John Feinstein and Jim Larranaga

If the tattoos and headphones and books aren’t enough to clue you in I’ll go ahead and state, I am not really a sports type of kid. Really. I mean I know enough to get by. I know the basic game play of most televised sports as a job condition (if you don’t know enough to make appropriate noises behind the bar while the game is on tips suffer). Finer points and team stats, specific players, important games all escape me; I doubt I’ll ever truly understand what constitutes offsides on the soccer field. So, then, why attend the Fall for the Book event probably most foreign to my normative contexts? The simple answer is: my girlfriend wanted to go.

There are very few things that captivate her like NCAA basketball; she loves it. I don’t understand it. When she heard that my schedule opened up around John Feinstein’s appearance with Jim Larranaga she went straight to her bookshelf, pulled down Feinstein’s latest book, The Last Dance, and began rehearsing an autograph request. And sure, after sitting in on this maybe we could talk about writing and tone and a creative impulse surrounding basketball; maybe I could join the conversation instead of wondering what a low post is and what someone might have to do in order to become one.

The talk circled mainly around George Mason’s bid in last years playoffs. The dialogue between sportswriter and coach was constantly interrupted with applause at the mention of any name, any game, any important play. Everything focused around the action of the game. Jim couldn’t sit down to tell his stories and actually recreated key moments for the audience, spinning, ducking and jumping across the stage. All this was very entertaining. The audience loved it and it became clear that this session would have very little to do with John’s writing except to remember what he had written about the play in question. Halfway through the hour long conversation I was still stymied by that damn low post.

When John started talking about his book, though, I understood that the topic had not really shifted at all. He talked about the concentrated effort it took to move from reporting the midnight police beat to a top name sportswriter. He gave examples of the quick sprint from the story to the page that had to be executed on a deadline, before the buzzer. He spoke about writing as if it too was a physical contest. In his experience writing about sports, it became clear, John Feinstein participates in one himself. He sees his action of writing through the same lens he uses to chronicle the swift sprints and impossible shots of the game. The audience, listening to stories about historic games and predictions from patterns learned over a lifetime of sports consumption, was actually witnessing John’s creative process. The juxtaposition of the same stories, the same words from Jim Larranaga, then served to root this process to its context. I had come hoping to learn how to drag a game from the stadium and into my comfortable libraries, I wanted to learn how to read a game. Instead I was confronted with my books and pages strewn across the field as exuberant confetti. Basketball was not brought into a book by John Feinstein, rather, he had written a book by the same process his players bounded down the court. I expected to hear words spun well to evoke a winning play. Instead, to John, a pleasing turn of phrase was a good free throw. So I left, still confused about low posts but with appreciative of having seen a writer write with his feet pounding cadence and punctuating thoughts with the rubbery ring of a basketball on the boards.

Dream Jungle: not quite okeydokie, di ba?

So, in my usual obsessive way I’ve read Dream Jungle front to back in a weekend. And I must confess; of all the things we’ve read in this class so far, between novels and short stories, I by far like this book the least. I had a few problems with it, the primary one being this: Dream Jungle is too many darn stories.

House of Leaves was distinct for having two narratives, two stories, layered on top of one another. The point of view would switch completely between the narratives, and each would develop alongside the other. Dream Jungle does something rather similar – there is only one overall narrative, but the point of view jumps between people (and even between first and third person).

Herein, however, lies the problem. House of Leaves was somewhat over 600 pages long. some of these pages were nearly empty, but there were still easily 500+ pages of solid text in which to develop characters. In the end, you understood the characters, empathized with them.

Our copy of Dream Jungle features smaller pages than House of Leaves, and it clocks in at a bit over 300 pages.

Dream Jungle attempts, in half the space of House of Leaves, to develop no fewer than seven different voices. And I may be forgetting one or two.

The end result is that I, at least, feel I don’t know these characters well enough to really be interested in them. The only characters who come at all close to being sympathetic are Zamora, Lina and Paz. We get some of Zamora’s story, some of Lina’s, we jump to the movie actors… I felt as though the story would have been much more effective had it simply focused on, say, Lina with only some interjections by Zamora.

The novel also felt odd to read, because unlike The Man in my Basement (a straight first-person narrative being related to someone), or House of Leaves (a third-person narrative… with a footnoted first-person narrative on top), Dream Jungle had no viewpoint structure. It would leap from first to third person with abandon. Are we jumping into minds? Are we reading memoirs? The lack of a definitive “feel” for how the narrative is meant to be taken in made the actual novel somewhat more laborious to read, I felt.

Finally… the lack of real ending. Only Zamora really gets an ending. Everyone else simply… tapers off. We hear nothing of how the movie project ended, we hear nothing of the fate of certain characters who disappeared during the filming, we get the briefest glances of Lina and Moody and we don’t know what became of their relationship; the book leaves us wholly unsatisfied as to what actually happened to these people we spent 300 pages reading about. If there is meaning to be gained from the novel, we’re distracted by the fact that we have little idea what even happened to these people, which could greatly inform the entire experience.

Sadly, I have to say to this one “No sir, I didn’t like it.” After in-class discussions and whatnot, I will post on the “end blog what I did like…

-Andrew D.

