Hello everyone! It’s been over a year since this blog has been updated. I thought I’d post something new since I actually finished one book this summer. The one book I got to read was You Don’t Love Me Yet by Jonathan Lethem, which I bought only because I loved the other Lethem books I got to read. As She Climbed Across the Table was one of the most bittersweet stories I’ve read (okay, it’s about a professor who’s in love with a girl who’s in love with a gaping void), and Motherless Brooklyn had great noir-inspired language.
May 28, 2008
I apologize in advance for the shameless plug. I know we don’t know each other too well, but I hope that’s all about to change. I’ve recently been hired as an editor for a general interest/lifestyle magazine. One of the sections I handle is Fastlane which deals with tech, culture, movies and books. I’ve read the reviews here and absolutely love their sincere and personal style.
That in mind, I’d like to invite everyone who’s interested to continue the good work you’ve done here for publication in print. All I request is short reviews (700 to 1000 words) on books (or music albums) you’ve recently read (or heard) or find truly interesting. Include high res photo of the book (or album cover), if possible. No pro-bono here. We will compensate you with the regular contributor fee.
Feel free to email your works to inigo.roces @ yahoo. com (Ignore the spaces. That’s to confuse the spambots) with the subject “Book Review”. Don’t forget to put your full name and contact number (So I can contact you for further details).
October 31, 2006
Greetings, salutations, & all that jazz! It is I, Paolo Cruz, a.k.a. Ipis Dei, intrepid pop culture writer, doing my litte part to keep this fine blog active.
Today, i’d like to discuss the nebulous concept of so-called Literary Rock Stars.
CASE IN POINT #1: In July this year, retail chain Power Books flew in humor essayist David Sedaris for the “Talk Pretty in Manila” tour. They promoted his series of appearances with an in-store banner that prominently featured a quote from the New York Times, declaring him “the closest thing the literary world has to a rock star” (or something to that effect).
CASE IN POINT #2: In the same month, during the awards night for the 1st Philippine Graphic/Fiction Contest, production group Furball created a cute video, recapping Neil Gaiman‘s involvement with the contest. The AVP presents him (with tongue firmly in cheek) as black-clad, scruffy-haired rocker, performing in front of crowd of screaming fans.
CASE IN POINT #3: Publisher A.A. Knopf built a special webpage, dedicated to eclectic Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. Blogger Ramon de Veyra described the site’s content as “author as rockstar”. This quote was picked up for an official BlogAd used to publicize the site.
Now, I understand that part of this is necessary marketing to hook in potential readers. It implies a cult following; a dedicated readership prepared to endure the routine hassles of queues, and bad weather, and vague number-stub ticketing systems to bear witness to their author-idol. But I also wonder if the “literary rock star” category has a limit to its effectiveness, as a reliable descriptor.
October 5, 2006
I’ll admit. I’m not much of book reader. I hardly get around to browsing beyond the magazine and car section, but for obvious reasons, this one got my attention. Aside from the interesting game in its website (easy2pull.com) that harshly reminds guys like me of high school, it included a few excerpts from the book. Needless to say, I wanted to learn more.
You’ll find this one under biographies, and just like the tag says, it’s nonfiction. Neil says it best: “naked, vulnerable and disturbingly real.” Neil’s written for Rolling Stone, the New York Times, and the biographies of Marylin Manson, and Jenna Jameson (yes, you all know who she is), but this, his most recent book, is about his own two years undercover learning all the tools in the trade.
The book starts with an old device. Neil, a.k.a. Style paints a bleak picture of Project Hollywood, the so-called Pick Up Artist (PUA) headquarters in Los Angeles. Mystery, the number 1 PUA is suffering a mental breakdown and no one else cares to help him except Style, all while Project Hollywood is falling apart around them.
It all starts to flashback to the time Neil’s heartbreak was just beginning, following the lead of Dustin, a natural in the game of courtship, and just not getting it. A couple more years into the future and he still doesn’t get it. Despite all the celebrities he’s met and his successful career in writing, Neil is still single. His initial research to tracking down the origins and contributors of The LayGuide lead him to discover Mystery on the internet. He consequently signs up for his first seminar, fronting the full $500 for it. His metro choice of clothes earns him the nickname Style and his quick learning soon pulls him deeper into the seduction community.
