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Scribblings and scrawls of a hopeless romantic soul

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Book Review: The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coelho

Genre: Fiction/Religion/Philosophy
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌖

Short Synopsis: A stranger arrives at the remote village of Viscos, carrying with him a backpack containing a notebook and eleven gold bars. He comes searching for the answer to a question that torments him: Are human beings, in essence, good or evil? In welcoming the mysterious foreigner, the whole village becomes an accomplice to his sophisticated plot, which will forever mark their lives.

A novel of temptation by the internationally bestselling author Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym is a thought-provoking parable of a community devoured by greed, cowardice, and fear—as it struggles with the choice between good and evil. 

Five reasons to read the book:

1) The questions it asks. Are human beings inherently good or evil? Why do we give in to temptations? How far can we go for it? What is more important: the life of one innocent or the prosperity of many? Does the end justify the means? Reading each page of The Devil and Miss Prym is like solving a series of trolley dilemma. Coelho, in a carefully crafted fiction, throws ethical and moral questions at you that leave plenty of room for nuances and introspection.

2) Chantal Prym is all of us. Chantal is not a likeable character; she has her faults and weaknesses just as she has goodness and strengths. We’ve all been through the same struggle where our morals, ego, and what we think we deserve clash. That is why it is easy to BE her in the story.

3) It’s good without being preachy. It doesn’t pit good and evil but instead, shows the correlation between man, and good and evil. The Devil and Miss Prym reminds us of our free will and the consequences that come with it. Everything is matter of choice, big or small.

4) The time frame. As with the two other books in the trilogy, And on the Seventh Day, this story chronicles a week in the life of Chantal. I like how I can be “in the moment” without thinking much about the characters’ past or future.

5) Coelho’s trademark prose and mysticism. While not everyone is into his kind of writing, I enjoyed every page of this book.

Highlighted Quotes: 

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”

“People want to change everything and, at the same time, want it all to remain the same.”

“So you see, Good and Evil have the same face; it all depends on when they cross the path of each individual human being.”

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready.”

“Victories and defeats form part of everyone’s life – everyone, that is, except cowards, as you call them, because they never lose or win.”

Final Thoughts: 

Truth is, I had more questions than answers after reading this book. Though this is not the first time for I felt the same with Veronika Decides to Die and By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. But I like how Coelho continues to give me more reasons to be interested at life and living.

Here’s a snippet from a note I wrote when I first read The Devil and Miss Prym in 2012:

Every day is a struggle between good and evil — not one person is completely noble or totally wicked. We encounter questions and situations that put us in a crossroad between right and wrong. At most times, the hardest part is weighing things right. The things that we do, the words that we say, and the thoughts that we contemplate rely on how we deal with the overlapping dos and don’ts. In the end, the decision is ours on which is which…

Because just as what Paulo Coelho said,
“It was all a matter of control. And Choice.
Nothing more, nothing less.”


Posting this long-overdue review in celebration of Paulo Coelho’s 74th birthday today. Feliz cumpleaños, Sr. Coelho. Que tengas una larga vida y nos hagas muchos libros. ❤

 

Click

She asked me to take her photo by the window. The moon hung above her head as I looked through the lens. She tucked a cigarette stick on her mouth; inhaled. Exhaled and laughed at me through the smoke.

We met in a bar two hours ago. A little drunk, she was singing to the tune of “Whiskey in the Jar.” Whack fol the diddle. Oh whack fol the diddle. oh there’s whiskey in the jar. In a crowd of dancing homos, there she was. Singing an old Irish folk song.

“You!” She notices me staring. “Are you in love with me yet? One glass of whiskey for the man in black,” she shouted. On our third glass, she pulled me out of the bar, pointed at an abandoned house across the street. “Meet me there in 5.”

So here I am. With a Lumix G9 in hand. Where she got it from, I did not ask. In fact, I never said a word since. Raising a cigarette, she looked at me from the glowing tip.

Click.
I don’t really smoke.

Click.
I don’t drink.

Click.
I haven’t fa— I was in love.

Click.
Remember this night.

We slept under the faint September moon in silence. There was no need for romance or sex in this kind of intimacy. The dawn breaks and I found myself alone. Something else breaks. Deep inside.

Damn. I didn’t even ask her name.


While going through my drafts, I saw this short story which was dated October 16, 2018. It is again like my previous post Vignette: The forgotten pages of whines — a forgotten piece whose muse got buried in the stacks of random musings and curiosities. I’m sharing it now to dust off the cobwebs of yesterdays.

Book Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Genre: Fiction
Copy: Paperback
Rating: 🌕🌕🌕🌖

Short Synopsis: Humbert Humbert — scholar, aesthete and romantic — has fallen completely and utterly in love with Lolita Haze, his landlady’s gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter. Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love. Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust.

