Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Comment on "The Specialist, a look into the other"

I would have to agree with your interpretation of the frigid woman in Alice. As I was reading about what you thought the significance of Alice's name was, I thought that it sounded very similar to "All ice". I thought that this was quite fitting, as the imagery used includes the icy tundra, icebergs, and frigid barrenness.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Reply to "Faith Makes Life Possible...Not Easy"

I believe that Allan hit the nail on the head with his blog about the short story "Wait" and its true underlying meaning. Everyone is going to be tried in their life, and no matter it be big or small, everyone will be tried. It is how we respond to these situations when they are presented to us. Do we do what we know is truly correct and have faith that by doing this everything will turn out how it is meant to, or do we just follow the crowd, and do what me know is wrong. I agree with the point Allan makes about how the story starts out just as another typical flight delay in the airport, but as the plot grows and thickens it becomes more apparent that some of these things are a bit over the top from something that would really happen. The author uses these examples just to try the faith of all the characters who are stranded in the airport, and see who has the stronger faith of them all. It is a situation of the survival of the fittest. But that wish the fittest faith and strongest will to do the right thing and turn away from one knows is wrong. This is the case when everyone turns against eachother and the Businessman and young women are left. In the end they are rewarded with a hot air balloon landing next to the airport conveniently so they can escape and get away. It is like a message from above, and a reward for there strong will and faith for doing the right thing. We all encounter situations such as this one in our daily lives. Some of the challenges are big while others are smaller, yet they still challenge our faith. I think Allan brings up a good point about the active role of faith in everyones life and how they choose to use it, or abuse it.

Literature & Faith

It is common knowledge that the primary focus of literature and short fiction is to reveal and expand on some truth about humanity. In the story "God Lives in St. Petersburg," the main character experiences a loss of faith after leaving America to become a missionary to the people of Asia, primarily the Soviet Union. However, once he arrives and spends a decent amount of time doing his "closeted" missionary work by posing as an English teacher, he comes to the realization that it is nearly impossible to try to save the people. Not only is in he a very low socio-economic place in the world, but the people also have lost faith that things could and would ever get better. They have no hope. He then comes to this same mindset and begins to not care much for anything. His ultimate act against God is having sexual relations with the underage boy. At this point, he has lost all hope of faith and is completely going against his religion. The reader almost gets a feeling of sympathy for the emphasis of his losing of place in the world. He becomes a lost soul who commits sexual acts not for pleasure, but because of what has happened to him. In the end, there can be two different interpretations of what he does with the girl. One side can take it to mean that he realizes that he can save one person by bringing her to America, rather than trying to convert an entire nation. However, on the other hand, his sleeping with the fourteen year old girl can also again follow along the lines of the consistent theme of him "being a lost soul" and emphasize that concept.

The Specialist, a look into the other

The Specialist
I found the story to be very interesting, particularly in its role as a feminine point of view on aspects of sexuality and gender. While I could hardly ever know what it is like to be a frigid woman seeking answers about some sort of unsolvable sexual problem, it was certainly a story that made me think. The fantastic elements about actually having vast plains of nothingness within poor Alice, and the obvious allegory to frigidity with the icicles and terrifyingly cold temperatures provided insight into the issue that a woman may face. The problem seems ethereal and impossible, yet still persists. It haunts the woman, despite all the efforts to normalize. Men literally enter her one after the other trying to solve the problem, all unsuccessful. While I don’t know if it is significant, I found her name, Alice to be interesting as well. My first thought hearkened to Alice of Alice in Through the Looking Glass, which lends to fantastic tales of entering a mystical, defying logic and science sort of place, similar to Alice’s situation in the story.
Alice is publicized and scrutinized for her unsolvable oddity and made into a public icon on a talk show, which also made me think of Oprah’s showcasing of odd, outside the norm women who somehow relate to all women. One woman even asked if it ached, but Alice was unable to make a real connection with her, indicating it is all just a show. And seemingly, just as mysteriously as it came, the affliction leaves her; the symbolic ocean of time and persistence and tranquility, ebbing and flowing soon takes it away. These mysterious (particularly to me, a male) situations show an experience that requires the fantastic and ethereal to relate to.

"Faith make life possible...not easy"

When I first began to read the story "Wait" I could relate as I too have experienced flight delays and having to wait in a terminal for prolonged periods of time. However as the story seemed to progress further the events which transpire are quite frankly unbelievable. Everything which could have gone wrong did go wrong. This series of unfortunate events made me question how the accountant and ghanian woman were able to be put to the test so many times and not give in to temptations like the other passengers did. The answer I found was that they must have had great faith and trust in their own decisions. This leads me on to my next point as I believe that this book is a metaphor for life; as life throws at people many hardships. It is up to the people to keep their faith and deal with them appropriately, of course their is never a right answer however the decision made will potentially open a new line of events. For example the cubans decision to hijack the plane leads to them taking the wrong plane and crashing it into the control tower; this of course is a very hard lesson to be learned but it indeed shows that the decisions made during life's hardship's will have circumstances...some good, some bad. I suppose my main point in this whole blog is to keep your faith in tact as sometimes you may want to question your faith however you have to remember that "faith makes life possible not easy."

Two for the Show

The title is only a reflection of my forgetfulness, and this blog I suppose is then only a manifestation of persistence... At any rate, I found "God Lives in Saint Petersburg" to be a quick and enthralling read. I liked how the book contrasted the piety of Timothy against the city's sins and ignorance. He quickly succumbs to his temptations after being so far separated from his God. I begin to wonder what sins Timothy developed as he entered Saint Petersburg, or whether they were only sins he bore and carried with him there. Either way, he does have these temptations, such as gay pedaphelia, and he does demonstrate these temptations while in Saint Petersburg.

There is a bleak overall tone to the peace that greatly reflects on the hopelessness of the region and the hopelessness of Timothy's faith ever finding him there.

I can not help but think that if Timothy had been more deeply invested in his faith he might have seen alternatives to what was suggested to him. For instance, why not just take Susana to America, not as a wife, but just to give her the opportunity to get out of Saint Petersburg and find a living she wanted. Or at least get her into the ministry or something. Timothy seems to be so short sighted in his options. If the answers weren't slearly spelt out for him, he didn't have an answer for his problems. For instance, he came to teach the gospel of christianity, but after being turned away once he recedes into a regular english teacher. At least try to percerviere Timothy!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Right or Wrong?

The story that interested me the most this week was that of Wait. It was a story that you can kind of understand the truth, but then it's fictional towards the end. It connected to me in certain ways too because I have in fact spent extra hours (actually an entire night) in an airport on my way to a basketball tournament. Although things never escalate to a mass war with meteorites crashing down and fog that never seems to go away, but there are some similarities. It was funny as I read the story to see how the author began to explain how certain social classes and races began to separate and even go as far as to divide themselves by tape. It's amazing how much the mind can wander while having so much time on your hands. From creating certain ways to have the Olympic events, to creating a governmental status, to creating trade and surviving with the resources they had. You also have to look at the possible stereotype that the author had to certain groups of people such as the Cubans, when they attempted to leave the airport and ended up crashing and burning, to the alleged doping scandal of a particular group when they entered the Olympics. The resourcefulness that the passengers of the planes and the people of the airport had is very intriguing, and the sheer ability of the mind and the way it works is a feat in itself. It was interesting to see how things began to develop with each passing our and the irony of constantly receiving the message that, "The fog will be rising and the plane will be departing momentarily . . . " is something that brings the story out, because it seems as if that's what we are always hearing when we go to the airport.

Wait

I find the story “Wait” very interesting because of its absurdity. There is a Bulgarian poet who cannot get his head out of the clouds. There are mindless airline personnel an all powerful voice over the loudspeaker. There is a meteor strike and a hot air balloon that saves the day when it falls from nowhere. Yet, as entertaining and laughable the absurdities of the tale are, they are all part of a metaphor about the ways of the world. I think this is an excellent way to tell a story because it is fun and fanciful but still discusses poignant truths.


