Vox by Nicholson Baker : A Book Review

Keep up with the Joneses that the fastest and the most convenient medium of making new friends  is using  Messenger , IG, Twitter, Blued, and all that jazz.  All you need is a smartphone in which you can download the apps since free or paid data connection is accessible to everyone. In light of these modern media of social communication, straitlaced , Victorian , or blue nosed  you may sound , deny it or not, you must be aware of the grim reality that people who find sexual thoughts and habits natural in their lives  can also now  easily pour out their  suppressed and restricted desires  through these backdoor outlets. This way of meeting new people to find someone to be in relationship with appears to be the modern way of ‘ sexual’ courtship. Back in my university, text messaging and ‘telebabad’, a Filipino nomenclature for having a long conversation over the phone, were the quite common things to do.

Vox is a short erotic novel about the two opposite sexes knowing each other for the first time through the telephone, talking about their sexual experiences and fantasies. In fact, this was published in 1992, and there is no question why the setting of getting along with each other is through the phone since “telebabad” was for all the rage.

The novel is loaded with   steamy sexual descriptions. Every page is sexually page-turning. The wind of your imagination would drift out somewhere in the erotic world. You might prudishly cringe at every bizarrely sexual anecdote the characters share with each other. I was like reading a sex magazine article and about to storm out of my room toward the relieving room. ( But I didn’t, of course! ) However, the ending is so tempting that I could throw it aside and abundantly squeeze out the seminal scenes that had still been lingering on in my mind. ( laughs)  But I swear! I really brushed off that green stuff you might be playing now. That ending is not that as erogenous and pornographic  as the other scenes I have internally devoured  from the other pulp books, but that is quite simply beautifully written. I won’t forget that!

Warning: Young readers should never lay a finger on it. Otherwise, their ignorant and innocent mind would be polluted. That’s why I stashed it underneath the other books I consider worth reading to keep them out of genius children’s reach. (laughs) Well, do not get me wrong. I am not that prudish either; let the children explore the world themselves.   Besides, it should have been expurgated, but I doubt because it would have been boiled to a thinner version as the  inside-the-box mind of the religious people inculcated in superannuated and ultraconservative teachings beyond logical and scientific understanding.

As far as I have learned, Nicholson Baker’s works are more on erotica. I’m not sure of why he is so monomaniac about such genre.  So, it has still been a question to me about the essence of this book. What is his real intention? Did he just want to write something the sexually preoccupied ( SPO ) would patronize, and he would earn a lot of money at the same time? In fact, I have been trying to trace some quotable lines which could be the brainchild of his hidden motive, but after all, it could be a read for entertainment value. Apparently, it is all about the bird and the bees. Nevertheless, what I realized was that the desire to express one’s sexual desire. I could say that sex is an art. It is not a tabooing matter.

Before reading it, I didn’t have the foggiest idea of what the title Vox means. When I googled  the word, there are many meanings which boggled but aroused my curiosity. It means voices or vocal or a telephone device.  It is also an American news and opinion website established in 2014, younger than the book because it was published in 1992.  When I came to understand the concept of the story, the stress on the capital X  turns out to  indicate that it is an X-rated novel.

Despite the meaning of the title is vocals or voice, I am still in a state of bewilderment about its connection to the concept of the story. Nevertheless, if I interpret it in a sexual context, I can understand that in order for someone hyper-sexualized to be sexually excited, he/ she has to hear the voice of the person he /she talks to over the phone, especially if both of them are sexually reciprocal. Well, I don’t opine that both characters are technically sick. They are just literally flirts.

