Tag Archives: fiction

‘Prince Brat and the Whipping Boy (TV Movie 1994)’ – review

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The Unlikely Duo in tandem

Tales of mistaken or traded identities between either by the irony of fate or whimsical voluntary submission bespeak our desire of realizing dreams and desires in one fell swoop without drudgery of going through rules and conformations of social norms and mores. From The Prince and the Pauper to Cinderella and to The Trading Places, the basic story lines contextualize the instant social mobility of improving one’s social status and the essence of human nature laid bare in dealing with new milieus. But forget the verbiage of latent sociological theory and academic analysis because after all, we all know that such wish for rapid social escalation is only father to the thought. So why not continue to enjoy the world of wishful thinking entertainingly translated on screen for the sake of art, such as this delightful movie Prince Brat and the Whipping Boy (AKA The Whipping Boy)?

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Guess who’s the prince?

The movie has a charm of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, giving it impression of a spin-off from the two stories in all likelihood. But what makes it worth the viewing are the characters whom you find difficult to dislike and the detailed background setting that conjure up the spirit of the time and bring out the personalities of the characters delightfully rendered on screen. The young prince is not really a brat but a lonely child who needs love and attention from his ever busy king father. The prince’s impudent pranks are signals for sending emotional SOS to the king who puts the security of his kingdom before the attention to his one and only child. And there’s a young rat-catcher about the same age as the prince who accidentally finds himself in an emotional strife between the Royal Highnesses as a whipping boy for the unhappy prince. What happens next is the gem of this movie in their subconscious quest for their cherished ends, their treasures at heart, through their eventful journey together in the unlikely duo of the prince and his whipping boy.

All in all, it is a little cute feel-good movie intended for all ages about what’s really important in life. Yes, we all may know the answer to it, but it really touches us in the denouement of the movie, leaving us with a feeling of warmth, affection, and jolliness, chiming the emotional, sentimental bells of our childlike imagoes. That said, if you want a movie that takes you away from your worries and sadness arising out of living adult life for some time, this movie might do good for you as it did for me for the day.

Jay’s Angels – fiction

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Move over Charlies Angeles. Here come Jay’s Angeles. (from l to r: Stephanie, Gwen and Monica): Illustration by Gwen B.

Director/Writer/Producer: Stephanie S.

Illustrator: Gwen B.

Ambiance Coordinator : Monica K.

Stars: Stephanie S. (Legal Assistant), Gwen B. (Accountant), and Monica K. (Legal Assistant)

Synopsis: Three ladies who are recently hired at a downtown LA law firm by a top notch  lawyer Jay C. sometimes get together during lunch hour to share their flattering hopes for their futures, remote but not that far-fetched anticipations of meeting white knights on steads, picky valuations of Mr. Rights, and other simple vignettes of their romantic adventures in Love El Dorado, all under the pretext of helping Stephanie to morph into a seductive la femme fatale, so to speak, to elevate her status to that of Irresistible Aphrodite in Pantheon of Love.

The Ladies get kick out of their funny raillery about all and sundry, ranging from a best face washer to their erstwhile significant others or would-have-been, from the pros and cons of their de facto bosses to their next best wishes and wishful thoughts about their better tomorrows. But who can deride their maiden dreams as pettifogging idleness indigenous to womanhood when they are hard-working women fulfilling everyday demands placed upon their daily tasks from within and without?

Mind you that due to their innately highly whimsical and capricious nature laced with covert extraordinary spiritual prowess, they sometimes change themselves into the Witches of the Biltmore. So it’s a league of their own, and it’s members exclusive, and it’s highly selective. But don’t you let them scare you away, my dear reader, for they are also mortals whose blood is red and hot and heart is warm and pumping. They are Jay’s Angels.

 

Author’s Note: Working in office requires lots of social skills: diplomacy, adaptability, modus vivendi, persona, euphemism… It requires a sense of humor, a handmaid to productivity imbued with can-do attitudes and stoicism to accept misfortunes and fortunes as they are – but with lovely smile all for the love of yourself – . Be it ever so naive or gullible, but one thing is certain that although my life at present is attuned for the office life as my primary reality for livelihood, which is why I lag behind my list of to-read books, this new kind of reality has called my attention to its adventurous digression from my textual existence rooted in reading the worlds of others. No, that does not mean that I trade myself for recklessly rash frolics, but it might help me to widen a social horizon to encounter a panoply of unknown characters, as piped up by  Shakespeare thus: “There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

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‘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.

