The Sea by John Banville: A Book Review

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Enjoying the book with a cup of coffee

The last time that I had the  chance to  catch a glimpse of a sea was when I went back to my birth place last month . I took advantage of my one-week leave of absence of which my boss had approved despite the fact that I still had some students I had to attend to. The sea is located in northern Luzon, part of the Babuyan Channel. It is almost   close to the western part of the North Pacific Ocean because its waves are  terribly huge and fast , (perfect for surfing freaks).  Its vast  stretch of  blackish sand as what a friend of mine described is as powdery as the white sand of Boracay beach, one of the best beaches in the world according to a travel magazine.

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Our early arrival at the beach

The public beach  my families , friends, and I visited was not usually crowded with tourists. So, I enjoyed the place  because we could make the most of it without too much social exposure as if we were the only ones cast away in that deserted island.

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My cousins waiting for the huge  waves to be dashed against.(laughs)

 I liked the sea a whole a lot because I enjoyed playing with the high waves although I did not know how to swim. I basked in the quite scorching sun while listening to the  splash of the waves ebbing  and watching my little cousins playing in the water and in the dirt, trying to build a castle or bury  themselves.  When we left the place – in fact, I did not want yet-  I promised myself that I would return  given the fact that it may not be the prettiest beach I have ever been to. It is not about the landscape beauty but the spirit of my childhood memories I had left there before my family and I decided to move to Manila when I was still very young.

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Cottages made of bamboo woods and straw of dried pawid, special leaves which are used for roofs in our hometown . We were lucky that there were not even a few tourists at that time. 🙂

Reading The Sea novel is like looking back on your  past life in a sense that you don’t want to reminisce about it or you pine for it.  You cannot move on in your life because of the bitter memories you have not been able to get over yet. So you feel like your present life is worthless and empty   because that past is connected to how you are going to face the life ahead of you. Nevertheless, you are driven to lead the life you have chosen because of the nostalgic memories you wish you could experience again. So, reading   it is so emotionally “  stuffed-up” that I  was at loss for how I could  let out a scream ,that all I wanted was to finish it and MOVE ON because THIS IS LIFE!

To  break through into his own masterpiece, John Banville  came up with  a novel containing jumbled themes like  a combination of  the feelings that  took place in different time and space . One is in the past which could be an ambivalence of sweet-bitter memories while the other one is in the present.

The story has three settings: Max’s, the main character,  childhood memories of the Graces—a wealthy middle-class family living in a rented cottage home, the “Cedars”—during the summer holidays; the months leading up to the death of his wife, Anna; and his present stay at the Cedars cottage home in Ballyless—where he has retreated since Anna’s death.(Source: Wiki)

Obviously, John Banville has  proved his exceptional writing skills. He experimented on the rhetorical devices he thought would work. Yes, it had a significant impact upon  me. I was carried by   his literary “tricks”; I was bothered by the characters “neurotic needs”,  but as usual what matters to me   now is what is new to the story, probably one that is as “loose” as  light books.  In fact, I   learned that it became controversial because   it was not even praised a lot upon winning the Booker Prize in 2005. It was even described by Boyd Tonkin as “possibly the most perverse decision in the history of the award”.( Source:Wiki) In the end, others supported Banville’s statement that:

“Whether The Sea is a successful work of art is not for me to say, but a work of art is what I set out to make. The kind of novels that   I write very rarely win the Man Booker Prize, which in general promotes good, middlebrow fiction.”

Yes, Mr. Banville. I agree.You deserved it.

P.S.

John Banville and Kazuo Ishiguro must be  frenemies. In 1989, his novel The Book of Evidence was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize but lost to The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Again, Ishiguro was among the shortlisted in 2005 for his novel Never Let Me Go, but at this time, Banville won for his The Sea.

Now I wonder   whether  Never Let Me Go can be paralleled to the work of art  Banville bragged about.Let me see. 🙂

Rating: 3/5 stars ( I liked it.)

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The Man Who Could Not Kill Enough by Anne E. Schwartz: A Book Review

1919345_10206221091788031_3040929295635042686_nYou are on the balcony, taking some rest   after studying for an exam when you notice out the window that there is a man standing beside the light post in front of the building. You will get terrified when you witness him killing a girl. You will get in a panic more when you see him deeply staring and snickering at you. It occurs to you that the man could be a serial killer just the like of the characters you watch in movies. Then, your hair will stand on end when you notice that he points his finger at the ground floor of the apartment building where you stay in. What do you think the man is doing with his finger?

