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Showing posts from March, 2010
19. The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan There was another Amy Tan book on the shelves of the library at my Spanish university, and as Tan is rapidly ascending to comfort food status in my view (joining the likes of Madeleine L'Engle, L.M.Montgomery, and Louisa May Alcott), I savored this morsel, since who knows when I'll find the next? I liked this book the best yet, so the trend continues, and part of the reason is because there is a significant deviation from previous books. Instead of an uncertain daughter who is alienated from a critical mother with a tragic past, this book is about the relationship between two sisters, told primarily from the point of view of the younger sister, Olivia. Olvia, or Libby-ah, as her sister Kwan likes to call her, is half-Chinese, half-American, whose Chinese father dies when she is young, leaving his American wife with the revelation that he has another daughter in China, whom he would like her to bring to the States. Instead of exhibiting
16. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson I wanted this book like a bag of candy. I'd seen it around bookstores in the States, but then I went to see the movie "Los Hombres Que No Amaban Las Mujeres" (Men That Don't Love Women) in Spain. The movie was made in Sweden, but I saw it dubbed in Spanish. I really liked it and was impressed that I was able to understand it fairly well,allowing for my mediocre level of Spanish. The author is Swedish and died, I believe, before his trilogy, beginning with this book, became internationally famous. Anyway, so the movie was good, even though the violent rape scenes are still haunting me. The book, I knew, had to be better. And I was right. This is a mostly character-driven thriller, maybe a bit predictable in terms of plot, but since I already knew the ending, I couldn't analyze it for that. It also drives home a strong message about the prevalence of abuse of women and the problems of too much government in soci

Valencia: Las Fallas

"Las Fallas" means fireworks in Spanish, and the people of Valencia take this annual weeklong celebration very seriously. Las Fallas culminates on March 19, the Day of San Jose or Dia del Padre. Beginning on March 15, the neighborhoods of Valencia bring out their Falleras, extensive elaborate displays made of cardboard and paper maiche, that will go up in flames the night of March 19. Firefighters are on standby with hoses, though generally they hose down people who look too hot! Firecrackers are everywhere, I went to Valencia on March 18, and very few minutes would go by without a firecracker going off, some too close for comfort though I avoided being singed. I also joined the crowds for "La Mascleta" a fifteen minute barrage of uninterrupted fireworks that turned the sky grey and covered the crowd, including me, in bits of debris. No such thing as a safety barrier for Spaniards! I also can't get over their love of parades, we watched each neighborhood bring a
13. La Casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba) by Federico Garcia Lorca Garcia Lorca, is one of Spain's best known poets and dramatists. He is also famous for his short and tragic life, he was shot by Franco's soldiers in 1936, at the age of 33, both for his political leanings and his sexual orientation. The House of Bernarda Alba is one of Lorca's most famous plays and the last to be written before his death. It wasn't actually performed for the first time until almost thirty years after it was written, and that in Argentina. The play depicts the life of one household of women in Andalucia, Lorca's native region and the subject of most of his plays and much of his poetry. Lorca also wrote poetry about the gypsy life in Spain, in the collection Romancero Gitano and about his depression during the two years he spent in New York, Poetas de Nueva York . Bernarda Alba is the mother of five daughters, under whose tyrannical thumb she keeps daughters, serv
11. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather I love Willa Cather. My Antonia is one of my favorite books. Unfortunately, I think it is her best as I did not like this one quite as much, and I liked Oh Pioneers! less. So, my relationship with Cather's work is the inverse of my relationship to Amy Tan's work, I suppose. Still, I enjoyed Death Comes for the Archbishop as I believe it was meant to be, the stories of some persons of interest in a place of interest. Cather doesn't dress this novel up, it is simple and honest human experience, with no other plot. And this, she achieved in complete sentences! I wish some of the experimentalist modernists and stream-of-consciousness whatnots had read Cather or paid attention to her if they did. As I was reading, I felt that she had just the right combination of detail, neither too sparse nor too florid, and she related stories of the characters as they would occur or be contemplated upon in real life. The Archbishop of th


Barcelona, I hardly met ye. After my weekend in Barcelona, I feel, well, not really much, about the city. I saw some promised Modernist architecture, learned about the origins of the city and of Catalonia in general, and that St. George is the patron saint of Catalonia as well as of England. My pictures came out awful as always, but my favorite sight was Gaudi's mash-up in a building of the legend of St. George and the dragon. The edifice is composed of skull-shaped windows, and strategically placed scales and claws, and on top the piercing lance of the sainted George. Menus all over the city contained English and Catalan. I had a delicious and large dish of Thai food my first night, and ate at a Catalan restaurant, Origens, my second night. The stuffed aubergines were fantastic, and hopefully I can recreate them. I didn't manage to get pictures of these, but I snapped a shot of my Patatas Braves tapa that I ate right before we left.
9. Dune by Frank Herbert This time, I opted for a re-read on my long bus trip to Barcelona. Dune , in my opinion, is to science fiction as Lord of the Rings is to fantasy. Frank Herbert created a world that can stand entirely on its own, possibly even more so than Middle Earth, and achieves the great feat where so many authors falter: a book with rich characters that do not suffer at the expense of the plot, and vise versa. Paul Atreides comes from a long line of honorable, loyal Atreides Dukes on his father's side and a mysterious and powerful female organization, the Bene Gesserit, on his mother's side. When their family is given the planet Arrakis, or Dune, to hold for the Empire, the only planet where the universe's most powerful commodity, the spice melange is harvested, they know it is a ploy on the part of their ancient enemies the Harkonnens, particularly the current head of the family, the diabolical Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. When inevitable tragedy strikes, Pa