar, when she gains a life of her own.

Stripped of its flowery language and convoluted storyline, the novel centers around an impossibly beautiful woman and her magical effect on the men around her. Like la belle dame sans merci, she loves only as long as she wants to, but her men love her forever.

One wonders – was Rushdie inspired by a real woman – someone, perhaps, like his fourth wife, actress Padma Lakshmi, from whom he was recently divorced?

Salman_rushdie_padma_lakshmi

Having lived with such glamorous arm candy for three years, it isn’t far-fetched to speculate that here is Rushdie’s “Enchantress” in the flesh, and the novel, his tribute to a stunning woman who captured his heart, his fancy, and his imagination.

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