Review subtitle: There is so much more than meets the eye...
One reads this short-story and tells himself/herself: "I guessed the ending after readingReview subtitle: There is so much more than meets the eye...
One reads this short-story and tells himself/herself: "I guessed the ending after reading only seven pages." And "The Skull has a blunt anti-war message, but so have a thousand other short-stories."
True and true, but that's not the (ultimate) point of the story. Yes, there is strong criticism of ignorance, intolerance, sadism, and even macabre curiosity, which all encourage violence and ultimately war. Yes, the ending is obvious, but...
... I personally believe that the conclusion is so undisguised in order to point out to the main question of the story: What message would you have for the world should you know that very soon you will die?
What if he could see this, his own skull, yellow and eroded? Two centuries old. Would he still speak? [...] What would there be for him to say, to tell the people? What message could he bring? What action would not be futile, when a man could look upon his own aged, yellowed skull?
This was so good that it simply made my day! Because in the end that's a question all of us (should) ask......more
I kept pondering over and over how to write this review. What can you write about a book, when the author clearly states in the end that it has no morI kept pondering over and over how to write this review. What can you write about a book, when the author clearly states in the end that it has no moral? That "it does not say they were wrong [...]; it just tells what the consequences were." What can you write about a book that ends with the list of the 15 persons who inspired it, all dead, with permanent brain damage, permanent psychosis, or at the very best (if there is a "best" when talking about such aftermaths) permanent pancreatic damage (the author himself, who in an interview tells that he has "never ever" even taken hard drugs)? And A Scanner Darkly is autobiographical, there is not doubt about that.
I was in a position to see what hard drugs did to people, what drugs did to my friends. (Interviewer: There is terrible damage done.) Just incredible. I just couldn't believe it. I saw things that if I hadn't seen them with my own eyes I simply wouldn't have believed them. I know you've read A Scanner Darkly. Everything in A Scanner Darkly I actually saw. I mean I saw even worse things than I put in A Scanner Darkly.
Hence my dilemma: how can I summarize in half-a-page the essence of a blight that Philip K. Dick himself tries to summarize in 220 pages? It would be moot. Because this is what A Scanner Darkly really is: a survey into the world of Slow Death, a cognomen for all drugs since, as he points out, all drug users are slowly dying in spirit, turning into burned-out husks capable only of parroting and aping... They simply don't comprehend their own galloping extinction since they gradually lose the ability to understand anything at all.
To end, I just want to point out that A Scanner Darkly is autobiographical not only concerning the drug culture (which is quite obvious), but also regarding Bob Arctor's entire life: the broken marriage, the lost children (a daughter, in real life), the empty house subsequently filled with drug addicts, the unrequited love, the rehab program... everything is inspired by the author's life (more toward the end of this interview). Therefore, this novel becomes a testimony not only of one of the last century's plagues, but also a surreptitious look into the life of one of the biggest science-fiction authors. ...more
Quick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts (A Nobel Prize winner not for the faint of heart.)
✐ This was not a quick read, in spite of theQuick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts (A Nobel Prize winner not for the faint of heart.)
✐ This was not a quick read, in spite of the nearly conversational language and only 266 pages. A textbook parable, this novel is so loaded with symbols, allegories, metaphors, etc, that in average I read 40 pages a day... after which I had to put it aside and ponder about what I just read.
✐ It is because of the heavy symbolism that I don't think it's right to pen a lengthy review about all the ideas and meanings I found in it. After all, I believe that's the whole point of the novel: to make each reader unravel the "mystery" of the blindness and think for himself/herself of it's cause and consequences on the human nature. Nor do I think that I can write an objective review, since Blindness is the kind of book that would leave a very subjective impression on each reader.
✐ The whole story revolves around a population stricken by blindness and how people (don't) cope with the situation. It seems straightforward to say that the blindness is a metaphor for lack of understanding/penetration/apprehension, but as I interpreted it, the meaning runs deeper: "I went blind when I was looking at my blind eye." And just because Mr. Saramago wants to make sure that the reader pays attention to the above statement, he underlines it: "It sounds like an allegory." It is because of this statement and that from the last page ("I don't think we did go blind, I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.") that I believe the blindness is not a metaphor for lack of comprehension, but one for the awareness of this inability to understand.
