Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Not afraid to fly

It isn't often that I get to read a feminist book. But when I do, I make sure it counts. So I'm glad that another book club chose to read Erica Jong's seminal novel, Fear of Flying. If this isn't a feminist novel, then I don't really know what is. It tackles a lot of issues: female sexuality, sexual freedom, women's liberation, female psychology, family dynamics, and even religious (Jewish) themes.

The person who's afraid of flying is one named Isadora Wing. At the start of the novel, she's 29 years old, once divorced, and is currently married to a psychologist of Asian-American descent named Bennett. The marriage is by all means not an unhappy one, but Isadora is flighty. She has too many issues, too many questions, that she needs to figure out. And it doesn't help that she has to go with her husband in his conference in Austria, especially with her fear of flying.

One immediately wonders why she would choose to have an affair with another psychologist named Adrian. For one, he couldn't get it up. And another, he seems hell-bent on psychoanalyzing Isadora's every move. When they escape to the countryside, all these two have are profound conversations. Perhaps Isadora is looking for a change: from Bennett's clear-cut, rule-abiding persona to Adrian's brash, in-the-moment way of thinking. We would never know, wouldn't we? And I think that's the point of the novel.

You see, no matter what confusing choices Isadora makes, no matter the foolish repercussions of these choices, what's more important is that she was able to make these choices. She alone is to be blamed for these choices. After all, isn't women's lib all about the freedom to choose? In the '60s and '70s, women were slowly being given these choices. Some, like Erica Jong, embraced this freedom. The result is this wonderfully semi-autobiographical novel that is Fear of Flying.

In the novel, we see Isadora go against the tide. She refuses to bear any children, she decides to leave her first husband when the relationship has turned abusive, she acts on a whim even though she knows she'll regret her actions later. All of these boil down to choices. She is her own person. And you know why she does these things? Because she can.

It would be nice to meet Isadora in real life. I can just imagine the conversations I would have with her. She may not sound rational at times, but that's one of the pleasures of being with her. In the novel, Isadora is very learned, having a degree in literature and even being a lecturer on 18th century literature. Ah, just at the turn of the 20th century, it was impossible for women to have academic degrees. Isadora's choice of profession even goes against the wishes of her family, who seem to think that one needs to make money to become truly successful. Isadora would have none of that. She just loves books. Ergo, literature.

Unlike Isadora, I've no fear of flying. I love it, in fact.
It was fascinating to hear the thoughts about Fear of Flying from the members of another book club. It was my first time to attend their discussion. I must say that there isn't that much difference to discussing books. Just a few questions thrown to the group, with everyone being free to pipe in. Jong's novel is very polarizing. A few hated it for its crass language and Isadora's irrational behavior. A few commented on how the novel was groundbreaking for its time. I agree with the latter. Jong's honesty in her narrative is very refreshing. With the words "fuck" and "penis" occurring on every page, it can certainly be shocking. But let's face it, if it were a man writing those words back in the '70s, there wouldn't be any controversy.

I'm one of the people who love Fear of Flying. I think it's primarily because of Isadora. The novel may not have a very distinct plot, but I enjoyed reading about Isadora's journey of transformation. She was unsure of herself at the start of the novel. By the novel's end, she has realized that she indeed has choices that she alone can make and that she has to learn to be comfortable with these choices. The transformation is far from over in the last chapter, but at least the beginnings are there. Transformation and realization, I like.

The discussion was held in a wine cellar.
I had this fruity, Argentinian wine with Marie, the moderator.
I think I must have finished 3 glasses. Hehehe.
Read this book if:

  1. You've always been curious about feminist litereature.
  2. You love reading about sex.
  3. You're into semi-autobiographical novels.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Scalzi and TV

If I would have to choose a favorite contemporary science fiction writer, I'd definitely mention John Scalzi. Redshirts, one of his newest novels, was one of my favorite reads last year.

