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

18406065_120300003623828264_1832328390_o

“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.)

The BFG by Roald Dahl:A Book Review

download

Oompa-loompa, everlasting gobstopper, snozzberry, whangdoodles, hornswogglers, snozzwangers, vermicious knids, scrumdiddlyyumptious, eggdicator: These are some of the examples of the wonderful words  in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that Google helped me jog my memory about, my first experience in  discovering Roald Dahl’s leanings for inventing new nonsensical words. At that time, I had to turn to a stack of different dictionaries in my house , or to the internet as the last straw to grasp their meanings. I wonder if native speakers who have read it have the same cognitive trepidation.

 The BFG , short for The Best Friendly Giant , is  another one  I was boggled at.  It is definitely   more rabid than the former one in that I almost wanted to toss it up in the air. It is riddled with many, many  nonsensical  words Dahl coined himself. My student and I since   it was part of our reading class called it TGL short for The Giant Language. Thus, the biggest challenge for us was how to understand it   because we are not native speakers . Our knowledge of English   vocabulary is limited.  In this case, we just try to guess with the context  clues  hidden  not anything but near the other sentences,  or as usual  with  my  comrade in time of   nasal hemorrhage  or  with a dictionary app  installed in our android phones.  However, most of the time, we just skipped them , for in doing so was a waste of time.

For  the newbie, to understand what I have been blabbering about, try to guess the meanings of the  following words  and  sentences.

Buckswashling

“Upgoing bubbles is a catasterous disastrophe!”

“Delumptious fizzy frobscottle…”

Gruncious

Hopscotchy

Propsposterous

Rotsome

Sqiubbling

“I cannot be squibbling the whole gropefluncking dream on a titchy bit of paper.”

You will be coming to an ucky-mucky end if any of them should ever be getting his gogglers upon you.”

“How whoopsey-splunkers! How absolutely squiffling! l is all of a stutter.”

To  the  readers who have read it, you may be pleasantly  squinting at the words  until now.  For me,  my favorite words  that my student and I made fun of were “ I watch telly telly bumkin box”, and “ scrumdiddylicious” which was also spoken in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. ^^

If you are such a logophile, maniac for  patting  down  all the words  in the book, you could  serve as  an interpreter  for  TGL.

Apparently, the   nonsensical words are the mainspring of having a hard time enjoying it to bits as to what I went through in Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Such literary device   may deaden or spice up   the excitement of the story depending on the   taste of the reader. In a metaphorical situation, I was like a stranger, lost in a lost world, fear-stricken of the thought that I would not be able to get back to where I came from because of the strange things, needless to say TGL , I had to be inured to until I was part of this “disgusterous, sickable, and rotsome” world of the giants.  But the truth is I don’t want to enter this story anymore, especially during witching hour: I am scared to have met the giants and talked to them in their language anymore; it would just put me in a nose bleeding and bone-crunching position.

Despite that the world I entered is creepily “disgusterous”, I found it amusing because of The BFG. He is such a naive but amusing character. I was like Sophia, the main character , enjoying his company because of  his funny hobbies and stories. I would hate but try eating his favorite food “snozzcumbers” which taste is beyond recognition. I would for sure enjoy his ejaculatory whizzpopper, a drink resembling a soda drink, but equivalent to farting reaction in our world.  I would not get tired of his thousand jars of dream collections. I would be fascinated by his elongated ears which have the ability to listen to sounds  a million times  far  away, and could serve as a hideout for  a small human bean  from human-bean eaters. Indeed, The BFG is not a giant everyone should be intimated by.

If I survived the world of the giants in that I was neither crunched nor gorged on , I would not just bear in mind the memories I spent with the BFG but also his sophisticated character. You might not realize that the BFG   has a literary symbol. For me, he is the anathema of the desire to change the old ways. Little did I realize that Dahl may have suggested that his story is about civilization and barbarism.Only the BFG has the willingness to be weaned on the currently revolutionary life , keeping behind the   old ways of the other giants. He exerts a lot of effort to educate himself by reading books, especially Charles Dickens’ works. Likewise, he does not want to eat human beans because of his “civilized conscience.” As a matter of fact, the story  indicates  that we can learn break our  uncivilized habits  like what happened to The BFG and other giants who have eventually been taught to lead the life civilized  people do. Now, this could be a question for a social science scholar: Is civilization a learned development?

