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Judging A Book Without A Cover: The Top 3 Sites To Get Free Books And Ebooks From The Biggest Publishers And Authors

The idea of being a “professional reader” titillates me. What dilettante reader or writer, novice literary blogger, or amateur book reviewer wouldn’t be titillated by the idea of it? For someone so passionate about books and reading, I was ecstatic after learning over a few months ago that there were sites that gave away free advanced reading copies of soon to be released books and e-books by the biggest publishers and authors in the world.

While there are sites that give away free ebooks and PDF documents like Free-eBooks.netFreeBookSpotPlanet PDF (one of my favorite sites for downloading the classics; just use your Kindle device and download your Dostoyevsky, Dickens, or Proust to your blessed, little, eager heart’s delight!), and Project Gutenberg — and these are all great sites from which you can download ebooks and books in different formats — this post is not about the average free book sites where one could just download books immediately, like what the rest of the highly cerebral, humanoid, greedy, book-hoarding species do (including myself, admittedly — the greedy, book-hoarding part, I mean).

No. This post is about the Top Three sites from which the serious book/literary blogger can get his greedy, book-hoarding hands on the latest, and most of the time, unpublished, yet to be released books from the small publishers and middlingly successful, mostly underrated, authors to the big publishers and bestselling, sometimes overrated, authors. Of course, this goes without saying that there is a catch: you have to have at least a decent blog, and at least a respectable amount of followers and blog posts. Since you’re reading this WordPress blog, I’ll assume that you have “just another WordPress (or any other) blog,” too.

APPLICATION PROCESS AND PROFESSIONAL COURTESY

1. You have to fill out an online form (safe to say, the general procedure these days) wherein you will be asked to talk about yourself and write down the link to your blog with a verification through your email (in order to keep those sneaky, scheming, little book and e-book vultures at bay).

2. Know how to use the Internet and navigate your way into the website, request for the books you’d like to read and have by choosing either “blogger” or “reviewer” from the list of accepted professions, and wait for the confirmation, or in most cases (from the bigwigs), the declination.

3. Have one of the major e-readers available today: Kindle readers, Sony readers, Nook, etc. If you don’t have an e-reader, in which case one is disposed to ask: “What kind of a self-respecting book blogger doesn’t have an e-reader these days?”, you can still download the e-books through Adobe Digital Editions in your computer.

4. Try your best to read the books you requested, and then write an honest review on your blog. The publishers and authors who approve your request do not expect you to write a good review just because you got the book for free. In fact, if you wish not to review their book for some reason, just have the courtesy to explain to them why you can’t read the book or why you can’t write a review. They leave their publicity team’s email addresses so you can contact them should you wish to interview the author; to inform them that you have already posted a review; or that you have declined to review their book.

5. Don’t forget to mention that you received the books for free because I think I read somewhere before that when one receives a free product and chooses to review it, one has to mention it in one’s review.

THE TOP THREE 

1. Blogging For Books  by WalterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group

Blogging_For_Books_2501

For all you Christian bloggers out there, here’s a site that is just what you need. The WalterBrook Publishing Group is a Christian publishing group and an evangelical division of the largest publisher in the world, Random House, Inc.. Blogging for Books is the website specifically tailored for Christian, Bible-thumping, Jesus-loving bloggers, no pun intended, who would like to request a book and review them.

Unlike the two next sites included in this post, Blogging for Books is the only site among the these Top  Three that offers printed versions of the copy requested by the blogger, provided the blogger gets a minimum review ranking of 25 for their reviews by the readers (here’s for more details), and that the blogger is from the United States. Bloggers from outside the US will only get an e-book version of the book requested.

Also, unlike the next two sites, Blogging for Books is the only one among the three that gives away only one book at a time. The other two sites approve multiple requests at a time. It is also the only site that requires you to have an account with another site, Edelweiss, which also happens to be among the Top Three sites I am endorsing here. Currently, I have been auto-approved by Blogging for Books for five titles from which I can choose one for review. I still have yet to pick one.

2. Edelweiss

Edelweiss Books

Edelweiss is a site that offers a wide range of free titles from small to large publishers. These titles only come in advanced (e-book) reading copies, though, and some of the copies that you will receive will be the unedited, uncorrected versions, which you could compare against the finished product once it is published. Some titles, just like Blogging for Books and NetGalley, which is the last site I shall mention here, have already been pre-approved by publishers for bloggers who have passed their qualifications.

