The theater scene

Source: Wikipedia

“The Spectacles” is a short story by the father of short stories himself, Edgar Allan Poe. It’s quite a lengthy short story, but I promise you that it’s worth it.

When you hear old Poe’s name, what comes to mind? The short story, darkness, grotesqueness, irony, alcohol, death.

Etc., etc. All those seemingly negative things that make you shiver in your seat and the hairs on your skin stand. MOST, if not ALL, of Poe’s works are like this. They tackle the tragic consequences of what Man can make of his nature.

Going back to the short story, if you’ve read it then you’ll know that Poe is not all darkness and death and alcohol. Believe or not, The Spectacles is a story bordering on tragedy and comedy. Poe, again, utilizes his lavish use of highly stylized language but to a purpose different than of grotesqueness. Instead, he paints a picture of Man’s foolishness – resulting in more of a comedy than a tragedy.

Read The Spectacles and discover a significantly sunnier Edgar Allan Poe:

Something else: I will soon post my reviews on The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown), And Then There Were None & 5 Little Pigs (Agatha Christie), 1984 (George Orwell) and a few entries on Literature. Yay! :)

"The Unknown Masterpiece

Published 2000

This is for the NYRB reading challenge arranged by Mrs. B at The Literary Stew.

The novel is a short and very intriguing story set within the world of artists and art-making. It can be read in one seating, and I recommend that you must. It’s very insightful. I found a lot of quotable quotes on the nature of art-making and purpose of artists.

Summary: Nicolas Poussin, a young aspiring novice artist, went to visit a rather well-known artist, Porbus. Whilst there, Porbus’ master arrives and young Poussin witnesses the master, Frenhofer’s lively discourse about art and art-making. There was much ado about the life and soul of a work of art as the master lectures. The two younger artists soon find out that Frenhofer has been for 10 years in the process of creating a work of art that he does not want to expose until perfected. In his desire to see the artwork, Poussin offered his mistress, Gillete, to Frenhofer as a model in order to complete the work and behold it. Gillete reluctantly consents. When the work of art is done, Poussin and Porbus came to see it – but they did not see the “beauty” that Frenhofer talked about. They only see colors upon colors. Porbus finds out the next day that Frenhofer has died after burning all of his artworks.


You may know your syntax thoroughly and make no blunders in your grammar, but it takes that and something more to make a great poet!

Master Frenhofer’s discourse on Porbus’ masterpiece reminded me the on-going battle in the world of art and art criticism about *drum roll* the nature of beauty. It’s a very tricky business, that. If art is the expression of the beautiful, then what is beauty? Frenhofer answers this throwing a blow to the purists and formalists and saying that the technicalities in art-making are not enough to convey beauty. I agree with him very much.

The aim of art is not to copy nature, but to express it. You are not a servile copyist, but a poet!

Another quotable quote about artists. This is very true. While our human creativity tries to take on Divine Creativity, it does not always follow that we should copy what God had created in nature. In the time of Aristotle, this is was their perception of art and poetry – Mimetics, I think it was called. Art really does come from reality – for if it does not then maybe it’s not made by a real person. However, people have different perceptions of reality and therefore different articulations of it. I really love this line from the book. It speaks to the abstract artists and it speaks to the artists especially in our generations. Which brings me to my next point…

Rating: A classic is a good piece of literature in its own rights. Moreover, a classic can withstand the test of time and can break the borders of class, race, etc. The Unknown Masterpiece is one of those classics. First published in 1831, the book not only addresses artists, but all of humanity who are capable of creation. It does not only address people from that century. Its message echoes on to inspire even Picasso. Like I said, it speaks to the abstract artists, the minimalists, the post-modernists, and the surrealists whose artworks seem misunderstood. It’s a very short and good read. I highly recommend it not only to artists but to everyone who enjoys art.


I’ve put some thought into it, and I decided to have a Weekly Poetry and Weekly Short Story recommendations in my blog. Well, sometimes it’s a recommendation and sometimes it can be my thoughts on a poem I happened upon. No ratings for the Weeklies.


