The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami (Part 3)

Family Affair. I didn’t like my kid sister’s finance. My sister sensed that way too. My sister were chatting now. The spaghetti we had was awful. She said I was narrow minded and was a very negative person. According to her, I hurt others along the way. I explained to her that it was my life. She wanted me to look at the good side of others. I didn’t have a steady girlfriend. She was also being harsh on me, I felt. We used to be very open with one another. I asked a girl out to a bar in the afternoon and we had some drinks. It was Sunday and I couldn’t my sister later on. I lived with my sister now. Once, she was in the living room and cried for 2 hours and I comforted her. Later on, she dated a computer engineer and she paid more attention to her appearance. The moment I saw the guy, I knew I hated him. They were sort of getting to get married. My mum had a lot of questions on the guy. His parents were okay people. Later that day, my sister, the guy and I went for coffee. The engineer was Noboru Watanabe. She left me a note, wanting me to go for dinner with them. I had something on, but she adamant that I go with them. My sister was starting to nag more and more. She helped to do the laundry. I had to help her buy groceries that day. We were hosting Noboru for dinner at our place. He didn’t drink alcohol. When he was in our place, he helped to fix the sound system as it was spoilt. Noburu left the house to buy a soldering iron. I worked with an appliance manufacturer, although I was not keen on electrical devices. According to my sister, I just liked to have fun. I defended myself by saying I could think whatever I wished, since nobody got hurt. She was angry that all I thought about was myself. Noburu thought I would want to get married after he married my sister. I left and headed to a bar after dinner. I met a girl at the bar and we chatted. I accompanied her to her apartment and we had sex. I was piss drunk and later puked out my dinner. My appearance in the mirror looked like an old man and I was shocked. My sister and I chatted and she wondered whether she went overboard in her criticism of me. She was worried about her future.

You have to make an effort to always look at the good sides, always think about the good things. Then you’ve got nothing to be afraid of. If something bad comes up, you do more thinking at that point. If things don’t work out, that’s when you think again. – Haruki Murakami

A Window. It was finally springtime. Your letter was a pleasure to read. It was on hamburger steak. In fact, I ordered it the next day. I look forward to your next letter. It was my part time job. I got money writing for a company called ‘The Pen Society’. We were assigned to Pen Masters of the opposite sex. There were many people under me. Many of the people at the Society were lonely. I received many letters and learnt a lot. Once, a member invited me to Hamburger Steak at her place. Although it was not allowed, I signed up. The hamburger was simply perfect. She mentioned that she didn’t write. I mentioned that she had talent and shouldn’t give up. She was married. She had difficulty conveying messages to her husband. However, she loved writing to letters as she felt people could relate to her. She praised me for my writing. Should I have slept with her? 10 years have passed now and I forgot where she stayed

Even now, I have no idea. There are lots of things we never understand, no matter how many years we put on, no matter how much experience we accumulate. – Haruki Murakami

TV People. It was Sunday evening. TV people showed up. I don’t like Sundays much. I often get a headache. It is usually extremely painful. The TV people are very small and unnatural. My wife was out that day. On Sundays, I don’t get much done. I was on the sofa the whole day. It was indeed an unproductive Sunday. People in the TV seemed really small. The TV people helped to connect the TV. They had to move some of my stuff to place the TV on the table. They messed up some of my wife’s things. The screen was blank but the TV people didn’t seem to care as they had completely their jobs. The TV people do not speak at all and are completely efficient. It was a professional’s job. They all wore dark-blue jackets. They seemed very robotic. After testing, they left without even looking at me. I didn’t do anything except to observe them. My wife noticed it when she came home by didn’t react to it at all. It was strange for her not to react as she usually cared about arrangement of things. Even though I switched on the TV, my wife was oblivious to it. I had difficulty sleeping as I kept thinking of the TV people. I worked in the advertising department of an electrical appliance manufacturer. I climbed the stairs to my office and thought I saw one of the TV guys. However, he ignored me again. I found it hard to concentrate at work. My section chief was someone who I didn’t like. He praised me for a comment which I made during the meeting, which I didn’t remember even making. Another day, I saw the TV People again. Nobody reacted to the TV people. When I mentioned about it to a guy I knew at work, he disregarded and ignored my comment. Later that night, I switched on the tv, but it would not even start now and show the white noise. I kept reading and reading the newspapers after work as there was nothing to do. I had a dream where everyone was turned into stone except for the TV guys. Then, I imagined the TV guy walking from inside the screen to the outside environment. He said ‘We’re making an airplane’. It looked like an orange juicer instead. The two TV people were working on fixing the airplane. They later said ‘Shame about your wife. It’s gone too far: She’s out there’. I didn’t understand the context. The TV people were saying my wife was gone. The two TV people continued building the airplane. Now, the ‘orange juicer’ started taking shape of the airplane. The TV guy said the plane needed a coat of paint. My palms seemed to shrink. He said the phone will ring in 5 minutes as I eagerly anticipated my wife. I realized I couldn’t even speak now.

The Last Lawn of the Afternoon. I moved laws when I was 18, 15 years ago. A lot has changed. I loved looking at junior-high-school kids. Back in the day, I was mowing lawns. Memory seemed like a fiction to me. I had a girlfriend then. A few months later, she wrote to me and wanted to break off our relationship because she found someone else. I mowed lawns for people to earn cash. I didn’t know how to spend the money I earned. I decided to get a Sony transistor radio in the end. One day, I decided to quit lawn mowing. The boss mentioned I did great work. I actually enjoy mowing lawns. There was once when I slept with a housewife. As he was short of staff, I agreed to mow for 1 more week. My last job was near the Yomiuri Land Amusement Park. The weather was perfect. A lady was in the house and she looked large and also bothered. She showed me the lawn and I said I could do it in 4 hours. The sun was overheat and I was sweating profusely. She offered to make a sandwich for me and I agreed and thanked her. After lunch, I returned to the lawn to mow. When I was done, she mentioned that she liked me. She offered me a beer and I accepted it. She praised me for my good work. Her husband had passed on. She asked me about my school. I told her I couldn’t mow next month because I had to concentrate on my studies. She brought me into her house as she had something to show me. She unlocked a door and I entered it. There was plenty of dust. It was a bedroom. It seemed rather plain to me but fairly neat. She offered me a vodka tonic. She said I had a healthy body and won’t get drunk. She wanted me to look at her wardrobe, which I did. They were full of female clothes. In the drawers were clothes as well. I wondered why she was making me do all these. She wanted me to guess about the girl from her clothes. I said that I thought she had good grades etc. Now, she let me leave. She gave me a ten-thousand-yen note which I accepted. I left and went for a drive-in to order food. I was worn out and needed some sleep. All I wanted to do was mow a good lawn. As I drove, I thought of people with different homes, having different yards and living different lives.

The Silence. I was talking to Ozawa and asked whether he had punched a guy in an argument before. We were traveling together. He represented his school in boxing matches. He was 31. I did business with him. He was a really quiet sort of guy. In 8th grade, before he learnt boxing, he did hit someone. His uncle ran a boxing gym, so he joined. Boxing was a solitary pursuit. He liked it because he could get to the bottom of the depth. He hit a classmate called Aoki. Something about him pissed Ozawa off. Aoki was the star at school and extremely popular. Once, I scored better grades than Aoki and everyone was shocked. He spread a rumour that I cheated and I confronted him. This was when I punched him and he fell. I didn’t apologize to him although I felt sad inside. From then on, Aoki ignored me forever. We tried our best to ignore one another. One of my classmates, Matsumoto, committed suicide. That shocked everyone. Everyone was supposed to mourn his death. At that time, I didn’t know why he killed himself. Once, I was summoned into class and the headmaster asked if I ever hit Matsumoto before. It turns out that someone was hitting him. Somehow I guessed Aoki was behind it. The headmaster was convinced I hit him. Everyone thought it was me. Even the teachers tried to avoid me. Every day was lived in silence. 2 weeks later, I lost my appetite. I told my parents I was just tired. I imagined punching Aoki till he turned into a pulp. Later, I bumped into Aoki again and we glared at each other. I thought of how pitiful his life was and didn’t feel like punching him. I didn’t care about him at all. It was a stare-down and I could tell he wavered. Later, I knew I was home free. I held out for another 5 months of silence. However, I didn’t believe in people. That incident still affects me till today. I can’t believe how people think highly of Aoki, who doesn’t have an idea in the world. He was a monster and hurt others, without taking responsibility for his actions. Ozawa and I agreed to go for a beer to chill.