While putting it aside for a while, abstinently preoccupied with the sex scenes playing in me, I could not stand nor perch still on my chair because all I wanted to do is to  turn to someone I wanted to share it with,someone I miss talking with about  such a taboo topic. Hahaha I miss you Baifern! 🙂

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

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Her Resurrection: A Survivor’s Journey of Emancipation, Reclamation and Redemption by Soumyadeep Koley: A Book Review

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Toni Morrison, considered as one of the best American writers, popped in my mind while reading it. Most of her works deal with slavery , discrimination against  Blacks, both men and women. Most of them also have scenes about rape, inhumane treatment, degradation- something that breaks my heart  and gets my dander up  at the point I run into those parts.Like Toni Morrison’s writing style, Soumyadeep Koley‘s in his debut is “stripped naked”, audacious, full of beautiful and inspiring snippets and thus engaging and compelling.  In other words, it can be a candidate for an eye-opening book that can make a difference , not only to India  but also to all nations.

Meet Maya, the protagonist, young, ambitious, a daughter of a farmer, but debased by her father as a burden to society. Because of the near rape incident, her father will  marry her off to a man older than her. But  she will resist;instead, she will come to an agreement with the man’s father by letting her be educated first. All she wants is to learn how to speak English and read a thick English book. Not satisfied, she wants to obtain a bachelor’s degree, but her husband-to- be, along with his father, will disagree and insult her.Because of Maya’s full resistance and determination, the man will gang-rape her resulting in her family’s  total humiliation and catastrophe. Her father  will die after his attempt to kill her , and her mother will be sent to jail. To get out of the prejudice, she will venture out in Mumbai where her life will be more miserable; she will be raped for the second time and forced into prostitution. Also, there, she will have the chance to prove her ability to keep up with men in terms of job. However, since men are superior and women are nothing , she will not get ahead in her dreams. Instead, she will fall short…Her story goes on with more and more miseries, and I can’t stand telling them any longer. You read it.

The highlights of the novel are its horrendous  rape scenes, prostitution, the protagonist’s brave face off with police and her failures to  get her dreams, and beautiful snippets. So, hold yourself and take a deep breathe. You might not stand it as you keep on turning the next pages.

The title of the novel  perfectly goes with the real concept of the story: Her Resurrection: A Survivor’s Journey of Emancipation, Reclamation and Redemption , since it  apparently paints a portrait of feminism . Women are still  culturally considered lower, decorations, slaves in India’s social class. Women or girls  who are  fully aware of their social position muster up enough courage to break this wall of rotten culture. They make point of surviving the world they don’t belong to by standing up to it despite the travails they can go through. In the end, like  Blacks during slavery period in America, they  will shed blood , endure,suffer until they  achieve the desired freedom without discrimination, degradation, prejudice, ostracism, and so on.

The story makes much of rape and prostitution which the author must want to point out  that  men deluded into virility or sense of masculinity use such destructive weapon to inflict upon defenseless women- something realistic and must be addressed  even up to this day  , not just  by  conservative  but also  modernly free nations.

To make the heart-wrenching  story somehow soothing, the novel  is also embellished with  literary elements  such as photography , psychiatry, and psychology which reflect the author’s educational and work  background, and I don’t think they undermine the foundation of the story. In addition , Koely’s prose and quotes are  absorbing. If it were not his beautiful sentences, the story would be wincing.

Here are my favorite quotes :

“Since my childhood, I’ve always dreamed to be a soldier. As I grew up and stepped into the twenty-first century, I came to realize that India needs more soldiers not to go to war, but to support the pivotal battle of the nation- to fight for women who have been debased and devolved by patriarchy and misogyny, since time immemorial, in order to reclaim the rights that have always been rightfully theirs.”

“Reality is very hard. Life is harder. It should be worked upon, not dreamt. Dreams should have a place in your mind only in the night, not after you wake up.”

“Time can change everything- from kings to paupers, from settlers to drifters, from lovers to strangers, and from girls to ragdolls.”

“Life is the sum of the choices you make. There’s nothing called destiny, neither anything is written It is the difference between a small ‘yes’ and ‘no’.”

“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. Don’t let your past define your future.”

“Some things in life are priceless. They can never be repaid off or repaid with.”

