Another year is gone, and it’s been one of the best so far. The fact that I can write that with full conviction is so strange that I have to revisit the thought. Don’t get… More
People who have gotten drunk with me know I cannot carry a tune and that I screw up the lyrics of pretty much every song.
There are lyrics I never get wrong, lyrics which resonate with life, lyrics so powerful they became a part of who I am.
If you’re a bit older you remember running towards the radio when That Song started to press “record”. You remember the frustration when That Song was interrupted by stupid commentary of the radio host.
I’ve learned so much English trying to understand Insomnia. Back then, I had no idea how and why would someone smoke weed. I had no idea what a duvet was and I even had to look up yeast. Twenty three years ago I had no idea what insomnia was and I had never burned a whole in a mattress.
I had another accidental exercise in reading preferences – very similar to what happened to me while reading Crazy for Vincent/Intimacy.
I started reading Saramago’s Blindness alongside Borislav Pekić’s Rabies (Besnilo), having no idea what Blindness is about (I like knowing as little as possible about a book). Turns out – again – the books are eerily similar, yet completely different.
Moby Dick Syndrome
Some books are just…no. Simply no. Blindness is one of those “No-Books” for me. Reading it was a torture, and I still cannot grasp what pushed me to finish it. Maybe it was the Moby Dick Syndrome. Let’s just say, I know there is a white whale somewhere on those pages, but not only did I not catch it, I did not even hear it.
Blindness did manage to pull me in at the start. Lack of proper names, difficulty of discerning who was speaking and the seamless transitions between sections blinded me. It made me feel like I was a part of the epidemic and it foreshadowed an amazing immersive experience (which it failed to deliver).
In Rabies, Pekic’s wild and erratic style makes you feel mad, teetering on the edge of sanity (and humanity). And even though I had a lot of difficulty navigating through it (it took two tries), I got my white whale in the end and I loved every minute of the hunt.
What a Difference a Style Makes
Blindness is smelly, languid and apathetic. Rabies is violent, intense, and bloody. The destination of both is the same, but the paths they take are different. Rabies escalates, Blindness withers.
While it’s not hard to deduce what Blindness is about, I really didn’t get it while I was reading it. Having thought about it, I assume the point was to show:
- The fragility of the human condition/society;
- The ephemeral nature of what we see as humanity;
- “Reality” is arbitrary (especially when faced with severe adversity);
- The agility with which society turns out those who are different, afflicted, unwanted….
I just did not see it – I was too busy being irritated. I did not have any “there-she-blows” moments – it was all a struggle.
Rabies, with very similar allegorical tendencies, resonated with me with no problem whatsoever. Pekic has written a thriller, a clever crime story (with a hint of supernatural) with real people you come to hate/love and care about, a story which successfully led me to the white whale.
I’m going to quote myself here because I’m so cool:
Pekić is very ostentatious, very aware of his prowess and he’s putting it out there. It’s pretty much like this: “uuu look at me, I handle words the way you cannot handle oxygen, and I know it, and I want you to know it.” And I know it. And I loved it.
It’s Not That It’s Bad – I Just Hated It
Around 100 pages into Blindness, I had no empathy left and I didn’t give a fuck about the horrible reality the characters were subjected to. But it’s hard to tell whether that was a result of Saramago’s intention to show me I’m a part of that “humanity” (which is in essence inhumane) or was it the result of me hating the book.
There are more things I appreciated in Blindness, like Saramago’s ability to write about violence, blood and murder and still making it all seem lethargic and passive. Saramago is a magnificent writer. Blindness is not a lousy book; it’s just that I hated it.
Honestly? I don’t know. Having examined Blindness in more detail makes me think I was unfair in giving it a one-star rating. But I really hated it, I really did.
Should the aftermath matter? Or should the reading experience itself be the basis for a rating?
I was a kid. Didn’t feel like one. Never felt like one.
I don’t really remember the details. Those days are a vague memory of a movie I didn’t enjoy, but was compelled to watch.
Something broke inside of me that day. Irrevocably. That much I do remember. I still hear the sound. I remember the shock. I remember that day as the day when I started to be what I am.
I’m probably wrong, because you come to be from a series of experiences, not just one defining moment. There’s no fixed dramatic structure in life.
That day, looking at the faces of my friends, on a sunny summer day, something ended, someone came to life.
Opened up my heart to the people I thought were closest to me; people I thought felt the same. Ended up being laughed at and ridiculed.
It kills. It maims. It scars.
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Status: Finished (April 6, 2017 to June 29, 2017)
I did not fall in love with Tsuki ga Kirei on first sight. There was something about character animation which made me cringe (I think it was the use of CGI, but am not sure). However, overcoming the initial cringiness was worth the while.
