The Hopeless Romantic and the Heartbroken

It is really ridiculous how happy I am to finally have a copy of Lang Leav’s Love and Misadventure. I live in Dipolog City, although a growing city, it is still small and lacks bookstores. Amazingly, a National Bookstore (WITH a Bo’s Coffee mind you) will be opening up sometime in the near future. But in the meantime, there are only a few places in town to find books. Even those that do exist, they lack in variety and stock.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I had to cross a sea (I wish I can say the ocean which sounds more dramatic but I would be lying) in order to get this book. One of the first things I looked for when I visited Cebu was a bookstore. It had been a very long time since I had last been in one and that wonderful feeling of wanting to get lost between the aisles and stacks of books was purely euphoric.

I had already picked up a few books and was at the payment counter when a book display caught my eye. Lang Leav! I had almost forgotten how much I’ve been wanting her Love and Misadventures to go with my copy of Lullabies which was sitting safely on my bookshelf at home. It was as if the divine gods of books and literature guided me to it. When everything fades to black but a lone spotlight shines on that one display of red books. Imagine how close I came to walking out of the store without it! Needless to say, I grabbed a copy and deliberately ignored the extra amount added to the final bill as she rung it up.

After a nice night out around the city, I settled into my hotel room, got ready for bed and cozied up with Lang Leav. As I have mentioned in another post on my blog, Lang Leav has this amazing ability to say exactly what we feel when it comes to love and heartache with only a few lines. Both books do not disappoint.

I strongly recommend Love and Misadventure (and Lullabies) to those who are interested in reading poetry especially those who don’t care to read too much between the lines. She’s quite simple in her approach yet she has this literary flare for words which hits the target when it comes to a feeling or an experience which most of us can relate to. Those experiences we have all went through when it comes to the joy and excitement of finding love and the frustration and pain of love not fulfilled.  A lot of her work carries the essence of a haiku–short and limited yet exact and creative in making a point. This is definitely a book for the hopeless romantics and the brokenhearted lovers of the world.

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Award-winning Filipino Writer: Nick Joaquin

Lately, I’ve been interested in exploring contemporary Philippine literature. This sudden interest was sparked when a good friend of mine suggested that I read the short story “May Day Eve” by Nick Joaquin. I am so glad he did. He does a wonderful job of portraying the traditional customs and social norms of the Filipino people. Yet he always inserts a twist–something that my friend and I would say is “messed up” (subsequently scrunching face and twisting fingers in the air) for a lack of a better way to describe it. His work reflects raw emotion and intensity–reaching beyond the traditional Filipino stories of nationalism, love, despair and joy. I just completed the story “Three Generations” which I strongly recommend. You’ll appreciate the old-school dynamics of a Filipino family and the struggle with suppression of desires [both of which may still exist today]. Nick Joaquin is truly an artist (he’s a recipient of the prestigious National Artist Award for Literature). He shows how the Filipinos are hot-blooded, passionate, talented people.

Truly Yours, Cozy Book Corner — To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

Anyone that has dealt with a heartbreak knows how difficult it can be to move on afterwards. We often resort to extreme measures just to deal with the pain and anger—binge eating, excessive consumption of alcohol, stalking, burning everything that your ex gave you, locking yourself in your room all day every day and even the regretful rebound.

Usually after a breakup, you find that you have so much to say to the other person but you know that you can’t because that would be crossing the line of moving on and being desperate. And that’s the worst thing isn’t it? Showing your ex-love, let alone to others, how desperately you are hanging on to something that no longer is there (or that was never there to begin with).

Or perhaps you’ve experienced a “love” which never was. A love that you had to keep to yourself because it was only one-sided or too complicated. You find yourself wanting to share how you feel but, alas, you suppress it because (a) you are too scared of rejection and embarrassment, (b) the object of your affection is already taken, (c) you are too shy to even approach the person, or (c) all of the above.

I once read in a magazine article that it’s better to write a letter to the other person. This letter may include every honest emotion of love, longing, hurt, doubt, anger, jealousy or guilt that you ever felt. You can even ask the other person every question that you wish he/she would answer. Sounds kind of crazy, right? But the catch actually is, you never actually send out these letters to the other person. The letter is merely a therapeutic release of everything you wish to let go of—the very things that drive you crazy because you can’t stop thinking about them. So even though your ex or crush may never read it, you’d still feel an emotional weight lifted off of your shoulders. Thusly, you can easily move on.

That’s the idea behind the novel “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” by Jenny Han. It’s about how a quiet, half-Korean teenager, Lara Jean Song, who wrote a letter to every single boy she has loved in her young life. She keeps them hidden in her mother’s hatbox that she owns until one day it goes missing. Mysteriously, all the letters get mailed out to each guy and Lara Jean is forced to confront them about her involuntary confession of feelings. As a result, her so-called “love life” gets tossed into a frenzy.