The big difference, though, between Edelweiss and NetGalley and Blogging for Books is that Edelweiss is the only site among the Top Three that actually offers Digital Advanced Audio Copies. I didn’t know about digital advanced audio copies until I found this site. It makes complete sense, though. There are audiobooks out there, so why not have advanced audio copies of those, right? So, if you’re one of those who love to listen to audiobooks, albeit unedited, you just might find the titles that suit your taste here on Edelweiss. Two of the titles I have been approved are digital audio copies, 24 of which are advanced reading copies.

3. NetGalley

Print

Among the Top Three, NetGalley is my favorite site because of it’s easy-to-use, simple, and navigable website, not to mention the thousands of titles from the largest university and commercial presses and New York Times bestselling authors who have signed up with it, compared with the slightly less number of titles from Blogging for Books and Edelweiss. Currently, I have 360 books approved from the publishers of this site. I know that’s an obscene amount of ebooks to review, and even more obscene amount of books to have been requested by a single individual, but in my defense, I shall try to read and review them all within 3 years (excuses, excuses). On a lighter note, I’d like to proudly point out that the largest university press in the world, THE Oxford UniversityPress, has approved some of my requests. Well, it may have declined most of my requests, but at least it has approved at least a couple of them, and that makes my day everytime I think about it. These English gents from Oxford (including those from Random House) are just a bit wee hard hard to please, but when they approve you, you’d definitely feel validated and feel like a rock star blogger — makes you kind of forget all the rejection letters you got combined (including the kind of rejection you got from the girl or guy who dumped you, or THE ONE who jilted you at the altar).

READING AND REVIEW SYSTEM AND ADVANCED APOLOGIES

I have already made a list of the ebooks I shall read first among the ones that I received from NetGalley and Edelweiss by following a simple system: those ebooks whose advanced reading copies and final versions that came with the real ebook/printed book covers with them will be the ones I shall read and review first. The ones with the unedited versions without their proper book covers (and just don’t look good at all in my Kindle next to the other books with the colorful, yet to be finalized, book covers) will be read and reviewed last.

Unfortunately, therefore, some of the titles might not even make it to my to-read list if the advanced reading copies are just too dreadfully edited or formatted for reading; and I’m telling you, there are some of those I received whose formatting just seem to have been whipped up overnight, and not, at the very least, even second-rate, second draft-material at all. Still, lest I be painted a book-whoring ingrate, I’d like to say that I am happy to have received those books and that I truly appreciate them. Maybe the least I can do for these books I won’t review is to mention them in my upcoming posts as a series called “The Books I Won’t Be Able To Review, or in a series of posts called something like “How Can I Judge A Book Without A Cover?” and then include a brief synopsis about them. Win-win, yes?

You see, if I were still an amateur reader, I would consider reading dreadfully edited or formatted advanced reading copies first. Alas, I am what NetGalley refers to as a “professional reader” now, and with that comes the discriminating taste, eagle eyes, and the proud sensibilities of a professional book reviewer and critic, albeit a slightly amateurish one. I may not be as good a “professional reader and reviewer” as critics and authors John Updike and James Wood are, but I do take those hats seriously and I expect at the very least a readable and presentable advanced reading copies (ARC).

If I am to be a better professional reader and reviewer, which I intend to be, I should be able to choose which books to read, review, and recommend; and with the Top Three sites above, despite the failings of its publishers to give away well-formatted and well-edited advanced reading copies sometimes, I know I might, over the long haul, be able to improve my reading habits, sharpen my critical abilities, and develop my rather wide range of interests and extreme personal tastes in literature through their wonderful books (that I am truly thankful for).

It is thus my fervent, fervent wish that whoever is reading this will be able to do the things I hope to accomplish and have already accomplished through these three great sites, too.

The Perks Of Being A Literary Blogger: 207 FREE Books Approved For My Review By NetGalley Publishers And Authors (And Counting)

injThe problem is I am just using my left hand now. Therefore, this post will be just a short, four-paragraph post. You see, I had a right hand injury, particularly my right index finger, and I am now wearing a bandage and a cast in my right arm. It’s hard to write and type away in my computer with just my left hand which is why I’d like to inform you that I couldn’t blog as much as I’d like to for two more weeks. I shall tell the whole story after April 3, the day the doctors will remove this inconvenient dressing in my arm, along with some updates about my Dad’s condition (for those who prayed for him and left some comments) which I posted prior to this post.

