Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Books’

What is your book of the year? Convince us of its greatness, and win The Bone Clocks.

November 28, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Contest 3 Comments →


What was our favorite book of the year? The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, of course. No, wait, in How To Be Both, Ali Smith did things other writers don’t dare, while zeroing in on the very nature of art. And The Children Act may not be as filling as Atonement, but it is the best Ian McEwan we’ve read since On Chesil Beach. Aargh, was it just a few months ago that we read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and felt like we’d died and been resurrected many times in the course of the novel? Then we had to read every Atkinson book we could get our hands on, and she writes detective novels that manage to be both grisly and warm-hearted. Not to mention HHhH, My Struggle volume 1, the stories of Mavis Gallant, discovering Penelope Fitzgerald and rediscovering Isak Dinesen. . .

2014 has been one of our best reading years, and there’s still a month to go. While we’re racking our overheated brain, tell us what your favorite book of the year is, and convince us to read it. (The book need not have been published in 2014, you just have to have read it in 2014.) Post your answers in Comments.

The winner will be announced on 5 December, and she or he will get this hardcover first edition of The Bone Clocks (or if they already have The Bone Clocks, Php1,000 in National Bookstore gift certificates).

This contest is brought to you by our friends at National Bookstore.

P.D. James, detective novelist and author of Children of Men, 1920-2014

November 28, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies No Comments →

Last week we decided that we would not watch The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part I because it’s the only movie that opened at the cinema last week and we hate not having a choice. Instead, we decided to watch our favorite dystopian science-fiction movie (tied with Blade Runner) Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron’s film adaptation of the novel by P.D. James.

We have not read P.D. James’s detective novels featuring the poet-sleuth Adam Dalgliesh, but we enjoyed Death Comes to Pemberley, which features characters from Pride and Prejudice.

The other day Deo mentioned that a contemporary English author whose name he couldn’t remember is writing mysteries in the tradition of Agatha Christie or P.D. James, he forgot which. “Wait, is P.D. James still alive?” he asked.

Today we read that P.D. James, Baroness James of Holland Park, has died at age 94.

Tina’s campaign to make everyone read Penelope Fitzgerald picks up steam

November 26, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 1 Comment →


In July we reported that Tina Cuyugan has started a campaign to revive interest in the work of Penelope Fitzgerald. This was brought on by the publication of the prize-winning biography by Hermione Lee. Tina had been looking for a copy of the biography; we finally found one in Paris and schlepped it home (the hardcover is a doorstop).

In recent weeks, the novelist Alan Hollinghurst (The Line of Beauty, The Stranger’s Child) and critic James Wood have written about the late British author, whose career should inspire procrastinators everywhere because her first novel came out when she was 60. Everyone thought she was a dotty old lady who wore curtains. Well she did wear curtains, but she wasn’t dotty.

Hollinghurst in the New York Review of Books: “Hers was very much the art that hides art, and she had besides a horror of explanation. She can introduce characters in the most glancing way, so that it is as if we were put in a room with them, alert for any signal of who they might be. “I try to make everything quite clear,” she said, “but then I think, this is an insult to the reader…I shouldn’t like to have all this explained to me, and so I begin to cut out, whole chapters go.”

James Wood in the New Yorker: “Authority is part of the obscure magic of her achievement as a novelist. If one of the commonest critical responses to her work seems to be laudatory bafflement—“How does she do it?”—the beginning of an answer is that she proceeds with utmost confidence that she will be heard and that we will listen, even to her reticence. Her fictions sit on the page with the well-rubbed assurance of fact, as if their details were calmly agreed upon, and long established.”

This describes the experience of reading The Blue Flower exactly. Her final novel is eccentric, funny, oblique, and leaves you wondering how she manages to kill the reader without showing a weapon.


We are reading The Gate of Angels.

The Strand’s Last Stand?

November 25, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Money, Places 1 Comment →


Naah, the famed New York bookstore is still doing well in the age of Amazon, but its survival depends on whether the next generation of owners continues to love books. Because they are sitting on very expensive real estate.

Read How the Strand keeps going in the Age of Amazon, in New York magazine.

Amy Tan: Without trauma, you’ll never be a writer.

November 25, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books 1 Comment →

amy tan

Here at last is our interview with Amy Tan. Thanks to Chad at National Bookstore for the audio file, and to Deo for the transcription. It’s a long transcript that we had to cut for publication. An outtake:

Jessica Zafra: One of the consequences of being a bestselling author is that you become a public figure and you’re held up as a role model. How do you feel about this, given that whether you like it or not, people are going to see your story as the template for whatever they want to achieve?

Amy Tan: Yeah, well, that’s like the pressure my mother put on me, you know, that I’m gonna be a brain surgeon and I’m gonna be a concert pianist, now you’re gonna be a role model. And I’m afraid of that because I don’t know what people expect of a role model. I would feel that I’m going to do things that people think are not good role models. Being in a band and wearing a costume as a dominatrix, is that a good role model?

So what I advocate more is the notion of individuality and finding your similarities, things that touch you and you know as truth in yourself from many different people and not one single person. If you try to get it from one single person, that person is going to fail you for sure. And I know that now because I have these fans on Twitter and Facebook and they’re just wonderful fans, they love everything I do until there’s this one thing I do that I tweet about or I post about and they’re shocked.

JZ: Or you can say something like, “I like this movie,” and if they all hate it, they feel betrayed.

AT: No, here’s how small it is. I once posted a photo of the hotel soaps I got from my book tour and so it was soap, it was shampoo, and I know it’s funny—you use the bar soap one night, you’re gonna take it home. That’s wasteful, you know, to leave it there. But somebody said, “Ach! Are you so poor you have to take home hotel soap?”

They actually said, “Why do you this? Why do you do this?” It’s like my mother used to say, “Why did you do that? Why do you do this?” So that person no longer sees me as her role model. You never know what it’s going to be so I caution, “Never choose one person as your role model.” I would disappoint you, I guarantee you, if you choose me, I will disappoint you in many little different ways.

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When the problem is that you have no problem.

November 22, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Psychology 5 Comments →


Thanks to Tina for the alert.