Book review #1 – The Vernon Subutex Trilogy

I first discovered the crude language of Virginie Despentes on some TV Talk Show. I knew nothing about her, except that she was a writer and filmmaker, and that I had been advised before to check her work out. So I kept watching the interview, slowly but deeply falling in love with her words. By the end of the show, I knew that I would love her prose and I decided to give it a try. That was about two years ago!

The second experience I had with Despentes was in a bookshop. I usually spend a lot of time wandering among the different sections, looking at book covers, reading back covers, and trying to decide what books to buy. This process can take hours. So I was in that bookshop, looking for a gift for a friend and after what seemed like decades, I was attracted to a yellow cover (a gut feeling of some sort). This was when I discovered Apocalypse Bébé. I knew that it would be the perfect gift for my friend or, at least, I trusted the idea I had of Despentes from the interview. I also knew that it was time I read something from Despentes.

Among the many books she wrote, I chose Vernon Subutex (VS) for two reasons : I liked the name and the book cover (Grasset Editions). I had had a similar experience with Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower so I decided to buy the first VS.

640_subutex

I have felt an incredible amount of different emotions during my readings. Some books I have finished with the mouth wide open, overwhelmed with shock and excitement. Yet, I had never had goosebumps before reaching the end of Subutex.

So, what’s the story about anyways? The book follows the adventures of its eponymous hero Vernon, a middle-aged Parisian man, ex-record shop owner, who finds himself homeless and travels through the streets of Paris, crashing at friends and basically just surviving. No need to tell you more…

In the story, Despentes explores many themes which show some of 20th and 21st centuries’ lifestyles in the worlds of prostitution, trading and most importantly, music (among others). Subutex constantly moves from places to places and by doing so, discovers a lot about human nature. Spirituality and religion play an important part in the series, especially from the second work.

Despentes’ prose really helps the reader relate to the different characters. Our ideas and believes are continuously challenged as we encounter new characters. Every chapter is written with a first-person narrator and every character (many outcasts) has a right to tell the story of the life of Vernon Subutex. I was referring earlier to the crudeness of Despentes’ language. Well, what I love about this series is that it seems that the author really worked on each character’s way of speaking.

I absolutely love stories which are told with a stream of consciousness voice, and Vernon Subutex is a great example of this style of prose. Thanks to this process, we learn so much about the characters’ visions of the world, they speak with no hypocrisy and we have an exceptionally realistic portrait of 21st-century Paris.

This is my first book review and I am afraid to say too much about the story or the book. I do believe that everyone should read these books, in French if possible, as it is a great social and spiritual journey. I will end this with a quote from the first book which I really liked.

“La vie se joue souvent en deux manches : dans un premier temps, elle t’endort en te faisant croire que tu gères, et sur la deuxième partie, quand elle te voit détendu et désarmé, elle repasse les plats et te défonce.”

 

NB : next review will be on the work of Kundera

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Nostalgia

Tonight, I looked back at what I have accomplished so far (studies, writings, travels) and I’m quite proud.

I was reading old poems and stuff I had wrote last year and I couldn’t believe I had written them. It looked like it was written by someone I even didn’t know. A stranger, a usurper. When I think about it, it seems normal. We grow up. But I don’t want to.

I want to remain the child who has fun with a stick of wood, the child who draws outside the lines and doesn’t care, the child who isn’t depressed, scared, worried, unhappy,.. nostalgic.

*****

Nevertheless, I think the child still exists. He survives, well he tries. Sometimes, when I am alone, he can come out and play, draw without caring, dream. (I look crazy now) I am worried though… I am worried that as I grow up, he disappears, and leaves the “old me” alone with my sorrows, my fears, my memories, my nostalgia.

Don’t break the chain

I know myself… well, more or less. What I am sure though is that I am lazy. Therefore, in order to write regularly, I need some discipline. 

I have started a program called “Don’t break the chain”. My goal is to write everyday, so I made a calendar on which I have to put a cross everyday I write. The more I respect the calendar, the more crosses there are and it will (I hope) encourage me in keeping on writing.  

I have been writing

As I have been on holidays for a few days, I tried to use my free time (and there is a lot) to enjoy the magnificent forests around me but mostly, to write.

I haven’t published for a while, even though I have thought of essay topics or poems. The reason is that I am trying to write something longer than an article. I don’t really know where I am going to exactly, but I am just enjoying the present. 

I may publish some pieces of this work if there is something interesting or if I want some advice. 

I’m still thinking about life and as I am still a dreamer too, you can expect a new poem very soon.