Still, I haven’t forgotten my obligation to you, my dear readers of this blog The Bibliophile Chronicles, to provide you soon with tons of literary content (I hope quality content, too). I have now, at the moment, been approved by some of NetGalley‘s (will tell you what NetGalley is all about in a succeeding post next time) registered publishers and authors to read and review some of their most popular, and some yet unpublished, latest titles. Now, from the hundreds of books I requested to review, 207 books have already been approved for me to review, to be exact (and counting) — delivered straight to my Iphone’s Kindle.

And the best part is: I got them all for free! The prices of the free books I received must have a total amount of, give or take, $1,000 already. Indeed, being a professional literary blogger, and being what NetGalley calls a professional reader have their charming perks. (Thank you for the books, guys!) Of course, there were some rejections, those books the authors and publishers didn’t approve for me to review, but that’s part of life. You win some; you lose some. C’est la vie.

Life goes on; this blog goes on.

So, my dear friends and readers, please be patient, and please watch out for my next posts this coming April. I can hardly wait to share with you some of my latest book finds, reviews and recommendations, and some of my latest literary milestones. With this bandage and cast getting in the way of my blogging and writing this March, I will most definitely make up for my lack of posts these past few weeks with a large number of consecutive literary-slash-semi-personal thoughts very soon. Until then. God bless.

Don’t Worry, Everything Will Be AllWrite: Lessons On Writing And Publishing

306599_3590931461688_1645554321_nBenjamin Franklin once said, “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.” Before writing this blog post, I published another one before this, and then decided to unpublish it ten minutes after. In the following paragraphs, I shall explain my reasons for doing so, but know that if it weren’t for that blog post, there wouldn’t be any lessons to be learned now. The deleted blog post concerned was a product of my active, and in this case, my rather unimpressive imagination. The main theme I had in mind was to make humans look superior to aliens, or at the very least to make aliens look inferior to humans. In my mind, I thought it was hilarious, original, and creative. Everybody knows what Martians are. They’re our alien counterpart in Mars. Yes, it’s going to work, I thought. While writing the blog post I considered including some things for effect, things from my past that I never would have thought about sharing publicly save for my very own memoir that I soon hope to write and publish. Despite my apprehensions, I still included it in the deleted blog post that I named “Racing Thoughts Of A Bipolar Writer No. 3: On Reading, Aliens, And Honest Recollections.”

At the time, it seemed like a great idea. I thought it could work, and it could quite possibly be my funniest work yet. I was wrong. I realized quickly that there was nothing hilarious, original, and creative about it. It was, in truth, rather dull, unoriginal, and uncreative. I tried too hard to make it work that the whole thing, after having read it and given it some real thought, felt even to me, contrived, constipated, and corny.

It didn’t take a genius to see what was wrong with it. Thank God not many people had read it as I had deleted it just as quickly as I had published it. Here are my reasons for doing so:

Firstly, for the most part I think I was too close to it that I lost all sense of objectivity, so much so that I was blind to my own work’s faults and flaws. And while we’re on the subject of faults and flaws, know that I take full responsibility for such a monumental lapse of judgment. I deluded myself into thinking that my writing talent knows no bounds and limits, and I deluded myself into thinking that I could write anything and everything on my mind without pausing for revision, edition, filtration, and intelligent deliberation. Now, the cliche-ish phrase “Think before you click” is beginning to sound “I told you so.” One wonders why.

Secondly, I think I was having a manic episode of some sort (I’m bipolar). I must have been in a state of euphoria that everything seemed funny. All I could hear was the sound of of my laughing voice inside my head while I was writing it. Yes, I had punch lines, backhandedly sarcastic and bitingly cold remarks and punch lines, but I didn’t ask myself whether what may have worked inside my head and said out loud might also work just as well when written. I now learned that there are punch lines that are better left unwritten and said out loud than written. I believe the expression “Say what?!” is a very good example of something better left unwritten and said out loud than just written. Admittedly, I tried to incorporate this in the deleted blog post, but I thought that it immediately lost its charm altogether after I was slapped senseless back to lucidity, reality, and objectivity by my medications–and by myself. Ultimately, I think It’s not so much about having overestimated my capacity for humor (although, I must admit, this could be one of the main reasons for the failure of the blog post, too) as it is about having underestimated the power of revision, edition, filtration, and intelligent deliberation. The manic-euphoric reason is complete bollocks. I’m just making excuses for my shallow, amorphous ideas and lackluster writing in the deleted blog post.