This is a novel we should  give a round of thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Heed me folks!  You read it. I am sure, you can’t bring yourself to proceed to another heart-wrenching parts and end up  liking it a whole lot. Then, you will act like a child pulling  your friends’, publishers’ , or writers’ crumpled hems to draw their attention to it. He can be a promising writer. I bet my  boots.

Congratulations  to Mr. Soumyadeep Koley on his debut novel! 🙂

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

The Newsboys’ Lodging-House or The Confessions of William James by Jon Boorstin: A Book Review

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“ As you’ll not tell me your story, let me tell you a story of  my own…”

 William James, The Newsboys’ Lodging -House

I thought I would not be able to  finish this because  I had not been motivated to read it despite the fact that this has something to do with psychology. May be psychologically speaking, its font size is not as  inducing  as the common  font   I am used to and publishers usually use. So, I ended up  putting it aside for a few months; I would just read it  from time to time whenever  I felt guilty seeing  my currently-reading shelf on Goodreads stacked with unfinished books. Then at last,  I had decided that it  was about time I had to  summon more interest  and dispense enough time to read it. And now, I am over with it and somehow I was as good as REALLY LIKED it because Jon Boorstin’s writing style bears the hallmark of his being a film maker by trade. In addition, since it is a sort of a historical thriller, I find it somehow spellbinding. Furthermore, I took a fancy to William James’ philosophical concept of Free Will, Evil, and pragmatism.

William James is a philosopher, physician, and known as one of the most influential American thinkers as well as the Father of American Psychology.  Notably, he is the oldest brother of the famous novelist, Henry James and diarist Alice  James.

There is one idea that reminds  me of this  novel- a story about a prodigal son ventured out in a city where he will make a  big difference not only to himself but also to others. The only twist  of this is that the protagonist, young William James,  had a mental collapse, ran away from a mental institution in remission. In addition, the adventurer in New York City in 1870’s   was philosophical as though he was such  an old , gruesome hobo  goofing  around the city. So , the novel is steeped in philosophical views. Thus, without this element in the story as well as Jon Boorstin’s journalistic writing stye , I  would not have finished it.

Aside from William James’ prodigal story, the novel also depicts the  life in New York City in 1870’s, how its abject poverty and acrid atmosphere afftected the life of the people, notably of newsboy Jemmie and his sister  Emma- a scene widened James epistemological views.

The narration is divided into two parts: one is about William James including his encounter with American writer , Horatio Alger Jr. and second; Dannie and Jemmie, the newsboys at the lodging house. Each part contains different feelings. When I turn the next chapters about James, I get  excited. Perhaps I like the themes about philosophy and religion, for I find them intellectually and mentally callisthenic. But when I turn to the next parts about Jemmie and Dannie, at first, I feel sick of  them, but reaching its climax when Dannie turns out to be a bad boy, this part somehow gets spellbinding. In other words, the novel is a mixture of a little boredom and excitement.

William James is known for his concept of pragmatism. If you look it up in your dictionary, literally, it   can mean as:

 A way of dealing with problems in a sensible practical  way instead of following a set of ideas. ( Longman Advanced American Dictionary, 2007 )

Ridiculously, there is a scene at the end of the story that William James applied this principle- a scene you would turn over in your mind. ^^

Jon Boorstin is an accomplished writer since he has been in the field of media , and  this novel  won  the New York City Book Award for historical fiction

Rating: 3 / 5 stars

A Son of the Circus by John Irving: A Book Review

Somewhere in a vacuous universe of this tube, Joey bumped into GR.

Joey: Hi, you look familiar with me. Have we met before? You must be … one of my friends on Good Reads!

GR: Oh, yeah! You are …Joey! ( overwhelmed )

Joey: And you are …GR! Oh, it’s nice to see ya here! ( shaking hands with GR)

GR: Oh, yeah! As though we haven’t seen each other for ages! ( laughs)
( then she saw a book Joey holding) Oh, you must be reading something. ( trying to look through it) Wait ! wait! Wait! You have been reading John Irving’s ?

Joey: ( hiding the book behind his back ) Ah,huh…er… I have. ( smiling )

GR: What’s the title?

