I picked up this book from the shelf because I fell in love with the title, and the cover. As I read the blurb on the inside jacket, my heart fluttered. The book tells a story of Julia Win’s journey to unravel the mystery of his father’s past. Julia’s father, Tin Win, disappeared without a trace one morning–leaving his family unsettled and confused. After finding a love letter written by her father to a Burmese woman called Mi Mi in Kalaw, Myanmar, Julia found herself leaving her life in New York behind to go to this small mountain village–without really knowing what she would actually find there.
I know it’s only January 2014. But as I finished reading the book a few days ago, I am convinced that this is going to be my favorite book in 2014–as well as one of my all-time favorites. I love the poetic dialogues and the rhythm of the sentences; I care too much about the characters, and I adore the unexpected turn of events as the story unfolds. But of course, like most of my all-time favorites, the book contains loads of wonderful quotes that seems to speak to me about the right matter at the right time.
As I read along, I could not resist myself to share some lovely quotes from the book on Facebook and Twitter and Path; but I still felt the urge to share much more–and so I decided to share all of my favorite quotes on this blog instead. If you don’t run to the bookstore and grab this book immediately after this, I hope the quotes will still speak to your heart the way they speak to mine.
THE ART OF HEARING HEARTBEATS
Do you believe in love? Of course I am not referring to those outbursts of passion that drive us to do so and say things we will later regret, that delude us into thinking we cannot live without a certain person, that set us quivering with anxiety at the mere possibility we might ever lose that person–a feeling that impoverishes rather than enriches us because we long to possess what we cannot, to hold on to what we cannot. No, I speak of love that brings sight to the blind. Of a love stronger than fear. I speak of a love that breathes meaning into life, that defies the natural laws of deterioration, that causes us to flourish, that knows no bounds. I speak of the triumph of the human spirit over selfishness and death. (p.6)
How flat and empty the most beautiful words can sound. How dull and dreary life must be for those who need words, who need to touch, see, or hear one another in order to be close. Who need to prove their love, or even just to confirm it in order to be sure of it. (p.29)
How can anyone truthfully claim to love someone when they’re not prepared to share everything with that person, including their past? (p.33)
A confession, a disclosure, is worthless when it comes at the wrong moment. If it’s too early, it overwhelms us. We’re not ready for it and can’t yet appreciate it. If it’s too late, the opportunity is lost. The mistrust and the disappointment are already too great; the door is already closed. In either case, the very thing that ought to foster intimacy just creates distance. (p.34)
There are wounds time does not heal, though it can reduce them to manageable size. (p.77)
There is no power that can release a person from pain or from the sadness one might feel–unless it be that person himself. Life is a gift full of riddles in which suffering and happiness are inextricably intertwined. Any attempt to have one without the other was simply bound to fail. (p.109)
A person’s greatest treasure is the wisdom in his own heart. (p.115)
The true essence of things is invisible to the eyes. Our sensory organs love to lead us astray, and eyes are the most deceptive of all. We rely too heavily upon them. We believe that we see the world around us, and yet it is only the surface that we perceive. We must learn to divine the true nature of things, their substance, and the eyes are rather a hindrance than a help in that regard. They distract us. We love to be dazzled. A person who relies too heavily on his eyes neglects his other senses–and I mean more than his hearing or sense of smell. I’m talking about the organ within us for which we have no name. Let us call it the compass of the heart. (p.123)
Ambition and fear have something in common: neither knows any limits. (p.125)
There is nothing, for good or for evil, of which a person is incapable. It would be much worse to expect good from other people, only to be disappointed when they didn’t measure up to our high expectations. (p.156)
A time of waiting offered moments, minutes, sometimes even hours of peace, of rest. Each and every thing required a certain amount of time. (p.165)
Was it really possible for a person to shorten the time it took to get from one place or person to another? How could anyone think so? (p. 166)
You don’t need to be afraid. You can’t lose me. I am a part of you, just as you’re a part of me. (p. 197)
“I couldn’t bear to be without you.”
“I’ve been here the whole time.”
“I wanted to feel you. And I was sad.”
