Author Archives: Daniel

Class Notes for Tuesday October 10’th

Class Notes for Tuesday October 10, 2017

Station Eleven is our first excursion into a full novel. As a novel is longer than a short story, we need to approach it differently.

We discussed our emotional response to the novel…the following words were volunteered: hopelessness confused…no purpose…some hope… intrigued  .. curious … expectant …sadness … annoyed … devastated …pitying … lonely … insignificant

Four of us “liked” the book (raised hands that I counted)

Professor Belli spoke of the use of flashbacks in the novel:

Flashback Definition. Merriam Webster defines flashback as “an interruption of the chronological sequence (as of a film or literary work) of an event of earlier occurrence.” Flashbacks are interruptions that writers do to insert past events in order to provide background or context to the current events of a narrative.

Who is Miranda? Was it Kirsten or …as I forget names myself when under the gun and at the risk of incurring Professor Belli’s wrath, I have included a list of characters as a reference.. We should be creating this list ourselves as we read. Names that we read in the list below will not have the same impact upon us as names we write down (with associated notes and impressions), which will, in turn serve us well as inspiration for our blog writing.

Arthur Leander

Arthur is a Canadian-born actor who ultimately finds success in Hollywood. He has been married, at various times, to three different women: Miranda, Elizabeth, and Lydia. He dies of a heart attack while performing the title role in King Lear.

Jeevan Chaudhary

Jeevan is a paparazzi-turned-paramedic who witnesses the death of Arthur Leander. He survives the epidemic by stockpiling food before hysteria breaks out.

Kirsten Raymonde

Kirsten is a child actress who first encountered Arthur during his final production of King Lear. She grows up after the epidemic and joins the Symphony, the band of traveling actors.

Miranda Carroll

Miranda is the first wife of Arthur and the creator of the graphic novel Dr. Eleven. She ultimately despises the Hollywood life and divorces Arthur, entering the corporate world and becoming a shipping magnate before dying abroad in Singapore during the pandemic.

Elizabeth

The second wife of Arthur Leander. She is a Hollywood actress who breaks up the marriage of Miranda and Arthur. She and Arthur have a son, Tyler, and she and Arthur survive the pandemic.

Tyler Leander

The son of Arthur and Elizabeth. He grows up during the pandemic, becoming increasingly religious and believing that the pandemic spared the morally good.

Clark Thompson

Arthur’s best friend from his days as a young Toronto actor, Clark becomes a corporate success in London as an adult. He ultimately becomes the curator at the Museum of Civilization.

Sayid

Kristen’s lover and one of the Symphony members kidnapped by the Prophet.

Deiter

A member of the Symphony, kidnapped by the Prophet.

August

A member of the Symphony who travels with Kirsten.

Frank

Jeevan’s brother, confined to a wheelchair.

Tanya.

A child wrangler for the production of King Lear, and Arthur’s lover.

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Ita Flores likes the writing style of the novel…a poetic style, a crafted style, an “imaginary” style.

We discussed dog(s)/Luli in the novel

“The dog who’d been lying by the front row sat up at attention” (59)

““Luli” the prophet called over his shoulder and the dog trotted after him” (62)

 

Kina remarked that Luli takes us back to the comic book

 

Words/names/objects/people/ places (…the context escapes me!)

 

The notion of memories is very important.

 

Definition of eponymous

:of, relating to, or being the person or thing for whom or which something is named :of, relating to, or being an eponym When something is eponymous, it takes its own name as its title. For example, Foo Fighters’ first album was eponymous — it was called “Foo Fighters.”

 

“Loss” (which I could not hear with that twit speaking outside the door…remember to practice breathing!) is a central theme of the novel.. Loss and endings …end of relationships .. end of technology…different worlds before and after (pre and post Georgia Flu pandemic).