Joey: Ah…er..A Son of the Circus.

GR: Oh, really? Wait! ( thinking ) Is not that on the list of 1001 Best Novels of All Time? ( giggling)

Joey: Oh, yeah! You are right!

GR: I said it. So,what do you think of it?( excited )

Joey: Ah.. er..Well, H-how bout you? What have you been reading?

GR : Oh, I have just finished a chicklit by Rainbow Rowell. OMG! It’ terrific. I recommend you read it. It’s heart-breaking!In fact, it won …..

Joey: Oh, really?

GR: So , Is John Irving’s interesting?

Joey: Er..I think I have heard a lot of good things about Rowell. I would love to read hers too.

GR: Oh, yeah ! Come on! Get on with it! Then, let me know what you think of it. I am so excited !What was it again? Oh, yeah! It is John…

Joey : Ah,( looking at his watch ) er.. I am sorry! I’ve got to go! Nice to meet you again, GR. Chat you on Good reads. ( walking past him in a hurry)

GR: Er..H-how about …? Wait! ( waving his hand ) Ok. ( watching him fading away ) …Is there something the matter with the book? ( muttering under his breath, despaired)

When GR was home, he logged into his Goodreads account. The first message popped was from Joey’s.

____________________________
To: GR
From: Joey

Hi, GR. I’ve checked that you haven’t read A Son of the Circus by John Irving’s yet.Well, I don’’t wanna be a spoiler. If you wanna read it, have LONG PATIENCE.
Otherwise, you might end up laying it to rest.
Good luck!

__________________________________
ji

At last, I finished this 708 –page novel since I had let it on my study table collect mote of dust as well as get stuck and musty in my currently-reading list on Goodreads for a year. Gee, at that time I still found it very humorous, replete with amusing themes I could not find from other novels, as well as I was impressed by its firs immortal THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP ( 4 stars ). In fact, I was tempted to read first thereupon buying his A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR because I was fascinated by its softbound cover. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. So, automatically, I gave it 1 star. And for the second time around, A SON OF THE CIRCUS is somewhat less disappointing than the former . What’s the matter? In effect, doubtless , John Irving is a gifted writer. I liked the fact that he is able to write such ambitious novels as though he does not have to deal with a writer’s block, as if he never runs out of any ideas. Besides, it is amazing of him to jumble up his different themes together in the same concept. On the other hand, since it is now my third novel, I am now getting more familiar with his writing style than that I found out why I gave both A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR and this one 1 star. First, Irving loves dilly-dallying with his stories as I thought of before. He tends to beat around the bush. He does not stick to the main story. Rather, he tells more details about a superficial situation I am not very much familiar with. . Who cares? Thus, the narrator sounds to be blabbering.

Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah! Blah!

Furthermore, I have noticed that John Irving loves repeating the same stories in the other chapters in a sense that they are all connected- a writing style that is doubtless very rare among other writers. However, such style is persistent in a sense that it ends up a pain in the ass. Imagine a plot goes like this :

Chapter 1 : You read a story …………………..blah! blah! blah!
Chapter 2: You read another story…….then here it goes again, the same with Chapter 1…blah! blah! blah!

I am telling you. You need a considerable amount of long patience to finish it.

Granted that this is less disappointing, I believe that this is still a masterpiece. For me , any piece of literary work is a labor of writing skills. Alas, it’s beyond my taste. But as the cliché goes,” There must be the method to Irving’s madness.”, and this is on what I want to be shed light someday.

I still have his two novels more on my shelf: A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY and UNTIL I FIND YOU. I wonder if he wrote them with the same style. Dear me!

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison : A Book Review

invisible manI  started to read  it in December last year,  but eventually  I found it   too cumbersome and hefty  to absorb since my mind was still saturated with personal concerns at that time, so it wound up  unfinished on my study table , collecting dust  , biding its time to be read  until its leaves are turning crispy. Then , I realized that  it is about time I  cleared out my currently-reading shelf to work up more appetite for  the other to-read books. It is a burden on my part   to put a heap of  unfinished books aside, or it looks like  as though I had a Mahabharata list of currently-reading books.

