Workshop Penulisan Resensi Bersama BBI

​Hari Minggu lalu, tanggal 26 Februari 2017, salah seorang teman dari Blogger Buku IndonesiaBZee, mengajak saya untuk mengadakan semacam workshop penulisan resensi buku untuk anak-anak usia sekolah (SD sampai SMA) di perpustakaan lokal langganan kami, Perpustakaan Ganesa. Tanpa pikir panjang, saya langsung mengiyakan. Kenapa tidak? Saya melihat ada banyak manfaat dari acara ini, selain anak-anak sekolah bisa belajar menulis resensi buku, acara ini sedikit banyak juga bisa melatih mereka untuk menulis, menulis apa pun itu. 

Untuk materinya, BZee meminjam materi yang dulu pernah digunakan saat Workshop Menulis Resensi dari Hati dari Mas Helvry, kemudian kami sunting dan beri sedikit tambahan demi kejelasan dan kemudahan anak-anak. Selama beberapa hari kami melakukan persiapan. Yang dimaksud dengan “persiapan” di sini adalah saling berkirim surel dan SMS demi mematangkan konsep acara dan materi presentasi. Di hari H-nya, awalnya kami melihat ada banyak yang mendaftar, tapi ternyata yang benar-benar datang lebih sedikit jumlahnya dari yang tertera pada kertas pendaftaran. Tapi tak apa, yang penting adalah antusiasme dari mereka yang benar-benar hadir dan mengikuti acara kami.

Maaf, nama acara sama tulisan di background-nya beda 😀

Setelah acara dibuka oleh pihak Ganesa, BZee langsung memulai dengan menyapa anak-anak dan bertanya apakah mereka pernah mendengar yang namanya resensi. BZee kemudian menjelaskan, dengan bantuan silde PowerPoint yang sudah dibuat sebelumnya, mengenai apa itu resensi dan apa bedanya dengan sinopsis. Penjelasan BZee dilanjutkan dengan alasan mengapa kita menulis resensi, terutama setelah kita selesai membaca sebuah buku. Ada empat poin yang kami tekankan, yaitu untuk melatih kreativitas terutama dalam menulis, memaknai dan menilai buku yang sudah dibaca, dan terakhir untuk merekam buku apa saja yang sudah kita baca. Kalau soal ini, teman-teman narablog pasti juga sudah tahu :). Selanjutnya, saya menjelaskan bagian apa saja yang diulas dalam sebuah resensi (kami bedakan untuk resensi buku fiksi dan nonfiksi), struktur sebuah resensi, media tempat menulis resensi (media massa dan pribadi), saran-saran dalam menulis resensi, dan apa saja yang harus dihindari ketika kita menulis resensi. Setelah saya selesai, BZee memberikan sedikit tambahan dan contoh demi menambal penjelasan saya.

Nah, yang menarik dari acara ini adalah kami juga mengadakan praktik langsung menulis resensi buku di tempat. BZee menyediakan kertas dan pulpen bagi anak-anak yang ikut serta, dan mereka pun kami ajak untuk menuliskan resensi dari buku yang mereka bawa atau yang sudah selesai mereka baca di rumah. Waktu yang kami berikan kira-kira setengah jam saja (karena acaranya sudah molor sekali :p), tetapi kami juga tidak menuntut mereka untuk menulis resensi yang utuh dan bagus. Selain karena keterbatasan waktu, anak-anak yang ikut bisa dibilang masih sangat awam dalam menulis resensi, jadi tidak adil rasanya kalau kami menuntut hasil yang baik dan sempurna. Di tengah-tengah menulis itu, banyak dari mereka yang maju ke depan dan bertanya, “Gimana ini, Mbak?”, atau “Ini bener ga, Mbak?”. Ada juga adik salah seorang peserta yang entah kenapa, mungkin karena saking aktifnya, dia suka maju ke depan cuma buat ngegodain saya sama BZee, hahaha. Yah, anggap saja itu hiburan selingan, ya :D. 

Nah, kembali ke praktik menulis resensi. Setelah kami melihat dan menilai satu demi satu hasil tulisan peserta, saya bisa menyimpulkan satu hal: ternyata rata-rata dari mereka masih belum bisa sepenuhnya membedakan antara sinopsis alias ringkasan cerita dengan resensi yang titik beratnya adalah pembahasan dan penilaian terhadap buku yang dibaca. Ada beberapa anak yang sudah bisa menuliskan kekurangan dan kelebihan dari buku yang mereka baca, tapi hanya sebatas pada menuliskan apa yang bagus dan apa yang tidak bagus saja, tanpa memberikan penjabaran lebih detail mengenai mengapa mereka menganggap hal itu bagus atau tidak bagus. Intinya, mereka masih belum bisa memaknai dan menilai sebuah buku. Yah, semoga saja kelak, seiring dengan berjalannya waktu dan bertambahnya usia mereka, mereka bisa lebih pintar memaknai dan menilai buku-buku yang mereka baca, dan bisa menulis resensi dengan lebih baik lagi.