“Because you were so far away, because I couldn’t touch you. Every hour we spend apart saddens me. Every place I go without you. Every step you take without me. Every night that we don’t fall asleep in each other’s arms and every morning that we don’t wake up side by side.” (p. 207)
A person maybe wasn’t alone after all. The smallest human unit was two rather than one. (p. 224)
Love has so many different faces that our imagination is not prepared to see them all. We see only what we already know. We project our own capacities–for good as well as evil–onto the other person. Then we acknowledge as love primarily those things that correspond to our own image thereof. We wish to be loved as we ourselves would love. Any other way makes us uncomfortable. We respond with doubt and suspicion. We misinterpret the signs. We do not understand the language. We accuse. We assert that the other person does not love us. But perhaps he merely loves us in some idiosyncratic way that we fail to recognize. (p. 244)
I am not without you, that you are with me from the moment I wake until the moment I fall asleep, that it’s you I feel when the wind caresses me, that it’s your voice I hear in the silence, you whom I see when I close my eyes, you who makes me laugh and sing when I know no one else is around. How can I explain to them that what you mean to me, what you give me, does not depend on where you are in the world? That one need not feel the other’s hand in order to be in touch? (p. 277)
It’s not the size of one’s nose, the color of one’s skin, the shape of one’s lips or eyes that make one beautiful or ugly. It’s love. Love makes us beautiful. Do you know a single person who loves and is loved, who is loved unconditionally and who, at the same time, is ugly? There’s no need to ponder the question. There is no such person. (p. 290)
At the end of the day, when I closed the book, I said to myself: I would like to love someone the way Mi Mi loves Tin Win and to be loved by someone the way Tin Win loves Mi Mi. May I be blessed with such a big heart to love someone that way: sincere, simple, and faithful–and find someone to share it with one day :)
“I think I’m going to move to Ubud for a while, maybe for 3-6 months,” I typed on my WhatsApp.
It was a cloudy Monday morning in Ubud. I was sitting cross-legged on the front porch; trying to decide whether I would go for a swim or not before meeting Alfred later in the afternoon.
My phone vibrated.
“Moving to Ubud? And doing what?” Alfred’s words popped up on my screen.
“I don’t know,” I typed back. “Writing my book…”
An emoticon laughed at me. “Seriously?!!” Alfred replied. “Who the heck wrote a book in Ubud? Even Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t write her book in Ubud!”
And of course, he was right.
I decided to spend 2 weeks in Ubud; thinking that I would finally have the time and solitude to write The Book. These past few months, I had restrained myself from publishing any posts from my traveling journeys in Malaysia, Yogyakarta, Flores, and India–simply because this tiny (annoying) voice in my head kept saying: “Don’t post them now! Those stories will appear later in The Book!”
The Book is supposed to be my first non-fiction book: a travel memoir–and I have everything I need to finish it: a title, a premise, a rough outline…I even had almost 80% of the stories typed. All I need to do is type the rest of it, rewrite some parts that don’t come out as strong as I intended, and organize them to create a flowing narrative of 297 pages. It sounds so simple and easy, yet I had missed my deadline. Twice. I have no excuse, and I don’t intend to start finding one.
Every day, as I woke up to the sound of the morning in Ubud, I told myself that I needed to sit down and wrote a few pages for The Book, today. I needed to create my own Ubud’s book-writing timeline and stick to it.
I ended up doing everything but writing The Book.
Ubud kept me busy.
I bumped into some old and new friends (who happened to know each other)–and spent some days conversing with them on the back porch while munching on mangosteens. There were some days when I was on fire: typing around 6 proposals for several movements and social projects that I was about to pursue, as well as making business plans for some friends of mine–just because I felt this rush of enthusiasm and inspiration needed to find an outlet.
There were some days when I didn’t really have anything to do. And for some unexplainable reasons, on those kind of days, I kept bumping into people who practiced Reiki, spiritual healing, channeling, or yoga… to one point whereby I met a friend of a friend, and somehow ended up in a house full of statues and crystals by the rice fields near Penestanan for a kundalini meditation session–all the while asking myself, “What the heck are you doing, exactly?” and immediately answering back, “This could be an interesting story for The Book!”
