Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Summer That Reads

Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures. ~Jessamyn West

Summer is almost over. The sun sets earlier, the clouds fly heavier, and the grass glistens from early morning raindrops. Somehow I love fall better, but now I already miss long-noon-sunshine when we can swim till late or driving with no hurry or play outside all day. It’s like life seems longer, time goes slower.

Anyway, apart from all of that -and summer vacations, beaches, barbecuing, day trips, and other ‘summer stuff’- there are books I want to write about. There were actually about four and a half fictions/literature I’d read in these 3 months.

First is
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, which had an interesting way of narrating the story of a young girl with problematical background, but I eventually became bored. It’s simply because I could not relate to the setting of the story, which I later learned from Amazon, actually took place at the time of ‘Southern Gothic’ in 1960s. Well, guess I got nothing much left to say on this one.

The second is an easy mindless read of a pop-novel
The Right Address by Carrie Karasyov and Jill Kargman. Along the way I always laughed almost vomit at these rich people of Park Avenue NY who got sooo much money almost-too-many that they have nothing else to do but gossiping, shopping, partying, social-climbing, and then some more gossiping. I know it’s always fun to imagine such lifestyle but there’s always a price on that: you might not be able to be just yourself. Too many masks to wear. After I finish I almost feel grateful being middle-class, although I must admit that these characters of women can be easily found in any classes of life. Uh-huh. Other than that, I think the writers purposely told the story in a chick-lit way that was shallow, mindless, and gossipy to create the exaggerating unsophisticated life of supposedly sophisticated people. There, don’t read it I’d say.

Then there is
The Brethren from John Grisham. I always read Grisham’s books that involve lawyer, court, judge, and clients, whatever. Always fun and easy. Always flip through the pages till finish, and he’s good at this plot of thriller, slowly reaching its climax with, unfortunately, more and more predictable ending. Not as good as his other books but I’m still amazed how I missed this not-so-new one. Oh, by the way, the character Aaron Lake reminds me of ex- New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey who was actually a gay but getting married to achieve his political career. And from him I would know that there’s the term ‘gay-american’ which sounds like ‘asian-american’ or ‘hispanic-american’, like it’s some kind of new ethnic group in the US. Well, I’m way off the course now. Let’s move on.

The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni already reminded me of LOTR from the start. Especially this 12 year-old Anand that resembles the character of hobbit who had to bring the conch from Calcutta to the Himalayas. I love the wisdom and exotic Indian setting, with Hindi culture and ethnic food that almost made me drooling. The story itself mostly a kid fantasy that would fit middle-high school reading. But the wisdom…. That part would leave me speechless since it’s so related even with adults. With people who have lived many more years than kids but still searching for the classic wisdom of honesty, loyalty, and compassion. Which one would be the most important for you?

There is one special sentence in this book that really intrigued me “… in order to gain something great, one must release his hold on something else equally beloved.” I always thought that everything you have had never taken away from you, it just changed its substance. Some kind like the law of conservation of energy: energy can not be created or destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another. Which lead me to think that every person already had his/her talent, even fate, but sometimes it changes to something else unpredictable. Like when you work extra hours with extra money but then you had to change your car tires (yup, extra money=new tires), or even give up an office job to home job such as raising a kid, or not being a lawyer but being a teacher. How can you tell that one is better than the other, that they are not equal? (Oh… please don’t take out that calculator). Or have ever thought that the more money you have it doesn’t mean your bank account becomes fatter???

Okay, so my last book this summer is a splendid book:
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III, which actually not new at all even already was being filmed. The characters are strong: Massoud Amir Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian military under the Shah who was fleeing to the US and try to reach the American dream, his submissive wife Nadi, and Kathy Nicolo, a lost soul right after she lost her house; even I can understand the troubled mind of Deputy Sheriff Lester Burdon. The way the story told also interesting, making me put myself as an ‘I’ in the character and try to understand his/her way of thinking.

