The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: A Book Review

18406157_10209478840309708_793393805_o

Along with her The Blind Assassin, this is one of the most convoluted and elaborate novels I have ever read. The story is too cloudy to understand that it requires your powers of concentration, especially if you are not analytical enough to grasp its complexity, the style I have proven Atwood bears the hallmark of.

Instead of analyzing it in a broader literary context with intellectual bravado since everyone can turn to Wikipedia, I’d rather review it in a manner of  what I found out in her writing styles: I’m envious of her skilled mastery for turning into beautiful prose her train of thoughts or whatsoever plays  in the figment of her imagination. Furthermore, she is an unfathomable female writer who can be as genius as any writers mostly celebrated in world literature.

This novel from the first pages to the last is strewn with vivid, beautiful, elegant, graceful, sumptuous sentences which I enjoyed reading rather than   gripping its main idea. The sentences are so lyrical that I chanted them again and again. They melt in my tongue like sweet, dark chocolate, or smell good like a garden,  full of a variety of colorful flowers hovered  above by a swarm of butterflies.

Under an unlikely scenario, if there were still such a world that men were superior to women over skills in writing stories or any literacy pieces, and Atwood were into such a literary show-off ,surrounded by supercilious writers looking down on her feminism, I bet my life that Atwood could dominate or catch up with them at any cost of literary bouts. Don’t dare her write one because this her The Handmaid’s Tale has proved me   wrong that there is something Atwood could make her rather genius. Her novels may appear complex, much more if she writes a simpler or more intricate one. In other words, there is nothing to find fault with her more; it’s crystal clear that she is an extraordinary writer. Roll down the red carpet and pay homage to Her Majesty.

Now, I freely  acknowledge that reading another Atwood’s books could be challenging since I have now the clearest idea of her writing style. Sometime in the future, if I have a great deal of time, perhaps when I reach my mid-life , no longer preoccupied with how to embellish my life with youthful experiences, hers would be one of those books I want to read again and again.As American musician and filmmaker, Frank Zappa put it , so many books, so little time to read.There are still thousands of  books in the world I haven’t read yet.

Also, the best course of technique I should use when I happen to read Atwood’s other books  and others books which have little resemblance to her style  would be a matter of full concentration ( regardless of  how poor my reading comprehension skill is .) Then, I will seat myself at a coffee table with a voluminous dictionary and colorful highlighters scattered around , par for the course in my reading repose. Ho-ho!

P.S . It is now being adapted for a TV series  broadcast live on  Hulu.

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it. )

Advertisements

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson: A Book Review

 

robinson

Reading another Marilynne Robinson’s work is another heavenly and fulfilling achievement. Her novels are arresting because they deal with family situations, imbued with suppressed  feelings we may relate to , conveyed in unconventionally recoiling ,but  creatively poetic prose- her writing style  which turns out to be acceptable  in literature.

For me, Robinson is one of the writers I have known so far whose prose is so powerful that I could be overwhelmed with the covert feelings. No wonder I had been looking for this novel for a long time. In fact, I don’t even brush off the idea of why Gilead  has been the pandemonium among literary readers on Goodreads whenever her name is being brought up. I wish to find it at an affordable price and in pristine condition.

Since her novels Home and  Lila had a great emotional impact on me , I have found that there seems to be preternatural effects while reading her work. I am not sure of her other works, but three of hers are enough to bear witness to my delusional claim. The hidden and adamant emotions tend to ooze out despite they are coated with her unorthodox or unconventional prose. Unorthodox or unconventional prose because Robinson writes sentences beyond literary rules. Compare hers with Irish writer Colm Tóibín‘s in his impressive The Master for instance. For this reason, reading her novels may appear to be hard, heavy, nose-and-brain bleeding except her Home because I was so into it and lost track of time, the springboard for my interest in reading another Robinson works. Thus, reading her works may require a matter of multi-tasking concentration. I wonder if native speakers get what I am jabbering about.  Nevertheless, I could feel the ghostly restricted atmosphere of the story: the gloominess, the sadness, the sense of loss, the joyfulness, the hatred, the desires – all the feelings that have   been harbored for a long time because of the past that should have been left behind the presence.