Thirdly, the deleted the blog post didn’t seem to have the soul I thought I’d given it. It might have been filled with private things I didn’t want to share with the public, things that might be seen as brave and honest and admirable, but they were just merely there for embellishment–to adorn, to entertain, to shock. They weren’t written from an honest place, they were written for ratings–for views, hits, and clicks. I still regret the fact that I published those private things there, however briefly they may have been published. Just the thought that I actually wrote them just as a sub-theme and as adornment for that deleted blog post seems, I realize, a little callous and deplorable. I shall never write of my memoirs that lightly ever again. At the expense of sounding sentimental, what I did feels almost sacrilegious. Memories aren’t supposed to be just sub-themes, let alone a sub-theme for an “aliens versus humans” blog post. I might look back on this overreaction tomorrow with laughter, but for now let me feel what I’m supposed to feel. What was I thinking?! Never will such an oversight be made again. You’ll just have to buy the book of my memoirs once it’s published. Rest assured that I’ll give it all the soul it deserves, as do all writings deserve.

Fourthly and lastly, I feel that I am still at a point where, being a relatively novice writer, I’m still experimenting with different styles of writing. But with my experience with the previously deleted blog post, I am now quite certain that aliens don’t mesh well with humans and human experiences, and that I’d rather stick to what I know about–aliens and Martians shall obviously be crossed out of the picture henceforth, as shall all pathetic, desperate attempts at humor.

Overall, it has been such a good learning experience. For that, I am thankful. Had it not been for my recent writing and publishing incident, I wouldn’t have learned the things I had learned today. Indeed, writing is both a craft and an art. In time and with constant practice, all we can hope for is to get better. All we have to do is write and write until we get it right. Write something worth reading, you say, Mr. Franklin? Well, by all accounts, sir, I think it’s safe to say that this blog post is more worthy of reading than the previously deleted blog post. Yes, I think this one won’t go to the computer’s trash receptacle like its predecessor. No, this one will be just fine–more human, less alien. Yes, now I can say that everything will be allwrite. 

Racing Thoughts Of A Bipolar Writer No. 2: Honestly, It All Just Boils Down To Insecurity

Is it just me or do you feel, too?

Is it just me or do you feel, too?

I feel an alternating tinge of admiration, respect, insecurity, and envy whenever I read something beautifully written. It elicits all these positive and negative emotions within me. How could something so simple a thought be so complex in form and substance, yet so profound and succinct? There are all these ideas and brain blurbs inside my head that I wish to say with the eloquence of T.S. Elliot or Ernest Hemingway, but get stymied by my inability to do so. But then again, as I have said before in this blog, one mustn’t compare one’s writing to that of others because it will only lead to despair. I am such a man of walking contradictions. Would it behoove one to search exasperatedly for inspiration through other people’s writings, or would it just cause one to be unnecessarily competitive and insecure–to feel mediocre and inadequate? Sometimes I really wonder: Did the greatest writers of our time ever feel this way before, or did they ever have time to entertain such thoughts?

Essentially, what exactly makes a writer good or bad? What makes a writer great? Is everything just subjective? There are countless literary critics out there, but what kind of literary criticism are the most objective ones? Moreover, is literary criticism truly objective or is it just subject to and the product of the personal views, prejudices, and partiality of just another human being? Who has the right to say when writing is good or bad? Even the great F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has received the worst reviews by real readers of the classics, even from other professional literary critics.

What, then, makes another writer truly better than the other? Is it the punctiliousness to everything–commas, periods, spelling, grammar, diction? A fanatical attention to detail? Is it the way one phrases one’s words and sentences, or is there really an inherent divine, genetic right to being a genius-artiste writer? Can mediocrity ever become mastery? And if so, where is one, as a writer, in the grand scale of the writing grade system? Can one really be ever objective with one’s own work? And more importantly, will others be truly objective when it comes to yours?

Erich-Fromm-quote-about-insecurity-unknownmami

Am I the only one in this world who has these thoughts and questions? Do these questions make me look foolish, ignorant, and stupid? Or am I right when I say I might just as well be voicing out the collective feelings of all the writers out there who are afraid to think out loud, to acknowledge their weaknesses, and to resolve their issues publicly? After all, isn’t being a writer all about the courage to speak one’s mind, and on even more honest level, one’s feelings–on a global and social media savvy platform–like a blog?

