Glitter and Tears

The reason why I don’t blog much these days is that I am writing a book. Haha. No shit. It’s called “Glitter and Tears” and in the future, I’d like to share bits of it on my blog. Before I do so, however, let me introduce this little attempt at a book of mine.

Why “glitter and tears”?

The title not only represents the two poles of the main character’s personality but of life as it is. I often think about how sad it is that the world is black and white. You’re either happy or sad. Healthy or sick. Good or bad. Alive or dead.

But I don’t think the world is black and white. Or should be. It strives to be full of colours, only us – people – turn it either black or white with our one-sided thoughts. For more than a year now, I’ve had this thought in my head. If everybody has a purpose in life – a trace he or she leaves on this planet – what is mine? Usually, our genetic codes, beliefs, thoughts and memories remain embodied in another person – our child. But I don’t believe having children and helping save the population is our only purpose. We should also attempt to make a change. And if I was to contribute to a change – it would be the change of people’s black and white thinking.

I want to do so via this book.

The main character’s life, in fact, is black and white. She suffers from the bipolar affective disorder, she’s bisexual, has both feminine and masculine features, her whole life revolves around extremes. 

Her life is like day and night. During the day, she’s worried about the night, at night, she doesn’t see the day coming. In the night, she’s wallowing in the darkness unable to get up and turn on the light.

People tag her as weird and unpredictable. Being happy and cheerful one time and sad and miserable another time makes her look immature, unpredictable, unstable, pretentious, deceitful, suspicious, fake… And yet, she doesn’t let her bipolarity define her.


In a nutshell, it is a story about a girl who fights stereotypes, judgements and close-mindedness by living a life on the edge. It is a story that is – just like her life – both amusing and fun but also painful and sad. But more than anything, it is a story about finding love. Not only a romantic kind of love but love in the purest sense of the word – love as the fundamental principle of the human race.

I do not know whether I’ll ever finish it. I don’t know whether someone will ever publish it if I do. But if the book ever hits the shelves of bookshops, I think it’s only good it will happen in Slovakia. Because I think that people here need a scapegoat. Someone who would challenge their moral philosophy. Someone who would sacrifice their reputation to open their eyes. And I want this to be Mila, the main character of the book.

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A few comments on John Green’s TFIOS

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This is not meant to be a review of The Fault in our Stars by John Green because, really, how can you review something that’s already been reviewed so many times and yet bring something new? You can’t, I assume. It’s the fault in my system that I got to read this book only now – more than three years after it was published when everything about this book has already been said.

BUT, as it happens, I still have something to say!

I didn’t want to read this book at first because it’s a total bestseller of all the bestsellers in the world, which means a lot of money. Movie’s been made out of it, which means even more money and I don’t like literature turned into a business. I call these kinds of books “a book meant to be successful” – a book that is written with a purpose of becoming a bestseller. A good example is “The Shack” by… (I don’t remember the name of the author and I can’t be bothered to google it), which was totally meant to be a hit and “surprisingly” it was! So TFIOS is exactly that kind of book. After the success of his previous novels Green was already a hit-maker when writing this one. But I told myself, “it’s a good story to begin with and it’s meant to be funny and sad at the same time, which is something I like so: why not try?

And it was worth reading. It was a good story. Here are some of my comments:

1. It is not common that a male author makes a female character narrate the story. Men writers usually choose to tell stories via a male character or a third person narrative. Why? Because men normally don’t understand women that well and they know that if they attempted to think like a woman they would fail. BUT not John Green. I say he either must understand women very well (lucky the wife of his), or he must have cooperated with some girls when creating Hazel as a character and writing her lines. It’s almost as if he could see into Hazel’s imaginary head and described her thoughts as a woman would. Thumbs up JG for that.

2. I loved how Hazel reread the book “An Imperial Affliction” all over again. The book, I think, represented her own life and that’s why she’s been so desperate for the sequel. She reread it as if she were to find her answers in it. She identified with Anna, the main character, and that’s why the ending of the book so impressed Hazel because that’s how she thought her life would end – mid-sentence, missing a proper ending. She knew she will leave many people behind after she’s gone and that made her desperately wanting to know what happens after the book/her death. She was especially interested in what happens to Anna’s mum because she kept worrying about her own mum. (Partially because she knew her dad won’t be too great a support to her given he was quite a softie – see the third comment.)

3. Hazel’s dad was quite an ambivalent figure in this story. On the one hand, he was described like a very emotionally unstable and weak man but at the same time, by the end of the book after Augustus is gone, he seems most collected and wise. I don’t know, the way he cried all the time annoyed me. I thought: If I had such a dad who’s so soppy and mushy all the time, I’d definitely go mad.