The whole book goes through Neil’s humble beginnings as the lowly Style, to his rise to the top of the PUA ladder. All the while, he takes us through each of his seminars and epiphanies, educating in the counter-intuitive art as he goes along. Being based on forums and message boards on the internet, the book is chockfull of PUA lingo (e.g. AMOG, AFC, LJBF, etc. You’ll find a glossary at the back), forum posts and profanity. Neil even spills a couple of his own routines as well. Techniques range from David DeAngelo’s cocky-funny, Ross Jeffrey’s hypnosis methods, the indirect Mystery Method, and Neil’s very own Stylemogging. Men are taught maintenance like the right answers to women’s ‘tests’ and many ways to diffuse resistance from boyfriends, girlfriends and family. Even a sensory technique to jumpstart threesomes is explained. The result is a formulaic and definitive approach to what most guys had initially thought was a game of chance. Style divulges, not only his own insights, but even those of known seduction experts and authors.
All the characters are called by their internet names which makes for interesting insights into their character if not for a good laugh (e.g. Extramask, Sickboy, Papa, Tyler Durden and Sweater). Neil’s eccentric celebrity friends are also thrown into the mix like the obsessive Tom Cruise, the loopy Courtney Love, easy Paris Hilton, Andy Dick the bi, and even Britney Spears.
Most people would easily label this as the definitive guide to the art of seduction. It’s not so much a guide as it is a digest of sorts of all the existing techniques out there. Neil acknowledges all the other sources and methods available, simply citing his own as the most ideal for his personality. He even recommends a couple of books and sources that might provide more detailed instruction. Regardless, his insights and instructions are more than enough to work with and any avid student need only improvise and do some research to improve.
What makes this different from most of these other ‘pick up’ books is that Neil tells, first hand, the inherent faults in devoting one’s entire life to mastering the art of pick up. Mutiny, fierce competition, partner swapping, antitrust and betrayal result. All this and actually achieving what he set out to do – to find the one – eventually come together to make what was once a lofty dream into a living hell. It reads more like a novel and is driven by plot more than instruction, making for quite a long and informative read.
Any guy reading this will find himself scratching his head in disbelief. Yes, everything you’ve learned is wrong. Fortunately, it can be reprogrammed. Women reading this will be disgusted by the sheer chauvinism and objectification, but will also nod in agreement.
Here’s a little routine right out of the book called the Neg:
“Walk up to a woman, stop, wordlessly remove lint (hidden in the pal of your hand) from her clothing, ask, “How long has that been there?,” then hand her the piece of lint.”
How is this supposed to work?
“Neither a compliment nor insult, a neg is something in between – an accidental insult or backhanded compliment. The purpose of a neg is to lower a woman’s self esteem while actively displaying a lack of interest in her… The point is to come in under the radar. Don’t approach a woman with a sexual come-on. Learn about her first and let her earn the right to be hit on.”
This is used in combination with several other techniques in a strict sequential order designed to break any defense.
Indeed it comes across as demeaning and preys upon women’s weaknesses and insecurities. Neil, however, makes clear his own traumas, and that of men in general, as justification, all the while battling with his own morals on the newfound art. Like any Average Frustrated Chump (AFC) and closet romantic, Neil’s just looking to find the one. Towards the end of the book, the hardest decision he has to make is between just that and the community.
The Game is one of those rare books that gives unique insights into what we all thought was a mystery, combined with human frailty and pop culture elements thrown in. It tells the good and bad, without the force feeding, hard sell or contrived metaphors of the many other books on the subject. It’s still a story, first and foremost, self-help book second.
As for the lessons it teaches… By God, it was so simple all along…
July 14, 2006
I seriously cannot wait 🙂 It is one of the sweetest books I have ever read.
June 28, 2006
June 16, 2006
Three writers are back in school and the rest have jobs.
We need more writers!
Please leave a comment if you're interested.
June 8, 2006
Books are, let's face it, better than everything else. If we played cultural Fantasy Boxing League, and made books go fifteen rounds in the ring against the best that any other art form had to offer, then books would win pretty much every time. Go on, try it. The Magic Flute v. Middlemarch? Middlemarch in six. The Last Supper v. Crime and Punishment? Fyodor on points. See? I mean, I don't know how scientific this is, but it feels like the novels are walking it. You might get the occasional exception — Blonde on Blonde might mash up The Old Curiosity Shop, say, and I wouldn't give much for Pale Fire's chances against Citizen Kane. And every now and then you'd get a shock, because that happens in sport, so Back to the Future III might land a lucky punch on Rabbit, Run; but I'm still backing literature twenty-nine times out of thirty.
"I know you don't really like Nick Hornby too much," my boyfriend said when he handed me The Polysyllabic Spree. "But I hope you like this one."
"I don't like Nick Hornby?"
"Yeah, you said he was 'too first person.'"
"Oh, that's right."
