The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett: A Book Review

alanbennetYou may not be such a voracious  reader if you could not relate to this novella.

The story is simple but interesting. It  is about the queen of England, an UNCOMMON READER (look its meaning up in Wikepedia), who will fall to reading books when she meets across a travelling library. There she meets Norman, the kitchen boy, who will introduce her to different writers she has never met yet. The queen will completely immerse herself in books, derelict in her duty as Her Majesty of England. Ad nauseam because of her special advisor, Sir Kevin, she will be in a quandary over whether reading affects her duty or not.

Like Her Majesty, I prefer to be left to my reading. I don’t want to be disturbed. I don’t want to procrastinate reading, but I do procrastinate doing the job I must do.

Like Her Majesty, I make excuses not to do anything else because I want books be under my nose all the time.

Like Her Majesty, I’d rather read a book on a vehicle or whenever I travel, carrying a stack of books I try to catch upon than watch a movie or strike up a conversation with my friend/s.

Like Her majesty, I sleep through my books because they keep me awake, but half awake with the books I find kitsch, so I lay them aside until they get caked with dust bunny.

Like Her Majesty, I read a book with a pad and a pencil close at my hand to take notes the words I haven’t known yet and to underline the quotes boggle my mind at the same time.

Like Her Majesty, I love frequenting my favorite stomping ground to check upon the unknown in my world.

Like Her Majesty, I am brainwashed by the totally ridiculous opinions of the significant others, unenthusiastic about books. To them, reading is time killing.

Like Her Majesty, it is too late to learn a lot of things more since she had been up to her nose with her duty, in my case, poverty. Thus, we are both OPSIMATHS as she puts it.

I bet my boots you bear complete resemblance to Her Majesty, don’t you?

But unlike Her Majesty, I will never give up on my “natural or learned’ inclination till Kingdom come despite my demanding job. ^___^

Out of 29 authors mentioned in the novella, I should proudly say that I am very familiar with 17 of them such as:
Anita Brookner
Thomas Hardy
Winifred Holtby
Henry James
Alice Munro
The Brontës
Marcel Proust
Philip Roth
• Vikram Seth
William Shakespeare
Charles Dickens
William Makepeace Thackeray
• Jane Austen
George Eliot
E. M. Forster
• Ian McEwan
• A.S Byatt

Well, could I be an uncommoner in the world of literature? (wink!)

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

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The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing : A Book Review

Since Goodreads, the world’s largest book club site , honed my appetite for reading books, particularly gave me the ideas of  what books I should read, I have been  updated with the  famous  and acclaimed literary writers , not only with the classic but also with the contemporary writers-I have the  list of 1001 Best Novels of All Time as well as  the magazine, TIME’s 100 Best Novels since 1925, and now I want to include the Most Banned Books- I tend to be getting more familiar with the authors ‘ names ;and at the same time, I search for them in the Wikipedia. I can know them more when I read  and hear them in the news. One of the writers known to me now is Doris Lessing.

Doris Lessing is considered as one of the most celebrated and distinguished writers of the second half of the twentieth century. She is mostly known for her novel The Golden Notebook– the novel , not to mention her other books, that has  been  elusive at my stomping ground. If I lucked out to spot it there, I would definitely, without balking, make a grab for it and fork off at any cost. Nevertheless, I am fortunate to have found it.

dorrisThis is the collection of  Lessing’s  four novellas:

The Grandmothers ( Rating: 3/ 5 stars )

 “ Lunacy is one of the great invisible wheels that keep  worlds turning .”

-Dorris Lessing, The Grandmothers-

This is the story of two mothers, Rozeanne and Liliane, bestfriends since high school, become neighbors upon their marriage. Their  friendship will remain solid despite their family lives  crumble: Rozeana will divorce her husband whereas Liliane’s husband dies of a car accident. But the real center of the story that  readers will definitely find repulsive on account of conventional belief in our  society   is that Rozeana is  infatuated with Liliane’s son, and so is Liliane with Rozeana’s son.

