From the Muse’s Bookshelf: “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

[Note: This post was supposed to be for last week, but due to some personal things going on it was delayed. There will be another FtMB post this week as scheduled.]

There was a time where I didn’t consume books like I do now, and that was during my second year in high school. I couldn’t really get into some of the books assigned to my class. That is, until a book with a plain white cover found its way into my hands.

That book was J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” and I credit that title (and Salinger, may he rest in peace) with getting me back into reading for recreation, for insight, and most of all, for forcing me to look at the world we all live in differently.

“Catcher in the Rye” is told completely by its protagonist, Holden Caulfield, a student at Pencey Prep. It is through his point of view that the reader experiences the story, and as such, it’s his emotions and thoughts that are exposed to us. The novel traces his path from a temporary expulsion (where he can return after the Christmas holiday) to a trek through New York City, and finally, his journey home. Along the way, he encounters many people, all of whom have certain effects on him and his character. The most important person to him is his little sister, Phoebe, whose happiness he places over everything else.

Another individual he highly respects is his brother, DB, but what he despises is how DB “prostitutes himself” for Hollywood as a screenwriter.

I still remember (shyly) giving my viewpoint on Holden’s character, about how his acting out and doing what he did was a way of crying out for help. As stated before, all his encounters and interactions with people leave a profound effect on him, but by the end of his journey through New York, he finds that he  wants to “save” children from adulthood (and the characteristic changes of it). But, even though he tries to hide it, it’s clear that he is the one that needs to be “saved” as well.

The final line of the novel really hit me, because it reminded me about how we all form relationships with people. It all begins with a “Hi” or “Hello”, and sometimes, these friendships end out of nowhere, causing emotional pain. Holden has clearly been stung many times and tosses us this bit of “advice” in order to save us from it.

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From the Muse’s Bookshelf: “RG Veda (Seiden)” by CLAMP

(Sweet fudgecakes, my first manga review for this category!)

I’ve been a manga fan since the early 2000s, and it really started with two, possibly three, titles. One was “Shirahime-syo,” a one-shot volume about tales set in wintry snowscapes. The other was “DNAngel,” by Yukiru Sugisaki, which is unfortunately still on hiatus even to this day. I was in awe at CLAMP’s beautiful artwork, and that led me to more of their other works.

Though, I must admit, I got into CLAMP’s works because of “Cardcaptor Sakura.” But that’s a tale for another day. My pick this week is  CLAMP’s debut series, “RG Veda.”

The story itself starts with a prophecy:

Six stars will fall to this plane. The dark stars that will defy the Heavens. And you shall undertake a journey. One that begins when you find the child of a vanished race. I cannot discern the child’s alignment. I only know that it is he alone who can turn the wheels of Tenkai’s destiny. For it is by Heavenly Mandate that through this child, the Six Stars shall begin to gather. And then someone shall appear from the shadows. Even my powers cannot clearly make out his figure, but he knows the future and can manipulate both evil and heavenly stars. A roaring flame shall raze the wicked. Six stars will overpower all others. And inevitably, they will be the schism that splits the Heavens.

Such is the prophecy Kuyou tells Ashura-ou, the Heavenly Emperor–who loses his life in a rebellion staged by his guardian warrior, Taishakuten, and Ashura-ou’s own wife, Shashi. This same prophecy is told to the guardian warrior of the northland, Yasha-ou. By following this prophecy, Yasha-ou awakens the genderless child of Ashura-ou, named Ashura, who was asleep thanks to a magic seal. Yasha’s understanding of the prophecy is this: Unite the Six Stars, and overthrow Taishakuten’s tyrannical rule.

Along the way, the two meet the young king of the west, Ryuu-ou; the queen of the eastern tribe, Kendappa-ou; the queen of the Karura tribe, Karura-ou; and the last member of the Souma tribe, Souma.

There is also the enigmatic (and often comedic) character Kujaku, who has a mysterious past of his own.

The series itself was licensed by Tokyopop, but after it was completely released the license expired. Dark Horse Comics has licensed the series for an omnibus release in 2016.

PS: Oh yes, if you’re curious on this title, I’m warning you that it goes from lighthearted to very, very dark. It is definitely one of my favorites from the manga quartet, though a very underrated title.

From the Muse’s Bookshelf: “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

Around the beginning of this year, I’d vowed to go back to the basics. That is, returning to thing that helped me grow. Stress is a current factor in my life, and aside from reading manga, watching anime, crocheting, and listening to music, reading a nice meaty book does more than reduce my stress levels–it actually helps me to fully unwind before bed.

I got back into novels again by doing something simple–going into a bookstore and picking up classics. If I wanted to continue nurturing my mind, I had to get out there and read books that I was clearly interested in. Among the handful that I picked up, “Fahrenheit 451” was one of them.

For the uninformed, “Fahrenheit 451” is a dystopian novel where books are an illegal commodity, and as such, they are completely destroyed. Firefighters aren’t putting out fires as they normally do–they are the ones creating them. They are the ones burning books.

Enter our main character, Montag. He’s a firefighter who one day meets a teenaged girl named Clarisse. It’s not the typical guy-meets-girl cliche. Instead, Clarisse (and her free-spirited idealistic thinking) challenges Montag intellectually, which in turn makes him question how right or wrong everything in his world is.

Now, I’m not going to spoil everything. But, I will tell you what I loved.

It shows how beneficial books are to society, how books challenge us to think critically. The free-thinkers in the book are arrested and have their possessions burned to the ground; their voices are silenced. They are made examples of, they are turned into “end results” that citizens don’t want for themselves, simply because of that fear of being caught reading.

I admit, the book made me emotional. I never really cry over books but goodness it was so beautifully written. At the book’s end, there was a sense of hope for humanity, for those who have yet to experience the power of the written word. What struck me the most was that books don’t live on through pen and paper but through us.