One of the most interesting elements of the story is the mysterious men that prevent the passengers from leaving the airport. I wonder about who the author intended these men to be. Who are the police that prevent people from escaping their circumstances in today’s world? I also wonder about the three women who refused to reveal their nationality. When they were placed in the group “others” it made them very angry, and they refused to be labeled as “others” the next day. The author tells us that nobody listened to their complaints. Who are these people supposed to represent in modern society? Perhaps they are not meant to represent a single racial or ethnic group, but all the people whose voices are never heard. The section of the story which talks about the Cubans who plot a revolution and crash their airplane seems to be a cutting muse on Cuban history. Finally, I have been thinking about the way different people in this story try to get along and how it does not work in the end. Everyone ends up killing each other. At first it would seem that the author is a person who believes all the people of the world are doomed because of their inclination towards conflict, but the hot air balloon is a powerful symbol of hope and a wonderful way to conclude the story.

Wait

I thought the short story Wait was an accurate critique of issues existent in the world today. Throughout the story readers are introduced to characters from a host of different nations and cultures who are stranded at a rather screwed up airport terminal. They are all waiting in vain for a plane to come rescue them from their current existence, thus creating a situation that exposes the problems that arise when opposing views collide (we all know how cranky people get when they’re plane doesn’t come on time). We see “nations” band together in times of need and battle each other in times of “war”. It was interesting how each “nation” had its own distinctive fighting technique and used it to the best of their ability. This reminded me of all the guerilla warfare that is currently plaguing our globe today. We also see the Cubans lead a mass revolt just as Castro did in 1959, although the outcomes were slightly different. We see the unifying effects of the Olympic Games, despite the stereotypical undertones the author implies: Kenyans win the marathon, Chinese win table tennis, etc. I really liked how the author included the Olympics because it was a fairly accurate depiction of their state and purpose today. They seemed to largely serve as a unifying experience for all the “nations”, much as they do presently. Here, I was drawn to think about the latest Olympic Games and our not-so-stellar relations with their host, China. Finally, I saw the author moving toward a broad escape from oppressive world powers as he ends the story with a narrow flee from impending death.

Christianity? Really?

After looking at Jake's post I would have to agree with this. It seems that the author of "God Lives in St. Petersburg" is trying to give the idea that Christians are hypocrits. Timothy feels resentful when he has sex with Sasha because he knows that is against his religion, but as soon as he has sex with Susanna he feels "closer to God". This raises questions about religion and morals. While he is having sex with Susanna or even after having sex with her, why doesn't he think about religion. I'm pretty sure that fornication is sin in the Christian faith, not to mention that she is 14 years old.
It seems that the author is making fun of Christians by making one sin less that another sin. Having sex with a under age girl is not as bad as having sex with a man, so God forgives you. This is what I get from this when Timothy says he is closer to God. He evens thinks about if one of his sins is greater than another, " . . . he wondered if his greatest sin was not that he was pushing himself into non-vaginal warmth but that his worship was now for man and not man's maker." God forgives, but sin is sin and I feel that the author was poking fun at Christians for being such hypocrits.

God Forgot To Move to St. Petersburg

It was discussed or question in class, whether or not “God Lives In St. Petersburg” was a religious critique. And one or two people seemed to find that it was not. All viewpoints and interpretations are construed by the sensitive subject of one’s religion or lack thereof, but how much? When I reread the first paragraph in class, I was not sure how it could be interpreted differently. The first sentence should indicate the author’s meaning when he says, “GOD, IN TIME, takes everything from everyone” (17). This is simple enough in that it blatantly labels god a hypocrite. Why would god take everything from everyone? Does he need something? Sure, it could insinuate everyone’s death, but to use the word ‘take’ is not a description fit for praising god. If I were to write a pro-religious critique, similar to “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” my first sentence would not be this. Following this, Brissell makes several more notable critiques of God and his meaning. But, the most revealing part of the paragraph is attached to the claim that god destroys his most devout, when he notes Timothy reasoning for the hardships he knows, “Timothy reconciled God’s need to destroy with God’s opulent love by deciding that, when He destroys you, it was done out of the truest love, the deepest, most divine respect. God could not allow perfection . . .” (17). The authors claim here highlights the obvious contradiction in religion’s excuse for the horrible pain and atrocities that are a natural part of human nature and its history. If Timothy didn’t struggle so much with his misunderstanding for human suffering and his own, he could pass them off as “God’s great plan,” or “That god works in mysterious ways.” But since Timothy himself struggles how his own desires fit into “god’s opulent love,” he begins to lose faith under the weight of its hypocrisy. Plus, when a man of god has sex with a boy and a fourteen year old girl, the red flags should go up. One could argue he was used as an example, but he never redeems himself or has that moment of clarity, as we see in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” He only waits for god to unveil his great plan, but instead, it begins to rain.

Religion and Rape

I found the culmination of the story “God Lives in St. Petersburg terribly interesting. Timothy is a missionary who has lost his faith in God. He has regular sexual relations with Sasha, a young man of undisclosed and possibly adolescent age. The story climaxes as Timothy is faced with a decision. He is offered a young girl’s hand in marriage. Susana’s mother tries to persuade Timothy to marry her daughter in hopes that she will have her opportunity to get away from their impoverished homeland.

The story ends with Timothy having sex with Susana. After he had sex with her, he said “God felt very close now” (32). We get the sense that sex with Susana was an experience that brought Timothy closer to God. I think this could serve as a critique of Christianity’s views on sexuality. Timothy feels horrible when he has sex with Sasha, but he feels justified in having sex with Susana because he feels that he is saving her. I think this is a very interesting justification by a character who is a religious man trying to have a closer relationship with God. Timothy’s actions make us think that sex with Sasha was wrong, but raping Susana was okay. “Even as Susana began to cry, Timothy could not turn around, afraid of missing what God would unveil to him, while outside, beyond the window, it began to rain” (32). Timothy seems to have a religious experience in this quote while Susana cries. Religion and rape, that is quite an interesting juxtaposition. It certainly had me thinking for a while.

Timothy is Pitiful

God Lives in St. Petersburg is a racy story. There is sex, innuendo, and exploitation masked as compassion. Timothy is an pitiful character. He is both a victim and perpetrator of this exploitation. The story begins with him believing only HIS religion could save mankind. He goes to Russia to put this idea in practice. But what results is a strange sequence of gay erotics, rape, and mediocre language acquisition.
Timothy could not be the missionary he dreams of being because of Soviet society. So he becomes an English teacher and tries to help that way, but he never picks up the language. He does pick up men or boys like Sasha, whose age Timothy does not know. He feels guilty, but he can't change his actions. He can will it, but he cannot make it right. Like everyone else, Timothy succumbs to desire. And he feels guilt because his unrealistic expectations of being able to use his religion to change the world. He should instead save himself.
The story ends with Timothy having sex with a 14 year old girl. One could look at this as a compassionate or an act depravity. I think there is room for both views. Eastern Europe has economic problems, and the girl's mom does not want her daughter to grow up a place with no opportunity for her daughter. By taking Suzanna, Timothy is being compassionate.
No matter what the economic situation, there are other ways of helping Suzanna's family. The failure of Tim's character is that despite all his faith, when a situation arises where Timothy could impart his moral lessons, he fails. He is pitiful.

"Wait"

Looking at the story of wait, I thought that the story was trying to use this airport terminal as a means to look at the whole world. The story shows a variety of different people all in different situations. The businessman, the girl from Ghana, the Bulgarian man, and the Honduran women, all represent different cultures as well as socioeconomic classes. I felt like the description of the Olympics is the strongest evidence for the idea that the airport terminal is a representation of the rest for the world. The people in the terminal just like in the world are in conflict they are plagued with disease, hunger, and scarcity of resources but, they are able to put this aside and have what begins as a friendly completion, between the different groups of people. Just like in the real Olympics there are political implications represented by the argument over Cyprus. The characters are stereotyped by their sports that they play, The Americans are good at baseball, the Chinese are good at table tennis, and the Kenyans sweep the marathon. Before long they begging making actuations about the other groups of people taking drugs and cheating When the Olympics are over they go back to fighting just as in the real world counties often stop fighting for the duration of the Olympics and then continue once they are over.
The juxtaposition at the ending of the story serves to make the imagery more powerful. By setting this fairytale ending of the man, women and child flying away in the hot air balloon, with that of a warlord shooting into the air, gives us a heightened sense of the turmoil that the man women and child are leaving.

