My name is K. Jared Hosein. I live in the Caribbean. I am on a writer's journey.

This is my captain's log.

#kjaredhosein

Equation of a Story

We all know that there are principles of writing, but can there be equations? Must a story be complex for it to be good? Can this complexity be determined or approximated by mathematical reasoning? Of course, stories seem to be much more than the sum of their parts at times, which directly contradicts Euclid’s fifth common notion. For the sake of building (perhaps totally unnecessary) bridges between the fields of mathematics and English literature, let’s take into account one of the fundamental concepts: real and imaginary numbers.

For any real number, imagine a line. Then imagine a point on that line being ‘zero’. To the left of zero, there are negative numbers from -1 onwards. To the right, there are positive numbers, from 1 onwards. 

Imaginary numbers are usually assigned a relation i. These are intangible and would not exist along the number line. They are only there for reference. They are placed along a y-axis (perpendicular) to the 0-point on the line.

image

My mind went haywire, straight into free-association mode from this basic concept. Ruminating on relating this to the structure of a story. These i-numbers. Imaginary numbers. Intangible notions. Ideas and nomologies. On our x-axis here, we have the actual order of events:

John woke up. John went to school. John sought revenge on his bully. 

But it is the intangibles that really perfect the story. Our so-called i-numbers that give the story complexity. And that’s the term used in mathematics. When you combine a real and imaginary number, you get a complex one.

So, what is our imaginary number? It could be anything, couldn’t it? John’s hatred. John’s shame. Resurfacing memories. The weather. Indigestion. Unexpected surges of Acetylcholine. Perhaps even the pathos or ethos of the story; which is the reader’s own feeling towards the the story, or how knowledge of its author affects the experience.

image

There are multiple, perhaps infinite, equations that can occur. But would they all work? Perhaps not. Add a factor to an equation and the whole thing must be checked over again to ensure it, well, adds up or balances. Unlike mathematics, however, there is no absolute in literature. Laws and theories exist because they have been tested multiple times and work every single time. If a theory fails in one instance, then the entire theory is either wrong or must be adjusted to acknowledge the fallacy.

The main difference between the two fields is that: Mathematics is truth, while literature isn’t. Mathematics is about law enforcement, while Literature is about the outlawed Wild West. Literature is a form of argument. It is the arts of perspective and persuasion rolled up and doubled-over. While no law works in literature, the real and imaginary number analogy still intrigues me. There’s beauty in the comparisons, though they are reaching.

I read that usually beauty is achieved by taking several complex factors, those which are so complex that they seem difficult to form something harmonic, and bringing them to a state of order. Profound, but simple. Easy with numbers. Difficult with words. But the struggle and reward are worth it.

Reblogged from wendeego  10 notes

The RPG Maker Master List

wendeego:

Do you like playing classic JRPGs, a la Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest? Do you like playing classic JRPGs for free? Here’s a list of some pretty decent games made in different variants of the RPG Maker engine, many of which are derivative in some way but all generally worth playing. Let’s take a look…

Read More

My game got a mention here. It’s nice to just see it pop up in random places and people’s lists.

THE KING OF SETTLEMENT 4

Synopsis: Two friends drop out of school and slowly realise that they’re not as gangster as everyone around them.

I’ll start this one off by telling you that I was born and raised along a backroad that always seemed slightly more Trinidadian than the rest of the country. Settlement 4 is that old-timey, grassy, care-free type of Trinidad the illustrators adore. Open any Caribbean primary school reading book and you’ll see it there. We had the little black boys bathing by the standpipe. We had the no-teeth man whose rock-hard gums could cut through cucumbers like butter.

We had it all.

Take a walk down this mucky stretch of asphalt and look to your right. You’ll see young, pregnant Khadijah combing the lice out of the locks of her first-born. To the left, you’ll see a sun-burnt savannah where children still fly mad bull kites next to a posse of nomad goats. Walk further down and you’ll find a rusted sedan with weeds growing out of the glove compartment and chipped bricks for wheels.

But then there was the features that our colourful illustrators would omit. Features of boys like me and Foster who had plans to spend the better part of our teenage years sitting on a crate and paintbucket. Makeshift lookout points, you could say.

Foster was two years older than me, and when school wasn’t cutting it for him no more, I decided to sever my ties with free education too.

I hope you know, I’m no fool. I could speak proper when the time come. I could even solve an equation or two. Free education was a nice concept, but it seem that free paychecks was a better one. When the teacher absenteeism rate seemed higher than the students’, it was time for me to try to even the game. It seemed to be a wise decision. It was much quieter out here on the backroad than that classroom of unsupervised wolves.

