Going Solo (Roald Dahl’s Autobiography #2) by Roald Dahl: A Book Review

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“I was already beginning to realize that the only way to conduct oneself in a situation where bombs rained down and bullets whizzed past, was to accept the dangers and all the consequences as calmly as possible. Fretting and sweating about it all was not going to help.”

I liken Roald Dahl to ‘Lola Basyang “  (literally  Grandmother Basyang) in Philippine literature, a legendary grandma who has become a symbol for someone who has many short stories to tell, and the nom de plume of  Severino Reyes, the “Father of Tagalog Plays”.

His books are interesting and engrossing to read, so I never get sick and tired of them. They even make me feel like going back to my childhood when I was totally absorbed in children stories. Of course, he can also bear a striking resemblance to Hans Christian Andersen, best remembered for his fairy tales. However, a childish-adult-like reader like me can still prefer stories which can no longer sound superannuated, old-fashioned, or ancient. I am now in a modern era when literature is no longer what you see is what you believe.

Going Solo is another one I felt that how I was listening to a story teller or, formally speaking, a raconteur. I enjoyed most of the stories, notably his African adventures, despite that I could not relate to what a war freak is blabbering about.

Going Solo is said to be the sequel to Dahl’s autobiography, Boy: Tales of Childhood. The latter one is far funnier but more heat-breaking than the former one, something a reader should be sympathetic to. The former one is more on his adventurous and breath-gasping blow-by-blow account. It tells his perilous adventures in Africa where he survived the wild animals especially leopards and mambas. The account is new to me since I have read a great deal of wild African life. However, some of his stories seem to be hyperbolic and exaggerated. His anecdotes seem to be fictitious. I don’t know if Dahl intended to twist his real stories to not lose his readers’ interest. Probably, it could be a half-fiction and half-autobiography the same with his Boy: Tales of Childhood.

When I was drawn into his flying and war experience, at that moment, I lost my interest because most of the words are technical which I did not want to grasp any longer.  Perhaps, I was not interested in stories related to military service. Had I not read it deeply, I would have put it aside aligned with the other unread books. Nevertheless, Dahl has the talent to turn stories others may find irrelevant, inappropriate into interesting ones. His telegraphs to his mother, meeting with a beautiful nurse, and encounter with the Germans and bandits caught my attention. I told you so, he is a raconteur, indeed.

Finally, what I liked most of the parts of the book is the ending. I felt how a soldier misses his family so badly. In other words, I was not left clinging. I was very satisfied with it. It may be simple but this is one of the best endings I really finished in awe. Sooooo, I want another Dahl’s books!!!!

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

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz #1) by L. Frank Baum: A Book Review

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It is fun to read such a children novel; it is amusing and hilarious. If I were young, I would be very keen on it. I would be fascinated by the magical fantasy; I would be in awe with the out-of-this-world scenes and entities- things far from the reality since I were such a babe in the woods, for my brains were not big enough to understand or be cynical about them. I would just believe whatever I read and imagine. Also, I would talk, for sure, about it with my friends. Alas! I did not get a chance to read such novels when I was young, for the grinding poverty averted my avid interest. At that time, I just read Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

If I were young, I would be fond of the characters. Dorothy is cool. She is cute and jovial, typical of a countryside girl. She seems to be fun to be with, especially with her naughty dog, Toto. If I were her friend, I would go along with her adventures, along with her friends Scarecrow, Tin woodman, and the Cowardly Lion.

Since I am not young anymore, my brains are now fully developed to absorb information, enough to be squeezed to draw logical reasons. So what should I say? Well, I find it illogical and inconsistent. I feel that its climax grows to be humdrum. The story is obviously intended to entertain and make-believe children and to insult someone’s intelligence as well. Everything in the story is beyond belief- not only from the magic, but also to the Winged monkeys, the China blah blah blah …all of those things could be rebutted by scientific reasoning. For examples , (a) If Scarecrow had no brains; he would not talk, see, smell, nor hear. Moreover, he should not be able to reason out or figure out the difficulties they deal with; rather, he should be such a simpleton or rube . (b) In chemistry, oxidation takes time before Tin woodman’s tinned arms and legs rust. Changing any parts of a body is, of course, probable in the aid of robotics. So Tin Woodman is bionic. L. Frank Baum might have had “intricate scientific estimation.” He was just predicting the future. Oh, there are some more. Anyway, since the entertainment value may be the intention, making a fuss with those things is neither here nor there. Rather, I should stick to its moral contents; the messages of the story despite the fact that L. F Baum insisted that there were no latent meanings for each character. Obviously, the story deals with philosophical questions, particularly in questions with Religion-its big role in a person’s life. And yet, there are some parts dwelt upon me:

