quarta-feira, 25 de maio de 2011

Vozes do Retrato - Dalton Trevisan

A gathering of 15 chronicles and short stories which picture the day to day life habits of boring, broke and bitter Brazilians. Really not my type of book. Thank goodness the book was real thin as I couldn't make myself enjoy reading it as much as I did try to - I am surprised I even made it until the end... honestly, just another book in my list. If you don't want to be bored to death I highly suggest you in not even picking up this book.  

Since the book was not worth reading, I won't be posting a book review on it but instead will add below a bit on the writer, Dalton Trevisan:


É reconhecido como um importante contista da literatura brasileira por grande parte dos críticos do país. Entretanto, é avesso a entrevistas e exposições em órgãos de comunicação social, criando uma atmosfera de mistério em torno de seu nome. Por esse motivo recebeu a alcunha de "Vampiro de Curitiba", nome de um de seus livros. Assina apenas "D. Trevis" e não recebe a visita de estranhos.
Trevisan Trabalhou durante sua juventude na fábrica de vidros de sua família (hoje falida) e chegou a exercer a advocacia durante 7 anos, depois de se formar pela Faculdade de Direito do Paraná (atual UFPR). Quando era estudante de Direito, Trevisan costumava lançar seus contos em modestos folhetos. Liderou o grupo literário que publicou, entre 1946 e 1948, a revista Joaquim. O nome, segundo ele, era "uma homenagem a todos os Joaquins do Brasil". A publicação tornou-se porta-voz de uma geração de escritores, críticos e poetas. Reunia ensaios assinados por Antonio Cândido, Mario de Andrade e Otto Maria Carpeaux e poemas até então inéditos, como "O Caso do Vestido", de Carlos Drummond de Andrade. A revista também trazia traduções de Joyce, Proust, Kafka, Sartre e Gide e era ilustrada por artistas como Poty, Di Cavalcanti e Heitor dos Prazeres. A publicação, que circulou até dezembro de 1948, continha o material de seus primeiros livros de ficção, incluindo Sonata ao Luar (1945) e Sete Anos de Pastor (1948) - duas obras renegadas pelo autor. Em 1954 publicou o Guia Histórico de CuritibaCrônicas da Província de CuritibaO Dia de Marcos e Os Domingos ouAo Armazém do Lucas, edições populares à maneira dos folhetos de feira.
Inspirado nos habitantes da cidade, criou personagens e situações de significado universal, em que as tramas psicológicas e os costumes são recriados por meio de uma linguagem concisa e popular, que valoriza os incidentes do cotidiano sofrido e angustiante. Publicou também Novelas Nada Exemplares (1959) e ganhou o Prêmio Jabuti da Câmara Brasileira do Livro. Como era de se esperar, enviou um representante para recebê-lo. Morte na Praça (1964), Cemitério de Elefantes (1964) e O Vampiro de Curitiba (1965). Isolado dos meios intelectuais e concorrendo sob pseudônimo, Trevisan conquistou o primeiro lugar do I Concurso Nacional de Contos do Estado do Paraná, em 1968. Escreveu depois A Guerra Conjugal (1969), posteriormente transformada em um premiado filme, dirigido por Joaquim Pedro de AndradeCrimes da Paixão (1978) e Lincha Tarado (1980). Em 1994 publicou Ah, é?, obra-prima do estilo minimalista. Seu único romance publicado é A Polaquinha.

sábado, 21 de maio de 2011


Much to my surprise I finished this book in an incredibly quick space of time - the reason of this surprise is because the book has a whole lot of narration and very few dialogues - something that I usually cringe at when reading a book. But this time it was different. I didn't even notice the lack of dialogues and conversations and read long paragraph after long paragraph uninterruptedly. 

 I would describe Grenouille as an exotic monster. The fact that he is born an orphan and his whole childhood and teenage years are hard and cruel on him made me pity the character that I would later find out is nothing but a horrid man with an exceptional acute sense of smell. Throughout the whole book he seeks his "meaning in life" until he finally discovers what it is: create the most sought after scent of all - the scent of love. He reaches his goal but doesn't get what he always wanted: the desire to be loved himself.