 

In literature, an epigraph is a phrase, quotation, or poem that is set at the beginning of a document,

We discussed the epigraph written by Czeslaw Milosz (Polish poet & prose writer)at the beginning of Station Eleven. The quote speaks of being witness to “too much”.. living in an intense period of time. An epigraph is not to be confused with a dedication ( “In memory of my dear friend and mentor…”)

 

Gem: impression of use of epigraph ~overwhelmed…

Ita: person cannot take in everything (… do wish I could read my handwriting)

 

Shifts in location throughout book Toronto, New York ect…what is the importance of this…transient overtone? Opening setting  ..  winter night in Toronto…immediately before ( or day one ) of the Georgia Flu.. “calm before the storm” …symbolism of snow ( which I still do not get, will a kind soul please enlighten me)

 

Is Arthur Leander a central character, was he a pivotal character …yes! most definitely!

Jeevan (with a G)  as a character? We meet him again on page 102 when he’s a news vulture.

 

Is  Kirsten Raymonde a central character…undeniably so!.. eight years old at Arthurs death, twenty eight in part II ( A midsummer’s night dream) She carries the glass paper-weight ( “lump of glass with a storm cloud trapped inside” 15) and the comic novels (Dr. Eleven Vol 1 No 1 “Station Eleven” and Vol 1 No 2 “The Pursuit”) in her back pack along with three knives in her belt and she is proficient in the their use.

 

Blanca : “Both are intimately connected to Arthur” ..good point!…Kirsten is a walking memorial, but the comic novel was Miranda’s

 

The story is told in fragments.. at the end of part II and chapter XII Kirsten is looking at clippings of Arthur (67) and immediately afterwards Part III Chapter XIII Arthur and Miranda are in a restaurant together …and thirty four years before (14 BGF.. 14 years before the Georgian Flu) (71)

 

Part I: artificial snow within, a snowstorm in a glass paperweight, a worsening snowstorm without.

Acting as a theme in the novel…Arthur is an actor…Kirsten and the Traveling Symphony are actors. Arthur misused his acting talents, Kirsten and Traveling Symphony bring joy (Survival is Insufficient..   will their acting bridge that gap?)

 

Chris: expected the significance of the relationship between Jeevan and Laura to become apparent.

 

Blanca: In chapter II of Arthur “But who was his family” (14) …notice to next of kin is directed to Arthur’s lawyer. Even his best friend Clark has a falling out with Arthur.

 

Woe to he who has no one to mourn him….as you sow…

 

“But who was his family” (14)…part III is a direct answer to that question.

 

Criticism of Laura’s reaction to Jeevan’s heroics…which I thought as credible…”Can you pick up milk” (11) Laura did not take him seriously!.. she probably felt that Jeevan did not take her seriously!

 

How does Jeevan react….he goes on a buying spree..  and buys daffodils

 

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

 

O.K…. I starting to include poetry…time to finish this!. But “Survival is Insufficient” …..will daffodils (beauty) suffice to bridge the gap ?

 

So what remains after the Georgian Flu   Daniel: Nature?

The theater remains the same! , Shakespeare and Lear remain…. will they satisfy “Survival is Insufficient” (58) ..and immediately after on page fifty nine we have….”Kirsten stood in a state of suspension that always came over her at the end of performances….a man in the front row had tears in his eyes”(59).

 

What is the travelling Symphony for its members: a family, a means of entertaining.

 

In conclusion…

 

The good news….no additional reading for Thursday

 

The better news: Please read the response blogs for Station Eleven and choose a favorite post no later than midnight Wednesday.….and please include your rationale for choosing that particular blog.

P.S. The most recent blogs may not be the best!

The best news: Please choose an excerpt from Station Eleven for discussion on Thursday

a passage or quotation taken or selected from a book, document,film, or the like; extract.

 

The most best news: (my son’s superlative adjective of choice) I get to go home now!

 

Good night to all

There is nothing which vanity does not desecrate

There is nothing which vanity does not desecrate. Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit

Station Eleven….. “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” and “ I Prefer You With a Crown”. There is a pattern, there is a purpose……of that I am sure, but what? It’s probably something so simple that I overlook it, but what, I think to myself “Why would I want to write a story, for profit?, for fame?, to resolve an internal conflict?, or perhaps a combination of all three”.  If I were writing Station Eleven, why would I include whatever is included in the story. Clearly because whatever is included is significant to me; pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that I want to piece together to understand something of myself.