A League of Their Own

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Reading a section featuring a small, pleasant Q&A type of interview with a writer in The New York Times Book Review on restful weekends gives me a kind of voyeuristic fillip to be privy to the life of the writer; moreover, the usual question of whom to invite for dinner is the gist of such small pleasure. I’ve found it quite stimulating to think about my own list of people to have dinner with. Therefore, I have herein drawn up my own list of invitees to confabulate with, though not at dinnertime but at lunchtime, which I think more convenient and favorable to enjoy the Californian sun and the beautiful scenery in daylight. Here’s my list of guests:

  • Eleanor Roosevelt: The paragon of the First Lady of the United States with Intelligence that ministered to her moral character. She put her philosophy into action by actively participating in social services. Besides, Mrs. Roosevelt possessed a polished but common sense of humor and wits communicative to people of all social strata with her timeless adage: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
  • Joan of Arc: The Virgin of Lorraine, The Patron Saint of France… Such are the epithets of this patriotic French maiden who was burned alive on the counts of witchery and treason, which was of course conspiracy concocted by the French ecclesiastical dignitaries collaborating with the English against whom Joan of Arc fiercely and courageously fought to victory. She was neither a religious fanatic, nor a hallucinated mooncalf, nor a certifiable schizophrenic. She might be a simple peasant woman but a courageous, headstrong, and smart woman of faith who did not even protect her face during battles with the English amid the attacks of sharp arrows, axes, and lances. No wonder did Mark Twain praise the Virgin Knight forthwith: “Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, an there you will find it.” Besides, her simplicity of faith excelled the pomposity of ecclesiastical knowledge by saying thus: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing, and we should not complicate the matter.” I can learn many things from Joan as a True Model Woman who embodied Intelligence, Femininity, Courage, and Faith.
  • Marilyn Monroe: Born as Norma Jean Baker, she was not a blonde bimbo whose physical attractiveness belied her ceaseless pursuit of  knowledge concomitant with her pursuit of meaning of life she desperately wanted to ascertain. Monroe enrolled in evening college courses in the New York City when she had no schedules during the daytime. Behind her pretty persona of movie star, there was a profound shadow of existentialist. Also, Monroe’s down-to-earth personality and kind nature would make her a lovely company striking up a convivial conversation at the table full of strangers.
  • Jane Birkin: Her bohemian look – that effortlessly sensual but charmingly delightful facade with simple French Chic style is always timeless and boundless, appealing to Womankind imbuing with a sense of emulation of the style. In fact, such qualities of Birkin had one time convinced me that she was French. She seems to wear sexuality like she’s wearing her favorite set of perfumes, which is never vulgar nor degrading. Once a shy English girl is now a sensuous cosmopolitan woman demonstrating admixture of art and individuality in the most fashionable way. She will be a delightful addition to my lunchtime table.

In view of the above, my guests of honors are an eclectic company of women, past or present, surprisingly and strictly non-professional authors who make a living by writing only, although I did not intend it to be that way. Or maybe my preconception of professional authors – especially women – as highly volatile artists with inflated egos, dazzling intelligence, divine beauty, and impressive achievements might have played a vital role in excluding unconsciously any of them from my circle of companions. But so did Michelangelo; he was never befriended with his contemporary Leonardo Da Vinci, who in fact lambasted his untidiness as a sculptor in comparison with a baker. Nor did Michelangelo make friends with other famous artists. Instead,  he was a friend of some obscure artisan who helped around various artists by doing sorts of drudgery. It all boils down to the fact that having a good company of kindred spirits can do a favorable service to your soul, making you feel charitable and magnanimous, so much so that you can- to quote the swashbuckling Oscar Wilde- “forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.”

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Catch-22!