What I liked:

1. The plot. The ingenious way Nabokov toys with the reader’s mind. You get a self-confessed madman — a scheming pedophile who has a taste for young girls. And not just any other younglings at that. Humbert Humbert did not find Lolita sexually attractive because of her beauty and wit (which are almost non-existent), but because she is a nymphet. An ideal combination of childishness and preadolescence.

As Humbert presents the story of his affair with Lolita in first person, this is where Nabokov’s brilliance as a writer shows. Humbert comes across as an intellectual and romantic, detached and fixated. He is both ashamed and proud of the steps he takes to gratify his passion (or obsession). The moral and emotional conflicts that Humbert goes through are so human that he could trick you into thinking that, perhaps, what he has done is excusable. While I personally was wary of Humbert most of the time, there was one instant that I had to rethink ─ is this really love in a very weird form? But then, when you see through his manipulation, you get pentapod monster (his own words) not a man.

2. No pornographic sex. I know Lolita has been frequently described as an erotica but some people tend to overlook its beautiful prose. Nabokov writes about sex in the language of metaphors and figures of speech. While contemporary novels are filled with explicit descriptions of sexual acts, Lolita introduces a one-of-a-kind orgasm through Humbert.

“I entered a plane of being where nothing mattered, save the infusion of joy brewed within my body. What had begun as a delicious distension of my innermost roots became a glowing tingle which now had reached that state of absolute security, confidence and reliance not found elsewhere in conscious life.”

3. It gives you glimpse of a predator’s mind. If we look at the sexualization of women then and now, not much has changed. Lolita shows a clear picture of the schemes that are often used by abusers. When those accused of sexual crime defend themselves, they often say “she wanted it” or “she started it.” They consciously or unconsciously misinterpret a laughter, soft voice or tensed hands as gestures of consent.

Reading the book is a tough journey (for me especially as an ISFP) but a good one. It’s the kind of read where I had to constantly remind myself not to draw hasty conclusions because of my principles, politics, personal reservations and emotions. I had to look beyond the romanticism and be critical at how the characters are portrayed. At how pedophilia is being normalized. At how women are being objectified.

What I didn’t like: Nabokov did a splendid job. Too good that his work still reflects the plight women continue to face up to this day. There are still many who romanticize Humbert’s depravity and many who blame Lolita for being naïve. The world is still filled with enablers and complicit to the crime.

Favorite quotes:

“Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece”

“We live not only in a world of thoughts, but also in a world of things. Words without experience are meaningless.”

“We loved each other with a premature love, marked by a fierceness that so often destroys adult lives.”

“Life is just one small piece of light between two eternal darknesses.”

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”

“I shall be dumped where the weed decays, And the rest is rust and stardust”

“We all have such fateful objects — it may be a recurrent landscape in one case, a number in another — carefully chosen by the gods to attract events of specific significance for us: here shall John always stumble; there shall Jane’s heart always break.”

Final Thoughts: If age is just a number, what makes Humbert and Lolita’s relationship seem wrong? Would you see through lust if it was clothed in love? How would you draw the line between the two? There were a lot of irony and moral conflict to digest in this book. Kudos to Nabokov (again) for a thought-provoking read. But like what I said when I finished it last May, I don’t agree with the featured comment on the cover from Vanity Fair. It was far from being convincing or a love story to begin with. No, no. It was calculated rape.

Rose Among the Ghosts

restaurant

He stared through the dissipating smoke, fascinated how this woman evolved from a wilted rose to a flower in full bloom. She loves silence now —

though there’s never a quiet time when you’re with ghosts.

“What?” Ariella asks.

“What?” He echoes, smiling.

“That look,” she rolled her eyes. “You’re laughing at me.”

“Why? You asked for peace and we left you for three days,” he shrugs, teasing her with a poker face. “Admit it. You missed us.”

Ariella’s eyes widen but her mouth curved to a smile. “Pretend you don’t see me, Gustav.”

“You’re the one who’s pretending, my rose.”

Word Count: 100


Written for Friday Fictioneers, a weekly writing challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields where a photo is used as a prompt for a hundred-word piece of fiction. The photo prompt this week is a courtesy of Dale Rogerson.

Last week’s prompt, I was inspired by Ali and wrote a prequel to his story. This time, I’ve decided to continue being a literary parasite (if the word exist) and take inspiration from another writer. This one is inspired by J.A. Prentice’s flash fiction titled An End to Solitude. I’m normally a scardey cat when it comes to ghosts and not-like-ours but I love how he twisted his story and gave it a lighter angle. 🙂

Head over here to join the prompt!

Beginnings

“Was I?”

I look at him hoping to see mischief in those Houdini eyes. Perhaps ten years have blurred my memory. It wasn’t I who followed a stranger to that bookstore along Rue de la Bûcherie. What was it called? Ah, Shakespeare and Company.

I did not go out of my way pretending to eye those weather-beaten shelves, fingering book spines, thinking of a way to start a conversation.

“James Joyce lies buried in the cellar” was your desperate did-you-know. I can’t believe how I fell for that—

How I fell for you.