But then again, I think when all is said and done, all these thoughts and questions I have can just be boiled down to [my] nagging feelings of inadequacy, mediocrity, and insecurity. Or maybe, just maybe, this is the bipolar twin writer talking–the overcritical, hard-on-himself son of a gun who can’t stop thinking, obsessing, and shutting his mouth and keeping his hands inside his straitjacket. Well, It isn’t called racing thoughts for nothing, anyway. Ultimately, these are just the musings of a guy who is still unsure of himself–a guy who is still finding his voice in the world–a guy whose interior world is filled with voices of blurred reason, fantasy, chaos, and uncertainty. Yes, living in one’s head can be a drag sometimes. But hey, don’t get me wrong. It really is still fun to be me.

Oh, well. C’est la vie.

Book Review No. 4: The Uncommon Reader: A Novella by Alan Bennett

The Uncoomon ReaderTHE STORY

The author of the Tony Award winner The History Boys, Bennett is one of the most prolific writers of England. With his novella The Uncommon Reader, he writes about how the Queen, the protagonist of the story, develops an obsession with reading when one Wednesday her playful dogs (corgis) lead her to a traveling library driven by Mr. Hutchings. Inside she meets Norman, a young palace kitchen staff who loves reading, and promotes him as her amanuensis to help her with her reading list. After being engrossed by the novels of Nancy Mitford, Her Majesty subsequently finds herself feverishly reading works by a wide array authors from Jean Genet to Marcel Proust. Consequently, the Queen begins to acquire a new perspective on everything, much to the consternation of her equerries and private Secretary, Sir Kevin. The Queen, after showing signs of no stopping with her uncharacteristic and sudden growing passion for books and for writing down notes, has had her advisers terrified lest she might be suffering from Alzheimer’s.

REVIEW

In my life there are two things that give me, of equal measure, the greatest pleasure: reading and writing. And nothing gives me even greater pleasure than reading about books that talk about the love of books, and then being able writing about it. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (First American Edition by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007) is one such book–a book that celebrates books, writing, readers, and writers. In this book, Bennett’s protagonist, the Queen of England, becomes a passionate reader–a woman whose unique position in life does not afford her to have interests, but only to take an interest in things.

In the book, Bennett (the fictitious omniscient narrator of the book) explains that in royal circles reading is frowned upon because reading is seen as privately selfish, indulgent, and requires exclusive attention; that when one is royal, one has a duty to be selfless, patriotic, and accessible; and that there is no room for books, and most certainly, no room for a room–the library, study, or one’s own nook–where one can curl up and read.

One could detect a play on words in the novella’s title immediately. The Queen, if one is familiar with the British aristocracy, is not a commoner. After all, she is THE Queen–it couldn’t get more uncommon than that. The irony, however, lies in the fact that despite being a patroness of the Library of London and having hundreds of thousands of books in her own palaces and castles, the Queen’s obsession with reading began with a mobile library.

Queen Elizabeth II reading a speech for her subjects

Queen Elizabeth II reading a speech for her subjects

The book may be short, but the good thing about it is that it has a long list of references to extraordinary authors. For someone who hates being left out or being ignorant about books and authors that one ought to know, this book really makes you want to read about these other authors, too. The protagonist asks and talks about authors and writers such as Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, even Harry Potter (which she doesn’t like, of coure). 

In The Uncommon Reader, Bennett amplifies and solidifies my sentiments–that reading is shared, anonymous, and common yet private, elitist, and exclusive at the same time. In essence, what the book is trying to say is that reading, no matter how high or low one’s station in life is, is one activity everybody could share and enjoy. Bennett proves in this book that the Queen of England is also just like the rest of the world.

He paints the most eminent individual in all of England as a person who makes mistakes and feels jealous of movie stars like Lauren Bacall whom she thinks have lead a more colorful life than hers; as a person who thinks back on the past and sighs for not having met some people, especially authors, when she could have; as a person who is fallible, capable of envy, plagued with insecurities and regrets. too. He shows how the Queen, despite her old age, is not impervious to criticism from her own staff, and has also yet so much to learn about others through the life and experiences of the characters and the people in the books she reads. For someone who has lived a life on the grandest scale possible, Bennett effortlessly shows the unseen maternal and human side of his protagonist, the aging monarch–mostly ignorant of a life outside her own and entertaining thoughts of a life of ordinariness, anonymity.

