Recent Reviews for ER Escober
The Givenchy Code: An Homage and A Parody (Book) - 4/19/2005 3:39:58 PM|
Review in Philippine News by Allen Gaborro:
The Givenchy Code: An Homage and A Parody
WHEN Dan Brown’s labyrinthian thriller “The Da Vinci Code” burst onto the literary scene in 2003, it was to be expected that someone with a great deal of imaginative flair and literary moxy would do a spoof of it in some shape or form.
Who could have foreseen that such a person would be a former advertising agency copywriter from the Philippines named E.R. Escober? What Escober has done is virtually superimpose the content and outline of “The Da Vinci Code” with his second attempt at novelcraft, “The Givenchy Code: An Homage and A Parody.”
It is a mark of literary success when the net of humor and satire is cast over an original work by a creative interloper, thereby altering that work into what promises to be a palimpsest of memorable parody.
As Escober writes, “Parody is most effective when the source being mocked is of highest quality and broadest appeal.” By that description then, “The Givenchy Code” (Escober clarifies that “Givenchy” is pronounced “Gah-ven-chee” and not “Zhjee-vahn-shee”) is the author’s equally invigorating and cryptological paean to Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code.”
As an innovative Filipino American writer, Escober takes on the role of the humorist of Brown’s intricate text. In that spirit, he does not try very hard to hide the almost literal similiarities of his narrative to those of the “Da Vinci Code.” On the contrary, Escober closely simulates the structure and atmosphere of Brown’s book, while steering clear of the sensitive borders of plagiarism. But in a world so appreciative of parody, inventive imitation can be considered sacred.
In “The Givenchy Code” you have the hair-raising spectres of cold-blooded murder, conspiratorial machinations, perilous escapades, and intractable mystery afoot with the threat of danger and of the unknown lurking around every corner. Readers of the “Da Vinci Code” will recollect this suspense-filled ambiance filtering through the nooks and crannies of Escober’s tale.
Cynics may scoff at the accepted prescriptions for parody writing and accuse Escober of shamelessly mimicking someone else’s bestselling showpiece.
Unfortunately, this unfair indictment is plainly out there for the worst skeptics to tap into because of, more than anything else, the plot and characters of “The Givenchy Code.”
The resemblances in the actors and in the compositions of the plots between Escober and Brown are striking to the point where you would swear you were reading “The Da Vinci Code” all over again.
The two leading characters in “The Givenchy Code”, Jesuit Father Theodore Grayhill and Puca Givenchy, have their approximate counterparts in Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu in the “Da Vinci Code.”
Escober’s Albert Givenchy is undoubtedly Dan Brown’s Jacques Saunière; the two figures were killed off early on in their respective stories, the first by a man whose facial features and arms were “covered in white patches,” the second by an albino assassin. Other members of Escober’s repertory do likewise in emulating their “Da Vinci Code” opposites with some necessary modifications to spare, without which they would have risked becoming nearly indistinguishable from each other.
The “Givenchy Code” harbors additional details that are patently sourced from the “Da Vinci Code”: there is the existence of the Le Organisation cabal hovering in the background; then there is Escober revisiting the “Da Vinci Code” scene involving the symbolic posturing of a dying man covertly struggling to relay a message a few moments before his demise, an action intended to set Father Grayhill and Puca Givenchy on the path to solving the looming mystery.
As if all that were not enough of a reminder of Brown’s mystery opus, we still have a reference in the “Givenchy Code” to Leonardo Da Vinci’s celebrated drawing “The Vitruvian Man” – a pivotal image in the breaking of the “Da Vinci Code.”
All the comparable points of facsimile linking both novels lead to a single objective: the unveiling of the Holy Grail’s true meaning. Like Brown, Escober does a good job in building up tension, leaving his audience suitably impatient for the climax of finding out what the Grail is really about.
By the end of “Givenchy Code,” Escober finally divulges a bombshell of a secret concerning the Grail. No shortcuts permitted here however; you will have to read the book to find out what the big surprise is.
Several themes running through “The Givenchy Code”– there is a religious breeze blowing through parts of the novel, but Escober does not have it couched in religion to the extent that Brown goes to in “Da Vinci Code.”
In terms of humor, the author sprinkles enough of it around to keep the reader engaged and feeling lighthearted despite the dark occurrences taking place in the book. Just the same, Escober’s brand of humor is a letdown of sorts; it is more playful than amusing, more likely to draw smiles than laughter.
A familiar conflict is recycled in “The Givenchy Code,” pitting the seekers of esoteric knowledge against the guardians of esoteric knowledge. The seekers manage to win the battle of course. The losers might be those who will be unconvinced that Escober’s book is not simply a barely-concealed rerun of the “Da Vinci Code.”
If nothing else, his lampooning of the fashion industry in the novel, a theme that is light years away from anything in the “Da Vinci Code,” should satisfy these critics as they decide whether or not “The Givenchy Code” can stand on its own as an autonomous piece in the shadow of Brown’s production.
E.R. Escober is a developing artist in constant motion and whose stock is rising. With the energy of youth and imagination on his side, the odds are that he will become the FilAm writer we all want him to be.
“The Givenchy Code,” notwithstanding its imperfections, is a step in that direction.