Foster got out for entirely different reasons, though. Less articulate reasons. At school, you see, it was very hard to gargle a cloud of marijuana smoke every two hours or so. Despite this, he seemed to have it all figured out. I looked up to that boy. I never knew what I was doing and always fell in line with those who did. It was all simple to him. Dropping out of school was just a nervous impulse to him. Snatched right out of the vapours one evening. For me, I had to convince myself that I was teaching the damn Ministry of Education a lesson.

I was letting the system know.

I had to feel like I was showing them.

Foster never had to show nobody nothing. Never had to prove he could be a big man without a father’s upbringing. Never had to put his chin up to nobody. He never had to answer to anybody.

Except one person: The King of Settlement 4.

And so did I.

And I think, so did everyone else, if the time came.

He was the King, after all. And when the war finally breaks out, what better company to be in than amongst all the King’s men? What better place to be than on the winning side?

He lived at the top of the highest housing project (which was just four stories up). Scattered and radiating out between there and the shadows of the galvanized perimeter of the complexes were all the King’s men. Each one strategically placed at corners and blind spots, like rooks and bishops.

There was a reason this place was filthy. Why the walls was always stacked the hell up with garbage bags, waterlogged wood palettes and old steel pipes. There was a reason the planks seemed to be loose along the dog kennels. And that the lawns weren’t mowed. The more pockets to hide the kush, the better. There was a detailed, painstaking scheme behind the unsightliness, the repulsiveness of Settlement 4.

It’s why when every Thursday morning, the men in grey roll up in trios, they always go back home with jack. They blare their sirens and flash their revolving bright blue lights under the bright blue sky and the entire settlement doesn’t miss a beat. Because we all know, as determined as any man is, a policeman’s salary ain’t paying enough to sift through a dozen eighty-pound piles of tetanus-laden rust and steel at seven in the morning.

At seven in the morning, no man jack knows nothing about no kush or local. Everyone in the settlement develops a case of spontaneous laryngitis when the questions drop, I’d say.

So, as I said—when the war breaks out, what better place was there to be than the winning side?

Our jobs were to sit. Sit and keep our eyes open. Not much change in scenery except the cars passing back and forth. I imagined the drivers shaking their heads behind their window tints. Saying to themselves, “Look at them young fellas wasting them life.” But for me, it was always the opposite. Them people behind their tints was on their way to cubicles and screens and dusty storage rooms. To tap away, lift til their backs bend, and get paid in shillings.

To me, they was the suckers.

Unfortunately, even with easy money, a lack of challenge quickly tunnelled into boredom. Foster had already predicted this, so he began bringing his dog with him. A small, brown, fluffy dog named Bodie. Foster always looked funny playing with the dog and combing its fur, but he didn’t care much what people said. The dog meant more to him than anybody else. So, it was the damn best treated dog in the settlement.

It looked like a prince among the mange-ridden, matted-backed pothounds. It was probably one of the only dogs in the settlement that had a collar, even, and probably the only one to ever taste an American dog treat.

I asked him one day. “What’s the story behind that dog and you? You like to spoil it bad.”

“Well, this was actually Bailey dog—you remember Bailey, right?” He scratched Bodie’s ears.

“How you mean—remember? Yes, damn right, I remember.”

“God rest his soul.” He scraped his rubber slippers against some loose gravel. He reminded me of a little boy all of a sudden, sulking over a schoolyard brawl. He then said, “Don’t get me wrong, eh, boy. The dog is the dog, and Bailey is Bailey. I don’t keep the dog around to remember the boy or anything. I just like the dog.”

“Word,” I say.

At first, Foster used to chain him to an old fridge at the side of the road where we used to sit. But eventually, he figured that he didn’t need to. Bodie never roamed far. All Foster did all day was smoke weed and pet that dog.

When the evenings came, the other boys came by and rallied at Foster’s sitting place. They pulled out the cards, dragged up stools and wooden boxes. They played wappi and all fours under the streetlights for hours. I never stayed for long.

One of Foster’s good friends was another corner boy one street down named Bone. He was in Foster’s year. But about two years back, he got expelled for sticking a shiv into another boy’s leg. It was in all three major newspapers, but was quickly dwarfed by other blood-red headlines. Bone’s only regret was that he was too young to have his name printed in the articles.

“I coulda be a big name in these parts, boy!” he lamented for a month.

Bone always went on and on about meeting with the King. When just knowing somebody is being flashed like a badge of honour, it says that you have to rely on someone else to give you character. The way he mumbled his words—everyone coulda tell he had the morals of a red-eyed sewer rat.

