Tim Comrie Comics and Art

Updates on the comics and art of Toronto Artist tim comrie

Of Human Bondage by Farley Somerset Wong

 
 Of Human Bondage
 
  Of Human Bondage is the story of Charlie Parish, a young Yorkie-Chin bought by a middle class, Western family. Many insist that Parish is a thinly-veiled portrait of the book’s author, Farley Somerset Wong. “This is a novel, not an autobiography, though much in it is autobiographical, more is pure invention,” the author once stated. Still one can’t deny the similarity of the book’s protagonist’s name to its author’s.

Plot Summary
 
  From the story’s outset Parish struggles with issues of cultural disparity and shyness. Charlie’s Chinese Cantonese heritage is at odds with his new family’s Japanese cultural practices and Canadian influences. Furthermore, while he appreciates the wit and intelligence of the all-woman household of the Ritsukos, he is intimidated by their extroverted manner and prefers to seek solace in solitary activities such as art and poetry.
 
  The new family often treats Charlie as an instrument for their entertainment, dressing him in humorous costumes, laughing, and taking photos to be shared with the neighbours. Charlie finds these experiences degrading and the wounds to his self-view inform unfortunate choices later in the story.

  One such “dress up” session haunts Charlie above all others. He is bound with balloons around his collar which inhibit his movement. The Ritsuko women laugh uproariously, seeing him as a delightful caricature of a popular new singer, known for her extravagant costumes. This painful moment reinforces Charlie’s bleak philosophy. Life seems to him a series of thefts: firstly, that of his biological family, then, that of his dignity, and, finally, that of his belief in romantic fulfillment.
"God gives us the world which can be divided into chunks. He takes one chunk here, another there, and before you know it, everything you were born with is taken."
  Charlie attends behavior school and falls inexplicably in love with an unsightly and vulgar Cairn Terrier by the name of Loraine. His strange passion for her alienates his pathetically small group of friends as they cannot turn a blind eye to her tactless use of expletives.
 
  Events worsen when Charlie’s uncle, William, suffers a decline in health. William had encouraged Charlie’s interest in art and had inspired Charlie with eloquent similes about the young nephew’s poetry and William’s own passion for painting. When William’s right eye develops Primary Glaucoma, the aging dog’s extolment of art and its transcendental qualities happen with less frequency and conviction.
 
  As Charlie’s creative pursuits provide less and less satisfaction, and as those who had once inspired him become less enamoured with life, Charlie becomes embittered, moreso than he thought he ever would.
Criticism
  While many champion Wong’s seminal novel as a masterpiece of modern prose, others have criticized it as a drawn-out, self-indulgent, personal essay with “Life sucks” as its thesis.