Book Review: Descending into the Lonely Spiral of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar

book review the bell jarThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity. Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies.

A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic. (Goodreads)


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Inside my Homicide: A Verse in Purification

I thought I would never to be able to bring myself to write another entry here.

But here I am once again: scribbling a letter after another until I finally make up a word, a sentence, a paragraph that’s lucid enough to express my apparent ambiguity and my obscure speculations about the world, about everything I know (or thought I knew).

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Wander Weekly 03: Mindless Musings on Welcoming Summer and Surviving Birthday Blues

Happy Sunday everyone! I don’t have anything prepared for this week’s Wander Weekly so I figure for this entry I am going to simply scribble my thoughts down and make the words as I go.

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Return to Poseidon

Today I stood in the middle of a sea: a great white sea of papers and parchments and pain crashing one after the other with all the madness of a tidal wave, screaming to kiss the shores with all the urgency of a ticking time bomb. I stood in the middle of the raging waters and looked longingly at the immeasurable vastness of this now foreign territory, an ocean-deep of memories from my five-year stay at the university. Piles and piles of papers lay before me like flowing river: test papers, term papers, thesis drafts, photocopied pages of books from all of my adored authors, sheets of scratch and sentiments.

I looked each of them with wistful eyes, trying not to remember the long tough days when I once clung onto them like a child, like my whole life depended on every single word written on their pages. I read these words now, treaded on them carefully as if trying to extract a secret code, to see if maybe I had missed something important in all of my five-year education in philosophy. But in the end I only see these words words words and the absence of their context, their meaning, and realize that maybe I could never think again as deeply as when I did when I was there in the university—face to face with the unspeakable colors of dusk, the gentle breeze wheezing from the lonely river nearby, the gentle rhythm of trees swaying as in a dance, the sound of students’ laughter seeping through the cracks of time.

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Race to Silence

Some days just feel so unspeakably empty despite the presence of events and people. some days just run like the flow of time and take away everything in its wake. But some days just run dry and leave no words, no language—nothing but the sound of a moving life with all its unmoving senselessness.

I wish I know what I am saying, dear blog. But you see, I think of all these things I want to write about, but as soon as my mind sets itself into motion, the thought of all those feelings, all those senseless attempt to craft my own meaning, simply melts into the distance. Maybe what I am trying to say is that sometimes you just have to lie to yourself because the cost of honesty is too high a price.

A Year of Admission

There are voices inside my head that refuse to be silenced. On the train or at the streets, or at the streets or in the silent corners of a classroom at the university. I hear these voices with all the sharpness of a wailing knife. Sometimes they tell good things to me, but most of the time they curse curse curse. I wish they would stop but the stronger I wish they were gone, the louder they scream into the depths of my calloused consciousness.

But even with all these weight I try to live like the most of them: these lost and floating faces in the university. And through my interactions with them I come to realize how little they differ from me, and how much we share the same encounters. I promise myself this year to learn to live with acceptance, and in all of those moments I find myself wanting for some, I tell myself over and over again to learn to accept my circumstances and to learn to be grateful for whoever the Universe sends in our way. The ultimate strategy is to live in the moment, and to let the rest of your worries find their own time.

Purloined Letters

I.
There are instances in our lives when we consider an event as fleeting, forgettable, ordinary, at that particular moment when we are experiencing them. Like a quick glance from a passerby on the street, a word, a phrase spoken without the least bit of intention, the way a stranger’s face carves a memory of some faraway island, the way city lights hum in a frenetic buzz in the midst of the metro traffic.

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A Rite of Passage

“Yes to life!” was my mantra on repeat as I stepped out of the door and into the burning embrace of a scorching Thursday morning. In my head was an elaborate map of the place I was supposed to go, backed up by a paranoid prayer to the Universe begging to keep me from getting astray in the wild city streets. In my head I was thinking the worst that could happen was not to be caught in death or in traffic jam, but to be cornered by perpetrators whose stone-eyed faces and hardened hands one could always encounter along the way. I was a lanky little paranoid, screaming at the top of my lanky little lungs: fucking Yes to life!

A few weeks back, one of my colleagues had provided me a detailed direction to get to this place that is well-known for scrumptious sushi. But as dumb to directions as I will ever be, I had to trust road signs and the little that is left in my gut-feeling to get to this place locals call Suki.