The plot in Station Eleven shifts in time, swinging over and back like a pendulum: pre-pandemic, post pandemic, pre-pandemic, post pandemic, woven into a braid of contrasts….contrasts …of what?: life before and life after, we have, we have not, we have!, we have not! …..what? …modernity, technology, yes! Technology. Like ungrateful children we are awash in technology which we take for granted but do not appreciate. “This was during the final month of the era when it was possible to press a series of buttons on a telephone and speak with somebody on the far side of the earth” (30). The pain of isolation is undoubtebly the greatest pain that the loss of technology could bestow upon me.

The narrator in Station Eleven is talking to us, admonishing us for taking our privileged lives for granted, admonishing us, the egocentric Arthur Leander from Delano Island who at seventeen is accepted into the University of Toronto only to discover there that “The point was to get off the island” (74) and do what? …seek fame? …which withers in insignificance as we (Arthur) die, unloved and without dignity, under plastic snow on a stage “His name was Arthur Leander, he was fifty one years old and there were flowers in his hair”(3), a conceited King Lear who wants to bestow the lion’s share of his kingdom upon the daughter who professes to love him the most. The egotistical King Lear who is knowingly lied to by his devious daughters, Goneril and Regan, who feign affection for the foolish King, in self-seeking homage to his pathetic ego.

In “I Prefer You With a Crown” a reference to King Lear, the pathetic life of Arthur Leander is bared before us. He woos Miranda, the woman that he cannot forget: “Once in his room he sits on the bed, relieved to be alone and unlooked-at but feeling as he always does in these moments a little disoriented, obscurely deflated, a bit at a loss, and then all at once he knows what to do. He calls the cell phone number that he’s been saving all these years” (79). Once married to her, she loses her allure for him. He starts to ridicule her: “This time, I’ll be damned if the girl hasn’t got her worldly belongings with her” (97) he thus recounts their second night together. “She [Miranda] knows from the gossip blogs that people here see her as an eccentric, the actor’s wife who inks mysterious cartoons that no one’s ever laid eyes on” (94). It is these very cartoons or graphic novels that the ungrateful Arthur Leander gives to an eight-year old Kirsten Raymonde before his death “I have a present for you” (41). “The contrabassoon, who prior to the collapse was in the printing business, told Kirsten that the comics had been produced at great expense, all those bright images, that archival paper…”(42). These ridiculed cartoons become a testament to a lost civilization and a damning condemnation of Arthur Leander.

 