Significant others have a funny way of reminding you of things you've totally forgotten. The Polysyllabic Spree was everything I was trying to avoid: it wasn't a novel per se, but a collection of columns written by an author I hadn't really learned to like after two novels (High Fidelity and 31 Songs). On top of it all, it was a book that tackled the pleasures of reading (or, as the blurb on the cover described it, "A hilarious and true account of one man's struggle with the monthly tide of the books he's bought and the books he's been meaning to read."). These were all things I've never really encountered before, simply because I didn't think I'd like them.
Surprisingly, reading a book about a famous author reading books was an enjoyable experience. Nick Hornby manages to avoid making you feel alienated, even as he talks about his very subjective reactions and reading experiences. For example, he explains how a single wrong sentence can singlehandedly make a book seem less genuine, or how other things can so easily get in the way of reading (like football, or an addition to the family).
In the past, I would've been quick to label these as "too-first-person" grievances. Plus, the vast majority of these books he mentioned were ones I hadn't even heard of before, and he drops cultural references on almost every page, only a handful of which I recognized. (He's so British.) But the magic of The Polysyllabic Spree lies in Hornby's ability to draw you in and find out what you (the reader) and the author have in common. Anybody who's ever loved reading, for one, will smile at Hornby's mention that the true book lover compulsively buys books even as he has dozens waiting to be read, or when he quips that all Amazon.com reviewers are idiots.
Basically, reading The Polysyllabic Spree felt like having a chat with Nick Hornby himself. I have no idea what the man looks like, but I had no trouble picturing him lighting a cigarette and relating how he offered Kurt Vonnegut a light once, or how he thinks Dickens is one of the greatest novelists to have ever existed. Perhaps the light and jovial tone of the book is also its downfall: like many conversations with truly engaging people, it just leaves one wanting for more.
May 22, 2006
I’m not going to lie. If it weren’t for the love of Philip Seymour Hoffman, I don’t think I would have been all that interested in reading Truman Capote. Yes, I’ve seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s and even that didn’t pique my curiosity about his other works. However, Capote moved me and I loved it for being beautiful and ugly at the same time. It made me want to read the finished product of the obsession from both writer and murderer with telling their stories.
In Cold Blood is based on the true-to-life murders of prosperous Kansas farmer Herb Clutter, his wife and their two children by ex-cons Dick Hickock and Perry Smith. The novel takes us through the small town’s painful process of denial, grief and eventual justice, though not without giving the people involved a fair chance to explain themselves, including the murderers.
Capote takes painstaking care to show the reader everything. We are given a peek into the American pastoral that best described the Clutter family right up to the day of the murders: authoritative Herb and perfect little Nancy and Kenyon, both at the prime of their youth. The only shadow in their otherwise idyllic life was their mother who was always on the verge of mental breakdowns. She is seen hovering around the house and her family as a ghost, hidden in her upstairs bedroom.
The town sheriff, Alvin Dewey, is not spared the torments of having to solve the case without being consumed by the event and its corresponding aftermath. He takes the murders personally not only because his family and the Clutters were friends, but also the fact that the town he is in charge of, normally so calm and neighborly, is now turning upon itself. Everybody is starting to suspect everybody else, to the point of moving away. As a result, his own family life is disrupted.
The murderers, finally, are brought brilliantly forth, front and center, by Capote. I haven’t read much murder stories and so in my short experience with them, I must say that apart from Atwood’s Alias Grace (which I will be reviewing shortly), this is the only novel I’ve read that has paid attention to the murderers themselves. At the risk of being cliché, Hickock and Smith were made human to the readers, with childhoods and families that mirrored many others’. Smith was not the only abused child, nor was Hickock the only one with failed marriages. They were certainly not the only ones who have been in and out of jail. What gripped me is that showing us their histories was never for the purpose of doubting their guilt because they did murder that family, they were guilty and they did deserve to be hanged (following their laws). In fact, I very much doubt that Capote gave the murderers’ backgrounds for us to pity them rather than to show how masterfully he can tell the story, pointblank.
Despite his motives, Capote’s portraits of Hickock and Smith, along with everybody else’s, struck me personally as the turning of In Cold Blood into a reader-centric experience. I say this because it gave the reader a rare chance to participate in the text, what with evaluating the information provided and developing a personal judgment, meaning your impression of the novel could be the complete opposite of mine. What everyone is going to agree on, however, is the fact that Capote has laid out a chilling depiction of events as supported by an equally chilling language that will continue to raise questions for decades to come. I know for sure that Perry Smith, as characterized by the movie and the novel, will stay with me for a long, long time.