✐ As about the unexplained cause of blindness, I don't think that it as arcane as some readers seem to believe. In fact as always Mr. Saramago spells it out for us (thought one has to read carefully to find his cues - hence the 40 pages a day). "Fear struck us blind, fear will keep us blind." It's not humanity that makes the doctor's wife keep her sight - it's her courage. In a world in which mothers abandon their kids in order to try to save themselves (see the young boy who keeps asking for his mother who never is to come), the doctor's wife is the only one utterly unafraid. And in the end, when broken down by the burden of responsibility and the horrors she witnessed, she loses her courage, she turns blind as well: "It is my turn, she thought. Fear made her quickly lower her eyes."
✐ So it all comes down to this axiom: it is the fear that keeps us from understanding ourselves and the world around us and, as long as we don't conquer our fear, we won't be able to "see."
✐ I could go on about why the language is so objective and why the characters have no names, and why for 4-5 pages in a row there is no new paragraph, but that would defeat the purpose of this novel: no one can see in your place. Seeing is a profoundly personal act....more
Quick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts ✐ It's quite amusing that not earlier than yesterday, I wrote a "review" for First Meetings inQuick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts ✐ It's quite amusing that not earlier than yesterday, I wrote a "review" for First Meetings in Ender's Universe, a collection of short stories that addresses the exact opposite topic from 2BR02B (link to review). In there, Orson Scott Card advocates people's right to have as many children as they desire, while in 2BR02B, for a newborn to be allowed to live, one of the existing people has to die. And of course, as any extreme, none of them is good and/or just.
✐ In 2BR02B, the world has reached to a level where people don't age, don't sicken, and naturally die only from accidents. So what's to be done when a child is born? Someone has to volunteer to die. And here comes the Federal Bureau of Termination, the official organization for assisted suicide.
✐ The point Mr. Vonnegut makes is the impossibility of humans' boundless desires, the fact that we always want more than is good/correct/sustainable. "The painter pondered the mournful puzzle of life demanding to be born and, once born, demanding to be fruitful... to multiply and to live as long as possible—to do all that on a very small planet that would have to last forever."...more
Quick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts ✐ This Hugo-nominated short story brings up a very sensitive subject: what is the right decisioQuick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts ✐ This Hugo-nominated short story brings up a very sensitive subject: what is the right decision in extending the life of the elderly? And is the right decision (i.e., what is good for the patient) the same one with the "ethical" decision?
✐ It's year 2200 and the medicine got so advanced that humans live at least to be 150. Yes, it is true that by the time they are 100-120, most of them are completely senile, have their organs replaced, can no longer get out of bed - in one word, they are vegetables. This is a terrible term to use, but in this story, there is always a parallel between the main character's charges (his patients) and his wife's flowers.
✐ When our character is faced with a new patient, Mr. Goldmeier who, in spite of being 153, maintains a sharp mind, he is totally shocked. Not only that Mr. Goldmeier is not grateful for being kept alive; in fact his resentment goes so deep that it borders hatred. He describes the medical facilities as places "where men begged for death, and slowly went mad when it didn't come."
✐ A highly dystopic read that makes one think how useful living wills are....more
Quick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts (This "review" is dedicated to my sister, who laughs when I get credit in the Reading ChallengeQuick and dirty reading notes and (i)relevant thoughts (This "review" is dedicated to my sister, who laughs when I get credit in the Reading Challenge for a 4-page "book.")
✐ This was a creepy and disturbing story primarily about how hard people try to fit in and secondarily about how sadistic young kids can be.
✐ In a world in which ponies have wings, a unicorn, and speak, in order to be admitted in the circle of popular girls you have to...
✐ It seems a very simplistic concept, but the language is so powerful, that even now after a while from finishing it, I feel very uneasy about it....more