Di akhir acara BZee memberikan hadiah bagi tiga anak dengan resensi terbaik (versi awam, tentunya :D), sedangkan saya memberikan “wejangan” agar mereka tetap berlatih menulis resensi supaya bisa semakin mahir ke depannya. Bagi yang belum dapat hadiah, tidak berarti karya mereka buruk. Mereka hanya kurang dalam satu dua hal dan mesti terus berlatih untuk menambal kekurangan mereka. 

Sebagai tambahan, saya ingin mengungkapkan rasa bahagia saya hari Minggu lalu di sini. Karena saya sangat cinta dunia tulis-menulis sejak kecil, saya senang sekali waktu BZee bertanya kepada anak-anak yang ikut serta kenapa mereka mau mengikuti acara kami dan kemudian beberapa dari mereka menjawab, “Karena suka nulis.” Saya jadi terharu. Dan salah satu pemenang hadiah dari kami, yang tulisannya saya nilai, sangat menarik perhatian saya karena untuk ukuran anak SD yang masih kecil sekali, hasil tulisannya sangat luar biasa. Memang, resensi karyanya belum utuh dan belum sempurna, tapi tulisannya sangat mulus dan lancar, seolah-olah dia sudah sangat terbiasa menulis. Belakangan kami berdua baru tahu kalau ternyata dulu dia pernah menang lomba menulis sinopsis di tempat yang sama.

Nah, anak-anak seperti ini tentunya memerlukan bimbingan lebih dari guru dan orangtua mereka masing-masing agar kelak hasrat dan kemampuan menulis mereka semakin tajam dan berkembang. Saya berharap mereka tidak berhenti sampai di sini, saya berharap mereka akan terus banyak membaca dan aktif menulis karena saya yakin dengan begitu insyaallah mereka akan punya masa depan yang cerah, terutama di dunia literasi.

Saya ucapkan terima kasih kepada BZee yang sudah mengajak saya mengadakan workshop menulis resensi ini. Walaupun hanya acara “kecil-kecilan”, tapi menurut saya acara ini penting sekali dan saya merasa terhormat bisa ikut ambil bagian dan “berbagi ilmu”. Saya juga ucapkan terima kasih kepada Perpustakaan Ganesa yang sudah menyediakan tempat dan perlengkapan untuk presentasi bagi kami berdua sehingga workshop dapat berjalan dengan lancar :). 

The Old Man and The Sea

old-man-and-sea-2There are only a small boat, an old man, a wide, seemingly endless sea and nothing else. Ernest Hemingway could have created a boring piece unworthy of reading time we try so hard to spare, but The Old Man and The Sea is worth so much more than that. With Hemingway’s deftness in narrative building and the character’s thought-provoking, sometimes funny monolgue, the 1952 classic proves to be a work bigger than its size (at least, the size of my copy). It’s simple but deep and complicated in what it wants to deliver, it has only two human characters but their presence says more than their number, and its conclusion is all but you need to face the fact that life is not what you think it is.

The Old Man and The Sea tells the story of an old fisherman named Santiago who has been through eighty four days without catching a single fish that he is dubbed salao, the worst form of unlucky. But he is far from being disheartened, instead, the bad days only spur him on to go and set sail again on the eighty-fifth day, with what fishing gear he has and no one keeping him company. The boat trip seems to go on as usual and he does what he normally did. He does wish to catch a big fish, that’s what his aim, but he never thought that he would manage to bait a very huge marlin. He is certainly not prepared for it, and he tries with all his might to handle the shocking catch while navigating the wild blue sea at the same time. It’s obviously not an easy task to beat such a large animal and bring it home, especially when it seems to stay stubbornly strong despite the hook stuck inside its mouth and drags the old man along with his boat over la mar. With his only self and his equipment, Santiago has to face the challenges that lie before him before everything he has started ends well as it should. But, will it?

“But, he thought, I keep them with precision. Only I have no luck any more. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”

The Old Man and The Sea is about struggle and hard work, about dreams and hopes that never cease to flare, about dogged perseverance in trying to achieve our aims. But it is not, unfortunately, about getting them easily. But that’s what Ernest Hemingway wants the reader to see. When Santiago is already halfway toward the end of his taxing journey, fate is suddenly playing tricks on him and he has to wrack his brain, take on patience, and keep calm and sane. Reaching dreams is not a piece of cake, there will be challenges, obstacles, and twisted roads our eyes fail to see laying before us. Determination and patience are not the only qualities, we have also to be smart and emotionally intelligent, and Santiago has shown us he has those. He also shows that, when everything goes wrong and doesn’t end the way he wants it, he still has the humility to accept it.

