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.)

The Vegetarian by Han Kang: A Book Review

the_vegetarian_-_han_kang

“Look, sister, I’m doing a handstand; leaves are growing out of my body, roots are sprouting out of my hands…they delve down into the earth. Endlessly, endlessly…yes, I spread my legs because I wanted flowers to bloom from my crotch; I spread them wide…”

If my fellow Filipinos are addicted to K-Pop and K-drama, well, I am now to K-Lit as in Korean literature. If it were not to my list of the 1001 Best Novels of All Time, I would not have known some immortal Korean novels such as Land by Park Kyung-ni and The Taebek Mountains by Jo Jung-rae. Unfortunately, I have not read them yet; I have still been looking for their English translations at book stores here in the Philippines and  their free PDFs on the internet as well. Nonetheless, thanks to my student’s birthday gift Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin, my first ever Korean novel. After that I got the  good chance of reading  some  other Korean fictions :Deep Blue Night by In-ho ChoiThe Dwarf  by  Cho Se-HuiHuman Decency  by  Ji-young Gong, and The Wounded by Yi Chong-Jun,.These books have piqued my interest in reading another Korean fictions .I wish I could complete all the other books published by the same publisher.

Upon catching the glimpse of The Vegetarian  by Han Kang in an Indian book club in which I am a member , I googled it to find its free PDF or giveaways since I still prefer real books. However, the book , after reading it , is not what I had played in my imagination. This is not what a Korean novel with which I am familiar. It is a different genre that does not reflect Korean life and culture as what the other books I have read above. Rather,it is something new:utterly bizarre, preposterous, fanciful, and insipid but awful and impressive.

Its conceptualized story drives me crazy. A woman whose name is Yeong-hye loses her sanity after turning vegetarian. She quits eating meat because she has delusion that she is growing like a plant. Also, she is somewhat an exhibitionist because she takes pleasure in exposing herself naked to the sunlight. Furthermore, Mr. Chong, Yoeng-her’s brother-in-law, has repressed sexual fantasy  for Yeong-he by filming her having sex with the other man ( including himself) , both bodily painted with  flowers.Besides,the details of how Mr. Chong desires to paint Yeong-he’s body a flower with petals are so erotic that I even got a hard-on. (blushing)

I was impressed by the way how Han Kang combined all the events that happened in different time in one story. I am accustomed to reading a novel that has the same events in one chapter. For this reason, it is a challenge for me to patch all the events together in order to understand the roles of the characters as well as the wholeness of the story.

One of the common comments by the book reviewers is that it is well-written. I guess the best words to put it is that it is well-translated. But to put it mildly, there are some unknown novellas or fictions I have read better than this. May I cite Her Resurrection: A Survivor’s Journey of Emancipation, Reclamation and Redemption by Soumyadeep Koley ? How about the other finalists? I wonder if its Korean version must be more impressive.

On the contrary, the other good points above tend to evaporate as there are some snippets that I find deadening and undermining. There are some lines in the conversations that I find just-nothing as in they lose my interest while I am in the state of dawdling curiosity, puzzlement, enthrallment, and excitement. I may be guessing, but it seems like Han Kang may have found those parts essential to the story. How I wish she had deleted or revised them.  If you happen to encounter those parts, feel free to comment here including the snippets I am blabbering about .I am now too lazy to scan them since I read its PDF.  We may turn out to be in the same position after all. Nevertheless, in the context of literary analysis, the feeling, the tone, the emotion, after all, are the embodiment of Yoeng-hye, an insane woman. But still, my subjective reaction stands stationary.

Since the book is a bit ambiguous, there are two questions that I have been trying to answer myself , which, in effect, are  unnecessary; there are still unread books I have to keep up with : (1) If Yeong-he wants to be vegetarian, why can’t her family support her with some alternative veggie food.They can help her find ones  such as what vegetarians do. If they need protein, they can eat vegetarian recipe replete with protein and other nutrients which are usually found in meat. I wonder if this part reflects in Korean family where family members condemn someone who turns vegetarian. In fact, as far as I know, Buddhism, the first religion in Korea, advocates the importance of eating vegetable. (2) What is the relevance of the Mongolian mark to the story? Does Han Kang want to emphasize its implication of the Korean culture?

