MonthDecember 2016

Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles

Two Serious Ladies Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles

What at first seems as a sequence of peculiar acts and events, occurring without an explanation and disappearing without a trace, soon reveals its substance and connects causes with effects in a most unconventional manner. It is briefly mentioned in the book as a »dispensation from the world«, but its presence radiates through every sentence.

The world as known to common people, without enough luck or money to follow every impulse to the end, is quite foreign to the two serious ladies. They posses wealth and with it a chance to create their own universe; they are free of worries about their future, consistency and composure. Without external obstacles to overcome and goals to reach, their reality is entrapped in the present flow of affairs. They don’t know the need to escape anything that happens. Everything is interesting to them, if anything is interesting at all. A lack of any but prosaic initiative of their own, brings their fears to the surface and their world becomes as claustrophobic as it is free. If in a way their experience is similar to that of a child – their pride and self-respect are subdued to an interest in what each opportunity can provide -, it differs in one crucial aspect. The child learns by trial and error, while they know no errors. The more they try to change something for sanity’s sake, the more it becomes obvious that their errands have ends only in themselves.

If at the beginning of the book I couldn’t care less about this imaginary life-style, I felt like walking through a funfair with them later. I’m not sure whether I could stay there for long, but I certainly lingered on the question “Who of us is freer and merrier?” for more then a while.

A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch

A Severed HeadA Severed Head by Iris Murdoch

What ties people together when they by choice or necessity escape the security of their own habits and find comforts of domestic life insufficient? The author seems to answer this question in a row of equally unlikable characters mixing up together in an accidental way, where no emotion is strong or lasting, no relationship reliable or inconvenient and no thought independent of other people’s whims. In a new-found freedom we don’t, as expected, witness autonomous, powerful beings, but the ones suffering from despair and restlessness. None can now be overly cautious of everyone else, since this becomes the only way of orientation in a newly opened horizon where previous patterns of behaviour are gone and foreign rules take charge (of which ‘the severed head’, coming from one of her distant tribe-expeditions, is the symbol).

Seeking for humanity when attachment is not a necessity anymore, the protagonists have to find comfort in ‘I suffer, therefore I care’ mentality, yet they are suffering from nothing but vanity, jealousy and leisure. The initial crossing of borders opens them only to fleeting and disappointing experiences, but after the painful rearrangements, a little gratification can nevertheless be found.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Hating GameThe Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The problem I have in reviewing books of this genre is that the characters’ introspective inspection is nonexistent by default and so is my patience with them. Why are they the last to know about their first and single occupation, which is of course love? Maybe I don’t get the foreplay – the endless struggles, tons of misinterpretations of one’s eyebrow movement, all kinds of games (where the only unexecuted one is “Just kill each other already”)…

Other then that, the book was witty and enjoyable, discounting the end where I witnessed some melodramatic healing of childhood wounds in the midst of admissions about painting His bedroom walls in the colour of Her eyes.

The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley

The Doors of Perception & Heaven and HellThe Doors of Perception & Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley

Based on his own experience with mescalin, Huxley informs us about the true nature of reality, that is, the sheer scope of it. He doesn’t stop at great works of art, schizophrenia or religion, but freely attaches his intake to an ambitious bundle of themes in order to supplement them all. Drugs and transcendence/life in general had always have much in common, but his way of portraying is exactly like what his drug encounter warns him against.

The description of his adventure would be much more revealing, if it hadn’t elevated into a lecture about two ancient categories of being, one experienced through our everyday life, where language represents a barrier between us and the world, and the other one of true essence that can be reached only through some transcendental activity such as taking drugs. Although his expedition to the sphere of “pure perception” shows him the limitations of words and all our classifications, it seems he identifies his trip with as many concepts and theories as he possibly can. He makes a paradigm of unvailed awareness out of it, which selfless as it is, is based on one sole experiment of his humble self. Little is left of this experiment but widespread doctrines, which just fit too neatly. I wonder how much previous knowledge affected his experience or how much posterior interpretations transversed it and I got the feeling he didn’t quite catch it in its uniqueness, or as he would said, suchness.

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