There’s all different kinds of loneliness. There’s the tragic loneliness that tears at your nerves with pain. And then there’s the loneliness that isn’t like that at all – though in order to reach that point, you’ve got to pare your body down. If you make the effort, you get back what you put in. – Haruki Murakami

People who go through a heavy experience like that are changed men, like it or not. They change for the better and they change for the worse. On the good side, they become unshakable. Next to that half year, the rest of the suffering I’ve experienced doesn’t even count. I can put up with almost anything. – Haruki Murakami

The Elephant Vanishes. An elephant disappeared from the town’s elephant house. I read about it in the newspapers. The house looked very empty. It happened on May 18. The zookeeper was missing too. There was nothing unusual about the elephant and zookeeper before it happened. It was a very old elephant. I was interested in this matter and kept articles on the elephants since it entered the zoo. People wondered why the town should be made to take ownership of it and paying for care and feeding costs. There was much debate about who should provide land and take care of the elephant. It was a homeless elephant at the start. The town held events for the elephant and gave it bananas. There was a steel cuff attached to it, which he could have broken free. The elephant’s keeper was in his early 60s. The keeper and the elephant had an outstanding relationship for over 10 years. They seemed to work via telepathy. Even the reporter was surprised at its disappearance. The keys to the cuff were intact and were not moved. Also, there was high fencing and there was no way it could have escaped. There were also no elephant marks nearby. The police were planning a thorough search of the area. The zookeeper was Noboru Watanabe. Many authorities were combing the woods. However, they failed to find it. I couldn’t find a clue either. After a few months, there were less articles on it. I met her at a company event. I told her the importance of unity in household appliances. I described our world as being very pragmatic. We had things in common and started to chat. She was 26 and I was 31. She was really an attractive woman. We ordered cocktails at the hotel lounge. Later, I told her about the elephant. My answers seemed tentative and she sensed something was not right. I told her I was probably the last one to see the elephant before it disappeared. I saw the elephant house from a cliff. I saw that the keeper and the elephant had strong feelings for one another. I admitted that I like elephants and found them exciting creatures. That day, I didn’t spot anything unusual. However, their size of the bodies seemed to change. It was like the elephant got smaller or the keeper got bigger. The balance between them changed. That was the visual image conjured in my mind. I regretted telling her about the elephant as she had many questions for me. That was the last time we met. Everything didn’t seem to matter to me much. People seemed to have forgotten about the elephant now. It won’t be coming back.

I would being to think I wanted to do something, but then I would become incapable of distinguishing between the probable results of doing it and of not doing it. I often get the feeling that things around me have lost their proper balance. – Haruki Murakami


Singapore Writers Festival 2015 (Part 2)

For part 1, click here.

Unravelling Haruki Murakami. History has a big part to help create a shared identity among people. There is a common rhythm across Haruki’s books but each book still retains a unique ‘voice’. Haruki is an extremely prolific translator and author. He is truly one of literature’s greats. Essentially, he writes solely in Japanese and gets translators to translate his works to English. When asked by a young student how would one go about writing about oneself, Haruki suggested that he write about a particular object. One will then be able to see how one interacts with the object. This is what differentiates one person from another. Despite translating contemporary American novels into Japanese, it is difficult to draw direct references of American works to his works. Haruki’s work has generated mass appeal and global outreach. In Japan, he is a private guy who shuns excessive publicity. As someone who shuns excessively publicity, Haruki might appear to not be interested in literary prizes etc. However, when overseas, he takes on another persona and promotes both his works and also the Japanese culture. Due to his fame and recognition, he is essentially like a Japanese cultural ambassador. One either loves or hates his books. One explanation as to why he often delves on themes like nostalgia/recollection of the past is because Buddhists believe that life is about constant change. Therefore, one has to learn to deal with loss or even losses like the ‘loss of adolescence’ and emergence into adulthood. Another explanation could be that Japan, after undergoing the WWII and with America’s presence, had lost its ‘inner self’. Therefore, in terms of culture, it was still trying to find itself and how it can be positioned in the world. Likewise, most of the characters in his books are lost and can’t imagine a hopeful future. They have lost their place in this world and need to find a way out of it. Haruki, although not a real political activist, was concerned about the 1995 Kobe Earthquake etc. That tragedy had a great impact on his life. Haruki doesn’t intentionally seek to promote Japanese culture and values through his writing. One of the main reasons why his characters are so relatable is because they are emotionally deep and mature.

Invisible: The allure of the unseen. Philip Ball is a famous science writer who has a PhD in Physics. In the past, since the Greek era, people dreamt about invisibility. In reality, it isn’t so easy to achieve though. Famous authors who wrote Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings have also used the concept of invisibility in their stories. Plato, in his work, The Republic, also warned others of the dangers of invisibility. Will man commit evil acts if he cannot be seen? There are many variants of invisibility that scientists are working on. Some form of cloaking etc is already present. Some types of squids/flatfish can camouflage extremely well with the surroundings, rendering them almost invisible to the naked eye. Likewise, scientists have tried to create a garment which can change colour, depending on your surroundings. Modern technology still has a long way to go. H.G. Wells wrote about the Invisible Man. Other modern forms of technology include the use of meta-materials, refraction etc. Most of the ideas stem from being able to bend light. There are also psychological aspects to invisibility. For instance, is it useful if it can make someone less shy? There is much debates in terms of psychology at the moment. What if people turn invisible so that they can escape reality and its responsibilities? Can invisibility have applications, apart from military, that are good for society? Do know there are ethical and code issues which need to be thoroughly examined with the advent of such technology. Ralph Ellison wrote about ‘The Invisible Man’. In his case, it was about being ‘socially invisible’ and being repressed etc. As humans, we consciously choose to see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear. Therefore, some things are also rendered ‘invisible’ to us in that sense. Invisibility is still associated with myths, danger, supernatural etc. As a result, there is still this fear about invisibility which needs to be overcome once the technology is in place.

SG50 anthologies – What Makes Singapore Singapore. ‘Living the Singapore Story’ is a collection of interviews from 58 ordinary Singaporeans. The objective of this book was to get the best possible story from each of them. Everyone is extraordinary in their own way and has contributed to Singapore. The Institute of Policy Studies’ Singapore Chronicles is an ambitious 50 book project on various key topics in Singapore. For instance, the first book is on the Singapore Constitution. Some of the other topics are like sports, arts, food etc. Each book is about a 100 pages long and delve fairly deeply into each topic. The next book on SG50 is ‘50+ things to love about Singapore’. This book embraces the quirks about Singapore and what makes us unique. It also debunking myths and misconceptions about Singapore. Some of them might be a little new even for Singaporeans. The last work is ‘Singathology’, which feature 50 new works of Cultural Medallion and Young Artist Award recipients. This will examine the narratives of the nation. It will feature diverse bodies of works in the 4 national languages, each with their own unique literary tradition. It was difficult to bring together so many diverse writers to collaborate on a massive project like this. There will be 2 volumes of works, the first titled ‘Life’ and the second titled ‘Art’. Issues which are thought provoking will be surfaced. For instance, what is the role of art in Singaporean society and what is its relevance? Another example is the role of political discourse/dissent in society. The people involved in the above projects all admitted that even they were all familiar to Singapore, there is still much to earn. In general, the objective of these anthologies is to make people admire Singapore and for Singaporeans to fall in love with the country all over again. The above body of works are of historical significance. Future generations will be able to learn and appreciate what was life like, what people’s aspirations were during SG50. Where does Singapore go from here?

A Clockwork Orange. The book is largely based on government control, censorship and violence. Is society a mechanical creation? The book has achieved a cult status and the protagonist, Alex, is your everyday man. Everything is written from Alex’s perspective. It claimed international acclaim when Stanley Kubrick produced the film in 1971. Essentially, the first half of the book is about the crime and the latter half about punishment. It is also about the battle between State vs Men. The author, Anthony Burgess, invented a new language which incorporated English with Russian, French etc. Some of the young men in the film turned psychopathic and hated the way youth were blamed for everything in society. The book is largely a battle between ‘Forced Good’ vs ‘Chosen Evil’. Which is better? Personally, Anthony sided with Alex. However, he hated the plot and initially did not want it to be produced into a film. Due to its scenes of violence, the book was banned in certain countries, including Singapore. However, can literature and movies be blamed for original sin? Did this novel led to be increased number of rape scenes and crimes? The soundtrack of the play by ABA production features music from the 1960s, and certainly pieces from Beethoven. For the Singapore version of the play, slight modifications to the play in relation to homosexuality and religion had to be made. However, the essence of the storyline remains intact. One of the reason why this book is universally popular is because of the fact that some people always feel the need to act out against authority. Subconsciously, the book will trigger the audience to think of their current government and its level of control on its people. Even though films might be banned, there is always a group of people who crave censored films and will take the extra effort to try and watch it. The crew admitted that their close bonding really helped when having to deliver such a physically demanding play.