When I didn’t bump into those interesting flocks, I went out for coffee or some healthy meals in one of those organic restaurants sprawled around the town; then walked around aimlessly for around 2 to 3 hours–checking out different alleys and shops and gelato bars, too lazy to even snap pictures. Other days, I would hang out with the staff at the hotel–conversing all night long by the pool while being bitten by mosquitos, listening to their life stories, and ended up explaining about meteors, eclipse, and earthquakes (“So, it’s not because of the dragon that is moving under the earth’s surface?”).
But most of the times, I would find myself sat lazily somewhere: reading a book, sipping watermelon juice, watching people, and then went back to my hotel–took a cold shower, wrote a long letter for my muse, and fell asleep.
It sounded like a vicious cycle, but the funny thing was: it actually didn’t feel vicious at all. I wanted to feel guilty because I didn’t touch The Book while I was in Ubud, but I just couldn’t.
It has been around a month since I got back from Ubud, and this week, I started to revisit The Book again. I realized that a ‘rough outline’ I have at the moment was not enough. This time, I committed to tighten it, restraining myself to edit (and re-edit) my stories before I could get that nice flow of narratives mapped out in a final outline.
It was not an easy task. To be honest, I hate making outlines–especially detailed one with so many bullets and sub-bullet points. I always think of myself as a ‘spontaneous writer’ and outlining just doesn’t work for me. However, deep down inside, I know that I won’t go anywhere if I am still unsure of where I should place my stories on The Book. I can keep on rewriting and rewriting and rewriting and it will never get done. The stories will simply get lost somewhere in the middle of it all.
And then it hit me. Right there. When I thought about ‘getting lost’.
I laughed at myself for a while, as I realized that ‘getting lost’ was actually my way of exploring a city when I travel. I am too lazy to read a map, I am not good in remembering routes (too busy noticing the small things along the way), and I get disoriented quite a lot–to the point that I could even get lost in a big shopping mall. I don’t plan things. I don’t keep a list of places I want to see. I don’t aim for landmarks or museums or souvenir shops. I just… go.
Now I know why mapping out The Book’s outline feels so darn hard since the very beginning.
Walking around aimlessly, not really heading anywhere, and letting the city I visit opening itself up to me as I get lost in it–that is how I travel. And The Book, indeed, is my travel memoir.
I fall for words. Words of all kinds. Flirty texts. Random questions. Stupid remarks. Retarded emoticons. I fall for words so much, to the extent that I once agreed to meet a guy I had known online without even knowing how he actually looked like. He wrote nice emails and texts. That was all I know, and that was enough. Later on, he realized that he had not sent me his picture.
“What kind of girl agreed to go on a date with a guy she doesn’t know the look of?” he asked, laughing.
“An open-minded girl,” I replied. “And, anyway, who said that it was a date?”
“Ouch. You got me!”
So, we met over coffee one afternoon. And he turned out to be very pleasant and nice–just the way I pictured him through his words. We had a great conversation. And banters. And we laughed a lot. Oh, and as a bonus, he was actually quite handsome. Thus, don’t blame me if I continue to fall for words. My experience tells me that it’s 95% accurate.
So, yes. I judge people from the way they write (including the type of font they choose). I fall for their writing style, their choice of words, their inner voice, the way they place the right punctuation marks, as well as the wonderful feeling of reading those sentences out loud and thinking about how smart or funny or dark or interesting or intriguing the writer must be.
I also fall for Mishka Shubaly this way.
About a month ago, when I was browsing the Internet, I stumbled upon a mention of a writer I’ve never heard of before: Mishka Shubaly. I was intrigued by one particular article about him in Huffington Post, written by Cynthia Ellis. Cynthia’s words got me in an instant. Soon enough, I had been reading reviews about Mishka’s works all over the Net. Then I just knew by heart that I have to read them! Excited, I went to Amazon to purchase Mishka’s Kindle Singles–and devastated when a message appeared on my computer screen, stating that his works were not available for sale in my country.
Brokenhearted, I went to Twitter and told the world my sufferings, mentioning Mishka. I was so surprised when he sent me a direct message a while after! He didn’t know me. I was merely a stranger. But he was asking for my email address so that he could send me a draft of his story. I cried happily. I have learned many times in life, that you can get what you want if you only ask.
