White Teeth delves into family history and dynamics: an unlikely friendship between two men, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal, and how this brought their families together. It explores what it’s like to be a person of color in London from the 70s to the 90s (though I am guessing even until today). It is the kind of book I’d recommend to readers who are more invested in characters than the plot, those who want to understand why people-are-that-way and who do not mind the lack of action in a book.
It took me a bit longer than usual to sort out my feelings about White Teeth.
I read this book based on a recommendation by someone in my professional network. This was one of three fiction books in a list of ten books, so I felt that the book would at least expand my reading horizons. It did; I have no regrets.
After reading Kurt Vonnegut’s “The Epizootic,” the second story in his posthumously published collection, While Mortals Sleep, I wanted to bring to light the hushed up epidemic that ravaged America a few decades ago: the epizootic. Of course, actions have since been taken to rid America of this disease, so let me tell you about it because I thought it was an interesting read.
Please be aware of the epizootic, a disease that drove down the age of mortality among American men from 68 to 47 years old. Family men, men with wives and children to support, were most prone to contracting this disease especially in times of financial crises.
The epizootic was a terminal illness, and it spread through thoughts and words. Unless one covered his eyes and ears and lived far removed from society, there seemed to be no escape. Research has shown that the epizootic cases were correlated to increased instances of crashing planes and falling from heights.
“Modern communications are wonderful, aren’t they?” he said. “Almost as wonderful as life insurance.”
Kurt Vonnegut, “The Epizootic” in While Mortals Sleep
Thankfully, fine print has aided in eradicating the epizootic epidemic. For good measure, I suggest reading “The Epizootic” for a first-hand account of the covered up epidemic. The hope is that all breadwinners, no longer limited to family men, do not ever have to succumb to this disease.
It could just be me, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado. I liked the way the writer incorporated different forms of media and literature, all of which eventually made sense as the story developed, into one cohesive work, but I was just … okay with it. It’s not a very long book, but it took me a while to finish. (This doesn’t mean I have nothing to say though. I have a bunch.)
Because I like my history, let’s first talk about the title, Ilustrado.
For context, the Philippines was colonized by Spain for 333 years (I am not making this number up) from 1565 to 1898. The word “Ilustrado” referred to people from the Philippines who obtained their education abroad, in Mother Spain. This exposed them to liberal ideas, and they came back seeking to reform Spanish colonial rule (to turn the Philippines into a Spanish province instead of just a colony). Think: Jose Rizal and Plaridel.
But why use a word so old that it was used in history books?
If I were to describe “The Veldt,” a short story in Ray Bradbury’s The Invisible Man, it would be “creepy.”
In this world, you can buy a house that’s practically alive. The house is at your service, and you never have to lift a finger. Gone are the days when you have to clean and maintain your house—it is programmed to be self-sufficient. It can even cook your meals that you might wonder: does the house have a mind of its own?
And then you have children spoiled like no other. These children are so used to getting everything that they want that you’re not sure how they would deal with adversity. Perhaps their behavior would be destructive? Well, whenever I read about mysterious children, I am reminded of horror movies, of children with eerily high-pitched voices and imperious auras. (Actually, I remembered Such Small Hands, which left me unsettled.)
At the end of the day, it all boils down to one question: are you really in control? If not, well, watch out.
My sister and I have this thing I like to call Books without Borders, in which I share books with her whenever I visit her. I’m taking a rather awkward stopover in Toronto for a few weeks before I fly back to Manila—let’s call 2019 a year of travel, a sabbatical—and I’ve rounded up another batch of books to share with her.
I usually limit the number of books I take with me because, well, they’re heavy. As I was packing and shipping all my other belongings away, I decided to hold on to five books that I’ll be reading and sharing this summer. (This is also going to be our last Books without Borders for a while, at least until I find my bearings.)
The first two books are nonfiction policy books that have been on my bookshelf for quite a while. Since I’ll have a lot of time (and brainpower, really) on my hands, I thought I’d get through them during this trip. I’m also bringing a Murakami book I’d been meaning to read for the past year. I love reading Haruki Murakami; my favorite book of his is Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, but I heard a lot of great things about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as well, so I am excited to finally have time to read this! (I normally do not read Murakami if I’m in a “busy season” at work.)
Dryer’s English is a book I picked up recently (using my used book trade from Green Apple Books). As the little perfectionist that I am, I’m excited to read this book to refresh my knowledge. I’ve always loved writing, and I take pride in my writing. I had an amazing English teacher during my freshman year of high school who made me fall in love with the technical aspects of writing (diagrams!!!), so my little nerdy self is quite happy about having found this book.
The last book, Suggestible You, was one I almost packed and shipped away in a box. As I posted about the books I was packing, one of my friends expressed interest in reading Suggestible You, so I lent it to her (I love sharing books and recommendations) as long as she returned it before I flew out. Unfortunately, she didn’t have time to read the book, so she returned it to me last week—after I sent out my box, so it’s coming with me on my trip!
I also placed holds on several library Kindle books, so I’ve lots to read!