The Prologue

I have been quietly dreading this moment all day because, to be honest, I have little to write about “Station Eleven” that is, in any way, original.                                               So what do we have here? Sudden death at the theater, which, when you come to think about is a classic and dramatic way to start any story “He [Arthur Leander] cradled his his hand to his chest like a broken bird” (page 3, par 3) . Emily St. John (author) has jumped straight in to the circus ring and the characters jump around her, to the crack of her pen.                                                                         The dramatic entree. O.K… Let me come down to earth!. A famous actor (Arthur Leander) gets a massive heart attack on stage while playing King Lear (there are worse ways to go!). An aspiring paramedic (Jeevan Chaudhary) (of note: “Chowdhury is a hereditary title of honor originating in the Indian subcontinent”..Wikipedia) .and a cardiologist leap to his aid and perform CPR upon him, but to no avail ( frustrated and ignoble impotence in the face of death). Arthur Leander gets wheeled away on a gurney and Jeevan  “…it occurred to him that his role in this performance was done.”(page 6, par 3), remembers his girlfriend Laura, whom he had abandoned in the audience, in his fit of “misplaced” chivalry. (he knows that he has blown it with her…again!). As if to console himself, he finds a shocked and frightened, eight year-old girl (Kirsten Raymonde……remember the name!) on stage, and tries to comfort her (or himself).                                                                                                                                                     Anticlimax to the dramatic entree: Walking out of the Elgin theater, to the snow filled Yonge street in Toronto, Jeevan avoids the paparazzo  “Until very recently Jeevan had been a paparazzo himself” (page 9, last para) and realizes that he has found his vocation in life (one man’s tragedy is another’s moment of self discovery) declares to one of his former fellow paparazzo “I want to do something [in life] that matters” (page 10, para 4). Jeevan “felt extravagantly, guiltly alive” (page 11, para 2) Jeevan needs to think and goes for a walkabout in the snow. So, eight pages into the story, we have a protagonist (Jeevan), a conflict (wanting to do the right thing with himself) and his (antagonist?) girlfriend who, by now has sent him a text message “I had a headache so I went home. Can you pick up milk”( Page 11, par 4) (translation: you messed up but I want you to come home…now!)  Not bad! The narrator has painted a vivid backdrop in the first chapter.                                                                                                                                                                               Chapter 2:  The stage manager, a couple of actors and the makeup artist Goneril  (also King Lear’s oldest daughter and a principal villain in Shakespeare’s “King Lear”) huddle together the theater’s bar. the chapter appears to be  relatively insignificant ( will I be proven wrong?) but it has a very significant ending..”Of all of them at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest.He died three weeks later on the road out of the city”. (page 11, last para). I get a chill down my spine!                                                                                   Chapter 3: The plot thickens! The narrator slowly ratchets up the tension. Jeevan’s doctor friend (Hua), who works at  a local hospital calls him to warn him of a quickly developing  pandemic and “”Listen” Hua said,” you have to get out of the city”” (page 19, bottom). Jeevan realizes that this is the moment of truth “Jeevan was crushed by a sudden certainty that this was it, that this illness that Hua was describing was going to be the divide between a before and an after, a line drawn through his life” (page 20, bottom). Jeevan, unwilling to abandon his brother (he advised his girlfriend to leave town) decides to stock up on essentials and wait it out at his brothers apartment.                                                                                                In chapter five , we are introduced to  Arthur Leander’s first wife (of three….who’s perfect?, right!) She is a shipping executive, temporarily marooned in Malaysia when she is informed of her ex husband’s death “So this is how it ends, she thought, when the call was over, and she was soothed by the banality of it” (page 30 , para 2). Chapter five also has a dramatic ending “This was during the final months of the era when it was possible to press a series of buttons on a telephone and speak with someone on the far side of the earth” (page 30, last para).                                                                                                                                                                          Chapter six: a clever end to part one. The narrator spares us the agony of a blow-by-blow account of the developing pandemic. She gets straight to the point in chapter six. Life and civilization as the characters have known it is now over. There is no more technology. “No more cities…no more screens…no more pharmaceuticals, no more certainty of surviving a scratch on one’s hand…No more countries, all borders unmanned..No more fire departments, no more police” (page 31) No more internet. No more social media” (page 32). Kudos to the narrator! I admire how well she has developed the story and then in section two moves twenty years forward in time. The curtain now falls on the prologue.

 

 

 

 

 

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate

“August 2026:There Will Come Soft Rains ” is not a warm or inspiring piece that stirs something  within me but I cannot complain that the short story lacks energy. Inhuman energy it has in abundance!

Written in 1950, the story reflects the Cold War fear of nuclear war and human if not global annihilation. Americans in the 1950’s, were trying to comprehend a strange and frightening new (nuclear) reality, where the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD) was supposed to provide a grotesque reassurance of continued normality. In the story “August 2026:There Will Come Soft Rains ” , an automated house (supposedly a home) chronologically and systematically mocks any hope that we may have had of comforting human warmth, and the familiar, when we started to read. The house  first teases us with images of “perfectly browned toast, eight eggs sunnyside up, sixteen slices of bacon, two coffees, and two cool glasses of milk” (Bradbury 1, par 2) as it eerily uses foreshadowing “..as if it were afraid that nobody would [wake up]” (Bradbury 1, par 1), and then lays bare the horrifying reality outside ” The house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes….At night the ruined city gave off a radioactive glow that could be seen for miles”(Bradbury 1, par 8). We, the human reader, are left empty handed, insignificant and confused.