If I were  such a deep-seated moralist, I would give it 1 star  out of 5 stars to express how disgusted I could be. To demonstrate my dismay more, I would  scream bloody murder by setting this book  on fire or  by singling it out on social media that Doris Lessing is such an immoral writer.   How dare  Doris Lessing write such a story educating  people that irrational infatuation with someone whose age gap is beyond your sexual needs? Ridiculously reactionary   I could be. But in the name of literary value, Lessing intends to write out such situation  which could really exist beyond our customs. In fact, the lesson behind the story is that life could be complicated when your moral choice is out of the sanity.

Victoria and The Staveneys ( Rating:  4 / 5 stars )

 “I If I say I am going to eat you all up, you must not take it as more than  a legitimate expression of my sincere devotion.”

-Doris Lessing, Victoria and The Staveneys-

A big challenge for a writer  is how to make  a very simple  concept of the story he/she has thought explode into  a pyrotechnic  novel- a novel that is so impressive that the author is almost put on a pedestal.  So writers could have their own alternative styles; it could be chronological, in a way that the  story  goes from the beginning to the ending; manipulating, in a way that the plots are jumbled until  you get lost the track; symbolic , in a way that the novel appears to be enigmatic, deciphering that you  are at your wits ’end, and many, many more. The examples of the novels – as far as I observe from the books I have  already – which styles are chronological are the classics  such as Charles Dickens’ and Leo Tolstoy’s’,  manipulating; Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin ( 4 stars ), symbolic; Martin Amis’s The Information ( 5 stars ). In other case, there are some writers whom I find genius, for not that  can they  write with the styles above, but  with the way that appears simple, but others are not very much used to , they put into their thoughts a story, as though writing is a piece of pie for them. So far , I have known one  good example of those writers, Toni Morrison. And  Doris Lessing has proven me that she could  be as good as Toni Morrison upon reading this novel. I was dumbfounded.

The concept of the story is  very common among us readers.  A black and orphaned woman gives birth to two children with different men. Her first child  is of a rich white man while the other one of a black man. In the end, she will find her first child slowly  absorbed in the world of white privilege until she becomes estranged from her.  As you know , a common situation on TV dramas, such situation exists in reality, but this novella impressed me , for the writing finesse of Doris Lessing  made it fantastic. She divided the story into different time and place with beautiful plots  and settings- a style I  bet my boots  only she has. Furthermore, she wrote it with beautiful sentences- sentences which are so light and meditating to read.

The Reason For It (  Rating 4/ 5 stars )

“ Tell it. Call The Cities together and tell it . Then it will be in all their minds and cannot disappear.”

Doris Lessing, The Reason For It

Among  four, this is quite deeper and more enigmatic and  philosophical which  requires higher level of critical thinking and a little background in history   to connect with what Doris Lessing is trying to drive at.

Simply  put, the story is about a member of Twelve, tells  of   the history of his civilization and of how  his said civilization is slowly disintegrated after choosing the  son of Queen Destra, DeRod as her successor and who turns out to  lead the barbarous  life . After much reflection, the narrator comes to the conclusion that DeRod should not much be  attached to the blame, for he is an idiot . Thus,  he , DeRod, does not know  what he is doing.

In the context of  literary analysis, the theme is probably about Barbarism and Civility: People tend to be simpletons  when they lead the life of barbarity, but when they embrace the life of Civilization, life becomes rational as the title puts it, “ The Reason For It”

Once again, I read  in awe, not even able to put my jaws back , of the writing styles as Doris Lessing  did in Victoria and The Staveneys.  Dear me! I could have even almost tossed it in the air.

A Love Child ( Rating : 3/ 5 stars )

“ I’m not living my own life. It’s not my real life. I shouldn’t be living the way I do.”

Doris Lessing, A Love Child

James, a young British soldier,  gets drafted and dispatched to South Africa and India during World War II. There in South Africa, he has a love affair with  a British woman, Daphene, She gets pregnant , but James never knows  it until he receives a  letter in reply to his first letter to Daphene expressing  how he  misses her. After twenty years, he flies to South Africa to look for his son; however, he ends up merely with   his picture he will keep, but remain incomplete and stagnant.

