Posted in book review

‘Bitter Orange’, by Claire Fuller – review

Bitter OrangeBitter Orange by Claire Fuller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller is a curious case study of a woman named Frances Jellico, masquerading as a fictitious memoir laced with escapism, voyeurism, narcissism, and eroticism, all glowing in the radiant color orange smothered by the shadow of forced guilt, self-loathing, and disorientation. Frances’s narrative is, however, far from being namby-pamby, importuning the reader with her litany of her woeful life. Rather, it is her remonstration of her failed dreams, rejected desires, and unfulfilled purposes with the world she believes has always turned its back against her in the most callous way. Her only revenge for the betraying world is her death, which bestows upon her the kind of liberty she wanted to purchase in one hot summer in an idyllic English suburb twenty years ago. It’s a mad, bad, and sad drama of Frances through which Fuller plays the last swan song of a deeply troubled woman in emotional distress with her masterful storytelling skills.

Written in the first person narrative, the reader will directly glimpse into the inner world of Frances whose days are numbered without superabundance of mawkish sentiments. In fact, it echoes Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart” in a way that  exudes a momentum of gushing stream of consciousness of a narrator that feels a combination of anger and dismay, sorrow and loneliness, and illusion and paranoia. That feeling of abstract emotions becomes physical by the witchcraft of Fuller’s atmospheric descriptions of scenes and rich dialogues. Fuller does a beautifully nuanced job of capturing all the conflicting emotions that put you in trance, carrying you over to the psych of the other.

In comparison with Dora, the subject of Sigmund Freud’s case study of hysteria, Frances’s dilemma is more existential, more corporeal, and more noogenic in terms of the cause and the nature of her Uber-Angst. To diagnose Frances’s symptoms as a typical case of female hysteria commonly associated with a timid, introverted middle-aged virginal woman does a disservice to the woman who struggled to right the ship of her drifting life all alone. IT goes against the grain to dismiss France’s story as a mere dalliance with a hedonistic couple named Cara and Peter during her brief sojourn or a pitiful attempt to break free from her socially gawky, ill-fitted rotund virginal self at the expense of her naivety. France’s narrative attests a sense of disorientation of her life without a clear vista of purpose in her life due to the lingering influence of her dead gloomy, domineering, sordid mother who bound her entire being under the rigidity of religion and morality.

Subsequently, Frances suffers from noogenic neuroses, neither pathological not pathogenic of origin, but of existential distress. In other words, Frances is not a basket case, but a human derelict adrift on a sea of life, brutally defenestrated from the comforting mooring of loving relationship and social connections by her also neurotic mother who blamed her daughter for almost anything. No wonder Frances associates her rotund appearance with her weight of guilt that is in fact nothing but her delusional imago forced upon her. In this regard, France’s narrative outstrips Freud’s Dora case with far more in-depth interior monologue of the narrator endowed with high intellect, impressible curiosities for life, and unyielding desire of being connected with the world outside herself.

Fuller is a riveting writer of dialogue and scenes, all the artistry in the marks upon the page after page, wielding a pen across the pages in an expense of her boundless imagination that seems wholly realistic and ingeniously creative, producing aesthetically sensuous ambiance of the story, as if she were painting a Renaissance triptych featuring three naked adults making furiously and frantically passionate love with one another in an Arcadian English garden tinged with citrus scents of oranges, which likewise symbolize lust, desire, and passion, all flatly denied to Frances in Bitter Reality. And it is in this subtle respect of Frances’s smoldering indignation at such cruel denial of her yearnings only natural to any woman – young and old, pretty and not-so-pretty, smart and not-so-smart – that Fuller’s vivid imaginativeness and keen observation of psyche of characters manifest to the fullest extent and hold the reader’s undivided attention throughout the book with gusto and pleasure that will make you become titillatingly insatiable as you go deeper into this arresting story.

Posted in Miscellany, Novellas

Coffee with Bach and Thoreau

La Patisserie by Jean Beraud

It was still early when she got to downtown. And it was still an hour early before her day at the office was to start. That feeling of earliness needed to be indulged by the leisure of solitary coffee time at her regular coffeehouse that had lovely outside seating where you could enjoy a capricious respite with a cup of coffee and watch the swing of things, the world in motion, and the parade of the human race. That time was precious time for Julie, and it was to be observed religiously  in a way the Vestal Virgins guarded the sacred fire in the temple lest it should die out, as that would mean the peril of the Eternal City. The aroma of freshly brewed hazelnut coffee could do so many wonders, and one of them is vitalizing your listless, half-awaken stupor under which you would find yourself an unconscious somnambulist or a peevish whiner. This rhapsody of morning coffee is also testified by a testimonial of Johann Sebastian Bach, the father of Baroque music, who described himself as a “roast goat” without having a cup of sensuously aromatic coffee in the morning.

Julie, as a faithful myrmidon of the power of wonder beverage, got her first morning hazelnut coffee and placed herself in the corner of her regular coffeeshop to set her cognitive functionality for a work day in motion by reading her subscription on Kindle Fire and writing down some notes from the reading. In fact, there was a set of rules of reading Julie adhered to: reading hardcopies on her commuter train and Kindle in coffee-shops because she found such modus operandi of reading quite congenital to her mental exercise. So there she was, doing what she always did, unless otherwise there was anything else that called for her urgent attention to attend before her work hours began. Then when her silver pocket watch indicated twenty minutes to nine, Julie headed for the office. That was how Julie began her normal work days. That was how she began to live another existential everyday.

That particular morning, which was Friday, was a lucky one, for no exigency was awaiting for her to execute first thing in the morning. Julie was a legal assistant at a litigation firm, where a myriad of pleadings, discoveries, settlements, and confrontations were norms of the trade. And it had been only a week since a happy chance placed her into the position offered by goddess Fortuna, who had finally countenanced her new future on the frontier. Yes, it was a frontier, a new land of unyielding dreams, high hopes, and exciting desires that Julie had felt deprived of in that grey, grim land by the Atlantic Ocean. Even Henry David Thoreau attested such tenebrous somberness of the ocean as a Sea of the Old Habits and Constraints that bound people in the Memory of their aborted wishes and crushed ambitions and encouraged them to migrate to the Elysian Fields by the Pacific Ocean, which he romantically compared to the River of Lethe in his poetic pathos. Reader, you might think it as a humbug or even a jest in your most postmodern mode of thinking in the ethos of textual parallax thriving on non-platform media. But when you become known that our life is still woven by the Fates under the supervision of Fortuna and that you are made of spirit, fire, and dew, you will swivel your head in wonderment in recognition of Thoreau’s poetic perspective on the Exodus to a New Land where nature is all the more conspicuous by the relative absence of the Gothic skyline that rudely dominates the vault of heaven on the Other Side of the Continent. Julie knew it all, and that was why she wanted to start anew in the West, where the Lethe of the Pacific flew, where the rugged hills and primitive mountains setting against the deep blue ocean still maintained the rustic charm of a village maiden.