Book Review: The Lunatic
Anthony Winkler was an accounting clerk with various businesses in the city of Kingston. In 1962, he migrated to California in the United States, where he attended California State University. After leaving university, he then joined a firm of college textbook publishers who influenced him to begin writing.
He became a full-time writer in 1975 and returned briefly to Jamaica where he was married. Shortly thereafter, he returned to the United States, where he established himself as a writer of tertiary-level textbooks.
Mr. Winkler has written many books including ‘The Lunatic’. This fictional book which became a bestseller was published and copyrighted in 1987, by Kingston Publisher Limited which was located at Norwood Avenue in Kingston.
This book is about a madman, Aloysius, who lived in a rural community. Aloysius’s company was the trees and bushes, who he was in continuous argument with, except the lone flame heart tree which was his friend. His only abode was the bushes found off the beaten paths. He wandered in the bush picking fruits to feed and supported himself by doing odd jobs.
He had a shocking and upsetting first meeting with a German woman, Inga, in the bush. Inga is a frightening white woman who has come from Germany to learn the island’s customs. She doesn’t befriend Aloysius, more like she takes control of his life and intimidates him. In between the lessons about flora and fauna, Inga demands sex at her command, anywhere and anytime. This brutal and boisterous woman came to live with him, after her demands and attics for sex got both of them in trouble and the tongues started ‘wagging’ in the district.
She befriended a butcher, Service, and all three lived in the bush, and built a little abode together. The crisis occurred when Inga’s father stopped sending her money, then she concocted a plan and persuaded Aloysius and Service the butcher, to break into the house of Busha, to steal his cash. Aloysius, by this point, thinks Inga is the love of his life, and will do anything to keep her from returning home.
Busha was the rich white man that lived in the district and had all the wealth and an abundance of land. However, things turned for the worse when Busha came home and caught them stealing. Busha was chopped and all three, Inga, Service, and Aloysius must face charges that could send them to prison. They were taken to court where a prominent barrister from Kingston sought to represent the madman. Aloysius did not suffer entirely, but he did not go back to his normal way of life either.
The Lunatic primarily entertains and informs
This book captures the elements of Jamaican culture and daily life, in a funny, astoundingly compelling, and enlightening medium. Mr. Winkler’s book is highly unique; especially in the ways chosen to give its readers a new point of view on numerous topics. It represented key issues such as racism, discrimination, prejudice, and social inequalities in a comedic manner.
You could see some of these issues through the dialog of Busha. He preferred to be buried in Kingston where animals could not defecate on his grave. He did not want to be ‘lord over’ by the black man in his death, and was extremely upset to even see a black cherub on someone’s grave.
Busha was prejudiced, he did not openly discriminate against the people but through his attitude you could see his genuine dislike for the people, that he knew all his life; whose only difference from him was their skin color and standard of life.
Social inequality was correctly brought out in the book.
This is a true reflection of what currently exists in Jamaica. The rich white folk own over eighty percent of the wealth leaving the poor black folk to scrabble over the crumbs which remain. The crab in the barrel syndrome also existed, and the ‘bad mind’ culture was present.
The shopkeeper was an example of how we turn our nose up at our own people when we seemingly have a higher level of wealth, control, or power. He did not even know their names but remembered them by the amount of money they owed him. It was sad to see this but one must admit the reality of our actions and our culture.
The purpose of the book was communicated and cloaked in humor.
There was no difficulty trying to figure out who the main character was. This was easily identified from the first sentence of the first paragraph. Aloysius, the madman, speaks to trees, bushes; even a rock and he had a thousand names. One was able to understand his mannerisms and behavior while being incessantly entertained.
The author related the Jamaican way of life, which is pertinent to all of us. The validity of the story is proven by the connection one can make with the story. You were able to identify characters and general incidents, like the curry goat cricket match, in the story.
Other plots that any Jamaican could relate to were the incidents of women ‘peeing’ in the bush, or having a teacher who would have you do language and math drills out loud for the entire community to hear.
One was able to visualize and identify with the characters as the book spoke to the Jamaican context; which is replicated throughout the chapters of the test. The audience could be considered to be anyone who reads the book. The language would be somewhat difficult for persons who do not know the Jamaican dialect.
The Lunatic does give meanings or inference to the meaning of certain ‘patois’ terms, which would assist persons of other cultural backgrounds.
The subject matter might give the impression of being a plain ridiculous Jamaican comedy, but the writing style is expressive and uncomplicated. There are two main low points of this book.
Firstly, is that as grand and entertaining as the book began and it was almost without life at the end, mostly anti-climatic? One would think that the author didn’t have any more ideas of humour and the story ended almost abruptly.
Secondly, even though this is a work of fiction, the elements are all primarily believable. Therefore this tread should continue throughout the book. There was a hint or inclination of disregard by the writer to the people of that district. For example, a Jamaican country, Christian woman would not so easily and believably sleep with, a madman.
The author brilliantly used emotional appeal and characterization through out this story. There were bursts of fear, anger, joy, which ‘swayed and rocked’ the readers. His command for literary devices was obvious with his use of metaphor and simile present in many of the conversations by Aloysius. Personification and apostrophe was the backbone of the Aloysius’s ‘madness’ where tree, bushes, almost every living and dead thing carried on a conversation with him. This granted substance and believability to his condition.
Anthony C. Winkler’s ‘Lunatic’ is a particularly good book, however, a little beyond the halfway mark; it fails to fill you with the same ‘zeal and zest’ that it originally started out with. Also, if at the end of reading this text, the reader fails to understand the meaning of ‘pum-pum’ then the reader has failed to understand this book. Overall, it was very funny and a pleasant distraction from the other books which would almost seem monotonous compared to ‘The Lunatic’.
The Lunatic was very funny and entertaining.
It reflected the rural Jamaican experience. Aloysius was very creditable and first-rate main character. He fulfilled his duty to the role and constantly reminded his of his purpose and character throughout the book. The subject matter might give the impression of being a plain ridiculous Jamaican comedy, but the writing style is expressive and uncomplicated.
The supporting characters were also commendable compared to the madman, but at times could have been given more substance to show their relevance to the plot of the story. Busha was, at times, very entertaining in his antics and experiences. He played the antagonist to Aloysius, especially wanting to see him thrown in prison for his actions. The gentleman friend of Busha, who liked Sarah, his issue, seemed to be left hanging. It would have been interesting to see further developments there.
Though the widow played a key role at the end she should have in some way been a little more present in the text. The Lunatic proved to be one of the better books written by a Jamaican author and did its job in gaining international regard and recognition, not just for the author but also for the country.
About the writer:
Denise N. Fyffe is a published author of over 40 books, for more than ten years and enjoys volunteering as a Counselor. She is a trainer, publisher, author, and writing mentor; helping others to achieve their dreams.
Check out her book The Caribbean Family
The family is the genesis of all societies. Every culture has its distinct rules by which a family is governed, and the Caribbean family is no exception. Those rules differ within each group; for the Indians, Chinese, and Africans. Making up most of the population in the Caribbean, African families have spawned several sub-units or types; some of which are unique to the African culture. This book explores each family type and their history within the Caribbean.
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