Doomed to Gratitude

  “Dream Jungle” is a book reminiscent of “House of Spirits” in its intrinsic look at the lives of servants and masters in Latin America.  This first section highlights points of class tension and difference as well as a juxtaposition between the family life dynamics of the ‘haves’ and the ‘havenots’.  Rizalina describes her mother as “doomed to gratitude” in referring to her relationship with her husband as well as her employer Zamora.  Rizalina’s parents argue and fight, but it is the mother who leaves regularly to make the money, while the father stays home and womanizes.  With Zamora and Ilse, he is continuously busy with his work and girl servants while his wife has nothing more to do than compulsively look after the cleanliness of the house.  It points out that domestic problems are never a result of the presence or absence of money, it only appears that way. 

  A major constraint put on the poor by the rich is the importance in “not acting too smart” and not to ask “too many questions”.  Zamora instructs Rizalina that it is “good to be curious and bold, but it can also get you in trouble.”  This contributes to the novel’s immediate postcolonial setting with the description of a wealthy landowner flying in to explore a tribe of untouched indigeneous people.  Knowledge is something only to be had by the wealthy.  If you are poor, curiosity and knowledge are the ultimate weapon, as well as the ulitimate threat towards the rich.  Zamora’s relations with his female workers emmulates master/slave relationships of colonial times and plantations.  It also parallels the sexual harrassment experienced by Rizalina from her father highlighting the effect of sexual domination in the supression of people.  I feel that race and ethnohistory and politics will be major themes of the book, but from this first part I feel sexuality will also play an imperative role to character development.  

The Wild One – Part 1 Dream Jungle

Reading the first few pages of Dream Jungle had me lost.  I was unsure of whom the story was about exactly or where it was going to go.  I wanted to hate it but as my reading progressed, so did my interest in the book and now it is to the point now that I can’t put it down.  It is interesting how Jessica Hagedorn juxtaposes the very wealthy, conniving, older Zamora with the impoverish innocence of young Rizalina.  The style and structure of the writing took a while for me to get used. I had to pay close attention to the chapter titles because of the way the chapters recounted the past and the present in an unordered way.  This created some confusion at the onset of the novel, but as my excursions in the book furthered, I started to put the timeline together.

 
I understand the fascinating that Zamora has with Bodabil, but I don’t understand why he brought the boy to his compound, only to return him to his people later.  If I remember correctly, Zamora wanted to see how a savage could exist in the civilized world.  He exposed him to television and possibly, the foods of the civilized world such as rice, but how much information and self-satisfaction did he gain from the captive?  I think that the tumultuous marriage that Zamora and Ilse shared was doomed from the start.  He married her for her beauty and she married him for the money.  What love they once may have had long disappeared and it was no surprise when Ilse announced she was leaving with their children.  It makes me wonder, will he kill her? 

Don’t call me, no don’t call me, that’s not all she said.

Underneath the obvious themes of exploitation, race/class struggle, colonialism and the like, there appears to be a connecting current of linguistic communication. In Dream Jungle, conflicting languages decide much of the interaction between all the major players in the novel. Literacy confers both power and punishment on these characters. Plot lines to this point seem to have been setup to succeed or fail based on communication. Each narrator appears impelled to communicate their particular story. Already, in each story, communication, both in sending/encoding and receiving/decoding, becomes a critical struggle.

The number of languages in play throughout Dream Jungle almost rivals the count of characters. Zamora speaks English to his German wife and sprinkles continental Spanish epithets while addressing his American friend, Kenneth Forbes. Duan translates for Zamora into Himal. Rizalina, Sputnik, Candelaria converse in Tagalog around Zamora’s house. The “lost tribe”, individualized in the character of Bodabil, don’t really understand anyone else completely and speak in a language that evinces certain commonalities with Duan’s Himal but remains an entity to itself. These characters can neither completely express themselves nor fully understand each other but they share duties in relating a cohesive total narrative as distinct voices within this novel; and, especially evident in Rizalina’s portions, they must funnel their distinct perspectives into the unnatural constraints of a written English.

Beyond the communicative necessities of cooperating within the limited spaces of daily community, some impulse impels these narrators to commit their experiences to written words. Rizalina spends a months worth of savings on a blank journal and a bic pen in order to write her life’s story. Kenneth Forbes undertakes the task of writing a book on his experiences despite his own admonition that no one cares. The impulse to write, and the ability to do so, signify a major practical application of literacy in this text.

Of a similar piece, reading seems significant in these pages. Rizalina garners unwanted attentions through her reading: her father beats her for jealousy and responds to her superior education by exerting his greater physical strength. Zamora surrounds himself with walls of books, encourages Rizalina’s reading and derides his wife, Ilse, as a bookworm. The “primitive” Himal tribes are inscribed across their arms and necks with indecipherable glyphs, letters of a language Zamora cannot read.

Even this early on in the novel’s progress a notion of difficulty pervades these communicative attempts. Zamora cannot understand, and so cannot fully claim, this tribe he has discovered. Rizalina cannot vocalize the full story of her father’s abuses. Ilse hides inside novels whose words her husband cannot read. Duan is not completely trusted in his translations to Aket or the Taobo people. I wonder if this early difficulty won’t, as the novel progresses, become an impossibility. The direction of the text thus far could well describe a road ultimately dead ended in a total break down of communication.

