Archive | May, 2009

Dante Club : Hell of a Debut

14 May

Anyone who is a movie buff will love a film that talks about a film. In the similar logic, enthusiastic bloggers will search and find blogs who talk about blogging. This kind of appeal, no,- strike that; this kind of devotion to a passion that got me picking up that copy of “Dante Club” and started reading.

Now, by talking about Dante Club, I make a risqué decision of writing about a book whose hype has passed away long time ago. In fact, Matthew Pearl has already launched his next novel, – The Last Dickens, for quite some time now. That’s why I started this piece with a statement about my passion. For a people like me, literature is a lust. And we know there are no rights or wrongs when it comes to our own personal fetishes.

Back to the book, it seems to me that a book like this could be read by more than one framework. You could try to read it as a detective story, for example. Which is good, particularly if you happen to be a fan of a classic, timeless piece of gumshoe like the ole Sherlock. Or you can try to delve into those rich details about classical pieces of Dante’s, dig deep into his life and just swallow ravenously everything Pearl had to offer as a Dante scholars. This is how I read the book. Quickly, I got lost in an informed exposition and discourses about Dante scattered throughout the novel. I had not much success in finding partners to discuss about classical literature in the past. So in this way, this book almost served as a peer who offer his own, personal interpretation of La Divina Commedia. It’s exhilarating, – to say the least.

However, this love of literature also has its bane, at least for me in this case. I was amazed, even almost flattered, to immerse myself in a world populated by a star-studded cast with the likes of Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Not to mention Longfellow himself. I mean, who hasn’t heard about Paul Revere and remain quite unmoved by it ? This was augmented when I read about The Club itself. About how did it started the concept of what we know today as a Book Club. About the vast possibilities of intellectual discussion such a club could contain. Add to that some details of the personal lives of those literary giants, and I quickly got intoxicated.

In turn, this has made me failed my attempt to appreciate wholly the book as a mystery/thriller work. Pearl did it justice by carefully arranging the plot and giving the readers just enough excitement by using gruesome details of his depiction of the bodies. Yet I still fail to feel that bite I felt when I read a smart classic work of whodunit acted out by Holmes or Poirot. There was not enough atmosphere to create a sense of danger in this book. I’m referring to that sense of thrill you find where every page feel adventurous for you, – where you feel like turning a page is exactly like turning a dark corner in London where you just don’t know what you might bump into.

To do justice to Pearl, of course you can’t write such an amalgamated work of literary thriller quite satisfactorily. There is simply no technical way to do it well. You are torn between expounding on your literary theme, – and building that fast-paced, dramatic tension necessary for a thriller. Also, the fact that I am a fan of literature didn’t help at all. Maybe, just maybe, anyone who doesn’t have any idea about Dante will enjoy this book so much better than me. Because a hell of a debut this one surely is.


Another Letter To You

5 May

Dear Indigo,

So hello again, my son. It’s been a while since I’ve written my first letter to you. Until now, I still have no idea when will you be able to read it. Hell, I don’t even know whether you’ll be able to read it at all someday. But I prefer to live in a belief. A belief that someday you will overcome your developmental challenges and live this life like a man.

You see ? In some ways, that’s what’s hard about these handicaps we have ( Let’s call it for what it is, – handicap. For me, it’s called HIV. For you, it is autism ). The difficulty lies not in the struggle to stay healthy, – or your trials to master any social skill. Instead, the hardest thing is how to do it courageously. About how to stare all those fears we have in the eye, and do it anyway.

This was made more difficult because we have no one to teach such courage to us. I mean, who do we know what’s it like to have HIV or autism ? Who can tell us honestly that they understand such fears as deep as going to sleep at night, – without knowing whether you will wake up at all in the morning ? Who can comprehend that for you, loud sounds are as excruciating as needle stabs to your eardrums ? I have to admit, Son; that I myself only got the idea of what you’ve been going through when I read that book. Even then, all I got is some ideas. I cannot begin to pretend that I totally understand it, because I don’t.

Am I beginning to sound frustrating ? Please forgive me. Far be it from me to discourage you in any ways. On the contrary, I write this short letter to let you know that I will always be here for you. That no matter how great is the task we have in living this life, I’ll be there to hold your hands. Health permitting, I may also be able to carry you from time to time when the road gets too bumpy for you. Alternatively, I may need to stand by the sidewalk, and dress your wounds when you hurt yourself tripping on some wayward stones.

If we can learn to do that, my son, then maybe we can make all of this worthwhile. If we can learn not only when to hold each other, when to wipe our tears, but also when to carry on walking wounded. When to uphold each other when the going gets tough, but also when to hold back your desire to help, – as painful as it may feel -, and watch someone you love to trip and hurt himself. By now I hope you get the idea that it’s not important how many time you fall down. What matters is how many times you get up again.

If we can learn to do all of those, and still being there for each other until the end, then I feel we then can live this life of ours like men. Until then, let’s embrace our tears when we need to, but please never forget to enjoy the scenery you see along the journey. The grass is always green, the sun always shines, and we know someone up there is watching us in this lonesome journey.