For this week, I recommend John Donne’s “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning”. It’s one of my favorite poems of all time, and it’s actually part of my top 3. Here’s the link:

If I may rephrase the poem in one sentence, it would be: “Don’t be sad that I’m going away because we are one in our love.”

I first took up this poem in my Modern Literature class in the University, it struck me with the same message as Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 (another one of my favorites), but Donne’s poetry is placed in a specific situation. Some interpret it as the persona dying and consoling the beloved, and some interpret it as a sort of long distance love affair.

Besides being about love, the reason why I love this poem is that it talks about a certain kind of love. The love that is as it should be – something transcendental and beyond the physical. Well, that is what John Donne’s works are all about: Metaphysical stuff!

I hope you enjoy the poem as much as I did! Do discuss it with a friend for better experience :)

Published by Anchor Books, 2002

Summary: The novel by Chuck Palahnuik revolves around the past and present of Victor Mancini – a sex addict who balances his work in a 16th century live museum, overcoming a 12-step recovery program, choking for money, and paying for his mother’s medical bills. It flashes to and fro Victor’s present and past, with Victor’s present narrated in the first-person point of view – a characteristic style of Palahnuik’s. As Victor gets stuck in the fourth step of his recovery program, he finds out more and more about his past and his Mommy.


It’s a really good novel. A little difficult, but really good. I suppose the difficulty stems from the very pornographic manner of Palanhuik’s description of scenes. The grotesque pictures that he paints with his words are almost unbearable – I almost gave up. The book also makes you, as a reader, struggle because it can challenge your belief. There are some sacrilegious remarks that made me want to throw the book away!

“Sinful” isn’t the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind (This line recurs throughout the novel)

But despite all this, why do I say that it’s a really good novel? Palahnuik sprawls out before a character superficially addicted to earthly pleasures. However, you will discover the depth of Victor’s character.In the end of the novel, you would ask yourself, “So what’s this really about?”. Goodness? Choice? Incontinence? Family? The work is so rich and deep! There are many things to be discussed!

Palahnuik is vivid in descriptions which can sometimes be disturbing. He is between graphic and pornographic, stream of consciousness and monologue. This, however, is what makes him stand out among everyone. It’s his style – and this style is brilliantly shown in the novel.

I fist fell in love with books when I was in third grade – I was a Nancy Drew girl. Carolyn Keene welcomed me into the world of novels and novellas, and because of this I am deeply indebted to the Mystery/Thriller genre. When almost all the worthwhile Nancy Drew books were read (and some reread), I turned to Sherlock Holmes, Sidney Sheldon, V.C. Andrews, and of course THE Agatha Christie.

Published by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers Inc., New York. 1939.

Summary: Hercule Poirot investigates the murder of Simeon Lee, one of the richest men in England who made his money our of diamond from South Africa. The novel is a classic locked-room mystery in an English mansion. Simeon Lee requested for his family to spend time with him during Christmas. During the visit, Simeon tragically and mysteriously dies in his room – throat slashed in what seemed to be a struggle. Futhermore, the invitation stirs among his sons and daughter-in-laws bitter memories of the past. Alfred Lee, the eldest and most devoted son, is indignant at Simeon’s idea of letting Harry Lee live in the mansion again. Harry Lee, the black sheep of the family, had run away and has never shown his face for 20 years until the invitation. George Lee, a successful political figure, worries about his share of the inheritance. David Lee who also ran away when their mother died, carried with him his deep abhorrence for his father due to the injustice that he’s done to their mother. Besides that four sons of the devil character that is Simeon Lee, the man also invited Pilar Estravados (The daughter of Jennifer Lee – Simeon Lee’s only daughter who had recently died) and Stephen Farr (Son of Simeon Lee’s life partner back in his days in South Africa).