The Adopted: Writing Creatively Within Restrictions. This was a collaborative project with 5 different Singaporean writers. Should writers not talk about their work and let the work speak for themselves? In generally, writers like pain and suffering as they see it as a form to make the soul grow. The 5 writers went on a trip to Siam Reap, Cambodia in order to embark on this project. They had set a certain structure on how to go about writing the stories. For instance, there was a fixed theme for each day. They were supposed to draw inspiration from their environment for the stories. Every story had to have this common character. The traits of the common character were that he was passive aggressive, indecisive, introverted in nature etc. Themes like the subconscious, ‘reality vs dreams’ emerged in the stories. Other themes include the meaning of fate, self-will, the idea of loss and how to deal with grieve, what it means to be human etc. It is important to be observant on your surroundings. When you travel with someone, you will find out more about their quirks and behaviors. The stories were arranged in an order that mimicked a western symphony in the sense that there were 4 movements. There are also elements of surrealism in the book. The stories were written in an ambivalent nature so that the reader can interpret the plot in different ways. In this way, it gets the reader thinking. Some of the stories are left unresolved because life is essentially open-ended and you have to make your own ending. Nothing on earth is truly resolved and similar to the Singapore Identity, it is an act of ‘becoming’. There is certainly truth and wisdom to be learnt from reading fiction.


Making Marriage Simple by Harville Hendrix

Ten truths for Changing the Relationship You Have into the One You Want

The book will help you make your marriage better. Learn to create a new kind of marriage. Marriage is ever-evolving. Our ancestors often paired up. Marriage was arranged in the past to protect one another. It was not about love by any means. In the 18th century, marriages started to be more about romance. It began something of a choice. Sometimes, one dominant partner can emerge and that can be a problem. Learn to build a partnership marriage. It is where both parties are free and equal. This is the ultimate dream among partners. Everyone can create this kind of relationship. Learn to practise the ‘Partnership Marriage’. Stick with transformation and do not give up too quickly. Practise the exercises in the book. The work doesn’t end after you say ‘I do’. Building a relationship is hard work. One person can shift the dynamics of a relationship.

Romantic Love is a Trick. Helen is Harville’s wife. The initial stages and dating stage of a relationship is often very great. You feel your heart beat fast and palpitate. You will always look forward to seeing each other again. Being apart feels unbearable. This romantic bliss doesn’t last though. Romantic Love rides off into the sunset. Once the person reveals their true colours, you will realize that things are not so rosy anymore. Agony replaces ecstasy at the start. People all have their good and bad character traits, even our parents. This is known as ‘Imago’. Initially, you will feel the sense of belonging. However, later on, you will feel upset that your needs aren’t met. This is known as ‘childhood’ wounding. Sometimes, parents can be overinvolved or under-involved. Both cases are not ideal. As a wife, I tended to be in too much control of the relationship. Sometimes, what you give is not what the other person wants. Understand what your childhood wounding is. Were you abandoned in the past? It is your unconscious mind that chooses your partner. Write down the frustrations you experienced in your childhood and compare it with those you have with your partner now. Talk about the similarities with your partner. A lot of the frustrations you have with your partner stem from what you went through in the past.

Romantic Love is the powerful force that draws you to someone who has the positive and negative qualities of your parents or caregiver. – Harville Hendrix

Incompatibility is Grounds for Marriage. Incompatibility may not be such a bad thing after all. Honestly, my wife and I are very different. Sometimes, I wish she was more like me. Do not use words like ‘You always’; ‘You never’. Do not keep believing that you are right. This is known as the power struggle. This will make your marriage interesting. However, this form of tension can make your relationship turn out for the best. Both couples are different based on 1) structure vs freedom & 2) how they handle stress. Spontaneity vs structure. It is important to be non-judgmental about your differences. When reacting to stress, there are basically the minimizers (keep things to themselves) and the maximizers (Hailstorm). Turtles like to be quiet and have their alone time. Hailstorms are more extroverted people. They like to cross things off their list. Some people just like to talk about their feelings. Hailstorms want your attention. The more you withdraw, the more the other party will hail. The key is to give each other sufficient space. You have the power to change. Turtles hate being analysed and getting blamed. Make it safe for your Turtle to emerge. Compliment them and show appreciation once in a while. Do not push them till they snap. When the hailstorm is shouting, please give them your full attention. Do not withdraw. If the turtle can become more like a hailstorm and vice versa, order can be restored. If you are facing a turtle, try not to do anything or you may attempt to praise them. To calm a hailstorm, ask ‘what might you be able to do for her?’

Conflict is Growth Trying to Happen. Conflict can be valuable. Don’t run away for it. You can reflect on matters with a new perspective. The Power Struggle is not a sign that you should give up on the relationship. Do not simply bail so easily. Bailing is a sign of weakness. Use conflict to jump start growth. Learn to express your emotions and not hold them back. Usually, when one ‘thinks’ and the other ‘feels’, conflicts will arise. Conflict can be used as creative tension. Give yourself permission to feel. Learn to connect your heart with your brain. If you are comfortable with your feelings, it is easier to connect with others too. Understand what is meant by the ‘Stretching Principle’. Growth is about requiring both partners to stretch. You can work on feeling and logic. Stretch so that you can reclaim parts of yourself. Write down what you loved about your relationship back then. Write down what you wish the relationship had. It is crucial to be able to grow new skills.

Often what we need most from our partner is what they are least capable of giving. – Harville Hendrix

Being Present for Each Other Heals the Past. It is important to heal each other’s childhood wounds. Help each other grow into adulthood. Name their wounds and how you might go about healing them. Learn to ask what the other party needs. Do not assume. Accept his answer. If someone is usually angry, it might have something to do with their childhood. If you are a doer, it might be hard for you to start to listen. Answer your call to be a healer. The key is to create a safe environment. Healing only happens in a safe environment. Both parties need to get healthy, not just one. Sending one to therapy may not work. There is something between the both of you in a relationship. It is not just empty air and space. Unspoken communication is part of this space. Do not criticize and blame. Make the space ‘holy’ in nature. Build your relationship on trust and caring. Share with your partner on what are the negative things that happen in your space.

’Being present’ means giving all of your attention to your partner in a caring, open-hearted way – really listening to what your partner thinks and feels. Just because someone is in the same room with you, or is even looking right at you, doesn’t mean they are present with you. – Harville Hendrix

It’s not What you Say; It’s HOW you Say It. Sometimes, couples like to talk at the same time and not listen to one another. How you talk is important. Although it is important to air your views, listening is crucial as well. Our culture does not reward people for listening. Mirror, Validate and Empathize. Learn to share what you appreciate about one another. To mirror, repeat exactly what was said. This is a form of clarification. Ask ‘Is there more?’ Validate means you get the other person’s point of view. Say ‘You make sense’. See things from their perspective. Dialogue will enable you to heal wounds. Dialogue is good because it slows you down.

Dialogue sustains and deepens connection. Dialogue is a structured way of talking and listening that builds connection between you and your partner. It is this connection that enables you to heal your childhood wounds. – Harville Hendrix

Negativity is Invisible Abuse. Body language can be negative in nature. Negativity makes your partner unsafe and uneasy. In society, we are rewarded for critical thinking. However, in a marriage, you shouldn’t use it. Some couples are very stubborn. They keep thinking they are right and refuse to give in. Competition is good, but it shouldn’t take place in your relationship. Once you feel superior to your partner, this is when competition arises. You should be an advocate in a relationship and not give constructive criticism unnecessarily. Become ‘negativity watchdog’ and watch when you are being negative. Learn to share appreciation. Appreciate your partner every day. Replace judgment with curiosity. Open yourself up to new ideas and perspectives. List down your partner’s physical characteristics. Share three new things that you appreciate everyday with your partner.

Negativity is a Wish in Disguise. Behind every negative thought is an unmet desire. It could be a wish in disguise. Use more ‘I’ statements when talking. Be brief and clear. Approach your partner only when they are calm. Do not criticize or blame. Use the BCR method (Behavior Change Request). 1) Ask for an appointment to discuss a frustration; 2) State the frustration briefly; 3) Ask for what you want. Asking for an appointment ensures that you catch them at the right time. State the frustration in a brief manner. Suggest things your partner can do to ease your frustration. Keep them SMART. Learn to be creative. Write down the suggestions your partner raises. Start small first. Tackle the small problems first. Follow through on what your partner says.

Your Brain Has a Mind of Its Own. Your brain is a wonder. The lower brain is spontaneous and does things on impulse. It is focussed on survival. The higher brain is more logical and rational. It is capable of higher level thinking etc. Do not let the lower brain take control of your life. It is important to focus on rational decision making. You can choose which part of your brain to use when responding with your partner. Stop to let your higher brain review the situation. Try to reason why people are doing certain things/actions all the time. Take a brisk walk to help calm down your lower brain. Respond but do not react. You can always learn to change yourself.

Your Marriage is a Laughing Matter. Sometimes, it is useful to be light-hearted over certain issues. Life is about who we are at the core. Our core is JOY. Human beings are wired for social connection. Assumptions can kill a marriage. Do not assume you know what the other person is thinking. It is important to know what gives your partner pleasure. Share what feels caring to her. Being open and telling each other is important. Ask if you don’t know what the love language of someone else is. Let your partner know your secret wishes. Caring Behaviors are important and you need to know what your partner values. Pick up on a random dropping and delight her. Oxytocin has been known to release stress. Fun has a lot of power. A couple can start by telling each other jokes. Write down all your caring behaviors.

Your Marriage is the Best Life Insurance Plan. Turtles or introverts can care deeply about people. Everyone hopes that their relationship can live long and prosper. Divorce might not be the best way to manage conflict. Helen and I divorced before we learnt about the tools. Now, people are more aware of the benefits of marriage. They are healthier, live longer and enjoy higher incomes. A healthy marriage confers a lot of benefits. It improves physical health. Children tend to thrive when they are under married parents. Married couples tend to manage their finances better. It means better financial security in old age for the couple. Married couples tend to have a better sexual relationship. Your relationship is worth it. Love is contagious. Do not stay on the side-lines. Be the change you wish to see. Re-commit to each other. Share your written vows with one another.

Afterword. Love is the ultimate upstream solution. 1) Healthy Marriages are the Ultimate Upstream Prevention. 2) Healthy Relationships Create Strong Individuals. 3) Couplehood as a Spiritual Path. 4) Marriage isn’t a disease to be treated – it’s the cure. 5) Relationship education must be supported and made available to everyone.


Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Tyler Durden gets me a job as a waiter. He pushed a gun in my mouth. To him, he didn’t fear death and was a legend. We were thinking of blowing up the place as we knew how to make nitroglycerin. We were on top of Parker Morris building. The building started blowing up. The Mischief Committee was at work. In 9 minutes, the building would be blown to shreds. With explosives, it was possible to topple anything. Tyler wanted to destroy the national museum. Tyler and I had a love triangle problem as he liked Marla but Marla liked me. Only 3 minutes left.

Bob held me close. He was a big man. He was clearly upset and started sobbing. I felt terribly lost inside. Bob had huge tits because he had a hormonal imbalance. I didn’t want life to seem like an oblivion. There were others crying too. It was a testicular cancer support group. I was a cancer victim too, just like Bob. It all happened 3 years ago when I was contracted with cancer. Dying was sad. Chloe, a member of the group, liked to watch pornography. I didn’t cry at support group meetings. Bob used to be a bodybuilder and underwent 3 divorces. He had a poor relationship with his 2 kids. Somehow, I found the support group to be useful. Maria was one of the patients at the support group too. I had a poor impression of her as I thought she was a fake.

It’s easy to cry when you realize that everyone you love will reject you or die. On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone will drop to zero. – The Narrator

This is how it is with insomnia. Everything is so far away, a copy of a copy of a copy. The insomnia distance of everything, you can’t touch anything and nothing can touch you. – The Narrator

I woke up at Air Harbor International. I wished that I would be dead sometimes. Tyler worked part time as a movie projectionist. The author keeps switching scenes and flashback is performed. Tyler was working on the projector reels. I had bad dreams due to my lack of sleep. Reels had to be changeover in the old projectors and if done properly, no one in the audience will notice. If you miss a changeover, the audience will curse at you. I hated my life. I was travelling for work and had to take notes during work meetings. By accident, Tyler and I met. We met at a nude beach. Tyler showed me how to read the time by the shadow cast by 5 logs at the beach. Later, he gave me his number. Tyler was also a banquet waiter at a hotel.

Life insurance pays off triple if you die on a business trip. I prayed for wind shear effect. I prayed for pelicans sucked into the turbines and loose bolts and ice on the wings. – The Narrator

Maria Singer was at the support group. Everyone always seemed to get better. Chloe said she no longer feared death. ‘Cancer’ was not used. Instead, the term ‘agent’ was used. Later on, I thought out that Chloe died. Maria keep smoking during the session and it was distracting. I respected Chloe for the way she approached life and thought how absurd life was. I hugged Maria during therapy session. Maria knew I was lying too, just like her. Maria went for therapy because she when she saw suffering, it would make her appreciate life more. It made her feel good. I was already at the support group for 2 years. This was how I met Maria.

My suitcase was vibrating and it got picked up by security. I lived in a condominium. My baggage had to be evacuated. I made sure my personal belongings were not left behind. I got home from the airport. There was an accident at my home. My house was blown apart. The police didn’t allow me to return to my own unit. The police didn’t rule out arson. I called Tyler. I agreed to meet Tyler afterwards. Tyler allowed me to move in with him temporarily. We were both drunk and Tyler wanted me to hit him as hard as I could.

If you don’t know what you want, you end up with a lot you don’t. – The Doorman

I had stitches on my face and it was swollen. I was back at work. There was blood covering my face. Fight Club was tomorrow. ‘The first rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.’ I wanted to die with a few scars. Fight Club was a way to give fighters confidence in their real life. In the real world, I worked as a recall campaign co-ordinator. I loved fight club. Self-destruction was the answer. It was held at a basement of a bar. Shoes and shirts were not allowed in fight club. You have a reason to head to the gym and keep your hair short. Some guys go there to de-stress. We don’t talk it outside of work. Tyler and I invented Fight Club. We first fought on a parking lot and it felt strangely therapeutic. ‘If this is your first night at fight club, you have to fight.’ Fighting was a way of overcoming your fear.

Fight club isn’t about winning or losing fights. Fights club isn’t about words. You see a guy come to fight club for the first time, and his ass is a loaf of white bread. You see this same guy here six months later, and he looks carved out of wood. This guy trusts himself to handle anything. – Tyler Durden

Tyler met Maria and they had sex together. I longed to have sex with Marla Singer. Tyler rented a big apartment. There was a used condom in the toilet. I have been living in his house for close to a month already. It was a good place to deal with drugs because it was obscure. Marla stayed at the Regent Hotel. Tyler admitted that he liked Marla. Deep down, I was angry at Tyler’s behavior. I was enraged inside. Marla was wanted and was under threat. Luckily, Marla and Tyler managed to escape from the hotel and took a cab.

Boss sent me home because there was dried blood on my pants. I write haikus for my colleagues. Blood could be seen as a form of enlightenment. Tyler and Marla were having sex frequently. Tyler was doing push-ups. I had a difficult childhood and had issues with my parents. Marla wore a sexy dress and I was impressed. I wanted Marla out of the house now. I liked my boss. Marla was trying to hit bottom. We were boiling milk and later filling them in milk cartons. Tyler didn’t want me mentioning Marla’s name to him again. We were trying to make soap now. Tyler was thinking of making dynamite and blow up bridges.

It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. – Tyler

We placed lye and water together and cause objects to burn. He placed it on my hand. He didn’t want to hear me cry and called it guided meditation. Tyler wanted me to learn the value of sacrifice. He wanted me to hit bottom. I had to imagine myself in Ireland, where everyone else was sacrificing as well. He wanted me to imagine that the soap was made of heroes.

Without their death, their pain, without their sacrifice, we would have nothing. – Tyler

Soup was ready, but it contained explosives inside. We needed to act fast, before the soup turned cold. We walked through ballrooms. Tyler also worked as a waiter. Tyler was also full of mischief. Later, he got in trouble and got fired. The hostess was in a real mess and was dead drunk. Tyler liked to spoil people’s experiences. We were always thinking of what we can add to the food.

Getting fired is the best thing that could happen to any of us. That way, we’d quit treading water and do something with our lives. – Tyler

We also played a prank on Marla’s mother. Tyler was making money from selling soap. Tyler called himself the Paper Street Soap Company. Tyler and I bought an Impala. We all hated dance clubs. Marla was upset at what we did to her mother. We had to sleep elsewhere to avoid getting caught. One day, Tyler gave Marla’s mum a box of chocolates. There was once when Marla came to Tyler’s place and wanted to place something in the freezer. She found out that Tyler and I added chemicals to the food. Marla was angry and thought I was the mastermind behind everything. We boiled her mother into soap. Thankfully, Tyler and I managed to escape.

I was back at work. We did a recall campaign. My boss found out about the fight club. I was suffering from a bad bout of insomnia. I was extremely pissed that he managed to find out about it. My boss started reading the fight club rules on a piece of paper which I accidentally left behind. I felt like shooting him I wondered why Tyler wanted 10 copies of the fight club rules? To be honest, I knew about the car defects even before the recall took place but simply kept quiet and did nothing. I met Big Bob later. The fight club group disbanded. However, there was another group that still existed. It was founded by Tyler Durden. I pretended not to know him.

I found Marla at Regent Hotel. She didn’t mention about the collagen trust fund. She seemed really ill. Marla just wanted someone to talk to. There is nothing wrong with dying. The doctor thought I had cancer because I had a birthmark. The wart on my penis would be alright in a matter of time. I want to cheer Marla up.

In the wild you don’t see old animals because as soon as they age, animals die. If they get sick or slow down, something stronger kills them. Animals aren’t meant to get old. – The Narrator

I liked the attention I received in the support groups. You had their full attention. People listened more than usual. We could build trust with one another. Marla found her first lump. It was an accident. Marla didn’t have much of a family. Later, after the lump discovery, she started going for the support group. She took up a job doing prepaid funeral plans for a mortuary. Marla had almost hit rock bottom and was very upset. She had seen the dying. My condo blew up and I didn’t cause it. I couldn’t leave town as I was under investigation.

