Thursday, 28 January 2010
(published in "Avrupa" newspaper)
“Well, it was a new town. Maybe I’d get lucky. The rain stopped and the sun came out.” These are the thoughts of Henry Chinaski as he navigates himself around America in search of work and on the ‘beating’ track of writing. Beat is the key word in this, as Bukowski is considered to be one of the beat writers; just like many of his predecessors, he travels across America as seen in Kerouac’s On the Road. Bukowski’s language and outlook on life, just as Kerouac’s is poetic, harsh and stripped down to the bare ugly truth at times.
Henry Charles Bukowski (1920-94) was a novelist, poet and a short story writer who grew up in LA and was famously referred to as “the 64-year-old Los Angeles-based laureate of American lowlife” by Pico Iyer for the “Time” magazine in 1986. Factotum was his second novel, published in 1975, according to the oxford dictionary, the definition of factotum is thus so; “a servant or assistant who does all kinds of work” and this is what the novel is about. Bukowski’s alter-ego, Chinaski, is excluded from the army during World War II on the bases of his medical and is left behind tracing the land in search of work, any work, and getting involved in all sorts of strange situations.
The novel is rapid in movement as we glide from one situation and one State to the other, meeting incredible characters along the way. As he plods along with his torn suitcase which he tries desperately to cover with black shoe polish, it begins to rain. It’s not long before we can see that the truth can not be hidden as nature has a cruel way of washing and exposing life for what it really is, and the last laugh is bound to be on him as it rubs off onto his trousers as he seeks housing in the poor quarters.
Chinaski desires to be an outsider, for some this is a lonely state to be in, however, for the likes of Chinaski it is a form of heaven. There is constant imagery of Chinaski entering a building as others are exiting conjured up, and in the depths of such a solitary life, there is no such thing as camaraderie as there was in On the Road. The situations Chinaski finds himself in are entertaining to say the least, but what the novel has is a firm and fantastic grip on language; it is the language that one can not ignore as it jolts us and keeps us upright. His words are succinct and have no intention of fooling its reader; with such coherent directness the impact is fast and furious as well as poignant, graphical and a part of the “no” nonsense school of thought.
Chinaski declares that he is a writer, yet we never see him pick up a pen. He is a man of many vices, whether its drinking, or women, he appears to be the happiest when he is left alone, forever wondering, refusing to grow any roots, yet this is somewhat untrue as he finds himself returning to his home town, LA. This confessional masterpiece offers a great insight into a mind that allows us to see all, embracing the ugliness of alcoholism and the general state of the world during the time of war and depression. As Chinaski walks out of the jail house for the fifth time or so, he continues onto the next adventure, it may resemble the previous catastrophic one, but it doesn’t matter, the point is, he just keeps going on.
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Saturday, 23 January 2010
Thursday, 14 January 2010
The Wonderful Demise of Benjamin Arnold Guppy by Gina Collia-Suzuki
(Published in "Avrupa" newpaper)
Gina Collia-Suzuki, a British writer, artist and art historian, published The Wonderful Demise of Benjamin Arnold Guppy in 2008 with Nezu Press. Her novel depicts the desperation and anguish of having to live alongside the elderly Guppy’s who go out of their way to make life as hellish as possible for the newly moved in couple, the Leah’s.
Benjamin Guppy and his wife, Pat, inflict unimaginable abuses upon the couple, from threatening letters insisting on money being paid to them, coercion by big men, vegetables thrown into their drives, and the close death of Mrs Leah when Mr Guppy decides to scare her a bit by nearly running her over. These incidents are unfortunately akin to the real life trauma that Gina and her husband had to face when they moved away from the city.
TWDBG can be comical; however, it does not take long for one to become somewhat disorientated, and sickened by the events that take place in this very dark tale as it unravels. The anguish can be excruciatingly intolerable; one can only look onwards in pain. On one hand, we feel desperation as we try to tear our eyes away from the raw madness of the ensuing events, yet completely transfixed, all at once!
The Guppy’s chip away, inch by inch at the Leah’s sanity, forcing them to swallow down antidepressants while they look on in a whirlpool of helplessness. The police refuse to take them seriously; after all, they’re only a fragile old couple, and what harm can they really do? Suzuki conveys a law system which is designed to protect its citizens, as utterly inept, what it boils down to with authority is the question of what an offence is and what constitutes as merely strange. A great example of this thin line is on page 83-4, “A man wielding a knife as he threatens you is very frightening, but one wielding a honeydew melon is just slightly ridiculous and in danger of ruining a perfectly good fruit.” One may be obviously life threatening (the knife) but the persistence and progressively abusive behaviour exhibited by the Guppy’s is perfectly capable of sending one to a hospital, whether it is for blood pressure or depression.
As the situation escalates over the next three years, it becomes clear to Mrs Leah, that Mr Benjamin Guppy must be killed. Collier is able to act out a fantastical solution for a true life trauma. By annihilating the fictional Mr Guppy, she is able to exorcise a demon which had been cast into her life without any provocation.
Suzuki’s writing is not riddled with messy emotions; it is in fact, refreshingly written with a strong sense of composure. The subject is hellish to say the least, but her writing is smooth yet matter-of-fact, comical yet dark, and sincere. It is through her ability to stay somewhat calm which drives the reader’s nerves perversely off the edge. The Wonderful Demise of Benjamin Arnold Guppy is a read, well worth diving in to, and if it does indeed mirror your own circumstance, it is important to remember that our dear Suzuki, did not in fact resort to murder, she cunningly executed a symbolic one.
The Wonderful Demise of Benjamin Arnold Guppy can be bought from amazon.co.uk for £7.27 and keep your eye out for the sequel The Delightful Undoing of Patricia Enid Guppy due to be released in June 2010.
Thursday, 7 January 2010
The first story, “Seeing Red” delves into painful, raw emotions such as rage, depression and loss all at once, a story which can feel uncomfortable at times as we follow the protagonist’s life spiral helplessly out of control. Themes of depression, anger, resentment, fear, youth crime and broken marriages are quite prevalent throughout.
The beauty of Savva’s style is the way in which she does not complicate each piece as a whole with convoluted language, this allows emotion and action to be put forth with far more poignancy, and therefore all that needs to be communicated is done so in a beautiful manner. Amongst the characters’ forgotten dreams, infidelity, and passion, Savva’s stories have a moralistic value.
Although each story flows wonderfully, from a lapping current to a spluttering stream, one can only have wished for each story to be just a little longer to allow us to become more acquainted with our protagonists. What these stories achieve wonderfully, is the psychology of the protagonist at a pinnacle point in time, and what may have been more satisfying would have been a more in depth analysis of the situation itself.
Each story certainly achieves what it has set out to do. They depict the complexity of the human condition and the damage that certain emotions are capable of. Savva’s powerful imagery penetrates our minds, forcing each image to stay, but can be tactfully dispersed in order for the reader to continue onto the next story, a technique if you will, in enabling our reading pallets to be cleared in order to make space for the next.
Pieces of a Rainbow can be bought for £5.99 from amazon.co.uk as well as Lulu.com
Tuesday, 5 January 2010
"Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life has much difficulty and sadness...Were it otherwise he would never been able to find those words."
Here are a few more quotes that seemed to have hit me in the right place.
"Go into yourself. Search for th reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the depest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it wer denied you to write. This above all- ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night; must I write?"
"If your daily like seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches."
"...go into yourself and test the deeps in which your life takes rise; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create."
Quotes from Letter to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke