2010
11.09

My Year of Meats is a novel that succeeds in encompassing several facets of modern global culture.  The text combines alluring descriptions of the American heartland combined with critiques regarding its consumptive nature,  graphic scenes of violence, troubling information regarding modern food production, a healthy dose of sex, the process of self-realization,  and a number of different perspectives seen through the actions of several characters to create a narrative that is truly unique and exciting.  Despite the importance of these varying themes, I feel that Ruth Ozeki’s novel offers substantial enlightenment regarding race and ethnicity and how they are addressed in the modern era.

The novel revolves mostly around the actions of Jane.  She is a unique character in the fact that she is one of the only characters in this novel who does not posses a singular heritage.   This “hybrid” identity that Jane possesses is one of Ozeki’s central focuses throughout her novel, suggesting that individuals like Jane are representative of what is to come.  This concept is illuminated in a passage in which Jane reflects on her ethnicity.  She states, “Being half, I am evidence that race, too, will become relic”.  Like a fossil, or a keepsake from years ago, Ozeki is suggesting that race will become something that no longer exists in the minds of people, or at the very least, will hold much less relevance in the development of identity.

**I foolishly have not allowed myself enough time to elaborate further at this time, I planned on going further with this idea.  I will this thought later on today.**

2010
11.08

Finishing up Faulkner

I’m hesitant to state that I was disappointed by the ending of The Sound and the Fury, although it is fairly frustrating to never get to hear from the character whom this entire novel revolves around, Caddy.  I feel the more appropriate response is to say that I am intrigued by Faulkner’s ending.

His choice to suddenly revert to a traditional narration after already establishing a series of unique and difficult narrators is an interesting and effective decision, I think.  Rather than provide his audience with viewpoint of one of the novel’s other pivotal characters, such as Caddy, Mrs. Compson, or any of the servants, Faulkner takes a step back thus allowing the Compson family to be viewed objectively, freeing the reader from the opinions, biases, and imperfections of the Compson’s themselves.  This liberation from the cryptic narration of the Compson brothers is relieving.  For the first time the reader is granted some form of stability, and can more confidently approach the novel.

However effective this decision may have been in the framing of this story and granting me an alternative perspective, the failure to grant Caddy an opportunity to have her say is difficult to ignore.  After dedicating 3 sections of this novel to her effect on the lives of the Compsons, in particular her brothers, one is eager to hear her side of the story, to put to rest the questions that linger from the inadequate recollections of Benji, Quentin, and Jason.  Obviously, this approach is far too simple and too typical for Faulkner.  Rather, I feel that his intention was to prompt his reader to go back, dig deeper into his perplexing writing and attempt to unearth the truth.  It’s certainly respectable, admirable even, but I think I’ll hold off for now.

2010
11.04

To be a Compson

Although it is brimming with cynicism, greed, self-loathing, racist and sexist ideas, and utter cruelty, Jason’s narration is particularly valuable to this novel.  For the first time, Faulkner grants us a vision of the present, with only minor interruptions of remembrance.

Throughout Jason’s narrative, several facets of the Compson tale are illuminated.  Early on, Jason reveals that Caddy was indeed divorced from Herbert upon finding out she was pregnant,  thus negating Jason’s potential job.  As a result of this, Caddy’s child, Miss Quentin, is able to return to the Compson home, but Caddy is banished and all together shunned by the family, negating her existence.  This lasts for many years, until the death of Mr. Compson, which Caddy reads of in the newspaper and subsequently makes an appearance at the funeral.

Faulkner, through Jason, also reveals the disdain that Mrs. Compson and Jason feel for Mr. Compson, the circumstances of his death, and the Compson name in general.  Mr. Compson, though a rampant alcoholic, knew enough to respect the members of his family and kept peaceful relations amongst them for as long as he could.  Upon his death, the house is left to Jason who feels that his father was weak and that his lifestyle was deplorable.  Because of this, Jason eliminates every last bit of compassion from the home, choosing instead to act bitterly and chastise everyone but his mother.  Several times throughout this section Jason and Mrs. Compson express gratitude that they are not wholly Compson, making references to the shame and misfortune associated with their surname.

Though we have been made aware of Benji’s castration and Quentin’s suicide prior to reading this section, Jason validates both of these occurrences in his writing.  Also, Jason clarifies the circumstances of Miss Quentin’s birth, stating that Caddy is unaware of who the father truly is.

2010
11.02

Quentin’s Idle Habit

With June Second, 1910 Faulkner establishes a second narrator in the character of Quentin.  Though his intelligence is far beyond that of Benji’s, Quentin shares in his brother’s inability to function entirely in the present as his memories often invade his narration.  In fact, the construct of time is inescapable for Quentin as he spends each waking moment contemplating the ticking of a clock or examining the movements of the shadows.

