Author: Julian Jingles
Critic: Glenville Ashby, PhD
On a well-tapered literary canvas, author Julian Jingles has etched a brutal, provocative tale of excess, greed and death – defying struggle for redemption. Art imitates life in this whirling cacophony of racy, edgy emotions. Such is the daunting beauty of A Reason for Living.
Battle lines are drawn, and with bated breaths, we can only anticipate the outcome. Still, no one is sure. Justice, they say, prevails, always. But in this ever-curling narrative, we dare not wager.
A Reason for Living captures the libidinous impulses of youth. Here, Freud’s castration complex is played out to a hilt, and Jung’s anima and animus, are ever present. It is a world where lust is brutal and love is sentimental. And we recoil at the unapologetic virility of Bernaldo, a rambunctious bloke, intelligent, though, he is.
His sexual exploits rattle the senses and his comeuppance, we hope for. Relationships are ephemeral and women are dispensable, used, and whimsically discarded. Herein, are the seeds of patriarchy, and worse. Why we are willing to endure this assault on human decency is anyone’s guess. Maybe, it’s Howard, an artsy figure, despite his complicity in revolting acts of sex – consensual and non-consensual. Incest, only adds to the nauseating depravity.
Howard’s sensitivity, his aloofness, vulnerability and philosophical musings soften his sometimes edgy, repugnant actions. Maybe it’s the hope and authenticity we see in Robin, a passionate, driving force. Or maybe it’s the magnanimity of successful businessman, Old Edmond, who is torn by the ‘sexual indecency’ of his much loved daughter. There is little tolerance for same-sex relationships on the islands, especially back then. We feel for Old Edmond, a man shattered by the excesses of youth. But in the end, Providence rewards him.
Be that as it may, we are nonetheless magnetized. There is magic, albeit dark, on these pages. Jingles is an able raconteur, compelling, ear-splitting and raw. And a provocateur, no doubt.
Well-timed and with artful fluidity, Jingles shifts his narrative thrust. We welcome the simmering cries of revolution, as they move to supplant the suffocating fires of lust and youthful sensibilities.
Justice rages against the old order, and oligarchic reign is threatened. Jamaica’s subculture emerges, demanding attention, demanding redemption. The ghosts of slavery hover, and the nagging question of identity, of nationalism, is ever at the fore. It’s Jamaica, circa 1960s, and blacks are penned in, stripped of dignity and livelihood. A waste of human potential. Conditions are deteriorating at an alarming pace.
“The educated young people were leaving the country in search of foreign jobs,“ we read. “The unemployment rate was disastrous…Ninety-five percent of the population was of African descent, and of that, 80 percent was poor working class and peasants.”
Robin’s cry to Old Edmond reverberates: “We must fight, Uncle Ed. It’s all we have left. We have talked enough, suffered enough, been treated like dogs up to our necks. We are only left with our strength, our courage and our hearts. And with them, we must defend our own.”
Revolutionary fervor spreads, capturing the imagination of Howard, Bernaldo and even Old Edmond, all of whom, like Robin, are well-heeled. Yes, there are token blacks, but unlike Jingles’ protagonists they [are] referred to as “whiskies – black-whites.”
The brewing revolt that spells peril for the apparatchik.
Alliances are formed with the persecuted Rastafarian Movement, ever waiting for that fortuitous moment for liberation, for repatriation to the Motherland. And a handful of Muslims come on board. Anticipation grows.
“For years we have been training in the hills, for this day, which we knew would come,” reveals Ras Monk, to Robin. “We are only a few hundred strong in the city, but we have training camps in two other places. All we need are the guns. We have the men, we have the heart, and we have the Almighty, the Father, the conquering Lion of Judah.”
Robin is closer to his mission. Sparks of Che and Fidel.
Still, throughout, love and lust jockey for position. Understandably, Maria, a woman in love with Howard, balks at his adventurism. How innocent she is of the fervent bond that exists between the man she adores, his cousin Robin and Bernaldo, his closest friend. And although war destroys longstanding relationships, we believe that these three men will remain Brothers-in-Arms. But are they really willing to put nation before loved ones? Can the draw of nationalism be that strong?
So it appears, as the well-orchestrated revolt erupts just before the opening of parliament. Scores on both sides are killed and injured. The president narrowly escapes. Howard is intimately involved. His aggression and impulsivity befuddle. Somehow, though, he remains a sympathetic figure.
The revolutionaries draw first blood. More is on the way. Like Robin, Howard must grapple with resistance from family members. “All men can’t be rich,” screams Christine, his sister. ”…[and] through your stupidity, you are hunted by the soldiers. Think you’re going to get away when they find you?” Later, Maria is shredded by her mother’s sobering words; “That’s who you are in love with? A man who throws his life away to the government?”
But love can be bewildering. A phenomenon like no other.
More importantly, cracks within the ranks appear as the death toll among the rebels rises. But the masses, the rural people, identify with the insurrectionists, and a cunning plan by Howard to bring down the presidency once and for all, could usher in a new era for a beleaguered nation.
We are assured that Jingles’ work will come to a screeching, climatic end.
A Reason for Living is a highly complex work that pits sense against sensibility. Emotions surge, transforming men in unfathomable ways. And as love and revolution march in lock-step, Jingles might well have earned a place among the region’s more interesting writers.
A Reason for Living by Julian Jingles
© 2017 Julian Jingles
Available at Amazon
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