Category Archives: Drama

#30 “Disgrace” by J.M. Coetzee

I just finished reading “Disgrace” on my lunch break. I now stand at my work station waiting for the starting bell to sound for the monotony of truck building to commence for the next two hours until the end of my shift. The air feels heavy with disillusionment. Yeah, I initially thought it was asbestos too. Each breath seems to enter my stomach weighing me down or it could be the two pounds of barbeque from “Shigs and Pit” I scarfed down a few days ago. No… I know with sixty percent certainty that it is directly related to the content of the aforementioned novel.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g37114-d3196968-i97302212-Shigs_in_Pit-Fort_Wayne_Indiana.html
http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g37114-d3196968-i97302212-Shigs_in_Pit-Fort_Wayne_Indiana.html

In this two hundred and twenty page book I trudged along laboriously reading about David Lurie’s downward spiral from a position of esteemed English professor to a lowly assistant of an animal shelter who aids in euthanizing and disposing of injured and unwanted animals.

How did this happen? I’m glad you asked.

David Lurie made a series of bad decisions based on faulty reasoning with the backing of his chemical composition. No. he doesn’t have a psychological disorder. He’s just a typical guy flirting with fire who finally got burned. So, David Lurie likes sex. No… he NEEDS sexual release. He had a good plan from the beginning; he saw on a regular basis, an escort by the name of Soraya. Lurie hopes that this will satiate his hunger (faulty reasoning number one). But one day by chance, they spotted each other outside of their weekly “meetings”. Soraya was with her two boys and that glimpse into a non-sexual part of her life was awkward for them both and eventually led to the termination of the arrangement.

Next scene: David comes across a student of his, Melanie Isaacs,  “dawdling” “through the old college gardens”. After inviting her up to his place for all intents and purposes to seduce her into bed she woke out of her naive trance realizing that she was about to have coitus with her fifty-two year old professor with his aged body and gross wrinkly balls. She leaves with no harm. Later as he  battled within himself over whether to accept the reality of the situation (it’s just ICKY) or give into his desire, the latter won out. He tactically pursued her whereabouts, caught her off guard, overcame her and got what he wanted without a struggle.

A complaint was filed which led to him being confronted by a committee of his peers. He plead guilty and lost his job and respect. All of this occurs in the first fifty-five pages.

The rest of the one hundred and sixty-five pages reminded me of the last few episodes of “Breaking Bad” when Walter White discovered that his actions have created some serious repercussions. Instead of admitting his mistakes he continued spouting his pompous drivel of “I’m doing this for sake of my family”.  Likewise David Lurie pridefully admitted his actions were justified explaining to his daughter (faulty reasoning number two):

“When you were small, when we were still living in Keniworth, the people next door had a dog, a golden retriever…It was a male. Whenever there was a bitch in the vicinity it would get excited and unmanageable, and with Pavlovian regularity the owners would beat it. This went on until the poor dog didn’t know what to do. At the smell of a bitch it would chase around the garden with its ears flat and its tail between its legs, whining, trying to hide…There was something ignoble in the spectacle that I despaired. One can punish a dog, it seems to me, for an offense like chewing a slipper. A dog will accept the justice of that: a beating for a chewing. But desire is another story. No animal will accept the justice of being punished for following its instincts…that poor dog had begun to hate its own nature.”

Well, the rest of the story as you might have expected from my second paragraph didn’t go well for David. I wanted there to be restitution for his actions but it really doesn’t feel satisfying when it actually happens.

http://www.allmovie.com/movie/disgrace-v462908
http://www.allmovie.com/movie/disgrace-v462908

Can I be honest?? I am a male, big surprise. Glad I got that off my chest. Phew!! Seriously though, I can relate to this character. I used to go to bars and dance clubs and how often I’ve seen and heard men using many tactics to catch their prey off guard in the hopes of getting laid from the simple “can I buy you a drink” to the lame when I actually heard someone say they were a rocket scientist. Does this work ladies?

Like in “Disgrace” we have the pursuer and the victim. In the bar setting both parties are subject to my earlier statement, “bad decisions based on faulty reasoning with the backing of his chemical composition.” As in animals we feel the heat of passion and want to release the pressure. As humans we have deductive reasoning and forethought that going home with someone at the bar will usually not end with a positive note. Oh well we only live once right?? I hate that comment. I would like to hear someone say that after they find out their pregnant or contracted an STD.

I have no game. No skills. All I got is my tireless attempts at making eye contact and I know how to shake my booty. I recall once walking around the dance floor, scoping out the ladies, beer in hand, when I spotted a lady staring me down. So this is eye contact. Surprised, I continued walking sipping my beer and glancing in her direction again. Still locked in my direction. I turned around to see if someone was behind me that was the recipient of this look. As you can tell I was not used to this. I danced with her and left it at that. I didn’t want to be a baby daddy.