The BFG is another book to reduce me to awe for Dahl’s mastery in storytelling although I am now at the stage of cognitive development when everything is no longer beyond a child’s understanding. Rather, I can cringe at the juvenile and puerile stories because such things can be deduced with logical explanations. However, I reckoned that we are dictated by society when we should act our age. In other words, there is no limitation to what books a reader should   read.  Thus, Roald Dahl is now my favorite children book writer. 🙂

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

 

 

Matilda by Roald Dahl: A Book Review

16466048_120300001929113455_414130807_o

I got the chance to finish Matilda by Roald Dahl on a  busy Sunday since all the Filipinos, including my family, were   preparing for the New Year’s Eve. I was just curling up with it at a bamboo chair in our living room, catatonic to the people bustling around. My absorption and enthrallment in it may have been so deafening to them, or they may have been intrigued   by  why I made different facial reactions whenever I turned the next pages. Then, it occurred to me that I had an important appointment with my best friend! But it was still past 2 O clock. Relief flooded over me and I kept at it. When it was already 4 O clock , I was on the verge of the last pages, but I was agitated.  I really had to go. She must have been waiting for me for minutes on end.  I dismissed   this guilty feeling, apathetic to whatever comeuppance I might get. Bahala na si Batman!

When I finished it, I blurted out ,“ I WANNA READ ANOTHER ROALD DAHL’s BOOKS!!!”  My younger sister and her friends who happened to have been playing in front of me gawked at me in surprise. I found myself clasping   my hands and   turning my head up. It was a childish and silly moment.

Although I have read some Roald Dahl’s books, I still was not his big fan. By golly, it has just occurred to me now that the only children book author I look up to and consider as my favorite one is Genaro Gojo Cruz, my countryman writer. Gee! I see. Anyway, I first read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory upon being fascinated by its movie adaptation. I liked the book so much because of the “psychological character” of Mr. Wonka played by award –winning Hollywood actor Johnny Depp. Thereafter, I wanted another one. However, I was disappointed when I read Charlie and the Glass Elevator because of its only-elementary-students-would-appreciate impact.  After all, I was anything but childish. Nevertheless, I still hung in there. I read and enjoyed Boy: Tales of Childhood . It’s not a fantasy, but a memoir of his childhood. The laconic  account of his miserable  but mischievous  childhood’s education  drove me nuts, reminding me of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. However, I was not falling in love with Dahl yet. In fact, I gave one of his  short story  The   Landlady a very low rating . I was no longer  interested  in his other stories given that I had planned to have Roald-Dahl-stories marathon, except my hidden desire for  Matilda and The BFG. As you know, I could not afford such books yet.

In light of Matilda, I now consider Roald Dahl as one of my favorite   children books writers. I enjoyed it a whole a lot. First, I loved her character as a precocious child. I am pretty sure that even book worms out there would be exhilarated by her early interest in reading books, especially that she even read the adults ones which are supposed to be heavy for  a young reader whose  IQ  is still underdeveloped. Thus, I am ashamed to say that I did not have the chance to read the books at early age  such as The Secret GardenGreat ExpectationsNicholas NicklebyOliver TwistJane EyrePride and PrejudiceTess of the d’UrbervillesGone to EarthKimThe Invisible ManThe Old Man and the SeaThe Sound and the FuryThe Grapes of WrathThe Good CompanionsBrighton RockAnimal FarmMoby DickIvanhoeThe Red Pony and Peter and Wendy.

The most exciting part about the book is Matilda’s tricks. Since she is a brilliant child, I  can’t wait to know the next situation on how she will play tricks on her apathetic dad, on  how she will engage in an argument with Mrs.  Trunchball, and on how she will help Ms. Jenny to get her house and money back by scaring  the living daylights out of her. It is a whodunit scene.