"Wait"... for the World to fall apart...

I loved Wait for many reasons. The underlying theme of the world and its functions brought me to enjoy this story a lot. Also the more humorous and bright elements brought forthright, unlike the predominately sorrowful and serious stories previously read. I love how this story can be interpreted, and all the symbols that can be brought to light. All these people from different countries just waiting and going through each day, dragging around doing nothing to help. It is funny how the whole time all these people wait for this plane that should solve everything but it never comes. I think this plane represents peace in the world. The people want it so bad but do nothing about just talk about the plane but of course it never comes. I think this can be related with the many sums of people who talk about world peace but do nothing to make it happen. I truly believe the soldiers in the story can symbolize the United Nations and their apparent lax and nonexistent place in the world. Many groups and countries take action without the United Nation's consent and this happens in the story. The Cubans, kind of in a Guerrilla manner, take charge and fight through the police and steal a plane. This is how many Guerrilla attacks happen today, right under the United Nations nose and they do nothing about it. I think it is quaint the way the people trade what they have amongst themselves, symbolizing global trade. Champagne is traded for tampons, and some people even steal from others. Everything is going along fine, and everyone is getting along for awhile. The people even conduct a mock Olympics, where implicit stereotypes are brought about. When the Greek man and the Turk man fight over a game of tic-tac-toe, World War III is unleashed. I think the fact that the death of so many people over a trivial game of tic-tac-toe represents how trivial war is. The story shows the effect war has on the world and on how little survive.

Reply to "Timothy's Search for Certainty"

I agree with Pat’s interpretation of Timothy’s quest for certainty. Nothing in this world is certain. Timothy found this out the hard way as he became a missionary, traveling to the hostile environment of Russia. Timothy believed that he had everything figured out. He planned on going to Russia, preaching the gospel, and having all of the people following suite; this was not the case. Due to his hostile environment, he must hide his religion, which begins to reveal some of his doubts. Timothy is unable to keep a pure faith in the confines of an impure world. In several instances, he fails to use good judgment including his sexual encounters will Sasha and his violent assault on Rustam. In all of these instances, Timothy seems to become unconscious, not truly realizing what is happening. “Suddenly Timothy was standing there, dazed, rubbing his hand” (Bissell, 20). As Pat pointed out, “he [Timothy] emptied himself into Sasha without guilt, only with appreciation and happiness and bliss” (22). It is only in these moments of sin that Timothy escapes his inner conflict. These encounters seem to be the only escape for Timothy as he constantly doubts himself and doubts his faith the rest of the time. The last sexual encounter with Susanna appeared to be a last attempt at helping the people in Russia. Though it is questionable that he had to sleep with her to take her to America, it symbolizes the hopelessness that he faces in trying to spread God’s word. He cannot reach out to others through Christ; he can only influence others through his sexual pleasures.

GOd Lives in St. Petersburg

I personally found this to be a very interesting read. Aside from the sexual innuendos, there are numerous disturbing situations that the authors mentions. It is pretty clear that there is much racial tension in the city the protagonist, Timothy, is currently residing. The people of the town have gone through some very trying times, and many of the racial conflicts are continually present in present. They are even obstructing the mind of the adolescents in this story. The conflict between Suzanne and Rustam explicitly describes the tension that is created because of the difference between the two individuals. The protagonist tries to corrects this; however, he tends to give up whenever his efforts seems futile.
Another rather interesting situation is the image Americans have in this story. Americans are viewed as pure hope for a better life. To live in America means to have all the opportunities afforded to you and to be able to live life to its full potential. This is the idea of many of the characters in the story. Even Suzanne's mother saw the opportunities an individual would have if they were able to travel to America. This can also be viewed as the residents of the city have lost all hope and faith in it. Their country has betrayed them, allowed them to suffer, and they seek redemption elsewhere.
Now the most disturbing situations was the mentioning of homosexual and pedophilic activities. Now I'm not saying homosexuality is a bad thing; but considering his reasons Timothy traveled to this new country and his religious belief completely contradicts his behavior. He is torn between what his body naturally wants, and what his morals say about doing such acts. Also the age of one of the individual Timothy is consenting to having sex with is completely shocking. Timothy had no right to have sex with someone of that age, and, to make matters worse, it was a student of his. i was extremely bothered by this situation and was appalled by the actions of this character.

E=MC^2 and why sci-fi is so enjoyable

By the title you can probably tell which story I found the most enjoyable to read. Yes 7C rocked my literary world, or so to speak. Aside from the Poe award I would seriously have considered this story for Phillip K. Dick award as well. Yes, I have always been a fan of sci-fi. So its not like 7C was a shining light on my previously dark awareness of science fiction. However, it did remind me of why I like sci-fi so much and why I enjoy reading it.
The best science fiction stories generally transport you to world were a fictional non-existent science becomes possible by virtue of the fact that it is based on either a logical expansion of existing technology and science, or it is discussed in such details that the fictional science becomes utterly believable. This is, and you’ve probably wondered this, why Star-Trek is so damn popular that nerds learn to speak Klingon. 7C is a masterful piece of science fiction because it extends one’s common scientific knowledge to, what seems, logical considerations and creates a fantastic event that blows your mind away.
E=MC^2 right. Everyone knows the magic little formula that propelled Einstein to iconic status. Interestingly enough this is not what won him a noble price, but that is beside the point. Everyone know that through relativity Einstein postulated that time was variable, in fact it stopped when one was traveling at the speed of light. The intricacies of why, or how this happens or is theorized are not popularly known. Once one takes this as a certain truth it is not hard for Roberts to expand this notion into the realm of fantasy and make time go backwards. The fact that this is not possible eludes us, after all we do not know why it slows down at amazing speeds and it is popularly known that it does. We then swallow the premise that it is possible, knowing that is it not probable, an enjoy how this alternate reality affects the development of what is bound to be an interesting story because after all it is sci-fi.

God is Dead

Aside from channeling my inner Nietzsche, this blog post title seems emblematic of how the main character Timothy feels in Tom Bissell’s “God Lives in St. Petersburg.” God was dead….in the Central Asian country (Kazakhstan?) where he taught English. Although he had once felt he was in the presence of God, The Great I AM had receded so far that he couldn’t bring him back.

Timothy’s surroundings provided the worst environment to attempt to bring Christ ‘back’ from the dead. In fact, bringing God back from the dead for these Central Asians would be even more difficult than Captain Kirk bringing Spock back from the dead in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The major problem is that these people already had a preconceived notion of who Christ (or, as they call him Hristos) was. This made conversion difficult, as he would have to work to defeat their socially accepted, entrenched ideas about Hirstos.

All of this is exacerbated by the fact that Timothy must be ‘under cover’ about his mission. By forcing Timothy into this position, his missionary group makes it near impossible to convert anyone. Timothy would have to completely personify Christ – an individual, who, by the way, these people have a negative view of – and then just happen to stumble upon the subject of Christianity one day. Although this potential approach would have profound impact on an individual who can complete this roundabout route to Jesus, the chances of this happening seem to be slim to none.

It is for these reasons that one can easily understand that Timothy feels that God is so distant he might as well be dead. In an environment where having faith is more simple – say, for example, in the United States surrounded by friends and family who love you while you have a job that is both fulfilling and allows you to be economically solvent – one has solid ground to stand upon when attempting to keep what you perceive as sinful behavior at bay. In a place without any of the stuff between the above dashes, those things that you perceive as sinful come rushing to the surface at once.

And you give in.

And Now for Something a Bit Different

Ah, the end of the first half of my first year at Wabash and, thus, the end of Intro to Short Fiction. Do I lament that this is the last of my blogs? Maybe, in some ways. It's given me an opportunity to gage my classmates, and in turn to be gaged. It's added another weight to the scale of stress at Wabash, but it's also given me an opportunity to improve myself, my writing, through practice. Enough, though, with the sentimentals.