(a) Do people need to depend on the heart, rather than on the brains? Like Scarecrow , he insists that he shall ask for brains instead of a heart, for a fool; would not know what to do with a heart if he had one, which is somehow rebuffed by Tin Woodman:

“ I shall take the heart, for brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.”

(b) Is the heart our superego?

(c) If we were heartless, could we not be passionate and compassionate?

In the context of psychology, each character shows low-self esteem. Scarecrow has intellectual mediocrity. Tin Woodman is broken hearted. Cowardly Lion wants to be brave. In other words, they are all attached to illusion. Through the psychotherapeutic help of the Wizard of Oz, they awoke to the reality.

Tut! Tut! Tut! That’ll do. I should not give a fiddle’s fart about the hidden meanings. I am glad to have felt like a child again. I still have a juvenile mental age. No doubt I enjoyed it. I would love to share it with my younger sister. ^^

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

King Kong by Delos W. Lovelace, Edgar Wallace (Story) and Merian C. Cooper (Story): A Book Review

kingkongPerhaps among the imaginary giant characters I am more familiar with, King Kong stands out among them. I can see his replicas in toy stores (And for sure you can even come across him in Universal Studios). I can play him on video games. I can read him in comics. I can see him making fun of children as a mascot at birthday parties. He could scare the living day lights out of me in a haunted house at an amusement park or even on Halloween day. Above all, he could make an antagonistic cameo appearance in fantasy dramas or movies. He can be famous in any situations. Thanks to its movie adaptation, he is now immortal. For sure, he will be borne upon in the mind of the next generation since it is said to have another movie remake.

I have seen its 2005 movie remake and I enjoyed it a bunch. Comparatively, having watched its movie adaptation gave me the ideas of the plots and settings. However, nothing beats the book. It gave me more clear description and narration. Imagining King Kong gave me the creeps. Also, I could feel the atmosphere of the unchartered, far-flung Kong Island. I could feel the breath-taking hue and cry among the characters.

Although I am now a young adult and I no longer believe in fantasy, I still find it fascinating. King Kong is a downright strange, far-fetched creature. Something or someone unusual can get my attention. Besides, the theory of poor old Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is instilled in me. So a confluence of questions popped into my head. Pop! How if there were such a gigantic monkey? Gee whiz!

Granted that it is a fantasy, Cooper seems to have made a botch of , or to put it bluntly, to have monkeyed around with some settings. He must have intended to leave us readers hanging, turning over the questions such as: How long does it take the main characters to get to Kong Island? How do they manage to load King Kong onto a ship back to New York? Hehehe Even a genius kindergarten could call it into a question.

In the end, it just occurred to me that we, the said highest mammal on this planet, would be defensive against another species superior to us. It would be a big, big threat. Figuratively speaking, King Kong resembles some hot issues today such as the advanced robotics, nations with big economy, nuclear deterrent, etc.

Admittedly, I am still completely flummoxed by some latent meanings of this book. Obviously, the themes have something to do with survival, lost civilization, dominance of human to animals….But the book gives emphasis on the Beauty and the Beast. King Kong represents The Beast who will fall for Anne Darrow as the Beauty. At the end of the story, Danhem bragged before the news reporters that, “It’s the Beauty killed the Beast…” What do you think Danhem means?

I worried that I would not enjoy it since I have seen its movie; it could be kitsch; it could have been just a product of a child’s imagination. Also, the passages must be awash with low standards of languages. Not bad. It is still a classic everyone should not underestimate. Merian Cooper had somehow what it took to be a fantasy-adventure writer.