Spying and Intimidation in “Dream Jungle” — Blog 1

     Initially, Rizalina’s cynical, matter-of-fact attitude piqued my interest; however, her jaded adult perspective led me to mistake her for a teenager rather than a ten-year-old girl when she describes her experiences at the Zamora residence.  Despite differences in class status between Rizalina and Zamora, both share feelings of severe discontentment towards their respective fathers.  Just as Zamora is emotionally disconnected from his wife and children, Rizalina has dissociated herself from her dead abusive father and two brothers.   

     The theme of secretly watching others and being watched is explored throughout the first 87 pages.  Rizalina spies on Bodabil; Celia discreetly watches Zamora as he speaks with Ilse; Rizalina and Sputnik secretly view Zamora’s bizarre behavior in a tree; Rizalina does her chores while observing Ilse; and Zamora eavesdrops on a conversation between Rizalina and Sputnik.  In almost all cases, characters are spying on those who are both culturally and economically different than themselves.  At one point, Rizalina is paranoid that Zamora might be washing her bathe, yet she is later forced to view him in the tub as he speaks to her about art.

     As a classmate mentioned, I agree that the girl who isn’t frightened of the goat in Goya’s “The Great He-Goat” represents Rizalina.  Zamora takes note of her “boldness and curiosity,” which is not expressed in other servants like Cecil (37).  For a man who relishes his ability to control and intimidate others, Rizalina’s gutsiness seems to intrigue him.  Although Zamora had intimate relations with the ever submissive Cecil, he doesn’t touch Rizalina while he is naked in the tub.  When Zamora tells Rizalina that she “can stop trembling now.  The lesson is over,” he seems to imply that he placed her in such a potentially compromising situation so that she would be reminded of her lower station in the pecking order (49). 

Blog #1 Dream Jungle

So far, in Dream Jungle, there seems to be a question of innocence, or some kind of unspoiled state as opposed to the jaded, corrupted nature of the cities or of civilization. Zamora’s family seems so dysfunctional, and it could be seen as sort of the upper-class product, or by-product of globalization, wealthy, with a German mother and Spanish father, living in the Philippines. Rizalina describes the way that everything must be cleaned just so, and Zamora’s decadent parties, the clearest example of this excess being Gigi’s vomiting episode. And of course, Zamora himself seems very much jaded, with his wife and his wealth, and with life in general, and I think this may be why he is so concerned with the Taobo, and especially Bodabil, as the most innocent and trusting of the tribe.

Along the same line is the president, apparently head of a despotic government, another example of lying to and manipulation of the lower classes. There is something ominous about his interest in the Taobo tribe, which obviously makes Zamora nervous. His nephew is another example of the jaded elite, like Zamora. Rizalina’s violation by her father also fits into this idea, and may be meant to sort of parallel the way that the mestizo Pilipinos are exploited by the Europeans, or the way that the Taobo will be exposed to the outside world. As a fairly educated, street-smart young girl, she makes a good foil for the bold, curious, innocent Bodabil.

Technology hates me

I’m going to apologize in advance for the brevity and irritation of this blog. It bears no reflection on the text but rather the fact that cox cable sucks! So far I am enjoying this book. Its not quite as interesting as the last two, but still pretty good. I like the different narratives and how they all tie in. However, what interests me the most so far are the complicated relationships, especially between parent and child. The three parent child relationship that stand out the most deal with Dulce and her parents, Rizalina and her mother, and Bodabila and his mother and “father.”

The reason I noticed a connection between all of these relationships is because they are all disfunctional. All the parents exhibit abusive qualities. They either use their children, neglect them, abuse them, or spoil them into becomming useless (I’m thinking of Dulce but Boabil might be on the same path). This is similar to what we were saying about “The House of Leaves.” I’m not really sure what it means yet. Maybe Its trying to warn us that we are all fated to be ruined by our parents, and in turn ruin children of our own. I guess thats the new age of parenting. Parasitic relations rather than loving reciprocal relationships.What a morbid outlook. I blame cox cable, they ruin everything!

Dream Jungle Blog #1

Jessica Hagedorn, in Dream Jungle, makes seemingly unconnected people and their experiences somehow connected.  Within the first reading of the novel I was struck by two differing instances where such a connection is made.  The first involves the notion of dreams, a theme mentioned on a few occasions during the first eighty-some pages.  Zamora tells Rizalina of a dream he experienced the night before, “there was a miniature goat nailed to a cross…” and examines the meaning behind the goat, an animal most associated with the devil and how he could see himself as a representation of that goat. (p. 47)  However, in making sense of the importance of sharing his strange, somewhat disturbing, dream with Rizalina, Zamora goes on to share with her his favorite painting, The Great He Goat, by Goya.  The painting mirrors the dream, “in that painting a giant goat sits with these peasants around a campfire…” but the importance lies in the little girl who Goya paints as not paying any attention to the goat. (p. 48)  Clearly Rizalina embodies the girl in the painting to Zamora, the one who shows interest and does not fear him.  Hagedorn’s mentioning of the dream and the painting separately appear to have no meaning; the clever juxtaposition of each back-to-back makes sense of their relatedness.

            Another sequence that Hagedorn sets a similar scenario of two unrelated events side-by-side involves a leisurely Saturday with Zamora, his daughter Dulce, and his wife Ilse.  Set within the family’s experience are snippets of Zamora’s visit to the forest and meeting Bodabil.  The settings of each scene are completely contrasting.  One takes place at Zamora’s house and details the internal conflicts within his family.  The other takes place within a naturalistic, simple world where the trifles of modern life are nonexistent.  However placing these events on top of each other, the contrast creates levels of meaning.  For instance, the way in which Zamora’s lack of understanding or interest in his children’s or wife’s lives are startling compared to his fascination with making a connection with the Taobo people.  And as his personal life tumbles down, the progress made with the tribe grows.  Hagedorn’s subtle comparisons are intriguing and refreshing, creating parallels in a vast and complicated world.         