Because this is the final blog post, perhaps I should rap up a few things, give a final report. So, first, I'll list my three favorite stories and my three least favorite stories of the year. They will be chosen based both on writing style and plot, but mostly on how much weight they carry for me in terms of message. My three favorite short stories of the class, in no particular order, are “Sonny's Blues”, “God Lives in St. Petersburg”, and “Wait”. My three least favorite short stories of the class are...well, there really aren't any. I can honestly say I enjoyed each and every one of these stories, to one degree or another.

Okay, back to sentimentals. To me, this class has, at its best, embodied what an English class is meant to be. Heated discussions, insults flung, and a general spark of life all in the midst of Dr. Benedicks' half-smile as she looks on in what can only be approval; approval that this is what college is about. Ideas clashing with ideas, all propelled with passion. Alas, the end approaches as Intro to Short Fiction transmutes into Poetry. I hope to see all of you eight days from now, arguing with just as much heat about poetry as about story.

"All unattended luggage will be removed by the airport security"

"Wait" was one of my favorite stories that we've read, simply because I'm sick of all the death and insanity and weepy and overall tragic qualities of the previous tales (Tits-Up and Sonny's Blues, I'm looking at you). Finally, we have a darkly humorous and unpretentious story that does not take itself seriously, and knows that it's a story, plain and simple - one meant to entertain, not to make some deep and profound statement about humanity or poverty or crazy girls who kill cats.

It starts off slowly, with a droll style and matter-of-fact tone of description, nearly devoid of adverbs. As a sidenote, I found it cool that the loudspeaker voice in English is described as having a mix of Portuguese, Dutch and Malay accents - Malaysia was conquered by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British in its history. Represent!!! Then, right out of nowhere, the absurd humor kicks in. Anything and everything you can think of that is over the top is thrown in for good measure.

If you've ever been stuck at an airport waiting for a delayed flight, then you'll appreciate Kesey's wit and humor. You start to think "What else could go wrong?!"...and then Fate comes and craps all over you. This past summer, I had a brief night transit in Singapore on my way to the States, and when I found out that my flight was delayed to the next morning, those same words flashed through my mind: What else could go wrong?! Naturally, the transit hotel was fully booked, all the nice comfy couches were taken up by vagrants and passengers, and as soon as I fell asleep in a hard corner clutching my bags, the airport security and its resident guard dog woke me up and asked for my passport, because apparently I looked like a bum.

Not quite the same oomph as being awoken by a meteor or the military, but Kesey's humor resonated with me because of my previous experiences. What's also great about "Wait" is the use of racial, cultural, sporting and even literary stereotypes - a spoof of the global village that we've been harping on about this millenium. And let's face it, we're not bigots if we say this, but stereotypes are just freakin hilarious. "The Latvians are accused of doping, the Nigerians of bribery" is comic genius on par with any bad (or good, however you wish to see it) stereotype joke you can think of. Each character leaps from the page, jostling for attention, making a piece of literary fiction come alive and making you laugh at the fun you're having on this wild ride through airport security.

I'll Second That

I am going to have to agree with Joshua on this one. First off I would like to give him props for the creativness of the blog, I like it. But, i agree whole heartedly with what he is saying. I have enjoyed and understood (for the most part) all of the stories we have read all year. As i got to "The Hills Like White Elephants," I did not know what the hell to think. This story confused me more than any other. I had to read it several times, and even then was at a loss for words. As I realized the longer i sat there and stared at the story that i wasn't going to figure it out I consulted the internet. I clicked on the first two searches on google, and read that the story was about abortion. I thought someone was messing around so I scrolled down and consulted another search, and low and behold it said the same thing. I was terribly confused and decided to close the story and see what was said in class the next day.



Unlike Joshua i was in class on the day we discussed this story, and i do have to say I was lost while discussing it as well. I will be right along Joshua giving a pat on the back to whoever figured this one out on there own. I had no idea how abortion could ever be portrayed through a story set at a South African train stop. I would like to giving Hemingway credit for confusing the hell out of me, and possible many others who have read this story. But, i am going to have to second the Joshua's nomination, and give the award to "The Hills Like White Elephants" for the most confusing story.

A Reply to "And the Winner is..."

On first reading of "Hills like White Elephants", I, too, was baffled by what he could be talking about. I felt fairly certain that the implied meaning was critical, but for the life of me, I could not come up with a suitable suggestion for what they could be discussing. Could anyone? Did anyone in the class find it apparent what was being talked about? The title suggests abortion, also. It struck me as equally mystifying that only one person in the class talked about the title.

The focus of me replying is the last paragraph. I agree completely in questioning the substance of the story. I understand that Hemingway was playing with narration. Would any account of a man being falsely sincere and a weak-minded female get published? I would not say so. Nonetheless, the story was published and has become known as a classic.

I think "Hills like White Elephants" is a model piece of implied text. First, the reader feels the enormity of the implied text, and like the other blogger and myself, the reader also feels that if he were to understand the implied text he could grasp the story. This leads to the next point: the implication is a near perfect balance of vague and bloody obvious. Reading the story without the help of critics or teachers, one may tend to find themselves stumped, yet when the someone mentions abortion, it feels like an avalanche you never saw coming just crashed down on you. Inside you're exclaiming, "Of course!" So, this masterfully woven narration of implicit meaning, story structure, and relatable characters makes the story both a piece of literary fame and enjoyable reading. Reading it again may make the story better.

Outcast: Sonny and Dakotah

Dakotah and Sonny both share an outcast status. Dakotah is unwanted form birth and her own guardians look at her as if she is just another task that needs to be done every day. Sonny is forced to live with his brother in law’s family, who do not understand him. He plays the piano every chance he has and they eventually tell him that listening to his music has been a burden on them. This crushed him and he eventually leaves and joins the navy.

Both do not know their place in society and try finding it throughout the story. Sonny knows he wants to play music, but has no one backing him up and helping him. He eventually falls into drugs, the very thing he was trying to run away from. Dakotah doesn’t even know what is outside of her hometown. She falls in love with the first person who shows her any affection. Eventually, she gets pregnant and her guardians feel like it is a re-run, she is like her mother. She has the child and enlists in the army afterwards where she is injured and returns home.

I find it curious that both Dakotah and Sonny run to the armed services when there is nowhere else to go. Is this a something the authors trying pointing out? That for a lot of people in society when they have nowhere else to turn, when there is nothing else, that people turn to the armed services. Well, I feel like part of this is true. I know many of people and friends who had no job and nothing to turn to. The armed services will almost accept anyone of age. Is this a good or bad thing?

Timothy's Search for Certainty

In Tom Bissell’s short story “God Lives in St. Petersburg”, Timothy’s actions may be guided by his uncertainty in his faith. Timothy is an undercover missionary who tries to spread Christianity. Throughout the story, he loses his faith in God because he finds little success in his mission. Similar to the way Timothy turns to God, Timothy’s students look to him for knowledge of what is right and wrong. Since Timothy may feel misled by God, he may not want his students to be misled by himself. He may be frustrated by the idea of looking to someone else for guidance. Therefore, the act of smacking Rustam for following his teachings may be an outward projection of Timothy’s own frustration in following God for so long. In addition, Timothy’s sexual encounters with Sasha may be an attempt to hold on to some sense of certainty in his life. In the story, Timothy’s life is filled with uncertainty; he is unsure of his mission and his faith in God is shaken. When he has sex with Sasha, there is some comfort in the act because he knows that it will be pleasurable. He felt that at the moment of ecstasy, “nothing was wrong, nothing, with anyone, and he emptied himself into Sasha without guilt, only with appreciation and happiness and bliss” (22). Timothy is certain that the sex will make him happy, if for only a brief moment. Therefore, these sexual acts may be comforting acts for Timothy; they give him a small sense of certainty in an uncertain world. In addition, Timothy’s decision to sleep with Susanna can be looked at in the same light. Timothy lacks faith in his ability to save people through Christianity, so he looks for other concrete ways to do so. He submits to Susanna’s request to be his wife because he knows that the decision may save her from poverty.

And The Winner Is....