I also enjoyed his Old Man's War novels. These are books that are heavy on military themes and science fiction elements. I'm not really big on everything military, but I did enjoy these novels, especially the first one, Old Man's War. The second book, The Ghost Brigades, which is a sequel of sorts, is quite action-packed and yet quite philosophical. I still have to finish the third book, The Last Colony. And I believe that there are still more books in this series as well.

What joy it is to find out that these novels are now being turned into a TV series! This TV series is definitely something to binge-watch. I. Can't. Wait.

Anyway, the TV shows might not appear anytime soon. So there'll still be at least a year to read all the Old Man's War novels, and probably a few other works of Scalzi. He writes very entertaining novels. And he's funny as hell.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Faulkner virgin

Yes, I hate to admit it—the Faulkner virgin is in the house! Ah, William Faulkner. In this part of the world, he's not as talked about as, say, Ernest Hemingway or Virginia Woolf or even D. H. Lawrence. I can't even recall a single humanities class in college that required students to read Faulkner.

But lately, we're having a bit of a Faulkner renaissance, yes? Does it have to do with the movie adaptation of As I Lay Dying starring James Franco? Could be. Heck, I'll read anything that has James Franco on the cover.  Oh, Franco. If only all slackers had brains such as yours.

Anyway, I chose to read Light in August because, well, it is August. But here in Manila we're not getting enough light lately, as cloudy skies and the monsoon rains are the norm. I'm still a few pages in the novel, and I can't even decide if I like Faulkner's writing style. It certainly is different.

Hopefully, by the end of this month, I'll be Faulker devirginized. And maybe, somewhere in the near future, I may find him in my bed again.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Geeking out horizontally

It's amazing how one need not go out of the house to be entertained these days. That's exactly what I did last Sunday. I stayed in bed the whole day and just downloaded new TV shows that have been generating buzz. I swear, I even forgot take a shower, as the weather was quite nippy. (I've always wondered about the origin of the word "nippy." Does it have something to do with what happens to your nipples when it's cold?)

Yes, I spent my Sunday horizontally, watching TV shows so heavy on science fiction themes. Fortunately, these new TV shows weren't so bad. Nope, not bad at all. I didn't even bother to read a page from the hundreds of books in the to-be-read pile.

First, there's the Steven Spielberg-produced "Extant." It has Halle Berry! (I swear she has no pores. Long live HD!) Halle Berry plays an astronaut who's become mysteriously pregnant. The timing points to the fact that she conceived in space. I can't help but picture it: boinking in zero gravity. "Extant" is pretty intriguing, but I can't help but think that there's a conspiracy story line somewhere.

Next is "The Lottery" in Lifetime. We're now in the 2020s and, for some reason, people no longer have the ability to reproduce. But a lady scientist was able to successfully fertilize 100 embryos. The US government, hoping to win back its popularity, decides to hold a lottery as to who among its female citizens can serve as surrogates to these embryos. Again, it reeks of conspiracy. But I love it.

"The Lottery" raised a few personal questions for me. If I were female, would I want to enter my name in the lottery? I probably wouldn't. I've seen enough videos about human birth to last me a lifetime. Very, very traumatic. Very, very messy. All that goo. And that wrinkly thing coming out of the vajayjay.

And then there's my current favorite of the lot, "The Strain." I didn't have that much love for the book the FX series was based on, but the TV show is another matter. Vampires that don't sparkle under the sun! Yay! Vampires that are monstrous! Woot! Vampires that kill! FTW!

The first two episodes of "The Strain" have the feel of a biological outbreak movie, one that delves into how the viral strain gets passed among people. But the latter episodes had me horrified. There's a certain Dracula-like character who find his way in the US from Germany. The show does remind me of Salem's Lot in certain aspects, especially in that scene where a supposedly dead girl goes back to her house and calls her father. So creepy! I think I may have had a little pee on my pants watching that scene.

I just hope that these shows improve over time. I wish that they sustain the element of paranoia which so heavily felt in each episode. I've no problems with staying horizontal during the weekends.