Note: This article has been altered from its original format due to the failure to properly credit the interviewees’ responses. The LaSallian offers its sincerest apologies to Sir Johann Espiritu and all other parties for this grievous error.
In this busy and ofttimes fast-paced world, we are left with too many books, but with too little time. We no longer set out on adventures that our favorite characters undertake, nor do we reconcile with these beloved heroes from the blinkers of our childhood. As March and Reading Month rolled in, new stories clamor to be unraveled and outlying literary journeys remain to be explored.
Few have taken up on their shoulders to learn about the beauty and power of the written word, and those who have done so expel to us their love for the art of reading.
Hailing from the Literature Department, Erika Carreon, Jo Almanzor, and Johann Vladimir Espiritu stand as our sages and stewards to the sojourn of the literary kind. Offering to us their personal favorites from different genres, their suggestions unintentionally and unapologetically aim to sway our innermost reaches and override the initial picks in our long, winding, and ever-growing reading list.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
Erika Carreon recommends Annihilation, the first book in the Southern Reach trilogy, thanks to its great literary blend of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. With nuanced characters trying to uncover the mystery behind Area X—a doom-filled and closed-off area where everyone either mutates or dies—Carreon proposes Annihilation to those who love well-written mysteries.
She shares of the well-written emotions and story arcs in the text, and highlights the “quiet quality” of the characters who were trying not to die in a deathzone. When asked about the other reasons Annihilation should be read, aside from its amazing literary quality, Carreon laughs and says: “The movie adaptation starring Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac should be motivation enough.”
Can’t and Won’t by Lydia Davis
Those who have had a taste of Lang Leav’s poetry may find Lydia Davis’ work as actual and ideal prose. Carreon once again shares that although the two authors have a similar look and format in terms of their writing, Lyda Davis’ writing is superfluous and dissuades from Leav’s. She is known for her approach to flash fiction—very much so that a statement or sentence could hold enough water to tell an entire story, so carefully crafted are her works.
Can’t and Won’t is both the name of the story collection and a story on its own. The attention to detail makes it an interesting read. For writing that breathes life to stories in day to day life, Lydia Davis’s work is truly to be read.
The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
The Sculptor, recommended by Jo Almanzor, is number one on her list. Scott McCloud has been creating graphic novels for over thirty years, with works like Zot!, The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln, and even a couple of Superman comics under his belt.
The story is about David Smith, an artist in his mid-twenties living in New York, whom Death gives the ability to sculpt anything at the cost of having only 200 days left to live. The Sculptor, in all its ingenuity, grips the reader and pulls them into the troubled life of David and holds none of the pain back as David handles his deal with Death.
Almanzor: The Sculptor is a good primer for most students who have judged books by thickness and/or length instead of the tear-jerking, mind-knocking agony of page-turner pieces like this.
House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
The second recommendation of Almanzor comes in the name of House of Leaves—the result of a decade’s long work from Danielewski that eventually turned out to be the novel he would be most known for, thanks to the reading experience the book gives itself to the reader that renders it impossible to forget.
Written from the perspective of multiple narrators, with each narrator speaking through the book in their own unique way, readers would be quick to notice the book’s unusual layout that changes according to which narrator wrote each part or what moment is unfolding in the story.
Almanzor: For those who have found fiction as home, House of Leaves is a good make-or-break of the genre. It challenges postmodern fiction readers to the push and pull of Alexandrian pursuit of more knowledge (i.e. fiction writing techniques) and the Orwellian reality of what we uncover, as well.
Etsa Puwera by Jun Cruz Reyes
The final set of books come from the good word of Johann Espiritu, who plugs Etsa Puwera as his first recommendation.
Espiritu: Etsa Puwera is a historical piece of fiction. It retells Philippine history through the stories of people from the same family, in different generations. Apart from the brutally colloquial language, the novel is replete with deeply symbolic and farcical elements that add force to the project of historical rewriting.
Etsa Puwera, narrated by Ebong, traces his ancestry with the help of his grandmother. Each part of the book follows the story of someone in Ebong’s ancestral lineage, wherein each tale offers insight into the lives and struggles faced by these people during different periods of Philippine history. The stories begin from Ebong’s earliest ancestors who worshipped the gods of their tribes to his forefathers during the time of the Philippine-American War.
My Father’s Notebook by Kader Abdolah
The last, but never the least is My Father’s Notebook, which Espiritu points out, is a historical piece of fiction set in Iran.
Espiritu: This is a lovely literary work because of the keenness through which it allegorically renders the country’s history through the lives of a father and his son. The language is prose-poetic, the plotting is intense, and it pays close attention to even the most subtle gestures of love.
My Father’s Notebook follows Ishmael, a political dissident in exile, as he attempts to translate a notebook written in cuneiform by his father, Aga Akbar. As he attempts to unravel the meaning of his father’s work, readers learn not only of his father’s tale, but also the history of Iran and Ishmael himself.