Though Lara Jean is a young teenager, we could all relate to some point in our lives when we couldn’t tell a person how much we like them or love them. Whether it be because you dread the thought of being vulnerable or because your best girlfriend is dating your crush (and you wouldn’t dare betray your friend), we’ve all been there. But the worst thing that could happen is the person that you like finding out about it. What would you do? Like Lara Jean, we wouldn’t be so brave to actually confess and explain it any further. Most likely we’d nonchalantly brush it off and try to act cool and unbothered. Sometimes we’re even crazy enough to come up with a lie in order to save face. Even as adults we can act like clueless adolescents when it comes to expressing—or not expressing—your feelings for someone.

This is a nice “good read” book. If you think you can relate to Lara Jean complicated love life, this is definitely worth reading. Jenny Han was able to make me jump into Lara Jean’s shoes and experience the story through her perspective. It does take me back to high school and reminds me of all the crushes that I’ve had before. This kind of nostalgia is something we should all experience once in a while. Tis quite interesting too since I’ve finished the book while waiting to meet up with a recent crush of mine. Wish me luck! 😉

The Necklace

One of my favorite short stories to assign in my literature classes is “The Necklace” by the French author Guy de Maupassant. Basically the main character, Madame Loisel, has the weakness of feeling entitled and lacks the values to appreciate what she already has in life. When she receives an invitation to a ball, she immediately stresses over what to wear. Insisting on being the most admired woman in attendance, she asks her devoted husband to buy her a new dress. Despite the new but simple dress, she becomes anxious about what accessories to pair with it. She ends up going to one of her wealthy friends who was generous enough to lend her diamond necklace.

Once at the ball, every man and woman admired her. But her shining moment dims quickly when she arrives in her home only to realize that the necklace is gone. Madame L and her husband decided to lie and replace the necklace with another similar necklace. Unfortunately, the couple spent years trying to pay off the debt acquired from the purchase of the new necklace. In the end, when Madame L confesses (more like complains) to her friend about what really happened, it was revealed that the original necklace wasn’t made of real diamonds and that it cost far less than the replacement.

Not only do the Loisels end up in a worse financial situation, it seems that Madame L never truly learns the important lesson of the story: be honest, more humble and appreciate the good things you already have in life.

Too bad Madame L didn’t live today. I recently bought this fabulous statement necklace for a party. Huge black and white diamond-like stones for more or less six bucks! She could put an entire look together on a budget at H&M or Top Shop. But then again too many people today are like Madame L and will never be happy with their lives.

Ms. Austen Is To Blame

“You said you’re an English major. Tell me, was it Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, or Thomas Hardy who first made you fall in love with literature?” -Christian Grey (Fifty Shades of Grey movie)

While Anastasia Steele credits Hardy for her love affair for literature, I totally and completely blame Jane Austen for mine! Perhaps Austen is a predictable choice but nevertheless she deserves the recognition for being one of the greatest writers of the English language (cue the music, lights, tiara and sash).

Limited by propriety dictated by her society, Jane shared insights into being a young, single woman in Regency England. Based on what we know about Austen, you see her life reflected in her characters and the plot. Jane must have struggled between doing what was expected (marry a man of considerable wealth and reputation) versus what her passion was (to be in love when married and write stories).

I always love how Austen took the risk of revealing that a young British woman can voice her opinion, stand by her beliefs and lifestyle choices, and despite the strength of this woman, she can still make mistakes. Take Elizabeth Bennett (the heroine of Pride & Prejudice) for example. Pressured by others to marry for security and convenience, she refused to settle (something that women nowadays face). Not to mention how Elizabeth was opinionated, sarcastic, witty and intelligent. On the other end, she saw herself as an equal to Darcy especially towards the end—flaws and all.

This is actually similar to why I am a fan of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Though I feel that Elizabeth Bennett was sassier in personality than Jane Eyre, Eyre still stood up for herself against Mr. Rochester. Given the context of their time, these characters were quite radical and progressive which is why these novels are good for sociological criticism.

In my Literary Criticism class, I assigned my student to analyze Pride & Prejudice. Afterwards, she genuinely thanked me for introducing her to Jane Austen, her work and how there is more to the written word than what meets the eye. Moments like this remind me of why I followed my heart to be an English major and I am glad to pass on to other English majors the passion for literature and the love for Austen.

How about you? Are you Bronte, Austen or Hardy? And why? Comment below 🙂

(Image from flickr.com via pinterest.com)

Ancient Greek’s Greatest Love Story

The Ancient Greeks had a beautiful penchant for weaving a story. And I find it amazing that these tales were initially passed on through the oral tradition and they still exist today. Though a lot about the ancient past is still a mystery, Greek myths offer a great insight about this lost culture.

