Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Books’

Another Westeros book to tide us over until The Winds of Winter comes out

October 09, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 1 Comment →

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, hardcover, illustrated, Php1199 at National Bookstores

Another quarter, another Westeros book from George R.R. Martin. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a collection of the Dunk and Egg stories which have appeared in previous anthologies. Therefore we cannot say that this book is extending the wait for Winds of Winter.

This could be a category in itself: Westeros Books To Tide Us Over Until The Winds of Winter is published. It includes The World of Ice and Fire, The Lands of Ice and Fire (maps), Dangerous Women and other multi-author anthologies featuring stories by GRRM.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is a prequel to A Song of Ice and Fire. A century before the War of the Five Kings, the hedge knight Ser Duncan the Tall wanders across Westeros with his little squire Egg, joining jousts, getting embroiled in royal intrigues, and having rollicking adventures.

Featuring beautiful illustrations by Gary Gianni, A Knight reminds us of the illustrated King Arthur stories we loved as a kid. Of course if you’re looking for Game of Thrones before there was Game of Thrones, look up T.H. White, Malory, Mary Stewart, and the many retellings of the Arthurian myths. Battles, quests, wizards, incest, the works.

Crime and Punishment, Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, Php799.

This one is for the You May Be Through With Dostoevsky, But Dostoevsky Isn’t Through With You Yet shelf. It’s a new Penguin Classics edition of Crime and Punishment, translated by Oliver Ready. Hmmm, it’s been a while since we saw a 19th century Russian novel that wasn’t translated by Pevear-Volokhonsky.

The book features cartoons by Zohar Lazar on the fold-out covers. The cartoon on the back is about Raskolnikov’s dream of the flogged horse. Wonder if the episode has anything to do with Friedrich Nietzsche’s nervous breakdown, during which he witnessed a horse being flogged, tried to protect it, and collapsed. Crime and Punishment came out in 1866, Nietzsche collapsed in 1889. We know he admired Dostoevsky; had he been reading C&P?

Patay Kung Patay, a graphic novel by Mike Alcazaren, Noel Pascual and AJ Bernardo, isn’t in stores yet, but you can order it from their Facebook page. If you like zombie horror liberally laced with comedy and tackling socio-political issues, you have to read this.

Inside the library of presidential candidate Mar Roxas

October 03, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Current Events 1 Comment →


On Monday we published our Basic Questions for Presidential Candidates, and on Wednesday we got invited to merienda with Mar Roxas at Bahay na Puti, the Araneta compound in Cubao. The occasion was a meet-and-greet with bloggers which naturally turned into a Q&A. We got to ask many of our questions and Carlos Celdran, Cecile Van Straten, Ramon Bautista and other prominent personalities in the social media asked a lot more.

The candidate fielded questions and gave well thought-out replies which recognized the complexities of the issues. No easy answers and glib sound bites—as a nerd we appreciate the thoroughness, but this could be a disadvantage in campaigning. How to boil down the issues into digestible tweetables in our short attention span age: there’s a job.


Our column on the meeting with Mar is out on Monday. If the other candidates would like to invite us to coffee and answer our questions, we would be happy to accept. Before the merienda, we got to stake out Mar Roxas’s library and judge his taste in reading matter.

This is a serious library, all books bound or covered and organized according to the Dewey decimal system, a rebuke to those of us who use the psychic library system (“I know where the book is. I feel it is somewhere in this direction…”).

There were all the requisite history, biography, sociology, philosophy and economics titles. It is comforting to know that someone aspiring to the presidency has access to the “classics” of contemporary intellectual thought.


However, we were more interested in the candidate’s fiction choices. We believe that the novels and stories one has read speak of his humanity. (That’s why it’s called “humanities”, duh.)

It’s like going through someone’s iTunes playlist to find out if you want to be associated with them. (“You have Air Supply. Goodbye.”) Except that given how easy it is to download songs, movies, and books today, digital files are a less reliable gauge. Books, the tree products kind, you have to seek out. Dostoevsky in hardcover: we can talk.


Someone in this house has read the Arthurian myths, as evidenced by the well-thumbed copies of T.H. White, Malory, Mary Stewart. Did we say T.H. White?

When we commended Mar Roxas on the contents of his library, he explained that it used to be his father’s office and many of the books had been acquired by his father. There are fewer books after 2007, he added, because that’s when he started reading on an iPad.


We approve of Mar Roxas’s library. If the other candidates would like to invite us to check out their personal libraries, email us or leave a comment.

P.S. During the Q&A we remembered that during a recent viewing of our favorite Ishmael Bernal movie Salawahan (1979), we suddenly realized that the main characters are called Gerardo and Manuel Roxas. Mar’s full name is Manuel and his brother Dinggoy’s was Gerardo.

NASA discovers water on Mars, then The Martian opens in cinemas

September 30, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies No Comments →


The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, as Mr. Spock declared, but not where Matt Damon is concerned. Matt Damon must be saved at all cost, because one of the few things that unite the human race at this time is our fondness for Matt Damon. He’s good-looking, but not so handsome that he makes you feel like crap; he’s famous, but he’s not smug about it; he does good things but doesn’t have them publicized constantly, and unlike his friend he’s never starred in Gigli, been thrown out of casinos or accused of banging the nanny. (He’s actually due for a backlash.)