Housekeeping, aside from being in the Guardian’s 1001-Best- Novels-You-Must-Read-Before-You-Die list, is included by TIME magazine as one of 100 Best English-language Novels since 1923 to 2005. Lila and Home   have been added recently by the Guardian if I am not mistaken. Comparatively and subjectively speaking, Home is my favorite. I cried over it a lot. I felt the withered or dormant emotions Robinson wanted her readers to blow up. I felt the cathartic tears flowing down my cheeks. It was a therapeutic experience. The story is psychologically realistic after all. Besides, it really reminded me of my cold conflict with my father then. However, with respect to creativity, magical mastery for writing a novel, Lila and Housekeeping stand out. They have proven Robinson’s unparalleled, incomparable writing skills- her ability to dramatically animate the story despite it is covered with bricks of “suppressible” prose, and that is something I would say Robinson’s trademark. Gotcha?

The big challenge for me next time since Robinson is known for her heavy prose is how to finish her novel. I admit that it took me a few days before I managed to finish it given that it is not that as ambitious as her other works. I was like an adventurous book traveler lost in a chimerical book land trudging through different places to reach its revealing denouement. Good grief! I made it, but the experience is not traumatic. Rather, the proverb,” The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” popped into my mind, and I mustered enough courage to do so. There it is! Eureka! Marilynne Robinson is a gifted writer, indeed, someone all literary readers should celebrate about. So, count me in!!!

Ironically, Gilead ( 2004), Home (2008), and Lila ( 2014) are supposed to be a trilogy , but I first read Home and Lila consecutively. Housekeeping is Marilynne Robinson’s first novel.

When I reviewed Robinson’s Home before, I predicted that she would belong to my roller or  walk of favorite writers. It was like letting her first pass through the hole of my needle before she meets my standard. Taray! (laughs) However, after reading her Lila, her application for that is still pending. (Figuratively laughing) To put it bluntly, I have aversion to reading books dealing with religious convictions no matter how good they are. Apparently, most of Robinson’s novels are steeped in religion or faith. Who won’t forget Rev. James and Rev. Boughton? Ok fine! I am biased! (laughs) Nevertheless, Housekeeping is another stepping stone for me to explore Robinson’s great mind. I have learned that there is no such a perfectly standardized novel. What matters most is the deep connection between a reader and a story, and that’s something I will learn to practice on my writing styles. As what Virginia Woolf put it, “ A book has a soul.”

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I really liked it.)

Pincher Martin by William Golding: A Book Review

pinchmartin

I included British writer William Golding in my favorite –writer list on Goodreads , along with one of America’s best novelists Toni Morrison andE. L. Doctorow , Dutch writer Ian McEwan, famous American educator Frank McCourt, one of America’s best essayists Richard Rodriguez ,one of the best Black American revolutionary writers Richard Wright, atheists Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens , and Filipino children writer Genaro Gojo Cruz.

His classic novel Lord of the Flies demonized me to ostentatiously display him up there. I don’t know how I ended up considering him as one of them. I just remember that the novel ‘s main characters broke my heart. I won’t forget Ralph, the boy who led the group but was outplayed and outwitted by the domineering Jack along with his adherents; Piggy, Ralph’s loyalist, the hero of the story who died of his principle for pacifism and unity; and Simon, the boy who was mistaken for a monster and eventually killed by Jack’s group. But I came to understand that I did not make a mistake after discovering that there is a deeper way of how to understand it in the context of politics. Thus, there is a reason why William Golding deserves to be celebrated as one of the best writers in the world of literature, and Pincher Martin is another testimony to this claim.

Pincher Martin bears little resemblance to his immortal and classic Lord of the Flies. Both novels bear on how to survive being a castaway on a far-off island. The only differences are that the former one focuses on one character while the latter one is on a group of children, young students in effect. Besides, the deeper lowdown on the former one on the one hand is on existentialism, individualism, objectivism- steeped in philosophical and psychological questions. The latter one, on the other hand, is on politics aptly portrayed by young characters.