Beautiful Narration

In Jessica Hagedorn’s Dream Jungle, it is easy for the reader to become hopelessly engaged with the text. Immediately from the first page of the first chapter, the authoritative tone the story takes is captivating. The first couple of chapters, the story jumps back and forth between two major characters: Zamora and Rizalina.

The voices of these two characters are both strong and fascinating. They each have thier own peculiar personalities. Zamora spies on his servants and seems to like making them nervous due to his status as thier boss (he is, after all – according to his workers – more important than the president). Zamora’s cahracter is one of eccentricity; he is known to climb mango trees during nightfall and howls at the moon; he hardly sleeps – if ever, and has a distressed relationship with his wife. Rizalina is a strong-willed, intelligent, vibrant young girl that has a healthy appetite of curiosity (like any child her age). She is humble and obedient, yet sometimes seems to have trouble connecting with her mother.
The narration of both thier voices in the early pages of the novel is well written and gives insight into thier lives, past or present. One passage that stuck out was on pages 8-9: “Zamora heard the triumphant screech of a monkey-eating eagle, imagined it pouncing on a startled tarsier…Enchanted green of Lorca the poet. Ominous green of Mindanao rain forest.” The imagery created by the text is one of rich, lush, jungle. The reader can literally feel the slimy leeches, smell the “pungent perfume of the wild” – the connection of greens, nature, and heaven are all represented in the text. The narration of Rizalina is one with a strong voice – even though at times she is afraid to vocalize, Lina seems to know what she wants. The horrific abuse from her father is a memory which haunts her regularly; the reader can feel her pain and anguish when she damns Sixto, her father to hell. Lina’s narrative is well compsed by Hagedorn; for instance on pages 74-75 when Lina is talking about the Himal women and the memory of her father. In this passage Lina describes the incident where she indirectly humiliates her father for accepting generosity; this passage itself is well written in the sense that this flashback was written with smooth transitions in the text. This mini-story/look behind the scenes of Lina’s past is inserted in the text in a way that it fits with her story and relates to the overal feeling of the novel.

The narration of this novel is insightful and beautiful – I look forward to meeting new characters and maybe getting the chance to see through thier eyes.

Dream Jungle

This book, much like the ones before definently has a hold on me. I really enjoy Rizalina’s story. SO much happens to her in such a short time. Its quite bizarre all the stuff she goes through. What i like most about all this, her dad dying and her brothers too, is that she is happy about it. IT s very odd, even morbid. I think thats what i like most about her character. Shes almost indifferent to all the crap she goes through. As far as Zamora is concerned he is kinda of a jerk. Theres nothing about him that is very likeable. He cheats on his wife, who is crazy, but it still is wrong. I also dont like that fact that he has taken a jungle boy oout of his habitat and keeps him in a shed in his backyard. Thats some cruel and inhuman shit. E.ven if he hides him from his peers it still isnt right. Im very interested to see how both these narratives intertwine into some sort of conflict. I think its inevitable but maybe im wrong

Perspective

At first, the shifting POV that Jessica Hagedorn uses in Dream Jungle bothered me.  I found it hard to place the siginifcance that each character’s piece had on the one before it and could not find my bearings very well while reading the novel.  Something that Hagedorn accomplishes very well, though, by piecing the story together from so many diverse characters’ POVs, confusing as it may initially seem, is that the reader is given plenty of insight to the perspectives of varying cultures, ages, genders, and social classes.  These perspectives add context, contrast, depth, and complexity to the novel.  The weaving and tangling of the threads made for a much more challenging and effective narrative than I would imagine a single-storylined account would have.

Rizalina’s voice…

The first week of creative class last semester I learned that if you are going to allow the reader into the mind of only one character for awhile, suddenly changing to the mind of another character breaks the contract with that reader.  It throws them out of the story, and it happened to me too.

I was so engrossed in Rizalina voice: her youth yet wisdom through sexual and emotional abuse from her father.  I felt so strongly for this ten year old with a mother who filled her with such hope and potential since she was smart but a father who belittled and confused her about her place in society.  Such strength is emanated from this girl.  I find the epitome of her strength represented when she is the only survivor of a boat capsizing and sinking.  I can only agree when she shows no remorse for her father’s death.  However, later in the book once she’s gone to Zamora’s house, she speaks well of her father to him and remembers him (wishing him to buy her a plaid handkerchief).  The ambiguity tells of her youth and naiveté, more evident once she goes to Zamora’s house and encounters the role of sexuality.

When the voices began to change more rapidly and we learn from a diversity of new characters, I began to think that Zamora is the character to analyze and not Rizalina.  Depending on the character thinking at the moment, the reader is given a positive image of Zamora or a negative one as well as a cleverly placed show and tell on other side characters.

Highs and Lows

As I was reading this novel, I started thinking about Professor Sample’s lecture/discussion last Thursday on postmodernism. One of the things he said was that postmodernist art combines high culture with low culture. One example was an immitation of DaVinci’s Last Supper which pictured Jesus sitting in front of a meal that was probably clipped out of a magazine like Good Housekeeping. While I am probably going to take this out of context, and misapply what he was saying, I want to talk about this in regard to Dream Jungle.

One of the many things I find interesting about this book is the combination of rich characters’ voices with poor characters’ voices, rich being ‘high’ and poor being ‘low’. I do not mean to say that the rich people are of a better culture than the poor people, but they do have access to things that would constitute ‘high culture’ (think of Zamora’s art exhibit in his house). Zamora tells the story from his perspective a number of times, as does Rizalina. These two perspectives combine to form a more complete idea of the characters and of what is really going on in their lives.

It becomes obvious that the rich family really has no idea what it is like to live as a servant. They also fail to understand exactly who their servants are. This is demonstrated in one particular scene in which Ilse is listening to bossa nova and she asks Rizalina if she knows where Brazil is. Rizalina tells us her thought process in answering this question, “I knew better than to act too smart around the master’s wife, so I shook my head and answered in that meek voice Mama had encouraged me to use. “No ma’am, I do not know at all about Brazil” (30). Because Ilse does not want her servants to be very smart, she does not get to really know them. Of course, she doesn’t care. Hagedorn also uses this scene to put an interesting spin on our usual stereotypes of who is more educated. After Ilse ‘instructs’ Rizalina on where Brazil is, and what its capital is, Rizalina tells us that she wanted to say, “But, senora. According to Miss Angway, Brasilia is the capital of Brazil. Population: eighty million” (30). The irony here amused me, but I also think it demonstrates an important truth about how we often view the poor as uneducated. Granted, they often lack the resources to gain a good education, but we shouldn’t assume, as Ilse does, that they know nothing.

Capitalism, ‘green’, and greed in Dream Jungle

So far, I am heartily enjoying Dream Jungle.  I, too, keep seeing Zampano whenever I read Zamora.  Now, to analyzing!

 

Especially after having read the blurb on the back of Dream Jungle, which mentions that the story describes “a nation in crisis”, I can’t help but draw parallels to our own nation, which I’m sure Jessica Hagedorn meant for her audience to do.  In an early scene in the book, Zamora and Duan are in the jungle.  Duan leaves Zamora to get the taoba, and Zamora is left to revel in the scene around him.  He “[flings] out his arms in joyful surrender.  All that green” (8).  This is the first inkling that this scene isn’t necessarily entirely about the jungle.  The “wealthy, iconoclastic playboy”, as he’s described on the back,  watches a snake devouring pigs and rats, and watches “in wonder as leeches fatten[] and gorge[] on his blood” (8).  The narrator writes, “Ominous green of Mindanao rain forest./ Zamora would gladly die here, alone” (9).  From the little I know about what may be to come, this is an ominous bit of foreshadowing.  Whatever crisis may come is most likely partially a result of greed and dirty money made by exploiting the rain forest and its people.  As the book is called ‘Dream Jungle,’ most likely, nothing is what it appears.  The leeches and preying reptiles also seem to represent capitalism, and how society acts in regards to wealth and power.  

Going along with the capitalism theme, in the scene where Zamora meets with the president, the presidential seal is engraved on all of the expensive silver serving ware. On the sliver tray with the presidential seal are “a silver thermos of hot water, a jar of instant Taster’s Choice, a silver bowl filled with sugar cubes, a pair of silver tongs, a small silver pitcher of condensed milk, and a silver platter-also engraved with the presidential seal-of a dozen oreo cookies” (57).  In case there wasn’t enough product placement there, in the president’s office, Fritz offers “Coffee-mate” to Zamora, who ignores him and “glance[s] at the Rolex on his hairy wrist” (57).  The severe product placement in the president’s office shows how inextricable corporations/capitalism/commercialism are from public office.  Also, everything offered in the president’s office has been processed in some way; the water was heated, the milk condensed, the silver made into serving ware and engraved.  The coffee isn’t even brewed, it’s instant!  Nothing is natural.  The president and Fritz look forward to imposing martial law and making life harder for ‘the little guy’.  They look forward to “days of rot, days of futility, days of infinite possibilities!” (59) Fritz also reveals the president’s faith in “the power of PR” (59).  Everything goes through spin.  Nothing is real, it’s all a game, and it’s all an image.  Nothing is ever quite as it seems.

             

I think the most interesting aspect of this novel is the different voices in the narrative. Rizalina describes each character and then the audience is able to hear the characters owns perspectives. Rizalina is very accurate in describing the characters, especially Zamora. Zamora is a rich Spaniard who has a dysfunctional relationship with his family and his servants. After the incident with Ceila, all the young female servants are hesitant being alone with Zamora. Zamora’s actions are very unpredictable, during the scene in the bathroom where Rizalina has to bring him hot water, the audience doesn’t know what to expect of his actions.

Sexuality altogether is a prominent issue in the novel and it appears that all of the sexual condensation surrounds Rizalina. As a young girl Rizalina is sexually abused by her father, and can‘t tell her mother even after his death. In the beginning of Rizalina’s stay with Zamora and his family, Sputnik teases Rizalina about her virginity. Rizalina fears Zamora’s actions after hearing of his previous sexual encounters with Ceila. Her fear becomes active when Zamora questions her about viewing a male nude body.

