Of Blindness, Rabies and Whales

I had another accidental exercise in reading preferences – very similar to what happened to me while reading Crazy for Vincent/Intimacy.

I started reading Saramago’s Blindness alongside Borislav Pekić’s Rabies (Besnilo), having no idea what Blindness is about (I like knowing as little as possible about a book). Turns out – again – the books are eerily similar, yet completely different.

Moby Dick Syndrome

Some books are just…no. Simply no. Blindness is one of those “No-Books” for me. Reading it was a torture, and I still cannot grasp what pushed me to finish it. Maybe it was the Moby Dick Syndrome. Let’s just say, I know there is a white whale somewhere on those pages, but not only did I not catch it, I did not even hear it.

Blindness did manage to pull me in at the start. Lack of proper names, difficulty of discerning who was speaking and the seamless transitions between sections blinded me. It made me feel like I was a part of the epidemic and it foreshadowed an amazing immersive experience (which it failed to deliver).

In Rabies, Pekic’s wild and erratic style makes you feel mad, teetering on the edge of sanity (and humanity). And even though I had a lot of difficulty navigating through it (it took two tries), I got my white whale in the end and I loved every minute of the hunt.

Truth? I decided to refer to Moby Dick just so I can use this gif.

What a Difference a Style Makes

Blindness is smelly, languid and apathetic. Rabies is violent, intense, and bloody. The destination of both is the same, but the paths they take are different. Rabies escalates, Blindness withers.

While it’s not hard to deduce what Blindness is about, I really didn’t get it while I was reading it. Having thought about it, I assume the point was to show:

  • The fragility of the human condition/society;
  • The ephemeral nature of what we see as humanity;
  • “Reality” is arbitrary (especially when faced with severe adversity);
  • The agility with which society turns out those who are different, afflicted, unwanted….

I just did not see it – I was too busy being irritated. I did not have any “there-she-blows” moments – it was all a struggle.

Rabies, with very similar allegorical tendencies, resonated with me with no problem whatsoever. Pekic has written a thriller, a clever crime story (with a hint of supernatural) with real people you come to hate/love and care about, a story which successfully led me to the white whale.

I’m going to quote myself here because I’m so cool:

Pekić is very ostentatious, very aware of his prowess and he’s putting it out there. It’s pretty much like this: “uuu look at me, I handle words the way you cannot handle oxygen, and I know it, and I want you to know it.” And I know it. And I loved it.

It’s Not That It’s Bad – I Just Hated It

Around 100  pages into Blindness, I had no empathy left and I didn’t give a fuck about the horrible reality the characters were subjected to. But it’s hard to tell whether that was a result of Saramago’s intention to show me I’m a part of that “humanity” (which is in essence inhumane) or was it the result of me hating the book.

There are more things I appreciated in Blindness, like Saramago’s ability to write about violence, blood and murder and still making it all seem lethargic and passive. Saramago is a magnificent writer. Blindness is not a lousy book; it’s just that I hated it.

What Now

Honestly? I don’t know. Having examined Blindness in more detail makes me think I was unfair in giving it a one-star rating. But I really hated it, I really did.

Should the aftermath matter? Or should the reading experience itself be the basis for a rating?


Sunday Shōjo: Tsuki ga Kirei (anime)

Episodes: 12
Status: Finished (April 6, 2017 to June 29, 2017)

I did not fall in love with Tsuki ga Kirei on first sight. There was something about character animation which made me cringe (I think it was the use of CGI, but am not sure). However, overcoming the initial cringiness was worth the while.

Tsuki ga Kirei is simple and cute with a surprising dose of realism thrown in. I have difficulty finding anything in it that defies the possibility of this story taking place in real life.

Of course, there’s your fireworks festival, sports, studying, school trip, rivalry, misunderstandings, and a lot of texting. The characters are not perfect – they actually act like real teenagers and there are no typical shoujo characters (sexy rival, villain, prince of the school, scatterbrain…). I think it is impossible not to fall in love with Tsuki Ga Kirei if you’re a fan of the holy trinity: shoujo, slice-of-life, school life.

Life as Fiction

I’ve always had immense respect for writers who were capable of putting themselves on paper.  A bit of disdain (and jealousy) always went with that, because you cannot bare yourself without baring others. But then again, most writers have to be selfish, self-righteous pricks to a certain degree, don’t they?

Beyond Fiction

I have read two such books recently, Crazy for Vincent by Herve Guibert and Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi. These books defy fiction and still you cannot read them as anything but. Pieces of people’s lives disguised as fiction strike me as something beyond fiction. How much of it is real? Is the fragmented, disconnected style a by-product of trying to hide as much as you reveal, or is it a conscious choice to enhance the realism of depicting human emotional life?

How much of it is a result of compulsion, and how much a choice of the author? Can we talk about plot, characterisation or structure? Can we rate a person’s life just because they decided to put it in a book?

