Saturday, October 27, 2012

We're always sick and we just don't know it. What we mean by health is only when our constant physical deterioration is undetectable.

Finished reading A Fraction of the Whole a while ago.
Couple main points about this book - it's VERY clever, savagely funny,and dastardly ironic! Steve Toltz can definitely whip up a story. A sick, twisted, masochistic story, but a story nonetheless. And I mean this in the most entertaining way possible. It's like he vomited all his words onto the page and they all spelled out wonderfully. 561 pages of pure entertainment and wit. It was so hard to pluck out quotes because every single sentence could be one - Toltz says something profound in every paragraph, whether it comes with philosophical or literary intentions. This man knows how to work the English language to give you a thrilling ride. And considering that this is only his DEBUT novel, I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next. I'm also interested in knowing his IQ. Must be pretty high.

However, this book needs to come with a warning sign. One thing to beware is that the characters get very addictive (maybe it's the pace of the novel and their thought trains) and this will mess with you mentally. Your thinking speed will shift and the ideas you come up with may seem slightly warped at times. A necessary sacrifice to finish this book. Really, all the turns the plot took are incredible now that I am thinking back in retrospect. I admire Toltz's imagination (emphasis on the imagination, his dreams must be as large as an elephant). and writing skill. His style that takes some getting used to at first (though definitely starts off with a friendly wink, if you know what I mean), invites you to tag along. I recommend that you do. This book will definitely make you laugh, and above all, THINK, THINK, THINK!


Here are the quotes:
I will teach you how not to demonize your enemies and how to make yourself unappetizing when the hordes turn up to eat you. I’ll teach you how to yell with your mouth closed and how to steal happiness . . . and how not to leave the windows of your heart open when it looks like rain and how everyone has a stump where something necessary was amputated. I’ll teach you how to know what’s missing.
Essentially this book is told in Jasper's narrative. He lives with his father, Martin Dean (this quote is Martin's plan on educating his child). He talks about his father's story and his own story. The intertwine inevitably, naturally, but somewhere along the road you'll see what the author meant by 'A Fraction of the Whole.' No spoilers now.
That's how we slide, and while we slide we blame the world's problems on colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, corporatism, stupid white men, and America, but there's no need to make a brand name of blame. Individual self-interest: that's the source of our descent, and it doesn't start in the boardrooms or the war rooms either. It starts in the home.
Just a typical paragraph that pops up at you every couple minutes in this book.
You experience life alone, you can be as intimate with another as much as you like, but there has to be always a part of you and your existence that is incommunicable; you die alone, the experience is yours alone, you might have a dozen spectators who love you, but your isolation, from birth to death, is never fully penetrated.
You never hear of a sportsman losing his sense of smell in a tragic accident and for good reason; in order for the universe to teach excruciating lessons that are unable to apply in later life, the sportsman must lose his legs, the philosopher his mind, the painter his eyes, the musician his ears, the chef his tongue. 
Ironic, isn't it?
And here is the HUGE chunk. There have been other soliloquies in this novel but for me, THIS is the epic one. About death and beliefs. If anything will make you want to read this book, this quote will!
“People always complain about having no shoes until they see a man with no feet, then they complain about not having an electric wheelchair. Why? What makes them automatically transfer themselves from one dull system to another, and why is free will utilized only on details and not on the broad outlines [?] . . . Why is free will wasted on a creature who has infinite choices but pretends there are only one or two? . . . “. . . People are like knees that are hit with tiny rubber hammers. . . . I don’t want to be a hammer, because I know how the knees will react. It’s boring to know. I know because I know that people believe. People are proud of their beliefs. Their pride gives them away. It’s the pride of ownership. I’ve had mystical visions and found they were all so much noise. I saw visions I heard voices I smelled smells but I ignored them just as I will always ignore them. I ignore these mysteries because I saw them. . . . And why don’t I believe? Because there’s a process going on and I can see it. “It happens when people see Death, which is all the time. They see Death but they perceive Light. They feel their own death and they call it God. This happens to me too. When I feel deep in my guts that there’s meaning in the world, or God, I know it is really Death, but because I don’t want to see Death in the daylight, the mind plots and says Listen up you won’t die don’t worry you are special you have meaning the world has meaning can’t you feel it? And I still see Death and feel him too. And my mind says Don’t think about death lalalala you will always be beautiful and special and you will never die nevernevernever haven’t you heard of the immortal soul well you have a really nice one. And I say Maybe and my mind says Look at that fucking sunset look at those fucking mountains look at that goddamn magnificent tree where else could that have come from but the hand of God that will cradle you forever and ever. And I start to believe in Profound Puddles. Who wouldn’t? That’s how it begins. But I doubt. And my mind says Don’t worry. You won’t die. Not in the long term. The essence of you will not perish, not the stuff worth keeping. . . . They should go about harnessing the power of the unconscious when it is in the act of denying Death. It is during the fiery Process that belief is produced, and if the fires are really hot they produce Certainty- Belief’s ugly son. To feel you know with all your heart Who made the universe, Who manages it, Who pays for it, et cetera, is in effect to disengage from it. The so-called religious, the so-called spiritualists, the groups that are quick to renounce the Western tradition of ‘soul-deadening consumerism’ and point out that comfort is death think it applies only to material possessions. . . . So you see? God is the beautiful propaganda made in the fires of Man. And it’s OK to love God because you appreciate the artistry of his creation, but you don’t have to believe in a character because you’re impressed by the author. Death and Man, God’s coauthors, are the most prolific writers on the planet. Their output is prodigious. Man’s Unconscious and Inevitable Death have co-penned Jesus, Muhammad, and Buddha, to name but a few. And that’s just the characters. They created heaven, hell, paradise, limbo, and purgatory. And that’s just the settings. And what more? Everything, maybe. . . . Humans are unique in this world in that, as opposed to all other animals, they have developed a consciousness so advanced that it has one awful byproduct: they are the only creatures aware of their own mortality. This truth is so terrifying that from a very early age humans bury it deep in their unconscious, and this has turned people into red-blooded machines, fleshy factories that manufacture meaning. The meaning they feel becomes channeled into their immortality projects- such as their children, or their gods, or their artistic works, or their businesses, or their nations- that they believe will outlive them. And here’s the problem: people feel they need these beliefs in order to live but are unconsciously suicidal because of their beliefs. That’s why when a person sacrifices his life for a religious cause, he has chosen to die not for a god but in the service of an unconscious primal fear. So it is this fear that causes him to die of the very thing he is afraid of. You see? The irony of their immortality projects is that while they have been designed by the unconscious to fool the person into a sense of specialness and into a bid for everlasting life, the manner in which they fret about their immortality projects is the very thing that kills them. . . . The denial of death rushes people into an early grave, and if you are not careful, they will take you with them.”
Happy reading!