4. I really liked how after Augustus got sick and things became really serious with him Hazel started calling him Gus instead of Augustus. I noticed it right away and then on the page 240 he really said it: “you used to call me Augustus”. It was nicely depicted how a person changes when they’re sick. It’s as if they were two different people: Augustus – a still relatively healthy and a gorgeous, self-confident guy, and Gus – a sick, late-stage cancer patient, who no longer resembles his true self. Cancer takes its toll.

5. One thing that I really didn’t like was Green’s reference to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs on pages 212/213. Maslow identified six types of human needs and arranged them according to their importance, the most basic of needs being at the bottom of the “pyramid”, the most advanced need – self-actualization – at the top. Maslow’s theory works with a “universal” human nature – human as a universal variable. A person’s individualities, such as one’s health condition, social status, profession, intelligence are not taken into account. Only the one who satisfied their basic physiological needs may think about satisfying the needs upper in the hierarchy. Hazel calls this theory an “utter horseshit”. She thinks that the fact of her being insecure in her health makes her locked in the second level of the pyramid – “the need of security” – and that the theory suggests she cannot possibly have upper needs. However, that is an “utter horseshit” because “security” in Maslow’s theory is in no way connected to health, it means security as such: safety, living in peace, freedom… Hazel, apart from being sick, is perfectly suitable for reaching the top of the pyramid – she lives in wealth, has loving parents, is educated, well taken care of…

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JG either (a) has an alarming lack of knowledge of the theory (then why not research it better before writing about it?), or (b) researched it thoroughly but misinterpreted it, or (c) deliberately misinterpreted it so as to match the context of the book and to make Hazel kind of criticising the classical account of human behaviour, or (d) he researched it thoroughly but thought he has found a flaw in the theory and perceived his account as a sort of triumph over Abraham Maslow. One way or another, it really was terribly misinterpreted and it would be quite rude and too ambitious from John Green if it was (d).

6. I think that one of the most important messages the book carries is the one that’s summed up in the sentence on page 312: “We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either.” Who lives, who dies, who makes a difference in this world, who is remembered – the universe doesn’t care. From greater perspective, our lives don’t matter as much as we think they do. Hazel knew this and that’s why she was so fed up with Gus whenever he talked about his fear of oblivion. You only get this life and this given number of years spent on this planet. Oblivion is inevitable and that’s why you should be grateful for what you have, for the good, for the bad – and take it as it is. Make the most of what you have been given.

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Book review: Ian McEwan – On Chesil Beach

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I’ll start this review off in a non-traditional way: by stating that this was the worst book I’ve read this year. Don’t get fooled though: the truth is I’ve only read two books this year – On Chesil Beach and the Hobbit (for the third time) – and with all my respect to Ian McEwan, nothing can beat the Hobbit (in principle). So the fact that it didn’t beat it is not important at all.

On Chesil Beach is one wonderful and unforgettable book.

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It was written by Ian McEwan – that is, I dare say, quite self-explanatory. I utterly love his books and his style, especially these short novellas of his. His ability of telling a powerful, touching story in less than 200 pages is extraordinary. Take “The Cement Garden” as an example: the whole story seems to flow slowly, it elevates one step at a time and then suddenly boom! the last few pages leave you absolutely dumbfounded, speechless and crying for more. On Chesil Beach is very similar. When it comes to devastating and thought-provoking endings – McEwan is the guy for the job.

What has to be pointed out is how McEwan brilliantly portrays the two main characters – Edward and Florence – the young newlyweds. I think in general this is one of his strongest points as an author. When you read any of his books you feel like you know the characters personally, you can even predict their moods, feelings or actions as though they were your friends. He has a gift of making his characters plastic, they almost step out of each page and become real.

So far I was talking about Ian McEwan as an author, now, back to this little book. It’s only 166 pages long so keen readers can wrap it up in a matter of a weekend. It is quite a simple story, too. In fact, the whole book is about one day (a couple of hours actually) with a few flashbacks to the past. Despite that, after reading the last page you have a feeling of finishing a long and elaborate story.

The plot is set in 1962, England. McEwan gives us a clear picture of that era portrayed brilliantly via the two young innocents – Edward and Florence. We all know 60s were particularly turbulent when it comes to progress. The beginning of the decade was still very conservative whereas by the end of it music got louder, skirts got shorter, manners loosened and… we all know how it went on. For the sake of this story one thing has to be added: so far as sex is concerned, in 1962 it was still an embarrassing issue discussed with blush on the cheeks.

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Yes, the book is about sex. But not in a way you might think. In this gentle story sex is conceived as a fundamental part of our lives. Even if we tried hard, we could not escape it. At the end of the day, what are we all if not results of sex? If we looked upon it from a philosophical point of view, in the large picture sex and reproduction is our mission. It is what the future of all species on this planet depend on.