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Fight or Flight

I will be turning a year older tomorrow. On the one hand I feel so young and insecure, as though I was born yesterday. I am filled up to the brim with a swirling energy to spread my wings and to conquer the entire world. I am jammed with passion for things and places that are yet to be discovered. Most of all, there is so much curiosity in the depths of my soul for everything unknown in the world; the kind of yearning portrayed in movies and novels, and in the lost sad lives of the young and the careless. Every second of this goddamn life feels so much like an unfolding Bildungsroman.

But on the other hand I feel so old, like someone who has lived through the end of life. There is too much in my soul that begs for calmness, for repose, for a supertemporal silence in a world full of noise. I see myself in the faces of old people around me, and how I lose myself every time I trace the crooked lines in their wrinkled faces, the fading life in their graying hair, the smell of breath and old age in their every uttered word. I admire their composure as they stare unflinchingly at blank spaces in front of them for hours on end without feeling lost in the emptiness of the surrounding void. I admire their complacency and their courage to confront the staring abyss, and to feel no ounce of doubt in the reflection that stares back at them.

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A Naked Truth

To fight for words
To stumble and lose
In my twisted tongue
Fragile words, and few.

Monday did not let me lose face when it let me pass through the day unscathed and unharmed. I scrambled for words at the back of my tongue, hoping to find a perfect kind of articulation for two class reports that was due that day. And I did find words, but only remnants from this self-made word wars in my head. And before my eyes I saw shards of glass, scraps of metal, bloodstains, bleeding.

Monday went as it arrived — completely forgettable, faceless, bland.
But Tuesday was a betrayer of trust.

I thought about leaving my paper empty as I stared paralyzed and defenseless at the sudden onslaught of questions. I thought about submitting a blank sheet before my professor, prepared with a perfectly resolute argument in my head as to why I refuse to translate Nietzsche into words, into anything close to intelligible, into any thing at all. It was not arrogance but rather something that persists at the opposite pole: repentance, or perhaps, self-reproach. I never understood him. He never wanted to be understood. I clenched my pen with my outraged fingers and hoped instead to write about the source of my irrational madness and my fuming rejection to answer the midterm exam. For a minute or two, I felt my professor’s eyes on me, and how his gaze made me hide in humiliation. There was no one but Nietzsche. My shame stripped me off of my defenses, of my excuses. My guilt, a screaming sea. For the first time ever I felt numb and naked like a newborn cursed with the consciousness of the world. With Nietzsche I felt bare-skinned, unconcealed, and raw. With Nietzsche I felt no need for words.

I don’t want to write. I never want to write again.

Spaceless

I need a release.

It would probably take an entire day or two, nay even a lifetime, like writing a Proust novel of some sort, for me to tell Mom how differently my thoughts about love, relationships, family, God, religion,—life in general—have changed since I left home. Not that leaving home was a good thing, but that certainly it gave me a bit more perspective: from that typical high school girl who knows too much about rebellion but was rather too scared to step out of her comfort zone to a person who actually took a step, however frail and fragile such a step at first seemed. In retrospect, it seemed manageable, easy. But transitions are always the hardest to take especially when one has no strong hold of everything that has shaken and has broken loose.

I still remember our house in the South, as that which one of my estranged friends referred to as my ‘fortress’, for in there I was more than guarded, I was safe and sound. But more than that, I was watched upon. And isn’t this what’s missing in the world that is out there? For we look so much at what’s ahead of us that we don’t even look anymore at that which is in front of us, that we don’t look anymore upon each other. I still remember my father’s eyes, and how they burned, tortured, arrested my soul with his steadfast surveillance as much as I burned with his steadfast love. In high school, I thought of love as chains shackled around my feet, refusing to give me movement. But in college I roamed the empty unfamiliar streets with boys begging for the same love that my father has so selflessly lavished upon me. But arrogance stopped me from running back to my father’s feet, asking for forgiveness for whatever it was that had me sundered from them all. We always look at the present as something that ‘needs more’ of everything: needs more space, needs more time, needs more improvement. In high school I thought I needed more freedom than home was able to provide for me, but in college I thought of home, safe and adequate, for all that I was wanting, missing, longing for.