Whether it’s the greatest love story in Greek mythology or not can be disputed but the tale of Psyche and Cupid is definitely my favorite.

Imagine being a young mortal maiden cursed with a beauty that challenged that of the immortals. The kind of beauty that enraged the goddess of beauty herself into bitter jealousy. Psyche, whose lovely appearance was captivating enough to make the mortals abandon Aphrodite’s temples, was doomed to a fate decided by the insulted goddess wherein Psyche must marry the most vile creature on earth, a creature that would surely end her life. Cupid, the son of Venus (Aphrodite), was sent by his mother to make her rival fall in love with the horrible creature. Little did his mother realize how Cupid would fall in love with her “as if he had shot one of his arrows into his own heart” (Hamilton).

As Psyche awaits on a hilltop for her assigned fate, the winds direct her to a luxurious mansion. While staying in the mansion, Psyche nervously waits to meet the terrible creature that will be her husband. But to her surprise, she is met with the sweet, tender attention of a man–a man whose love and affection can only be felt but never seen. This gentle lover forbid her in actually seeing him and begged her to trust him. After some time, Psyche’s curiosity and lack of faith got the best of her. One night, she lit a lamp and shown the light on her sleeping husband. To her pleasant surprise, she discovered that her husband wasn’t a vile monster and that he is the beautiful Cupid. Unfortunately, some of the hot oil from the lamp spilled onto Cupid, awakening him and making him flee.

Psyche by then realized her mistake. Ashamed of her own lack of trust, she tried to chase after him. She searched everywhere for him. Eventually, she went to Aphrodite and offered herself as an obedient servant in exchange for her help in getting Cupid back. Aphrodite, still resentful of Psyche, ordered her to accomplish exhausting tasks. Psyche was determined to win Cupid back so she endured the hardships and completed the tasks with a little help from various creatures. Astounded but persistent, Aphrodite sent her to the underworld wherein she must fill a box with Persephone’s beauty. On her way back from the underworld, Psyche’s curiosity and vanity compelled her to look inside the box. When she opened the box, a heavy sleep fell upon her.

Once Cupid was healed from his burns, we tried to search for his wife. After finding her, he took away the sleepy haze she was under and pricked her with one of his arrows. He scolded her for her weakness (curiosity) and brought her in front of the Olympian gods. They married and Psyche was granted immortality. They lived happily ever after as soul mates (fyi…Psyche’s name means ‘soul’).

On one end, the story has a sadness to it but like any good love story the two lovers still manage to find their way back together. I like how it reflects, like in most Greek myths, human weakness (e.g. Psyche’s curiosity; Venus’ jealousy). I think that great literature needs to say something about the human condition and how people feel and act. That’s what transcends time and makes it still relevant to us. The Ancient Greek society were the originals when it came to government, science, philosophy, art, etc. So it comes as no surprise that the literature that came out from this time are masterpieces.

I strongly suggest you read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. Hamilton did a great job narrating the tales and describing the gods and heroes. Cupid and Psyche’s story can be found in Part 2: Stories of Love and Adventure. I also love the short tale about Pygmalion and Galatea.

*(Hamilton, Edith) Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, Grand Central Publishing, 1942, page 97

(image: sculpture by Antonio Canova depicting Eros reviving Psyche — flicker.com via pinterest)

Lullabies

Many people don’t appreciate poetry. For any reader, they must exert more effort to understand a poem compared to reading a story. It may require you to decipher the figurative language and symbolism, apply the elements of sound to create rhythm and sometimes even apply the poet’s background and historical context to the piece. But poetry is a beautiful art form if people could give it a chance.

Perhaps not all poetry is your cup of tea; but one contemporary poet knows how to express our basic emotions, especially when it comes to love and heartbreak. I sometimes think of Lang Leav as the Adele of literature. Both seem to say exactly what they’re feeling and they do it in the most beautiful and simple way. I once heard someone say in a televised interview that Adele is an amazing songwriter because she is able to say the things we’ve always been wanting to say after a heartbreak. For me and many fans of Lang Leav, we feel the same way when we read her work. She often takes a few short stanzas and effectively impacts and relates to the reader the very things that we experience when we’ve loved and hurt. Take the following poem by Leav for instance:

“His Kiss”

‘He has me at his every whim; everything starts with him.

To all the boys I used to kiss–everything stops with his.’

So far I only have a copy of ‘Lullabies’ (her second published book of poetry) and I love reading every page. Seldom do I come across a book of poetry that I’d consider a page-turner (most of the time I read one or a few poems at a time). But with ‘Lullabies’ I must have gone a quarter into the book without putting it down (except to sip my coffee) when I first opened it. I’ve only read excerpts from her first book ‘Love & Misadventure’ but I am dying to get a copy.