“Lookin like you fellas doing some good work here,” Bone said, grinning. “Maybe I could put in a word with the King. How that sounding?”

I wanted to say no, just because he wanted me to say yes. But Foster quickly agreed for both of us. Bone put his arm around my neck and jabbed my side with his finger. I recoiled. He laughed and said, “Maybe not you. You soft as fuck, young’n.”

Foster shook his head. “Give the boy some time, Bone.”

Bone lifted his chin up and said to me, “When I stop seeing the milk on that cherry-boy face, and start seeing some blood, we could talk.”

When I went home, I was greeted the same way as every evening since I dropped out. My mother puffing smoke at the clock, saying that I was just as worthless as my father. “One day, you ain’t gone come home,” she said to me, shaking the cigarette at my face. “You long gone, boy. Your ship done sail!”

You know, for the first week that I was absent from school, I always looked out to see if someone from the staff would bother to come see me. The Principal. The Dean of Discipline. Maybe Ms. Simmons from English class. But nobody ever came. The energy wasn’t worth it for a couple of lowly boys at Settlement 4.

The Principal always dropped his mantra at the beginning of every boring opening assembly for the new school year. “You ain’t have to fraid the storm if you learn to sail the ship.” I used to suck my teeth everytime. Sailing ships always get caught in the storm if they’re out there in the damn water, you know.

So, how would I put it?

You ain’t have to fraid the storm if you could be right in the storm. It have no place better to be than the eye. And that was where I was. So whenever I remember the teacher’s cautionary tales, I thought about that. No matter how big the storm gets, how far it stretches, the eye is better than anywhere else.

A few days later, it seemed that Bone actually pulled through for Foster. He got him moved to the snack kiosk at the intersection near the tail of the backroad. “You moving up in life, dog!” Bone said, patting Foster’s back.

When Foster left, I was alone. The sun stung a little more. The dust trails rose a little higher. The car parts strewn across the grass rusted a little faster. I had a radio, but the radio was never something that you actively listened to. You listen while you drive, while you cook, while you do homework, while you getting through with your girl. Not like this.

I used to play a game. I used to try to predict when the deejays would interrupt the song to yell something stupid like, “BOOM!” or, “BLA-DOW!” or to make their trademark tongue-rolling guttural zulu chant.

A little girl walked past me one day. I didn’t know her. But she had the gall to tell me, “My mammy say you corner boys is slaves who ain’t know they is slaves. She say, why you ain’t get a job?”

I told her, “Tell your mammy she better watch out when a black car roll up in front she house.” That shut her up.

When the evenings came, I walked over to the snack kiosk at the end of the backroad. The weed smelled strong as I stepped up. I half-joked, “You lucky the police ain’t come to buy no soft drinks, boy. They gone sniff you out in no time.”

He stepped out of the kiosk and patted my shoulder. He untied Bodie from a metal pipe and let him wander about with the other dogs. Bone was there with him. Bone said to me, “Fuck away with that. Let the man blaze in peace. It was a hot day today.”

I ignored him. Foster laughed and said, “The evening hot too.” He removed a board from the base of the kiosk and pulled out a crumpled ball of aluminum foil. He unfolded it and rolled up another spliff.

I crinkled my eyebrows. I chuckled nervously and asked, “You could take from there?”

Foster smiled at me. “The deal is, we cut it from the next pay slip. You need to calm yourself, Bug.”

“You is the man mother now?” Bone said. “This is perks of the job, young’n.” He took the spliff from Foster and took a long drag on it. He then blew the smoke in my face. I tried my best not to cough, but ended up choking still. He then handed it to me.

“Take the t’ing,” he said to me. I just stared at his hand. He pushed it towards me again. “You too good for it, young’n? What kind of man you gone make?”

I shook my head and walked off. On my way home, I passed by the King’s building. You always knew which one it was. It was the one populated with gangsters with shirts wrapped around their mouths like niqab veils. They had cutlasses hidden in the bushes and guns stashed in hollowed planks of wood, long discarded and forgotten by the Ministry of Housing.

 As I made my way, my mother said, “The Principal call for you today, boy. He want to know why you skipping school.”

I said, “What you say?”

“I say, if you want him, mister, you gone get him by that backroad he so fond of. I ain’t have time to deal with your shit, Bug. How long I ask you to help me clean this house? Shit, man, at least help me clean. But you too big for that, ain’t it so? Me, I’m an old lady and you’se a big man. Ain’t that so? You’se the big man of the house.”

I inhaled hard and scowled. “You’se a bigger man than me.”