The winner for the most obscure and confusing story of the semester is..."The Hills Like White Elephants." Congratulations to Mr. Ernest Hemingway for his outstanding work in confusing the hell out of me.

Unfortunately, I was absent on the day that the class discussed this reading because I feel it would have greatly enhanced my understanding of this short story. However, since I was not present, I can continue to preach about how befuddling this short story was, at least to me.

First off, I must tip my hat to my classmates who understood exactly what Hemingway was referring to in the story. When I first heard that this story was about abortion, one question immediately popped into my mind: Did I read the right story? So to the people who knew what the story was about before it was discussed as a class, I must ask, how in the hell did you know he was talking about abortion? Personally, I didn't even realize there was a deeper meaning to the story, let alone that the story was truly about abortion. I mean I suppose that Hemingway was playing with narration when he wrote the story, and therefore intentionally wrote the story in a way that talks about something without directly coming out and telling the reader what he is talking about. If implementing this style of writing was his way of challenging the reader, then I will gladly admit that I definitely was not up to the challenge the day that I read that short story.

I understand that Hemingway was trying to do something different, and I can admire him for being a "trendsetter", but with no reference to the true topic of the story, I am still left wondering how I was suppose to know that the story was truly about abortion. Better yet, how does a story entitled "The Hills Like White Elephants" translate into a profound story, or rather dialogue, about abortion?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The reality of Tits up in a Ditch

The thing that I enjoyed most about this particular short story is the fact that you can actually picture someone going through the same thing Dakotah is going through. I also would like to connect it to the short story of Sonny's Blues because it talked about two young people that are going thorough some hard times in their lives and how the get through those times. It was a nice twist to actually read stories about a reliable narrator as well. To receive information and be told the story through the eyes of someone who is logical is much more helpful than to hear it form someone who is not in their right state of mind as well. Both Dakotah and Sonny had major influential role people in their lives as well, who helped with big decisions in their lives as well. I also enjoyed the irony of how the mother of Dakotah's husband pushed him back onto Dakotah after he was already hurt and decapitated. It should be hard, because both of them came to the conclusion that they would not talk to each other no more, and "un-officially" be divorced. When the mother said "You're his wife" (Tits up in a Ditch, 95), I can almost picture the face on the mother as if to say, "Well . . . you're not stuck with him . . . . good luck!"

Reply to "Somethings Missing"

Though I can understand where Sam and Jacob are coming from, I disagree with their disappointment in the contemporary short stories. It is only natural that contemporary authors will emulate talented writers, such as Poe. Despite this fact, I find a great deal of literary value in these contemporary short stories.

Despite the period in which a story is written, the themes of such stories can usually transcend time. The theme of revenge in “The Cask of Amontillado” is prevalent even today, as every individual feels that urge from time to time. I found the newer short stories to produce similar themes that most everyone can relate to, yet the contemporary short stories bring the meanings closer to the reader. One example of this is the setting in “Tits-up in a Ditch”. When Dakota goes to Iraq to fight in the war, the reader feels much more connected to the characters and might get that much more out of the theme. Likewise, “7C” draws the reader closer into the plot as the action takes place in an apartment building. I also think that the style used by Jason Roberts was not a mirror image of Poe’s writing. Though it created similar effects, I found it to by stylistically distinctive.

I do not completely disagree with the claims made by Jacob and Sam, yet I cannot discount the value of these contemporary short stories relative to the classics. Contemporary short stories are valuable in their ability to connect with the reader and bring the message closer to reality.

Losus Naturae and Social Injustice

“Losus Naturae” is fiction, and the disease the main character of the story suffers from was manufactured by the imagination of the author. However, the way the characters in the story act and think reveals very true lessons about living in society and the search for acceptance.

The little girl in the story afflicted with the leprosy like disease is shunned from her family because they do not want to be identified with her. This is terrible, but the girl even says she understands why they distance from her. “He sat on the other side of the table. Though this enforced distance pained me, I could see his point.” In the world today, there are all kinds of people we distance ourselves from even though they need help. Think about people living in poverty or people with mental or physical disabilities.

The way the narrator desired to have company and live as part of society can serve a poignant lesson about our desires. “Perhaps they were—oh, at last!—beings like myself.” I think all people are looking for people who are like they are and accepting of them.

The most interesting line of the story is the last one when the narrator says, “Perhaps in Heaven I’ll look like an angel, or perhaps the angels will look like me. What a surprise that will be for everyone else!” The disease stricken girl was unjustly made into a pariah when she should have received affection and help. Although she has been called “like a monster”, the people who want to kill her are the real monsters.

Not So Happy Endings

I'm going to modify my question from last week just slightly for this week's blog. After reading "Happy Endings," a story that uses an outline format to make an effective outline format to make a point about storytelling. The story tells us that no matter, the ending is always the same, and that its the beginning and the middle- as well as the plot that really make the story. I feel that almost all of the stories we have read thus far from the classic literature point have done a good job in making some point about society, the human mind or the world at that particular place and time. However, I feel as if today's modern literature is lacking something. Granted today's literature still has the same ending, it feels like a meager plotline covered with a veneer of sex, and vulgarity. One could argue that by emphasizing sex and profanity the author is making a point about society, but I think it is something different then that. I believe that today's authors are recreate the old classics because they worked. It is my sincere hope that today's literature can catch up with that of yesterday.

Lusus Naturae

This story deals with the category of being different. The reaction that entails from the little girl's parents are quite shocking. Even though it is their own flesh and blood, they turn completely away from their daughter questioning why it had to be them. Her parents do as much to console her and not say anything in front of her though as in the doctor's office. Yet many people forget she is human and don't account for her feelings.This is why I like the way the story is told from her point of view, so you not only imagine how people treat her but how they actually do. Normally the view in this type of story is from the outside looking in, and there are many rumors about the actual nature of the "creature." Thus instilling a sense of not caring what happens to the monster; but with this story you begin to care for the Lusus Naturae which brings a different element to the story. The doctor does though try to help although being a little harsh. This differs from other "Lucus Naturaes" like those with Leprosy. Leprosy not only deformed the face but spread so those with it were shunned and sent away completely, being viewed as dirty. The little girl was born with this and does not spread it like leprosy but is still looked upon as not clean. Yet no matter how inhumane the girl is looked upon she does the most remarkable and human thing. She causes her own death for her sister to get married. No "creature" would do this, thus also proving the existence of her feelings. The little girl not even being bitter about being looked upon as a Lusus Naturae. The evidence of the effect other people had on her is evident when she says " Perhaps in Heaven I'll look like an angel." This shows how much the taunts really did effect her if she cares how she looks even when dead.

Happy Endings, or, why none of these short stories seem that original.

While I can not say I’ve been particularly turned off by any of the stories we have read so far in class, I can not say I’ve been all that blown away by the more modern short stories. One of the reasons for this is that it seems as though the ideas for the stories are a bit, recycled, for lack of a better term. This is kind of maddening, and it seems as though modern authors are more than happy to try to take old stories and add to them. For example, in 7C, I felt as though I was reading Stephen King or possibly a more sinister version of Donnie Darko. While this is not a pleasing thing, it makes the best short story we have read ring even truer than it would have had I not read the rest of these short stories. That is, these other short stories prove Happy Endings right. It is true that all stories, whether we are told or not, end in the characters death in one way or another. Either they die a bittersweet death of old age or some disease or they are taken before their time in a blaze of glory or some such thing. What makes these new stories worth reading is to see the ways in which they update the previously told endings. For example, while I did not really like 7C, it would be hard to argue against its originality. The way the story is told is far more interesting than the story itself, and it sucks us in by other means than its plot. The plot of 7C would be, in laymen’s terms; man has friend, wife; man goes crazy, man kills friend, possibly wife, self, unwitting neighbor. Okay, I have seen a horror movie so I saw how that was going to end. But as we are told in Happy Endings, its not necessarily the end of the story or even the plot that matters, but what makes the stories different.

