Reading Paulo Coelho: Adultery (Part 1)

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“Apathy. Pretending to be happy, pretending to be sad, pretending to have an orgasm, pretending to be having fun, pretending that you’ve slept well, pretending that you’re alive. Until there comes a point where you reach an imaginary red line and realize that if you cross it, there will be no turning back. Then you stop complaining, because complaining means that you are at least still battling something. You accept the vegetative state and try to conceal it from everyone. And that’s hard work. “

Apathy. Indifference. A woman on the edge. Coelho’s Adultery is riveting. It follows the adventures and indiscretions of a bored Swiss journalist, tired from sameness, who conducts an affair with the politician Jacob Konig (among others, or so implied)–as a means to escape the monotony of her married/professional life.

The book tackles its heady themes lightly–never taking itself too seriously. There’s a comic quality about the opening chapters; but in phases, it confronts its subject with a ferocity that is distinctly Coelho:

“After a certain age, we put on a mask of confidence and certainty. In time, that mask gets stuck to our face and we can’t remove it. 

As children, we learn that if we cry we’ll receive affection, that if we show we’re sad, we’ll be consoled. If we can’t get what we want with a smile, then we can surely do so with our tears.

But we no longer cry, except in the bathroom when no one is listening. Nor do we smile at anyone other than our children. We don’t show our feelings because people might think we’re vulnerable and take advantage of us.”

Sleep is the best remedy”

I am a quarter of the way in and already I’m drawn to Linda–the protagonist. Her nuances are relatable and any married woman can identify with the stultifying routine of Linda’s married life. Even I, a man, can empathize with Linda’s ennui on some level.

Her first encounter with Konig is portrayed so vividly, and explicitly, insomuch that the bit reads like erotica; like a scene from an Anne Rice novel only better and far superior.

At this point, the book dissects marriage as an institution. Coelho seems to imply that marriage is constricting, limiting and that it dulls the human experience. Marriage makes life colorless and repetitive–well of course this completely depends on perspective.

It’s too early to tell but the characters in the novel are so drawn, and so well-developed that you cannot help but feel for them, and their plight, no matter how small or superficial.

Stay tuned for part 2! 🙂

*bracelet by Call It Spring, shorts by Cotton on, jewelry by SilverWorks.

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Book Review: Manuscript Found In Accra

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Set in 1099, in Jerusalem, on the eve of an invasion, a man known as the Copt surfaces and provides hope and counsel to the city’s cowering masses.

Paulo Coelho’s Manuscript Found In Accra is a revelation It’s didactic, flowery prose had a poetic quality about it. It read like a secret gospel–the good news according to the Copt. It felt like I was reading something arcane; a peak into the forbidden teachings of a long forgotten philosopher.

Coelho’s novel is structured this way–perhaps as a means to an end, to make it appear like scripture, like sacred text. Coelho forewent of narrative conventions and presented, in place of any discernible dialogue, the observations and uninhibited insights of a man known only as the Copt.

The Copt’s staggering, book length monologue talked largely about the human experience. It dealt with love, beauty, sex and a coterie of other subjects.

The Copt, the only character worth noting, was Christ-like, in fact he preached his Gospel of Love like Jesus did with his a thousand years before and like him, the people were eager to listen, they were drawn to ask, to divine the meaning of his words, and his parables.

Coelho’s Manuscript is a testament to the author’s gifts. This book was no easy feat. To devise an entire novel, rooted on the whims and folly of a singular character takes a lot of guts, and a lot of skill to pull off. It was an entertaining read. Highly recommended

5 stars!

Quotables:

  1. “In solitude, they will discover the love that might otherwise have arrived unnoticed. In solitude, they will understand and respect the love that left them. In solitude, they will be able to decide whether it is worth asking that lost love to come back or if they should simply let it go and set off along a new path. In solitude, they will learn that saying no does not always show a lack of generosity, and that saying yes is not always a virtue.”
  2. “We are used to thinking that what we give is the same as what we receive, but people who love expecting to be loved in return are wasting their time. Love is an act of faith, not an exchange…Life is too short for us to keep important words like ‘I love you’ locked in our hearts. But do not always expect to hear the same words back. We love because we need to love. Otherwise, love loses all meaning and the sun ceases to shine.”
  3. “Elegance is achieved when, having discarded all superfluous things, we discover simplicity and concentration. The simpler the pose, the better; the more sober, the more beautiful”

The Writing Process

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  1. I wake up at dawn. At three or four in the morning. I put on a pair of red socks (for good luck) and a knitted wool cap..
  2. I draw my tarot cards, and divine the day’s events–for fun.
  3. And then I write poetry. And when I’m not writing rhymes and verses (that make very little money…haha artist), I write plays or screenplays. The length of my scripts vary, but they’re usually short, one-act affairs that are impossibly difficult to stage.
  4. I write everything down in paper FIRST, in longhand, on a cheap, upcycled notebook. And then I transcribe the text on my computer, which is a testy task given how awful my handwriting is.
  5. I write for four/six hours a day everyday and I usually end at around 8 in the morning, tired and frustrated but somehow pleased at the day’s output.

Is writing fun? No it’s torture. Jk. It’s alright when your muse is in a cooperative mood I guess. I trawl the city and take photographs the rest of the day and I read whenever I can (a requirement if you want to write). And that’s my life basically.

The Virtue of Saying Little

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I recently reactivated my Facebook profile following a month-long “cleanse”. I felt instantly overwhelmed by the familiar; photographs of young mothers and their children, manicured lawns, and women posing artfully before mirrors, their heads tilted on one side, hands bent at the hips.