Nearly 20 years ago, the US had to send a squad into Nazi-occupied Europe to bring him back home in Saving Private Ryan. They sacrificed Vin Diesel. They sacrificed Tom Hanks! Damon joins Hanks and Sandra Bullock in that very special place in the current cinema: they’re the people the audience likes without question. In The Martian, Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Andy Weir’s bestselling novel, Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney, who is presumed dead and left on Mars by his fellow astronauts. In the ensuing discussion about how to save him, no one even mentions that the rescue mission would cost bajillions. It’s Matt Damon!

Like the novel it is based upon, The Martian is a straightforward problem-solving thriller. As written by Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods, Marvel’s Daredevil), it does not wax philosophical about man’s place in the universe. It does not wonder whether there is life out there, though the announcement of the NASA discovery of water on Mars days before the movie’s theatrical opening means that it will always be associated with the search for extraterrestrial life. And though the situation is beyond dire, it does not indulge in sentimentality. When things get overwhelming, there’s disco music to kill the self-pity (Though we do not believe that there was no other kind of music in the astronauts’ laptops). When Watney finally allows himself to cry, it’s a well-earned release.

After he staples himself together (reminding us of a scene from Ridley Scott’s Prometheus), Watney does not give in to rage or despair, but gets down to the problem of survival. Fortunately the Hermes mission (Bad choice of name, it made us think of a handbag flying through space) left a lot of equipment, including cameras so he can address us directly and explain what he’s doing. He figures out how to manufacture water, grow potatoes, and let mission control back on earth know that he’s alive. The movie works because we want Watney to live, and because we believe he can MacGyver his way until NASA figures out a plan.

Ridley Scott has taken us to outer space before, most notably in Alien, but The Martian bears little resemblance to his previous work. There is no dread or existential anguish. There are no villains—not the mission leader Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) or the crew (Michael Peña, Aksel Hennie, Sebastian Stan, and Kate Mara who is way more believable as a scientist here than in Fantastic 4) who do not hesitate to risk their lives to get Watney back; not the NASA officials Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean—nice Lord of the Rings reference, but they passed on the obvious “Winter is coming” joke); not the NASA PR lady (Kristen Wiig) who has to break the news to the public; certainly not the NASA engineers and physicists including Bruce Ng (Benedict Wong) and Rich Purnell (Donald Glover); and not even the competing space programs of other countries. The closest The Martian has to a villain is the NASA Director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), who has to make tough decisions to ensure not just Watney’s survival but that of the entire space program. And he’s just doing his job.

The Martian, a most un-Ridley Scott Ridley Scott movie, is an efficient entertainment, a popcorn movie in which astrophysics and engineering are not the exclusive domain of nerds but matters that concern everyone. A movie that assumes the audience is smart. That’s thrilling.

Drowning and screaming: The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

September 29, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books No Comments →


Before her Neapolitan Quartet made her an international literary star, Elena Ferrante published The Days of Abandonment. Ferrante has never bee photographed or interviewed and goes by a pseudonym, but on the basis of this novel we believe she is a woman.

The Days of Abandonment, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein, is the story of Olga, a writer who lives in Turin with her husband Mario, their small children Ilaria and Gianni, and their dog Otto. Suddenly Mario announces that he is leaving her for another woman, and Olga falls apart.

She is furious at Mario, whom she thought was happy in their marriage, and furious at the other woman whose existence she didn’t suspect. She is so depressed she can’t get out of bed and can’t look after her children and especially the dog. She neglects to bathe, forgets to pay the bills, rails at the phone company for disconnecting the service. She plots to get Mario back, then heaps curses on him. She drives around his neighborhood hoping to spot him and the woman who replaced her. She is shocked at how vulgar and uncouth she becomes. She is so broken up she can’t even trust herself to get the door open.

We have read novels and seen movies about women dealing with the dissolution of their marriage. None of them pulls us into the chaos the way this novel does, or shreds us in the emotional turbulence. Often we had to shut the book and take great gulps of air because we felt like we were drowning. There is nothing pretty or picturesque about Olga’s disintegration, and Ferrante’s novel is unsparing. The visceral ugliness is rendered in the most compelling prose.

We cannot claim to know what Olga is going through. We do not sympathize; we don’t even like her. At times we find her repulsive and we hear ourselves saying, “Get a grip, woman. Pull yourself together.” But there is something impressive in the way she lets herself go, sinking deeper and deeper in this whirlpool of untidy feeling. We recommend The Days of Abandonment highly, but cannot be responsible for the consequences.

9 years, 9 stories: Game of Thrones in Tagalog

September 23, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Contest No Comments →

From 2013: A Translation of Ice and Fire

You win or you die from A Game of Thrones, translated by japz20

Takipsilim nang magtagpo sila ng reyna, habang nagsisimula pa lamang mamula ang kalangitan. Mag-isa lamang ito, alinsunod sa hiling nya. Ngayon lang nya nakitang payak ang bihis ng reyna, botang balat at simpleng luntiang gayak. Nang tanggalin nya ang kanyang talukbong, nakita ni Ned ang pasa na bakas ng sampal ng hari. Nabawasan na ang pangingitim at humupa na ang pamamaga, ngunit hindi maikakaila kung ano ito.

“Bakit dito?” tanong ni Cersei Lannister.

“Para nakikita tayo ng mga diyos.”

9 years, 9 stories: 100 Books, 2015 edition

September 23, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books No Comments →

Fjærland, Norway – the Norwegian booktown (bokbyen)

The Once and Future King, T.H. White
The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
Anecdotes of Destiny, Isak Dinesen
The Stories of John Cheever
The Ashenden Stories by W. Somerset Maugham
Dune, Frank Herbert