When The Long Run landed on my inbox, I cherished it like my secret treasure. Soon, I was immersed in the story of how Mishka climbed out from his ‘shit hole’–that was full of drugs and booze–and tried to ‘run’ his life back on track. I read the story 4 to 5 times in a row, slowly, tracing each words, each sentences, finding new details here and there every time. I read some parts out loud–and someone else’s life, more than 10,000 miles away from here, slipped from my lips. I fall in love with Mishka’s voice. The rising emotion as I delved further into the story. The way he sounded so bare and brutally honest, so strong and yet so vulnerable.
I’d never had to get through a breakup without that tireless listener, that bottomless well of comfort, that sympathetic devil: alcohol. I didn’t start drinking and I didn’t stop running, but I did start wearing sunglasses on my long runs, twenty-one miles over five bridges in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, so the people I passed couldn’t tell that I was crying.
[The Long Run by Mishka Shubaly.]
The Long Run was a dark story. But Mishka didn’t inject depressing sobs as much as he laughed it all off–the way one should when looking back. The ability to laugh at ourselves is healthy. Because then we put ourselves not as a victim, but as a survivor. We’ve gone through that, we’ve passed, we’ve survived. Our past will always linger somewhere underneath our layers, but now it’s going to be more of a deep and reflective ha-ha story instead of a dreary suicidal tale.
The next few days after reading The Long Run, I was organizing my thoughts to shoot Mishka an email about his story and how it had affected me–both as a person and as a writer. But before I even had the chance to do so, I clicked the blue dot on my Twitter’s DM button one cloudy Saturday morning, and found a message from Mishka.
“I can’t believe I’m talking to you right now,” I typed. “This is so effing absurd, but one of the coolest things ever!”
I was perched in a comfy couch in Casa, Kemang–my favorite place in town to read and write, or have a lovely chat with my besties. That Saturday, it was raining heavily outside, and I was glued to my computer screen, talking to Mishka.
“One time, a cab driver told me. Everyone has to work, but you can choose who you are working for. I work for me. He was so right,” Mishka replied when I asked him what was the best advice he had ever received in life so far. “I started working for me, too. Toughest boss I’ve ever had! But I reap the rewards, not some fat old white man in a suit. Funny to get great life advice from a cabdriver, huh? Or unsurprising. I often find that people working the front lines of humanity know the most.”
(I didn’t tell Mishka–yet, that one of my greatest life advice also came from a cab driver in Jakarta’s hellish traffic jam. But I’ll save that story for the next post)
“How does it feel to write something as… honest?” I asked Mishka. When I read The Long Run, I got nervous imagining how different people who were being featured in the story would react to it–and to him. “Do you struggle in the middle of writing it? Like how much should you put out and how much should you hold?”
“Writing the Kindle Singles is always exhausting,” said Mishka. “I try to write them like I’m writing a private diary that no one will see. Then, before I can stop myself, I send it to my editor. And then it goes out to the world and I have to deal with the consequences. It can cause me a lot of anxiety, heartache, worry… but the end result is worth it. I’d rather have people hate me for being honest than love me for being something I’m not. I’m a flawed human being with a lot of bad habits and foolish tendencies with lots of poor decisions and ugly shit in my past. I think that’s something a lot of people relate to.”
He was right (and it was funny he said that, because a few days ago I had just wrote a piece about dealing with our pasts).
The Long Run is indeed a story about struggling with addiction–but it is more than that. Mishka’s addictions to drugs and alcohol is our addiction to a certain guy. To political power. To a branded bag. To be skinny. To a lighter skin-tone. To self-pity. To wealth. To the Internet. To an unresolved love affair. To a past.
We’re all dealing with our own addictions. We’re carrying these things inside, hiding it like a well-kept secret–so that no one will find out. Everyday, we’re all trying to run away from something that anchors us down, and run towards the freedom to be who we truly are.
Humor is all a matter of perspective. You watch Homer Simpson hit his head and it’s funny, but when it happens to you, it’s supposed to be a tragedy? Nah, I think it’s funny either way.