Pincher Martin is a just a taciturn novel for me since it involves one character, apart from the other ones flashed back in the character’s memory. Reading it is like being a castaway, silent, putting yourself in his shoes, musing over the possible approaches to surviving the island. At first, I would feel the trauma and confusion about ending up in that uncivilized place until I woke up to the grim reality. However, as time passed by, I would come to the end of my wits that everything imaginable would fail, so all I would have to do is to beat my head against a stone and realize that the best way to survive is to use my intelligence, education , and training. At the same time, using the three necessary traits to survive, I would suffer from philosophical crisis in that I would doubt my existence on this planet. By the same token, out of physical and mental pains, I would be subject to psychological conditions like mirage or any forms of delusions.

Pincher Martin is another revelation for me that William Golding was such a skilled writer. In this novel, he showed the real quality of a gifted writer that writing a novel not only focuses on the characters’ papers they embody but also on the other perspectives. In this novel, Golding tried to paint another portray of being a castaway. He perfectly described what a castaway could be, being alone on an island. It is not just about how to survive but also how to help oneself get over the possible philosophical realizations one must face since no one is an island. However, Golding’s intention is not as conspicuous as his Lord of the Flies which I thought that I was just reading an adventure. The novel turns out to be deeper than its story. In other words, Pincher Martin, to put it bluntly, is like a brochure handed out by a flight attendant which will give you tips on what the possible things you might experience and do when you are a sole survivor. To make the brochure worth reading, it is inserted with beautiful quotes.

Admittedly, I had a hard time reading it despite that it is said to be lightly written. I guess what the book reviewers are referring to is its narration centering around Pinch Martin’s surviving scenes. But in terms of philosophical realizations, they are not at all. I am sorry. I am not that really smart. I am just a smart ass. Enough said, Joey!

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang: A Book Review

13566179_10206861207630527_1235860270_n
Reading the book with turon, a famous Filipino delicacy

Thick. Voluminous. Its Flamingo edition has 696 pages. I laid it aside many times. I didn’t know how to finish it , but I wanted to  heap it soon onto the other books read and unread; I was obsessed with the other  new books I had splurged on. When I gave it a shot for the third time; I was so already excited  that  I was close to its real-life –saga ending. Then, I was stuck again, in some  harrowing  parts I had to understand by heart and turn over in my mind . There, I trudged along. I was almost cross-eyed at the figures and  facts I could grasp no more , tearing my hair  until I could  let out a deep breath. ( Heavy sigh) Finally, I was done . My verdict: I SHOULD HAVE READ IT ALL ALONG WHILE I WAS DEEPLY  ENGAGED IN POLITICAL DISCOURSE ON SOCIAL MEDIA DURING OUR NATIONAL PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. Its vivid details could have been mesmerizingly engaging, heart-breaking, and eye-opening. Besides, I came back to my senses  that communism turns out to be an ineffective form of government after all. Also, out of my ignorance, somehow, I brushed upon some   historical facts about Mao Zedong, the man I have been curious about, or I could have been looking up to because of his numinous image.

One of the big challenges for a writer, particularly an autobiographer, is to write all the blow-by-blow accounts to make the book appear accurate and credible. There are instances that some are laconic with their stories; they only choose the situations which could be appealing to their audience. ( It’s a matter of marketing strategy, I guess.) Who could dare write a book that is so full of dramatic but petty details? Of course, padding the book could be intended to impress its audience. And I don’t think it’s Jung Chang’s intention.   Never mind its mind-boggling  and undermining Chinese names of persons, places, and technical words buzzed if you   don’t have these ears for language . You will still be abandoned to the waves of negative emotions each daughter draws off- pain, endurance, hopelessness, despair, cruelty, savageness, you name it. Whoa, woe to you. Sit tight! Make sure that you have this empty chest.

After all, the book is not just about novelizing Jung Chang’s experiences but a way of letting go of the past. She used this as the instrument for cauterizing all the  feeling and thoughts she had pushed to  the  darkest corners of her mind for a long decade under Mao Zedong’s  said totalitarian government. Also, through this book, she had rectified all the injustice her entire ancestors, particularly her parents and grandma, had suffered for a long time. She had the chance to clear of all the  political mud  slung against her families that went down in Chinese history, which was eventually expurgated after Mao Zedong’s  political failure.  At the same time, she had the chance to reminisce about the good memories which shaped her up as a strong and intelligent woman.  However, as far as I know, the New China has not recognized the essence of her book  yet  out of jingoism. In fact, it was banned when it was published  in 1992.