Tsuki ga Kirei is simple and cute with a surprising dose of realism thrown in. I have difficulty finding anything in it that defies the possibility of this story taking place in real life.
Of course, there’s your fireworks festival, sports, studying, school trip, rivalry, misunderstandings, and a lot of texting. The characters are not perfect – they actually act like real teenagers and there are no typical shoujo characters (sexy rival, villain, prince of the school, scatterbrain…). I think it is impossible not to fall in love with Tsuki Ga Kirei if you’re a fan of the holy trinity: shoujo, slice-of-life, school life.
I’ve always had immense respect for writers who were capable of putting themselves on paper. A bit of disdain (and jealousy) always went with that, because you cannot bare yourself without baring others. But then again, most writers have to be selfish, self-righteous pricks to a certain degree, don’t they?
I have read two such books recently, Crazy for Vincent by Herve Guibert and Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi. These books defy fiction and still you cannot read them as anything but. Pieces of people’s lives disguised as fiction strike me as something beyond fiction. How much of it is real? Is the fragmented, disconnected style a by-product of trying to hide as much as you reveal, or is it a conscious choice to enhance the realism of depicting human emotional life?
How much of it is a result of compulsion, and how much a choice of the author? Can we talk about plot, characterisation or structure? Can we rate a person’s life just because they decided to put it in a book?
250 Pages – a Million Questions
The two books total at a bit over 250 pages, yet they have left me with so many questions – about life and nature of literature, its purpose and function – both personal and civilizational. Is literature meant to entertain or educate? Even if an author decides on the purpose, is it even important – being so dependent on what the reader is bringing into the process?
Different or Not
Different yet eerily similar (and familiar!), both Crazy for Vincent and Intimacy show that most of us (if not all) are broken, in disrepair – searching for meaning, love or something like it.
The paper is not covered with ink it’s covered in scars – especially in Crazy for Vincent. Guibert is more self-aware. Unlike Kureishi, he is not self-aggrandizing (even when he’s trying to be contrite). Guibert does not try to justify himself or his story, while I felt Kureishi had the need to prove that he is a “good man” by the same bourgeoisie standards he’s failing/refusing to meet.
The fact that I could see a reflection of myself in these stories complicates things further. More questions arise, because they have managed to elevate a deeply personal experience to a more universal level (at least in my case). We’re talking about male authors. One of them is obsessed with his young gay lover (simplification!), the other is trying to rationalize his decision to leave his wife and two sons. Not very relatable in my case, yet the emotional level, the raw material is malleable.
Ethics of Fiction
I’ve read a review of Intimacy on Goodreads which made me pause and which is closely related to my intro. Does a writer have an obligation to protect those he includes (exploits) in the service of his writing? Should Kureishi have masked the autobiographical elements of Intimacy to protect his family and friends? All valid questions, but I consider them unimportant, because even if Kureishi “tweaked” his life in order to be nice (?), a book like this would have brought about the same questions as the “untweaked” version.
I believe that if you choose to be a (certain type of) writer and you actually succeed in becoming one, you have to be prepared to be judged and called “unethical” or “selfish and self-righteous “.
Leaving is a feeling that overwhelms me at times. It’s so abstract. I don’t want to leave anyone. There is no place I wish to leave behind in a cloud of dust. It’s just a word that pops up into my head and takes me over; a word I don’t know what to do with. The probability that what I want to leave is myself is what freaks me out the most. Because, that’s something I cannot leave.
I don’t dream about distant beaches or snowy hilltops of some non-European country. I just feel like leaving. Maybe it’s a phonological mistake. Maybe I feel like living. Whatever that might be.
Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun (Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun)
Sakura Chiyo (sort-of) confesses her love to Nozaki Umetaro, a guy who is pretty much clueless about everything except the manga he is writing (he’s a bit clueless about that, too). This ends up by Chiyo becoming his beta and getting entangled with the intricate process of writing manga. Soon enough, a bunch of colourful and interesting characters emerge as a part of said process, and the result is one of the funniest animes I have ever watched.
The romantic part is on the sidelines, worming its way into funny situations and misunderstandings. If you don’t mind laughing your ass off while enjoying a bit of romance, you’ll love Gekkan Shojo. I’d liken it to Ouran High School Host Club – if you liked that one, I’m pretty sure you’ll love Gekkan-shojo.
Featured image by 区宇(くう)＠原稿中 taken over from zerochan.net
Image 1 by 白夜ReKi taken over from zerochan.net.
Image 2 by 三本王wallace taken over from zerochan.net.
Image 3 by ☆★☆ taken over from zerochan.net.