Literary analysis: Personification (“the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman” : Google). The story has no human characters, the closest thing in the story to something alive is a dying dog “once huge and fleshy, but now gone to bone and covered with sores”(Bradbury 2, par 3). The narrator uses  personification to give life to this automated house and it’s mechanical cohorts: the  “…angry mice” (Bradbury 2, par 3) and the incinerator .”..evil Baal in a dark corner” (Bradbury 2, par 4), and thus turns  the house the main character of the story. The purpose here, I think,  is to show how inhospitable and inhuman this environment is, an environment that was supposed to serve mankind continues without him (for a while), hollow and without purpose, mocking mankind: the inventor surpassed and destroyed by his own Frankenstein invention.

Structure: The narrator mechanically paces the story with a chronological timeclock, like something from “Modern Times” ( Charlie Chaplin). The time (in italics and as if from a script)  announces the tasks as the house carries them out “Ten-fifteen. The garden sprinklers whirled up in golden founts”(Bradbury 1, par 9), again, hollow acts without purpose; a mechanical epitaph to a brilliant yet horribly fallible inventor.

Metaphor: “The house was an altar with ten thousand attendants…But the Gods had gone away”(Bradbury 2, par 3). An alter to whom, the God’s of course: man’s altar to himself. Technology was man’s altar to himself and like the Greek mythological character Icarus, the son of Daedalus, who dared to fly too close to the sun (also a ball of nuclear fission) and who’s wings of feathers and wax melted in the radiated heat, mankind has been punished for his sin of hubris.

I would like to conclude with a quote from Dante’s Inferno, a little dramatic I know but appropriate when we consider the hell that awaits us if anybody (i.e. Kim Jong-un or President Trump) makes the wrong move in a nuclear stalemate. I find it alarming that we now depend on Russia and China for wisdom.

Per me si va ne la città dolente,
per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,
per me si va tra la perduta gente.
Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore:
fecemi la divina potestate,
la somma sapienza e ‘l primo amore.
Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create
se non etterne, e io etterno duro.
Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate

Translation: Through me you go to the grief wracked city; Through me you go to everlasting pain; Through me you go a pass among lost souls. Justice inspired my exalted Creator: I am a creature of the Holiest Power, of Wisdom in the Highest and of Primal Love. Nothing till I was made was made, only eternal beings. And I endure eternally. Abandon all hope — Ye Who Enter Here.

 

No is not enough

I first came across Naomi Klein after the the inauguration of President Donald J.Trump, which frankly left me bewildered. I needed to understand what I had missed in Trump’s appeal.  I did not choose Naomi’s book “No is Not Enough”, not because it is not worth reading but because I needed something that described in lurid detail, his rise as a businessman. Having found it and read it, I did not want to read another book about “The Donald”. I do not feel comfortable in maligning the President of the United States, but the opinion that I formed of Donald Trump was that he was not altruistic.

Early Sunday afternoon, I lazily browsed the selection of events at the Brooklyn Boor Fair, debating with myself whether or not, it was worth the hour long drive and the price of parking, et voilà! there she was! “Naomi Klein”. “Tis a sign!” I muttered to myself and off I went.

It was all very genteel at the Brooklyn Historical  Society Library; a gentle line had formed and a lady with a clicker could predict how many of us would fit inside. At 4:55pm we took our seats and very shortly afterwards, Naomi Klein and Bhaskar Sunkara took up their appointed positions at a raised table. Bhaskar (sharp and intelligent) made a short introduction, describing “The Donald” as somebody he had known as a local warlord, complimented Naomi on speed with which she had written “No is Not Enough” and let Naomi speak.

Here, I will be a little curt….almost all of what Naomi had to say can be seen on YouTube…..but these are the important points:                                                                                                                               Donald Trump realized from an early age in his business career that his persona or image as perceived by others was his most valuable asset. He could use it to leverage his meager “hard” assets and get concessions from municipal and federal authorities or loans from banks. He learnt to use his name and the money of others to build a business empire.