I’m breaking my attachment to physical power and possessions, because only through destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my spirit. – Tyler

Everything was falling apart. Tyler was not needed at his job. However, he still enjoyed pension. Tyler thought that no one cared about him. Tyler and I were looking increasingly alike. I went to see the manager of Pressman Hotel. I was sounding more and more like Tyler. The union president punched Tyler. Tyler had nothing and didn’t care about his life. Later, I dialed the hotel manager. I got involved in a fight with the manager. There were more and more fight clubs. Tyler wanted to expand his empire. There was money coming in as well. I took the blows in exchange for money.

Project Mayhem was underway and causing havoc for society. You do not ask questions of Project Mayhem. Tyler used the fight club to organize his mayhem activities and to recruit members. Tyler wanted the average Joe to feel powerful. If you’re arrested, you are off the Assault committee. Tyler vets through proposals and discards the ones he thinks are no good. The average Joes would be tasked to execute mayhem. Later, members were ordered to buy a gun. You are not allowed to ask questions. No one was allowed to make excuses. No one was allowed to lie. The ultimate aim of project Mayhem was to teach man that he had the power to control history. Tyler stepped up his game and invented Project Mayhem. What was I really fighting? I wanted to destroy the beautiful things in society. I wanted the world to hit bottom. I hated paying the price for the mistakes of other humans. This was my world and I wanted to dominate it. We wanted to destroy mankind so that the Earth could recover. That was the goal of Project Mayhem. The last rule of Project Mayhem was that you needed to trust Tyler.

The idea is to take some Joe on the street who’s never been in a fight and recruit him. Let him experience winning for the first time in his life. Get him to explode. Give him permission to beat the crap out of you. – The Narrator

Recycling and speed limits are bullshit. They’re like someone who quits smoking on his deathbed. – Tyler

I was at my office today. Tyler wanted me to type up and copy some documents. Tyler wanted guys to sleep at the basement of the fight club. The men were required to bring the stuff that Tyler wanted. They had to bring their own burial money as well. We chased away some applicants but some of them were persistent and waited outside the fight club for 3 days. Eventually, we were impressed by their resolve and took them in. There were many teams of Project Mayhem. I had to manage the men. Some of the men were assigned to stupid tasks. Later, I bumped into Marla. The men planned different acts of sabotage. Tyler was never at home. No one has seen Tyler for a long while. Was Tyler building an army? It appears that Tyler dumped us.

Our culture has made us all the same. No one is truly white or black or rich, anymore. We all want the same. Individually, we are nothing. – Space Monkey

My boss went for vacation. Later, Tyler tells me to get to the parking lot. There were mechanics and a Cadillac. What was Tyler planning? Tyler simply wanted us to get God’s attention for being bad as it was better than getting no attention at all. The lower you fall, the higher you’ll fly. Some men were looking for new bars and garages to fight. The fight club would always be free. The mechanic was crazy and simply drove against oncoming traffic. He didn’t care one bit about death. The three space monkeys were in the back seat. Later, we hit and truck and crashed. I wanted to die now. I felt like I was nothing Smoke was emanating from the carpet beneath us.

If you could be either God’s worst enemy or nothing, which would you choose? – The Narrator

I had a near-life experience. The plan of fight club was to enslave people and then show them courage by frightening them. We were a hunting party. We wanted to make soap out of human fat in order to sell them.

I followed the mechanic and bought a gun. I held out my gun and wanted to shoot Raymond Hessel. I placed the gun in his face. He gave me his wallet and I collected his driving license. I kept telling him that he was going to die. Constantly, I intimidated him and threatened him. At all times, the gun was pressed against his face. I was Tyler’s mouth and hands.

Tyler hasn’t been home yet. I collected the 12 human driving licenses. Some of the guys haven’t heard of Tyler. It turns out that I was Tyler. I suffered from bad insomnia and did things which I wasn’t very aware of. Everyone recognized me from my birthmark. Marla admitted that I saved her life as she had previously attempted suicide. Even Marla confirmed that I was Tyler Durden. I didn’t believe myself and knew that I needed more sleep.

This was the problem with insomnia. Project Mayhem was fast expanding to other states. I imagined talking to Tyler now. We both shared the same body. We held down the police commissioner. The whole plan was to stop him from taking down the fight club. Everyone was getting more invested in Fight Club. Basically, when I was awake, I was myself. When I was asleep, Tyler Durden takes over. Tyler said he wouldn’t disappear but I could not offend him as he would screw me over. Tyler was my hallucination.

Everything was falling apart. Marla didn’t know the difference between Tyler and I. A space monkey was learning how to make napalm. I went with Marla for dinner. I wanted Marla to follow me everywhere I went and to record everything I did or said. I clearly the first instance when I met Tyler. It was when I was at a beach, when I was asleep. I insisted that I was not Tyler Durden. The trick, I thought, would be to keep awake. My plan was for Marla to follow me so that she could control the damage that Tyler caused.

Big Bob died while completing a mission. Now, he was just an object. Death was a miracle. He was 48. He was only a part of project Mayhem. People attain the hero status in death. I desperately wanted to tell everyone that the fight club was not worth it. I told people to go home. I’m still standing in the centre of the room. Now, I wanted everyone to leave the fight club. Everyone collapsed in front of me. I was floating and flying. Project Mayhem was my idea. I stood in the middle of the ring and did not move.

I was with Marla in room 8G. We were going to bowling. The plan was to get rid of Tyler. She wanted me to cross-dress etc.

The police were interviewing people near my office. I didn’t get off the bus for work. My boss was dead. The windows were smashed etc. I knew Tyler did it. There was a new version of the lightbulb bomb. I quite liked my boss. The problem was that Tyler didn’t. The police were after me now. There were space monkeys in my bus too. If anyone wanted to shut down the club, the people would grab him by the nuts. The space monkeys were after me. Thankfully, there were cops outside. The police also knew what we were up to. I told them I wasn’t Tyler. They were about to cut off my balls. I tried to escape from the bus. Everyone was tugging at me. They finally removed my trousers. I was in an extremely panicky mood. There was an arm around my chest and then there was simply darkness. I was not allowed to fight back.

My boss was gone and so was my home and job. There was nothing left. Marla was there. I called Marla at the hotel. We decided to return to the first place we ever met. Marla was at the church. Marla hit me and said I killed someone. The police were after me. It was Tyler who killed my boss, it wasn’t me. Tyler shot the mayor’s special envoy. I didn’t have cancer. Tyler was my other half of my split personality. I needed to take care of Tyler Durden.

I started recalling what Tyler knew. I knew why Tyler occurred. A part of me wanted to be with Marla. That’s how Tyler started. Patrick Madden died. As I fought a guy on the ring, I started recalling how he died. I started fighting more guys. I was pounded and hurt. I started crying. Suddenly, I just wanted to continue fighting until I would die.

Everything in my room was gone. Tyler told me to get up even though my life was broken. Death would be an empowering thing. Tyler and I headed to the top of Parker Morris Building and stuck a gun in my mouth. We only had 8 minutes left to live. Marla came running towards us. Marla discouraged me from shooting myself. Marla admitted that she liked me now. She said she liked me, and not Tyler and that she knew the difference. I pulled the trigger.

I died and so did Tyler. The angels in Heaven were good. God spoke me to him. He asked me why I caused so much pain. We just are who we are. Marla was still alive.

Didn’t I realize that each of us is a sacred, unique snowflake of special unique specialness? Can’t I see how we’re all manifestations of love? – The Narrator


These Foolish Things by Yeo Wei Wei

Yuan was waiting for her husband to return from work. The weather was incredibly bad and it was pouring heavily. Danny failed to close the windows before leaving the house and the rainwater entered their home. They lived on a 20 floor apartment, above the Kallang River. The city was very modern as compared to the 1950s. They could watch the NDP fireworks from their home. Danny and her were married for 3 years. Later, Danny enters the house with another woman. His arms were around her waist. Yuan was tormented by this sight and how Danny was treating her. Danny liked to simply ignore everything she said.

Yuan was heading to Phuket alone. They were conversing in the living room. It was 26 Dec 2004 and the tsunami hit in Phuket. Oliver, the man she was with now, had drowned. He was a divorcee and was a father of 2 children. There were little signs of life after the tsunami. A jazz singer’s voice reminded Yuan of the past. It was a year since the tsunami and life in Phuket was returning to normal. Yuan returned to her villa and saw a couple’s luggage tags. The couple were named Gavin and Julie Ng and they stayed at the same apartment where Yuan used to stay. This further triggered her memory of the past.

Assia touched Julie’s umbrella and saw a hantu inside the umbrella. She was the domestic helper in the house. Gavin couldn’t find his car keys. Tom was their son and Gavin’s passport was missing too. Assia was tired because the couple were very strict towards her. Julia and her friend, Fern, were chatting while their husbands were away. Fern was now married to Danny.