I look at this life now, with a vision that’s still blurry from all the things that has happened for the past three years in the university, trying to see what my Mom and my Dad would see, trying to carefully extract their perceptions of what has become of their divergent daughter. There are instances when I would feel proud of my accomplishments, of my experiences; when I would send over to Mom a photo of a certificate I received from a private university; when I would tell Dad about thoughts that were so conceived in the midst of my trying to philosophize about every fucking thing in the world. But in the end it would all seem so small, so insignificant, and I would hark back to a day when I was just a little girl and how my every action was more than enough to make them satisfied. There is something about innocence, and the art of forgetting, that detaches man from all of the present and brings him face to face once more with his child-like self. And it is not just about the mere negation of what was already been situated in the here and now. But far from that, it is a return to the more aboriginal of being, that which is naive and infantile, a soul unblemished and uncorrupted.

Aren’t we doomed with our memories, we the remembering mass of humans? Would life be any different had it been the case that our minds could retain only a day’s worth of memory and discard them thereafter? There are days when I would wish for a tennis ball, or even the big neighboring ball that is the moon, to strike me on the head, to make me forget history. But forgetting history would also mean forgetting the good and the bad, forgetting Mom and Dad, forgetting all people, forgetting even the self. But how could one live in oblivion? How could one live at all?

I think about the future, and in my projections of what is to come, I see nothing. A blank space, an eternal rivulet of the nameless and the nothingness. Back in the days when people asks me of my plans I would respond with a healthy enthusiasm and present them a delicately drawn portrait of all my hopes and dreams, which include getting my degree on time, landing a job, taking all that there is to take in life with all the energy of a Spanish bull. But when people asks me now, I would think about the void, and how it engulfs us deeper and deeper into that which is uncanny. It reminds me of the ending part of Murakami’s 1987 novel Norwegian Wood where Midori asks Watanabe where he is. Watanabe’s response was rather eerie, belonging to the terrifying unseen. And in his place I feel firmly fastened as well.

Where are you now?
Where was I now?

Gripping the receiver, I raised my heads and turned to see what lay beyond the phone box. Where was I now? I had no idea. No idea at all. Where was this place? All that flashed into my eyes were the countless shapes of people walking by to nowhere. Again and again I called out for Midori from the dead center of this place that was no place.

To Write Love on Her Arms

Are you following me?

I have spun myself into a circle, into places where she’d been, and sought for a sign. I have left a mark on the road in case I forgot the way back, but my mind has lost traces of her footsteps the moment she mentioned something about substance. And right then I thought about abuse and the dim lights of a yellow bulb singing its way into her soul, a round of prescriptions on the bathroom floor taken twice, thrice, until there was numbness and the sorry look from a stranger’s face saying “What have you done to yourself?”

I thought about her eyes, dull in the height of frenzy, and watched the rainbow haze float from out of her misshapen mouth. I thought about her silence but all I remembered was her scream, and the cracking of an old vinyl as it swallowed the hollow spaces between her smoke-stained teeth.

I thought about the crooked line that separates both substance and abuse, and wondered how one person could be both. I thought about the setting sun, and the stillness of her sunken face when Death finally came to empty her of her miserable miserable life. They said overdose. They said she had too much. But she was so empty, so hungry, when she left us all.

Are you following me?

There are only two points in a straight line. Point A is where we’re at. Point B is where we’re going. Kara never cared about the line, only that she wanted to carry her cross to eternity. She jumped her way out of it—into the vacuousness of everything real and imaginary. She spun herself in circles, in spirals, for she never believed in an end. She danced. She dances still, to the slow steady music of an ethereal eternal return.

Damages

You cannot force the words out if they don’t want to come out.

I waited patiently for more than half a month for the words to arrive and to run begging for your pages. But in the end there were never enough words to write. Only staccato bursts of broken thoughts and jagged pieces of fragile ideas I can never quite make into an intelligible whole.

Shotgun

Exactly five days ago you had me bursting with hate again. I knew this the moment you spoke to me. I looked at you and saw that you looked at me too, a split-second collision of madness and fury and rage all summed up in an indelible injury, and how right then and there I wanted to gouge your eyes out and make you blind for the rest of your life. Because you once were, and because for once I wanted to know what revenge tastes like under this bloodthirsty tongue of mine.