As a whole, The Old Man and The Sea is merely a simple kind of prose, with conventional, novelistic structure and a lonely man talking to himself almost throughout the plot. But the story is dense and focused and Santiago is a marvelously strong character. Hemingway doesn’t waste his time describing too much; he makes the introduction fast and precise, inviting the reader to the boat trip immediately afterward and follow the character fighting his fight and keeping his chance even if it’s only small and dim. The description of events at sea and the continous monologue cleverly suck the reader into the prevailing situation and make them see, crystal clear, what it’s like to struggle almost to the dying point and end up with merely half success. They result in us vaguely feeling troubled and hurt, unable to accept what reality serves us and yet resigned to acknowledge the truth. The entire story, however, doesn’t leave us hopeless, because Hemingway seems to point out, somewhere in the heart-warming conclusion, that there will always be hopes no matter what.

Though sad, this masterpiece of Ernest Hemingway is really encouraging instead of the opposite. It gives us hopes and reassurance that our belief and hard work will never waste in vain. It might not be a grand creation of a narrative, but it has a punching effect on the reader. More than that, I think it will stay long-lasting as well, as it has always been.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Black Book

black-bookWe might be one of those people in this century whose favorite slogan is “Be Yourself” and who never hesitate to go to any lengths to prove that we are not afraid to show our “true” self. But how true is that self? Or, to be precise, the question should be, “Is it truly ourselves? Or is it someone else we imitate?” The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk may talk about the intense tension between the right and left wings preceding the military coup that took place in the mid 1980’s Turkey, but for the most part it daringly expresses Pamuk’s criticism, as always, of his country’s sense of self. Over the course of the 400-or-so-pages mystery novel, Pamuk doesn’t seem to be able to stop himself from describing how Turkish people, in the modern era, start to leave their “true self” behind and imitate some “other people”. And that, I think, is still relevant to this day, and to anybody on this planet.

Our protagonist here is a lawyer named Galip who lives with his wife and cousin Rüya in an apartment in Nişantaşı, Istanbul. One day he finds her gone, bringing only a few of her belongings and leaving a short letter saying that she will be back soon. But she never comes back, not a day after that, not even two or three days later. Galip starts to have a worrying suspicion that she’s running off to her ex-husband, a left-wing activist she met in her younger days. But then he doubts himself if it all is true and turns to think that perhaps his wife is hiding somewhere with Celâl, her half-brother and Galip’s much older cousin, for apparently Celâl is also missing. Unable to sit still, Galip sets out to go and find them, searching the entire city, following traces and clues, trying to decipher signs and letters while at the same time pointing out how the people of his city, of his nation, have changed their ways and gestures. Between Galip’s slow and meticulous investigation, Celâl’s pieces of writing will appear and tell readers (both of his columns and of the book itself) the way of his thinking and thus adding to all the clues and signs already mounted up to the highest peak. So instead of shedding some light on the case, they only succeed in getting the reader into a trap and making them all the more confused about the nature of mystery.

It is throughout this draining search for meaning of signs that Pamuk keeps hammering into us the importance of asking ourselves, “To be, or not to be, oneself?” The question haunts us every time we turn a page down from the first chapter up to the last. Like the one entitled Bedii Usta’s Children, for instance, where Pamuk, through the writing of Celâl, talks about a mannequin maker who insists on making mannequins in original Turkish poses and refuses to imitate European mannequins. It is less about mannequin making than it is about struggling to be oneself and be happy with it. In a chapter called The Eye, Celâl creates an imaginary eye and pretends that this eye is following and watching him being someone else, because he longs to do so, to be so. In I Must be Myself, a barber comes to the newspaper office and asks him a bothering question, “Is there a way a man can be only himself?”

And this mysterious question doesn’t stop within the personal range, it widens into the range of nationality and nationalism. At some point, a certain character will say, “To live in an oppressed, defeated country is to be someone else.” By this line, Pamuk appears to intend to make a mockery of the state of his country: defeated at the World War I, scrabbled around for a “new country”, a “new self” under the rule of secularism and Westernization just so they can restore their pride and dignity as a nation but without, as it is clearly seen, caring if they have to pay it with their true identity. To make this shame even worse, in a chapter Pamuk writes that “…it was because they had failed to find a way to be themselves that whole peoples had dragged in slavery, whole races into degeneracy, and entire nations into nothingness, nothingness.” It’s as if he wants to give some kind of warning that once a people loses their identity, they will be buried under other civilizations of the world and cease to exist at all.

