Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Books’

Honor, duty, courage, Hodor.

May 30, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television 2 Comments →


If you have not seen last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, do not read this. Don’t even go online. Cover your eyes and ears.

For the past week I have not been able to look at a door or get into an elevator without my throat tightening, such is the power of the last few minutes of “The Door”, Season 6, Episode 5 of Game of Thrones. Hodor the running gag has turned out to be the embodiment of honor, duty, sacrifice. Bravo.

Having read the books I knew the Red Wedding was coming, and enjoyed the shock of non-readers learning of the brutal event for the first time. Then the Purple Wedding, the trial by combat, the murder in the toilet, the assassination. Readers used to have an advantage, but now the series has gone off-book and we’re all at the dark mercy of the showrunners. It’s exhilarating.

Read my column at

I forgot to cite the best-known example of a causality loop: Terminator. Kyle Reese is sent back to the past by John Connor to protect his mother Sarah, and ends up becoming the father of John Connor.

How fiction molds us, changes our beliefs, and promotes a deep morality

May 25, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Notebooks 3 Comments →

direwolf pocket
The Limited Edition Game of Thrones Moleskines have arrived at National Bookstores. No one joined our Summarize GoT for Newbies contest, so they’re all ours. Even the ones with lined pages, which we will use because we love the direwolves. The pocket-size notebook with Summer and Bran (unlined), Php1160. Hodor. We learn about honor and duty from Hodor. Love that causality loop.

Until recently, we’ve only been able to guess about the actual psychological effects of fiction on individuals and society. But new research in psychology and broad-based literary analysis is finally taking questions about morality out of the realm of speculation.

This research consistently shows that fiction does mold us. The more deeply we are cast under a story’s spell, the more potent its influence. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction, which is designed to persuade through argument and evidence. Studies show that when we read nonfiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally, and this seems to make us rubbery and easy to shape.

direwolf large
Large Ghost and Jon Snow Moleskine (lined, dammit), Php1580.

But perhaps the most impressive finding is just how fiction shapes us: mainly for the better, not for the worse. Fiction enhances our ability to understand other people; it promotes a deep morality that cuts across religious and political creeds. More peculiarly, fiction’s happy endings seem to warp our sense of reality. They make us believe in a lie: that the world is more just than it actually is. But believing that lie has important effects for society?—?and it may even help explain why humans tell stories in the first place.

Read Why Fiction is Good For You.

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Large Drogon and Daenerys Targaryen Moleskine (unlined), Php1580.

lion pocket
Pocket-size lion sigil with Tyrion Lannister notebook, Php1160.

my books
Incidentally, the paperback editions of Stories and Geeks are now in stores.

Kitty, a short story for people who think they’re cats

May 24, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Cats No Comments →


Drogon says: Why, Chloe Sevigny, why didn’t you cast me in your film adaptation of Kitty?

by Paul Bowles

KITTY LIVED IN a medium-sized house with a big garden around it. She loved some things, like picnics and going to the circus, and she hated other things, like school and going to the dentist’s.

One day she asked her mother: “Why is my name Kitty?”

“Your name is really Catherine,” her mother said. “We just call you Kitty.”

This reply did not satisfy Kitty, and she decided that her mother did not want to tell her the truth. This made her think even more about her name. Finally she thought she had the answer. Her name was Kitty because some day she was going to grow up into a cat. She felt proud of herself for having found this out, and she began to look into the mirror to see if perhaps she was beginning to look like a cat, or at least like a kitten.

For a long time she could see nothing at all but her own pink face. But one day when she went up to the glass she could hardly believe what she saw, for around her mouth tiny gray whiskers were beginning to sprout. She jumped up and down with delight, and waited for her mother to say something about them. Her mother, however, had no time for such things, and so she noticed nothing.

Each day when Kitty looked at her reflection she saw more wonderful changes. Slowly the whiskers grew longer and stood out farther from her face, and a soft gray fur started to cover her skin. Her ears grew pointed and she had soft pads on the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet. All this seemed too good to be true, and Kitty was sad to find that nobody had said a word about the marvelous change in her. One day as she was playing she turned to her mother and said: “Meow. I’m Kitty. Do you like the color of my fur?”

Continue reading Kitty.

Kitty convict posters at The Oatmeal

and huggable bookstore cats.

bookstore cat

P.S. Do you know a cleaning lady who likes cats? Steph is looking for one. Our cleaning lady is great but has a full schedule.

How a shut-in became Marcel Proust. If you’ve been trying to write a novel for years, this is a comforting read.

May 23, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books No Comments →


“It All Comes Together”
How did Marcel Proust become a great writer?
By Roland Barthes

What is at play in this change is, as I see it, the following: all Proust’s writings preceding A la recherche are, to some degree, fragmentary and short—short stories, articles, scraps of texts. One has the impression that the ingredients are present (as we say in cooking), but the operation that’s going to transform them into a dish hasn’t yet taken place: it’s “not quite there.” And then, suddenly (in September 1909), “it all comes together”: the mayonnaise thickens and it’s just a question of gradually producing more and more. Moreover, Proust increasingly works with a technique of “adding in”: he is constantly reinfusing food into this organism which now begins to thrive because it is well set up. The physical writing itself changes: admittedly, Proust always wrote “at the gallop,” as he put it (and that manual rhythm is perhaps not unrelated to the movement of his sentences), but at the point when A la recherche takes off, the writing changes: it “tightens,” “becomes more complex,” and overflows now with energetic emendations. To sum up, a kind of alchemical operation occurred within Proust during that month of September which transmuted the essay into a novel and a short, discontinuous thing into a long, sustained, and fully formed one.

Read the Barthes essay at Lapham’s Quarterly.


May 20, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books No Comments →


X-Men: Apocalypse is expressionism, with mutants

May 18, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 2 Comments →


What else can you do with the superhero movie? The Russo Brothers made a 1970s-style conspiracy thriller (Captain America: Winter Soldier), then an excellent fight movie that was really about friendship (Captain America: Civil War). (And friendship is worth fighting for, even more than money or power.) Bryan Singer has made a movie that recalls the German expressionist classic, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. With mutants. An excellent stylistic choice, because how else are you going to portray telepathy? Voice-overs get tiresome after a while.

Cerebro looks like this image from Metropolitan

Major roles in the X-Men series have been recast, bringing the movies closer to the comics—hushed chorus of “It’s the Phoenix” from the next row. (They’re going to have to recast Wolverine soon, even if Logan is very old, if only to minimize the ick factor when the love triangle comes around.) Granted, any heavy in armor could’ve played Apocalypse, but Oscar Isaac continues his attempt to be in every movie ever made. The regulars—James McAvoy as Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Nicholas Hoult as Beast—reunite to battle the world’s first mutant, who is disappointed with the state of humanity in the 1980s and plans to destroy everything and start over. I guess he saw the hairstyles. Evan Peters as Quicksilver gets another amusing music video, and a reverse Luke-and-Vader scenario.


Since the first X-Men adaptation, also directed by Singer, the history of the mutants has been conflated with the Shoah. The resonances are very loud in Apocalypse, where Magneto returns to Auschwitz. Erik, what makes you think you can pass for normal? Darling, we’re freaks.