A life outside the clutches of duty, responsibility, and royalty.

There is nothing common about The Uncommon Reader. For a royalist, a monarchist, a bibliophile, a writer, and an obsessive reader like myself, this book truly exceeds my expectations. Bennett’s characters couldn’t get any more human than in this book. My delusion of grandeur about being a British lord is now satisfied. Commoner though I am (well, everyone who doesn’t have a noble title is common), at least now, I can say that I have many things in common with the Queen of England,  the grandmama I never had, however fictitious my source of pride is.

Filled with charming, believable, and eccentric characters, and with a wonderful twist at the end, The Uncommon Reader is nothing short of beautiful. Whether you are common or uncommon, this book will surely delight you. Bennett’s a writer whose prose style is tantalizingly perfect. He is a consummate master of letters, and his deadpan, sly, and self-deprecating sense of humor translates gloriously on every page. They say reading is bliss. This book is just that–a truly blissful read.

Rating:

5 of 5 stars

Book Review No. 3: Love Story by Erich Segal

 

love-story

INTRODUCTION

Love Story, this 133-page short novel by Erich Segal, was recommended to me by my good friend Anton, when we were talking about some of our favorite books and authors over a few bottles of beer. Eventually, we found ourselves talking about relationships, and asked him about his girlfriend. He said they were okay, but still teased him about, like I always do my straight, male friends, how he and the rest of the heterosexual species of metrosexual, misogynistic, chauvinistic, narcissistic, egotistic, sadist, and heartless bastards (I’m kidding) have no romantic bone in their bodies. To which he retorted, “No, I’m actually a romantic. In fact, I have read this book called Love Story. I can’t quite remember the name of the author, but I think, if memory serves me right, his name was Erich Segal. It’s good. Quite a love story, really. Very romantic.”  He told me the synopsis, and told him that I’d look it up and that I’d never pegged him for a romantic. A few days later, I got a copy of the book and read it in just half a day.

REVIEW

Love Story is a love story based on the premise that “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” It’s about the short-lived romance between two people who come from different worlds and who are almost opposite in every way. Oliver Barrett IV, a Harvard student who has set his eyes on becoming a lawyer, is the  scion of a very old rich WASP family, while Jenny Cavilleri, a Radcliffe music student, is the daughter of humble baker and single father.

Surprisingly, Erich Segal chose to start the story with a tragedy. The narrator of the story, Oliver, began by eulogizing 25-year old Jenny and then proceeded immediately by telling how his love affair with the beautiful and intelligent girl at the Radcliffe library began. With the title, one would expect a happy ending, but this is not the case. Perhaps, the author didn’t want to disillusion the reader with a Cinderella type of ending like all love stories do. Still, this didn’t bother me. It actually made me even more curious so it continued to engage me. and turn one page to the next. It wasn’t also painful to read because of the choice of simple and unapologetic prose of the author. The progression of the story is fast but easy to follow, and the characters’ dialogues and diction reveals the kind of person they really are, what they were thinking, feeling, and hiding.

When Oliver and Jenny first met at the library, it becomes easy to fall in love with the two characters because they seem both charming, smart, and likable. When Oliver tries to borrow a book at the Radcliffe library from Jenny who happens to be the girl working that day, they got into an argument. Jenny, the smart-mouthed intellectual, talked down at Oliver, a guy who got into the habit of studying at the Radcliffe library, about the ethics of of borrowing books from a small school. “Listen, Harvard is allowed to use the Radcliffe library.” said Oliver. I’m not talking legality, Preppie. I’m talking ethics. You guys have 5 million books. We have a lousy thousand,” replied Jenny.

All throughout the book, you see the two main characters go on and on with their verbal arguments where the guy sometimes calls the girl a bitch sometimes and the girl constantly calls the guy a preppie, a term that to her means a stupid, rich guy who went to prep school. Although these terms may have offended each other when they first met, they somehow become terms of endearment for each other.

