Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island

Teddy Daniels goes to Shutter Island to locate Rachel Solando, a psychiatric patient in Ashecliffe Hospital who has disappeared from a guarded cell. No one knows how she escaped and no one knows where she could be. Teddy suspects the staff conspired to make her disappear but they wouldn’t let him review the patient list. When he keeps finding cryptic codes, he suspects the hospital is experimenting on the psychotic criminals by operating on their brains. But nothing is what it seems. Soon, he cannot distinguish between reality and illusion. The doctors there begin to imply that he may be insane.

Shutter Island is a page-turner of a novel. Nothing is what it seems and the boundary between reality and illusion blurs. Did Rachel Solando really escaped? Who is leaving the code for Teddy? Is the hospital operating on the patients to eliminate their violence? Is Teddy going insane? The truth is a surprising twist and the reader will enjoy the ride.

A Very Easy Death

In A Very Easy Death, Simone De Beauvoir said, “She (her mother) had a very easy death; an upper class death.” But it wasn’t an easy death. In this frank account of her mother’s struggle with intestinal cancer, Beauvoir not only reveals the struggle to release our loved ones but also the lies that we sometime perpetrate to spare them of suffering. The process of dying was gruesome, even for her mother, who wanted to keep a stiff upper lip. Worse were the doctors whose only goal was to keep the patient alive, regardless of pain and suffering, both physical and emotional. “… even when I was holding Maman’s hand, I was not with her -- I was lying to her.” Her mother losing her dignity as a human being is one of the most disheartening parts of the account. For many, like Beauvoir’s mother, dying may be a far worse ordeal than death. A must read for anyone who wants to prepare for and face death.

Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury’s Martians aren’t microbes, or insects, or energy forms. They have brown skin, yellow eyes, and russet hair, and can be romantic (Mrs. K) or jealous (Mr. K). Though they are telepathic and live in crystal structures, they resemble humans more than amebas. Mars’s atmosphere sustains human life: the settlers didn’t wear any masks or respirators. Therefore, the air has oxygen and not much toxic gas such as chlorine and carbon monoxide. And the air pressure doesn’t much from that of earth. There is water though at least one sea dried out and there are sand vessels to surf through the desert. In many way, Bradbury’s Mars resembles a skewed version of earth. It is a romantic vision of the next frontier.

In contrast, wars permeate Earth and nuclear weapons were destroying the land to such an extent that some decided to leave Earth for Mars.

The colonists fled earth and settled in Mars and they create towns in their own images. The settlements resemble American mid-western suburbs of the 40’s and 50’s with ranches and gardens and the idyllic life. Like the colonialists on earth, the first visitors to Mars brought diseases that killed most of the natives. The settlers claim the land as their own and drove the remaining native into the hills.

In the section “The Million-Year Picnic,” the dad said to his children, “Now we’re alone. We and a handful of others who’ll land in a few days. Enough to start over. Enough to turn away from all that back on Earth and strike out on a new line--” The Puritans who came to the new world probably had the same vision.

Ray Bradbury (Photo: Alan Light)

In The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury shows how the settlers try to escape the evil on Earth only to bring the same seed of destruction to another land by creating it in their own images.

On Grief and Grieving Review

In On Grief and Grieving, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross applies the Five Stages model from her book On Death and Dying to grieving. Those who grieve while a loved one is dying or afterwards also struggle with denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While she confronts her own death, Ms. Kubler-Ross, together with co-author David Kessler, shares the inner and outer worlds of grief. For those who have grieved, some and perhaps many of the issues are familiar. We may be emotionally drained; we may feel relieved to see our loved one no longer suffering but then guilt may overwhelm us. During anniversaries and holidays, we would be especially pained. The book helps us grapple with our grieving and lets us know that we are not alone in the struggles. For those who are grieving as well as those who had grieved and those who will grieve.