The scene now flashes to the scene where Yuan confronts Danny about the woman he brought home. The lady turned out to be Fern. As Danny tried to get rid of Yuan’s possessions, he found that he paralyzed and that he couldn’t move. Danny managed to crawl and went to the kitchen to find a tin box of dried sage leaves. He lights a leaf and then extinguishes it. Then, he scurrying around the room like a lizard. He enters Yuan’s room and examines her possessions. He missed Yuan. The burnt leaf had a scene of Gardenia and it reminded him of Yuan. He tried to imagine her being with him, but the moment was fleeting at best. Danny was deeply distraught and felt an acute sense of loss. It was then that Fern clutched him and Danny said longingly, ‘Fern, my love’.

Gardenia perfume lingering on the pillow…wild strawberries only seven francs a kilo…and still my heart has wings…These foolish things remind me of you. – Jazz Singer


The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

The jellyfish drifts in the ocean. There is no compass to guide it as it sways and pulses. However, the continents started to form and it disrupted the peace. What will the creature do or think. The creature was pinned from fallen concrete. He suffered radiation sickness. He couldn’t walk properly and was escorted by the elevator guard. Mannie was one of the characters. Mannie was feeling like crap and a stranger was talking to him. The medic thought that Mannie was on drugs. He was taking it for 2 months already. Mannie didn’t want to reveal who gave it to him. The guard wanted to help Mannie. Some kids were suffering from kwashiorkor, according to the medic. Help didn’t come fast enough as there was a lot of red tape.

Ain’t it great to be alive? – Mannie

Dr William Haber was a professor had a picture of Mount Hood in his room. Mr Greene was his patient for tomorrow. It was a drug abuse case. Penny was his secretary and did the administrative work. Global warming had caused the Earth massive harm. All the snow were gone. Mr Orr came into his room. Mr Orr had consumed more than his usual allotment of pep pills and sleeping pills from autodrug. Haber wanted to administer therapy on Orr. The dosage exceeded Orr’s Pharm Card. Orr suffered from bad dreams. Haber was a dream specialist. He said Orr took drugs to deprive himself of dreams. If you deprive yourself of dreams, your mind will suffer and become irritable. Partial dream deprivation was not good for the body. Orr was afraid of dreaming. Orr revealed that his dreams affected the non-dream world, the real world and was alarmed by it. He dreamt something and that something came true. Haber dismissed his claim. Orr could change things. Aunt Ethel was Orr’s mother’s sister. She was always in Orr’s dreams. Orr dreamt she was killed in a car crash. True enough, as per the dream, the telegram came. It really happened in reality! Haber thought he was a schizophrenic. His mother didn’t have any memory of it. Orr said he didn’t want to change things. Orr was a draftsman for the Bonneville-Umatilla Power District. Orr had no problem with his relationships. Haber wanted to teach him to dream safely. His solution was to get Orr to dream intensely and vividly. He had a Palace of Dreams. He would make Orr wear a trancap . Also, Orr would be hypnotized. He finally worked out a basic machine. Haber said that it would have a high chance of curing Orr. The augmentor would ensure deep sleep. Haber would be using the v-c induction method. There were 4 states of sleep: waking, trance, s-sleep and d-state. The d-state was short, and one needed to enter the s-state first. Haber connected the trancap and could view Orr’s brain signals on the EEG. Orr’s brain was extraordinarily complex. Orr managed to dream and it was captured on the EEG. It was a dream about him being with a horse in the field. Suddenly, Haber realized that that the picture of a horse in his room should have been a picture of Mount Hood. Orr was also known as George. Haber pretended that the picture of the horse was there in his room all along. Haber didn’t have the double memory. He wanted George to come back again to see him. George admitted that the horse resembled Haber.

Dreams are incoherent, selfish, irrational – immoral. They come from the unsocialized part of us, don’t they, at least partly? I didn’t want to kill poor Ethel. I just wanted her out of my way. Well, in a dream, that’s likely to be drastic. Dreams take shortcuts. – Mr Orr

George didn’t own a car. He was in a crowded train at the moment. It was very warm and the air was polluted. The sea levels were rising rapidly. It was constantly raining in Oregon. Orr went to see Haber again. Haber wasn’t well versed in current affairs and the war in Afghanistan. George was soon put to sleep again. It was a dream about the horse again as Haber wanted him to have that dream. Now, it was in a stable and the horse was in it. He released a huge pile of shit. Then, the dream ended. The mural behind him was now Mount Hood and not of the horse anymore. The doctor did not recall the horse-mural. Now, Orr felt being made use of. The Augmentor was a means for self-stimulation was the brain. Haber emphasized on the importance of releasing mental powers. Orr was disappointed by Haber’s denial of the change in the mural. Orr was frustrated with society and the whole crowding/city life in general. Haber made him sleep again. Now, Orr dreamt about the South Seas, coconuts etc. Orr promised to return again for another session of therapy. Orr dreamt of Kennedy as well in the previous dream. While in the train, Orr thought he was living in a nightmare. He felt giddy now. Orr was also having difficulty recalling unconscious thoughts. Suddenly, he suspected that Haber knew what was going on in his mind. Why didn’t Haber confess about the mural change? Orr’s mind was active and he kept thinking.
The setting is Portland. There was an automatic-elevator parking system. High-rise offices were everywhere. Miss Lelache thought of herself as a Black Widow. She was with Mr Orr in her office. Mr Orr was under Voluntary Therapeutic Treatment. This man had a drug problem. Lelache was a lawyer. Orr was a patient of Dr Haber and he claims that Haber was using his ability to use him dreams to exert influence over reality. Orr explained the whole story of Dr Haber’s treatment methods to Lelache. The problem was that Haber doesn’t direct him to do anything, except dream them. It would hard to find evidence to indict Haber. Orr felt he was being used as an instrument, even though Haber’s ends are good. Lelache was confused by his wants. It was like Orr had the ability to enter an alternative Universe when dreaming. It would be extremely hard to get evidence. Orr wanted Lelache to sit in for one of the therapy sessions. She agreed to help.
Atwood passed Mr Haber. Penny Crouch was around as well. Haber started thinking. He had to go through government letters. He went into sleep research. Science to him, had to be applicable. A HEW inspector was coming to inspect Dr Haber’s augmentor. Haber greeted the lawyer. Haber expected a cordial relationship with her. Lelache wanted Haber to explain what he was doing with Orr. Sleep can be induced at any time. It was non-intrusive in nature. However, it was research that was tested well enough. His method of auto-stimulation had no effect on the patient after the treatment. The dream content is manipulated by hypnotic suggestion. Miss Lelache wanted to meet Orr. Haber was confident that the process would do Orr no harm at all. The hypnotic process started and was in effect now. Orr didn’t like overpopulation. Haber proposed that Orr was afraid of being touched by others. Orr would dream about overpopulation now. Haber showed Lelache the EEG traces. Finally, Haber cut out the augmentor. Would Lelache keep both memories (before and after the dream)? Now, Haber wanted to stop Lelache. Outside the window, something had changed. Lelache seemed shocked by the change. The world seemed very sparse now, with only 1 billion people. 6 billion of the others had disappeared. What happened to them? Lelache thought there was something wrong with her. George finally woke up now. Orr had dreamt about the plague. There was no over-population now. Haber convinced him that the world was better now with no overpopulation and that he didn’t be so anxious. Orr confessed that he buried people in his latest dream. Lelache was not allowed to talk to George and Haber wanted George in the next afternoon again. Haber drank his whisky and shouted ‘To a better world!’

A person is defined solely by the extent of his influence over other people, by the sphere of his interrelationships; and morality is an utterly meaningless term unless defined as the good one does to theirs, the fulfilling of one’s function in the sociopolitical whole. – Dr Haber

Our task is only beginning. Orr had a nice and cosy house. He was terrified when he got home and wanted to do something about everything. He didn’t want to do. Orr knew he didn’t want to go back to Haber. He knew it would be difficult to escape Haber. He murdered 6 billion people. If he quit Haber, Orr would be in trouble as he had obtained drugs illegally. To continue, Orr knew he needed to take the dream suppressants. However, in order to do so, he had to co-operate with Haber. Orr kept thinking that Haber’s ends were good, but how about the means? Lelache called Orr. She didn’t suspect any wrongdoing by Haber. Haber got promoted to be a director ever since he worked on Orr. Lelache arranged to meet Orr. She could not reveal a lot to Orr about what Haber had said during the treatment. Food was surplus in this underpopulated world now. Orr suddenly thought that it was okay to dream because he saved the world from overpopulation. He wanted to dream again. The air was still very polluted. There were not many factories or cars anymore. War also broke out because of the Plague. The world was also engaged in a nuclear war. Haber was like an onion, he had no centre, only layers. Orr always thought that Haber was using his dreams to change the world. Orr didn’t think it was right to force the pattern of things. The war was coming soon and Orr knew Haber wanted to end it. The end justifies the means. What if there was no end? Orr claimed that he was watching a battle in space from Earth in his dream. Orr was supposed to dream of peace as instructed by Haber. He claimed that it would be idealistic to imagine a world without war. Instead, he thought that it would be better to substitute one war with another. Who has humanitarian dreams? Orr claimed that he might not be the best person for the job. Orr was afraid that the aliens might land one day on Earth. Haber said that Orr was working towards freedom and that freedom was the most important thing there was. He said that the unconscious mind contained health, imagination, creativity.

