Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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” 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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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
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
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
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.