“If it had been cloudy”, Quentin could have very well disabled his watch and stayed within his thoughts.  However, the presence of the sun and its encroaching shadows compel Quentin to realize his “idle habits”.  Quentin’s disposition is clearly at odds with that of his father’s who feels that Quentin’s inability to restrict his reveries is merely a waste of time, a habit worthy of regret.  Though there is such a divide between them, Quentin thinks favorably of his father and the rest of his family, “thinking it would be nice for them down at New London”.

Contemplating his current surroundings his memory cannot help but interfere upon his realization that it is the month of June.  Just as in Benji’s narrative we are suddenly transported back to Caddy’s wedding, an event that troubled Quentin because Caddy and her husband were “not virgins”.  Unlike “dogwood” or “milkweed”, Caddy’s marriage was unnatural and did not serve to benefit any of those involved.  Feeling that this marriage further degraded the standing of the Compson family, Quentin claims incest, feeling that even such a horrid act is better than the truth.  The constant reference to roses is particularly evasive here.  Initially, it seems to aid in the description of Caddy’s wedding.  In the sentences following this, Roses seems to refer to Caddy, appearing in places where one would expect her name to be written.  Perhaps this speaks to Quentin’s impression of his sister, something beautiful yet dangerous.

Towards the end of this passage, Quentin seems to be grappling with his parents’ decision to send him to Harvard.  He was encouraged to interact with his surroundings, “see the boat-race”.  It is clearly a privilege for Quentin to be granted an opportunity to attend Harvard, however his inability to break from the circumstances of the past prevent him from enjoying the present.

As my classmate Haani put it, “Quentin lets thoughts of envelop his life”.  Her post along with the interactions on Caitlin’s comments helped me out on this one.

2010
10.28

Interpreting Benji

About halfway through April Seventh, 1928, Benji recalls seeing Caddy “with flowers in her hair, and a long veil like shining wind”.  Benji, along with T.P. who is Benji’s caretaker at the time of his adolescence, remain in the cellar during the ceremony for fear that Benji will cause a disturbance.  Unaware that their stolen “sassprilluh” was actually alcohol, T.P. and Benji wind up very drunk and behave wildly.  With T.P. “thrashing about and laughing”, Benji is unable to control his movements as he falls several times and ultimately hits his head.  Following Benji’s injury he reports that his throat repeatedly “made a sound” that he could not control.  In his drunken state, Benji has the hiccups and because he cannot comprehend this, he believes that he may be crying.  After all of this commotion, Caddy appears and, in an attempt to calm Benji, embraces him.  “Caddy put her arms around me, and her shining veil, and I couldn’t smell the trees anymore, and I began to cry”.  Caddy has put on perfume and he can sense that there is something different about her.  The fact that he can no longer “smell the trees” indicates that their relationship has changed.  Benji no longer feels the comfort and protection Caddy once offered to him because she is growing older and expressing herself as a woman.  Benji does not take well to this change, and cannot bring himself to a calm state until Caddy washes the perfume off of her skin and once again gives off the scent he finds so comforting.

2010
10.26

No Sound, Just Fury (so far)

This is my first encounter with Faulkner, somehow over the past few years all of my survey courses have managed to shield me from his work.  I had always heard that his writing was convoluted and that his language was diffifcult, but that the content of his work was rewarding enough to keep readers interested.  So far, I’m not having any such luck in reaping any benefits from this text.  Like my classmate Michael Zyskind, I feel lost in this text and consulted a few online sources to aid in my confusion.  However, I remain unable to identify any moment that could qualify as enlightening.

With that said, I have to state that I am very impressed by the distinct voices of these characters and how seamless their interactions are, leading from one encounter to the next with little framing by Faulkner.  Though this is one of the aspects that I found confusing, Faulkner’s writing style is certainly admirable, unlike anything I’ve ever read.  I am hoping to move past mere appreciation for this text and enter into space where I can discern the language and actually engage with Faulkner’s writing.

2010
10.25

The model minority myth has been established as one of the most important aspects in our analysis of this text.  Chang-Rae Lee incorporates this idea countless times throughout Native Speaker in an attempt to come to terms with its validity, relevance, and the effect it has on those who meet its qualifications.  As the novel progresses, this supposed myth becomes increasingly problematic.  Lee clearly demonstrates that it is often the cause of racial tension and discrimination, as seen in the relationships between Black and Korean characters in the novel.  Additionally, this idea consistently prevents Henry from achieving success professionally as he feels an unspoken obligation to protect the very people his employer wishes to expose.  Both of these instances occur several time throughout the novel and Lee dedicates much of his writing in this novel to these topics, having them become central themes.