The Givenchy Code: An Homage and A Parody (Book) - 1/19/2005 4:03:17 PM
The murder of a prominent French personality in the fragrance industry jumpstarts this exhilarating code-cracking ride all over Paris and deep into the heart of a religious conspiracy that centers around the real identity of a religious icon. In a spine-tingling blend of electrifying adventure, scholarly intrigue and unforgettable, unpredictable moments, The Givenchy Code gleefully, perversely parodies scenes and pays homage to that brilliantly written ‘other code’ novel, while poking benign fun at the fragrance industry and ultimately conjecturing an out-of-this-world theory that the most venerated relic of them all was indeed not a cup but something far more shockingly extraordinary!
Not My Bowl Of Rice (Book) - 11/25/2003 4:40:43 PM
Review By Angel Gonzales
If you like Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, this book will surely strike a familiar chord in you. It is an homage to Filipino culinary and the colorful, if not melodramatic, life of newly migrant Filipinos.
Being an immigrant myself, this book has affected me so profoundly. The shock and awe of adapting to a new culture almost invariably left me in tears and laughter. The book has the ingredients of scrumptious all-time typical Filipino favorite recipes that are an old-age tradition handed down from generations to generations. Mr. Escober has definitely captured the travails of almost all migrant Filipinos in their struggle to retain their identity while trying to assimilate the new culture of their adaptive land. It pinches a very soft spot in one’s heart while the author deals with an intimacy in portraying the ordeal of the main character, Ligaya, who epitomizes every new immigrant’s fear, excitement and interminable voyage of making it big in the Big Apple and America in general.
The book intellectually portrays different facets and experiences such as finding love, coping with death, sexual harassment, sexual identity, losing hope and finally redeeming one’s self—all these, while preparing delicious Filipino delicacies. This reminds me of one Filipino movie, American Adobo, although the book effectively delivers the right emotion with a punch, unlike the movie that sometimes fizzled.
Not My Bowl Of Rice is the author’s first novel and he obviously made a name already as evidenced by his recent nomination in IPPY 2003 Book Award for Best fiction in the multi-cultural category. The book is written as a tribute to his mother, but it may also be a tribute to every Filipino who comes to America in seeking greener pasture in the proverbial land of milk and honey.
Not My Bowl Of Rice (Book) - 10/10/2003 4:31:05 PM
REVIEWED BY Michelle Barreda
In Not my Bowl of Rice, Escober uses rich Filipino dishes to weave the coming-of-age story of a 13-year old girl named Ligaya, as she emigrates from the Philippines to the United States, equipped only with her mother’s recipes and cultural tales. The book consists of twenty-five chapters, each named after a traditional Filipino dish, which range in difficulty (from Adobong Manok to Embutido), and each ending with its mouth-watering recipes. Each of these chapters is also full of Filipino folklores and cultural beliefs and its role in Ligaya’s every day life. Escober even sneaks in Tagalog phrases here and there, always providing the English translation for the non-Filipino reader. It’s an all-in-one crash course in Filipino culture, complete with humor and straight-to-the-point storytelling.
The character of Ligaya, lives through issues alive in our lives today (Filipino or not): dealing with a mother’s favoritism of your sibling, sexual harassment in the workplace, interracial relationships and losing a family member to AIDS. Through it all, she never loses hope but she gains perspective and finds strength and comfort in the support of her loyal family, and of course, in the various delicious Filipino dishes.
Filipino or not, one can empathize with the story of Ligaya, the story of a newcomer trying to find her place in a completely different land, while coping with life’s twists and turns at the same time.
Not My Bowl Of Rice (Book) - 7/16/2003 9:46:41 AM
ER, congratulations on your first novel! It's such a fine book that when I started reading in the the a.m. Sunday last 6/22, I couldn't put it down; read through and finished up early evening same day! Wow! It was very educational (replete with cultural info). Anyone would surely enjoy reading and learning about this very fascinating culture. I had a blast reaing it because you're able to put as much vaue, traditions, superstitions, thinking of this often misunderstood culture into one , neat book. Hats off to you. Looking forward to reading more of your masterpieces.
Not My Bowl Of Rice (Book) - 4/1/2003 9:03:29 AM
Why Hasn't Kelly Ripa or Oprah Winfrey Found This Book Yet?
This is the best book I've read in the last year. It's the rare type of book that you pick up to thumb through and soon find yourself many laughs and tears later reading the last page. The main character, Ligaya, is a Filipina who travels to America to join her mother and to pursue a new life in the "land of milk and honey". The encounters she has along the way and during her journey through America's landscape of corporations, relations, and life in general are told so engagingly, so hilariously that you can't put the book down even though you should really be putting on the pot roast for dinner. And as an added bonus, there are succulent Filipino recipes at the end of every chapter! Though I was never introduced to Filipino cuisine prior to this book, I was motivated to try a couple and they were true "people-pleasers" in my circle of friends. I can't wait for this author's next book!
Not My Bowl Of Rice (Book) - 2/28/2003 9:05:25 PM
Just to let everybody know, I finished reading the book and it was wonderful! Easy reading and had I not been Filipino, would have appreciated all the new information. It gives one major insight into a fascinating culture we so dearly love. Thanks for writing this book!
Not My Bowl Of Rice (Book) - 1/9/2003 1:47:35 PM
It's Filipino-American Community's very own My Big Fat Greek Wedding!
Finally, a book that us Filipinos in America and all over the world can call our own. It is such a unique book in the sense that it is a combination of a compelling story about a Filipina's life in America and a cookbook as well. Each chapter is titled after a Filipino or international dish and carries its complete recipe. It is written well, easy and fast-paced reading. I couldn't put it down and when I finally finished, I have never been more familiar about my own culture, nuances, habits, etc than after reading this ultimate book about us Filipinos. It's a must-read, especially if you are an immigrant.