With The Black Book, Pamuk seems to want to make fun of popular Western detective novels which, to him, serve no purpose but to please only the authors and have an already definite ending without truly complicated clues. This may sound so cocky but I have to say that The Black Book is indeed a mystery novel not like any other. The structure is very different from those usually in the genre. By means of Pamuk’s signature narrative style—a long, winding one—the mystery the story proposes appears to multiply uncontrollably, overlap each other, and then overflow that the deeper we get into it, the more we’re lost in it. The pursuit of clues and the large number of signs scattered along the storyline do not even result in useful information nor lead to the looked-for answer, instead, they give us a glimpse of something that might, or might not, be the motivation of the crime. Even as the book is drawing to a close, the mystery isn’t still revealed and the answer is not fully satisfying, thus producing a much unsettling conclusion.

I cannot say that The Black Book is the best work of Orhan Pamuk, nor can I declare it to be the best one I’ve ever read. During my reading, I felt stuck at times, didn’t know where one point of the plot would take me to, or if it would take me to anywhere at all. But I have to say it’s very interesting, captivating at some point, and, with its rather cliffhanger, very curious to me. And, the best point of this book is I can relate to it, as Pamuk’s works have always made me feel.

Rating: 4/5

Indonesian Local Culture in Literature: Past and Present

Not so long ago I had a chance to read two Indonesian books, one is a classic and one is contemporary, which are heavily laden with cultural values and traditions: Sitti Nurbaya by Marah Rusli, and Puya ke Puya by one of our young potential writers, Faisal Oddang. Interestingly, though written by authors of different generations and talking about different cultures, the two books bring up the same restlessness. And, to me, that’s quite something.

Sitti Nurbaya (1920) is an Indonesian classic known to and hailed as a masterpiece by everyone in the country, even by those who never actually read the book. Every time there’s a young girl being married off to a man she never desires, we, Indonesians, will immediately, and stupidly, say that the girl suffers the same fate as Sitti Nurbaya. But most people get the story wrong, for it’s not about a girl being married off to some old, notoriously rich man her father picks for her. Set in Padang, West Sumatra (the land of Minangkabau people) the novel unfurls the story of a very young girl named Sitti Nurbaya who suffers a tragic fate in which she has to lose not only her love (by her own choice), but also everything she has. She is the daughter of a very rich merchant, befriending, and later falling in love with, Samsulbahri, a young man of noble birth. They could have been married, if not for her father’s sudden bankruptcy after the conflagration that destroys his shops and the evil scheme his competitor plays against him. The situation forces Nurbaya to forget about her dream and give up her happiness for her father instead. In order to help him pay his debts, she ends her relationship with Samsulbahri (without his knowing it) and marries Datuk Meringgih, who is also a bloody rich merchant in their city. She’s not happy, of course, and before she can see it coming, a fate worse than death befalls her and takes her life.

Unlike the classic, which is a tragic story by nature, the contemporary Puya ke Puya is lighter in its tone, though the story itself is all about the pursuit of heaven in the afterlife. The Tempo’s Best Book 2015 relates generally about what the people of Toraja (it derives from the words to riaja, which means “the people from above”) in South Sulawesi have to do for a family member who has just passed away to be able to find their way to heaven. Rante Ralla, a known noble man of his ethnic group, dies a sudden death while drinking ballo, some kind of alchoholic drink from Toraja. Rante’s son, Allu Ralla, refuses to hold rambu solo, a huge and costly funeral for the deceased, for he has no money and his father hardly leaves him a penny. His uncle urges him to sell their family’s land to the mining company that has been sucking their village dry for years so he can have the money to hold a proper ceremony instead of just burying his father in a low-cost, Christian way. It’s not only about money, though, for Allu doesn’t see any point in performing an “old custom” which is not relevant anymore. Thus, he insists on going on “the modern way”.

If we compare the two novels, even if only at a glance, we will see some differences in what they each tell of. While Sitti Nurbaya is a tragic love story, Puya ke Puya is a tragicomedy about death and family affair. More than that, both represent two different cultures in Indonesia, that of West Sumatra, and of South Sulawesi. The focus is different as well. Somewhat unrelated to the main plot, at some point in the narrative Marah Rusli describes how the society of Padang live under the matriarchal system: when two people get married, it is the family of the bride-to-be who provide the dowry and not the man; in a family, it’s not the father who is responsible for his children, but the brothers of the mother; and usually, the inheritance is passed down from mothers to daughters. Funnily enough, though, this rare system doesn’t seem to stop the nature of the society itself from being chauvinistic. I remember Sitti Nurbaya talks about how a woman should get more education, empowering herself instead of just bearing and rearing children, and how women should not marry too young. I assume, looking at the way she says all this, that the people of West Sumatra, whatever their social system is, is still patriarchal by nature and culture.