I would give it four stars. Unlike other mystery novels out there, the beauty of this one does not solely depend on the twist. The twist can be crotch to most writers – it’s an easy way to trick readers into thinking “Hey, this is really good! I never expected that!”. Agatha Christie is different. What makes this novel beautiful to me is the development of characters. Superb. Magnificent. Wow. Of course, Hercule Poirot is a character that’s already interesting. But the surprise stems from the character development of the prime suspects AND the murder victim as individuals and as an entire family. Needless to say, character development – like the twist – can’t be the defining element to a good mystery novel, which is why I’m giving this four stars and not five. The character of the killer was as not well-developed as the other prime suspects. But because the Simeon Lee’s character was so central and so out-there, the ending was still logical and the motivation was clear. This book kept me thinking about WHO DID IT and contemplating about the Family. It definitely left an impression on me. If you read this book, read it twice.


For my inaugural post, I thought about writing a review on Homer’s Iliad. I figured that it’s too hard-core. So I settled for Albert Camus’ The Stranger, first published in 1942 (in French) and probably Camus’ best known work that epitomizes the philosophy of existentialism or more mildly, absurdism.

Tranlated into English by Matthew Ward, published in 1989 by Vintage International, New York

Translated into English by Matthew Ward, published in 1989 by Vintage International, New York

Summary: Set in France, a man named Mersault attends to the death of his mother at the very beginning of the novel. We eventually find out that he lives alone in a small room. He is an office-worker. Throughout the novel, especially in the first parts, Mersault develops a relationship with Maria – a former office mate. Although his relationship with Maria is superficial and sexual, their attachment to each other is strong. Raymond Sintes is one of Mersault’s neighbors and the protagonist eventually got acquainted with him through a favor involving Raymond’s “ex problems”. One day, Raymond  beat up his ex-girlfriend and is questioned by the police. Mersault offered him a great service of testifying for him. After the incident, Raymond found himself being followed by a group of Arabs. Raymond decided to spend time in his friend Masson’s beach cottage to avoid being followed. He invited our protagonist, Mersault, and Maria to the beach too. This is here where we find the pivotal point in the novel. After spending time on the beach, Raymond, Masson and Mersault take a walk around. Soon enough, they see the Arabs following them. They get into a fight and Raymond is badly injured. The men return to the beach house. After the encounter, Mersault goes back to the beach and finds the spot where the Arabs stay. Mersault shoots one of them five times. The second part of the novel begins, and this is where the philosophy stands out the most. Part two shows Mersault’s time in prison and in court. He muses over what would happen to him, and what consequences would there be if he were declared guilty or innocent. In the end, Mersault’s seeming lack of emotion and empathy led to his demise. He is sentenced death by decapitation. Rating:

3 stars

My rating would be three stars. It’s a good book. Mersault’s character is interesting enough. The English translation had done a good job because the language used is simple and straightforward. The story is simple, but the execution is superb because of the absurdity it brings. Every page engulfs you with the mood and tone of the novel – you can feel it in Mersault’s narration. Camus gives you an insider’s look into Absurdism/Existentialism by using first-person narration. Camus and Ward was able to be consistent throughout the experience. I, as a reader, was able to part-take into the world of Mersault, but at the same time feel detached and indifferent and be aware of this indifference going on in the story. Although it is well-written, it is quite a forgettable novel, at least for me. Some details that are crucial to the interpretation have the tendency to be overlooked. I would explicate this, but this going to get longer.

My recommendation is to download it in Kindle for you bookworms, and to buy a printed copy for you philo buffs. It’s a both a good work of literature and a testament of a philosophical school. It’s one of those books that you can easily forget about if you don’t engage in a fruitful discussion about it with a fellow bookworm or a philo buff friend.


First post is, of course, a test post. This is just to let you know that the blog is still under construction. I will post some reviews and critiques pretty soon – especially those that I’ve taken up my Lit classes ;) I hope to begin a very successful blog. Wish me luck and please watch out for the first post!