Comparatively, this is the heftiest among four. I could feel  not only the abject misery of the soldiers  but also the burden the protagonist keeps to himself. Perhaps, Lessing’s beautiful craft of writing conveyed her target feelings in the sentences. I have nothing to say more.

Indeed, Doris Lessing is one of the most celebrated writers in this century. There is something in her books, in her writing styles of which  only she  bears all the  hallmarks, at which some readers might not get, so they would  end up finding  this boring. I may  have  compared her with  Toni Morison, but Doris Lessing is Doris Lessing whereas Toni Morison is Toni Morison. I wonder if I can still find this so-called “only-the-writing-style-she-has “  in her The Golden Notebook.

Upon reading it, I have  shattered all my  illusions that , “ Writing  at any cost is not impossible. “ Eureka! ^^

The Flood by Emile Zola ( Book Review # 4 )

Our country   is not immune from any strong tropical storms since  it is located  near the  Pacific Ocean  where  typhoons  that usually hit  the eastern parts of Asia   develop.  In  October 2013, the world was appalled to hear the news that the super typhoon Yolanda, Haiyan for its international name,  completely devastated and wreaked   wide havoc  all over the southeastern  region of our country. Thousands of lives  were lost and  billion pesos worth of properties was destroyed. Thereupon, many countries from all over the world   expressed sympathies by donating billion dollars and offering solemn prayers. Grossly   disappointing, concerned critics  from different civil society have been vociferating  that  the  large amount of money must have been stolen by the corrupt government officials because until now the  areas affected have not been  rendered  full assistance and services.

y1

y2y

This horrible, ghastly disaster is no longer new to us Filipinos. In fact, many typhoons,  although not stronger than  Yolanda, have   dashed against our hopes and left  unhealed  wounds in our hearts because of the aftermaths they brought about. One of these  is flooding.

The residents in Metro Manila will never forget the typhoon Ondoy in 2009. One of the scenes indelible in our minds  that was  broadcast on TV  was  this:

ondoy-aftermath-by-wenzzo-pancho

Almost all  the cities in the National  Capital Region were paralyzed  by this. Many people were stranded and  not able to go home from their work  nor meet their families.

ondoy

Our family is fortunate that our city is not prone to this kind of disaster because  the city is mountainous. So, I am glad that I have never gone through this kind of experience  yet. Gee whiz!  I do not want to  get sick of post-traumatic stress  disorder. However, I  am still worried that our city may  sink as do other adjacent cities in the next generation since the  global warming is now at the eleventh hour.

emile-zola-novella-the-flood-mediumThe  Flood   is a true story. Emile Zola drew the inspiration from the flood happened  in Toulouse , France.

It appears that Zola knew how  it feels to be a victim of flooding. He must have  been one of the victims at that time  that he was able to put his  suppressed feelings into  such a masterpiece. That is why the story is well written.  The scenes are so perfectly depicted that they  sent shivers  up and down my spine .   Besides, the writing style is traditional, which I like in classics. However, the first plot  vividly depicted  prior to the flood sounds to be slapdash as though I was left hanging , for I  had wanted to keep glowered and bask in a happy typical of a family as well as the optimistic spirit among the characters- the  real situation experienced by the victims  before  the disaster . Furthermore, the story   does not tell where the  flood originates . Just it happens when someone shouts, “ The Garonne! The Garonne! “

On the other hand, I appreciated the ending. As  how a disaster begins,  it will run its due course when the  sky clears and the water calms down , a vast scenery of death will open to you- a nightmarish reality of life.

We cannot deny  the fact that  force of the  Nature is so powerful that the face of the Earth could almost be exterminated; that however means of  effort we make , this so-called natural phenomena is uncontrollable.  For some,  it could be an act of God . Be that as it may, but we must always keep in mind that ,  somehow,  to be in good harmony with the Nature is to be MORE RESPONSIBLE for it. Sadly,  we  still fall  ourselves into the abyss of  avarice and ignorance.

Think about our grandchildren in the future.