Puya ke Puya focuses on another matter. It’s not about how people marry, it’s about how people die. Throughout the multi-points-of-view narrative, Faisal Oddang puts his best effort into describing how the people of Toraja try to keep their traditions no matter what and hold a proper rambu solo for dead people, especially the high-ranking ones, so they can go to and arrive in heaven safely. For this journey, the deceased will need at least a hundred buffalos and pigs as their vehicles and supplies, hence the need for their family to hold said ceremony and butcher all those animals for them. It needs a lot of money, a whole lot of money. The problem is, not every time do the family have that much to carry out the expensive tradition but if they fail to do their “duty”, the spirit of the deceased will surely be lost between the heaven and earth.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, despite the differences, Sitti Nurbaya and Puya ke Puya imply the same restlessness. And the nagging question is, do old values and traditions need to change? In Sitti Nurbaya, the protagonist herself and her father and uncle rue the culture they hold and look up to the Dutch people (who occupied Indonesia in the past) for their progressive way of thinking. Baginda Sulaiman, Nurbaya’s father, insists that the local society of Padang should leave their old ways and do better, while her uncle Ahmad Maulana thinks that they should follow the Western path where it leads to the good example and leave it when it’s bad. He also believes that they should dump everything useless about their customs and keep still the good ones. But all these lamentations are a bit subtle and gentle. Oddang is louder and more progressive in delivering his ideas. He wants change, not just suggests it. Through the voice of Allu Ralla, his main character, he doesn’t hesitate to say that he hates the old ways, that the traditions the people of Toraja hold dear are so burdensome and pointless they have to be left behind.

This is very interesting: both classic and contemporary writers despise the old ways, demanding an immediate and progressive change in the local traditions their societies have been holding for generations. Well, I don’t believe the traditions are still there and whole now, but I don’t think the people of West Sumatra and South Sulawesi have left them altogether, either. Even here in Java island, in the small town I live in, people still hold on to their culture. Though, as part of today’s generation, I don’t understand half of it and hate the rest.

So, what do you think? Do the old values and traditions need to change? Or should they stay the same for the sake of identity? Because, what would people be without cultural identity? But, what if all that stuff is not relevant to the fast-moving world anymore?

A Glimpse of the Past Year, and Some Reading Plans

Welcome, welcome, 2017! It’s already been 8 days into the new year and it might be a little too late for me to post a recap on my reading and blogging activities of the year 2016. But since this blog has been creepily quiet (quiet?) for some time, I can absolutely not leave it empty still and do nothing to cheer it up a bit for the año nuevo. So now I’ll be doing some recap, and tell you what I have in mind (sort of) for my next reading plans.

Reading and Blogging Recap

2016 was the year of J-Lit and local books for me. I’d set myself to read Japanese literary works for the 2016 Japanese Literature Reading Challenge and managed to accomplish 8 books at the end of the year… by the month of August, I mean. That’s less than what I had expected when I started the reading for said challenge. So many things got in the way: boredom, my rekindled spirit for learning Spanish, a sense of obligation to read The Black Book—one of my must-read books of 2016!—and the failure to finish it before the year ended, Agatha Christie (yes, she and her unputdownable Poirot mysteries!)… Oh, well, whatever my excuses were, I failed. That’s the point. But still, 8 is more or less 27% of the overall 29 books I read last year (it’s actually 31, but I count Murakami’s 1Q84 trilogy as one). As for the local books, I reached the highest peak so far last year, which was 13 books. And that’s 44% of the entirety. It was really something. If you’re someone who scarcely read any works of your own country’s literature and suddenly you can finish 13 books in a year then that’s quite a deal. Trust me.

So, what about the other 8? Well, I read 1 Chinese literary work (I planned to read some Jin Yong but didn’t manage, or wasn’t encouraged enough, to accomplish the mission), 3 English books (all Agatha Christie’s), 3 American fiction books (Anthony Doerr’s The Shell Collector was the best, such a shame I didn’t make a review of it), and 1 book of contemporary German literature.

