Seville Communion (Arturo-Perez Reverte) October 19, 2006Posted by julsitos in Contemporary Fiction.
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“The Seville Communion begins in the Vatican with a hacker code- named “Vespers” breaking into the pope’s personal computer and leaving a cryptic message: “In Spain, in Seville, there is a place where merchants are threatening the house of God and where a small seventeenth century church kills to defend itself…” Pérez-Reverte then introduces his flawed hero, Father Lorenzo Quart, a valuable operative in the Holy Office’s Institute for External Affairs (known as “the dirty works department,” by some members of the Curia). It’s his job to go to Seville, investigate two mysterious deaths at Our Lady of the Tears and discover the identity of Vespers.Once in Seville, Father Quart finds himself collar-deep in intrigue: There is the wealthy banker who wants the land the church stands on and his beautiful, estranged wife who will do anything to thwart him. There is Father Ferro, the fierce parish priest and Sister Gris Marsala, an American nun and architect, both intent on saving Our Lady of the Tears. There are also three endearing villains-for-hire who steal every scene they are in. Perez-Reverte skillfully weaves murder, mystery, and corrupt politics–both sacred and profane–through his story before arriving at his trademark unpredictable ending. ” -Amazon review
That in a nutshell is what the whole novel is about. The plot is smouldering, the descriptions are bathed in the warm Sevillan sun and perfume of orange blossoms. Unfortunately, this had some flaws that will turn-off readers.
1) Perez-Reverte is exhaustingly enthusiastic in writing the names of each bar, each street, each building, all with long-winded Spanish names in the hope of injecting local color into the scene but ends up alienating readers with its tiresome and hyperspecific names. For instance, instead of saying, “the bald man met him at the corner cafe”, he would instead write, “Don Verbano de la Rama met Querico Ignacio de Viver at a table inside the La Scala de Sevilla Cafe fronting the Nuestra de la Paz Church.” For the first two chapters this seemed quaint but having to read it until the end makes me want to hurl the book at his face.
2) Plotwise it is Agatha-Christiesque predictable but thoroughly unsatisfying. The arguments and mystery elements are weak and definitely not funny. It’s like building the tension of a wonderful mystery only to find out that there’s no mystery at all.
3) The characters are stereotyped and flat. The protagonist seemed clueless as to the mystery even when the book was nearing its end. The villains look as if they were plucked out from a Loony Tunes cartoons and their characterizations are stupidly Sevillan- a flamenco dance, a matador and a Hemingway wannabe from Cuba. Even though they were meticulously described from birth to their last indiscretion, it still falls short from being well-rounded. Hence, it will not make you sympathize with any of them.
4) Perez-Reverte does not let the dialogue describe his characters, but rather he explodes in a hurried exposition describing in excruciating detail all the character’s history just like an overbearing essayist. I really do not care whether the villain’s lighter was given by Hemingway or not.
With such kind of literature, it’s no wonder that I’ve found it stacked inside the National bookstore bargain bin.
Kwentong Tambay (Nicanor David Jr.) October 1, 2006Posted by julsitos in Philippine Fiction.
Pros: Very earthy, bawdy and does not dumb down its audience. Excellent punchlines. Simple but effective cover- yellow always catches the eye. Fonts are large. . Reasonably priced.
Cons: Wished it could have been more organized rather than mix everything up.
Blogsite: Kwentong Tambay
Curb My Enthusiasm September 26, 2006Posted by julsitos in Experiences.
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Far inside the Powerplant Tent, my relatives and I went to the Fullybooked bookstore. This place is THE place for every book your little heart desires. I believe they have the most extensive catalog of books in the entire country easily overpassing National and Powerbooks. Unfortunately, their prices also overpassed all other bookstores because they sell full retail price.
Anyway, I went there to pick up several books that Fullybooked promised to give me… for free! These are consolation prizes one receives for entering their essay contests. The grand prize of which was a trip to fucking Bali! Well, any prize is better than none at all. So I went to their customer service and produced my ID. The clerk looked at it and took out a bag heavy with books inside. I felt like winning the lottery. The adrenaline rush of getting something expensive for free is exhilarating and mind-numbing. It was like Christmas.
I took the bag from their hands, signed a receipt and went off to show it to Tita A and cousins M and A who were perusing some new titles. I was ecstatic. But my companions were “not” verrrrry impressed. Haha! Well, bully for them! A few curious inquiries and peptalk about luck and writing skills from them, but on a whole, it was a “neutral” moment. It was more of an “I can’t imagine you reading these stuff?” type of conversation rather than a “Wow! This is a great book!” kind of talk. Perhaps if it was a car or a gift cheque for a hotel buffet, then they would understand my enthusiasm. Sometimes, people have difficulty appreciating things they find banal or boring. Things that do not make a connection to their daily routine or even mere existence will only elicit a shortened spark of interest. Well, if I had won cold hard cash, then anyone I think can relate to my fortune. But books? Pfft. I think it was only my friend T who alone screamed at the cellphone when I broke the news that I won their contest. That person was enthusiastic enough to egged me to give her one of the books. Good for her.
1. This Earth of Mankind (Pramoedya Ananta Toer) – First part of the Buru Quartet, this is Indonesia’s novel of resistance against Dutch colonial oppression. Heavily influenced by Rizal and the Philippine revolution.
2. Musashi (Eiji Yoshikawa) – Hardbound copy of Japan’s epic samurai story.
3. Collected Short Stories vol.4 (W. S. Maugham) – given to my friend T.
4. Complete Novels (George Orwell) – Six novels including Animal Farm and 1984 compiled into one nifty volume. A dream book.
5. The Best Philippine Short Stories of the Twentieth Century (ed. by Isagani Cruz) – Hardbound copy of the best printed short fiction anthology in Philippine literature. A scarce and highly-sought volume. A keeper.
Mic Test… September 26, 2006Posted by julsitos in Insights.
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Mic test… mic test. Ahem! Announcing to you the start of The Library Cafè, a blog dedicated to reading books, reviewing titles and everything in between. A subsidy of the Idiotboard and other subsequent blogsites, TLC will endeavor to bring you the best and worst, the sensational and the mundane, the sacred and the profane of one’s reading experience. Sit back, relax and have a cup of espresso on us!