She got up from her recliner and flicked her cigarette at me. Sweat was pouring down her puffy cheeks. The veins in her yellow eyes throbbed. “Don’t pull that shit with me, boy. You want to fuck with me? You want to try shit with me? You done gone and drop the fuck outta school and feel you could say something to me? Boy, don’t let me—”

She took off her slipper and pelted me with it. As she took off her other one, I braced. I thought she was going to chase me with it. But she was suddenly calm. She grasped her nightie and rubbed the middle of her breasts slowly. Then she sat down, facing away from me.

She spoke slowly now, hoarse from the yelling, “I gone let you walk away. You getting too old for me to beat your ass. You walk away. Because you’se the big man now. You do what you want, but not under my fucking roof, Bug.”

I left the house and slammed the door. I decided to go back to the snack kiosk. On my way back, I noticed that the men outside the King’s building were chatting with Bone. I kept walking to the kiosk and saw Foster still there. Foster was sitting at the heel of the shack, scratching his dog’s neck.

“You pulling a double shift tonight, boy?” I asked him, faking a laugh.

“Just manning the front before Bone take over,” he said. “He coming back just now. I thought you was going home?”

I smiled at him. “Moms work she damn self up into a fury.”

“Waiting for the old lady to breathe out the fire?”

“I don’t want to be in the house when she burn it down, is all.”

Foster laughed. “Right, right.”

“She better be careful. The fire hydrants this side don’t work so good. But I ain’t fraid no fire,” a man said, appearing behind us. His voice was like a cold wind. We both turned our heads to him and gasped when our eyes fell upon his.

It was him. It was fucking him.

He was wearing a tattered vest and cargo pants that had rips near the waistline. His clothes looked as old as he did. His elderly smile was cloaked in a scrim of cigarette smoke. He blew two symmetrical snakes of smoke out of his nostrils. Oddly, the smoke also smelled like sea salt. The slanted sinks along his cheeks tightened and sharpened like knife wounds from some Amerindian rite of passage. Straggly grey hair lined his jaw. The horseshoe pattern of hair stippled his bald head. He radiated tropical heat and his left eye restlessly twitched.

We had no words to say. There was nothing to say. He extended his hand to us. He accepted our limp handshakes with glee. “Boys, I am the King of Settlement 4. Nice to meet you,” he said. His voice was strong, but smooth. It didn’t crinkle like brown paper, like most other men his age.

He then said, “As I was saying before, me, I fraid ice more than fire. Sadly, no way it all going to go down except with ice. Everything preserved in its naturally ugly state—when the end of days come, know what I’m saying? Everything becomes a mirror. Ice mirrors reflecting off each other. The frozen people in Australia would be able to see all the way over here in Trinidad, through the mirrors.”

He paced around, kicking gravel as he did. He continued, “Everyone going to be frozen in their sins. Men frozen with knives to the necks of their fathers. Some men frozen with their little pricks in their daughters. Some women frozen with their fists to their son’s teeth. All for the world to see.”

He scraped the back of his heel with his shoe. This motherfucker’s eyes cut right through me. I didn’t want to look. He turned to Foster and asked, “What sin you think you’ll be frozen in?”

“I don’t know, sir.” Foster trembled.

“You don’t know?” The King furrowed his brow. “You believe me to be a fair king?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you know how long I’ve been King?”

“No, sir.”

“I’ve been King of Settlement 4 before there was a Settlement 4. Before there was buildings here to speak of. I claimed this place long time. So, I have experience.”

He took another drag and then asked, “What you think the other kings back in the day would do if you stole from them?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

The King turned to me. “What you think, boy?”

I spat out, “Chop off their hands, sir.”

Foster looked at me. His eyes widened. The King laughed. “That’s a good start. But you see, I am a merciful king.”

His eyes jumped to Bodie. Foster knew.

“Sir, please.” Foster’s voice cracked.

The King’s calm expression contorted into intense fury. His upper lip curled and twisted as his eyes flashed sharp like mirror shards. He grabbed Bodie’s leash and curled it around his fist. Foster started breathing hard. I opened my mouth to say something, but I just couldn’t.

My teeth chattered. My muscles were all jelly. My spit grew sour.

The King lifted Bodie from the ground. He started kicking and barking wildly, until his voice winded down to a muffled grunt I never heard any animal make. “Sir, sir, sir,” Foster kept pleading, dropping to his knees. He began to sob. “Please, please, please!”

The King swung the dog like a clock’s pendulum. The dog let out a shrill shriek with each oscillation. The King then finally tied the leash to the top of the kiosk and let Bodie hang there. His scruff was pushed over his mouth as his neck tilted and began to slowly fracture. His mouth hung open like a carite caught on a fishing hook.

