Repetition Of A Phrase

The future is no longer what it was
For better or for worse
Familiarize with the newness
Learn to cohabit with life and latex
Organic is superfluous
Anthropomorphic is just as good
Your non human humongous mate
Is a persistent repetition of a phrase

Your non human humongous mate
Waves at me to say hi
Before it disappears in your face
It? Him? Them? I wonder
How does our friend identify gender?
Meanwhile this ménage à trois
Ectoplasma, android, foie gras
Two beating hearts, few bloodless veins

Your non human humongous mate
Parks in your garage
As I complete your bionic ecology
Me and your non human mate
We high five like chums
Rectovulva Septum
In the future after the shockwaves
Sad tadpoles are left to die

Your non human humoungous mate has an advice:
Make love. Fuck.


Featured Artwork: AMERICAN CENTURY by Glen Orbik

2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge

Completed Goodreads 2020 reading challenge 5 months ahead, and I began only in mid April. I think I need to slow down, this is like a Bugatti on steroid. Mostly new reads, a few re-reads. Full list with completion dates:

1.The New York Trilogy (Paul Auster)- April 20
2.Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari)- April 30
3.The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera)- May 5
4.My Name Is Red (Orhan Pamuk)- May 13
5.Waiting For Godot (Samuel Beckett)- May 14
6.Kafka On The Shore (Haruki Murakami)- May 20
7.The Book Of Strange New Things (Michel Faber)- May 26
8.Let The Right One In (John Ajvide Lindqvist)- June 4
9.Ficciones (Jorge Luis Borges)- June 10
10.The Dumb House (John Burnside)- June 14
11.The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey)- June 22
12. Animal Farm (George Orwell)- June 24
13.The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake (Aimee Bender)- June 29
14.The Arrival (Shaun Tan)- June 30
15.To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)- July 5
16.Tightrope (Olga Wallo)- July 9
17.1984 (George Orwell)- July 15
18.The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)- July 21
19.Choke (Chuck Palahniuk)- July 27
20.No Longer Human (Osamu Dazai)- July 31

Schadenfreude

Since the time he had been trying to write a substantial piece of literature, Dark had felt paranoid, intimidated. The possibility of failure seemed inevitable, almost tangible, waiting on the corner with it’s black wings spread like a cape, ready to pounce on him and devour his innards the moment he lowered his guard. The more he read good literature, the more he realized how fiendishly difficult the craft of writing really was and how inadequate and crippled he felt inside. Perhaps he should write something that was destined to be such a dramatic failure that he could murder himself with it, as a revolutionary act or something. Mishima, Plath, Hemmingway. Heck…Dave Wallace. Either way, nobody was going to read his crap, but a death toll might make it cult. The egg was broken, waiting to rot. The seed of life had abandoned it for good. Perhaps getting scrambled on fire was the only salvation it could ask for. Besides, who could resist the cheap thrill of watching a train wreck in slow motion? It’s the paramount of entertainment. The Germans called it schadenfreude; pleasure derived by humans from a fellow human’s misery. Dark took a deep breath…alright then, lets transgress. Lets bring in some ugliness. Shock, schlock, shit. Shittier still. Blood… bile… venom… semen… milk… BLACK MILK.

~ An excerpt from BLACK MILK my work-in-progress fiction.

Featured artwork: MAN WRITING by Oliver Ray

The Handmaid’s Tale: Book Review

THE HANDMAID’S TALE – Margaret Atwood
Genre: Speculative Fiction/ Dystopian
Rating: 2.5/5

‘As I have said elsewhere, there was little that was truly original with or indigenous to Gilead…’ (excerpt)