250 Pages – a Million Questions

The two books total at a bit over 250 pages, yet they have left me with so many questions – about life and nature of literature, its purpose and function – both personal and civilizational. Is literature meant to entertain or educate? Even if an author decides on the purpose, is it even important – being so dependent on what the reader is bringing into the process?

Different or Not

Different yet eerily similar (and familiar!), both Crazy for Vincent and Intimacy show that most of us (if not all) are broken, in disrepairsearching for meaning, love or something like it.

The paper is not covered with ink it’s covered in scars – especially in Crazy for Vincent. Guibert is more self-aware. Unlike Kureishi, he is not self-aggrandizing (even when he’s trying to be contrite).  Guibert does not try to justify himself or his story, while I felt Kureishi had the need to prove that he is a “good man” by the same bourgeoisie standards he’s failing/refusing to meet.

The fact that I could see a reflection of myself in these stories complicates things further. More questions arise, because they have managed to elevate a deeply personal experience to a more universal level (at least in my case). We’re talking about male authors. One of them is obsessed with his young gay lover (simplification!), the other is trying to rationalize his decision to leave his wife and two sons. Not very relatable in my case, yet the emotional level, the raw material  is malleable.

Ethics of Fiction

I’ve read a review of Intimacy on Goodreads which made me pause and which is closely related to my intro. Does a writer have an obligation to protect those he includes (exploits) in the service of his writing? Should Kureishi have masked the autobiographical elements of Intimacy to protect his family and friends? All valid questions, but I consider them unimportant, because even if Kureishi “tweaked” his life in order to be nice (?), a book like this would have brought about the same questions as the “untweaked” version.

I believe that if you choose to be a (certain type of) writer and you actually succeed in becoming one, you have to be prepared to be judged and called “unethical” or “selfish and self-righteous “.

Sunday Shōjo: Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (anime)

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun)
Episodes: 12
AnimeStatus: Finished
MangaStatus: Ongoing

Sakura Chiyo (sort-of) confesses her love to Nozaki Umetaro, a guy who is pretty much clueless about everything except the manga he is writing (he’s a bit clueless about that, too). This ends up by Chiyo becoming his beta and getting entangled with the intricate process of writing manga. Soon enough, a bunch of colourful and interesting characters emerge as a part of said process, and the result is one of the funniest animes I have ever watched.

The romantic part is on the sidelines, worming its way into funny situations and misunderstandings. If you don’t mind laughing your ass off while enjoying a bit of romance, you’ll love Gekkan Shojo. I’d liken it to Ouran High School Host Club – if you liked that one, I’m pretty sure you’ll love Gekkan-shojo.

Featured image by 区宇(くう)@原稿中 taken over from zerochan.net
Image 1 by 白夜ReKi taken over from zerochan.net.
Image 2 by 三本王wallace taken over from zerochan.net.
Image 3 by ☆★☆ taken over from zerochan.net.

Sunday Shōjo: Orange (with Pictures)

Goodreads: On the day that Naho begins 11th grade, she receives a letter from herself ten years in the future. At first, she writes it off as a prank, but as the letter’s predictions come true one by one, Naho realizes that the letter might be the real deal. Her future self tells Naho that a new transfer student, a boy named Kakeru, will soon join her class. The letter begs Naho to watch over him, saying that only Naho can save Kakeru from a terrible future. 


  • Bittersweet love triangle;
  • Lovely story about regrets and how they influence of our lives;
  • Cool characters whom you would not mind knowing in real life;
  • The art is really cute and very consistent in quality.

Read Orange on mangareader for free.


  • It’s not the usual, simple love story solely focused on the two protagonists getting together;
  • Leaves you cheated for the “realtionship” part of the story;
  • It is not really clear whether the manga is completed or not…and it feels like it could do with a few more chapters.

Reader’s Dilemma

Miss Larkin’s writing is like a puppy’s first confrontation with a flight of stairs. It’s very awkward, but it’s so cute you have to smile and hope it will succeed. While the puppy eventually masters the stairs, Miss Larkin never fully masters writing. At least not in The Earl’s Dilemma.


She keeps stumbling over the same words – lack of synonyms in her vocabulary and the lack of thesaurus in her home library become apparent very soon. I could not resist so I counted, cruel courtesy of modern technology. Using the word throat 52 times and the word cheek 92 times would not be a big problem if both words were not used in relation the same character almost invariably. The same goes for frown (101 times).

As much as I tried to like Artemis for subjective reasons, I tried to dislike Earl’s Dilemma for objective reasons. It is badly written. Really. And I loved it. I enjoyed the simple love story, even though it was riddled with detailed descriptions of drapery, upholstery, linen and other types of cloth. I liked the characters, even though they were all frowns, eyebrows, throat and cheek.

I doubt I will ever read another book by Miss Larkin, but I’ll be forever thankful for putting a smile on my face when I desperately needed it.

Have you ever really liked a book that was poorly written? This actually happened to me once before, more than 10 year ago when I read Man on Fire.