Off the topic,while reading it, I remembered the time back in university when I attended a one-week youth camp held by a non-government organization from France. The camp was intended for us scholars to be instilled in different development personality training. One of the programs tried to inculcate in us was to how to be vegetarian. Vegetarianism is one of the organization’s causes. So, almost all the meals prepared for us were vegetables without any small mixture of any kinds of meat. They were not even mixed with any seasonings, so they tasted bland. No surprise why my camp mates would frown during meal time. I may not have been used to it, but I tried to force the lump of veggie into my mouth. Besides, I was inspired by our main facilitator, of Chinese extraction, a certified vegetarian, who testified to the benefits of being vegetarian. After that one-week absence of meat in my body, I continued to apply the cause to my life. Believe it or not, I avoided eating any kinds of meat. Whenever my mother served a bowl of viand, I would just ladle out the vegetables added to it. I would only have the good chance of practicing vegetarianism during lunch at school. However, I decided to quit when I came to realize that I was not rich enough to do so. I would have gotten sick of or chaffed by lack of enough protein. Gee, I would have looked patent anorexic, for my weight at that time was 48 kg.

Although I was not much satisfied with the plots and settings of the novella, Han Kang has proved that Korean writers can write something new, a la Haruki Murakami. Besides, I still felt the K-wave, the marvelous , indescribable , invisible  effect  the Korean Ministry of Culture wants to impart to the world as how K-Pop and K-dramas have invaded Asia and some parts of the world. Thus,  I admit that I have fallen in love with Korean literature, and I want to read some more!  Saranggae! 🙂

Rating: 2/ 5 stars ( It’s ok.)

My Top Ten Favorite Books in 2015

2015 was the year when I took an active part in Goodreads. I set my reading goal as many as 200 books; however, I failed to do so due to my hectic job schedules. In the end, I decided to read as many as 160.

I enjoyed many books last year. At the same time, I discovered new genres and met new authors I had turned back on before. I enjoyed reading some  Sam Harris’s books  which sharpened my critical analysis. Finally, I read some books I had not been able to read on account of their exorbitant prices. Then, somehow, I was able to keep up with a few  best-sellers.

For local books, I buried myself in some Danton Remoto’s and  Carlos Bulosan’s books. In fact, it was a revelation to me that Isagani Cruz turns out to be a critically acclaimed writer in the Philippines. So, I will read his other works. ^_^

Among the books, here are my top ten favorites that had significant  impact on me:

martian

  1. The Martian by Andy Weir.  I love a Sci-Fi dealing with astronomy and NASA.

dahl9. Boys Tales Children by Roald Dahl. I am fond of reading books about someone’s memoir or semi-autobiography, especially if the theme is more on education

This one by Roald Dahl is said to be his childhood experiences. I liked the book because it deals with the rotten educational system Dahl experienced when he was young.

invisible man8. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I had put it aside for a few months before I found out why it is included on TIMES’ best novels of all time since 1923. When you read it, it will make you go mad at the Whites  the time  they discriminated against Blacks. Besides, I liked the fact that there is a psychological tactics behind it.

albert7. The Stranger by Albert Camus. A deep book which can lead to different perspectives. In my case, I cried over it because I saw myself in the main character. Besides, I like the philosophy bespoken in the story which might shatter the “in-the-know” readers .

secret6. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  It is one of my most favorite children books. I like and miss gardening, so I am riveted on how the secret garden centers around the story.

malala5. I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai. This is an inspiring story which provoked my desire to stand up to injustice.

4.Atheism : The Case Against God by George H. Smith. If you are a militant atheist like Richard Dawkins, read it. This is a perfect guide how you can debate well with an apologist 

3. Si Janus Silang #1 and 2 by Edgar Calabia Samar. This is definitely one of the reasons why I love to read Philippine literature more. A book series I will follow up with as what happened to those Harry Potter and Twilight fans. Hooray, I can’t wait for its book 3 in September! ^_^

2.God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I have read this twice;one time in 2014 , my second time last year. I really love this book because I look up to Richard Dawkins, along with Sam Harris  and Christopher Hitchens , some of whose  books were also on my read-list last year. He is a very candid and audacious atheist who has never been dauntless in expressing his opinions and thoughts.

This book can change someone’s perspectives on religion- a perfect manifesto to break distorted religions anyone may not be aware of .

This year, I will  include it on my to-read list  again.

antonia

1.My Antonia by Willa Cather . I will never forget this book. I will even recommend it to anyone. In fact, this is the novel why I decided to watch its musty movie adaptation which main roles were played by young  Patrick Nick Harris as Jimmy Burden  and by Elina Löwensohn as Antonia Shimerda.