7C and Liver Spots

I really enjoyed “7C” by Jason Roberts. The story seems to work around a parallel made between high-redshift quasars and the inevitable apocalyptic end of the story. We are told that these quasars are markers of an old universe, the result of the forces of gravity extrapolated of eons of time. Although they take an unimaginable time to form, they are found in the old light coming to Earth from the time just after the universe formed. The reader is told that these quasars appear to be born old. The real trick of this story comes when the author applies this theory of high-redshift quasars to everyday life. The characters begin to see old scars that appear to be healing in reverse; the wounds essentially un-healing to the point in which they were inflicted.
The readers are able to helplessly watch the characters work towards an apocalyptic event with. This allows the author to foreshadow the ending and create a sense of doom and suspense in the process. Foreshadowing can be quite tricky as the writer must tell of future events without giving too much away or losing the readers interest. Poe and Roberts are stringing readers along to keep them in the story, only giving up little information at a time while making it clear that the story will not end well for all of the characters involved. The inevitability of the end of the world truly makes the story creepy, just as the inevitability of Fortunato’s end made The Cask of Amontillado so dark and chilling.
While I felt the parallel made in “7C” worked to make the story suspenseful and compelling, I think that the connection between quasars and time moving backwards to an apocalypse is interesting, but it is on some pretty shaky ground. Quasars are older than we would expect to find in this high red-shift light. This does not necessarily mean that time could work backwards, but simply that we are seeing things older than we might expect. It seems that the characters getting liver spots at a young age would have been a more solid metaphor concerning quasars.

The Effect of Place in "Tits-up in a Ditch"

In Proulx’s short story “Tits-up in a Ditch, the rural Midwest setting contributes to the death of Dakotah’s child. In the rural Midwest there is an attitude that hard work and labor is valued. Dakotah’s father, Verl, gets upset when one of his neighbor’s refers to the people in Wyoming as lazy. “It got around that she had said Wyoming people were lazy. Lazy! Verl was outraged” (84). Verl values hard work, and he and his wife, Bonita, have too much pride to accept handouts from anyone. When Dakotah considers accepting money from the government, “Neither Bonita nor Verl would hear of Dakotah’s going on welfare or accepting social services” (91). They would not accept money from anyone because they believed that, as citizens of Wyoming, they were not lazy people. Also, Living in Wyoming, Dakotah’s family holds the stubborn mindset that everything is fine the way that it is. When someone refers to the need of a traffic light at an intersection, Verl states that nothing is wrong with the intersection, stating, “Always been O.K. the way it is. Just got to be a little careful. People here never had trouble with it” (84). This stubborn mindset is evident in the way Verl treats Dakotah’s baby. Growing up in the rural Midwest, Verl thought that baby Verl needed to be tough. “Big Verl was so proud to have a boy and wanted him to be tough” (93). This prideful mindset leads to baby Verl’s death when big Verls puts him in the bed of the truck. Therefore, the rural Midwest and the prideful mindset associated with living in Wyoming effect the actions and decisions of Dakotah’s family that lead to the death of baby Verl.

Pre-destiny to 7C

i thought the story "7C" was an ok story at best. we compared it to a Poe story which for me doesnt even come close. a good point brought up by one of my classmates in class was that homosexuality was thrown into the story once then left alone. a Poe story will never do something like this. everything Poe wrote is there for a reason.

another topic that got my attention in class was the idea of pre-destination in the story. clearly what happened in the story was inevitable. outside of the story pre-destination is a very interesting subject i feel. i am a very strong christian and beleive that God has a plan for everything. i know that is extremely hard to see in some situations; especially lately with the war that has been going on the past few years and i know what happened at wabash this weekend hangs heavy in all of our hearts. we have know way of knowing what tomorrow will bring. all we can do is use the information at hand to make the best decision possible. so what i am trying to say is that to beleive in pre-destination( you are where you are supposed to be at all times) requires faith. faith is beleiving in something even though you cant see it and there is no concrete evidence in support of it. i felt that 7C touched on many of these concepts.

Dakota: The Engineering behind the character

If Tits Up in a Ditch is interpreted as a social critique then Dakota is both instrument and victim in the author’s indictment of society. Dakota is a character shaped by circumstance more so than any other factor. The author purposefully makes her a reactionary character that is shaped by circumstance and other characters rather than by her own free will; thereby steering our judgment against society rather than at Dakota. The story therefore becomes an even more poignant criticism of society because it bears the entire blame and it becomes easy to point out specifically the factors to blame for Dakota’s tragic life.

A good example of this is Dakota’s mother. From the very first paragraph we get a sense that Dakota was not born into the correct circumstances, she is abandoned by her mother on the day she is born. Our judgment of the mother is obviously harsh since we have no prior information on why she bailed. All we know are the repercussions of her action on Dakota’s life and future. The mother’s actions become impossible to condone. Dakota’s involvement in the army is another example. It leads Dakota away from her son and ultimately causes the loss of her arm. Yet, we do not blame Dakota for any of it. She is driven into it by her grandparents and her economic condition. Again, her future is shaped by circumstance rather than free will. Even the matter of fact style which the author uses induces us to believe that Dakota had no hand in how her life turned out at all. As said she becomes a victim of society, and therefore the instrument and evidence the author uses to criticize society.

Response to Pat's Lusus Naturae

My sentiments about "Lusus Naturae" is that the story was an interesting, and arguably a much needed, alternative to the other grim and somewhat morbid short stories. However, I will admit that my interest in "Lusus Naturae" may be due to the fact that I enjoy the mysterious and unpredictable nature of science fiction stories. With that being said, I was anxious to delve into the story.

Though I concede that "Lusus Naturae" may not have been plausible, or perhaps even a little farfetched, I contend that for a class that has the title of "Introduction to Short FICTION", shouldn't we expect to read stories that we know may not make any logical sense. Isn't that a characteristic of the "fiction" genre.

I do agree with Patrick when he calls "Lusus Naturae" a story about a social recluse who lives vicariously through the readings of Keats and Byron. Furthermore, I also agree with his analysis that the main character does not know how to react when she sees "interpersonal intimacy". I found it a bit comical that the protagonist is now an adult but still cannot grasp the concept of someone having sex.

Something that struck me as odd was how everyone came to the conclusion that the girl was a vampire. I have never known a vampire to have yellow eyes, pink teeht, red fingernails, or long dark hair sprouting out of its chest and arms. I was under the impression that the girl was a werewolf rather than a vampire. But either way, she was definitely a "Lusus Naturae".

Inevitability and One of its Many Digressions

The inevitability that life shall end in death is a baffling, often depressing topic. The author of “Happy Endings” has the courage to point out the fact that, due to the monotonous nature of humanity’s eventual end, it is not the conclusion which is important, but rather what comes between the beginning and the end which matters. This inevitability and, consequently, critique of free will, is evident and manifested within the short story “7C.” The culmination of the story, the destruction of the known universe (or at least of the world on which we find ourselves), is not a mystery to the narrator. What is a mystery, though, is precisely how he got there. I’m going to digress a bit here, but this forces me to recall the idea that, if one reads the final page of a book without first having read each page which leads up to the conclusion, one has somehow ‘ruined’ the book. On the contrary, I would argue that reading the ending is often (but not always) a method through which one might garner a better understanding of said book. By holding knowledge of the conclusion of a plot, one is freed from the tedious (okay, I’ll admit, exciting) process of attempting to predict said conclusion and, subsequently, to specifically look for and focus on those elements within the plot which either prove or disprove your prediction. With knowledge, one is not reduced to a narrow field of focus involving plot elements, and is able instead to focus on broader, more enlightening subjects such as themes, both underlying and specific, character development, and even (gasp!) writing style.
Alright, so perhaps reading the ending before one has read the bread and butter of the literature is a bit depressing. Maybe, though, we might reconcile the joy of plot with the joy(?) of deep, thorough analysis through one of two ways. Our first option is to develop two separate reading methods: one for pleasure and one for College level English. Allow me to elaborate. When reading for pleasure, feel free to focus only on plot, but when reading for class, be sure to discount your own emotions from the process and search for what your teacher wants. The second option (and in my opinion the one which is far more practical and, more importantly, applicable to post-college years) is to hybridize your pleasure with your work. I use the term hybridize very loosely, as I believe this method in no way decreases your enjoyment, but actually magnifies it. When you are able to reach a level of reading on which you are able to both interpret a text in terms of theme and undertone as well as take pleasure in the more basic elements of plot, your enjoyment of the literature will increase at least two-fold. You will have achieved at the very least what a major in English is meant to instill, but more probably you will have gained a life skill which will ensure success (at least as a literary critic).