The story itself is remarkable, original and tragic at the same time, really different from any other books I’ve read about immigrant in the US. By the second part of the book, which I thought I might have speculated the ending, I actually could not guess at all until I reach the last page. And I got that kind of ‘hollow in your heart’ feeling after I finished. It’s like you can not absorb the meaning of it all right away. You feel sad and angry and empty at the same time. And you turn the back cover in slow motion, try to save the whole story in your mind before the book is really closed. This one is a four star.

I wish summer would span a little bit more time until I get my waiting list book:
A Thousand Splendid Sun by Khaled Hosseini, which I really hope to get my five star. I fell in love with his first book which I had read nearly two years ago: Kite Runner and it actually will show up in a movie this fall. Well, I guess that’s why his second book becomes so popular I need ten more people to finish reading it before I can get it from the library. And so I start counting….

Monday, August 06, 2007


Entah sejak kapan Damian mulai menyebutkan satu kata itu. Why? Mungkin awalnya tidak kusadari, karena awalnya hanya menanyakan masalah 'sepele'. "Why do people eat, Ma?" "Biar tambah besar dan kuat," jawabku singkat. Dan ia manggut-manggut. Lalu,"Why do we pray, Ma?" "We should be thankful and ask for blessings." Habis ini ia akan menanyakan "What is blessings, Ma?" Kali ini aku mesti berpikir dulu sebelum menjawab. Itu masih biasa.

Kemudian setiap kali aku minta dia melakukan atau tidak melakukan sesuatu langsung disambarnya,"Why, Ma?" Ohhh, rasanya tidak habis-habisnya aku berucap menjelaskan panjang lebar hanya untuk menjawab satu kata itu. Setiap kali ia bertanya sebelum melakukan apa yang kuminta. Itu masih kuanggap biasa. Dan selalu bisa dijelaskan alasannya.

Film pertama Damian di bioskop, Spiderman 3. Seru, banyak action, dan Damian antusias menyaksikannya. Yang lebih seru lagi,setiap ada adegan yang tidak dimengerti ia akan bertanya,"Why Spiderman turned black,Ma?" "Why the Sandman jadi bad guy,Ma?" "Why Harry jadi goodfriend lagi, Ma?" Dengan suaranya yang nyaring. Di dalam bioskop. Dan aku sibuk menjawab berbisik-bisik. Oh well, untunglah film anak-anak. Banyak anak-anak, dan nggak terlalu penting buatku mengikuti setiap adegan.

Belakangan, variasi dan bobotnya bertambah. Seringkali aku 'terjebak' menjawab panjang lebar. "What's inside this, Ma?" Telunjuknya menyentuh dahinya. "Brain." Kupikir sudah, titik. "Why do we have brain, Ma?" Dan kutatap dia dengan raut menyerah-malas-menjawab-tapi-selalu-nggak-tega, dan berkicaulah aku hingga wajahnya menunjukkan kepuasan disertai manggut-manggut. Entah mengerti atau tidak. Damian juga suka menceritakan mimpinya. Setiap pagi ia bercerita tentang mimpinya semalam. Kupikir mungkin sebagian benar, sebagian khayalan. Lalu,"Why do we have dreams, Ma?" Kali ini jawabku,"I'm not sure, Damian. Let me find out about that, OK?" Untunglah kali ini ia cukup puas, aku hanya berharap ia lupa. Ternyata tidak.

Cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am. Ia bukan cuma seorang anak, tapi manusia yang utuh, berpikir. Aku jadi terpekur, sudah lama sekali aku tak bertanya 'mengapa'. Tidak banyak lagi yang jadi kejutan rasanya. Berita, cerita, bahagia, derita, hidup. Tidak lagi menimbulkan pertanyaan 'kenapa'. Sudah kurang rasa ingin tahu, antusiasme melihat hal baru. Menerima dan menyerap apa yang dilihat, didengar, dibaca, dirasakan. Seringkali tanpa pertanyaan. Would that make me less of a human?