I’m looking forward to its most-awaiting movie remake since we have now ultramodern media production ^^

Rating: 3/ 5 stars

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway : A Book Review

oldmanI may not know diddly about the criteria the panelists based on choosing this for Pulitzer Prize in 1953, for me , an ordinary reader like me can’t get at it. My mind was boggled at its middle part. I was even close to giving up, but still I did hang in there because I knew that its denouement would get it across me. At the end, I understood the concept . I bet its writing style or enigmatic story- how Ernest Hemmingway created such plots and settings – may have struck the panelists’ fancies.

The story is simply about an old man and the sea , who is at sea for 84 days. The old man has difficulties catching some fish , which is considered as “salao” or unlucky form for fishermen. At eighty fifty days, he lucks out a big fish which he believes can cost a lot and feed many people. However, he is unable to pull in , so he keeps on holding the line for two days. Then, he will be worn-out, but managed to load it on his skiff( which is physically impossible ) . To top it all off, he has to kill a line of sharks attracted to its dripping blood. It is a blood-curdling and breath-taking battle between Santiago and marlin.

After reading some secondary resources, it dawned on me that there is something in the story. It reminded me of an allegory from the bible. It could be. If you are in the same boat and feel like beating your head against a wall, I suggest you read it literary analysis on http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/oldman/

In the end, I appreciated the book. It is crystal-clear why the book is deserving of the Pulitzer Prize as well as of Nobel Prize. But since I tend to be subjective, I won’t be brainbrushed. ( laughs) Its fishy taste still remains in my tongue.But I won’t mind reading it again as well as his other works. I want to dig into Hemmingway more. ^^

Rating: 2/ 5 stars 

The Call of the Wild by Jack London: A Book Review

jackWhile reading this, there were four things bubbling in the chambers of my mind:

(1) Charles Darwin’s idea of “survival of the fittest”
(2) Nature vs. Nurture in psychology
(3) The vampire movie I have seen.
(4) Timbuktu, the dog in the novel of Paul Auster

Buck is accustomed to living in an uncivilized place where he has no idea of how horrible life is, for his masters are indifferent to him. Unfortunately, exposed to the law of club and fang, he needs intestinal fortitude, ignoring his ‘pure conscience “; rather, he will learn to follow his “primordial instinct” to fight off the biological motives. Apparently, Jack London anthropomorphized the dogs to illustrate how a man’s moral is developed. In fact, I learned that Jack London was primarily influenced by Charles Darwin‘s The Origin of the Species; and John Milton’s Paradise Lost. By virtue of these books, he may have had an idea of how to put his experiences in Alaska into such an unforgettable classic.

Since I have background in psychology, the ad infinitum debate about whether a man is developed by Nature or Nurture appears to be one of the themes of this novel. In the story, Jack London may have wanted to expound that a man, in the image of Buck, is built; that a man could be a blank sheet; that a man could be barbarian in origin. Buck in the story is dictated by his primordial instinct. In fact, London seemed to have used symbols to represent two kinds of dogs: uncivilized hard dogs in the North and civilized soft dogs in the South.

Absurdly speaking , the book reminded me of vampires, especially the Filipino movie” VAMPIRA” . In the movie, when the moon is full, the protagonist played by a famous actress transforms into a vampire whether she likes it or not. Her vampire instinct to eat flesh of animals including human is unruly. In the novel, the moon could be the symbol of his primordial instinct. Since Buck has been civilized by the virtue of his new master’s genuine love, there are times, however, that the “call of the wild” still specters him. Once to be tempted, he will overcome it for the good memories of his new master. Unfortunately, at the end, Buck backslides to his past when his “civilized community “is “annihilated’ by a group of Yaheets. Does it mean that under dystopic or disintegrated circumstances, a man could forget his feelings in the name of survival? Gee, this classic could be an interesting term paper in the context of other fields of studies. I believe that Jack London missed something.Nevertheless, I appreciated it a lot. ^^

Literally, the novel must deal with what a world of dogs is like, for us to come to the realization that dogs are not far different from us. They should be treated like a human being. (Uh-oh! I believe some readers have had ideas of dog life, so I recommend TIMBUKTU by Paul Auster. )In the Philippines, we have the laws on animal rights- which particularly put a great deal of stress on domesticated animals- strictly prohibit any body to make bad use of them. On the other hand, I guess in Alaska at that time may not have been aware of this reality, for dogs were used for sledding. But what struck me at the end is that LOVE is such a powerful element to make a big difference to our lives. ^___________^