7C

I definitely agree with Barry and Dante. The obsession of astronomy is what drove the narrator to insanity. In Dante's blog, this was one of the questions that he asked and it was not answered, but through the story everything that happens deals relates to his astronomy somehow.
In the beginning of the story, the narrator explains himself as having obsessive-compulsive disorder. From the way that he explained his disorder we know that this diagnosis was completely correct. The narrator questions the diagnosis, researches the diagnosis and then completely rejects its, stating that he will not receive the help he needs until he disproves the diagnosis. After reading the story, the questioning of the diagnosis did not seem like a bad thing after all.

The desire of knowledge for the narrator, which is a much nicer word that insane, ultimately leads to his demise and his best friend's demise. To have to thought of drugging your friend and questioning him about astronomy is insane. To do all of this, after catching your friend in bed with your wife is another thing. I may be only person to think that this was the point in the story where his insanity peaked. But to catch someone in bed with your wife and the only thing you want to do is question him is not insane, I'm not sure what is. I guess scientist do really go after their questions.

Understanding 7C

The entire plot in the short story "7C" seems to be about existentialism from a sociopathic standpoint. The narrator, who spokes directly to the reader as if he or she is the neighbor, comes to an understanding of the end of the world. Dealing with issues about understanding why the universe is, the narrator also begins to notice that he and the people around him have certain scars that become more prominent wounds as time passes. As the story continues on, the author makes a point about how the light we see from stars is so old that by the time the light reaches our eyes, the star we were looking at has already been dead for millions of years. In the same way, the wounds begin to reveal the fate of the characters and the narrator comes to terms with this.
Trying not to die alone, after figuring out the impending doom of the world, the narrator attempts to remove his friend from the spot next to his wife. Not necessarily caring that the man has had an affair with his wife, the narrator cares more about being with someone when the time comes for everything to end. He does everything in his power to remove the man, but it doesn't seem to work. Eventually, he comes to a realization that everything is predestined and that he must "go with the flow." The author finishes the story in interesting way where we become the person who the narrator dies with. Not only does this affect the reader on a psychological level, involving them in the insanity of the plot, but it also helps the reader to get a sense of the pain inflicted on the man both physically and emotionally.

Getting crunk with the Oxford English Dictonary

After reading the Best American New Words of 2006 it got me thinking about how a word become an official word. It seams that from looking at the list of new word that a word must have practical usage. More specifically many of the new words look as though they are related directing to a specific field, weather it is medical, science, or even music. The word that pops out to me is crunk. While I’ve used it in my everyday speech, and heard it used I was surprised to see it that it was included in the Oxford English Dictionary. The usage that is defined in the Oxford version of the definition is different than the traditional meaning of the word on Wabash’s campus, however seams to be a valid one nonetheless.
This brings me back to my original thought how does a word become part of the Oxford English Dictionary. Is there a set of criteria that must be met? Is it something as definable as the criteria for statehood? If not, who then decides what makes a word a part of the OED? Does being a part of the OED make it ok to use in formal paper? How do they decide what definition is to go with the word? What happens when the new words become words? Is there a new version of the Dictionary printed each year? If not how often is the dictionary updated and printed. Also if words can become new words, than can old words lose their “wordhood”? (I think that might be a new word for consideration in 2008 Webster) I know that language is ever evolving but can a word ever become extinct or does it reactive a full word tenure, never to be removed for the dictionary, no matter how useless it becomes? Whatever the answer to these questions, it would be interesting to know if the first person to say one of these new words, really intended for it to mean what it does today, much like the way that literary scholars assign a meaning to words of literature.

Reply to Barry's 7C

I feel that Barry’s notion that the narrator of “7C” is crazy is quite accurate. I found myself contemplating throughout the entire story over the question of whether he was actually crazy or just a little too obsessed with scientific premonitions; but after the ending I obviously sided with insanity. Drawing from his compulsive demeanor, I was able to gather that something was not quite right with the narrator, but I just couldn’t pinpoint what. When we finally learn that he is the only one who can really see any of the scars and fears an impending mass catastrophe as their result, it became clear that something was obviously wrong with the narrator. Could his obsession with scientific explanations driven him mad? Or was it the fact that he may have known that his wife was cheating on him with his best friend? Although we never find out the true source of his insanity, I would probably bank on a combination of both of these factors playing a role in the narrator’s eventual demise. He may not have been initially completely crazy, but when you add the fact that your wife is cheating on you to a heap of other problems, you are sure to teeter on the brink of insanity. I also like Barry’s point that the narrator’s obsession with work has largely consumed all his emotions, leaving him an almost lifeless being. Although he is monotonous in his routines it is clear that he is only going about them because it is so ingrained in his persona. He has no love for his work but almost a desire to apply it in any way possible to everyday life. This mixture of work and reality obviously did not work out for the narrator because we see him eventually moving toward death at the end of the story.

Human Rejection: Lusus Naturae

I found it very interesting to see how human rejection was a very prevalent theme in "Lusus Naturae."  In the natural world today, rejection is a popular trend that people follow quite often.  If someone or something is not to their specifications, they are most likely outcast from society as "freaks" or some other derogatory term.  In the story, the main character is labeled as a "freak".  She can not control her physical appearance, which causes her a lot of emotional distress and pain.  Throughout the story, she becomes more and more awkward, causing people to outcast her so much that her family even performs a fake burial for her, so that people would think she was dead so she could live in peace.  Then, as people began seeing her, they thought she was some kind of monster.  In the end, she became a lonely, outcast creature that had nowhere to turn.  I feel that our society as a whole does this to people who do not fit the definition of normal.  We have all created different classes of people such as nerds, goths, freaks, dorks, brains, geeks, jocks, beauties, cheerleaders, etc.  Everyone has a certain vision of what a person from any one of these groups looks like.  Although it is a natural tendency to put people into these groups, it is not right.

The perils of being an astronomer

We talked about predestination in "7C", about how everything, including past, present and future, is unalterable. It certainly seemed like a logical point, especially when the narrator found it impossible to kill Harlan because the latter was destined to die in bed with Eun-Ha.

The other avenue that we didn't explore, the one that we've been exploring all semester long, is, naturally, insanity. It's possible that the narrator is unreliable and batshit insane. His wife and doctor are initially adamant that the narrator's facial gash is an inflamed old scar, and at one point, he is suddenly able to see all the death wounds of those around him, and he appears to be the only one to see them.

His doctor thinks he is obsessive-compulsive - a sign that perhaps the narrator's been too absorbed into his work that he sees his work in his everyday life, and imagines that some catastrophic cosmic event is about to wipe out all life. But how could an astronomer, working with a bunch of other astronomers, miss such an event of impending doom in their observations? His work has consumed him, and his life revolves around his work such that he feels no emotion, no jealousy when he finds his wife in bed with his best friend. Harlan sees the madness in the narrator's eyes: "please/you need help/please/delusional".

Yep, he was plain nuts, just like most of the protagonists in all our stories. I suppose that's why he won that Poe award; Poe, too, was fixated with madness. It's just bizarre that a mild profession like astronomy could drive someone mad, and I'm no expert, but I do have a 99.6% grade in my Astronomy class right now, and it's the most serene class I've ever taken, especially when our professor dims the lights and plays a documentary of the night sky, and we all take a 5 minute nap. It just goes to show that you should never underestimate your nerdy best friend and sleep with his wife, just in case he goes nuts and finds you in his bed.

Why Lusus Naturae is the Antithesis of Everything Good In the World

Since I wrote about the story I found most compelling last week, and since admittedly I have not as of yet read any of the assignments for this week, I guess I have to write about another one of the short stories we read last week. I did not like “Lusus Naturae.”

I guess I could not suspend my disbelief; while many of the tales we’ve read have had unnatural tendencies to them (how many people immure enemies?) none of them have crossed over into the ‘supernatural’ realm. That is, all of them have been possible even if they were not plausible.

