Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The World Book, watchmen and others...

UPDATE: just saw a LOT of typos in this. Will fix soon!

I saw Watchmen over the weekend. I'm not familiar with the original graphic novel (which is why I've now decided to read it). Watching a movie set in an alternate history where Nixon is in his third term as president and the Americans won the Vietnam war is an interesting experience to be had in post-war Vietnam. They edited out certain parts of the movie - at least I think they did, since the movie did that bizarre jumpy thing. They edited sex scenes, violence, and I believe anything that delved too deeply into the vietnam war. It surprised me that they DIDN'T cut out the part where Dr Manhattan is obliterating Viet. troops in the fields, or where The Comedian is torching soldiers. But maybe that's because this is Southern Vietnam? Who knows. I see the movie omitted the part where The Comedian is confronted by a Vietnamese women he impregnated - or maybe that was never included in the movie in the first place?

Either way I enjoyed the movie, but I guess I can't REALLY criticise it until I finish reading it.

So, tomorrow is the deadline for the UNESCO World book submissions...
I decided to submit one of my poems, "Glass" and that story I wrote about Nora? Remember that? Well, here's the full version:

Just some historical bg: In 1941, just ten hours after Pearl Harbour, the Japanese invaded the Philippines (up in Pampanga). The central character, Nora, grew up during that time, seeking refuge with her family in caves up in the hills.
My great-aunt and my grandfather did in fact have to live in caves in the hills in the '40s. My great-aunt told me that even after the war, the whine of a plane, any plane, would make her heart start pumping faster.


Nora remembers. She remembers the horrible sucking sounds of the mud as they ran the whine of Japanese planes at their backs. They ran over the fields, up the hills, into the caves. Far, far away from the sound of approaching Death. But in the silence of the cave, cradled in her mother's arms, she still heard the insistent noise of the plane, Nora remembers, she remembers it all.

The children play at Nora's feet, on a hardwood floor, with shiny plastic toys. No stone floors. Nora told her husband, no stone. It reminded her too much of the caves they slept in, of the absolute darkness of every night.

Her grand-nieces and grand-nephews are so soft, skin pink and pliable. At their age Nora's hands were covered with calluses, her heels were dirty and hard. She looks at herself now, hands dotted with liver spots, skin wrinkled with age. The calluses are gone and her skin is clean. No marks remain from the war, except the small shrapnel scar behind her left ear. Nobody knows of it except her elder brother - her perfectly coiffed hair hides her scar expertly.

And where is Alex now?

Grandpa! Grandpa!

The elated cries of her grand-nephew. Ah, here is Alex, the proud grandfather of seventeen, smiling at his grandchildren. The little ones throw themselves at him; Alex Jr. is hanging off his shoulder. Nora sees her brother wince with pain, but the children don't notice how his face is twisted, the veins in his neck bulging. The expression on his face is so familiar to her; the soundless agony of his pain. After all these years, the scar still hurt him.

She had told him not to take the shortcut to the market. The rocks on that side of the hill were loose; any misstep would send you tumbling down. But no, Alex needed to get to the market before all the good bargains were gone, and they hadn’t had anything decent meals in a while. And why would he listen to Nora? She was seven and he was twelve.

He started down the hill, his pace quickening to a run. And then he fell. And he didn’t stop falling. He skidded down the rocks on his back, trying to stop himself with his feet. He came to a sudden halt halfway down the hill, a ribbon of blood marking his fall. Nora had been so sure he was dead that she burst into tears of joy when she felt him breathing. She fell silent when she helped him up and saw the deep gash running across his back from his shoulder to his hip, a mess of raw skin and exposed muscle obscured by thick blood.

Late that night her father had stitched up Alex’s back with her mother’s sewing needle, the candle as his only light. Nora didn’t sleep that night. Her brother’s screaming kept her eyes wide open. Every time the needle pierced his skin he screamed. His cries of pain echoed though the cave crawled under her skin and seeped into her. All she could see was his blood – the blood on her brother’s back, on her hands, the blood spread over the rocks of the hill.

Someone is shaking her shoulder, trying to speak to her. It is Alex, and it is time for dinner. He starts to help her out of her chair, but when she slips her arms around her shoulder she feels his thick, jagged scar and sits back.

“It doesn’t hurt anymore, Nora.”

But it does, and Nora knows. She shakes her head at him, “You should tell the children they shouldn’t jump on you, make them understand why.”

“They don’t need to know about that. What’s past is past,” Alex looks over at the dinner table, “it has nothing to do with our lives now.”

Nora lets her brother help her up, but she knows about the past. The memories define her, make her. The past was everything, is everything. It is all she has left.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Currently reading...

Trying to work out what to submit to the world book. I'll probably submit the story about Nora.

I've started borrowing books from the school library again. Before year 10-ish I always had two or three books out from the library per week, and over time I stopped reading regularly. Maybe it's the new layout of the library, or our cool new librarian, but I've started reading properly again.

The other day I bought two books -
Sara's Face by Melvin Burgess and 

the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

After reading them both, I realised how much I liked just chilling out for an hour reading steadily. The Thief is the first book in a trilogy, and so I went hunting in the library for the sequel since I didn't have it...
Which brought out my inner bibliophile. When I finished The Queen of Attolia  and was searching for a new book, I saw City of Flowers by Mary Hoffman, third in the Stravaganza series. (Now I'm frustrated that I can't read City of secrets, the last one!!!)
I'm horrible with books. I devour them, and I think it's safe to say that I abuse them. I read them wherever and whenever- in the bathroom, on a chair, on the floor, on the bed, in between doing homework, in the kitchen, while I'm eating... I tend to get called while I'm reading as well, so I normally lay the book open and face down on the closest surface (usually this is the floor). This is not good for the spines of books. I also dog-ear every book I read - though now I use a bookmark if I'm reading a book someone has lent me - and I open them as wide as possible to make it easier to read. Needless to say, the books on my bookshelf look very, very well read. There are somethings I NEVER do with books though- I may read while eating, but I never spill things on any book. I NEVER tear pages, or bend the covers backwards. I always take care when I turn the page. 
I borrowed the Queen of Attolia and returned it the next day, and I read City of Flowers and returned that the next day.
Mr Jacques, our librarian recommended two books to me, 

Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterson

and Thursday's Child by Sonya Hartnett

Since Mr Jacques has been our librarian (end of 2008) there's been an influx of new books (: and one of them is the Wind up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. I saw it and borrowed it. I quite like Murakami, after reading one of his books, the Wild Sheep Chase.

So, I am now reading Oranges... and will tell you what I think when it's finished.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


Everything with her was larger than life itself. When she was happy, her face glowed, her big, big smile shone with all her teeth. Her cheeks were pink, her eyes were round, and she jumped, she laughed, she sang, she danced. When she was angry her brows would knit together, her lips would purse, her nostrils flare. The blood rushed to her face, her eyes narrowed, and her voice crescendoed. She waved her arms wildly in the air, she screamed. And when she was sad, she became so small, arms and legs retracted, but bawling. Wailing and crying and lamenting, like she was being torn apart by pain. Shaking and rocking backwards and forwards, gasping for breath.
She was slouching on a chair, and for all anyone knew there was nothing wrong. She wasn't saying much, but then again everyone was speaking at the same time, they would hardly have noticed. She wasn't moving, and her eyes were fixed on one single point in front of her. When she talked about it she spoke without feeling. Her sentences were matter of fact, her voice at normal volume. But everything about her was so lifeless - as if she was dying in solidarity.