Baile Átha Cliath

I can finally, officially say : I am going to Dublin next year. I have been waiting for the official reply for a very long time and now, there is no doubt anymore.

I really wanted to write something about it because it represents an important change in my life. And so, I decided to seize this opportunity to make some decisions. In Dublin, I can be someone else. Of course, I don’t want to be anyone, I don’t want to change my entire personality, but there are some things I would like to do there.

Quit smoking : the most important one I guess. First, the price there is more expensive than in France, and if I want to travel or have a drink with friends, I need money. Also, I am really starting to worry about health. But the main point which makes me stop is that I don’t feel any need anymore. When I started, I wasn’t feeling as happy as I am now. Smoking was a kind of relaxing hobby. It helped me meet new people as well. But I don’t need that anymore : I am confident enough.

Anyway, I am really happy to go to DUBLIN !

I find my inspiration listening to Sigur Rós

I thought of many ways to say this but there’s not a hundred of them. I must make it clear, quick and simple : Sigur Rós is the best band I have discovered so far.

Those who know the band won’t ask me why, I assume (unless they dislike it, which I doubt). For people who don’t know the group and are curious enough to check it, I can only encourage you to do so.

Before I knew their music, there was something missing in my life, I was lost in the ocean (cf. Sæglóþur). And then, I discovered Svefn-g-Englar (some of you may know it from 2001 Vanilla Sky). I couldn’t find the words to describe how I felt when I first listened to this song. It was a magic experience, like a dream.

This dream continued when I discovered Valtari. There is no need to say (I say it nevertheless) that I literally felt in love with the music, especially the song Ekki mùkk

My point here is that if you’re (like me) in lack of inspiration sometimes, you can find in their music the comfort you need as well as serenity.

ALL ALRIGHT

People talk no more

It has been a while since this subject popped up in my mind. For the last two years, I have experienced some changes in my life. In fact, since I entered university, I have started meeting many people, from different horizons. I have always tried to develop a profound relationship with people, and the first way to achieve that is to talk. 

If you want to know someone, and I mean really know them, you have to ask intimate questions. I understand though that some people won’t accept a stranger intrusion into their privacy, and of course, I respect that. 

Therefore, I have to adapt the way I talk to people. 

However, this doesn’t mean that I want to talk about the weather all the time. You can respect others’ privacy and still learn about them (and learn from them). What I have been able to observe is that people no more try to discuss. They just talk about what they watched on TV the previous night, the clothes they bought, the parties they have planned (and of course the weather). I feel like people are scared of sharing an opinion.

I am not expecting everyone to talk about philosophy or psychology. I don’t want them to reveal their secrets. I think I just need them to be more curious.

Think about it… How often do you have a deep talk with your friends, your family, your colleagues ? I read once that when people argue on a subject, it was (generally) because they weren’t talking about the same thing. If we tried to understand one another, maybe we would have more (and better) relationships.

I do love spending time with my friends, admiring the sea, talking for hours, trying to improve our relationship and explaining why we don’t accept something, why we do accept something else. 

These are only my thoughts, and I may be mistaken. When it comes to relationship and understanding others, there is no truth

Utopia #1 : What if there were no money?

Money can’t buy happiness. (But it helps)

A few weeks ago, I started thinking of a project concerning life in general. I tried to focus on several topics in order to organize the study : happiness, love and money. I have asked different questions to people around the world, concentrating first on the theme of money. The question was : “What would you do if there were no money?”.

The developments hereinafter are ideas of several people around the world, mixed up with my conception of what I have been able to see so far. I do not want to make hasty conclusion, everything below is to be seen as conditional.

A society moving back in the country?

During the past century, we had a rural exodus in developed countries. It seems that people moved from the country in order to find a job in factories and access to education. Already, we notice the place of money in the decision of finding a new job when poverty reigns in an overgrowing farming system.

Nowadays, I feel like there has been a change in the perception of what the country is. When at the beginning of the twentieth century it seemed to mean poverty, I have noticed that more and more people go there and build disproportionate houses. If this is real, there would be a move back to the country. It may be because of pollution but my view is that living in a city is more tiring and that thanks to the improvement of means of transport, people can work in cities when they live in the countryside.

Of course, building a house (or even buying one) in the countryside is expensive.

If there was no money, I would like to live in…

The countryside. Many of the replies I got were the same. People tend to aspire to live in the country, and in nature in general. For instance, some people dream about living in a forest (my idea of the perfect home is on a cliff).