wp-1483846758581.jpegNext question: among those 29 books I devoured in my little quiet room, which ones made into my top list? Okay, just because I read 13 Indonesian books that didn’t mean I loved all of them, or at least most of them. No. Only two could make me gape in awe: Hujan Bulan Juni (always! Mr. Damono! Never disappoint me!) and Sepotong Senja untuk Pacarku. I loved M. Aan Mansyur’s poetry books (Melihat Api Bekerja and Tidak Ada New York Hari Ini), but the thing is… I’m not really into poetry (what an excuse! ;p). I wanted to love Puya ke Puya by Faisal Oddang and Eka Kurniawan’s Lelaki Harimau (Man Tiger) because the hype was so high and people were talking about them but no, they didn’t really work for me. Sitti Nurbaya was great, but the narrative wasn’t so very captivating. As for the others… let’s just not talk about them.
The third book which got into my favorite list last year was Christie’s Murder on the Links. It blew my mind that I couldn’t sleep, literally. I’m a sleepyhead and I always go to bed before 10 pm, 9 pm even. But this book had really dragged me way into midnight because I WANTED TO KNOW WHO THE CULPRIT WAS! No wonder people call the Dame a genius. For the fourth and the fifth ones, I must point two classic Japanese works: Rashomon and Botchan.  If you’ve been following me through my rambling on this blog from the very first start then you’ll understand. I like it when an author slap me in the face with the bitter reality of life so I can learn something, and Akutagawa Ryunosuke and Natsume Sōseki could really do that with their respective masterpieces. They’re just incredible.

Phew! That’s the reading. What about my blogging activities? Well, I have to say that I sort of lost my spirit toward the end of the year. Five books went unreviewed: Mysterious Affair at Styles, Tidak Ada New York Hari Ini, Smokol, Dan Sepi pun Menari di Tepi Hari, and The Shell Collector. I read them when I was in the throes of reading frenzy but unfortunately lacked the will to write any reviews. Some of you might wonder why there aren’t any reviews of Puya ke Puya and Sitti Nurbaya then if it’s only those 5 books that went unreviewed. Don’t worry, I’ve planned to make a special write-up on those two in the very, very near future. Just wait.

Oh, that’s not all. There’s something worse: I didn’t do the plan I’d made earlier last year to join the collective BBI blog posts on as many monthly themes as I could manage. I ended up posting articles for the themes of March, May, June, and July only. Four months! Only four out of seven possible monthly themes I could have joined. Blame it on my laziness. The bad news is, this year BBI hold a very, very interesting challenge, Read and Review Challenge 2017, but I don’t know if I’ll be joining it at all.

2017 Reading Plans

I would have asked her what her plans were, and she would have gracefully brushed back her hair and said, “Plans?”—as if that was a word I had invented.

—taken from The Moons of Jupiter

If someone asks me what my plans are for this year’s reading activities I will probably say the same as what Nichola does in Alice Munro’s short story quoted above. But I have some things in mind already. I do. I really do. The thing is, I don’t know if I can, or will, truly pursue them.

1. The first and foremost, I will, no, I have to, finish The Black Book. This is the first time ever, ever, that I’m reading Orhan Pamuk’s work without so much interest and enthusiasm. I have started the book in September (that’s four months ago!) and am still now stuck on page 320 (of 466 pages). I will not blame it on some other books I read in between, because honestly, the narrative is so exhaustingly long and tiring. It’s been Pamuk’s signature style actually and I’ve been used to it, and the premise is interesting, too. So there shouldn’t be any reasons for the delay. But… well, I don’t know. Time. Perhaps that’s what I need. And some remembrance of my love for the writer and the country he is living in.

2. Second, I will (have to) read and finish the free books I acquired last year: Eka Kurniawan’s Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea, and Mimpi Bayang Jingga by Sanie B. Kuncoro. Free books are not easy to get (that’s a fact, I tell you), and I think it’s time to be responsible for my penchant for free stuff and eat them all.

3. Last year was the year of J-Lit, so I want this year to be a Spanish one. No. I will not spend the whole time reading Spanish/Latin literature only, but I want to know more about it, to get to know deeper about it. I have a stack of Marías, Allende, Gabo, Vargas Llosa, and some other books by various Spanish/Latin writers and I want to devour them one by one. You may guess that it comes as a result of my recent learning Spanish—that’s partly true. You cannot go learning the language without learning the literature. Moreover, it’s about time that I widen my reading horizon, don’t you think?

4. Some say, “When you get what you want, will you be happier?” Yes, that question might as well apply to me. Last year I was lucky enough to get almost all of my wish-list books, but then I just left them and went reading the other books. Why? I have no idea. But this year I’ve promised myself to start reading them. Not all of them, of course. But I’ll try to read some and make reviews of them. Wish me luck 🙂

Ah, well. Those are my plans, if you ask me. A year consists of 365 days but time often flies without our realizing it, and suddenly… puff! The year ends and we get nowhere, we read nothing. I hope it won’t happen (again) and I hope I will have a stronger will to make reviews so I will be able to write better in English and liven up this dull blog.

Bye for now. ¡Feliz 2017 para todos! Happy reading and blogging!