Paris is indeed full of exotic swindlers.

Word Count: 100


Written for Friday Fictioneers, a weekly writing challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields where a photo is used as a prompt for a hundred-word piece of fiction. The photo prompt this week is a courtesy of C.E. Ayr.

It has been a while since I’ve written for Friday Fictioneers and I am happy to be back this week. This one is inspired by Ali’s micro story titled Endings. As I have said (am I’m sure I’m not the only one), it’s rare to see him write about love and heartbreak. My hopeless romantic muse got thrilled and so here’s a prequel to his tale.. 😉

Head over here to join the prompt!

 

Empty

The moment I heard that the streets of Divisoria have been cleared of sidewalk vendors, I flew to Manila to witness the momentous sight. This once busy section, riddled with various bazaars and people, has finally been stripped off its chaos.

As I stride aimlessly on one of its thoroughfares, I couldn’t help but sigh. It feels different. Everything is new to the eyes. Who would have thought we were walking on square blocks of concrete before?

“It’s so empty,” I voiced out.

“So are our stomachs,” the man from behind replied. He is Renato, a vendor for 45 years.

Word Count: 100


It has been a while since I’ve written for Friday Fictioneers and I am happy to be back for this week’s prompt.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly writing challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields where a photo is used as a prompt for a hundred-word piece of fiction. The photo prompt this week is a courtesy of Rochelle herself. 🙂

This one is inspired by the ongoing road clearing operations in the Philippines. Last July, the Department of the Interior and Local Government gave local executives 60 days to reclaim public roads from private use and to clear streets of obstruction. While this project scheme comes with good reasons and intentions, it could not be denied that the street vendors, whose lives relied on their meager earnings, were greatly affected. When the stretch of roads have all been emptied, what happens to those who strive to make ends meet. Is change truly for all? Here’s a photo of the real Divisoria.

Credits: Philstar

Up for a challenge? Join the fun here:

Pink Froggie

Pretender

It’s 9:52. The night is young yet the house is full. People are coming in and out of the front door. On a dim corner, behind the gate, a man is throwing up.

“I need a drink,” he thought of storming in but stopped at the sight a familiar face.

Five years— she never changed. Laughing with her head back, he guesses her black shirt still carries a statement. Like “Down With Big Brother” or “Go Queer”.

“Don’t,” the word came late and before he knew it, he was walking towards the one who got away. The dice is rolled. Fuck what ifs and the mutilated could-have-beens.

“On the worst-case scenario, at least I can act as drunk fool.”


Took this photo on a poetry night at a local coffee shop here in Cebu. The place was filled with too many hopeless romantics that night.

Not Again!

Not Again!

I am back at Pemberly—again. This time, I am playing the piano with Lady Catherine de Bourgh watching from behind. I cringe to the shadow of her majesty. Her regal grace is creeping on my spine like a snake.

Wait… what am I doing here in the first place?

As if to answer my query, Mr. Darcy came barging into the hall with his eyes fixed on Lady Catherine. “Your highness, I am baffled and enraged”, his voice raised. “Why do you have to take her here?”

“My nephew, you astonished me.” Lady Catherine, with all her arrogance and flair, walked towards Mr. Darcy. “I expected to find a more reasonable woman. But heaven and earth! Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”

“Leave me and my choice be, please!” He retorted and snatched me out of the mansion.

“Ria…” Mr. Darcy stopped, his breaths catching up to mine.

“Riaaaaa!” a loud voice came out of nowhere, “RIA. Wake up!” mom yelled, shaking my senses.

“MOM! Not again!” I wailed

“What again?!”

Word Count: 175


Here is for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers prompt. This week’s photo prompt by Louise of The Storyteller’s Abode which surprisingly reminds me of my favorite classic, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was January 2016 when I first wrote the fiction, Daydreams, which fantasizes Fitzwilliam Darcy and I believe it’s about time that I write a follow-up. Sorry Lizzie!

Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers is a weekly writing challenge where a photo is used as a prompt for a piece of fiction using 150 (+/- 25 words). Thanks for another fun prompt, PJ! 😀

Enjoy more stories here:

 

The Soloist

photo-20170320154625492

The Soloist

Deeper than the ocean
Higher than the sky
Fighting laws of motion
When there was you and I

You’re the force to my inertia
Heartbeats accelerate
Our actions and reactions
Are signed and sealed by fate

Alice couldn’t help but smile at the sound of the man’s voice. She knew that soulful tone for as long as she could remember. How could she not when she calls her ‘dad’?

They are not homeless nor do they live a pitiable life. But her dad has always been a great man. He would rise early in the morning and take out his guitar ensemble out to the center of the town.

“This world could use some music”, he would say.

Looking at the audience gathered around the soloist, she does agree.

Word Count: 130


Here is for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers prompt. This week’s photo prompt is provided by Sunayana MoiPensieve. Thanks PJ for hosting another fun prompt. 😀

Enjoy more stories here:

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