Yes, this book is highly disturbing - but that's what makes it such a splendid read. 
The message is ingenious and beautiful at the same time: What every single man and woman wants is to love and be loved back. And that's what Grenouille tries so hard to do throughout the whole story (using the most despicable and gruesome methods) - he tries to make others love him. But we can't make others love us if we don't love ourselves. That is the principle of attraction. People that are highly attractive and that have the ability to draw others to themselves are people that like their own company, know their high points and see their own potential. And yet Grenouille fails to see turning his whole arduous search and horrendous crime into nothing but deception until the end of his sad, sad life.

It's a magnificent read and a mind opening allegory! Read it!

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a 1985 literary historical cross-genre novel (originally published in German as Das Parfum) by German writer Patrick Süskind. The novel explores the sense of smell, and its relationship with the emotional meaning that scents may carry. Above all this is a story of identity, communication and the morality of the human spirit.
The story focuses on Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a perfume apprentice in 18th century France who, born with no body scent himself, begins to stalk and murder virgins in search of the "perfect scent", which he finds in a young woman named Laure whom his acute sense of smell finds in a secluded private garden in Grasse.


Grenouille (French for "frog") is an unwanted Parisian orphan who, having no personal scent (learned later in the narrative), is rejected by others because they are unwittingly disturbed by him, later understood to the reader as stemming from his lack of odour. He has an extraordinary power to discern odours, and comes to loathe the scent of other people. He becomes apprenticed to a tanner at the age of eight, and after work explores the city. One day he smells a divine scent and follows it, and is shocked to find that the source of this beautiful scent is a young virginal girl just passing puberty (14-15 years old). He gets closer to her, unnoticed, to get a better smell of her scent. When leaning in and becoming more intoxicated by the divinity of her scent she notices him and begins to scream, so he holds her mouth shut, accidentally suffocating her while continuing to be enamoured of her scent. But he learns that soon after death the scent dissipates and is lost. He vows to himself that this is his life's purpose, to regain that scent.
In his quest to isolate and preserve scents, he becomes apprenticed to a once great perfumier, Baldini, and proves himself a talented pupil. His supernatural power to discern and dissect scents helps create wondrous perfumes and makes Baldini the most popular perfumier in Paris. But Grenouille's abilities are unmatched by the technology and Baldini has to step in and stop him when Grenouille learns that he cannot isolate the scent of inorganic materials, such as glass and iron. At this enlightenment Grenouille falls ill with smallpox, presumably psychosomatically as a reaction to his body giving up on life as his quest can never be fulfilled. Yet Baldini has grown to cherish Grenouille for his skills and while on his deathbed Baldini reveals to him that there are techniques other than distillation that can be used to preserve such odors. At this news, Grenouille miraculously recovers and resolves to journey to the city of Grasse, the home of the greatest Perfumiers, to further his quest.
On his way to Grasse, Grenouille travels the countryside and reflects on his disgust with the scent of humanity. As he travels between cities and escapes the "sour cheese" stench of humanity, he dreams of escaping scent altogether, reveling in the idea that after having experienced the most divine scent imaginable (the plum slicing girl) that he could escape the influence of the world and find the deepest, darkest hole to literally crawl into and merely reflect on his memories of his most beloved scent experiences. He quickly turns off the beaten path and spends seven years in a cave on top of the Massif Central. It is more like a slanted well than a large cavern, and he crawls deep into it until the light has stopped and he cannot go another further. There he wedges himself against the stone and falls into a sort of meditation, spending all his waking hours imaging himself in a vast and grand library inside his mind, served by scentless spectres who bring him "vials" of his favorite scents. And every day before he falls asleep he is brought the scent memory vial of the plum slicing girl, and falls