Not many people have told me why they would choose a certain place rather than another one. As far as I am concerned, I love the peacefulness of nature, I love the sound of the waves crashing into the rocks. What I think is that people search in nature what they can’t find in cities anymore : tranquility…

But if there were no money, why should I settle somewhere?

I have thought about this question many times. My biggest dream is to travel all over the world and meet thousands of people. Of course, only one aspect (but which is not an insignificant one) prevent me from doing it : the lack of money.

Some people go along with my idea. I received some replies of people whose dreams were to travel over the world and discover. In these long descriptions of their fantasized travel  I have enjoyed reading, they never talked about settling anywhere.

“To live on the road”

“Whether money exists or not, I just want to love and to be loved…”

When I think of the theme of love, several definitions pop up in my mind. Of course, the first one being the existence of a lover. Many people included a “loved person” in their idealized life without money. I cannot myself imagine living in my perfect house in my perfect place without a perfect person to share it with. But many times, I have wondered whether this was necessary or not. I still remain without an answer and I am not sure I will find it. Time will tell.

Other people aspire to a life with their friends, settling somewhere or travelling with them. My opinion is that true love does not only exist with one person, but can be found in friendship, especially a very close one. That’s why I included friends in this section.

In fact, travelling is amazing. Living in the perfect house in the perfect place is too. But I think it is much more amazing when you have people to share your happiness with. I am sure many people would agree with that.

Observing the world

So far, the themes I have tackled are the places where people would settle (or not, for those who dream about travelling) and love.

Very often, people who have told me that they would travel, if money didn’t prevent them from doing it, have added that they would observe the world. Of course, in a world where money reigns, we have to work to survive and sometimes (well, very often) we don’t have time to observe the world around us. Or it may be that we don’t take the time to look what surrounds us. If money did not exist, we would have the time to look. Moreover, we would have another reason to observe the world : to stave off boredom.

Not only (I hope future) travelers have admitted wanting to admire the world. I also got this reply from artists, mostly people interested in photography. These people already do that but they would use the time won (if they didn’t have to work) to devote themselves to photography. Drawers have told me so too.

Reading and writing

It will be the last theme I will talk about for the moment. As other people who have answered the question, I dream about reading and writing in the perfect house in the perfect place, with the perfect people around me. I dream about reading other people’s traveling stories, I dream about writing mine.

There may be no perfect place for me. Just a perfect “home”, on the road.

Why should we wait for money to disappear?

Money may never disappear from our society. There are dreams more or less difficult to realize but as we say : when there’s a will, there’s a way!

Tomorrow, why not take the time to look around you. Look at nature, look at buildings, whatever makes you filled with joy. If you aspire to travel and you feel hold back because of money, why don’t you try to take a bag and walk? These are the things I love to say to myself before I go to bed and they give me hope.

I am not saying that it is easy, but it is not attempting the impossible either.

Happiness is down the road

We have all wondered once in our life what real happiness is, what the word means to us. Sometimes, we have found an answer, sometimes we drifted off. As far as I am concerned, I think happiness is made of a multitude of joys, of all the little things that make you smile, that make you safe and more than anything, that make you be yourself.

To be yourself

I would be surprised to learn that each and everyone of the people I know is being himself or herself. Of course, I don’t wish to imply that they are lying. Some people hide the truth, in the best case scenario whereas others, having an ulterior motive or not, pretend to be someone they are not.

Over the years, I have found it difficult to reveal who you really are, what you really think. Facing discrimation or mockery, a kind of carapace grows, like a protection against ones’ harsh voices. When this carapace settles, it is hard nay impossible for people to get through it. At the same time, it is difficult for the protected one to reveal himself without being judged as a liar or even a coward.

This is why, thanks to this conclusion, I can say that I am not being myself. However, over the past few months, I have tried to reveal myself a bit, even though the worst is yet to come.

What happiness is to me, or the little things that make me get real

I love nature. I love the beach, I love the sunrising and the sunset, I love the ocean. I love to walk along the sea, lulled by the music of the waves dashing onto the sand. I love the forests, their trees towering above the lands, unsuccessfully trying to reach the blue sky. I love the sky, during the day, during the night. I love the sun, I love the stars.

I love poetry. I love Apollinaire’s Crépuscule. I love Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.

I would love not to be alone at sunset and at sunrise. I would love to be loved for who I am and not for who I pretend to be. I would love to cuddle, on the beach, in a forest, under the sun, under the stars.

I love my coffee in the morning, my tea in the evening. I love reading, writing and dreaming.

These are what I love, what I would love, what I need to be pleased.I am a dreamer, a space traveller