I haven’t any strength, I haven’t any character, I’m a born tool. I haven’t any destiny. All I have is dreams. And now other people run them. – George Orr
Isn’t that man’s very purpose on earth – to do things, change things, run things, make a better world? – Dr Haber
I don’t know if our life has a purpose and I don’t see that it matters. What does matter is that we’re a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass. – Dr Haber

Daydreaming holds a lot of possibilities. Dreaming is the approach of an invisible reality. Lelache was supposed to meet Orr for lunch. Orr did not answer his phone. She explored his apartment without his permission. Orr was just a quiet man who lived quietly. Manager also didn’t know where Orr was. Orr used to borrow Manager’s Pharm Card. Lelache wanted to pursue Orr. She drove out of the city. The Aliens attacked the Lunar Base and killed all the astronauts. Orr was hiding in a cabin when Lelache found him. He couldn’t sleep. Heather went to visit him. Orr didn’t want to sleep as he was afraid to. Orr was skipping therapy. Orr was a strong man and could rely on himself. Heather admired him for his strength of character. Orr also drank some brandy. He slept standing up so he couldn’t dream. Orr was worried that he might be going insane. He was concerned about which the real things in life. Heather’s husband died in the war 3 days ago. Orr claimed that he dreamed aliens because Haber wanted to dream about peace on Earth. Heather was also Lelache’s other name. Haber had a fixed view of the world and he wouldn’t change it. She suggested that Orr dream about him. However, Orr said that he couldn’t really control what he dreamt about. Lelache suggested that she hypnotize him now. The plan was to dream that Haber was a nice man who wanted to help Orr. She was a Portlander and was a mix between a black and a white. The wars and the plague were horrible, but so was overpopulation. Orr claimed the world ended 4 years ago, in April 1998. The world was in chaos then. Lelache started to hypnotize him. Orr was fast asleep now. Now, she got shivery. It was cold and she found it difficult to sleep. Something was wrong. There were sirens around. The Aliens had landed. This was part of Lelache’s plan, which was for Orr to dream that the Aliens were no longer on the Moon.

A person who believes that things fit: that there is a whole of which one is a part, and that in being a part one is whole; such a person has no desire whatever, at any time, to play god. Only those who have denied their being yearn to play at it. – Lelache
Are there really people without resentment, without hate? People who never go cross-grained to the Universe? Who recognize evil, and resist evil, and yet are utterly unaffected by it? – Lelache
The only solution I really can see is to kill myself. But I don’t want to. It just doesn’t seem right. – George Orr

Only Oregon was targeted by the war. It was basically a defenseless state. Missiles exploded on Oregon. Lava started flowing from Mount Hood on the first day of the alien invasion. Earthquakes were a common place. The jets accidentally bombed wrong areas. The whole city was affected by power failure as well. Haber was still looking for Orr and he headed back to his office. To Haber, he didn’t like long term relationships and only believed in the power of free will and independence. But now, he felt lonely. Although he had food supplies etc, he felt deeply alone. He felt a strong sense of apathy and regret. Orr was injured and came looking for Dr Haber. Orr came with a woman too. Orr and Lelache were involved in an accident on the way to Haber’s office. The scene outside was like Hell and Haber wanted Orr to dream and put things right. Haber had improved his augmentor now. Orr believed in the new machine and wanted to try. Orr was surprisingly calm even though there was chaos outside. Both Haber and Orr were impelled towards the window now. They were both sucked in. Haber directed Lelache to the basement now. She went off. There was a large object moving outside the air. Haber wanted Orr to dream about peace and hypnotized him. Haber stared at the alien ship outside. Its snout filled the entire room. Haber was brave and tried to protect the augmentor at all costs. Just as it was about to strike Haber, it withdrew. From the ship’s snout, a giant turtle wearing a suit emerged. The creature said ‘Do not do to others what you wish others not to do to you.’ The creature said that he came in peace and that their species were not armed. It encouraged humans to stop destroying themselves. Finally, the alien ship withdrew. Orr said that he dreamt that an alien entered his office and that Haber and it started talking. That happened in reality. Orr said that an effective dream is a reality. Orr pleaded desperately for Haber to contact the government and stop this mindless killings. In a dream, there was no free will. Orr couldn’t choose, he simply followed. Haber thought that by communicating with the government, Orr would be redundant now.
Orr didn’t like his job now. The continents were unchanged. Portland was now home of the world planning center. The city was very futuristic. Lelache was no longer in the phone book and changed office. Orr suspected that she might not have even been born now. Everyone looked the same now and they all worked in the World Planning Center. They all wore grey clothes. Haber suggested that Orr dreamt a world where there were no more color problems. There were no racial problems anywhere now and war was a problem no more as well. There were no brown people and that was why Orr couldn’t find Lelache. Orr felt the world was empty and people didn’t have character now. Haber was now the Director of HURAD, the vital center of the World Planning Center. He was more powerful now. There was no end and he wanted to keep improving the world. The aliens were allowed to land as they were peaceful. Some of the aliens established businesses on Earth. Mount Hood erupted and caused much pollution. Everyone was grey now. Some members of the crowd were armed with a hypodermic gun, where they could administer euthanasia on others. Later, while walking, Orr saw this sign ‘THE GREATEST GOOD FOR THE GREATEST NUMBER’. Haber wanted to do away with hypnosis now as he had improved his technology. He wanted Orr to try a waking state dream. Orr was suspicious as Haber kept wanting to find out more but he had no cure for him. Haber emphasized the importance of change for the human race. The society now believed in eugenics and will put those with inferior genes to sleep. Now, an alien started talking to Orr. Speech is silver, silence is gold. Self is universe. The augmentor was amplifying what the brain was doing at the moment. Orr said that he couldn’t allow Haber to use his dreams anymore. Haber wanted to induce the e-state in other humans too. He said that if he managed to achieve that, Orr would not be necessary. Haber would not hesitate to use legal or psychic coercion if Orr failed to co-operate. Although the world was better, Orr had his doubts on the future direction of the world. Haber said that Orr was a moral jellyfish when he almost destroyed the world in the past. Haber had to guide Orr along the way. He was adamant that the experimentation needed to continue. Experiments or techniques needed to be replicated in order to be useful. Haber imagined a world like heavens, and men will be like gods! Orr promised to come back tomorrow.

Nobody was every outcaste in India – nobody was every lynched in Alabama – nobody was massacred in Johannesburg! War’s a problem we’ve outgrown and race is a problem we never ever had! Nobody in the entire history of the human race has suffered for the color of his skin. – Dr Haber
When things don’t change any longer, that’s the end result of entropy, the heat-death of the universe. The more things go on moving, interrelating, conflicting, changing, the less balance there is – and the more life. I’m pro-life. – Dr Haber
The world is, no matter how we think it ought to be. You have to be with it. You have to let it be. – George Orr
We need health. We simply have no room for the incurables, the gene-damaged who degrade the species; we have no time for wasted, useless suffering. – Dr Haber
But where’s democratic government got to? People can’t choose anything at all anymore for themselves. Why is everything so shoddy, why is everybody so joyless? – George Orr

George contemplated on the loss of free will. He thought he was insane because he lost it. This life was hollow, there was no room to create. Orr started walking around and went into a shop. The shopowner was an alien. He started talking to it. He asked the alien about Lelache. The alien was Tiua’k Ennbe Ennbe. Orr felt that the aliens were on his side as he could connect with them. The problem with Haber was that he was out of touch. Orr started playing the CD he bought on the phonograph. The lyrics read ‘Do you need anybody? I need somebody to love. I get by, with a little help, with a little help from my friends.’ Lelache was high on marijuana now. Orr felt asleep while listening to the music. Orr managed to find Lelache. She was grey but elated to see him. She encouraged Orr not to go back to Haber at all costs. Orr and she had been married for 7 months already. Haber reminded Lelache of Alexander the Great, who was just power-hungry. Later, Haber stood in their doorway. Haber only promised 1 more session with Orr. Orr said okay. Orr was under hypnosis, as planned. Haber instructed Orr to dream an effective dream, a normal dream. He mentioned what a great help Orr has been to the institute’s work. Orr finally woke up even during d-state . Haber was surprised Orr managed to do that. Orr recalled that he dreamt of a picture of Mount Hood on the wall. He appeared to be in the clear as his dream was normal, and not effective now. Orr was still curious about what the term ‘iahklu’ meant. Orr mentioned that the aliens were a lot better at dreaming than humans. He suggested that Haber work his machine on an alien instead. Orr and Lelache now wanted to head out for dinner. However, something seemed strange and nothing seemed correct anymore. They could not find the restaurant they were looking for. Suddenly, Orr said he needed to return to Haber and he left. Haber started to dream and the whole world started melting now. Mount Hood erupted viciously. Orr warned Lelache not to follow him. It was an incredibly difficult journey back to the Institute. Orr managed to reach for the Augmentor and pushed the button. The world re-existed again. Haber was in a daze. His eyes were empty. Death and terror followed Haber’s dream. Orr knew that he might have lost Lelache in the chaos.