In time, Donald Trump  learnt to become a “lifestyle brand”. In the past manufacturers would create an aura around their product to improve sales. “Lifestyle brands” like “Nike” or “Ralph Lauren” or “Ikea”  allude to a way of life that  requires multiple components (products and services) to be successfully realized. We all have a hole in our soul that can never be filled, so we are naturally attracted these “lifestyle brands” (my addition).

Marketing himself at a national level through the game show “The Apprentice” was Donald Trump’s spring-board to the presidency. Donald Trump did not win the election as much as the Democratic party, and Hillary Clinton in particular, lost the election. In absolute terms, Hillary got more votes and the archaic Electoral College ( which was set up to protect slave owners) made Donald president.

Whereas, President Trump is perceived as a somebody who is unable to use the political apparatus in cooperation with others to enable legislation, behind the scenes his appointees are working hard to dismantle Obamacare, to reverse legislation that protect the environment. His appointees are conservative, anti-immigration and aggressively pro-business. We are fools if we believe that nothing is being changed.

“The Shock Doctrine”. This is a brutally effective tool used by right wing governments. After a disaster, democratic rights are suspended (something that we will read about in “The Handmaid’s Tale”) and power is concentrated in the hands of a powerful minority.

The democratic rights that we enjoy in the United States are not the natural state of affairs in world history. They are very much the exception. If we are not aware of the threats to our democratic rights and if we do not vigorously defend them, they will be eroded under whatever pretext will be used by those who crave power, be they private corporations or political groups.

What is the answer?… saying “No!” is not enough. A two year-old can say “No!”.We need a viable alternative! A platform that appeals to a wide swath of the populace in the United States. A vision that will truly empower the downtrodden, that will genuinely release the unused potential  of those in the United States who have been taught that they have no potential. 

 

“Democracy is talking itself to death. The people do not know what they want; they do not know what is the best for them. There is too much foolishness, too much lost motion. I have stopped the talk and the nonsense. I am a man of action. Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy. You in America will see that some day.”

Benito Mussolini

 

 

 

 

 

The utopia that was not

“Imagine if you will, a utopia that was dependent upon the suffering of a single child” I smugly asked a fellow employee (a philosopher) , as I popped a Keurig into the coffee machine. Without raising his head, he continued to pour hot water over the  green tea in his infuser mug. He lifted the mug, which was now full, turned and stopped for a moment before departing, to say ” If a single child suffered, then there was no utopia”.  Deflated, I sprinkled creamer upon my coffee, and returned to my desk to ponder the best approach to my blog post.

Ursula Le Guin was inspired by “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life”  written by the psychologist and philosopher William James, who contended that “[If people could be] kept permanently happy on the one simple condition that a certain soul on the far off edge of things should lead a life of lonely torment,.. how hideous a thing would be  [the enjoyment of this happiness] when deliberately accepted as the fruit of such a bargain”.

Contrary to William James who believed that people would not agree to such a social contract, Le Guin shows us a society that, like our American society, accepts the moral ambiguity of the unjust suffering of an individual (or the few or many, as the case may be) for the “happiness” of the privileged (few or many, as the case may be). Privilege by definition, exists at someone else’s expense.

There is little to no plot in the story, just a trap that is sprung upon us on page four “Then let me describe one more thing”, leaving us feeling uncomfortable. After consideration of cruel treatment of the child who pleads” Please let me out, I will be good” (page six), would we walk away from Omelas in protest or in quandary, or would we stay and accept, by the logic of Immanuel Kant that the rationality of the greater good is the ultimate good; that saving a drowning man out of compassion or pity is not a morally good act.

I admit that I would stay in Omelas. My government for example, has in it’s counterinsurgency efforts against al-Qaeda, and in my name also, committed itself to a policy of drone activity in Pakistan, which by the reckoning of Daniel L. Byman of the Brookings Institute, has caused the deaths of ten civilians for every militant killed. I am thus no better than the citizens of Omelas.

The narrator states that “There was no king, They did not use swords or keep slaves” ( page two). There is no moral authority in the story. The narrator draws us in and makes us complicit when he/she says “Perhaps it would be best if you imagined it as your fancy bids..” (page two). We can add orgy or drugs if we so choose, to sweeten the deal in our imagination. The narrator switches from the past tense to the conditional tense ” I think that there would be no cars or helicopters” (page two) ….we, the readers, are made partners in the  construction of this story, that is conditional upon our inclination. Each reader may construct his or her story.

There is no escape, no salvation in the story ” The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”.

 

 

The Cuckoo Clock

Setting: Three months in a colonial mansion with “hedges and walls and gates that lock….a delicious garden–large and shady, full of box bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them“. The genteel swaying to and fro of a pendulum on a Cuckoo Clock. The protagonist (dynamic character) has a condition: a nervous disposition. Her frugal physician husband (static character) “practical in the extreme….who is careful and loving and hardly lets me stir without special direction” has prescribed rest to be followed by more rest, and the protagonist feels “basely ungrateful not to value it more“. “He says we came here solely on my account“…. not because it was “…..let so cheaply“…purely coincidental! The swaying of the pendulum to and fro is a little irregular! “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive……But John says if I feel so, I shall neglect proper self-control…….I don’t like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened onto the piazza and had roses all over the window………but John would hear nothing of it” The pendulum swaying to and fro is becoming erratic. “He laughs at me so about this wall-paper!…….At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he said that I was letting it get the better of me…..You know the place is doing you good……and really, dear, I don’t care to renovate the house just for a three months’ rental”                                                                                                                                       My impatience grows and I imagine how I would rewrite the piece–on page two: during dinner she arose slowly with plate in hand.Feigning continued interest in his patronizing monologue, she made her way slowly to the buffet table behind him. As John droned on, she slowly lifted the bucket of ice-cold she had hidden behind the curtain and approached her unsuspecting husband from behind. Straining as she lifted the heavy bucket above him, she slowly poured it’s contents upon his head. As he jumped from his chair looking at her in disbelief, she calmly said  “Oh, my blessed wet goose.You must not neglect proper self-control”                                          The Plot:   The narrator’s intended that I the reader become impatient,irritated, no! provoked beyond endurance, like the main character and protagonist, that I may better feel her pain; we have to wait until the very last and powerfully short paragraph for John’s comeuppance (resolution of the plot). “Now why should the man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so I had to creep over him every time” The narrator strains our patience throughout the story and to the very end to make that point.The narrator wants us to feel the tortured existence of the protagonist as she oscillates (conflict) between pain (“John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him“) and guilt (“I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already!“). The narrator grates on our nerves, slowly building suspense as the plot swings like a erratic pendulum between  the extremes of pain/anger on one side and guilt/conformity to social mores on the other. Finally, we are reprieved and breathe a sigh of relief in the second to last paragraph (climax) when the cuckoo finally screams out!– the protagonist has pulled off most of the wallpaper!. The climax and resolution were kept to the very end, the final two paragraphs. This sudden climax and resolution serves to underline our agitation.                                                                                                   

Historical note: The protagonist’s physician/psychiatrist, Weir Mitchell (father of neurology) was born on February 15, 1829 in Philadelphia. He was an ardent proponent of the rest cure for nervous diseases. Isolation and confinement to bed (sensory deprivation) were key elements.His treatment was also used on Virginia Woolf, who wrote a savage satire of it in her novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925). In the year and place of his birth, the new prison discipline of separate confinement was introduced at the Eastern State Penitentiary. Commentators attributed the high rates of mental breakdown of prisoners subjected to the punishment, to the system of isolating prisoners in their cells. Charles Dickens, who visited the Philadelphia Penitentiary during his travels to America, described the “slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body” (the historical note was  largely copied from Wikipedia

“May God defend me from my friends: I can defend myself from my enemies. ”― Voltaire

Response to Puertoricanness (#1)

So the writer, Aurora Levine Morales, is both the narrator and the protagonist; who then is the antagonist?, I suppose that the antagonist is American culture in general, and in particular, that part of American culture which conflicts with the Puerto Rican culture of Aurora Levine Morales’ youth; that which is close to her heart, and for which she has found no substitute in the United States. What instant convenience of American culture can compete with a pot of food on the stove all day, humble as that pot of food may be. For if a pot of food is on the stove all day, there is somebody there to tend to that pot all day, somebody to serve you perhaps, somebody to talk with you as you eat. What refrigerator, full of microwaveable delicacies can compete with that?        