When I looked at you that day I had every hope of strangling you in the neck, or cracking your skull open, or setting a bullet where your cold unfeeling heart is supposed to be. But it was not fair that I even put myself again into such a silly game. When did I ever win to you? Even in the darkest corners of my memory all I remember is that you were stronger, you always had the upperhand.

But not anymore.

When I looked at you that day I wished that I was looking at an illusion, something that would vanish instantly if I close my eyes, something that would leave no memory at all if I wake up the next morning and find myself on the floor. Still you were there in front of me, and even if I blink a thousand times, your memory lingers like a scum sucking leech in every shattered inch of my consciousness.

But today I close my eyes. What I see is my finger on the trigger with the gun aimed at your head, or at your heart. Depending on which will cause more pain. What I see is blood trickling down from your heart to the ground to erase every fucking memory of the time I spent with you. What I see is your face and the color of crimson in your eyes when you say that you’re sorry. What I see is my own unforgiveness. What I know is I will never forgive you.

When I look at you what I see are our memories together, but only the blurry outlines of them. I could trace the lonely path where we once existed and tell myself that I loved you once, twice, thrice, until I lose count of them all. But that would be a lie. To say that I still want you would be wrong. What I want is an undoing of things. What I want is to look at you, dead or alive, and feel nothing. What I want is for you to be nameless, faceless, in a world where every inch of you is erased, vaporized.

What I want is to bury you.

June Brides

It almost feels surreal that June is about to end. Surreal as in the experience of sunsets fading sleeplessly into the horizon like the leaving of a lost dream. Surreal as in the sound of the abyss resting beneath our shallow feet. It’s comedic, as I think about it now, how the days slip into our consciousness like a fascist pig commanding us, dictating us, that Time will soon be over.

I have been in school only once this June. That was my first day, a Wednesday. After that the days stretched itself into an infinite stream of lonely wakeful hours and zombie-dead days of depression and unproductivity. Skipping class is one thing. Missing out on org meetings is another. But the sickest, most dangerous thing of all is deciding not to care. Or deciding not to decide altogether.

My first day in school was a blur. A giant absorbing blur that if magnified two or three times would present all of my imperfect survival mechanisms. Two of the professors didn’t show up that day which left me a handful of hours to waste. I spent the day listening to other people’s stories about how their summer went or about the new boy/girl they’re crushing on or about the irksome ways to bully the Freshies. Petty matters like that. On the surface was my plaster face warm as the weather and the welcoming committee combined. On the inside was my screaming voice begging to go home. By the end of the last period I was close to murdering myself with the tip of my G-tec pen  just so I could be alone.

A typical school day for an average college student would consist of the following:
a) sitting in class
b) sitting in class while exchanging stories with seatmates about how cool the latest Transformers movie was.
c) sitting in class while exchanging stories with seatmates about how cool the latest Transformers movie was, while munching on a cheap cheese burger.
d) sitting in class while exchanging stories with seatmates about how cool the latest Transformers movie was, while munching on a cheap cheese burger and pondering on philosophical issues raised by the professor.

Life at the university has been mostly a’s. Plain and repetitive a’s day after goddamn day. I wish I could say that college was the best thing that ever happened in my life. But the truth is nowhere near these words. And it’s not the people I detest, though in some odd ways they bring something to the equation. Far from that, it’s this faceless ghoul that keeps on meddling, nagging, imposing ways on how I see life. It’s this deep dark swirl of both pleasure and pain that keeps on treading both ways in an imperfect balance. It’s this unnamed imperative to languish, to suffer. It’s the inevitable experience of the extreme, the weighty withdrawal from people and from life in general.

I’m married to loneliness for as long as I could remember. The first few years were mountaintops. But once I got the hang of it things eventually seemed familiar, easy. Contrary to popular belief depression is not destructive. It is creative. Of course, at first you have to go through the unglamorous sessions of dealing with your unglamorous feelings. But once you master these monsters you get to learn to create a world with meaning, a world acceptive and uncritical of who you are. In a world where people insists on always aiming for brighter days, going through a rather dull one could actually be a more fulfilling encounter than all the surface-level happiness in the world.