However, the aspect of the model minority myth that I find most critical in this text is its effect on Henry himself.  Evidence of this can be seen throughout the novel, though it is rarely clearly identified and can be found mostly in brief paragraphs in which Henry removes himself from his surroundings in order to inhabit a memory or recollection.  A particularly enlightening passage can be found on page 128 at a point in which Henry steps out of his initial “reunion” with Lelia and recalls briefly recalls his experiences growing up with his father.  Lee injects this reverie with the all-too familiar imagery of the model minority myth as he describes Henry as a child who “studied far into the night” and “read [his] entire children’s encyclopedia” to establish himself as intelligent.  Lee also states that young Henry “never made an error at shortstop”, a sign of his determination to achieve perfection, and would place more flowers on his mother’s grave than his father did in order to exceed his expectations and remain competitive.  He also remained humble and economical by driving “only used, beat-up cars” and never asking for financial support.  All of this behavior is well-known to be representative of the foundational constructs of the model minority myth, however what is striking here is the motivation behind Henry’s behavior.   Here, Lee is suggesting that the subscription to this stereotypical behavior is inherited.  Henry’s fulfillment of the stereotype does not come as a result of societal pressures or the influence of the media, but is simply due to the desire to achieve his father’s acceptance.  Rather than investing in his own emotional and personal development, Henry pursued that which could be quantified so that his worth could eventually be calculated by his father.  This desire for practicality is what defines Henry as a character.  His career, his marriage, his interactions with others, and his thoughts are all founded upon these principles of the model minority myth, a path chosen for him by his father.

2010
10.21

Persepolis

I found this sequence (which is found on page 142) to be one of the most striking of the entire narrative.  Though Marjane is very much aware of the war and violence that is occurring on a daily basis, this is the first instance where it has impacted her personally.  The collapsed structure once belonged to a neighbor of hers, a family she knew quite well.  Upon inspecting the rubble Marjane notices the turquoise bracelet that once belonged to her friend Neda.  What she also notices is that this bracelet is still attached to Neda’s ravaged body, a sight that Marjane cannot bring herself to fully recognize.  In this frames following Marjane exhibits her inability to comprehend what she has just witnessed; first she seems to be disgusted, then completely overwhelmed, and then finally she reaches a state that cannot even be represented by an image or description.  This signifies a turning point in Marjane’s life, the brutality has struck far too close to home and she can no longer safely remain in Iran.

2010
10.19

•The message of Ayatollah Khomeini, the man responsible for establishing the Islamic Republic, was recorded onto cassette tapes, which were duplicated in massive quantities.  Because of this he gained the overwhelming support of the country he had previously been exiled from.  This very interesting to examine considering the access to information granted to people through the internet, especially at this time when governing bodies throughout the world are attempting to restrict this access.  Beyond the conflict that exists with copyright issues, world leaders are concerned about the spread of information that would inspire actions similar to those of Iran’s in 1979.

•”The oil boom of the 1970’s produced ‘alarming’ increase in inflation and waste and an ‘accelerating gap’ between the rich and poor, the city and the country”.  It seems that wherever there is any sort of general outcry from the public there is also an economic injustice being done.  The regime of Pahlavi had long been violating the beliefs of an overwhelming amount of the public and now there had come a time when these same people were unable to care for themselves or their families because of the rapid growth of inflation and the scarcity of funds.  This phenomenon only added the frustration of the Islamic population, thus accelerating the sentiment of revolution.  Once your paycheck is no longer sufficient to fill your needs, you have a serious problem on your hands.  With the economic downturn we’ve seen in our country over the past few years, it’s relatively easy to comprehend how such a revolution might have occurred.  Though our struggles are nowhere near the magnitude of those which existed at this time it’s vital for people to be aware of these situations and how they often unfold.

sources:

http://www.iranchamber.com/history/islamic_revolution/islamic_revolution.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_Revolution

2010
10.12

Hemingway

Hemingway’s style is unmistakable, not that this is any sort of revelation, but I believe that it is certainly what distinguishes from the other writers of his generation.  In my experiences thus far in The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway has exhibited a talent that enables him to convey his thoughts through short, directive sentences that follow each other fluidly and effectively grasp his reader’s attention.  There is nothing to be distracted with, no language to stumble through, no images left unclear, and somehow, one is able to comprehend the feelings and and thought-processes of many of the characters, though they are never explicitly stated in the text.  Hemingway is never over-bearing, in fact, much of his text is inviting, allowing his audience the choice to take his prose as it appears on the surface or perform a deeper analysis of the submerged.