The rooster….it is significant that Levine Morales starts with the rooster (a metaphor for the Puerto Rican in Levine Morales that will not be suppressed?). That visceral rooster will be heard and cannot be ignored. The rooster will wake her up, will be part of her dreams, until she answers him and embraces her dormant Puerto Rican culture.  

 The narrator has the misfortune of emigrating from a warmer climate to a colder one. Who in Chicago’s cold winters would not miss the Caribbean or the shores of the Mediterranean if they could. How can the plain mulberry tree compare with the exuberant flamboyant tree of Puerto Rico. How can the grey winter Chicago skys compare with the vibrant colors of a Caribbean sky?       

 Like all immigrants, the fear of lacking “savoir faire”, seeming to be ignorant of social norms; to not “know” how to dress, or date, or to address a professor appropriately, caused the narrator to suppress the intuitive part of herself; to appear as dyslexic, stuttering, and to sell herself short; but no more. Yesterday, as she answered her husband, something changed; she felt comfortable with being herself, by telling him that “This is how we talk, I will not wait sedately for you to finish”… this is who I am, I am not sedate! She will drink piña and mark time by mornings, afternoons and nights, not by the technical exactness of minutes and seconds. Her “work, eating, sleeping, lovemaking, play” will now shape her time.    

The narrator is torn between the two parts of her identity, the innate and the adopted; but she can abandon neither: “Since she could not now, in the endless bartering of a woman with two countries, bring herself to trade in one half of her heart for the other, exchange this loneliness for another perhaps harsher one”. Here the narrator acknowledges that her adopted American culture has also become a integral and valued part of her identity, and is thus also close to her heart, albeit at odds with the Puerto Rican part of her identity.     Is it not this very conflict, between the two parts of her heart, like a woman torn between two lovers, which gives Levine Morales the inspiration for her writing.             

The world is a beautiful place and words can capture that beauty.

Hi, everybody,                                                                                                                                                                                                     My name is Daniel Fanning. I grew up in Ireland and I moved to the U.S. fifteen years ago. I worked as a CNC machinist/programmer (metal machining/CAM programming) until about twelve years ago, when I gradually moved into management. I enjoy working with people. A good manager is  like a good coach; he attunes himself to others, helping rather than hindering.

I work in Yonkers N.Y. and live nearby. I am married with two children; a boy (11) and a girl (10). I like watching news and history channels. Reality often surpasses anything the mind can imagine. When I found out that the manufacturing company that I work for is planning to move down south, I decided to do a B.Tech in Mech. Eng. Technology, to make myself more marketable. I had completed an Associate degree years ago so I needed to do less to finish the B.Tech. I have completed three semesters at City Tech and I hope to finish in three more semesters.

The courses that I have enjoyed the most at City Tech are English (1101 & 1121) and History (1110).            I remember sitting down for my first class in Eng 1101, on a leisurely Saturday morning and being utterly surprised by what Prof. Ashar Foley could do with the English language. You don’t know that the room is stuffy until somebody opens the window. When I was in high school, English and History were the domains of pompous old fools. In City Tech, I found professors who maneuvered the literary rapids with graceful agility.

Words are magical, they can drive us to despair or fly us to the stars. Like dabs of paint by Van Gogh, they can blend seamlessly together to evoke an image that transcends to the sublime. I love being in the sublime area of writing, it’s the effort required to get there that daunts me. I am envious of those who write for a living, from the hack writer who gets paid by the word to the masters like James Joyce who carefully plan and sculpt their creation from the amorphous and cold stone. The world is a beautiful place and words can capture that beauty.