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On My Bedside Table: The Sembreak Edition.

Given that the semester has already started and at least two of my subjects already required us to read novels from our reading list/syllabus, I figured it was about time to wrap up my sembreak to-read list. For the last few months (right before the first sem ended), I've been secretly complaining about how I'm having such a hard time reading anything already because of the insane amount of work I had to do for all my subjects. It got to the point where it was actually quite hard just enjoying words in whatever genre after (unwillingly) feasting my eyes on serious critical theories and/or literary techniques. So I made a pact with myself that come sembreak, I will really reward myself with books I enjoy and actually want to read, especially since I have quite a lot on my bedside table(s).

I'm glad to say I was quite successful. I think I actually spent more time with my glasses on and reading on my bed rather than on Facebook. Achievement!

Summer Crossing by Truman Capote. This was the novel I selected for our English 42 (American Literature) final project, but I will include this because this has been on my bookshelf for quite some time already, and I was actually meaning to read it for sembreak. I got it at the Manila International Book Fair at SMX for a really good price, plus it was the recently discovered novel of Truman Capote -- how could I not buy that? It just so happened that it fell in the category I needed for my project, which was a deconstruction of American society as reflected in different aspects of their culture. It's definitely a charming take on the struggle for independence and freedom amidst social class set in a picturesque sweltering Manhattan summer in the 1940s.

Looking For Alaska by John Green. The novel that has got everybody in the online world talking, gushing, and crying. I have to say in honesty though that because of the hype, I didn't find myself expecting too much from it. I didn't want to be disappointed, but at the same time I wanted to find out what made this book so riveting, so I had to put my literary guard down and just enjoy it. Suffice to say, I read this in one afternoon. To say that the plot was beautiful would be an understatement. It was definitely a story that went beyond your typical high-school first-love-affair. But more than the narrative, I actually appreciated the prose too. John Green has a fluid, easy way with words that makes them sound almost lyrical and yet does not seem forced at all. I had to sit down and stare into blank space for a while after reading the last page -- and of course, in a very good way. Yep, it had that effect.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Now of course, this isn't a novel per se, but it was also on my to-read list this sembreak. After having been swept like crazy by the first book, I just had to get my hands on this one. It was such a guilty pleasure! Except for Archie comics and the well-loved local comics Kiko Machine, I don't really read comics in print. But Scott Pilgrim definitely changed my mind. It's surrealism grounded in something still so honest and human is what makes it so much fun to read. I have to have the next one already! (Also: I haven't seen the movie yet. I'm vowing to get through at least half of the series before watching the Michael Cera [!] flick.)

Sadopaideia by Anonymous. An interesting read on an interesting topic: sadomasochism. Being a creative writing major, I am not entirely alien to sexuality and all that it encompasses most especially as represented in literature. It's funny that people see erotic literature as something to be scared of, something taboo, when in fact it merely paints us a clearer picture of what life was in that era, particularly 20th century England. It's unfortunate that I only got to finish it this sembreak when I actually did a paper on sadomasochism for my English 21 critical paper just last sem. It would've been handy in providing more evidence on the literary characterization of the Wife of Bath as the Seductress.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I'm still on my way to finishing all the books of one of my favorite 18th-century author, and I'm glad I'm finally halfway there! Northanger Abbey is not one of her more popular novels, but its use of satire and wit on naivete is something worthy of note. By using innocent country girl Catherine Morland as the central point of this novel, Austen gives us a humorous look at the blurring of the lines between fiction and reality. It struck a chord with me because the feeling of having my head so buried into a book is so familiar to me that I feel like I'm juxtaposing everything in my life to what's in the pages. But who can blame me if fiction is just so much more interesting than real life?

The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis. This is has got to be my favorite among all these books. Charles Highway's tongue-in-cheek description of the last few moments of his teenage life is something I enjoyed not only for its honesty but also for the fact that I too am almost in that part of my life. Having turned 19 a few weeks ago, I also can't help but feel that there must be something big, something life-changing that I had to work on in order to cement my transition from being a teenager to an adult. Although there were times when I just wanted to smack Charles right in the head, I can't help but laugh with him as he goes through seemingly ridiculous but actually realistic lengths to get it on with mysterious, charming Rachel. Sure, Charles may not be the ideal hero, what with his bad habits and above average cockiness, but you have to admit that Charles isn't exactly a dumb guy -- he's about to get into Oxford and he definitely knows his way with words. He's not exactly dreamy: one minute he's this lanky, uncool dude drowning in his poetry and the next he sounds like the arrogant, I'm-better-than-you kind of guy that every pore in your body absolutely despises and yet gets under your skin and keeps you up at night. And if that won't, well maybe his thoughts and desires will. After all, isn't it the best to make the craziest decisions and throw the last hurrah (as either a "Fuck You!" to teenage-dom or a "Ciao, bella!" to the future) when you're young and 19?

It may seem like a lot, but wait until you see my "Still-to-Read" list. I have more books on my bedside table waiting on cue, plus the required ones I have to read by next week, and also some other readings. My bookshelves both at home and in the dorm are probably on the verge of giving up (but hopefully not any time soon!) It's a mountain of stacked up books waiting to be devoured, hanging around to be leafed through and enjoyed.

It really is an inescapable life of words, prose, and reading for me. Well, so far, I'm not complaining.