Through Zamora’s actions with his servants and his discoveries of the almost extinct tribes, I think Hagedorn attempts to demonstrate the results of colonization of the Philippines by the Spaniards. Some of Zamora’s actions are positive while others are his selfish desires. However, I think even with the adoption of Bodabil , Zamora has some hidden motives. Zamora’s behavior with his servants and his attitude towards his wife and kids shows that the invasion of the Spaniards brought negative results for the natives of the Philippines. When the novel is written, Philippines has already been under the rule of the Spanish, Rizalina’s native city Ramayyah is named after Spanish Muslims who once invaded Spain.

This novel is definitely a page-turner, It’s come from a different perspective and involves a world than I’m almost illiterate of. 

Dream Jungle

   So far, after reading the first eighty-seven pages of Dream Jungle, I have noticed the change of narrators the most.  At first, I was confused by it, but after reading further, I think a constant shift of narrator proides a view into all the characters’s thoughts.

   While Rizalina is ten years old at the beginning of the book, the way she speaks makes me think she is looking back on the events going on as an adult.  For example, one part I thought was humorous and more of an adult tone was when Rizalina went to see the old woman who read her palm.  She says, ”Apparently my life wasn’t going to be as shitty as I thought”(page 19).  This had a sarcastic tone which didn’t seem like it was coming from a ten or eleven year old.  On the next page, however, for me she reverberates back to a child when her father molests her.  There was a certain disturbing and sad feeling I got when reading that passage because those words are coming from a child.

   In a couple chapters later entitled “The Great He-Goat”, the narrator switches for the first time.  This narrator, however, ,is unknown and was something that confused me.  I was confused because the chpaters later on have a specific narrator that the reader can identify.  The narrator in this chapter is all knowing because he discusses Zamora’s feelings and actions behind closed doors.  I liked this about the book, but it also confused me.  It confused me to have to go back to another chapter narrated by a specific characters.  I am interested to see how the narrator process continues into the book.

Dreams in Dream Jungle Post 1

It was interesting to see the different ways dreams presented themselves in the narrative. Zamora and Rizalina both describe dreams that they have had. In Zamora’s dream, he saw himself crucified as a goat, a symbol of the devil. In Rizalina’s dream Bodabil is in danger and Rizalina wonders how she can warn him. Both of these dreams reflect some of what has already been seen in the narratives (Zamora’s deranged and evil ways, Rizalina’s fascination with Bodabil) and likely foreshadow events to come. The idea of dreams is also present in both Rizalina and Zamora’s daydreams and inner thoughts. As a girl Rizalina and her mother have different ideas of what Rizalina will do with her life. Rizalina’s transformation to the Legazpi house is itself dreamlike. Her “life of shit” ends with the boat capsizing and she wakes up to a new life with her mother in the Legazpi house. Zamora’s daydreams are more intense. In the beginning he thinks of his wife while laying in the jungle, and he also dreams up ways to kill her. Though they are unclear at this point, Zamora has dreams of what Bodabil and his association with the tribe will become. Much of the narrative itself is written smoothly and flowingly it feels dreamlike itself.

            There are two passages that really stuck with me. The first is when Rizalina is in bed after the accident listening to her mother cry. “Sleep, Lina, sleep. Your father is dead and gone. Your brothers are dead and gone. You’re in heaven now” (Hagedorn 26). Rizalina sees her father’s death as a blessing and feels she has been rescued from her previous life. The passage resonated to me an almost eerie tone. First because as I read it I thought that it would read “they’re in heaven now” referring to her family. After reading more of the narrative and looking back on it, I wondered if it is Rizalina speaking, or someone else. At first I thought it was her mother speaking to her but that seems unlikely because her mother herself was upset and crying that it doesn’t seem to fit that she would be comforting her daughter. It is italicized like other times Rizalina thinks to herself so I thought it was likely Rizalina but there is something about it that is unsettling and makes me think it is someone/thing else….

The second passage is when Rizalina tells how her father sexually abused her. “Questions rang in my head. What is time? Who invented the calendar? What is God?” (Hagedorn 20). In so few words this powerfully conveys how altering the experience was. As Rizalina questioned the ideas of time and God, it made me think of the arbitrariness of such words, especially words like parent or father. I thought Hagedorn captured the impact on Rizalina very well.

Yet another page turner…

I am really enjoying Dream Jungle so far. I like following little Rizalina’s story. Hagedorn gives her a good voice, which is age appropriate but some of the observations she has are very adult. She uses very animated, distinguishable voices for the rest of her characters also. An example of Ilse’s cold strength is seen when she tells her daughter “Clearly a failure of your imagination” without looking up from her book (65). Sputnick also has a memorable way of speaking. An example is on page 27 when she tells Rizalina that “those animals are ve-ry special, fancy-fancy”. The way Hagedorn writes in general is very good; she uses rich language and has a way with words.

Zamora is a very interesting character. I do not think it is coincidental that he is refered to as the “Spaniard” and he is the one who is interfering with the Himal people. Could Hagedorn be making a statement about colonialism or more specifically the Spanish colonization of the New World? Also the only likeable male character so far in the book is Bodabil, who is part of the Himal tribe. If this statement where the case, Hagedorn’s sympathies would clearly lie with the Himals.

As I continue reading, the Postmodernity of the book is made more and more clear to me. There are different narrators, like Rizalina and Zamora, that tell different stories that will eventually (I think) come together. Also the fact that the lost tribe may be a hoax and later that the Vietnam war is being restaged for the movie makes us ask the question “what is really real?”. This is a very postmodern question.

