Friday February 22, 2013
A 'yellow' outlook on life
Review by VIJAY DORAI
The Yellow World: Trust Your Dreams and They’ll Come True
Author: Albert Espinosa
Publisher: Particular Books,
EVERYONE who has battled cancer directly or indirectly carries a story of courage, resilience and inspiration.
There is Terry Fox who left a lasting memory in the way he defied the consequences of cancer and spread cancer awareness in an unbelievably powerful way. There are enduring memories of great intellectuals like Randy Pausch, who, at the precipice of death, turned around for one Last Lecture. There is Steve Jobs, who shaped the socio-cultural trends of an entire generation with his legacy of art and technology while battling cancer.
And then there is Albert Espinosa, whose peculiar outlook on life and idiosyncratic ideologies add an eccentric dimension to the variety that left this reader of his book a little bemused.
In The Yellow World, Espinosa shares the discoveries he made while battling cancer for 10 years between the ages of 14 and 24, losing one arm and one lung in the process.
From those years, he developed the idea of a “Yellow World”, where “yellows” live in pursuit of happiness through “yellow discoveries”. The book, he claims, is not about surviving cancer. It is about living your life in this new world where there are no rules.
The writer comes off as whimsical and strained in his attempt to smother the reader with platitudinous wisdom. The 23 discoveries that make up the core of the book are a collection of anecdotes from his life that are at times interesting but mostly over-the-top fanciful.
Some of these chapters are named after exhausted clichés like “Losses Are Positive” and “The Word Pain Doesn’t Exist”. However, one can also find in there some fascinating ideas, such as the chapter entitled “Start Counting At Six”. Here, the author discusses average brain capacities of human beings and about not accepting the “factory setting” of our brains and improving its usage.
That the author frequently emphasises that there are no rules in the Yellow World is ironic, to say the least, as the book in itself can be considered a rule book for “yellow” initiation. For example, there is the ill-defined fixation on the number 23; there are 23 discoveries that make the basis for the yellow world and every person only has 23 fellow “yellows”, no more, no less.
The whole yellow agenda seems laboured and reads like an idea grappling for acceptance.
Like this reader, some readers may find Espinosa way off the rails when going through the chapters on the do’s and dont’s of the Yellow World.
For instance, his declaration that two of the primary activities of yellows are to hug and stroke each other and that “one of the great mistakes we make (is to) not stroke each other more often...” comes off as not just radical but brash and imprudent. Furthermore, the book does not flow smoothly, with seemingly no real intention for one chapter to lead to the next. As much as Espinosa is interested in lists (nearly every chapter ends with a list of steps to follow), the sophistication of his lists and the thought put into each one are limited, if at all present. He recognises this, one too many times warning the reader that they are not in any particular order.
There are, however, fascinating chapters that fill the heart with tender, warm feelings. The egghead (the cancer patients in this book nickname themselves eggheads) adventures chronicling the author’s little escapades with the other patients during his time in the cancer ward are well narrated and has inspired him to create the TV series Polseres Vermelles which means “red bracelets” in Catalan. The English language rights for the series has reportedly been bought by Steven Spielberg and is entitled The Red Band Society, named after the tags around the wrists of these in-patients.
The Yellow World never really got around to defining yellow or the need for this new world order. There is a fine line between insanity and genius, and Albert Espinosa travels recklessly between the two throughout this book.
Do we need a new relationship defined somewhere in between friends and lovers? Do we not have enough happiness (and problems) with existing relationships? Am I expected to hug, stroke, sleep with and watch these new yellow friends of mine wake up, as part of the Yellow World rules? I think I’ll pass.