We couldn’t tell exactly when he died. He was kicking long after the life in his eyes disappeared. The King then took out his gun and shot the dog once in the head.

I spent a while trying to figure out why. And it was only when Foster cradled his dead dog, I knew. It was just to make a mess. Just to get blood on his clothes. I looked around. No one came out of their houses. There was nothing to see and nothing to say. There was nobody to call. And even if some fool decided to, there was no policeman who was going to hold the King on charges of stringing up and shooting a dog.

Foster pressed his forehead against the asphalt. The King knelt beside him and rubbed his back gently. He asked him, “What’s your name?”

“Foster.” He managed to say it through the hyperventilating snivels.

The King then said to him, “Next time I catch you taking my supply, Foster, it’ll be your ass. That’s how things work round here. Don’t be fuckin with the program, young’n. Because I can do anything, you understand? I can do anything to unfuck it. That’s why I’m King.”

The King hobbled past me without even a glance. No acknowledgement. He stepped over my feet like I was shit. As he approached the corner, he grabbed his side and hunched over. For a moment, I thought he was going to fall over and die. I tried not to keep my eyes on him. He quickly regained his stance and kept walking. I hoped to never see that face ever again. Not even in a dream.

Foster sat in the road, sobbing still. Tears collecting in a pothole. First time in my life I ever saw that boy cry. I didn’t know what to say. What was there to say? Shit, man. I never had no training for this. I tried hard to find words, but they never came.

A week has passed and man, I’m still trying.

We never spoke after that night.

As soon as I got back home, I cleaned that fucking house from top to bottom. Crack to crevice. I swept every dead cockroach under from every mat. You coulda make a bonfire with them. I was on my knees, scrubbing every floor. My kneecaps had dents, I swear. I exfoliated that bathroom. The Virgin Mary woulda be proud to come take a shit in it. Three o’ clock in the morning, I was still sandpapering muck from the walls.

I’ll tell you something—housekeeping ain’t no joke.

My mother didn’t thank me. She didn’t apologize either. And neither did I. That’s just how things are. I don’t care.

The next day, I didn’t go back out to my point. I wasn’t going to fuck with that no more. But Foster was right back at his. I walked right past him. He didn’t look up at me as I did. That’s how it’s been. A mutual feeling of defeat and shame. The difference is, I could admit it. He’s still dealing with it. Shame is a hell of a thing to feel in a place where there ain’t much to help unshame yourself but by shooting the motherfucker who made you feel it.

That evening, I noticed that Bone had moved up. He wasn’t a lowly lookout or dealer anymore. He was a soldier of the fortress, now with a cutlass buried in the bush and a gun hidden in a plank. He saw me looking at him. He barked like a dog at me, and started cackling like mad. I kept walking.

There was nothing nobody could do to him now. No revenge. No comeuppance. Not when he had all the King’s men on his side. Not one fucking thing. If you valued your life, anyway.

There ain’t much of a conclusion to this story. It’s still to come, I’d say. There ain’t much else to tell. I guess I’ll end by telling you what happened yesterday. There’s this old broken-down playpark at the edge of the savannah. It’s a depressing collection of pee-stained slides, wobbly swings and a decapitated rocking horse. But the see-saw was tip-top.

Two boys were trying to use it. One was much fatter than the other, and they couldn’t figure out how to balance it. The smaller boy was yelling and cussing at the fatter one, and a fight erupted. I rushed in and held them back from each other.

Then I told the fatter one to sit nearer to the pivot of the see-saw, and the smaller one to sit farther away. It finally balanced and they were able to have fun. I learned that when we were doing levers in school.

Now, brother, if you can derive some meaningful, symbolic shit in that scenario I described, then shit— maybe there’s a solution for all this nonsense.

Books, Writing, Ideas, Growing Up

You can’t write well if you don’t read.

And I would like to say that if there were ever some objective Euclidean list of axioms for literature, this would be at the top. But literature does not deal with absolutes, theorems or laws, but rather codes of conduct. Literature remains subjective and every person gravitates (or falls victim) to their own taste. I have never been the biggest fan of classical literature. There are some I enjoyed, but of my opinions: A Tale of Two Cities is egregiously over-written; The Scarlet Letter is barely readable; The Last of the Mohicans is dreadfully boring; and I’d prefer watch Kenneth Branagh do Shakespearean adaptations on the silver screen than actually read Shakespeare.