The book is so beautifully and purely written that I did not even hold it down until I got dismayed at the climax. Besides,this reminds  us  of the grim lesson that life is a matter of moral consequence.

This year, I took the challenge to read as many as 150 books. Originally, I wanted to make it to 200 books again. However, I am worried that my teaching job might be the big impediment to this goal. Jeez, Good luck to me!

Happy Reading, buddies!

Philosophy Books Club

PhilosophyClub

Philosophy   could be a complete no- brainer to  people who have unfathomable thinking, but in my case, it is a head-bashing field   that I could be close to splattering  pavement with my brain just to get at what the schools of thoughts  are trying to drive at. I have to turn over them in my mind repeatedly until I am at my wits’ end. Nevertheless, in the end, when I am in a heuristic moment, it turns out to be  a vicarious pleasure.

Recently, a friend of mine on Goodreads founded  the Philosophy Book Club which intends to encourage intellectual intercourse among its members. The club will set a reading goal  for the whole month , and then next  month , its members will have discussions which will be moderated by the founder himself.

The   book club is interesting  because its members from around the world  regardless of your social status will have the chance to exchange ideas .

The good-hand  reading goal for the month of September is The Republic by Plato.

plato-the-republic

The members are expected to finish it by the end of the month .

If you have a Goodreads account and are interested to be part of the book club, you can check this site  https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/139518-philosophy-books-club

 Enjoy reading, the philosophers ! I am now keyed up to finish it and engage in the discussion! ^_^

Endgame by Samuel Beckett: A Book Review

endgame“HAMM: We’re not beginning to… to… mean something?
CLOV: Mean something! You and I, mean something!
(Brief laugh.) Ah that’s a good one!”
Samuel Beckett, Endgame

It is my first book of Samuel Beckett, and I intended to read a thin one in order to get an idea of how remarkable the writer is since I have read a plenty of positive feedback about his writing styles from the literati . Unfortunately, this one is soooo confusing to make out. I cannot get at the sequence of the story- the characters just seem to talk incessantly. There are apparently two characters who seem to talk to one another philosophically; then, another characters appear out of nowhere making a la cameo appearances. I said to myself , “ What’s going on in here? “ (laughs) Still, I kept on going. But when I looked it up in Wikipedia, I found out the real concept of the play: I was impressed. I have never seen nor read such kind of play that two characters have conversation next to their own habitats- dustbins. What an out-of-this world scene!

The play has just four characters: Hamm , unable to stand and blind; Clov , servant of Hamm; unable to sit; Nagg , Hamm’s father; has no legs and lives in a dustbin; and Nell , Hamm’s mother; has no legs and lives in a dustbin next to Nagg.

In the end, I am still boggled at the philosophical discourse among the characters- a challenge I might get through in an attempt to read his other books, particularly his trilogies.

“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that… Yes, yes, it’s the most comical thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing. Yes, it’s like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don’t laugh any more.”
Samuel Beckett, Endgame

Samuel Beckett’s Endgame at the Dutchess Theatre in 2009 ( Photo:ALASTAIR MUIR)

If I watch its stage play, I will enjoy it more.^_^

Rating: 2/ 5 stars ( It’s ok. )

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: A Book Review

IMG_20130103_015915Lo and behold, my   young student   lent me – although I abhor to do so-  this in tatters  considering that I am now  finicky about book covers. I prefer pristine books to crispy ones since I would love to build  my own private library someday where in I would definitely hole up reading the books I would like to keep up with. (Stargazing) Yippie! I  can’t wait for it.

I rarely get a chance to meet a young student whose taste for books  is paralleled with mine. It just so happened that my student came up with this book and offered to lend me first , for she knows that I have not bought my own copy yet. Out of idle curiosity I nodded in excitement  since its paperback  picture of a cute  girl  looking up to a spider in its web while holding a pig  had drawn my attention many times   at children books sections in a book store.  Also, I had learned that it is considered as one of the best children books in the world literature.  So I did not want to miss this opportunity as long as books could be at my disposal and gratis .

As a matter of course, literally, I tend to judge a book cover rather than its content, the first ideas of the story  that I deluded myself into were:

( a)  The pig was the main  protagonist of the story.

(b) The girl in the picture was Charlotte.