The book is worth reading because it is replete with moral lessons.For instance,  Matilda embodies intellectual humility granted that she is still innocent. It is our perception that a gifted child is supposed to have la di da attitude.

One of the things I have observed since I read Roald Dahl’s books is that most of his stories’ theme is about parents’ negligence   and wrong educational system. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mr. Wonka psychologically paints a picture of being an orphan, his hidden desire to get a paternal attention. In Boy: The Tales of Childhood, Dahl recollects his school life when he went through his teachers’ ill-treatment. In Matilda, Matilda’s parents are not responsible for their kids, depicted as apathetic and lazy parents. They are not even aware of Matilda’s brilliance mind. Furthermore, they don’t teach them good values. Rather, they inculcate their kids in the essence of business competition. Matilda’s father is a crooked businessman whereas her mother prefers pulchritude to intelligence.  Fortunately, despite her young age, Matilda is smart and mature enough to understand what is good or bad. Also, she is sensible and sensitive to the people around her.   On the other hand, the book   describes the rotten education system   represented by Ms. Trunchball. In this case, Roald Dahl appears to have used the same rhetoric patterns. It seems that he deeply drew  most of his stories from poverty, some kind of Charles Dickens style.

Supposedly, Matilda was part of my reading class with my Korean student.  My student was so generous to fault that she bought   me my own copy. In fact, we came to terms that I should not read it on weekends,except in our class. However, I could not hold back the temptation. (laughs) Whoa! I still have this tinge of Roald-Dahlic excitement. (laughs)

Rating: 5/ 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.)

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: A Book Review

I admit that reading romantic novels , except pink  ones, is not my cup of tea. I may be such  a consummate misogynist or misandrist, or  I just believe in the Filipino  bromide  , “Walang Forever .” ( laughs)  In fact, I have no any clues about Nicholas Sparks’s best-selling novels yet except their movie adaptions. I do not even include them in my required reading.  Nevertheless, there are two love stories that always remind me of whenever I think of this kind of genre: the classics Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Brontë and Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. Both  novels are the outcomes of  the writers’  desires  to paint the picture of what was love like in a suppressible generation. But when it comes to modern ones, so far, among the ones I  have read, this Me Before You is the one I would say is the catalyst of my elusive finickiness and  the springboard for  a new genre on my list instead.I did not expect to have read a book that would make a difference to   my reading preference. I hate you Jojo Moyes.

As a matter of fact, I did not find this book romantic as what I had expected. It is not similar to the ones you are giddy about in that you are almost gaga for the  main characters, typical of teenyboppers’  reaction. Oh, my gosh!  I feel like fainting! Instead , the book is  enveloped  in  bipolar atmospheres.  Lou Clark ,on the one hand, the main character is a funny lady who loves wearing weird getups. Will Traynor ,on the other hand, a  quadriplegic man who  emits gloomy ,sombre, and dour responses around him. It is a matter of black and white. Romantic? No. My heart broke for Will. I was just being amused by Lou’s  dramatic but optimistic and humorous dramas.So, it is  as though the love that prevailed is compassion. Furthermore, honestly speaking, I am fully aware of the controversial issue on euthanasia, the desire of a patient to end his/ her  life on account of unbearable  body pains and feeling of uselessness.  I  was subjectively reading it  in light of my pragmatic view. My opinion? Again, it’s  a question of white and black.

Rather, its other themes are  realistically compelling  like Lou’s relationship problem with her boyfriend and family.Anyone out there except me may relate to her  love story. And for those self-proclaimed ” bread-winners ”  financially depended on by their ” poor ” families, Lou Clark be like. Hahaha  Besides, if you are a certified book worm, you will nudge at your chair in excitement because both the main characters discuss  different literary books I have read  such  as  Red Queen , Flannery O’Connor’s stories , to name a few. Oh, it  makes sense after all, indeed.