drunk with its splendor before sleeping. He leaves the cave only to eat enough insects and scraps to survive, addicted to lounging in the scent library of his mind. One day he wakes with a start from a nightmare of being suffocated by his own body odor and to shake off the confusion he, for the first time, examines his own scent. Going layer by layer from his surroundings and through his (now tattered) clothes and down to the grime and dirt he is covered in, he soon realizes with a shock that he has no personal scent at all. He takes on an existential fear, for the first time, that without a scent he has no place in existence, in the universe, that he is not truly a part of reality and that without a scent he is literally nothing. And so he once again resolves to capture the scent of the plum slicing girl, but has no put it to himself to create the world's most divine scent to have for himself, to show the universe that he exists and that his talents do not resolve him to be nothing.
Grenouille journeys to Montpellier where an amateur scientist, the Marquis de La Taillade-Espinasse, uses Grenouille to test his thesis of the "so-called fluidum letale". The Marquis combines a treatment of decontamination and revitalization for Grenouille, and subsequently, Grenouille looks like a clean gentleman for the first time in his life. Grenouille in turn tricks his way into the laboratory of a famous perfumier. There he creates a body odour for himself from ingredients including "cat shit," "cheese," and "vinegar", whereupon he is finally noticed by society. Previously not even an eyelash would bat if Grenouille had walked right in front of someone's face, but his new "disguise" can make heads turn and he feels accepted by society, but it is only a test of his abilities and he has grander plans yet.
Finally moving to Grasse, Grenouille once again becomes intoxicated by the scent of a young girl transitioning through puberty to womanhood, Laure. He believes her scent to be on par, if not greater, than that of the plum slicing girl, but also believes that she is not quite mature and plans to allow for two years more years until he can capture her scent at its peak. Meanwhile he embarks on filling out the rest of the notes in his ultimate perfume. As it has been told that there are 12 notes, 4 chords, in a perfume and that the ancient Egyptians believed in a 13th divine note, which Grenouille believes he can harness using the matured scent of Laure. To capture the scents of 12 other post-pubescent virgins Grenouille realizes that the only viable method involves murder. And as he is generally unnoticed, when out of his "disguise", he begins a soulless career of serial murder of the 12 virgin, young women around Grasse with the most beautiful scents.
Eventually, after the 2 years of murders have passed, Laure's father pieces together the pattern of murders and realises that Laure, the most beautiful and beloved young woman in the city just passing puberty, is most likely to be the next victim. He flees with Laure to hide and protect her, but Grenouille pursues them and kills Laure, capturing her scent.
Grenouille is apprehended soon after completing his perfume and sentenced to death. On the day of his execution the intoxicating scent of Laure combined with the backdrop essences of the 12 virgins he murdered, overwhelms all present, and instead of an execution the whole town is overwhelmed by a mix of divine reverence and carnal passion, erupting into a massive orgy.
Grenouille is pardoned for his crimes, blessed and revered, and Laure's father even wants to adopt him. But the experience of the power, looking at the peoples' reaction, has dissatisfied Grenouille, because he is not loved for himself, but for the perfume which he created. He realises that he had always found gratification "in hatred, in hating and being hated", not love. As his existence has not been validated by his creation, but merely disguised once again. He decides to return to Paris upon finding that the satisfaction that he initially felt has transformed itself into hatred and disgust.
In Paris, Grenouille approaches a group of low-life people (thieves, murderers, whores, etc.), who do not notice him approaching. He deliberately douses himself with the rest of the vial of his divine perfume while standing among the group. Overcome with the carnal passion and divine reverence, even moreso than the people of Grasse, they literally tear him to pieces and devour the remains. After the passion wore off, the people look around and feel slightly disgusted having just eaten a human being, but they have an overwhelming internal sense of happiness. They are "uncommonly proud. For the first time they had done something out of Love."