This book   has been translated into 37 languages. No doubt. Quite apart from its heart-breaking themes, it is worth reading because it opens our mind. It will probably change our view points of the social issues in our contemporary era. You will understand that every country has different culture when it comes to family, society, and politics. So, you might come to realize that all the cultures could be immoral but stuck up in a time warp, especially when   human dignity is   already trodden. Everything is changing as is nature. Nonetheless, after all, I can’t cry bloody murder  if such backward culture existed before ; it even did in our country, elsewhere. (Heavy sighs) Dare I say that we humans are still underdeveloped   even up to this day, or it is just a matter of the philosophy of  relativism? Look what is China now. North Korea. Some Middle East countries. The armpits of  Africa. Even in state-of-the-art European nations. Now the issue is Brexit if you are aware of its referendum.

The book’s theme Cultural Revolution  disabused me of that communism is not politically, socially, and economically feasible at all in a country that needs big social changes wherein all people should be ideally equal.  I have been enlightened as an idealistic citizen  that humans are fallible, that there is no such Utopia in a modern world. Evils have been part of the  natural laws  since the world began. ( heavy sigh)

Ever since I took to history subject, I have never had the clear details on Mao Zedong’s life. I was just tipped off  that he was a cruel president of China , that he killed many babies, that he was revered as god. However, Jung Chang did not describe him much in the book. She was too euphemistic about him as though she still respected him despite all the pains China had suffered. In the end, I was not satisfied.  I am still more  curious about him . Who is Mao Zedong? Fiddlesticks! A red thick biography  about him that  I always see in a  premier book store is now sparking my curiosity. The good thing is Jung Chang and her husband Jon Halliday wrote a biography about him : Mao: The Unknown Story. Interesting! As a matter of fact, she wrote another biographies about  Empress Dowager Cixi and  Madame Sun Yat- Sen. I hope to luck out and find them!

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s undeniably amazing.)

The Sea by John Banville: A Book Review

13281749_10206643233781317_1192344497_n
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.

13277898_10206643324463584_1356367677_n
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.

13293327_10206643233341306_1942382654_n
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.

13281759_10206637500077978_1115918218_n
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.)

Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables #1) by L.M. Montgomery: A Book Review

12959529_10206307364744801_1558231329_oI was just a plain simple-minded student, ignorant of the things existed around me; I did not understand why I was in school . Day by day, I began to understand that I was there to study because someone was teaching us how to count 1, 2, 3 and how to read A,B,C . But still I sat there with my mouth agape, wondering why I had to study, staring at my other classmates how come they were so good at answering the questions traded by our teachers, why they were at the top of the class and  lauded by a faculty of teachers and a circle of unknown friends. I even thought then that my presence with my classmates inside the classroom was enough to complete the day. Eventually, I realized that I had to read , memorize, and partake in the class. Otherwise, I would have been ridiculed by the haughty students and abominated by the self-proclaimed highly educated teachers who ostentatiously displayed their credentials. In the end, I had  discovered what I really was in the eyes of the society:  I was an average student or less than that after all. Overtime, laced with the concept of the educational system, I tried to explore the uncharted territory of  how to develop myself intellectually. I tried to read, but it happened that way. I just wanted to read whatever reads at my disposal. When I got tired of the same books, I would borrow my friends’ or visit anyone I was acquainted with whose house was furnished with bookshelves. I would stay in their houses the whole afternoon after my school, rain or shine. However, despite my full effort, I still did not know then how to study nor write an essay efficiently. Fortunately, at that time, some Philippine TV stations capitalized on broadcasting Japanese animations. One of them was the adaptation for Anne of Green Gables. You know what happened? You might call me shallow or puerile then, but I don’t mind. In light of this animation, I decided to help myself on how I should be a good student. I tried to do the tricks as what Anne Shirley does, and which my bright classmates may have done scrupulously. I had to read the books in advance and commit their contents to my memory. Consequently, I could keep up with my classmates after all. I could answer my teachers’ questions because I had studied them. Thanks to the sympathetic character of Anne Shirley. My study tactic then was Anne-of-the-Green-Gables Approach.(laughs)