A caption over one photograph told this unsuspecting reader to “fight the good fight! Never give up”

Whatever she said.

***

Once upon a terrible valentine, I was an aggressive Facebook user. A troll who bombarded friends and non-friends with updates, quotations from the holy book, righteous lecturing, the works. I wrote very frequently about politics, about fashion, sex, about issues that concerned the national interest, and I pretended to revel at the immediacy of my own delusions. But deep inside I was playing a character (even when I wasn’t aware of it), a persona, that of a well-to-do provincial, who knew it all, and seen it all. Who read Plato and Jean Bodin, embraced the full spectrum of post-modern political philosophy and proffered poorly constructed arguments to an audience who didn’t care.

I gave up when the likes began to dwindle. My dear, it was discouraging.

So I found Instagram and began to communicate using only photographs, a medium that was foreign to me (until now). Pictures photoshopped and doctored to a T. Innocent “selfies”, evolved into photographs of street peddlers, urchins in funky, neon hand-me-downs frolicking about and red-tinged stills of drug-saddled sex workers earning a living in alleyways all over town.

I was telling a story in pictures.

And while I was limited to images, and constricted to a few pixels, I found it immensely fascinating…that I could convey an idea this way. That I could express so much, and say so little (or nothing at all) liberated me in some way: in such that my art, my photographs could more or less, speak for itself.

***

So Facebook.

I posted an entry today. A photograph of half my face. I posted it without much ado, without a caption. 11 likes and counting. A woman wrote a comment complimenting my eyes. I failed to thank her. Not that I had to.

Sex Scandal

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“Can you believe it? They did it in their uniform”

Said the lady. Her friend, halfway through his cigarette, coifed like men his age, offered an alternative, something more elaborate…a video of two (presumed) college students, naked, frolicking in a bed, rolling around like circus animals, panties and boxer shorts sprawled on the cheap linoleum. The room, according to the man, looked like an altar after a ritual. Messy and post-coital.

It was a sex scandal.

Plenty of them. Hordes of barely there millennials eager to record every passing conquest. Uploaded every second, every hour, on sites like RedTube, fed to an audience of impressionable adolescents. And when did sex  ever lose its sacredness, its mystique? When did we become voyeurs, privy to a party we have no business  being in… when did we become witless animals reduced to satisfy a singular craving: our concupiscence.

I don’t mean to proselytize, but news of a new scandal is never good (and I run into these conversations all the time, in alleyways at night, in red-tinged hallways). The “fuck of the week” is not something I enjoy talking about, not only because it represents an obvious moral decay, rather the consequences that beset these kids are far too great, far too painful to fathom, some of them are irreversible in fact. Careers  are ruined, someone’s hopes dashed, obliterated. But what’s troubling me is that most of them cluelessly consent to this.

I don’t know if they’re stupid, or misguided. Maybe misguided.

–Artwork by Arthel Tagnipez, Private Collection

I’m Publishing A Book

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I am compiling poems for a book I plan to self-publish on April. A collection of only my best bits, noxious, toxic verses drawn from the mind of a chronic depressive. Wow, how compelling.

Saint Jude, the title, will not be a pleasant experience. It will be honest, raw, threadbare (on purpose, in the absence of a grant or a generous patron) and it will come in black and laden with expletives.

I am having difficulty selecting compositions however. I revisited several of my earlier work and found them all lacking in some capacity–forced exercises in craft the lot of them, I doubt if any of them effectively conveyed an emotion or an episode at all.  I wrote poems with no subjects, no discernible personae, verses that were disconnected, that were disjointed, poems that generally made no sense. And they were all about love, what is this love, this foolish thing!

So I am resigned to write an entirely new collection; baked fresh, chapters upon chapters of verses with subjects drawn rom memory, from events in the past and the present, from circumstances new and old, from quarrels resolved and questions left unanswered, and I will not be censored, or held back by norms. I will write what I think and express what I feel. Poetry, the art of letters is not something I take lightly.

Photography by Teegee Villanueva

The Bored (Photography)

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I sit at cafes, observing the goings-on of the bored. There’s a woman outside, eating madeleines on the fly; she’s distracted by something on her little magic box; totally unaware of the world. When did people become so mindless, when did a cigarette become a means to escape, a means to forget, to pass time when time drawls on listlessly. I thought smoking was glamorous, something only the really rich enjoyed between gossip and cups of cafe au lait.

Continue reading “The Bored (Photography)”

On Poetry

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I like to write poetry. I enjoy the process immensely. Waking up to a good day, heady, and full of ideas. It takes a while to put pen to paper, to paint images with words, like a master portraitist. But I get there eventually with a little rhyme and rhythm; pulsating beats, a pack of rabid metronomes I can only hear but I cannot see.

My photographs complement my poetry. I know when I started I was more than a little straightforward…I presented images as is, real and unfiltered…but lately I let myself loose, I let myself experiment with colors and subtle variations on subjects previously explored. For one, I let the laws of poetry take precedence over photographic technique. This is why my present work lends itself a certain je ne sais quoi, slowly morphing into abstraction, into the realm of pure expression.

Honestly, my poems are dark, on edge; my personae are troubled individuals meting out their grievances in rhyme, or in some distant language only they can understand. Poetry is an exercise in patience, futility even, or poetry can mean absolutely nothing (depending on context)…poetry should be felt, the words should be sung in the privacy of one’s mind, played out, like an instrument of music.

I write from a place far away, many try to uncover the symbols and the meanings embedded deep within my compositions, some dismiss them as banal, some are quick to dismiss my works as reflections of my troubled mental state. But I pay these people no mind, I never do.

Poetry isn’t that simple.

Artwork by Dyck Cediño