The Girl on The Train

Setelah gemparnya novel Gone Girl karya Gillian Flynn, sebuah novel thriller psikologis yang plotnya digerakkan oleh tokoh utama wanita berkarakter “ganda” dan tidak bisa dipercaya sudut pandangnya, para pecinta novel, khususnya novel berjenis sama, seolah mendapat suntikan candu dengan hadirnya The Girl on The Train karya Paula Hawkins. Bahkan, novel ini sering disebut-sebut sebagai “the next Gone Girl”. Julukan tersebut bisa dianggap berlebihan, tetapi agaknya tidak juga jika melihat alur The Girl on The Train yang juga dibangun dari sudut pandang tokoh wanitanya yang tidak bisa diandalkan. Namun tentu saja, buku ini memiliki gaya penulisan dan cara bercerita yang berbeda, juga kejutan yang mampu membuat pembaca menaikkan alis dan membelalakkan mata.
Rachel Watson mengalami depresi berat setelah bercerai dari suaminya, Tom Watson. Ketidakmampuannya memiliki anak dan kesedihannya yang berlarut-larut karena masalah tersebut menjadikannya seorang pecandu alkohol, yang kemudian membawa pernikahannya pada kehancuran. Ia bahkan dipecat dari pekerjaannya karena mabuk berat dan bersikap tidak sopan saat menemui klien perusahaannya bekerja. Meski begitu Rachel masih menjalani “rutinitas sehari-harinya” seperti biasa: berangkat “kerja” dengan kereta pukul 08:04 pagi dan pulang naik kereta pukul 17:56 sore. Di tengah-tengah perjalanannya itulah ia selalu melewati deretan rumah di jalan Bleinheim, area tempat tinggalnya dulu semasa masih bersama Tom. Bukan hanya bekas rumahnya yang selalu ia lihat setiap hari, tetapi juga rumah yang tak jauh dari sana, rumah nomor 15 yang dihuni oleh sepasang suami-istri yang tidak dikenalnya, yang dalam khayalannya ia beri nama Jason dan Jess. Suatu saat, dari dalam kereta, Rachel melihat “Jess” berciuman dengan lelaki lain, dan ia pun berasumsi bahwa wanita itu telah berselingkuh dari suaminya. Anehnya, besok malamnya wanita itu, yang kemudian diketahui bernama Megan, menghilang. Rachel langsung menyimpulkan bahwa Megan kabur bersama sang kekasih gelap. Ia berusaha memberikan informasi tersebut kepada polisi, tetapi polisi tidak menanggapinya dengan serius karena ia dianggap sebagai “saksi yang tidak bisa diandalkan” mengingat kondisinya yang selalu mabuk. Dan toh ia sering tidak ingat kejadian-kejadian atau apa yang pernah dialaminya akibat kehilangan kesadaran total ketika sedang mabuk. Sialnya, sebenarnya Rachel sedang berada di daerah tempat tinggalnya dulu saat Megan menghilang di jalan tersebut. Namun ia tidak ingat apa-apa yang dapat memberinya petunjuk ke mana wanita itu pergi… dan dengan siapa.

The Girl on The Train ditulis dari sudut pandang tiga tokoh wanita yang berbeda: Rachel yang depresi dan pemabuk, Megan yang liar dan gelisah, serta Anna yang perebut suami orang dan suka berprasangka buruk. Bisa dibilang ketiganya bukanlah karakter yang “baik”, bukan karakter yang likable. Tetapi justru di sinilah, pada karakterisasi inilah, pesan-pesan novel karangan Paula Hawkins ini terletak. Di luar kisah misteri yang disajikan, sang penulis, melalui tokoh-tokoh wanita tersebut dan apa yang mereka alami, menunjukkan betapa wanita harus hidup tertekan di bawah stereotip/beban yang diberikan oleh masyarakat. Jika seorang wanita tidak bisa memiliki anak, maka pasti dialah yang disalahkan. Belum lagi wanita pada umumnya selalu merasa tidak sempurna bila belum/tidak memiliki anak. Hal ini tecermin dalam penuturan Rachel pada salah satu bab, “perempuan masih benar-benar dihargai untuk dua hal saja—tampang mereka dan peran mereka sebagai ibu. Aku tidak cantik dan aku tidak bisa punya anak, jadi apa yang tersisa untukku? Aku tidak berguna.” Pembaca / orang pada umumnya pasti juga akan memandang buruk pada Megan yang liar dan tidak bisa diam di rumah menjadi “istri yang baik”, sementara yang diinginkannya adalah kebebasan, cinta yang tulus dan tidak mencekik, serta kedamaian setelah yang dialaminya di masa lalu. Dan di antara ketiganya, Anna pastilah tokoh yang dianggap paling buruk karena telah merebut suami orang lain. Tidak bisa dibenarkan memang, kecuali jika pembaca mau menyalahkannya pada nafsu dan sang suami yang tidak setia.

