By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
“The Wavering of Haruhi Suzumiya”
By Nagaru Tanigawa
Little, Brown and Company, 2011
In this latest installment of the Haruhi Suzumiya series, we join Haruhi, Kyon, and the rest of the S.O.S. Brigade (“Save the World By Overloading It With Fun Harhui Suzumiya”) in a new set of misadventures.
Well, not all of them are new — a few of the events have been mentioned throughout the previous books. But up to this point, we’ve yet to know how the North High cultural festival went (“Live Alive”), who killed whom during the winter ski trip murder mystery (“Where Did the Cat Go?”), or how well Kyon edited the Brigade’s cultural festival movie (“The Adventures of Mikuru Asahina Episode 00”).
Until now, that is.
For fans of the series, “Wavering” is a real treat as we finally see what happens in regard to the events we’ve been reading about in the last five books. And because Haruhi is involved, something interesting always occurs. The cultural festival ends with a musical twist, Kyon’s cat Shamisen plays an important role in the murder mystery, and the Brigade film contains as many discontinuities as there are thoughts in Haruhi’s mind.
The remaining two short stories contain never-before-mentioned adventures. In “Love at First Sight,” Yuki Nagato, our favorite alien bookworm, gets a not-so-secret-admirer, and her response to his declarations surprises everyone. “The Melancholy of Mikuru Asahina” rounds out the book as the tiny time traveler takes Kyon on a mysterious journey around town.
What I love about this book — and the whole series — is how interconnected and complex the storylines are. With each new book or story, you get all-new adventures, but you get nods to the previous ones as well, which remind you how everything fits together in the world Haruhi has unknowingly created.
I also love how we are learning more about the other Brigade members and how they fit into Haruhi’s world. We have read a bit about Mikuru the time traveler and Yuki the alien, yet not much is known about Itsuki Koizumi, the young esper boy. And I can’t wait to find out more in future installments of the series.
“The Artist of Disappearance”
By Anita Desai
Houghton Mifflin Harcout, 2011
“Artist” is a collection of three short stories, or novellas, depicting life in an India of the not-so-distant past.
Each story is different and follows individuals from various walks of life. However, one thing that all the characters have in common is their lack of purpose. Everyone is just going through the motions and simply existing. From the young government worker who is tired of his daily grind in the court systems (“The Museum of Final Journeys”), to the English professor who couldn’t care less about her field or students (“Translator Translated”), to the young man who would rather spend his time in nature than at his family’s old home and a trio making minimal effort to film an environmental documentary, (“The Artist of Disappearance”), no one is living.
And while this may sound like the makings of three very dull stories, what happens to these characters makes for an interesting read. Situations are thrust upon them as the result of chance encounters with other persons or events that occur beyond their control.
I really enjoyed seeing how after these encounters or events, the characters took control of their lives and made conscious choices in their everyday lives — even if for just a brief moment.
“Artist” reminds us that there is hope, opportunity, and the possibility of adventure for all of us. We just need to recognize this and be smart enough to do something about it.
By Lysley Tenorio
Harper Collins, 2012
“Monstress” is a collection of short stories about life in the Philippines and life for Filipinos in the United States.
While all of the stories have different sets of characters and plotlines, there is a common thread. From a has-been movie director from Manila traveling to Hollywood in hopes of making it big in “Monstress,” to a young Filipino man in San Francisco going through a sex change operation in “The Brothers,” to an aging airport worker in Manila planning an attack on the Beatles after they snubbed the country’s first lady Imelda Marcos in “Help,” the stories portray very ambitious individuals who have big — and sometimes unrealistic and ridiculous — dreams.
The stories are not told from these characters’ points of view, but rather from the perspectives of individuals close to them. This way of framing the stories adds another layer. Readers see the characters’ actions through the eyes of their loved ones, which more often than not are unflattering views. They see how the characters’ actions affect those around them and their relationships with others. And it’s not always for the better.
Be that as it may, Tenorio creates likeable characters that are flawed and far from perfect, but they are not afraid to dream — and dream big — no matter what others think. The pessimistic and patronizing opinions of the loved ones make the reader want to root for the characters and see them succeed.
I really enjoyed these stories because they reminded me of what it means to wish for something. Tenorio’s characters are fearless. They aren’t afraid to take chances and risks in the name of their beliefs.
I think this is something we can all do well to remember. Sometimes, we try so hard to do what others in society think we should do that we neglect what we want for ourselves, and as a result, stifle our own happiness. (end)
Samantha Pak can be reached at email@example.com.