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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • February 05, 2006


    [13] The Blackwater Lightship - Colm Toibin

    Two of my favorites writers are Irish: John Banville and Colm Toibin. Two of my favorite gay writers are Colm Toibin and Alan Hollinghurst. I discovered Tobin's works in 2004, and this is the introductory work.
    The Blackwater Lightship explores the nature of relationship between family members and between friends. It is the story of three generations of an estranged family reuniting to tender an untimely death. As the story ominously unfolds, deeper and more unplumbed layers of the wounds, emotions, misunderstanding, and pent-up anger manifest as friends of dying Declan, who had been through all the difficult times in battling AIDS, joined the begrudged family. It was at such sober and difficult time like this that everyone, regardless of their past wounds, unforgiving grudges, and even moral disapproval of homosexual life, should forget their differences and prioritize Declan's comfort and happiness.

    Helen dreaded breaking the news of her brother's sickness to her mother, Lily, not only because of the despondent nature of the incurable disease, but also due to the fact that she had deliberately excluded her mother from her life for 10 years. Ever since the row she had with her mother about moving to Dublin for school, Helen shut herself off to her mother, who had never got over the early, unexpected death of Helen's father. Helen could never forgive Lily of her abandoning her and her brother at the Granny's house after her father's funeral. Whereas for Lily, she had never expressed her pent-up fear and shame that descended in her immediately after the funeral. The years of ice and alienation unfortunately turned into a standoffish rife that excluded Lily from her daughter's life and family. Helen's bitterness toward her mother pervaded into her own family life, for her husband must have learned long ago to live with and manage the web of unresolved connections when he puzzled at her periods of withdrawal and caprice.

    The ingenuity of the book lies in the intensive de-layering of such family grudges and magnification of feelings in a time of mourning. Even though Lily made a promise to herself upon the burial of her husband to do her best with the children, Helen's inveterate resentment rooted in the fact that her mother had taken her father away. In her morbid consciousness, Helen always fantasized her mother being forceful and pushy chasing after her, determined to stop her having her life. Helen wished her mother to tolerate people and accommodate their needs, but all Lily wanted was that Helen could take interests in her and her life.

    Friendship is an indefeasible element of this novel. Declan's friends have always been there fighting the disease and egging him on. When Lily was rude and hostile to his friends, telling them to leave him to her, they fearlessly confronted how they had been looking after him during numerous life-and-death occasions when the family did not even seem to be around. Paul stood his ground being the closest friend to Declan. He read all the relevant books and kept himself cognizant of the latest therapies. He knew what and how to make Declan comfortable and to mitigate his pain. Paul vowed staunchly that he would stay with Declan and he would never leave unless Declan asked him to. Declan even confided in him about his mother with phrases and sentences which were not edifying. Moved to such loyalty and love the friends showed Declan, the stiff family succumbed to what they said and was inspired to reconcile its own strife.

    The Blackwater Lightship explores how true friendship can supercede relationship with family in a palpitating, brooding time of crisis. The fact that Declan chose not to trouble his mother, though he loved her, showed that the family was not as close to him as his friends were to him. This corroborated to the fact that his mother had no clue to his sexual orientation. Declan's fear of coming out to his mother and grandmother erected the barrier that stifled him to seek help from his family. He might be so afraid that his mother, at the knowledge of his sickness, would refuse to see him, even though he desperately wanted her to know and help him. Friendship not only filled this void but also dawned on the understanding, the de-icing, and finally the reconciliation of an unplumbed grudge that spanned over three generations of a family. Friendship offered to the family, with what openness and honesty, challenged the family's evasiveness. At one point in the book, the three friends were walking along on the beach, with Paul and Larry on either sides of Declan, quietly protecting him. This memorable scene epitomizes true friendship and is symbolic of the two lighthouses that unfailingly lights up Blackwater. Friends are guiding lights.

    Last but not the least, a more submerged point. The novel reflects on the palpitating struggle of one's gay identity. The quintessential "I knew that I was gay, but I had done nothing about it", the self-denial, and the resolution toward love and gay marriage are all touched on in this moving tale. It is an intense tale of woe and redemption, full of entrancing stories about the characters that so fatefully overlap. It's a humanizing, heart-thumping novel that tunes into the silent language of family.


    Anonymous sexshop espana said...

    It cannot really have success, I suppose so.

    1/29/2012 2:55 PM  

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