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Join the Revolution, Comrade: Journeys and Essays

by Charles Foran

Charles Foran’s first collection of essays is an eclectic compilation of travel and literary writings that reveals a preoccupation, not always clearly articulated, with establishing a connection to the present age and feeling the truth of life.

Foran, a novelist and non-fiction writer living in Peterborough, Ontario, seems to have addressed this need in part through extensive travel, mostly in Asia, and through writing about travel. His observations suggest that journeys to places of historical and contemporary significance have compelled him to leave behind, with some admitted unease, the superficial dreamworld of a youth spent watching TV.

An appreciation for the possibilities of language and literature, Foran argues, is another powerful means to liberate ourselves from our surface realities. Novels, especially the sort that make intellectual and emotional demands on the reader, may ultimately reward us with reminders of what it means to be truly human.

With a steady confidence, playful language, and a willingness to probe ideas without providing answers, Foran covers a vast terrain in this collection. Whether discussing the effects of extreme pornography, the state of American fiction, the monstrous beauty of Shanghai, or the experience of living in and leaving Hong Kong during the SARS crisis, Foran takes seriously his role as a writer who’s alert and engaged with the world.

“Join the Revolution, Comrade” –  a line from a Bernardo Bertolucci film repeatedly delivered by a Beijing friend of Foran’s – serves not only as the title of this collection and of its lead essay, but it also becomes a unifying thread throughout the book – a challenge to both the author and the reader to take up the cause of awakening and be fully present in the age in which we live.