terça-feira, 17 de maio de 2011

Não Se Esqueçam da Rosa - Giselda Laporta Nicolelis

This story revolves on a young girl called Hanako. Her father, Aiko was a young survivor of the Hiroshima Bomb who came to Brazil still in his childhood. Because of his exposure to radioactivity during the war his reproductive cells are affected and his genes are transfered to his  firstborn, Hanako. 
The author writes with a clear  and childlike manner but the message and simplicity of the story is what keeps you reading until you find yourself incapable of being able to stop.
A few things which touched me in this book:
 - Hanako's constant joy and desire to live despite her sickness. How she doesn't rebel against what has happened with her but tries to make the very best out of it.
 - A bit of the beauty of the Japanese culture.
 - Wars, bombs, killing and manslaughter lead to nowhere. It's a dead end street.
 - We all pay for our actions - we might have to pay the consequences for an action that has happened even  many, many years ago. What comes around goes around.
 - Humanity shows its true face during the greatest catastrophes.

Here is a beautiful poem that is in the end of the book which I will include here (sorry, it's in Portuguese):

A Rosa de Hiroshima

Pensem nas crianças
Mudas telepáticas
Pensem nas meninas
Cegas inexatas
Pensem nas mulheres
Rotas alteradas
Pensem nas feridas
Como rosas cálidas
Mas oh não se esqueçam
Da rosa da rosa
Da rosa de Hiroshima
A rosa hereditária
A rosa radioativa
Estúpida e inválida
A rosa com cirrose
A anti-rosa atômica
Sem cor sem perfume
Sem rosa sem nada

domingo, 8 de maio de 2011

Memories of My Melancholy Whores

I really didn't get the main character of this book. I tried, I really did! But maybe the difference of our ages was what made my tentative a flop. He isn't either a horny old man nor is he a charitable one. The writer gives the impression that the old man finally "finds love" (which is in the form of a young, poor, scared 14 year old virgin) in his very old age. But I can't really agree with this improbable form of "love" because in my point of view I see it more like an old man that is finally feeling guilty for his past sexual experiences and wants some kind of consolation before his miserable life ends. Okay, I might be a bit too harsh on the old man but hey - talk about pedofile!!! 
But other than my sorid thoughts on the book I have to give credit to where credit is due: the writer is fantastic! He knows how to capture the reader's interest and have him engaged in some captive trance as he reads page after page nonstop (as such was my case!). His slyness and sarcasm are both cunny and witty. 
If nothing else García Márquez captures another side of love (or lust - or more likely, both!) and with that he completes quite some feat!

Book Review:
BECAUSE the great subject of the fiction of Gabriel García Márquez is time, no reader of his luminous, strange new book should fail to be aware of exactly how much time its author has spent on earth: on the day of the publication in English of "Memories of My Melancholy Whores," García Márquez will have lived 78 years, 7 months, 3 weeks and 4 days, and he continues to write, as he so often has, about the people for whom time has seemed to stand still. He has always been most interested in the extremely old and the extremely young - for the reason, I think, that our first experiences of the world and our last are the ones that stop us in our tracks, and turn the long confusion of our days into something like stories.
The hero and heroine of "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" are a 90-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl, both nameless, who meet periodically in a room in Rosa Cabarcas's brothel - "the theater of our nights," the old man calls it - and, more constantly and more vividly, in his fevered imagination, where the curtain never comes down. The nonagenarian narrator is the latest in an illustrious line of cranky, obsessive García Márquez geezers, of which the most memorable, perhaps, is the romantic madman Florentino Ariza, whose determination to woo and win in his 70's the woman who spurned him in his 20's is the perpetual-motion machine that powers "Love in the Time of Cholera." But the writer was only in his late 50's, a mere pup, when he invented Florentino Ariza and granted that elderly fool for love the belated fulfillment of his desire. These days, García Márquez needs a dirtier, older dirty old man just to satisfy his insatiable taste for novelty, his lust for sudden and unforeseeable accesses of meaning, his itch to probe the mysteries of last things.
And the central codger of "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" seems, at least at the outset, a very dirty old man indeed. The story begins, with García Márquez's characteristic hit-the-ground-running conciseness, like this: "The year I turned 90, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin." A superb opening - Edith Grossman's translation is, here and elsewhere, elegant and exact - but not, perhaps, the sort of statement that generates waves of good feeling toward the speaker. The peculiar charm of this narrator, though, is that he really doesn't give a damn what his audience thinks of him. "I'm ugly, shy and anachronistic," he writes, by way of introducing himself, and he's just warming up. "I am the end of a line, without merit or brilliance," he calmly informs us; and despite enjoying some local fame as a critic and newspaper columnist in his native La Paz, he admits to being "a mediocre journalist." His lechery is, in fact, among his more attractive qualities; it is, in any event, one of the few areas in which he has truly distinguished himself. "I have never gone to bed with a woman I didn't pay," he writes, and with sheepish pride reports that he was "twice crowned client of the year" in the city's red-light district.
That brief moment of boastfulness is a rarity in "Memories of My Melancholy Whores." Mostly, this old man is beyond pride, and beyond shame, too. Because García Márquez doesn't often tell his tall tales in the first person, and because the story inevitably evokes comparisons to "Lolita," readers might expect this little book to be more of a departure from its author's usual, unmistakable style - the lulling, deadpan bedtime-story tone that has always enabled him to get away with both murder and the more improbable kinds of love. Some might even manage to persuade themselves that this monologue is, like Humbert Humbert's, an ironic apologia, a literary game whose object is to catch the speaker out in his evasions and self-deceptions.
But that's not at all what García Márquez is up to here. The cunning of "Memories of My Melancholy Whores" lies in the utter - and utterly unexpected - reliability of its narrator. This daft coot is, in his way, as trustworthy as St. Augustine (whom he does not, I hasten to add, otherwise resemble) because his story is, like the saint's, a conversion narrative. His reason for writing, he says, is to record "the beginning of a new life at an age when most mortals have already died," which means, of course, that he has no motive to be anything but brutally honest about the now-despised former life, the 90 years, to the minute, he "wasted" (his word) before seeing the light.