A Short Review of @House of Leaves

At one level, @House of Leaves[1] reminds us of Nabokov’s Pale Fire[2], in this case commenting on a series of films The Navidson Record[3] rather than on a poem. However, Jorge Luis Borge’s footprints[4] tag the pages of this novel, critiking a fictitious text and footnoting with real and fictitious sources. It is fiction mirroring gnirorrim noitcif-non, with footnotes, Exhibits, Appendices and even an index.

To say that @House of Leaves is a postmodern[5] work doesn’t even begin to describe the how avant-garde this novel is. Yes, it is metafiction, with Zampanò critiking The Navidson Record but within this critik are multiple levels of footnotes: Zampanò’s of course, but also Johnny Truant’s about Zampanò’s work and his (Johnny’s) life as well as those of the “editors,” which comments on both Zampanò and Truant. Not to mention footnotes on footnotes. And yes, it is visual text: the world @house[7] in blue; text in various fonts; text being cross out like an edited manuscript; text inverted, slanted, mirrored, etc. Mark Danielewski, in writing this book, pulls out almost all the punches in experimental fiction.

Sample Page from Novel 1

However, he didn’t sacred story for format. The Navidson Record is gripping surrealist ho…or…roo…or[8] story. We rue for Navidson as he and his team journey into the malleable space of the @house and as he and Karen struggle with their relationship. We mourn the loss of his brother Tom and lament Navidson’s determination to enter alone into that dark hallway, his Moby Dick[10].  Navidson and Karen are characters who struggle with their dark souls and the @house is the symbol that reflects the darkness. The @house is one of the most memorable non-human characters in fiction. It is alive. It reflects the darkness of those who enter it. But also, it represents the force of nature: random, chaotic, and XXXXX[11].

Sample Page from Novel 2

At the meta-level, Johnny Truant’s story is also compelling. Though at first Truant seems like a shallow character, even in the beginning, we see in Truant’s prose a mixture of the lyrical and the crude, which foreshadows his schizophrenia. The Whalestoe Letters, letter from his mother, reveal her troubled mind and also hinted at his. In those letters, Danielewski uses layout and format to show her descend into insanity. Likewise, the chrolonogy mentfraged in entries lanruoj Truant’s woshs mind his oozing ouch with time/emit.
@House of Leaves is a modern mastermasterpiece. Ififyou like BorgesBorges… you… you will… will… love… love… love… le…[12]*

* Since Blogspot does not support all the formats in the manuscript, we have attached Exhibits I and II to show the original review. –Ed. 

1. Danielewski, Mark, @House of Leaves (MM). Pantheon Books, New York.
2. Nabokov, Vladimir, Pale Fire (MCMLXII). G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York.
3. See @House of Leaves by Zampanò with introduction and notes by Johnny Truant for a better understanding of this film series.
4. See Leonard Seet’s review of Jorge Luis Borges’s Labyrinth.
5. By postmodern, we mean the rebellion against pre-modernism’s reliance on authority whether they be gods or priests or kings or feudal lords, and modernism’s worship of the individual, reason and science.[6]
6. We have EDITED Leonard Seet’s spiel on postmodernism, which spanned six pages and twenty-eight lines. There have been enough arguments about what we mean by postmodern, just as there were enough bickering about PARA-digm sh-----ift, that we can lay them to ZZZZ for now. –Ed.
7. We have not checked whether anyone has claimed this hashtag in Twitter. –Ed.
8. For an analysis of how Navidson exploited the techniks of horror in film, see The Navidson Record.[9]
9. We believe this is an error. Disclaimer: we do not endorse self-referential loop in logical discourse. That is not to say we dismiss M. C. Escher’s drawings such as Relativity and Drawing Hands, for art is different from yada yada. -Ed.
10. The whale, not the restaurant chain.
11. We have EDITED out the word to comply with Blogspot’s censor on reviews. –Ed.
12. Apparently, time began to dilate while Mr. Seet was finishing his review, just as the space expanded when Navidson entered the hallway. And as @House of Leaves has affected reviewers, so it also has affected our spa… ace… tim… me… cont… tin… nu… u… u… –Ed.

Exhibit I: Original Review Page 1

Exhibit II: Original Review Page 2