Anne of Green of Gables is a beautiful story. Through the character of Anne Shirley, the loquacious orphan who happened to be adopted by Mr.and Ms.Cuthbert, either young or adult  readers  can learn a great deal of things about life. Not that you will become as talkative as she is. Not that you will become as exaggerated and hyperbolic as she is , for she always imagines  everything around in different perspectives. As you know her favorite philosophy is, “ There is scope  for imagination.”  And not that you will learn not to be content with your physical appearances ,for she hates herself like her name  being spelled Ann without e,  her sharp elbows, freckled face , and  “carrot hair” as  her future husband Gilbert Blythe puts it. Not that you will be as clumsy as she is, for she has done many mistakes. Not that you will be as cowardly and pessimistic as she is, for she cannot face the reality of life.

Instead, Anne Shirley , during my feminine teenage,  taught me how to break the old tradition when children had to hold their tongues. There is nothing wrong if you reason out as long as you do it politely. However, applying it directly to my parents did not work; they were sticks-in-the-mud and the avatars of old traditions.  (laughs) In addition, Anne Shirley taught me to appreciate all the beautiful things in the world. When I look at a tree, it is not just the idea of the fact that it is a tree, but its state of being a tree. When I see a lake with its sparkling reflection, I don’t just describe it beautiful, but in its degree of beauty. When I wake up in the morning, I do not just think of its real existence as it usually happens every day; instead, I feel its connection to my existence. Can I just call her Monet-ian? ( giggles) However, it is sad to say that we are now living in a revolutionary era when the old patterns of beauty are overlapping with the beauty of technology. We can no longer distinguish what is beautiful in our environment.

Anne Shirley was one of the   influential   literary characters in my teenage life. Her character as an eager and enthusiastic learner proves that everyone, no matter how average your IQ is , can be a bright student if you are motivated to teach yourself. So, it has been my philosophy in education that all students have the potential to excel in any academic subjects. Everyone is special. It is just a matter of perseverance. However, in the context of psychology, it cannot happen without the ensuing moral support of the significant others.

As a matter of fact, Anne Shirley taught me to be no slouch when it comes to writing an essay in English. I was not confident enough about it yet. I tried to write and write in my own style despite my limited English vocabulary. I was even weaned on her quixotic style of poetry.

Another thing that I will not forget about this animation is its sentimental  theme. Marilla and Mathew Cuthbert, both sister and brother who  have been stuck in a time warp, will be emotionally transmogrified by Anne’s  delightful presence at the Green Gables. Ms. Cuthbert is known for being a stickler for her lifestyle while Mathew,a shy old man who seems to have never been used to socialization. Anne Shirley is the iconoclast in an idyllic  place that has left behind the modern era.

Finally, as what we teenagers who watched its Japanese adaptation  in the 1990’s, all the rage to the story is the intimate friendship between Anne and Diana  Barry and the suppressed but irresistible promising  romance  between Anne and Gilbert Blight.

Aside from its themes, what I liked about the book more is its well-written prose. All the sentences of how the author describes, narrates the story  are  perfectly matched with Anne Shirley’s exaggerated characters. I tend to cringe at the author’s intention, but it makes sense. Probably, L.M Montgomery   represents Anne Shirley because , apparently, she based this novel on her said rural life experience.

Whenever my college friend and I dropped into a second-hand bookstore before, the first thing she would ask the cashier about was  its sequels. She would not buy anything except this because she wanted to finish all the series first. So, after reading it, I understand now why she is so fond of it.  Now, it is my turn to do the same way. In fact, I have still been looking for them:Anne of Avonlea #2, Anne of the Island #3, Anne of Windy Poplars #4, Anne’s House of Dreams #5, Anne of Ingleside #6, Rainbow Valley #7, Rilla of Ingleside #8

When I have finished them all, for sure, I could join The Anne of the Green Gables Club out there. Could you let me in? 🙂

Rating: 5/ 5 stars ( It’s amazing.)

