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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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100 Books for the Summer

March 31, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books

You’re on vacation, it’s hot, you’re bored. I have no sympathy for you. You could spend the next two months torturing yourself by looking at other people’s fabulous vacation photos online or walking around the mall until you’ve memorized what everything costs. Or you could read a book and entertain yourself. What book? Here’s a list of 100 titles.

These are my favorite books as of this year—the list changes often. A few of them, less than ten, were required reading in school; most of them I discovered on my own, by prowling in libraries and bookstores. Some of them were recommended by friends (For example, “In the first chapter his brother is kicked to death by Nazis! You want revenge!”); many of them were discovered in bargain book bins. Some of them I got interested in because of their movie/TV adaptations (I read A Game of Thrones just before the series premiered so I knew who was going to die). Nearly all of them are by white people because my education was traditional and my reading unsupervised.

I read a lot because I hate being bored and books keep me occupied so I’m not fuming about the unfairness of life etc. You may not like all these books, but you might find something you like. Instead of arranging them into genres bookstore-style, I’ve grouped them according to common themes. I’ve indicated the ones with movie versions (M) and the ones you can read on the net for free (N). For the descriptions, I try to answer the question, “What’s it about?” These books are listed in no particular order.

Read our column at InterAksyon.com.

Fashion in literature: When Proust is your advertisement

March 30, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Clothing, History

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Photographs by Pari Dukovic

A number of years ago, a young painting conservator entered a forgotten storeroom in a fifteenth-century Florentine villa and stumbled on a pile of Louis Vuitton steamer trunks. She opened them and discovered a collection of exquisite dresses, the kind usually seen only in movies, or inside protective vitrines in museums. Closer inspection revealed silk labels, hand-woven with the name “Callot Soeurs.”

In the second volume of “Remembrance of Things Past,” the Narrator asks his beloved, Albertine, “Is there a vast difference between a Callot dress and one from any ordinary shop?” Her response: “Why, an enormous difference, my little man!”

A “Callot dress” is one that was made by the Paris haute-couture house Callot Soeurs—Callot Sisters. The sisters are not much remembered now: there has been no monograph on their work, and no retrospective. Yet, not long after Callot Soeurs opened their atelier, in 1895, they became one of the great names in Belle Époque fashion. Madeleine Vionnet, one of the most influential and radical designers of the twentieth century, was the sisters’ head seamstress. She ranked them higher than the self-proclaimed King of Fashion, Paul Poiret. “Without the example of the Callot Soeurs,” Vionnet said, “I would have continued to make Fords. It is because of them that I have been able to make Rolls-Royces.”

Read 21 Dresses in the New Yorker.

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The exact quote from Proust:

proust on callot

Darcy, Rochester, Heathcliff: What is their problem? (or, Bakit ang sungit nila?)

March 27, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books


Taking a page from Mother Lily’s magic kamison manual, the BBC had Mr. Darcy diving into the lake and walking in a wet shirt. It’s not even translucent. In the 18th century he would’ve been naked.

One of the perks of being readers is that we can discuss fictional characters as if they existed in real life. For instance, why are the most famous leading men in 19th century English novels so arrogant, gloomy, jerky? Why are they in such a bad mood? (And would they be so attractive if they were not rich?)

There’s Mr. Darcy, a terrible snob who manages to insult Elizabeth Bennet when they meet, and insults her again when he proposes. He stops his friend Bingley from proposing to Lizzy’s sister Jane because the Bennets are tacky (well the mother and the youngest sister are really embarrassing). He can barely speak from judging everyone (We don’t buy the shyness excuse).


We’re fairly sure the book Rochester did not look like Michael Fassbender.

Mr. Rochester is more forward about his feelings for Jane Eyre, but he doesn’t mention that he’s already married and his crazy wife is locked up in the house. Plus he was in the slavery business, though in those days it was considered an acceptable trade.


Do the Bane voice, Tom. Deo suspects that Tom Hardy and Logan Marshall-Green were separated at birth.

Of course the most bonkers of the three is Heathcliff, who punishes Cathy by seducing, marrying, and tormenting her sister-in-law. Yeah, he’s more expressive, banging his head on tree trunks and yelling “Cathy!” in the mist. Basically he hounds her to death and then spends the rest of his miserable life wishing she would haunt him.

And yet in the books they’re romantic as hell. Good thing they do not walk the earth. (If they do, avoid.)

While you wait for the new X-Files, read David Duchovny’s book

March 26, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television

It has been confirmed that The X-Files will return in ten new episodes featuring Mulder and Scully, who are not so much TV characters as long-lost relatives.

In the meantime, David Duchovny has published a book.

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Before he got sidetracked, Duchovny had impeccable literary nerd credentials and was at Yale writing his doctoral dissertation on Thomas Pynchon. His novel is peopled by talking animals. We’re not into anthropomorphic animal novels, not even Animal Farm or the many, many cat detective books, and we suspect that cats are insulted by anthropomorphism, but we’ll read this because it looks odd and funny. Also when we moved into our apartment we didn’t have a bed and we slept on the couch, and for years we didn’t see the point of buying a proper bed when Mulder slept on a couch, too.

The Buried Giant is a handsome book

March 26, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books

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Readers abroad have remarked on what a good-looking book The Buried Giant is, and last week our friend returned from Scotland bearing a copy. It is beautiful, with pages edged in black—good paper, not cheap newsprint that causes our Jedi master to go berserk. No one is credited for the design—it’s “by Faber”—and the illustrations are stock images.

What do the tree, typography and quote remind you of? The Lord of the Rings. The design is not coy about this being a fantasy novel.

LitWit Challenge: Write us some Claire-Jamie-Frank fan fiction and win a set of Outlander books

March 25, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Contest, Television

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Do you love the time-travel fantasy series Outlander? How much? Enough to flex some writing muscle and produce a Claire Beauchamp-Jamie Fraser-Frank Randall story?

Win a set of the first four books in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series in our LitWit Challenge. Just write a short story of at least 500 words involving any or all of the major characters Claire the time traveller, her 20th century husband Frank, or her 18th century husband Jamie. Post your stories in Comments on or before noon on Sunday, 5 April 2015. We’re giving away two of these sets, each of them just slightly smaller than Jamie Fraser’s bicep.

Questions you may be asking:

What era should the story be set in? Any time period, including the distant future, as long as the characters are recognizably Claire, Jamie and Frank.

Can the story be R-rated? Yes, we will add warnings in case readers have to avert their eyes.

Does it have to be Claire and Jamie or Claire and Frank, or could it be Jamie and Frank? Knock yourself out.

Could it be Frank and Black Jack? If you can solve the grandfather paradox, knock yourself out.

Puedeng kami ni Jamie? Puede.

Lola T will help us judge the entries, so points will be awarded for kileg.

This LitWit Challenge is brought to you by our friends at National Bookstores.