I grew up not liking to read, because these were the books presented to me as a child. I finished a book, like I would finish a plate of lentils. I didn’t enjoy it, but I knew it was probably good for me. It was actually the storytelling in 90’s role-playing fantasy videogames that first piqued my interest in the craft. It was from there that I wrote a story, which was published for the local Sunday Guardian. The “payment” I received was a book of my choice from a select store. I wasn’t too thrilled with this.

 image

But when I went, the lady at the counter recommended what she had probably recommended for every little boy my age: Enid Blyton. I devoured it in one sitting. Pretty soon, I had a stack of Blyton books. As I got older, my preference changed. And it’s still rapidly changing. I think that must be a sign of maturation. Not an evolution of taste, I would say, but the hunger for different styles, tones and grooves marks the moment to further oneself. I stress, literature is anything but absolute, which is what makes it even more exciting to explore.

I’ve snapped a picture of twenty books that I believe have influenced my feelings and ideas about writing. They are not the best books I’ve ever read. But a book doesn’t have to be Pulitzer material for it to affect your belief in some way. I try not to idolize any work too much, as I fear finding myself craving to “live up to something else”. Though ambition and inspiration usually join hands and the craving is, thus, inevitable from time to time.

 image

These books span from my childhood to just one year ago. I’m going to append each title with a mini-rationale for its placing.

THE PLEASURES OF THE DAMNED (Charles Bukowski) is a collection of poems by, well, Charles Bukowski. In my review for this book, I said that Bukowski is overbearingly honest in most of his poetry. He creates dystopia without apocalypse. The ordinary degenerate. There’s nothing else to it, since basically he was a degenerate. The collection, however, made me view poetry in a different light when I first discovered Bukowski at fifteen. Poetry didn’t have to be embellished or written with finely curled letters. It could be simple and ugly. Not even well-articulated hatred, like Sylvia Plath. Just raw, pithy imagery about toughness, like a one-eyed cat, a tough motherfucker, chasing blind mice.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE (Kurt Vonnegut) concerns Billy Pilgrim, who becomes “unstuck in time”. After being abducted by a strange group of aliens, Billy finds that he can see his entire life (and even past his death, until the end of the universe itself). I read this in university and it changed my perspective on how science fiction could be written. Vonnegut, to me, seems to write with an extraterrestrial readership in mind. There is a certain humour in the simplicity we take for granted. Vonnegut captured that here. It is something I hope to also.

THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN (Sherman Alexie) concerns Arnold Spirit, as he grows up in the ‘rez’ (Indian reservation), surrounded by disillusioned, drunk and temperamental Native Americans. This is the quintessential young-adult book, yes, complete with bullying, falling in love and illustrations. And it is quite remarkable. Young-adult authors engineer their books to extract an emotional catharsis, I believe. Finding humour in degradation. And the great fear that settles when one is told of their own home, “This place will kill you.” Living in a crime-ridden country, I can relate. Also, who knew comic strip cartoons could go so well with prose?

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE (J.D. Salinger) is a book we all know, or should know. It is a polarizing book, not for its content so much, but because it has been read by some of the most irritating people. Holden Caulfield has been kicked out of Pencey Prep and wanders around New York City for a few days before returning home. He also wears a red hunting cap. That’s it. That’s the book. And I’ve read it, no exaggeration, about ten times. I read this when I was fourteen after I borrowed it from my school library. Didn’t know anything about it when I did, but damn, it was hard to do my homework the night I started it. I don’t love Holden. I don’t even like him. But I realise: I don’t have to. It helps, yes, to feel something for a narrator. But I realised that they don’t always have to be affable. Just intriguing, as character is the greatest tool we have to elevating plot.

JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN (Dalton Trumbo) is similar to another book I have on this list, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, though they are both here for different reasons. Joe Bonham awakens in a hospital and eventually deduces that he is basically a living torso. Yes, his face is gone and his appendages have all been blown off by an artillery shell. He’s a prisoner in his own body. It is a poignant and extremely depressing novel. It is here because of its attention to sensory detail and use of flashback during the recall of Joe’s life and family. It also shows the influence the written word can have against a behemoth such as World War I.

THE GUNSLINGER (Stephen King) is the first book of the Dark Tower series, the magnum opus of King’s career, and I’ve put it here to represent both itself and the series. Though I’ve only read up to its fourth installment, the series is a detailed and expansive work that treads through the wasteland of a world that can only be described as where “the rest of the world has moved on”. Characters from previous novels make appearances, affecting the plot and reinforcing the idea that all King’s work is set in one universe. A haunting western setting along with deliberate anachronisms showed me that there really is no boundary to the worlds you can conjure up. Everything is acceptable, once done calculatingly and professionally. 