The application after reading this novel is use deductive reasoning before allowing yourself to fall prey to your passions.

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#28 “The Sea” by John Banville

Here we go again. It’s morning at a summer rental house that is in walking distance from the Oregon Coast. I lift my daughter, Layla, out of her chair due to another freaking cluster of seizures hoping that a change of scenery will quell the storm. I carry her out of the house walking across the street to a vacant house’s backyard which abuts up against a cliff overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean. Up near the edge I pace the length of the house and I continue to examine my daughter’s face for the ticks and twitches of a seizure refusing to leave. They’ve abated and I breath a sigh of relief, but the damage is done. Cradled in my arms lays a limp and exhausted Layla. I’m at the point of never asking why this has to happen to such a beautiful and innocent child. Thus is the nature of life.

 

Loved eating the sand!
Maggie loved eating the sand!

 

Closing my eyes I breath in the cool breeze and exhale the worries and anxieties of the moment, the past, and the future. Opening my eyes I then stare out into the ocean when my senses become immersed in the scene before me. The deserted beach and blue ocean, misty morning air, and the only sound is of the rushing waves. I love this. Then a thought occurs that being out in its element would change my opinion. It’s dangerous out there. The swells sucking underwater its inhabitants, the strong waves capsizing boats, the hypothermia leading to Jack Dawson’s (DiCaprio) death in “Titanic”, and the blood thirsty sharks and other lethal animals residing in its depths. Hmm, from my perspective on safe land the ocean has this rejuvenating spiritual quality but out in its depths it can devour you in a heartbeat.

The setting for John Banville’s “The Sea” is never mentioned but I’m guessing it’s in Ireland since that’s his home. My wife, originally from the state of Oregon, studied abroad in Ireland for a summer and her description of the country has coined a phrase by me that “Oregon is the Ireland of the United States.”

  • Both are known for their drinking. Portland, Oregon was ranked as America’s Best Beer City according to Travel and Leisure.
  • Both have cool wet climates throughout the year that result in  lush green vegetation covering the land.
  • Ireland’s green picturesque rolling hills compare to Oregon’s scenic mountains covered in towering pine trees.
  • Ireland’s history is steeped in folklore. Walk around downtown Portland or watch “Portlandia” and see they are actually living in a mythological world.
  • Ireland is surrounded by the cold Atlantic Ocean. The waters of Oregon’s coast is likewise cold.
literallife.wordpress.com
literallife.wordpress.com

Ironically for me the novel takes place at a summer rental home called “The Cedars” also close to the sea. Max, the main character of the story, reminisces over a few significant events of his past including a time in his childhood when he spent an August summer with “The Grace family”. A pivotal month of his life when he experienced his first and second loves and the feelings synonymous with them.  Sweaty hands, jittery nerves, the first electrifying touch when lovers first hold hands, the tingly sensation moving through the body at the kiss, and the smooth feel intimately caressing her inner thigh bordering on the untrodden forbidden land. I recall my first experience thinking “I can’t believe this is happening!” Of course, no great book is without a tragic ending. How nice!

The story moves from that summer to his present state and the torturous memories when finding out his wife was going to die from cancer and her slow painful demise. Banville’s painful description of what he was going through with his wife’s slow passing wasn’t fun to read but enlightening, realizing that many have and many will struggle through the intimate death of a loved one. These words can be of some comfort to know these feelings are normal.

I found this novel a heavy hearted version of a “Wonder Years” episode where Max instead of Kevin Arnold relives the two traumatic events of his life. While writing my rough draft of this blog I continued to ask why he did this? I was about to leave that question unanswered until the thought popped into my head. Max’s wife, a photographer, while dying in a hospital went to the other patients’ rooms and painstakingly took pictures of their wounds (missing limbs, a mother cradling a sick baby, a person laying in bed in a full body cast) and described this as her dossier. Details of a person’s past when collected defines who that person was. Max,I believe was paralleling her behavior in the same way. When all gathered together what was he hoping to reveal about himself? Read it and find out.

There will come a time for all of us when we will form our own dossier. Chances are it will not be filled with memories of good housekeeping, well manicured lawns, or reading accomplishments. Only a few significant moments of doing something amazing or feelings of utter regret letting those moments slip through our fingers. Unfortunately, as described in “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (also on “The List”) which my wife Amy will be so kind as to share her thoughts on the novel, in movies they have many takes to get the scene right, but in real life we only get one shot.