The themes would be inconsequential if it were not Jojo Moye’s  riveting and  beautiful sentences. She really knows her stuff. The pacing and prose  are natural  without  any smidgens of  conspicuously  patched  drafts that she had gathered for a long time.  That’s why I did not feel bored. I just kept on turning the pages  though as I was watching an  a la Mary-Lennox-and Colin-Craven  scene in the  Secret Garden.

Surprisingly, Jojo Moyes  was able to hold  me in  her unconscious target to  be teetering on the edge of  what we call  ” emotional attachment.” Its ending cracked the carapace  of my tough heart. I blinked my tears away, but I have learned  the same lesson again and again : Life is a choice. If you don’t think so, hang in your drama. Bow.

Trivia:

Jojo Moyes was inspired to write the story on euthanasia based on late American rugby player Daniel James who  took his life at the Dignitas clinic on 12 September 2008.

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

 

 

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh: A Book Review

evelynI learned this novel from one of Thomas Merton’s biographies. Then, I became curious why this novel had an impact upon his religious and spiritual journey.

Since Evelyn Waugh is said to have converted to Catholicism, I got confused about his real intention why he wrote such novel. There are some parts of the dialogues which appear to be inconsistent. Did he intend to channel his religious devotion in order to convert readers to Catholicism? Did he intend to differentiate between “believers” and “nonbelievers”? (Sighs!)

If an avowed atheist or agnostic like me reads it, without bias, there are some parts of the dialogues she /he will take an exception to:

(a) Sebastian Flyte’s and Charles Ryder’s characters. In the novel, Charles Ryder, the openly agnostic protagonist, is emotionally empty despite being financially comfortable, unsure of what he wants to do in his life. Did E. Waugh intend to symbolize him that life is “hollow” without religion? How sure E. Waugh of that (all) agnostics and atheists in general have these kinds of feelings? On the other hand, Sebastian Flyte is an alcoholic who gets astray since he ignores his deeply religious mother’s advice that he, if I’m not mistaken, enter an institution to rehabilitate himself. Eventually, he will abscond somewhere in Africa and become an object of charity under the auspices of a monastery. But he will still struggle for his alcoholism. What did E. Waugh intend to drive at?

(b) The ambiguous ending. Its ending is a little “lack of substance in plot”. In other words, it is not convincing for me that Charles Ryder converted himself in the end on account of Lord Marchmain’s concession to his (Lord Marchmain) daughter, Lady Cordelia’s suggestion that he he ask forgiveness for all the sins he has committed through the blessing and prayer of a priest. In fact, Charles Ryder insisted that Lord Marchmain could die or live to the other life, if there is one, without the blessing and prayer of a priest. Charles Ryder has more logical reasons, doesn’t he? Would E. Waugh reason that it could be the “Divine Grace”? Hmmm…it is another atomic collision between Religion and Science.

(c)The frustrating attitude of the religious characters. There is a scene that one of the characters made for the confession room, but was ignored. Another one is the Marchioness of Marchmain and her son, Bridey ‘s prejudice against Sebastian’s alcoholism as well as Lady Julia’s love affair with Charles Ryder; let alone Rex Mortamm’s insincere conversion. These plots are befuddling me. Should E. Waugh have characterized them positively? If she had done it, the story could be of use? Well, they must be the archetypes of religious upbringing. E. Waugh may have wanted to disclose the holier-than-thou in church.

Whatever Waugh‘s real intentions were, well, kudos to him! This novel is the product of his religious devotion- its content is creative, deep, and meaningful. I guess the panelists who included it in the list of the TIME’s 100 Best Novels of All Time could have been subjective.

I could be as subjective as the said panelists may have been, it is nevertheless compelling because of the intimate relationship between Sebastian and Charles Ryder. I wish E. Waugh meant to picture that homosexuality was repugnant at that time. Or I wish he were not that since their said relationship has been unsure and debatable among the readers whether both had a secret love affair. In my opinion, they had. ^^

To be enlightened, I read Evelyn Waugh’s biography in Wikipedia, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I am more intrigued by his religious viewpoints. I hope to read his other works.

Rating: 2 / 5 stars