The Girl on The Train merupakan karya yang menarik, selain karena dituturkan dari sudut pandang tokoh yang tidak berkarakter baik dan tidak bisa dipercaya serta isu-isu gender yang diselipkan di dalamnya, novel ini sendiri mengusung ide cerita yang cemerlang: benarkah seseorang/sesuatu itu memang seperti yang kita kenal/ketahui? Ataukah sebenarnya selama ini kita hanya mengira-ngira saja? Ide ini, layaknya ide cerita-cerita misteri lainnya, dikembangkan menjadi plot padat yang penuh dugaan dan kecurigaan. Mau tak mau, semakin narasi berjalan maju pembaca menjadi semakin sulit menetapkan siapa yang bersalah dan apa yang telah terjadi. Sayangnya, alur berjalan lambat sehingga ketegangan yang diciptakan penulis terasa seperti kurang greget. Namun itu tidak masalah, karena toh narasi yang dibangun dengan rapi oleh Hawkins tetap membuat pembaca tidak sabar untuk menyelesaikan buku ini dan mengetahui jawaban dari semua pertanyaan. Lagi pula, ada kejutan di akhir cerita. Kejutan yang masuk akal, tapi tetap tak terduga.

The Girl on The Train memang layak dibaca oleh semua pecinta novel misteri, khususnya novel thriller psikologis. Hampir semua unsur di dalamnya, plot, karakter, pesan-pesan dan akhir ceritanya menunjukkan kualitas yang mumpuni dari penulisnya.

RatingL 3.5/5

[Wrap Up Post] 2016 Japanese Literature Reading Challenge

Di awal-awal mengikuti Japanese Literature Reading Challenge awal tahun ini, saya sangat bersemangat. Saya sudah tahu harus membaca apa karena saya punya “timbunan” buku-buku fiksi/sastra Jepang di rumah yang belum dibaca. Selain itu, di perpustakaan yang sering saya kunjungi juga banyak terdapat buku-buku sastra Jepang. Terutama, yang membuat saya bersemangat luar biasa adalah hadiah voucher buku yang dijanjikan si penyelenggara.

Sebagai #rakyatmiskin, tentu saja saya langsung ngeces melihat nominal hadiahnya. Tetapi, apa mau dikata, seiring berjalannya tahun 2016, semangat saya luntur sedikit demi sedikit. Mungkin karena saya tiba-tiba suka baca Agatha Christie, mungkin karena saya jadi lebih sibuk belajar bahasa Spanyol, atau mungkin karena saya merasa harus segera membaca dan menyelesaikan novel The Black Book-nya Orhan Pamuk (yang sampai sekarang belum selesai juga). Atau, bisa jadi, karena saya sudah agak-agak eneg saking seringnya saya membaca novel-novel Jepang. Intinya, merasa butuh istirahat sejenak dari karya sastra Jepang. Jadi, jika awalnya saya sangat getol mengejar poin dengan berharap bisa membaca buku-buku karya sastra Jepang sebanyak mungkin, akhirnya justru hanya membaca dan meresensi beberapa buku saja. Ini dia daftarnya:
1. The Housekeeper and the Professor – Yoko Ogawa

2. Rashomon: A Story Collection – Akutagawa Ryunosuke

3. Beauty and Sadness – Yasunari Kawabata

4. Ground Zero, Nagasaki: Stories – Seirai Yūichi

5. Revenge – Yōko Ogawa

6. 1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

7. All She Was Worth – Miyuki Miyabe

8. Botchan – Natsume Sōseki

Nah, itu dia buku-buku sastra Jepang yang “berhasil” saya lahap dan resensi tahun ini (tautan akan membawa kalian ke resensi saya). Yah, walaupun total hanya delapan buku (dan poinnya entah berapa, terserah si penyelenggara yang menghitung, hehehe), saya tetap berharap saya bisa menang tantangan ini. Jadi pemenang kedua juga nggak apa-apa, yang penting dapat voucher buku. Ya biar bisa beli buku baru lah, hehehe. Soalnya kalau nggak dapat gratisan, saya nggak bakalan bisa beli buku baru. Maklum, lagi kere.
Eits, walaupun tahun ini saya membaca karya sastra Jepang hanya demi mengikuti tantangan dan dapat hadiah, tidak berarti saya tidak mau lagi membaca karya sastra Jepang ke depannya. Tantangan tahun ini justru menjadi pembuka mata bagi saya karena ternyata, selain Haruki Murakami yang suka ajaib nulis bukunya, dan Yasunari Kawabata yang setelah saya baca dua bukunya pun tetap saja menurut saya tulisan beliau tidak ada istimewanya, ada banyak karya sastra Jepang lain yang bagus dan menarik. Jadi sangat ingin mencari dan membaca lebih jauh.

Bagaimana dengan kalian? Seberapa banyak buku karya sastra Jepang yang kalian baca tahun ini?