“Lusus Naturae” is most definitely not plausible because the ‘disease’ or ‘curse’ is (to the very best of my admittedly limited scientific knowledge) impossible. People just don’t turn into vampire like creatures. I’m no expert on vampire culture, but from what I know there are two ways to become a vampire: 1. you are born with it or 2) there is some type of catalyst that brings on your status. – a bite perhaps, or some type of science experiment ‘gone horribly wrong.’

I think this is best classified along the same lines of B-list horror films that have no good background. It’s kind of like the author comes up with this awesome idea of how a quasi-human experiences the world, and has no way of getting the character to the quasi-human part.

Maybe I’m by myself on this. If one embraces the fact that she just became the way she became, the story isn’t half bad. It becomes about a social recluse, a hermit that experiences humanity primarily through reading Keats or Byron. The moment that she sees interpersonal intimacy for the first time also is a watershed moment – she doesn’t completely understand what she sees, but reacts to it in an almost instinctual way. If one can get over the idiotic transformation she undergoes, then the story is quite good.

But I can’t.

Kudos to Science Fiction!

I, myself, being an avid fan of science fiction am greatly pleased to have now had the opportunity to read some great examples of both science fiction and fantasy. Both "7C" and "Luscus Naturae" filled this desire very well. "Luscus Naturae" had me guessing throughout the beginning as to what the little girl in the story was suffering from. I would like to point out that the depiction of a vampire in this story is much different than what I, and I'm sure many others, are accostomed. I especially like that the story is told from the girl's point of view rather than the traditional view of socity against monster. The author goes further by showing that the vampire still displays human characteristics, thoughts, and desires. She chooses to "die" when her sister wants to marry, allows her mother to leave after she wants to move out to live with her the other daughter, scares people away from the castle so they won't live there, and even when she bites the young man she only wnated to be playful and kiss him. In spite of being a monster in the eyes of everyone else,the girl in the story is very much so a human.
"7C" was very intriguing, but very confusing to follow at the same time. It took me an entire day to figure out that the two sentence breaks from the story were the narator addressing the reader instead intermitant breaks of the timeline of the story breaking in at certain points. The overall idea was very original and once the story came full circle I was left reeling. Each of these was a great example of modern science fiction and fantasy literature.

Lusus Naturae

This story was really interesting to read. The narration was through the eyes of the protagonist which made it come to life to the reader. We were expressed with her various emotions and why she felt her story was unique from any other story told. I felt really sorry for the protagonist. She was a very misunderstood character, and knew that her case was very special. She attained some form of sympathy for herself, but refused to be a burden to the ones she was really close too. Examples can be seen with the sacrifices she made for her sister and her mother. She pretended to be dead in order for her sister to be able to wed, and offered to take care of herself so that her mother could live a life free and happy. I admire her selflessness, but was disappointed by how it was reciprocated. She was ostracized from society all because she was different. Her outward appearance made her extremely vile, even though she was a sweet and kindhearted person deep down. The protagonist also had to devise ways to remain happy and to entertain herself. Some might see her actions as to haunt the inhabitants of the house and the innocent bystanders at the park as evil, but I feel that is was an extreme cry for attention and to prove her existence in society. This story is an excellent example as to how society catogorizes people base on their looks and do not judge a persons character and base their opions accordingly.

To be Classic or not to be Classic

I think Jacob makes a strong point in his last blog. And I agree with his views of all the “new” short fiction that we have read. I may be wrong here, but Poe, Hemingway, and the other great authors were not instant classics when they were first published. I’m sure their story’s were appreciated for their entertainment value, but were seen by the critics of their time, as Jacob says, to lack substance and originality in comparison to previous classics. I think for any literary work to be truly appreciated and deserve that prestigious title of classic it must pass the everlasting test of time. This is obvious, that is why to generalize all short fiction as lacking originality and literary value is a large leap to make. And how many new styles of writing are there? Sure, Poe and Hemingway’s writing styles are very distinct. But, due to the internet and the ease with which we can experience any author or writing style, the “new” fiction is automatically affected by the classics and other literary influences. Thus, it is very difficult to be completely original.
I do agree completely with Jacobs take on “Tits Up in a Ditch,” it does have that “wow” factor, as he puts it. The story is powerful; it gives a beautifully hopeless story of today. The story, in my opinion will be a classic, it just needs time.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

"Somethings Missing" reply

I agree with Jacob. He has a strong point that i noticed as well while reading the "new" short stories. They don't seem to create there own style. It is just like he said no one told Joyce to write like Joyce, and no one told Hemingway to write like Hemingway. Short story authors of today are seemingly trying to mold their stories after what they have read, and after these famous authors. This is common with everything we do in society. As kids we try to model our parents. As athletes we try to model the pros. As authors you try to model your favorite author's style. But is this interesting? The joy of writing fiction is that you can make up whatever you want. By modeling their style after a certain author they are decreasing their directions in which they could have gone with the story. Everyone has already read the type of story the old authors have written, and gotten joy from them. Why not write something with your own style, that will leave a lasting impression in the readers mind with your own name instead of leaving the reader comparing you to another. As jacob is saying these "new" short stories don't seem to create their own path so to speak. They tend to follow the one more traveled, or traveled by their idol.

I also agree that the only "new" story that has left a lasting impression has been "tits-up-in-a-ditch." It has followed it's own direction and leads us somewhere we have not been led before as a reader. It expresses many different views from the character of Dakotah. We get a real life look into her life, and all of her encounters and troubles. This story was truly the only story that had the "wow" factor as Jacob stated, and i will have to agree for the reasons i have previously mentioned that i long for the days of reading the "classic" short story rather than the "new."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Something's Missing

The "new" short fiction does not impress me like the "classics". The classics deserve their title; they masterfully play with character relationships, suspense, and story structures. Whereas in contrast, I feel like all of the new fiction lacks substance. Each holds entertainment value but seems to fail at claiming substantial literary value. For example, "7C" won an award for being Poe-like, but that's just the problem it's Poe-like--not even as good as Poe and not original. "Happy Endings" contains comical elements, but the final paragraph's hammering home of death seemed inconsistent. Yet, Joyce's "The Dead" builds beautiful imagery and character relationships while moving the plot to a dismal realization of one's imposing death; but nonetheless, the story subtly encourages one to live life to the fullest--not to be a Gabriel. Just describing the story (and not doing it justice) demonstrates its richness. The new authors experiment (hints the genre) with numerous literary elements, but none succeed in finding the right mix. But, maybe this is their problem. I doubt anyone told Joyce to write like Joyce, nor Hemingway to write like Hemingway; also, I bet neither wrote with a desire to win the favor of critics. I'm not making an acqusation, but I am saying I would struggle to find a distinct style in the last week's readings. "Tits Up in a Ditch" had the most "wow" value because of its elements of social realism and character relationships, which may be the beginning of this author's trademark. Overall, short fiction as a genre continues to impress me with its succintness, but the new genre has yet to give me a new favorite.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Blog of The Story of An Hour

The story is a different look at gender then what we are used to in these stories. There seems to be a usual set of hegemonic difference between the man and the woman, but here the man seems to be presented as quite benevolent and very much a loving husband. Yet, for some reason, the woman still finds herself immensely relieved and overcome with feelings of liberation upon the news of her husband’s death. It is difficult to determine if this is a commentary on the nature of marriage, on gender, or on just a particular case of an independently minded person.
I have wondered what would be different about the life of a woman who lost a loving husband, and this story did not match my initial musings. It seems natural for a woman, or a man for this instance, to be happy or overcome with feelings of freedom when a tyrannical or evil spouse is struck dead from calamity. But surprisingly, Mrs. Mallard reacts in a way that is most unexpected. She seems to have a sort of existential epiphany when she realized her “possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being” (p. 58).
Ultimately, I find the story to be a commentary on a particular person who was stuck in a marriage she did not enjoy, as opposed to marriage or gender alone. Perhaps further, it is a comment on marriage based on convenience or social habit, not love. It takes two to tango, and Mrs. Mallard apparently never felt like dancing at all.