Such an irony then, that Atwood’s own sentence would so perfectly describe the very novel that tells the story of Gilead…THE HANDMAID’S TALE. Some books, despite being works of genius never get the adulation of the mainstream. A few mediocre ones just blew up out of control. THE HANDMAID’S TALE has a few good things, but it is not a very good novel. Atwood writes beautifully. It is probably the only saving grace of THT. The beauty of literature (or in fact any art) is that it affirms the subconscious knowledge of its reader (or audience). The utmost pleasure is bestowed upon readers by telling them the things that they already know about life and human condition, with little nuggets of poetic philosophy curved out of mere mundane. The beauty is in the detail, with unusual perspectives that no one ever thought of. And Atwood does this effortlessly. Chapters after chapters she delivers little morsels of delicacies for the soul. Here, have a taste test: ‘Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it’ or ‘Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some’…and how about this? ‘A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze’. The book is full of illuminating phrases like this. She even plays with syntax really well ‘I feel like the word ‘shatter’’. Nevertheless, all along the book I kept thinking is this novel trying to trick me into liking it? As I progressed my doubts turned into conviction. THT is not a literary masterpiece. It is mediocre at best.

Dystopia must feel original. Dystopia must feel futuristic. Dystopia must feel believable. None of these are true for THT. The dystopian darkness is created through a monochromatic prism of feminist monotone. And the agenda appears so naked that it loses its credibility. Most of the book literally feels 1980’s or early 1990’s, the references are too heavy on that time period. As a results it fails to create the timelessness of a futuristic dystopia. Degradation of civilization or society occurs slowly over time. Absolute overturn of culture, the kind that THT warns about, does not happen in a decade. How did Gilead happen… we are not given any satisfactory backstory or context, nothing at all. We are supposed to take things as they are told. The theocracy, the hegemonic masculinity, the regimental brutality, everything just serves the author’s one point agenda. Since Atwood never makes an effort to make the atrocities plausible THT never manages to brew true horror or rage like Orwell’s 1984. The pacing is languid which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But nothing much happens here for almost two thirds of the book, the routine keeps cycling and recycling. And yet near the end everything seems to be rushed, as if the author realizes she has hit the respectable length of 100,000 words and it is time to wrap up. Fortunately, the ending is surprisingly good. And this ending would have salvaged the book to some extent. But Atwood inexplicably adds a lengthy and unnecessary epilogue to spoon feed her audience, in the process completely destroying the poetic ending. It is the disrespect and the lack of confidence that Atwood hands out to the readers, this patronizing attitude in underlining everything she couldn’t convey in the story, that drives the death nail. THT is not a train wreck. It’s not great either. It has been championed for political and commercial interest of the twenty first century, mostly by millennial YA readers. There is very little literary importance here. Incidentally, THE TESTAMENT, the sequel of THT is indeed a train wreck, as per many reviewers who loved THT, and it only shows that even the Booker committee is nothing but star-worshiper sell outs. This was my first Atwood and I don’t feel too enthusiastic about her bibliography anymore. Not even ORYX AND CRAKE, nope.

[Note: This review has nothing to do with the Hulu series. I haven’t watched it and do not plan to watch it either.]

Unfolding, Unspooling

Twenty minutes early
Or twenty minutes late
It’s a matter of perspective
You count seconds
And soak in the minute details of the cafe
Awkwardness gathers on the milk skin
Of your hot chocolate
In the aquarium fishes cry
The water is salty from their tears
Hello, she says,
Have you been waiting too long?
You have seen her before
But pictures are notorious liars
No photograph can do justice to a beauty like that
Her face is an elegy
An elfin myth
She gracefully accepts the chair that you offer
Remains of the afternoon just meanders
Like a wafty feather
Weightless, pointless, boundless
You only remember the brief moment
When she holds your hand in the end
Four years? Five maybe
That afternoon is still expanding
Unfolding in memories
Unspooling in dreams

Featured Artwork: CAFE DU MATIN by Olga Beliaeva (watercolor on paper)

Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story

Every love story is a ghost story
Something always haunts somebody
The dead haunt the living
The living haunt the lovers
The lovers haunt the dead
Bodies lay on ice
Beds tremble, pillows weep
Red stilettos tiptoe in the kitchen
Still new… only dusty
Stale cookies, dry coffee stains
Little balls of ache inside throats
Gray pictures, grim smiles
Words shatter like glass
Sour kisses…stinging…choking
Hallways bellow
Shadows take shapes
Ghosts mourn the living…
Love stories are ghost stories
Somebody always dies in them