Actually, this is a psychopath test, quite   popular among my Korean students, to determine if you have what it takes to be like Jeffrey Dahmer. (laughs) Read your answer later.

In the past, to determine if one had the tendency to be a criminal was through the shapes of the skull. Cesare Lombroso, the founder of the Italian School of Positivist Criminology and considered as the father of scientific criminology, argued that criminality was inherited and that the “born criminal” could be identified by physical defects, which confirmed as criminal as“ savage,” or “ atavistic”. According to him, you were cut out to be one if you have the following traits: large jaws, forward projection of jaw, low sloping forehead, high cheekbones, flattened or upturned nose, handle-shaped ears, hawk-like noses or fleshy lips, hard shifty eyes, scanty beard or baldness, insensitivity to pain, and long arms relative to lower limbs. (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Cesare_Lombroso)However,Lombroso’s theory is considered as a pseudo-science. In short, it has no scientific basis.

When   American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer made an earth-shattering headline across the globe in 1992, the people were flummoxed how they could know if someone they met on daily basis had the tendency to be like him. They could not get around the fact that someone quiet, reserved like him would be able to bestially kill more than 17 people, mostly Blacks, and preserve them in his own house in that no one in the neighborhood had had the idea of his heinous crime. So, many self-proclaimed experts from different   scientific fields bombastically expressed   their   views ad nauseam until the   people got cross-eyed to whose expertise they had to defer. Eventually, there is one thing they were in common- no one can guess whether a person is a psychopath or not because there are many   behavioral patterns. However, Dahmer’s behavioral patterns were unfairly used as the bases, particularly by parents, to preclude a child’s psychopathic tendency. So, you have the tendency to be Jeffrey Dahmer  if you did or do all of  the following :

  1. You  made fun of animals by torturing them when you were still as young as in elementary because you were amazed at the internal organs of a living species. Besides, you wanted to collect their bones and skeletons.
  2. You barely got along with anybody.
  3. You started  drinking   scotch at early age.
  4. You started to read porn magazines as well as porn videos at early age, so you jerked off many times in a day.
  5. You always had financial problem.
  6. You cannot express your sexual preference because of your conventionally filial atmosphere, so you are in the habit of frequenting at gay bars.
  7. You fantasize people whom you want to sleep with.
  8. You were a drop-out student.
  9. You come from a broken family.

Although I was teeming with prejudice, I understood, with the help of my background in clinical psychology, that Jeffrey Dahmer was both a victim and suspect. He was a victim of what is so-called ‘naked existence’ as how Victor Frankl put it in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, when  his parents did not cater to him the  atmospheric LOVE he wanted to feel and  be exposed to. The divorce and conjugal misunderstanding between his parents also added to the fuel of his emptiness. In other words, Dahmer grew up in a world that he was ALONE, where no one guided and admonished him for his delinquent behaviors. Therefore, whatever the   bad foundation built at his early age was the trunk of his life later on in that he became a serial killer. So, who should have been responsible for Dahmer’s life? Himself  or his significant others, particularly his parents?

I am not a true-crime votary, but I had interest in Dahmer’s life story when my best friend kept on telling me about him. His name became immortal when I found out that American novelist Joyce Carol Oates wrote Zombie   based on him. Fortunately, I found this biography

All I would say is that this book is perfect. First, the author is a known and trusted journalist who happened to be the first one to be   tipped off when Dahmer’s skeleton in the closet was found. Second, it is full of  clear but blood-curdling accounts of  how and why Dahmer became a serial killer- from the time he showed latent  behavioral patterns to the time when he was killed. Finally, in all fairness, it knocked my socks off; I could not sleep at that night while reading it. I made sure that I heretically locked my door and windows as what I usually did when I was young whenever I watched crime stories.

The only thing that I cringed at is the author’s nettlesome partiality for the policemen who were said to be incompetent in their job because they missed the fact that the man they were supposed to take over to the authority turned out to be Dahmer’s victim. She argued that policemen were not perfect   and had no any idea of what a serial killer’s behavioral patterns are. Also, she reasoned that it was not easy to be in that line of duty since they stay up late to monitor around the city  at nights.

These are the answers to the   psychopath test above. You are normal if your answer is that he memorizes your face. You are a psychopath if you think that he counts what floor you live in.

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I  was terrified by  it.)