The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto – Mitch Albom

Lágrima (Spanish: Teardrop) – by Spanish guitarist Francisco Tárrega – is the main music piece of this very heart-aching and touching tale of a boy born during wartime. I travelled through parts of his journey with tears rolling down my cheeks. A story remains unreal as a story but the emotions are real.

At certain junctions i felt like kicking Music or Life (or the author) for playing cruel jokes on the boy. But if life is always smooth, then it isn’t life. I cannot recall the exact words but Shakespeare wrote something along the line of “to be alive is to feel pain”. I could not agree more.

The boy suffers greatly for his art (and fame). “You cannot write if you do not read, you cannot eat if you do not chew, you cannot play if you do not listen”, how many people truly understand this basic concept and still embrace the idea of delayed gratification? Recently i learnt from a video that it takes a toddler a year of listening to a language before he/she starts to speak the language. Not sure how true that study is but it makes sense.

In reality, some things are left unexplained. Not everything gets a closure. The best we can do, is just to move on. This point is well illustrated in the story in which the situation takes a turn for the worse whenever “truth” is revealed. Is truth really necessary? I guess that is subjective. Personally i feel some things are better left unsaid and unknown. But of course one should always know your roots and never pretend to be of a different origin. That should not change because it cannot change.

This book is a somewhat emotionally-draining read for me but i like it very much, not as much as i like Tuesdays with Morrie but enough to recommend it as a book worth reading. It makes many of the issues we face today look small and silly.

Art, existing in various forms (words, paintings, music, films…) will always connect people at heart, regardless of distance and era. It will always be a reliable source of solace to all. Always.

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Animal Farm – George Orwell

A friend said one can finish this book in 5 minutes. An exaggeration of course but i did cleared it very fast. One thing about not having to deal with exams is that i can actually enjoy my textbook at face level. Evil pigs these are, i tell you, much worse than those in Angry Birds. I shall have pork chop for dinner later.

This read is like a comic relief for me before i dive into the next not-so-thin book. Despite the cuteness of it all, there is a sad moment when blind faith is rewarded with murder. That is truly how the world is, not so much as the fittest survive, but rather, the most cunning thrive.

Politics is well played with conditioning and constant re-conditioning of the minds. The mind is, after all, extremely forgetful. If a lie is repeated every day, the mind will soon accept it to be the truth. This is especially so when the mainstream media – that horrible Squealer – has the ability to turn black into white. Or is it white into black. Whichever way.

My favourite is the cat who mysteriously seems to have vanished mid-way through the book ……….

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami

I found such great solace in this read that it is hard for me to express in words. “Some things in life are too complicated to explain in any language”.

The never-ending debate about whether a book is writerly or readerly will always be there. Did the book happen to suit my situation or did i interpret the book accordingly in my situation? Just like many questions in life, there is no answer. And just like many past events in life, it doesnt really matter.

Life, sometimes, needs victims. Whether or not, one is indeed a victim, is simply a perspective. This perspective may or may not change as time passes by.

The good thing is, “not everything was lost in the flow of time.” Each of us definitely retains something precious and continues to hold on to it close at heart. For the living, just do your best to keep on living, even if your lives arent perfect.

The sun will still rise tomorrow … life continues … it is Monday again. Damn.

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Birthday Stories – Haruki Murakami

As the number in age gets greater, the list of reasons (excuses) for not reading gets longer. So now i will continue with a collection of short stories, some of which i like, and some i don’t. Which is my favourite? Read my thoughts below and make a guess …

“The Moor” (by Russell Banks)
Perhaps a trivial truth revealed is what makes the day great.

“Dundun” (by Denis Johnson)
A cycle of life and death as the death of one marks the birthday of another.

“Timothy’s Birthday” (by William Trevor)
A deliberate absence could be the most cruel present ever.

“The Birthday Cake” (by Daniel Lyons)
Is a cake really so important on a birthday?

“Turning” (by Lynda Sexson)
Not every riddle has an answer.

“Forever Overhead” (by David Foster Wallace)
Time comes to a standstill when one is in fear.

“Angel of Mercy, Angel of Death” (by Ethan Canin)
An obvious consistency in the overall inconsistency, be it subconsciously or purposely.

“The Birthday Present” (by Andrea Lee)
A mini escape from routine life under the disguise of an erotic present.

“The Bath” (by Raymond Carver)
Disconnection. Fragments. Questions.

“A Game of Dice” (by Paul Theroux)
For people who cannot be alone.

“Close to the Water’s Edge” (by Claire Keegan)
Close to water, close to grandma.

“The Ride” (by Lewis Robinson)
Side by side, but worlds apart.

“Birthday Girl” (by Haruki Murakami)
What is the (your) birthday wish?

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To read or not to read, that is the question

The recent saga over the removed titles from N*B reveals a fair bit on the quality of arguments that people are capable of. There are better ones, supported with evidence (links) and statistics (links again), documented systematically to lead readers from point to point. There are also lousy ones that resorted to name calling. The first thing – I feel – before engaging in any argument or debate, is to ask yourself – how qualified are you to comment on the subject. Speaking of which, this is the reason why I am talking about this on my personal blog as a personal view, and not as a comment under the articles.

First and foremost, I have not even read the books! So on what basis am I to comment? And how many of the people (who commented passionately and righteously) have actually read the books?

Even if I were to take a broad assumption that all of them had read the books, how can anyone take one singular personal view, as a representation of society’s view? Some of them cited “many of us” in an attempt to borrow support from the masses and the question in my head is just one word “who”. “Who” specifically is the “many”?

For those who use religion as a reason, did they forget that we are in a country that has multiple religions? As far as I can remember (not that I am that old), we practise religious tolerance and we respect the differences in views and practices. So how is it possible to use (any) religion as a reason to impose a view on others?

Morality is one of the big issues associated with this saga. But what exactly is morality? I have just checked the word in dictionary.com and the few lines of definitions point mainly to “right conduct”. So I ask again, what would be considered as a right conduct? Is there a standard answer that can withstand disputes from all directions? One definition of morality cannot represent anything more than that particular individual’s idea of morality.

It is highly possible that a person’s thinking and ideas can be affected by the books he or she reads, but isn’t learning part of life? Do we learn by reading all the “right” stuff or do we learn by reading everything and then differentiating the “right” and “wrong”? I am not a parent so I cannot comment on parenting style but I do wonder if sweeping reality under the carpet is a good strategy. During my time, talks concerning making out was a taboo and so curiosity got into some young heads. I think that was one reason that contributed to a number of abortions at that time. What I see today is that parents appear more open to talk about it and in doing so; they have the first hand opportunity to caution their children about the risks (damages) involved.

I agree that young minds should not be exposed to matured material but do those books blatantly promote values that are contradictory to family values? If they do, they will not be in the children’s section of the public libraries in the first place. If they don’t, what can children deduce from those printed words and colourful pictures? In their young innocence, how possible it is for them to understand these texts at a deeper level and grasp implicit (imposed) meanings that underlie the texts? I would like to borrow an old article (old picture, rather) as a further explanation. (http://www.frenblog.com/illusion/dolphin-illusion/)

As for my stand on whether or not those titles should be removed, I am not too concerned. There are still many titles available for loan, and there are even more titles out there in the world available for rental or purchase. Is there a real need to debate until faces turn red? Furthermore, I feel that the x number of copies that are to be destroyed should rest in peace, seeing that the titles themselves have gained much attention in just a few days. A worthy sacrifice, don’t you agree? And yes, I am really curious to read them now! A pen is mightier than a sword. Indeed.

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