Edward and Florence are just married, both virgins and their big moment is just about to happen. They both struggle with their personal fears. Edward fears failure and clumsiness due to his ignorance and lack of experience. He does not want to be a disappointment to his new wife, which is strengthened by his muted self-consciousness about their uneven social backgrounds (he’s a village boy, while Florence comes from a wealthy family). She, on the other hand has her own demons. She doesn’t fear the failure as much as she fears the act of love itself. She struggles with a strong revulsion towards anything connected to sex. She loathes the very thought of it.

Their as yet perfect relationship is put to a risk when they at last make the “with my body I thee worship” part of their wedding vow happen.

On Chesil Beach carries an important message of love.

It shows us that to love is simply not enough. A relationship or a marriage is not merely about whether we love our partner or not. Love is more complicated than that. Life puts too many obstacles in front of us, things that hinder love from being simple and innocent. Our hearts are shackled by all sorts of things: the society, parents, expectations, anxieties, prejudices, reason, logic, rigidness of our minds…

It also shows us how important a thing sex is. Whether one wants to admit it or not, sex, especially in the first years is a crucial part of every relationship/marriage. Looking at Edward’s and especially Florence’s fears only points out what a great deal of pressure is put upon two people who, on account of religion, had to wait with sex until their wedding night. Not to mention how it kills spontaneity – it is like sex was an appointment marked red in your day planner – “Saturday, 23 July, 22:00 – First Sex”. The surety of it happening on that specific day/night makes it more of a dread than something to be looked forward to.

Despite very serious issues the book deals with, McEwan wrote it in a very easy style. Certain passages will even make you giggle – e.g. Florence’s ignorance about sex and men’s body is (especially in the 21st century) really amusing.

All in all, it is a really sad story on the background of something as normal and fundamental as sex. The book bears a tragic and devastating fate of two innocent people, who just wanted to be happy. The problem was that each one of them had a different conception of happiness.

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My rating: 5/5. I highly recommend. This book will get you thinking.

The book that started it

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The book that started what? – This blog, my previous blog, my love for writing, my love for Murakami, my love for metaphors (that might have happened long before) and surely many more things it started…
Let me tell you something about my beloved book that this blog owes its name to.

The main character finds it hard to distinguish the reality from dreams. This blurring of lines between perception and imagination is a usual figure in Murakami’s novels. I dare to call Kafka Tamura a signature Murakami’s main character. He’s lonely, a bit tragic and there’s something about him that makes him separated from the rest of the world, but he strives to find his place in it. His life is full of lonely moments, full of questions. He needs to answer two major questions: Who is he and what is the meaning of his own existence? He doubts himself and everyone around him. His thoughts are often obscure and nihilistic, and yet there is purity in them. He suffers a great sexual frustration and unease with his own body and sexuality. He has a strong fixation on his mother and sister owing to his father’s dark prophecy. He often thinks about death and eventually is closely linked to it. Maybe even a patron of death itself.

This book to a large extent ponders over the questions of fate and predestination. It makes you think whether we are even able to escape the events that are predestined to happen to us – if we truly want to avoid them – and if we do there’s a possibility we end up running straight towards them.

Why did all this influenced me to the extent it had? The truth is never before reading this book have I ever come across anything like Kafka on the Shore. It’s so weird, it’s so genius and so metaphorical you definitely have to read it twice or three times before really getting the best of it (and before truly appreciating it). Murakami uses such beautiful language that after finishing the book I was like: What the hell – I want to be able to see the world the way he does, I want to make the most of our language (no matter how insufficient it is) the way he does, I want to create such beautiful sentences – use such beautiful words – shit I want to be a writer!

Here are a few of my favourite quotes from the book: 

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

An you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” (p. 4-5)

“Your heart is like a great river after a long spell of rain, spilling over its banks. All signposts that once stood on the ground are gone, inundated and carried away by that rush of water. And still the rain beats down on the surface of the river. Every time you see a flood like that on the news you tell yourself: That’s it. That’s my heart.” (p. 11)

“You’re afraid of imagination. And even more afraid of dreams. Afraid of the responsibility that begins in dreams. But you have to sleep, and dreams are a part of sleep. When you’re awake you can suppress imagination. But you can’t suppress dreams.” (p. 180)

“Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear.” (p. 181)

“Like flowers scattered in a storm, man’s life is one long farewell.” (p. 192)

“Closing your eyes isn’t going to change anything. Nothing’s going to disappear just because you can’t see what’s going on. In fact, things will be even worse the next time you open your eyes. That’s the kind of world we live in. Keep your eyes wide open. Only a coward closes his eyes. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won’t make time stand still.” (p. 192)

“But metaphors help eliminate what separates you and me.” (p. 385)

“We all die and disappear, but that’s because the mechanism of the world itself is built on destruction and loss. Our lives are just shadows of that guiding principle. Say the wind blows. It can be a strong, violent wind or a gentle breeze. But eventually every kind of wind dies out and disappears.” (p. 439)