Tuesday, June 26, 2007

This semester the graduate class I am taking is on the British novel. It's a course that will explore the development of the British novel during the late 20th century (1960-2000). We will study some of the period's important works of fiction as literary texts and as commercial products. Here is the required reading list for the course:

Chapter one of The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance by Northrop Frye

"Realism and the Novel Form" from The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding by Ian Watt

"Book publishers: from family houses to international media corporations" from Inside Book Publishing by Giles Clark

"The Age of the Novel" from A History of British Publishing by John Feather

"Commissioning and Editing Modern Fiction" from On Modern British Fiction by Dan Franklin

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles

The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch

Midnight's Children by Sir Salman Rushdie

Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes

Possession: A Romance by A.S. Byatt

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

My professor has a Master of Arts degree from Boston College and a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Another student died yesterday morning (car accident). This can't be happening, right? RIGHT? RIGHT?!

Monday, June 18, 2007

I think I know now why all of a sudden I started thinking about Sharky and Xavier... I missed them so I talked to another student of mine (he was Sharky's classmate and Xavier's friend). And he had news for me... Another student of mine died two days ago. Jeric. :( Why??? ****ing WHY??? Why do I have three dead students?! WHY??????? I'm screaming and crying here. How do I transcribe that into a blog post? I would type expletives here if I could. But even that does not express enough how I feel...
Does anyone remember the date of Sharky's (Sharleen May Tan) birthday? I seem to recall it being sometime May-July... I can't breathe. I'm holding back tears. For some reason, today I am remembering and missing (more than usual) Sharky, my student who died in the tsunami in 2004. Sharky was only 19, a biology major. And she was on the varsity swim team (I don't know if her nickname was connected to her being a swimmer). If I didn't love God so much, I would think He had a sick sense of humor (I'm sorry). That last time I talked to her... I was on my way to my next class (the class with Charo, Krista, Danie, Erika, Ford, Jam, Kate, et al.). I really wanted to talk to her. Something was telling me to talk to her longer. But I didn't want to be late for class. I SHOULD HAVE BEEN LATE FOR CLASS. And I can't help think of Xavier Yu too, my other student who died a month after Sharky. Believe it or not, he fell off a building to the top of the next building... Memories of Sharky and Xavier are choking me today. I feel sick, but writing this is making me feel a bit better. I remember that the last time I talked to Xavier was on the steps in front of the library, less than a week before he died. Right now I really want to talk to someone who knew Sharky and/or Xavier too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

After Dark by Haruki Murakami is on many American summer reading lists - from Vogue, to the New York Times, to Boldtype. Of course I just had to get my own copy. I wish I had read it in one night, to get the full experience of the short novel. For the setting is one night, from 11:56 p.m. to 6:52 a.m., in Tokyo. Alas, I got sleepy so I read After Dark on and off over two weeks. :)

After Dark is about the obvious and not-so-obvious connections between 19-year-old Mari Asai (the main character) and her older sister Eri, a jazz trombonist, the manager of a “love hotel” and her staff, and a Chinese prostitute and the man who beat her. After Dark is about the beauty of the late hours. And I say that the time from night to dawn is parallel to Mari’s “journey” to finding herself and to finding friends and possibly even love. More importantly, that time from night to dawn is symbolic of Mari’s “journey” closer to her sister Eri.

It’s true that Murakami’s story threads (such as the one in After Dark) aren't “resolved." But who says narratives have to be conclusive? Literature reflects life and we usually don't have neat, tight little endings for the real "stories" of our lives...

I think the triumph of After Dark, in terms of writing technique, is its point of view (as in point of view, the element of fiction). Murakami uses a point of view so palpable that it can be considered a character in the novel. The omniscient voice is so effective that it is like we are witnessing everything while holding hands with the narrator. Such precise details are given that the main characters’ actions are very vivid.

After Dark is not one of Murakami’s best works. It's good, but in a very quiet way. I just have to add that the critics are right: Murakami makes poetry out of contemporary life. (I think he is able to do this through the tone and atmosphere of his fiction). After Dark and his other works remind me that life is beautiful.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Every once in a while I hear Brian on the phone, saying different variations of "I'll think about it" or "No, thank you." This is Brian turning down job offers from different design firms. The call he received Tuesday piqued his interest though, because it was about a project, not about joining a firm. (Artists, such free spirits - they don't like being tied down.) Brian also needs the money. Hahaha. He was nervous. He's only 22. It will be his first major project. He didn't even know what to wear for the visit to the firm. Hahaha. "Tarie, can I wear this?" "NO, Brian. You cannot wear just a t-shirt and your ratty jeans to a meeting." "What about this? Is this ok?" "No, don't wear pink to the meeting. You'll look like a pansy." So yesterday Brian had the meeting with a small design firm and they asked him to be the landscape architect for their project with a BIG Filipino company: a high-end residential area with a clubhouse. Brian made sure to tell them about his shortcomings. (He's a fresh grad. He still has a lot to learn.) He didn't want to embarrass himself halfway through the project. But all the head designer said was, "Oh, really? See you on Tuesday." :) One of Brian's roles in the project will be Conceptualizer. Which is a role normally for a senior designer. That's really Brian's forte: his design ideas. And his clean drawing and drafting. Other designers'/architects' plates look like children's drawings compared to Brian's plates. Can you guys tell I'm basking in a Proud Older Sister moment right now? :D