Ryan O'Neal as Oliver Barrett IV and Ali McGraw as Jenny Cavilleri in the film adaptation of the book with the same title

Ryan O’Neal as Oliver Barrett IV and Ali McGraw as Jenny Cavilleri in the film adaptation of the book with the same title

Love Story is not your average love story where a poor girl meets a rich boy, get married, and live happily ever after. Far from it. The title is both an irony and an aphorism. Ironic because people have this notion that love stories are supposed to be this fairy tale and that works of fiction must, especially of the romance genre, must be these romantic comedies. But, it is not. In fact, Oliver, the privileged guy who was born in the country with an ancestral manor, and addressed as “Master Oliver” by the servants, married Jenny against the wishes of his overachieving and emotionally distant father, renounced his inheritance, and put himself through Law School with the help of his young wife; and, aphoristic because a love story in real life doesn’t always have a happy ending, lovers are bound to be fraught with objections from friends and family, and someone would inevitably have to die before the other, if not both at the same time. It reflects the truth that when you love, you also risk getting hurt.

I think, in the end, what makes this book a page-turner is the honesty, sincerity, and the heart and soul of the characters — they were, in truth, even more pleasantly real than us real human beings. The prose of the author was simplistic yet powerful, and he triumphantly and universally mirrored both romantic idealism and romantic realism. This book not only celebrates the differences between two people, but more importantly, it celebrates love, life, and the meaning of true love — never having to say you’re sorry. Moving, touching, sad, funny, and yes, truly romantic, this beautifully written love story, albeit the characters’ unorthodox choice of “sweet and loving words” defies how a real enduring, love story should be. After more than 35 years, a film made out of this book with the same title, and 21 million copies sold later, Love Story still continues to make hopeless romantics, singles, couples, readers (and film viewers) and people from all corners of the globe smile, laugh, and unabashedly cry. I’m warning you now. If you read this book, prepare a box of Kleenex — and to helplessly shed a tear or two.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

Racing Thoughts of A Bipolar Writer No. 1: Britney, Call Me And Let’s Drive Them Crazy

Francis Baraan talking to Britney Spears

Francis Baraan talking to Britney Spears

Britney telling Francis to meet her at the Betty Ford Clinic

Britney telling Francis to meet her at the Betty Ford Clinic

1. What do blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe and novelist Virginia Woolf have in common? What about pop star Britney Spears and poet Sylvia Plath? Manic-depression, otherwise known as bipolar disorder, is a mood disorder punctuated by heavenly highs and hellish lows. It is both a gift and a curse. I am both blessed and afflicted with the condition and the illness. Hollywood A-Listers Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ben Stiller, former heads of state Prime Minster Winston Churchill, and even President Bill Clinton, have been reported to have it, too. What is it about bipolar disorder and greatness? The population of writers, artists, poets, political and business leaders have been said to be more than likely to be manic-depressive? Does this explain why I almost always feel great (except when I’m having a depressive episode)?  Will I be great, too, or is that just one of my delusions of grandeur?  I actually love being bipolar. Okay, I hate it sometimes. But I have to admit, the good things about being bipolar outweigh the bad.

2. Despite a plenitude of literature supporting the correlation between creativity and bipolar disorder, it still remains a main theme in many a scientific and literary writings. It puzzles and befuddles me, albeit being manic-depressive myself, how a person of extraordinary talent like Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath could take their own lives. Were they born at a wrong time? Could they have been saved from themselves had the proper medications been available during their time or would they have refused them? Britney Spears is lucky she was born during these times. She would have eaten her children alive has she lived during the times of Plath and Woolf. She would have given them a run for their money and drive them crazy, er, crazy-er.

3. Novelists, short story writers, poets, essayists, memoirists, scriptwriters, biographers, and playwrights — these creative writers — have to be creative, and have to go beyond the realm of “normal professionaljournalisticacademic, or technical forms of literature (Wikipedia’s definition of creative writing)” —  and to go beyond the bounds of logical and scientific thinking.  Journalists’, academicians’, scientists’, and even bloggers’, writings are based on hard facts and supporting evidences, logic, numbers, formulas, and equations. Creative writers, on the other, have to make use of imagination, feelings, experiences, and memories, and make use of literary acrobatics in order to produce a work of art, a literary masterpiece produced from their fertile minds.  They don’t rely or base their writings on universal truths, postulates, theories, or hypotheses. I am more of the creative sort. I think the creative sort is superior to the scientific and logical-thinking writers. Don’t bite my head off, science writers and journalists. Jeez. It’s not my fault you weren’t born with the superior creative mind of the certifiable.