Dream Jungle: Blog 1

Starting off, the reader learns that Zamora is a rich man who leads expeditions of various kinds to discover new tribes and people. Comparing this to the past two novels we have read, House of Leaves and The Man in My Basement, Dream Jungle is unique in that it is a story told by different viewpoints from characters throughout the story. Much like The Man in My Basement, this book is also a pleasure to read. One is easily entwined within the text, forgetting about page numbers or time itself as the story grabs the reader’s attention. The part I do not understand concerns Rizalina and her mother. Rizalina’s mother had been working at Zamora’s palace but refused to take Rizalina with her. I found it somewhat ironic that her father beat and molested her and her mother knew nothing about it. I realize that Rizalina did not tell her mother about the molestation; however, if she had ever seen her body, she had surely have bruises from all of the beatings she had received from her father. After the ship capsized, her two brothers and father are drowned and Rizalina survived. Then she moved into Zamora’s palace to work. I found it interesting that when Rizalina was instructed to warm a bath for Zamora, everyone was so concerned for her, telling her not to let him touch her. Where as before, she had suffered child abuse from her own father and nobody said anything, even her two brothers who witnessed it firsthand! Reading this novel for me is also a bit different; most novels read in many English classes deal with American or European issues and characters. These characters are definitely a world apart, literally, especially when they talk and interact with Bodabil. If they had not described that he was from a tribe deep in the forest, I would have considered him a monkey or baboon from the way he acted, jumping around with long hair down to his waist. Later, we learn that Zamora has a meeting with the country’s president who says he will help Zamora, in reality to boost his public relations within the country. It is also stated that Zamora graduated from Yale University and that is very rich and wealthy and therefore has many connections, much like Bennet said he had in The Man in My Basement. One can also draw another parallel between the two novels; the photographer, Ken, called upon by Zamora. Ken said Zamora knew he broke and would give into Zamora’s demands. Likewise, Charles was in the same situation. Going on, I am not sure where this book is leading other than Zamora wants to document this newly discovered tribe in the wilderness and the president stated he would give aid and help them integrate into society if needed.

Narrative Honesty

            One of my favorite aspects of Dream Jungle is the honesty in all of the different narrative voices.  This is actually one of my favorite characteristics of all modern literature (not that all modern novels use this type of voice), but particularly in this story.  The first indication that the narratives would be so brutally, heartbreakingly honest comes in Rizalina’s introduction when she says, “Until my father exhausted himself and fled from the room in… what?  Shame?  If I said shame, would that make you feel sorry for him?  Fuck my father.  He felt no shame” (17).  As soon as I read these lines, I was hooked on both Rizalina and the story.  I find it interesting how true those words actually ring; if she had chosen the word “shame,” it no doubt would have softened readers’ feelings towards her dead father.  Instead, I could not wait to hear more of what this ten-year-old would say about the world. 

            And then there is Zamora.  It is hard to grasp completely the depth of his character, his motives, his true personality.  One moment he is helping poor Rizalina and finding her a doctor, the next he asks himself if he hates his wife enough to kill her (43).  Strangely enough, he seems to be completely honest with himself, and thus to us readers who are privy to his thoughts.  There is a disjunction at times between his actions, some bad and some good, and his thoughts and feelings.  This, however, is true narrative honesty.  Real life people are full of contradictions, mixtures of malignant and saintly deeds, and oftentimes gaps between what is said and what is done.  The result of these honest voices is a believable text, characters who, good, evil, or in between, we can sympathize with in some way or another, and more interesting reading.    

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As a wealthy playboy accoustomed to freely exercising his power over others, and fond of attracting women of all ages, Zamora Lopez de Legazpi seems to come across as a “villan” in the story. Although his “discovery” of the Taoba seems to provide him with some feelings of self worth, it seems as though the authenticity of the tribe is itself in doubt, which makes readers question his reliability. Further, the fact that he is surrounded by a host of confused people who are trying to please him and end up compromising something about themselves in the process of doing so make his character tragic in that others are harmed in attempts to please him. However, instead of merely comdemming his as a decrepit wealthy man, Hagedorn seems to point out that he is filled with longings as well. For instance, he notes “Did I love money, did I love anyone or anything? I loved the jungle…” as he daydreams about his past, people in his life and the passions he has. In doing so, Hagedorn makes Zamora a complex, tragic figure who is trapped by his place in society and is filled with dreams, both good and bad. This seems to be merely one techinquq she uses to develop her main characters into unique, flawed, complex people. It will be ineteresting to see whether or not Hagedorn reveals both the dreams and deceptions of other “villans” throughout the text to develop them into well-rounded characters.

Trying to Find My Way into the Dream Jungle

I’m not really sure what to make of this novel. I thought about naming this post “Lost in the Jungle” but that’s not quite right because I’m not really lost in the jungle because I feel like I have yet to fully “venture” into the jungle of this novel so to speak. Although the subject of the novel is interesting enough that I find myself reading ahead of schedule, I feel somewhat disconnected from the novel. With “House of Leaves” and “The man in my Basement” I felt completely enthralled by the texts. Here though, I have trouble really getting into the novel. Perhaps this is because the novel deals with a culture and a part of the world I know almost nothing about.

