Tuesday, October 4, 2011

FIXI #6: Amerika

I don't know if this book actually falls under the Buku FIXI banner, but since you can buy the book at FIXI booths and also her website, I'm just going to lump this review under the same category. So without further ado, here are my comments about AMERIKA, the latest novel by the author of Cekik, Ridhwan Saidi.

Alright, so I have previously said that Cekik happens to be my favourite out of all FIXI novels so far. It's pretty unorthodox as far as novels are concerned, unapologetic about its subject matter and it doesn't condescend to the readers. Well, in a true Ridhwan Saidi fashion, you can expect the same thing from Amerika. It's going to be batshit insane, and you're going to feel like you're on LSD by the end of it.

Alright, I'm exaggerating.

One thing you'll notice almost straightaway is how the author took the shock value down a notch or two. So yeah, there won't be a middle-aged Pak Imam jacking off before ejaculating into his son's mouth. None of that going on in this one. Except for that one line where he casually referenced to the main character of Cekik, Syed Warith. So what remains is that feeling of surrealism, although much of it is reserved for the second half of the book.

It was clear that author Ridhwan Saidi didn't want to just repeat what he did for Cekik, this time around he opted to provide more social commentaries and criticisms. Although they all preached to the choir, it doesn't mean I didn't find them to be any less intriguing. The characters talk about how easy it has been for those in power to exploit the wealth of this country because most Malaysians just don't know how to take a hint.

As the Rakyat, too much is expected from us to simply accept things the way they are, may it be working two shifts a day to feed our families, or to tighten our belts whenever the government tells us with a straight face that "the future looks bleak" while they announce the annual budget wearing their RM2,000 Armani suits and leave the building in their Mercedes. Those aren't the exact words used in the novel, but that's the kind of message that the author is trying to get across.

Story wise, it's going to take me a little more time to digest it because like I said, Ridhwan Saidi's stories have been rather unconventional so far. You read it once, there's one story. Read it another time and another interpretation opens up.

But my first impression is this; it's not really character-driven, if anything it doesn't feel like there's a real character at all. But that's a good thing because here's how I interpreted the whole thing; Amerika isn't really about characters like Murshid Merican, Aneeta Kaur or even Dahlia. Instead the characters in the story are actually the cities, like Kuala Lumpur and Miami. The people who inhabit both cities are merely projections, or rather reflections of who the cities are, and by extension who we are as a nation.

What, you don't think a city can be a living, breathing character as well? C'mon, it's literature. Open your mind. The possibilities are endless!

So yeah, it was a good read and Amerika feels like a proper follow up to his first novel. It's heavier without being overly-preachy and it retains much of that whole thing with surrealism. Needless to say, it might not be for everyone. I, on the other hand really enjoyed it because I come from a literary background.

And no, I'm not being snooty, I'm just telling you what kind of mindset I have so you'll know what kind of nonsense I have stored in my cranium.

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