History has  proven that living in a suppressing  nation where you  have no absolute  freedom , where its  atmosphere restrains  your desires from expressing  your thoughts and feelings, where you are not valued, where you are degraded and debased  as if  you were the  disgusting “invisible”  dregs of humanity, brings about revolution in any manners. Some well-known leaders have stood up  by  means of the iconic Mahatma Gandhi ‘s  principles of civil disobedience or “by any necessary means”  immortalized  by the late  black activist Malcolm X.  In a subliminal or passive way, some   have  channeled  their pent-up  grievances through writing books such as   novels which  could in effect change a particular cause  , and this  is at what Ralph Ellison  must have aimed .

Ralph Ellison is not far different from Richard Wright, the author of the Native Son that astounded me to the bone. Both of them   have in common with   their ulterior  motive  why they wrote a novel about African life: to revolt. The only thing they have big difference is the  instrumental style  they used in  putting  their suppressed feelings into a novel. Richard Wright , on the one hand, wrote a suspense novel which you could feel the psychology of  racism.Consequently, the novel is heart-breaking, appalling, and sympathetic. You could feel the  psychologically  adverse effects of    slavery, discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry. On the other hand, although  Ralph Ellison used the style of R. Wright,  he  attached more importance to  allegories  or  literary devices; he used some situations and materials   in elaborating his suppressed grievances, as appeals to reasons, appeals to emotion, and  appeals to authority.   Thus, reading it was like as though you get  into two dimensions of semantics , and yet you could get at the real climax of the story: You read  the literal passages ; at the same time, they have figurative meanings. That is why I was impressed by this book- it is steeped in awakening passages; every page is worth reading, indeed.

Since R. Ellison grew out of a culture of bigotry and  availed of   his talent in writing to produce this , which he believed could have changed the  incorruptible stereotypes of white Americans about blacks  as well as awakened his fellow blacks to the reality about  divisive dilemma coming into existence among them. In this book, he simply   attached to the very simple dialogues and passages with what the “ real” problems  he  insisted on are the crucial to the desired equality. Ellison wanted to imply figuratively that there  are two groups of  blacks that prevail: one is that believe in the principle of practicality and gentle and gradual  process of raising awareness whereas the second one is consist of the people who believe in the urgent revolution in a manner of  public demonstration .

While reading it, the character,  Brother Jack reminded me of  Martin Luther King Jr. while in the half persona of  the unnamed protagonist and Ras the Exhorter , of Malcolm X. As far as I remember from the book The Autobiography of Malcolm X, King and Malcolm had  unresolved misunderstanding then, for  they had different opinions of means of  revolution against racism. For  King’s, he could get rid of  the  ulcer of society by means of  religion  using his immortal slogan I HAVE A DREAM; Malcolm X’s “ By Necessary Means.” In the other case, I could interpret that the main protagonist could be the persona of Richard Wright. Why not? Ralph Ellison was then close to him. Besides, I learned that Richard Wright once became a spokesperson of  a Communist party  based on his autobiographical novel Black  . Gee,  having read a great deal  of  books  about blacks is now causing me to  have mental bubbles of  analyses.

It is understood that this book  was written as  a revolutionary book   against freedom and equality just the likes of  what I have read :  UNCLE TOM’S CABIN by Harriet Beecher , A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E. M. Forrester, THE FIXER by Bernard Malamud, A NATIVE SON by Richard Wright, and our very own NOLI ME TANGERE ( TOUCH ME NOT )  by Jose Rizal.( I hope you give it a try. )

This is  included on 1001 Best Novels of All Time as well  as on TIME’s BEST NOVELS OF ALL TIME since 1923. I should not give it any sheer shadow of doubt because it is absolutely deserving- deserving of any special literary awards, of   your time to read it, of  being part in American studies, and of your 5 stars. ^^