Featured Artwork: STRANGE LOVE by Massimiliano Ligabue


Trivia: The phrase ‘every love story is a ghost story’ is not mine. It was mentioned by David Foster Wallace in his writings and letters, but he maintained that the phrase was not his. He attributed the phrase to Virginia Woolf, that it was introduced to him by the writer Richard Elman in a lecture. But the phrase does not appear in any of the surviving writings of Woolf. However the phrase appears in a letter of Australian author Christina Stead when she was battling depression, as a possible title of a story, although no story of Stead is titled such. As per Stead’s biographer Hazel Rowley, Stead probably wrote a story under that title then changed the title to ‘Les Amoreux’. Now, Stead happens to be a favorite author of the author Jonathan Franzen who was Dave Wallace’s close friend and contemporary. Whether the phrase was written by Wallace with a made up back story or was it name-dropped in a drinking game by Franzen or Elman, or is it a case where two writers, Stead and Wallace, unconnected with each other, dreamt of the same line in a true Borgesian fashion (Dave Wallace was JL Borges fanboy), nobody will ever know. In the honor of the phrase Dave Wallace’s biographer D.T. Max named his book ‘EVERY LOVE STORY IS A GHOST STORY- A LIFE OF DAVID FOSTER WALLACE’. This poem is my loving tribute to Dave Wallace.

Is Liberal Totalitarianism The New Normal?

When Naom Chomski and Steven Pinker, the stalwarts of liberalism are attacked as anti-liberals, when Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Gary Kasporov and Jeffrey Eugenedes, each of whom has committed so much for liberal ideas are accused by liberals, you know that liberalism has turned into a malignant, free-speech-curbing, Orwellian totalitarianism. The only permitted opinion is the left hardliner opinion, any digression of free thought, any difference of opinion, any criticism will be silenced and punished as heresy and fascism and right wing, no matter how ridiculous or irrational the counter-opinion is. Recently I read how a liberal who never misses an opportunity to crush Hindu religious propaganda (and rightfully so), justified the conversion of Hagia Sofia into a mosque, arguing that prayers in the building will make people more humane or some bullshit like that. Appalling hypocrisy, yet that is supposed to be politically correct. Fuck that, I say.

Aafra

Aafra calls from Hong Kong
She sounds upbeat
But in the following two hours of our video call
I know she is gloomy as the downcast sky
It is afternoon
But the weather masquerades as late evening
You can’t trust anything these days can you?
She asks
I wish I could lie
I wish I was naive enough to shoo away her fears
Instead I rile up some anger in her
It works
Or at least she plays along
We glide through our shared past
Brief yet momentous glories
What we were once
We take comfort in each others insignificance
Lending shoulders from million miles away
The video keeps breaking
Lousy broadband
Aafra cooes at my dog
I wonder at her first world apartment
Half of our lives are gone
We are still waiting to live

Featured Artist: VICTOR RODRIGUEZ (acrylic on canvas)

Left In The Rain

The rain came hesitant like an unsure youth
A gush that settled into a shy drizzle
Shallow dark pools mothered little sidewalk rivers
Wet cigarettes sailed the choppy waters to the underworld
For those who were unloved and wasted

A stray dog left in the rain sat upright
Drenched, eyes closed, nose in the air
Inhaling the petrichor deep in his soul
Did the moist wind carry his dead owner’s smell
Who drowned in a flooded manhole last monsoon?

Featured Artwork: LEFT IN THE RAIN by Gayle Berry

Orange Is The New Sex

A walk in the moist evening of your town
Presents a few revelations
Say, the temptations of kesar jalebi…
It paints a feverish picture of you
Partly because it mirrors the orange of your hair
Partly because of the orange negligee that hugs your wet skin
Revealing more than it hides
The water droplets on your bare shoulders
Glisten like the shiny syrup
Coagulating a viscous carnal necessity in me

I order for a serving of the jalebi and wait
Slowly melting invisible into the granular darkness
Of the breathing trees to hide my hard on
Awakened by the solemn movements of your body
The jalebis arrive
Each bite foreshadows a pleasure you promised
A secret invitation to let me spread my roots
Deep inside your portals
The spirals of this clementine sweet
Are they guiding me to your labyrinth of indulgence?

Featured Artwork: FEMME FATALE by Glen Orbik