Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Vanishing Point by Louise Hawes

(In which it was almost perfect.)

***

I don’t really love bread. But when it comes to pan de coco, it’s another story – especially if the bread is still warm and the coco filling is sweet and thick and juicy I could die. Not all my pan de coco experiences are the same, though. There were times when I regretted buying that piece of hard, chewy bread with barely a filling in the core.

Eating pan de coco (or anything you like, actually) is just like reading. We can attribute the reading experience to the best, the so-so and the worst meal we’ve had. With The Vanishing Point, by the way, I had to take the middle road.

This novel by Louise Hawes unfurls with a tarot reading foretelling death and darkness in the Fontana family, then blossoms into the coming-of-age adventures of the young Lavinia Fontana, daughter of the mannerist painter Prospero Fontana. She grows up in a family where everything is scrutinized by the meticulous and stern Prospero. She spends most of her time learning Latin and sewing. And she does them all well. What she really wants, however, is to paint. But in a society where artisans are males and females are for domestic and oftentimes ornamental duties, a female painter in her father’s bottega could be a scandal. So she seeks help from the innocent Gian Paolo Zappi, a wealthy student of her father, to steal pens, papers and ink for her to practice drawing. It is when the treachery surfaces that blessings and trials emerge, one after another.



Now what makes reading The Vanishing Point like a pan de coco- eating moment is this: Imagine a soft plump, shiny bread still warm from the oven. The aroma fills your nostrils and makes your mouth water. You took a bite, and were convinced that this is one of the best coconut-filled bread you’ve tasted. You bit some more, savoring the filling that was the essence of it and then realized that the bread has more bread than filling. Yes, it’s getting to the best part and then finding out that the best part has actually gone in one fleeting moment. You read and read and, filled with the hopes and the thrill that there are more stories to be told and revelations to be made, you’ve reached the last page.

But perhaps what this book really wants to offer is that self-same chasing-for-the-best-part-feeling. That the best part is really where it ends – bravery and understanding amidst frustration and lunacy.

***

It’s a little bit embarrassing to have purchased this book just now. But after a long reading hiatus, any spine-and-page construction other than the academic ones could be highly cathartic. Especially this.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Blogger in the Jungle Called the “Teaching Profession”


(In which I try to fit in and . . .)

***

10 lesson plans, one journal critique, PowerPoint presentations, grades to compute, papers to check, and more importantly, more than fifty books waiting on the pile and on the shelves. I kept on saying I was busy. And I thought I really was. Until I became a teacher.

Yes, finally. So if ever someone from the 58 people who have followed me for the last 5 months or so notices the lack of post since . . . ehem . . .October 21st, the unsolicited excuse is hereby offered. I was busy. So terribly busy I’m going to die. Well, almost.


***

If there’s one thing I feel good about teaching, it’s teaching. Speaking in front of people and seeing the bewildered expression on their faces whenever they learned something new, or the enjoyment they couldn’t hide when the lesson turned out to be fun is utterly priceless.

And if there’s something about teaching that drives me crazy, it’s the paperwork. And the deadline, of course. Oh I forgot dealing with difficult people consisting of, but not limited to failing students and their guardians. Whenever I encounter things like these, I remember what my IELTS student once told me:

“I think you don’t like people. You like reading and writing and being alone. But yes, you like talking. So I think you will fit better in publication, or media. But not much in teaching.”

So now I’m looking at this rushed piece of work driven by the urgent need to reclaim a fragment of my previous blogging self and I wondered whether what the student said was true – that I’m a better writer than a teacher. But if I am a better teacher than a writer, as what I want to believe, then why do I feel so . . .?Perhaps that’s for another post.

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