quinta-feira, 5 de maio de 2011

Effective Learning - Alan Mumford

This is a short and handy little manual for those who want to grow and learn. 
Alan Mumford gives a general description of the four learning styles which was what I liked the most in the whole book.
The following are abbreviated versions of preferred ways of learning for each learning style:

Get fully involved in new experiences 
Open minded and enthusiastic 
Will 'try anything once'
Revel in crisis management, 'fire fighting'
Get bored by detail 
Prefer to stand back and observe 
Look at all angles and implications 
'Chew it over' before reaching conclusions 
Take a back seat in meetings and discussions 
Think problems through logically, step by step 
Assimilate disparate facts in coherent theories 
Rigorously question assumptions and conclusions 
Don't allow their feelings to influence decisions 
Uncomfortable with subjectivity, creative thinking
Keen to try out new ideas to see if they work 
Like solving practical problems and making decisions 
Emphasise expediency - 'the end justifies the means' 
Impatient with long-winded or open-ending discussions 

Based on these preferences, different activities are likely to produce different responses in the learners. Selection of learning method should take your preferences into account but effective learning demands the achievement of a balance between the four styles. If you have a high activitist style you will learn best from activities where: - 
You can become involved with new experiences 
There is excitement and drama 
You can have high visibility, e.g. chairing a meeting, giving a presentation 
You are thrown in at the deep end 
You are involved with others 
You can ‘have a go’ 
You will enjoy business games, role-playing exercises and competitive 
teamwork tasks 
If you have a high reflector style you will learn best from activities where: 
You are allowed to watch and think 
You can stand back and observe others 
You can think before acting 
There is research involved 
You can review what has occurred 
You will enjoy assignments 
If you have a high theorist style you will learn best from activities where: 
There is an obvious system, concept or model you can follow through 
There is time to explore the relationship between ideas and events 
You can ask questions 
You are stretched intellectually 
There is a clear purpose and reason to the learning 
If you have a high pragmatist style you will learn best from activities where: 
There is an obvious link between what you are learning and the working environment 
You are shown practical techniques for solving problems 
You have a chance to practice techniques to check they work in practice 
You are provided with an immediate opportunity to put into effect what you have learnt.

After reading the whole and full description of each learning style I stopped a moment to figure which was my learning style (by the way, I am Pragmatic and Activist) and then went on to make a mental review of each one of my students placing them in one of the above definitions. This little mental exercise was mind opening for me because it made me notice how a certain student that seems like a lost case and just "never learns" could turn out into a top notch student if I only changed my approach, modified my teaching method and adapted myself to his learning needs - and all this just by identifying his particular style of learning. As you can guess, an Activist is less likely to learn if I use the same approach I would use for a student that is a Theorist.
I already started using the above information in regards to my teaching and am seeing remarkable results!!!
A few other pointers which Alan Mumford outlines are the following:
 - Each one of us has to find a learning method that works for us, build a learning plan and then use it to develop our abilities.
 - Learning is all about motivation, needs and  personal interests - those are the driving factors in each person's learning process.
 - We should always learn with difficulties, hardships and problems - but we shouldn't limit ourselves to only that - we should make it a point to learn with success and personal conquests as well!

And last, but not least, remember: LEARNING IS A DAILY, NEVER-ENDING PROCESS!!!

Progressive training programmes not only equip managers with basic skills and competencies, but deploy innovative, wide-ranging learning strategies to ensure continuous development. Specifically designed as flexible support material, "Training Extras" provides a simple framework to structure learning. This comprehensive series covers all the crucial skill areas for the first-time manager or supervisor, providing: the key issues in an easy-to-read style; diagrams, models and charts for clarity and quick reference; helpful starting points to build confidence and encourage "hands-on" practice; practical advice and tips based on real-life management issues and examples.