You have to help another person. But it’s not right to play God with masses of people. To be God you have to know what you’re doing. And to do any good at all, just believing you’re right and your motives are good isn’t enough. You have to … be in touch. – George Orr

An alien spoke to Orr. He was E’nememen Asfah. The aliens communicated in a strange way, always very dream-like. The alien invited him to its apartment. It commented that Orr had lived well. Both of them slept. Orr dreamt of oceans and sea turtles that night. The economy was recovering and the world was becoming a better place now. Orr visited a mental asylum now. Dr Haber was the patient. It was unreality that man couldn’t bear. Haber couldn’t speak. Orr’s employer was the alien now. Things were returning to normalcy now. The alien sold kitchen products. Lelache was in their store at the moment. They didn’t seem to remember each other much. It turns out Lelache re-married. Finally, she recalled what happened in the past. He knew he wanted to win her back. His alien boss allowed Orr to take time off to meet Lelache for a meal.


Letters to a Young Novelist by Mario Vargas Llosa

I wanted to write to the famous authors to ask them for advice on how to be a true blue writer. Will you continue to write if no one responds? Very few authors get to become successful. The act of writing is the inherent reward for wanting to write. Writing has, to the novelist, be the best possible way of life. Vocation is not completely a choice at times. Inclination to the field is important as well, apart from vocation. If you have the inclination, then go for it. Authors are rebellious at heart. It needs to be a strong rejection of reality. People write because they imagine themselves as fictional characters in which reality failed to pan out the way they wanted it to. In the past, books were banned as they were deemed to go against the authority in question. Being an author is like having a tapeworm in your body. It will consume all your food and body that you take in. Your life is now dedicated into servitude. You must live to write. You need constant motivation, always aiming to surpass yourself.

The defining characteristic of the literary vocation may be that those who possess it experience the exercise of their craft as its own best reward, much superior to anything they might gain from the fruits of their labours. – Mario Vargas Llosa

If that’s what you choose, you will certainly have taken a very important step, though your future as a writer will still be far from assured. But the decision to commit yourself, to orient your life toward the achievement of your purposes, is already a way – the only possible way – of beginning to be a writer. – Mario Vargas Llosa

The literary vocation is not a hobby, a sport, a pleasant leisure-time activity. It is an all-encompassing, all-excluding occupation, an urgent priority, a freely chosen servitude that turns its victims into slaves. – Mario Vargas Llosa

Literature becomes a permanent preoccupation, something that takes up your entire existence, that overflows the hours you devote to writing and seeps into everything else you do, because the literary vocation feeds off the life of the writer just as the tapeworm feeds off the bodies it invades. – Mario Vargas Llosa

Where do authors get their inspiration from? Writing is like reverse professional stripping. You start off naked, but then you start to put on clothes as you write. An author doesn’t choose his themes, his themes choose him. There are usually events which shake your consciousness/subconsciousness which you feel must be written into stories. An example is Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’. The writer’s responsibility is to convert the themes into literature. All writers have a hidden impulse to write. The more uncomfortable you are in the world, it helps to write. Accept the demons within you. Be authentic about it. Write the things that excite you and you will be more vibrant in your prose. There are no good or bad themes. It all depends on how they are positioned into words in a certain order.

All stories are rooted in the lives of those who write them; experience is the source from which fiction flows. That doesn’t mean, of course, that novels are always thinly disguised biographies of their authors; rather, that in every fiction, even the most freely imagined, it is possible to uncover a starting point, a secret node viscerally linked to the experiences of the writer. – Mario Vargas Llosa

There is something in their lives that make them wish passionately for a world different from the one they live in, a world that they are then compelled to construct of words and upon which they stamp, usually in code, their questioning of real life and their affirmation of that other reality which their selfishness or generosity spurs them to set up in place of the one they’re been allotted. – Mario Vargas Llosa

The novelist who doesn’t write about what deep down stimulates and inspires him and who coldly chooses subjects or themes in a rational manner because he believes that way he’ll have a better chance at success is inauthentic and most likely a bad novelist. – Mario Vargas Llosa

Form gives shape and substance. In great novels, content and form are closely interwined together. To persuade others, your novel must make use of personal experiences. It has to be freed from real life as well. The trick is to live a lie. Depict reality so well that the reader can imagine himself in that space. Fiction must aspire to independence. The next chapter will feature the importance of style in fiction.

Fiction should paint an autonomous reality. A style employed should be efficient. Even if you break grammar rules, it can still come across as great. Coherence and essentiality are the two keys. Some writing can be so excellent that it can mimic the human consciousness. Without coherence, the text won’t flow and makes it difficult to read. Essentiality means being able to feel close to the characters. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s writing style is not intellectual but more sensual. You need to discover your own style and do not copy someone else’s. It is a process of discovery. Technique is also important.

Read constantly, because it is impossible to acquire a rich, full sense of language without reading plenty of good literature, and try as hard as you can, though this is not quite so easy, not to imitate the styles of the novelists you most admire and who first taught you to love literature. – Mario Vargas Llosa

Anyone who writes fiction needs to face the following challenges: ‘narrator’; ‘space’; ‘time’; ‘level of reality’. The narrator is not the author. The narrator only lives in the fictional world and nowhere else. Who will tell the story? Some narrators are like God and can see everything. There are hence three different types of spatial view. It is possible to switch from one form to another while the story unfolds. The story can also be told from various narrators in one book. Flaubert intentionally wanted the narrator to remain a mystery throughout his novels. For classical novels, the narrator seems to reveal himself more as compared to the romantic novels. In writing, every little detail counts towards the grand work.

A narrator-character, an omniscient narrator outside and separate from the story he tells, or an ambiguous narrator whose position is unclear. – Mario Vargas Llosa

Now, we will examine the importance of time. Time in the fiction setting must be invented. There are two kinds of time: chronological and psychological. Psychological time is subjective and it depends on what we are doing. In novels, psychological time is more applicable. An author can use many chapters to describe a period of time. You can use present, past or future tense when narrating the story. Fiction uses a temporal point of view. A novel usually uses more than 1 temporal view. In some stories, it is possible to go back in time to feature an old man who gradually gets younger as the story progresses. It is also possible to narrate from a different universe, where time is different. Ulysses covers just 24 hours in a man’s life. Form does not really exist. Form and content are inter-wined. There is no stopping time.

The relationship between the space and time plane the author occupies will affect the space and time in the author’s world. There are the ‘real’ and the ‘fantastic’ worlds. Those with we can relate from everyday experiences are known as ‘real’. The narrator can be on a different level of reality from the characters in the story. Good authors can take advantage of different levels of reality. Sometimes, authors uncover aspects of life or the human experience and it gives them a refreshing vision of life. In every novel, there are 3 types of views. 1) Spatial point of view; 2) temporal point of view and 3) level-of-reality point of view.

This is the great triumph of technical skill in novel writing: the achievement of invisibility; the ability to endow a story with color, drama, subtlety, beauty, and suggestive power so effectively that no reader even notices the story exists; under the spell of its craftsmanship, he feels that he is not reading but rather living a fiction that, for a while at least and as far as he is concerned, supplants life. – Mario Vargas Llosa

When the narrator shifts from ‘He’ to ‘I’, there is a change in spatial perspective. They should help increase persuasion for the novel. Temporal shifts are also possible and more likely to happen. It is possible for there to be change in realms, from ‘real’ to ‘fantasy’. An example would be ‘Moby Dick’. It is like a puzzle, where smaller and smaller identical parts nestled inside each other. Learn to fit stories inside stories. Each story can be subordinate to another.

The true subject of a novel involves shared human experience: the way people retreat into fantasy and fiction in order to enrich their lives, and the way fictions created in the mind are built on the little occurrences of daily life. Fiction is not life as it is lived but a different life, conjured out of the materials supplied by life; without fiction, real life would be a paler and drearier affair. – Mario Vargas Llosa

Hemingway often leaves significant silences in his stories. There is always a question mark over the central event of the story. He tells by keeping quiet. Silence will force the reader to keep guessing. Faulkner was also the expert at hidden information. Sometimes, the sum of an episode is more than its parts. It is not possible to isolate theme, style, order, points of view from one another. Criticism can be a useful guide as well. Forget about the importance of a structure to a novel. You just need to sit down and write.