A Little Life, A Gigantic Read

[This contains too much spoiler. So if you haven’t read this novel and wish to read it anytime soon, I have warned you. Or save this page to read later on.]

HANYA Yanagihara is one of those novelists who shun reading reviews. That makes sense as not all reviews are worth her time. And reading online reviews about your book seems to be very daunting and exhausting mentally.

What I’m writing below can never be called a proper review. Rather, it’s a sincere flattery of her tremendously thick and rich work.

Verbose, that’s certainly what came to my mind after I read the novel from cover to cover. But Yanagihara has a strong and sensible argument as to why the novel must be verbose.

I’ve been working for quite a while in magazines, which is why I’m so familiar with Yanagihara’s style of writing [for your information she’d worked as editor at CondeNast Traveler]. Her style is so magazinelike, making me sure that what I’m reading is actually a compilation of short stories or novellas skillfully sewn together as a mega novel. 

Salman Rushdie’s son recommended once after reading Harry Potter series that his father should write books published in series. Why? Rushdie said,”Easy. It’s more lucrative to publish that way.” Smart.

So I’m curious as to why Yanagihara never gave the idea any single consideration.  The idea that publishing in series or sequels does really make sense and enticing if one is a for-profit, commercial author. Yanagihara, as she admitted, is not one. She said an author especially those writing fiction must have a day job. Not only for the healthcare benefits, she added, but also because a day job provides you (paid) escape from all the emotional hardship one has to endure in the writing process of a long novel.

She mentions about her wish to make the story to become as claustrophobic as possible because she always tells it everything indoor. There’s not much told and narrated about the city’s landmarks, or landscape, or its wide array of population and all the humanity in it. Yanagihara is like using a microscope when telling the story of a horribly abused, lonesome, battered protagonist who never ever recovered thorughout his unexpectedly long life, Jude Saint Francis. She doesn’t allow any outdoor details coming into the story in abundance. Yet, the novel seems very generous when it comes to private lives of its characters. The author adds every detail (like their habit of getting together at a Vietnamese restaurant) and makes the story flow in a perfectly smooth fashion.

I like Yanagihara’s preference to pick some characters as her focus. She concentrates more on Willem and Jude’s relationships and how they and the ties change from time to time. Malcom and JB’s life may be considered supplementary compared to the other two though both later mentioned are also in the same clique.

If there’s something I’m very upset about the story is the fact that Jude is made in such a way to be an incurable victim throughout the novel. He is made to be forever suffering, relapsing, and going downhill.  All of betterment or progress he seems to make are fake and delusional. He is so rotten and damaged from the inside and out (I cannot imagine seeing his arms and legs which are depicted to be full of cuttings and infected wounds).

The issue of pedophilia raised here is so much relevant to the current issue of the day especially in Indonesia. I read KPAI (The Commission of Children Protection in Indonesia) has released a statement that now young boys are as fragile as girls when it comes to sexual abuse (considering the growing number of young male victims of sexual abuse). That said, the social problem doesn’t discriminate genders now. Whether you’re a parent of a boy or a girl, you need to be equally worrisome because boys apparently are also in need of protection also. It is always that way but public had never realized it until recently.

I’m also glad to see a new perspective towards male and masculinity from the point of view of a female author. This offers a unique  and fresh story and novel criticism not only towards people with penis but also the entire humanity as a whole unity.

I like her proposed ideology that males are allowed to feel weak and fragile and can speak up about their pain and suffering just like their female counterparts. Though I have to admit that such view takes a long time to be practiced in real life.  (*/)