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt. – W. Shakespeare

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Cafe terrace at night by vincent van gogh

We all have our best registers, our natural octaves, and Judy’s was a flow of unsteady streams of flotsam and jetsam of peripatetic life that cut her adrift from the safe mooring in the orderliness of life. The detritus of contemporary life seemed to be piled up in her own Aegean stable, and she felt like Hercules to clear it all away just as he had been assigned to wash away the ancient filth of his Aegean stable. And she was at the moment of decision to figure out how to start it off. And it was at that moment when she was also befuddled with yet another indecision. Would she do it, or did she really want to do it? Or could she do it?

Judy was preparing for her initiation to the rite of conjuring up a fairy that was to serve her wishes and aspirations which she believed to be forfeited by her divisory lot. Whatever it was, whoever the perpetrator of such turpitude, Julie wanted to get things sorted out by encountering it face to face, even if that meant a risky business. She did not feel like a weird nor a devious satanist to get into the esoteric world of magic on the grounds of her knowledge about the history of religion and magic during the medieval and Elizabethan periods of England as well as the story of Dr Faust. That those who were caught up in the existential vertigo of livelihood, literate or illiterate, rich or poor, man or woman, Christian or pagan, had often turned to the Other Side was a legitimate tendency, a sort of catch -22 attempt to grasp at a straw adrift on a life sea.

In fact, there was a veritable historical account of a Cambridge medical student in Elizabethan England who made a pact with the devil to procure money to repay his student loans. Whether or not he was dragged into hell upon his death was clandestine, but that was a fact of the matter. So why not? That was Julie’s self-rationalization. That was her proximate cause of her premeditated action. That was her own defense against the sordid fact of life that pushed her into where she was.

But here was Judy’s dilemma: what would a spirit be like? Would it be a female or male? What would it look like? Would I face an abominably hideous creature? Enveloped in a cloud of morbid speculations, Julie began to hesitate nervously, her spirit suddenly trapped in the intricate labyrinth of Anomie. Yes, the labyrinth, the one prodigiously built by the legendary architect Daedaius at the behest of King Minos of Crete named Knossos to lock up Minotaur, the half-bull and half-man creature born out of an unholy consummation between the Cretan Bull and Pasiphae, Minos’s beautiful wife, because Poseidon, the god of the Waters and the formidable brother of Mighty Zeus into the bargain made her madly in love with the Bull, which her husband had dared rescind the sacrifice of it to Poseidon and kept it to himself because of its magnificent beauty.

To tell you the truth, Judy felt sorry for the deformed hybrid of the bewitched union despite its bestial ferociousness calling for human sacrifice. The brutality in behavior was often a manifest result of violent upbringing in conjunction with a denial of love and absence of trust at an infant stage. The security net woven by a loving and caring relationship between a mother and a child was sine qua non of a well-being in both soma and psyche. That was the reason Julie had a sneaking, sympathetic opinion on the Ancient Monster. But she kept her sentiment toward the mythological beast to herself, lest she should be lampooned by others whose idea of justice was a draconian, Jacobean execution of justice that would take no prisoners. Or those whose minds were desiccated by a drought of humanities would declaim against Judy’s altruism. Nevertheless, Judy had no wish to simulate such sternness or gruffness to join the melee.

The whirlwind of thoughts was spinning like a potter’s wheel in her, and Julie was entranced into it rapturously. She let her mind dwell in it however long it would be. She loved the sensation of being drifted away into the world of fantasy, the world of dream, and fiction, as it was her a sanctuary amid the demands of everyday life. Was this the same kind of feeling E. B. White was feeling while he was looking at the beautiful young circus woman rider on a horse running around a grand circle during her performance? The Circle of Youth, the Circle of Beauty, that was. It was what enchanted White to follow her into the World of Magic, and it was what he felt the ecstasy of sensuousness of Beauty.

It was synchronicity, a mental realignment to the mind of another sharing the same or similar intellectual or psychical formations by which Judy could connect with others readily and efficiently. As a matter of fact, it was one of her gifts of mind she possessed, but which was unrecognized. No, it was suppressed by the possessor. To acknowledge her uncanny ability would upend the course of her life. It would be a radical reconstruction of everything she had been grasping at, knowing that it would be a seismic turnaround of her insecure but sedentary life. And it was giving her hard time all the time all the more. And she knew it, but she resisted it, and that was her problem – a classic case of circulus in probondo