I do find the Historical chapters very interesting as well as Hagedorn’s choice of telling this story from several different point of views. The only problem is I feel almost nothing towards most of the characters in the novel. I don’t really like or dislike Zamora. The same goes for Rizalina, although I do begin to sympathize with here more as the novel progresses. The only character I could feel any connection with is Forbes because he seems to be the only real outsider in a foreign land. He is like most readers in that we know little about this part of the world. As far as the main narrative goes, I keep waiting for something to happen, some kind of conflict perhaps between the modern world and the so called ancient world. I noticed in the reading guide the screenings for Apocalypse Now and I keep trying to find some parallels to that movie but so far I can’t really find any other than new world vs old world but even so, at least as far as I have read the narrative seems to focus more on the individual characters during this time of discovery. That’s all I really have right now, nothing really deep or analytical. I’ll keep trying though.

Just a question to the rest of the class. Does anyone else keep seeing “ZAMPANO” instead of “ZAMORA” every time his name comes up? Seriously, I keep doing that. I can’t get “House of Leaves” out of my head!

Matt Sarmiento

Frank Warren and humility.

(Better four days late than never, I suppose!)

Frank Warren is, perhaps, one of the most fortunate men alive. By only spreading around a few postcards on a cold Maryland day, he has become the guardian for the secrets of thousands. What surprised me, however, was the gentleness of this man; he is not only lucky, but he is refreshingly aware of just how fortunate he is.

I went into the Warren talk expecting the man to be, at best, pretentious; artists often become a little over-proud of their work and tend to speak of it as though it is the key to human existence. Warren, as best as I can tell, does not even consider himself an “artist”. He never referred to himself as such; he never even referred to himself as an author. He refers to himself purely as a “guardian of secrets”, and acknowledges that the true authors of his book and website are legion. What surprised me the most was his quiet humility; he didn’t even play up how he had an “awesome idea” to get people to share their secrets, he was – and remains – genuinely surprised at how large his project has gotten.

This, to me at least, was exceptionally refreshing. As I’ve said, too many artists today become too wrapped up in their work, especially when it’s a bit “out in left field” as PostSecret is. Frank Warren could claim to be the genius messiah who gets people to reveal their secrets to him and then attempt to psychoanalyze them publically; instead, he publically takes the stance that the secrets he receives should be judged upon their own merits. He is not an artist; he is a gallery master, and he knows this and fills the role as best anyone could.

There was one thing I was tempted to ask him but I couldn’t bring myself to do so in public: had he ever considered the idea that, since the secrets are now shared publically, that many of his entries these days may in fact be fake and produced purely for artistic value? Certainly many of the more recent postcards have had comparatively high production values. But now, I realize, the question is moot: fabricated secrets or not, Warren has become something like a museum curator. Even fake secrets still state something about their author; they can still provoke thought. They are as worthy of publication as anything else he has received.

I can only hope that more artists – and artistas! – take the stance that Warren does towards his work. Art is meant to inspire and provoke thought, but that does not make the people producing the art superior. Warren relies upon free “art” which arrives in his mailbox daily. He knows he is dependent on others… and he approaches it with a wonderful humility.

A Heartbreaking Eggers Experience

Dave Eggers 10/05/06

During my freshman year of college, I was given by my best friend a copy A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I read it from cover to cover in two days. I was going through a rough period of my life, and Egger’s humor, poignancy and beautifully written sadness really struck a chord with me. Until that point I had a preconceived notion that all books nominated for the Pulitzer prize were morose dramas that dealt with far more serious topics. Genius, however, was not. It was a good, family dramady that was written with more soul and passion than any book I had read that year. The idea that such a book could make it to the ranks of top prize wowed me. It changed my perceptions on the publishing and literary world, and encouraged me to take my writing seriously.

When I found out that Eggers was coming for the Fall for the Book festival, I was definitely too excited. So excited, in fact, that I misread the schedule and thought he was coming on Sunday instead of Thursday. Before the speech, I waited anxiously outside. It was like going to a seminar of the director of your favorite movie; you’re familiar with his material that is going to be discussed, and you’re dying to know the inside stories that inspired him.

Eggers took the stage and he was exactly as I pictured him: curly, no fuss hair; blazer paired with jeans; and a vaguely uncomfortable stance. Most of the writers I have seen have proven themselves to be pretty mediocre public speakers, and Eggers was no exception. But the difference between Eggers and everyone else: where I was bored with other authors, Eggers made me instantly feel comfortable. It was as if the audience and Eggers were old friends meeting after a long separation. It’s hard for me to believe that this guy was older than twenty-five; he was so informal and relaxed, he could have been a graduate student.

On a critical note, I was really disappointed with the lack of discussion of his novels. A more than generous portion of his presentation was on his 826 projects; while they were extremely funny and I was impressed with his charity and devotion, I wanted to know more about his upcoming novel about the Lost Boys and his previous works. Some important aspects of his writing process were revealed in his question and answer section, but before that, we weren’t given a sample of Eggers the award winning author, we were given a taste of Eggers the multi-tasking humanitarian.

Overall, though, I was impressed with his time on stage. I was disappointed that I did not have a book for him to sign, but I loved how he asked the audience to stick around, talk and ask him questions after he was done. Unlike other authors I have heard, he seemed to really be engaged with his audience, and really invested in their opinions. I could also tell this when he explained why they print their books so elegantly—Eggers cares about the people who read his books. He wants to give them an experience that not only lasts for the duration of reading, but for forever after.