“We need to find a way so I can buy the rest of your stories,” I told Mishka. “I can pay through PayPal if you have a PayPal account.”
“Please just email me some popcorns as payment,” replied Mishka. And so, I did.
UPDATE, Jul 17, 2013: And Mishka shared this on his Facebook Page. Isn’t he just the sweetest? :’)
Wherever I go, I always find myself being drawn by tiny old-looking bookshop. Of course, gigantic bookstores like Kinokuniya or Taipei’s 7-storey high Eslite are amazing and jaw-dropping. But there’s always something romantic about a small bookshop. You can sense this personal touch, you can more or less gauge the characteristics of the owner. All the things he/she sell is a reflection of who he/she is: the title of the books, the way the bookshop is decorated, the shelving system, the items being displayed behind the window, the way he/she greets people… each and every little details convey a story.
Santorini holds two precious little bookshop I adore so much. The hidden jewel (just like what its name suggest), Atlantis Books in Oia and Books & Style in Fira—not far from the bus station (the owner of the bookshop is the one who gave me Karagkiozis wooden puppet as a gift, and I gave him a bottle of Vinsanto as a parting gift before I left).
Atlantis Books is a true hidden treasure. You could miss it easily as you walked by those colorful tiny shops in Oia’s alleyways. But I always think that I’m a bookshop owner in my past life. Books are calling me. Bookshops are my sanctuary. And that’s how I found Atlantis Books that windy afternoon, climbed down the stairs to their magical blue door, and as I stepped in, I realized: heaven must look like this.
When it comes to books and reading, I love it the traditional way. Looking at those crumpled cover, caressing the flipped pages, reading the notes written on the side of the page with a pencil, laughing at the coffee stains, smelling the damp paper—vintage books get me high! And Atlantis Books is heaven because they have these vintage collections and some classic’s first editions. True gem.
The story behind this bookshop—as appear in their official site, is even more romantic:
“In the spring of 2002, Oliver and Craig spent a week on the island of Santorini. The land inspired them and there was no bookshop, so they drank some wine and decided to open one. Oliver named it Atlantis Books and the two laughed about how their children would run it someday. In England, Tim took Craig for a walk along the Sussex coast. Craig told Tim about the bookshop and Would he like to build it. Tim said Great!
For a year the idea percolated as Craig and Oliver went about graduating from university. Around his thesis deadline Craig called Chris and talked about the bookshop. Chris said Can I come?
An email from Jenny went like this: Maria and Craig, I’m introducing you both. Maria, Craig’s going to Paris in December and thence to Santorini. Craig, Maria is from Cyprus and is English Literature & bookshop employee extraordinaire. Love you both, J.
The four boys and Maria devoted six months to saving money, finding books, settling debts, writing and reading and thinking. Tim borrowed a van named Danny. Will offered to design a website and a wave logo and said Could I come along.
New Year’s Morn, Quinn packed Danny, waved us off and we ploughed across the continent and landed in Oia. We found an empty building facing the sunset, drank some whiskey and signed a lease. We found a dog and cat, opened a bank account, applied for a business license, found some friends, built the shelves, landed a boat on the terrace and filled the place with books. Jenny came in April and painted everything blue.
Atlantis Books opened in the spring of 2004 and lived below the castle for one year. In the winter of 2005 we moved into the center of town and settled nicely into the community. We’ve had food festivals and film festivals, writers reading on the terrace, and a host of cats and dogs.
The bookshop feels like home now and we’re still laughing about how our children will run it someday. As Will says, it’s as easy as that. As you. As that.”
Books & Style is nostalgic in its own humble way. It reminds me of the little bookshops in my hometown where my parents used to take me. Apart from some lovely postcards, they have children’s corner (where I found the Greek edition of The Little Prince to complete my friend’s The-Little-Prince-book collection), wooden souvenirs, as well as recipe books. But what I love the most is the watercolour paintings and the vintage-looking tin cans/boxes. They are so beautiful!