EVERYTHING’S EVENTUAL (Stephen King) is a short story collection, of which I wish to discuss only titular story. Everything’s Eventual concerns Dinky Earnshaw, who has the ability to construct symbols that elicit strong suicidal feelings for those who view them. Dinky doesn’t understand his ability, and doesn’t use it until he is convinced to do it to rid evildoers in his city. I was thirteen when I read this, and I had never even imagined that such a Jedi-like mind trick could be taken seriously out of a Star Wars setting. King made it work, however. From an early age, because of this story, I realised how limitless writing really was. Sorcery could exist in suburbia, and that was fine.

FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON (Daniel Keyes) is an epistolary novel (and I actually didn’t know what that meant until I read it) about Charlie Gordon, a mentally challenged janitor whose rapidly increasing intellect affects his life and those around him. As it is an epistolary novel, the story takes place in entries from Charlie’s journal. The result is quite effective, as it shows both Charlie’s own changes in his thought processes, and clarity of events in hindsight. I came across this in a second hand book kiosk while I was in high school, and I actually had no idea at the time that books could be structured that way successfully. 

THE CHRYSALIDS (John Wyndham) is a book that most high school students around my time might have done for their O’ Level Literature class. Though I didn’t study Literature, I read the book anyway. I was probably thirteen at the time. The story concerns David, one of a group of telepathic children whom live in Labrador. The people of Labrador believe that any deviation of the human anatomy (or ability) must be banished to the “Fringes”. It’s one of those classical allegory stories that youngsters are told to read, like Animal Farm. And while Animal Farm carried a strong message, it didn’t affect me as much as Chrysalids’. It carries one that is central to literature itself: never stop analysing everything.

THE CALL OF THE WILD (Jack London) concerns Buck, a domesticated dog that has been sold to become an Alaskan sled dog. The language is straightforward yet descriptive and the primal themes retain power in their simplicity, so when I read this at a very young age, it hit hard. It’s probably one of the most effective books I’ve read. It doesn’t miss a beat and the theme of “returning to nature” will always be relevant to literature, to society, to any persona one may hold. We all must be animals when the time comes.

THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO (Junot Diaz) chronicles the lives of the titular character, Oscar wao; his sister, Lola; his mother and grandfather. Oscar must deal with being overweight, a virgin and a Dominican still haunted by the ghost of the dictator, Rafael Trujillo. What lands this book here might be a strange one. It’s mainly because of the numerous accolades Diaz has received for it. Normally, I didn’t think people cared for the type of brash and vulgar storytelling employed in “Oscar Wao”. And honestly, it was right down my alley (writing-wise). When I saw that Diaz’s work could be accepted by the Pulitzer committee, I thought, “Why not mine?” As I said, strange reason. But it’s a damn unique and interesting book, nevertheless.

THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY (Jean-Dominique Bauby) is a memoir ‘written’ by a man who has locked-in syndrome. See, Mr. Bauby had been debilitated by a stroke, which rendered all but his left eye motionless. He blinked to the rhythm of a cautiously rearranged alphabet, and with a very, very patient nurse, this book exists. Just being able to read the book is a miracle, if you ask me. Within it contains the musings and memories of a man that thought he would be stuck in the deep, blue sea for the rest of his life. But now, from behind the steel cage of his diving bell, we can hear his voice. If this doesn’t readily reassure your belief in the power of the written word, I don’t know what will.

BOY (Roald Dahl) is the first part of the autobiographical work by Dahl (the second part being “Going Solo”). It almost reads as an epistolary novel, as Dahl pastes clippings of letters, photographs and other family documents to relate his past in a whimsical manner. The chapters in “Boy” relate to a prank gone wrong at a candy shop, a grisly car accident and warming the toilet seats for the older boys at a school in Derbyshire. Despite its bursts of humour, it is the most serious book I’ve read from the author. “Boy” does not overshadow his fictional works, but it made me think: Life is remembered by how you tell it. If that makes sense.

MIGUEL STREET (V.S. Naipaul) is my second favourite Caribbean book (the first being “Oscar Wao”). My first encounter with the book, if I remember correctly, was a chapter featured in a primary school “Reading Book”. The chapter was about B. Wordsworth, a mysterious man who ‘felt like a poet but could never be one’. The story was strange and heartbreaking in its feeling of incompleteness. But there was nothing more to be said of B. Wordsworth, and the story was over. I think this was the first time I had read a truly sad ending to a story. The collection of stories in Miguel Street is well worth it, but I won’t forget that experience with B. Wordsworth.