4. There are times when in one of my manic episodes, times when my entire being is wrapped up in a glorious wave of euphoria, I feel indestructibly superhuman. I can do anything and everything without going to sleep for days, my thoughts racing with a plethora of ideas that seem to spring out of nowhere like the brainchild of Zeus or one of the Greek gods. My thoughts crystallized, senses heightened, energy bottomlessed. See, I just made up a word. How creative can that get?

5. And at the other end of the mood spectrum, during my depressive episodes — times when I get deluged by an inexplicable surge of hopelessness, I become a shadow of my former indestructibly superhuman hyperself. I can’t do anything but get fraught with anxiety, riddled with guilt, and unable to concentrate. My mind and body horizontally languishing away in bed the whole day. What was once pleasurable would seem an automated routine of tedious tasks. What was once done out of passion and love would seem an exasperating and fruitless exercise. Labor of love turns into labor of hate. Passion turns into a stone of indifference. Life becomes the Angel of Death. I know, right?

6. So, what exactly is it about bipolar disorder that seems to almost always tend to produce creativity? Or is it the other way around? Is creativity the one that triggers a dormant bipolar disorder? Well, I really don’t know the whole truth. All I know is I wouldn’t love thinking, reading, and writing a much as I do now if I was just a normal, sane person. What pushes me to write, to be a prolific and accomplished writer, I believe, is this tinge of madness — this chemically imbalanced pendulum of manic-depression. To be a creative writer, one has to have at least a substantial amount of life experiences because different life experiences produce different kinds of emotions, memories, and insight necessary to bring to life convincing and relatable characters, and to tell a story as conceivably and believably life-like as possible. And empathy, the ability to not only feel what the other person is feeling, but to actually be the other person, I believe, is the most natural trait of a manic-depressive. You know why I know? Because I can feel it.

7. The interior world of a bipolar person is a hodgepodge of emotions, a veritable niagara of thoughts and feelings supplied by an overactive imagination and obsessive-compulsive behavior, exacerbated by real-life traumas, hopes, fantasies, and experiences. In short, we are self-absorbed, we love to live inside our heads, talk to ourselves, try out different personalities, and pretend to God, an English lord, a mad scientist, a celebrated author, or one of our characters in our book because there is so much going on in our head it’s practically a world within a world within a world. A universe of worlds! Oh,  I’m telling you, it’s an asylum of characters and plots inside my genius skull. If you had half my brain, you would realize that. But I guess only a few people are as gifted as me — or cursed — depending on how you look at it. Alright, let’s just go with gifted, then.

8. Oh, I could go on and on and on and on. The question is, can you handle it? Hmmm. I thought so. But hey, if Britney Spears is up for a lovely chat, I’d be more than willing to discuss with her our future accommodations at the Betty Ford Clinic. Britney, if you’re reading this, call me? Oh, I forget. You don’t read. Okay, to the agent or publicist of Britney, you know what to do.

9. Just like the Author Profile and Book Review series in this blog, this Racing Thoughts Of A Creative Writer No. 1 post is the first in a series of my opinions, thoughts, and views about books, writing, politics, business, bipolar disorder, films, and entertainment. This will be a collection of my reflections, essays, and creative musings. This is a literary blog but it doesn’t have to be all that literary. I like to mix it up with things that are relevant to the times like “Is Obama Really A Muslim? If So, Does That Mean There Could Be A Fourth Lady?,” or “Is Piolo Pascual Really Gay? Because If He Is, What’s His Number?,” or “Is Hilary Clinton A Lesbian? If Yes, Did She Also Have An Affair With Monica Lewinsky?,” or “Why Are Catholics Born With Original Sin? Isn’t That Just A Bit Tad Unfair?” I have a lot of questions about everything and opinions on practically anything. So, if you’re reading this and following this blog, you are one lucky son of a fan, because you will be entitled to my opinion.

10. If you want to know my answers to the questions I asked on no. 9, how the hell should I know? I ask the questions around here, you give the answers. Capisce?

So, here’s the thing,

I am bipolar, so is Britney.

And if you follow this blog,

we’ll drive you crazy.

Hey, I just wrote a poem. Well, what do you know? I’m a poet, too! Take that, Sylvia Plath!

*******

Books About Bipolar Disorder:

1. I’m Not Crazy, Just Bipolar 2. Diary Of A Bipolar 3. A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic-Depressive Illness 4. An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods And Madness 5.Touched With Fire

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