More in this series:
- Santorini | 3. Those Who Leave Traces
- Santorini | 2. The Road Less Travelled
- Santorini | 1. The Art of Travelling Alone
- Santorini (Prologue) | 0. The City
Rainy afternoon. A package arrived on my desk. And look what’s inside! A mood-lifter! :)
#28hari, a prose-writing collaboration project I’ve worked on last year together with @ndorokakung, was about to transform itself into a book, thanks to @nulisbuku (our publisher) and @evamuchtar (who translated it into English) :D
Junot Diaz, 2007 | 352 halaman
Pacar saya pernah bertanya, mengapa saya suka novel-novel dengan karakter utama yang ‘misfit‘*. Orang-orang yang kesepian, aneh, tidak dimengerti, terasing, dan seakan-akan nggak punya tempat yang pas di dunia. Saya juga nggak tahu mengapa persisnya, tapi saya merasa terhubung dengan karakter-karakter seperti ini. I know what they’ve been through because I’ve been there myself. Kira-kira begitu. Bahkan sampai sekarang, walau hanya dalam beberapa hal tertentu, saya masih merasa seperti itu.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao berkisah tentang Oscar, pemuda asal Dominika yang tinggal di Amerika. Berkebalikan dengan imaji lelaki-lelaki Dominika yang keren dan jago menaklukkan perempuan, Oscar justru pemuda yang bermasalah dengan obesitas, kecanduan sci-fi dan cerita-cerita soal kiamat, percaya bahwa dirinya terkutuk (fuku) dan selalu patah hati karena menyimpan perasaan pada perempuan-perempuan yang tak meliriknya. Oscar hanya bisa membayangkan dirinya menjelma menjadi pahlawan dan menyelamatkan perempuan yang ditaksirnya menjelang kiamat dengan menulis kisah-kisah semacam ini di dalam kamarnya.
Potret sosial akan kehidupan masyarakat Dominika dan dinamika keluarga yang keras, kehidupan politik di bawah diktator keji yang berkuasa saat itu (Trujillo), pengaruhnya terhadap kehidupan keluarga Oscar, serta perjalanan Oscar untuk menemukan cinta jalin-menjalin dengan narasi satir yang lugas, nakal, sekaligus pahit.
Menutup buku ini dengan kesedihan yang merambat pelan-pelan, terlintas dalam benak saya kutipan ini:
And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
*) a person whose behavior or attitude sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way
David Nicholls, 2009 | 435 halaman
You can live your whole life not realising that what you’re looking for is right in front of you.
Kisah Emma dan Dexter bermula pada suatu malam, selepas wisuda. Keduanya menghabiskan satu hari terakhir bersama, kemudian berpisah untuk menempuh jalan hidup masing-masing. Emma, sang aktivis, memutuskan bergabung dengan sebuah kelompok teater, sementara Dexter–yang berasal dari keluarga berada, memutuskan untuk bertualang berkeliling dunia.
Dari sinilah kisah mereka bermula. Tentang Dexter dan kekasih-kekasihnya, petualangan cinta yang seakan tidak pernah berakhir, karir yang ditekuninya sebagai bintang televisi, serta kartu pos dan surat-suratnya untuk Emma. Dan Emma; yang terpuruk menjadi pelayan di sebuah restoran Mexico, berbagi flat kecil dengan seorang kekasih yang selalu berharap bisa menjadi komedian, serta surat-suratnya untuk Dexter.
“We’re Dex and Em. Em and Dex,” demikian yang sering dikatakan Dexter kepada Emma. Tetapi, benarkah?
One Day adalah sebuah novel yang berkisah tentang betapa sia-sianya “jika saja”. What-if. Nicholls membawa kita larut dalam percakapan yang terkadang sinis, terkadang manis, antara Dex dan Em. Momen-momen kecil yang membuat kita berkaca-kaca. Pertengkaran hebat yang penuh dengan air mata. Dan tentunya, perjalanan roller-coaster mengikuti benang-benang yang terjalin antara Dex dan Em.
Apakah sebuah persahabatan bisa bertahan selama lebih dari 20 tahun? Ataukah… yang bertahan itu cinta?
“Dexter, I love you so much. So, so much, and I probably always will. I just don’t like you anymore. I’m sorry.” – Emma Morley