Sunday Shōjo: S.P.Y. (with Pictures)

myanimelist: In search of her mother, Nagi, a girl from a desolate country village, comes to a big city and enters Swimming Suieikyou High School. Shortly after joining the swimming club, Nagi finds out that the pool is actually completely overtaken by boys! But in this never-practicing so-called swimming club Nagi finds something…


  • You’re looking for a light read that will make you laugh and giggle;
  • You need a quick read with all the shoujo basics: pretty boys, clumsy girl and tokidoki panels;
  • You’re looking for a manga with wet and half-naked guys all over the place.

Read S.P.Y here: mangakakalot.com


  • You don’t like  manga which wholly ignores its own plot;
  • You don’t like feeling like the manga should have a few more chapters;
  • You want to read something memorable.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Annual reviews are not among my favourite things. I’ve done two of them so far (work-related) and frankly, I’ve had enough. However, reviewing a year in terms of books and my activity in the blogosphere (poor as it was) in the end proved to be relaxing and not taxing.

I have, once again, failed to meet my reading challenge (24/31). Still, I am quite pleased with the two per month average and the catching up I’ve managed to do in November and December.

Infografika 17

How did you fare?

There have been ups and downs last year, not only in terms of personal and professional life, but also in terms of books. I was sorely disappointed by Andy Weir’s Artemis, however The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz proved to be the biggest disappointment of 2017. It so happens when you expect a lot, and get only a smidgen (again, true in personal and professional life as well).

Pleasant surprise of 2017 (alongside Logan in the movie department, Hajime no Ippo and Haikyuu in the anime department) was certainly Mary Balogh’s A Summer to Remember.

I wrote about the Cheap Thrill of 2017 extensively, however, if you care to know more of the Guilty Pleasure of 2017, you’ll have to wait for me to complete the Captive Prince Trilogy. Hint – the first two instalments feel like reading an anime (might sound silly, but it’s true).

Note: I have updated the “About (Hello There!)” section to include better explanation of the main categories (Cheap Thrills, Guilty Pleasures & Personal Edification):

In 2018 I will once again try to read 31 books. I will also endeavor to be more attentive to the digital sanctuary that is my blog. I’ll do my best to include entries in each of the categories that have developed during the years, which will make me focus more on my interests and things that make me go *grin* in the night.

May 2018 bring you many Cheap Thrills. Indulge in Guilty Pleasures as much as you can, and don’t forget that there is Personal Edification in everything, if you approach it with a critical mind.

Thank you for stopping by and reading.

One swallow does not make a summer…

…and one amazing book does not make a writer amazing. Ok, it does, but it doesn’t make all his books amazing.

Benjamin Alire Saenz: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

ILML has lovable characters and their relationships are as flawed and lovely as they are. Everything is a combination of perfect imperfections, which I really enjoyed. Up to the point where I started struggling against it and then finally rejected it completely.

The Narrator

Salvador is the narrator of the book which deals with people, family, friendship and pain which invariably comes when you love. Like any other teenager (and a lot of adults) he’s having a hard time dealing with the changes which are out of his control. I liked Sally at the beginning when he still had a semblance of a person. As the book progresses the reality of him seeps away and he becomes nothing more than a narrator of a poorly constructed story.

The Writing

The flow of words is not effortless – quite the contrary. It seems forced and artificial. In a story which deals with everyday things, the artifice ruins everything. In ILML you can tell in advance when the author is preparing to give you a deep thought or a beautiful sentence. And there are beautiful sentences and quotes worth jotting down.

The Story

The story is what I minded the most. I know a lot of people have to deal with a lot of shit in their lives, but I think it really was not necessary to wreak havoc on every single character in this book. This only added to the feeling that everything was less than honest, because some of these tragic events seemed uncalled for which was most evident in a flippant way they were treated.

The End

The worst thing is definitely the ending. All the pain, loss and confusion are neatly resolved in the final chapter which is a lecture written by a 17-year-old Salvador Silva. Lazy.

 No bueno.

Average at Best

I don’t do spoilers.

The Last Jedi suffers from the same disease most “big” movies are afflicted with lately – it takes forever to start and then it just ends. Not with a bang. With a whimper. A sad little whimper.

Rian Johnson was presented with good actors and good characters and he presented them with a script full of easily avoidable holes, unnecessary scenes and poor attempts at depth and meaning.


Yes, there are good moments in this movie. Some of them are even great. However, put together they make an average movie – at best.

One thing did stand out, though. Kylo and Rey. The chemistry between those two was so intense and palpable that I felt we had no business intruding on them. It made me feel uncomfortable, like a stalker.

Daisy Ridley was good, really really good. I’d go as far as saying that she was glorious. Adam Driver was amazing when the script allowed him to be.

What I resent the most is that The Last Jedi failed to pay decent respect to Luke, Leia and Vader. It made me sad and angry.

source (1).gif

By the way, if you cannot say it in under two hours, you should go back to the drawing board. It’s not like you’re making The Godfather, for Christ’s sake.