Man in the Dark by Paul Auster: A Book Review

3136288It is weird that when I see Paul Auster’s works included on the list of best novels of all time according to a magazine site, I have the compelling hunch that they are nifty reads.Also, when I see his images on Google, his physical aura of literary skills , his deep stare at the camera tends to pierce me as if everything stops moving just like the two of us in a motionless world. It is as though staring back at him renders me powerless, frozen in awe. Thereby, I start having been borne upon the idea that whenever I spot his books heaped on a mountain of books, there is a feeling that the author is a sacred cow to whom every book vulture should pay homage. And me? I am wildly and outrageously glad to jump at them as if I should kowtow to them even if all book vultures milling around the place cringe at my losing sense of decorum. What do they know? They may be in the dark that the books I long to gorge myself on are freshly nutritious. How do I know? They may not know that I have wolfed on one of his works- Timbuktu. ( The title has nothing to do with the title of my blog.) The book gave me the appetite that Auster is a gifted writer. There is something in his style that left a good aftertaste in my mouth then. So, no need to wonder why perhaps I am one of those book vultures who bear that desire to scavenger on his other works.

In his Timbuktu, the first thing I noticed was his light sentence structure- very well-written and prosy. At the same time, the concept of the story is philosophically interesting. I apologize for the spoiler. Timbuktu is a dog who has deeply intimate relationship with a hard-pressed, terminally-ill writer. At the end , I assure that you will find it heart- breaking . Alas, I never got the chance to write my review of it ; at that time , I still was not active on Goodreads and was ignorant of blogging. You may find the story common, for you have seen it in movies or TV dramas, but you will be amazed at what I call ‘ Auster’s simply brilliant work’. If you have not started reading his other works yet, I believe that Timbuktu is the springboard for discovering his talent. Go for it!

Now I have given a try at his Man in the Dark. I was a little astonished to find out that his writing style in this novel bears complete resemblance to his Timbuktu. I do not have the foggiest idea if his other works do likewise. Here I felt the lightness of his sentence structures, how he must choose the right words, phrases, or sentence structures ditto. So I enjoyed reading the novel without cease, without putting it aside if there were odds and ends I had to futz around first. When I was done with them, I would throw myself into it forgetting the world I was in. No wonder I did finish it all at once given the fact that it only consists of 180 pages.

Concept of the story:
August Brill is a seventy-two-year-old widower. He recovers from a car accident at his daughter’s house in Vermont. To kill time, he watches films which he criticizes since he is a retired book critic. He does it with his granddaughter who has the same interest. When he cannot sleep, he lies in bed in the dark staring into the ceiling and trying to tell himself stories. At the same time, in doing so, he cannot remember his wife and the heinous murder of his granddaughter’s boyfriend, Titus.

I may be familiar with the setting that there is “a minor story in the story”, but for me, I do not look at that perspective; rather, I find the essence of the story mind-boggling. For instance, what is the relevance to the dystopian settings that the World Trade did not fall apart, that the U.S did not fight with Iran, instead the 2000 election results caused secession, that the state after state pulled away from the union and a bloody civil war broke out? I mused over this essence, on the way to work by bus, during my 10-minute break in school, or even during my processing inside a john. That is why it took me a few days to review it. Unfortunately, I was at my wits’ ends. Sorry, folks, I even have my hands full. Maybe you could help me squeeze it out of me. You may claim it not to be a brain surgery at all. ^^ Anyway, I may come to that literary epiphany sometime in the future. For this reason, therefore, Auster injected this enigmatic idea into this story that only he could expound what those ideas in question mean all about. Indeed, he is remarkable. I wish I had attended his launching this book ( Man in the Dark ) if I were American. In a pig’s eye!

Given that I found “the minor story” somewhat bothering, I could not divert my emotional attention from the main character’s role which may be the crucial part of the story. In that part, I immersed myself , feeling my tears welling up in the cups of my eyes, reminding me of two people whom I deeply love: my mother who already departed the world and my father, a widower too, whom I have been cold with. Likewise, in the end, it is all about life, life, life as famous writer Ethan Hawthorne’s sister Rose Hawthorne put it, “ As the weird world rolls on.”

Now I have devoured two of Auster’s books although I am still assimilating their substance thoroughly. When I visit the heap of books in the mountain, I will not hesitate to scrounge on his other works, notably The Book of Illusions and The New York Trilogy. I can’t wait for them! ^^

Rating: 4/ 5 stars ( I  really liked it.)

paul
My own paperback copy  published by Picador ^^