Saturday, February 25, 2006

October Ferry to Gabriola

It all started last Wednesday when I went along with our popular and great English and Literature teacher Danton Remoto to the Humanities building. We were talking about what I could do for my reflection paper. We eventually reached the Humanities building together when we ended our talk, but before that, he asked me to come with him to a booksale outside the building. It was for their secretary whose husband was terribly ill and needed a lot of money for his hospital bills.

The English department then collected books they no longer need in their shelves and sold them at cheap prices (somewhat like what Book Shop does for Davao). He went along with me for a while trying to look for cheap books that I could read, (as he knew I was very fond of books) of course being written by authors known as classicists. Because of the limited choices and his constrained time, he was unable to choose a book for me, so he left me to choose while he went to the department perhaps to arrange his stuff before going home.

There weren't many good books left except for a Jack London book, a Sinclair Lewis book, and a Malcolm Lowry book. Among the three, I was most interested in the Malcolm Lowry book simply because it had a great cover and because it was published by Penguin. (If you thought I was going to read one of those three because of their literary merit, you're wrong. I chose the Malcolm Lowry book because it was the most pleasing aesthetically [for me].)

I paid 75 pesos, which is quite expensive for a used book, but cherished the book because it was well bound and also because it was bound by Penguin. I promised myself to be able to read the book despite its tedium and difficulty, and this promise (that I kept) broke a month-long repose from reading. The reason for my repose was the advent of my home Internet connection, or should I say dorm. I stopped reading books and appropriated for that by reading at forums (mostly about anime) and participating in them. I started reading it quickly, so as not to let boredom set in, and also because if I read slowly, I may not be able to finish it because of the many things needed to be done.

So I started reading it, and as I had expected, it was boring. Malcolm Lowry was more known for his Under the Volcano - which I had blogged about before. The synopsis of that novel was also more interesting than this one, but as I already had hold of this, and because I had promised to read this - I read this.

I just finished reading the book, and the best time to write about it is when all the information is still fresh in your mind (however, given the long introduction, it isn't as fresh anymore). I won't go into the characterizations, but directly to what I think and perceive of this book.

The book chronicles the journey of a man, Ethan Llewelyn, (it's hard to write about because it doesn't have any coherent plot) to self-discovery and self-repossession once more. I think it is about a journey of one who aims to again mesh with the workings of the world, to again be united with what life is. The main theme about the novel is eviction (alienation or rejection) from himself, from the world, from his past, and more physically, from his home. Guilt is also a major theme pervading and permeating the book, for the hero Ethan cannot let go of what he has done in the past that it often comes back haunting him.

This is no page-turner, and is quite a difficult novel considering the use of multiple and highly allusive languages to tell the story of Ethan and his wife. Ultimately, though, from what I can cull from the pages, it is a story of rediscovery. I can't really explain why I speak of rediscovery - it is that difficult of a novel, but Ethan eventually discovers that to balance oneself with the world one must accept both its pain and triumphs. He struggles flimsily with this balance, passingly obtaining it in a cabin of Nowhere, and losing it when he was evicted from that cabin.

With his wife, he journeys to obtain this balance once more, to reobtain what he had lost in that cabin that they both love. In the end, he discovers that this balance like any other in the world, is not static and will disappear into nothingness eventually. He then seeks a new home, and the story ends without us knowing if he ever transcends that love of the past, or if he gets over the loss of balance.

It is a somber novel, that much I can say. I think this is mildly comparable to Woolf's To the Lighthouse which is similarly a novel about loss, guilt, and rediscovery. It's quite a flimsy connection, but still a connection nonetheless.

I'm sorry if this review is incoherent or idiotic. That's how incoherent the novel was also. Maybe I'll edit this someday, or maybe I won't. I think that's enough information for now, if only to be a bank of what my initial thoughts about this book were.


At 5:31 AM, Blogger bruce said...

Hi, thanks for writing this review. I would recommend taking a look at the December 2007 issue of the New Yorker, it has a great article on Malcolm Lowry and what he went through while writing "October Ferry."


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