(c) The pig was Charlotte’s pet .

(d) The story centered around  the pig’s heroism  just the like in  the movie Babe: Pig City by George Miller.

Upon reading it, I have shattered all my illusions with this burning sensation of   shame.

( a)  The pig was the main  protagonist of the story.

Yes, the pig is the main protagonist of the story. His name is Wilbur  but there’s one thing I did not give a fiddle’s fart about- the spider. The spider also has a special role as the all rage to the story. She, not a man if you are unconsciously borne upon this male sexism, is Charlotte A. Cavatica.

(b) The girl in the picture was Charlotte.

Teng! Teng! Teng!  ( X-double –minus ) The spider is Charlotte. The girl’s name is Fern Arable. She saved Wilbur from death when her father found  out that he is a  rant. She begged her father that she pet Wilbur herself.

(c) The pig was Charlotte’s pet.

Nope. When Wilbur was crestfallen because Fern missed visiting him, Charlotte, the spider, comforted him until they hit it off like best friends.

(d.)The story centered around   the pig’s heroism  just the like in  the movie Babe: Pig City by George Miller.

Not at all! The highlights of  the story are:

First: Wilbur knew that he was expected to be killed for ham and bacon before Christmastime.

Second: Charlotte  would make some miracles to save Wilbur.

Third:  The natural life-and-death process of Charlotte. Tear-jerker! T_T

I was close to giving it 4 stars because I  enjoyed reading the first part in which I basked  the philosophical discussion between  Fern and his father about life.

Fern Arable: [John Arable lifts runt from the newborn litter of piglets] Papa! Papa, stop! Don’t kill it! It’s unfair.
Arable: Fern! You will have learn to control yourself!
Fern Arable: [crying] Control myself? This is a matter of life and death, and you talk about controlling myself?
Arable: Now Fern, I know a lot more about raising pigs than you do. A weakling makes trouble, now run along.
Fern Arable: But it’s unfair! If I had been very small, would you have killed me?
Arable: No, certainly not! A little girl is one thing, a… runty pig is another.
Fern Arable: [Sobbing] I don’t see any difference! This is the most terrible case of injustice that I ever heard of!

Then,  I kept turning the next pages  so eager and excited  to know how Fern is  able to  bring Wilbur up. But I was disappointed when I found out that Charlotte turned out to be a spider beyond my great expectations. I guess I had this conception that how a spider , definitely  whose intelligence is lower than the domestic animals in the barn , could  have such a big role, especially in her ability to communicate with  others. Probably I am more used to watching TV anime  or reading fables  which most of  the characters involved are intellectually higher than insects such as spiders . Or You’ d rather I said social interaction among animals with different intellectual  classification .  For example, pigs could interact with another domestic animals like horses, sheep, goats, geese, chickens, cats, dogs, or even mice, but with insects such as spiders   and other kind alike is off the center. I have never read  nor seen such kind of interaction yet. If I have as the memory serves, I just know that they just take a cameo part.

I  had expected that the story would go like ,probably , Wilbur would be a Super-Pig doing something heroic granted that the perception of the town people about him was that he is an animal, merely a pig. Uh-oh! I may have gotten this idea   from animation movies which the common scene is  that an animal does something remarkable  such as in Pig City, Beethoven, Dalmatian 101…

I may be a little disappointed at the twists and turns of the story, but I can’t deny the fact that it is worth its salt. You can pick some lessons   from the philosophical discourses among the characters about  LIFE and FRIENDSHIP.No wonder it has received a panoply of  different literary awards.

On life , I liked :

 “Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen.”

 Who won’t skip Wilbur’s standing-ovation polemic on an arrogant lamb’s snide  that He(Wilbur) is just  less than nothing ?

“What do you mean less than nothing? I don’t think there is any such thing as less than nothing. Nothing is absolutely the limit of nothingness. It’s the lowest you can go. It’s the end of the line. How can something be less than nothing? If there were something that was less than nothing, then nothing would not be nothing, it would be something – even though it’s just a very little bit of something. But if nothing is nothing, then nothing has nothing that is less than it is.”

Howzat? Read it again ! ( laughs)

On friendship, I want to remember Charlotte’s lines by heart :

 “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.”

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

My Korean student who lent me her book. ^^
My Korean student who lent me her book. ^^

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

LIBRIVOXTheWonderfulWizardOfOz500

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.)