THE SOUND AND THE FURY (William Faulkner) is the hardest book I’ve ever read, that I’ve ever finished (the hardest book I’ve never finished is The Scarlet Letter… trust me, fucking ridiculous!) “Fury” was my introduction to the much-beleaguring writing style known as stream-of-consciousness. In prose, anyway. Does Beat generation poetry count? It centers around the Compson family, sections devoted to various family members. The two that stood out the most to me were Benjy and Quentin. The non-linear narratives that relies on Benjy’s diminished mental capacity and Quentin’s disjointed and emotionally affected recollection of his family and his sister, Caddy, require multiple re-readings. I remember being on campus, busily dissecting the book during Biology lectures. It was my first experience with frustration that somehow felt rewarding simultaneously. Once you are willing to decipher it, it’s worth it.

DISGRACE (J.M. Coatzee) was a novel I received for free at a writing workshop when I was twenty. We were given a week to read the book for an upcoming book-club type discussion of character and theme. The story itself concerns David Lurie, a college professor fired for misconduct and loses most of his reputation and integrity in the process. Yes, it is as depressing as it sounds. But there was one thing that stood out for me as I read this book: the present tense. I had never given it much thought before that. The present tense is quite effective once used properly. Not necessarily to build suspense or (no pun intended) tension or anything, but just to hold the reader in that moment of disarray and imminent disarray. I’ve been trying to re-create that ever since.

MIDDLESEX (Jeffrey Eugenides), to me, is the paragon of a bildungsroman (a coming-of-age tale), especially one that involves identity (most of them do, though, don’t they?) It’s a thick book, but that’s because it goes into so much detail with our protagonist, Cal, and his family’s migration from Asia Minor. The hook? Call is intersexed, afflicted with a genetic condition known as 5-ARD. The males are often mistaken for females all the way up to puberty, and are raised as such. The question isn’t about how this can be fixed, but: should it be fixed? Now, Eugenides’ style is verbose, be warned. But from the two books I’ve by him, it’s fitting and beautiful. When it comes to the dense, thorny theme of identity, I don’t think there could be enough words.

THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (Jeffrey Eugenides) is a shorter book than Eugenides’ Middlesex, but it’s no less loaded with purple prose. The story is told by a group of men as they recall and muse upon the sudden suicides of the reclusive Lisbon girls in their neighbourhood. Their actual interaction with them was minimal, so they resort to filling in the blanks with theories of domestic horror. However, The Virgin Suicides never wanders into any gruesome vision. It is probably the least angsty book about suicide I’ve read. Instead, the story focuses on teenage whimsy and puppy love in light of what has happened, as if the girls themselves with pixies perched on mushrooms, or some other magical beings. The book feels like magical realism, though entirely grounded in drama and disillusioned romance. Why this book is here is because it holds that intangible quality that separates melancholy from melodrama. It remains my key to written emotion.

THE ROAD (Cormac McCarthy) concerns a father and son’s journey across a wasteland, the near-shell of a once-verdant world. The technique employed by McCarthy to show the stark emptiness of this situation? The abandonment of punctuation. While I had experienced the fiddlings of grammatical structure before, like with ee cummings, I never reckoned any operative utilisation of it with a novel. Like The Call of the Wild, The Road is written with a complex simplicity (you’ve probably figured out that I’ve an inclination for this odd oxymoron). It describes desolation in brief whispers. Hopelessness in dying breaths. No need for abundance of any sort here.

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME (Mark Haddon) concerns Christopher Boone as he plays detective to discover who stabbed his neighbour’s dog, and ultimately uncovers the dark secrets kept by his family. Christopher, however, lives with an autistic spectrum condition and experiences great difficulty accepting the hard realities of his findings. The book is told from first person and is much easier to read than Benjy’s portion in The Sound and the Fury and is more on par with the emotional journey in Flowers for Algernon, though it does require patience when Christopher’s OCD steps in and prevents the plot from advancing. This is all done for effect, however, and works most of the time. This book lands a place on this list for its ability to integrate Christopher’s medical condition into the narrative, not as a gimmick or technique, but to show how different people process different situations. How I may have reacted to Christopher’s findings might have been much different, but this is his story. And everyone should have a story, shouldn’t they?

 

Reblogged from space-coyote  2,851 notes
space-coyote:

In Japan, Seinfeld is called “My Neighbor Seinfeld” (Tonari no Seinfeld), much like “My Neighbor Totoro.” So I thought, sure, why not add it to my growing list of weird and disturbing crossover fanart?

So in Japan, it’s from Kramer’s perspective?

space-coyote:

In Japan, Seinfeld is called “My Neighbor Seinfeld” (Tonari no Seinfeld), much like “My Neighbor Totoro.” So I thought, sure, why not add it to my growing list of weird and disturbing crossover fanart?

So in Japan, it’s from Kramer’s perspective?