snooting war

Before even opening this graphic novel, I had my thoughts on what would be inside. I figured, Michael Moore as a graphic novel writer. leftist, elistist perspective on American journalism, American consumerism, American wars, American politics, America, Americans. and just when I thought no one could ever exist at a position further left then someone like Michael Moore, I wasn’t proven wrong. Anthony Lappé is a god. A man who exists outside the realm of left and right. A real objective point-of-view, finally.

well wait. let me adjust my tone. I’ve just noticed that I was about to critique Anthony Lappé and Shooting War within a larger realm than the one that he was critiquing in Shooting War, one containing he and Shooting War as well as Michael Moore, and George Bush, and everyone who drinks lattés at Starbucks while donning American Apparel’s spandex monstrosities. So I guess I can’t really find a way around taking a similar position as Anthony Lappé’s position in Shooting War as author, as author of this post; therefore, I can’t criticize the elistist position that he takes, though I can still call him an elistist.

and a leftist as well, as Shooting War starts off as just another American’s rant about how the American government, businesses, and news stations are all working together to keep the fickle Americans in fear of just about anything and everything, sometimes things not even plausible, so that they will continue to consume…like that report in the 90’s about how the killer bees were on their way to the US. one of the events that never happened and was probably always a hoax…Michael Moore pointed out that one.

But Anthony Lappé and Shooting War are different from Michael Moore and his films. Mostly in that Lappé examines people like Michael Moore and the angry bloggers as being part of the system of American journalism and consumerism. Burns is bought out by a big American news corporation after his apartment, where he used to blog rants about how terrible and money-hungry American news corporations are, is blown up in a terrorist attack. To me, this looks like Lappé’s statement on how people like Moore have gotten rich off of making news about America making news.

narrative modes in The People of Paper

The multiple-character narrative mode is something that interested me most in Salvador Plascencia’s style of writing in this book. The story alternates between first and third person POVs. Many of the characters, such as Little Merced and characters that come encounter with Little Merced and Frederico de la Fe, such as the mechanic and Santos. However, Santos’ narrative perspective shifts from first to third later on– it is only in first-person when he is  coming in contact with Little Merced and Frederico, when the story is still only about those two characters. Santos’ narrative perspective switched to third-person when he becomes part of the story, when the story broadens. So it would seem that Plascencia used the first-person POV when he wanted a character to act as a storyteller, but from a more personal POV, unlike a third-person omniscient narrator like the Baby Nostradamus has constantly and Saturn at times.

The narrative mode applied to Saturn’s character is complex as well, as it is sometimes a third-person omniscient POV and a first-person personal POV at other times when his character becomes a part of the story. Once Saturn becomes a part of the story and his narrative perspective changes to first-person, characters from Salvador Plascencia’s real life come into the story as well, like Ralph and Elisa Landin, to whom a third-person narrative is always applied. Even Liz comes into the story, and though it would sometimes seem that her character is given a first-person perspective through dialogue, her dialogue is always controlled by Saturn/Salvador, because her sides of conversations are really just pieces of S/S’s thought dialogue. So in other words, anytime Liz is speaking, her words are just S/S’s thoughts. The fact that these conversations are thought dialogue and not really happening is obvious because of the way that nothing is in quotations.

 

I will be writing more on the narrative style in The People of Paper and other postmodern/magical realist works in my final paper.

Saturn

After finishing Part I of The People of Paper, I had come to the conclusion that Saturn was supposed to be a representation of God completely, nothing else. I had decided that Plascencia was using Saturn’s character to make a commentary on peoples’ relationships with the infinitely powerful Catholic God, overseer of the world and all of life on it. The people of the novel are warring with Saturn, seeing S as a threat, a tyrranous force destroying all of their lives, causing their turmoils and losses. Frederico de la Fe thinks that Saturn is the force that drove his wife Merced away, and he wants an army to fight S to finally be free of sadness and unrest. I still think that this is an absurd commentary on monotheistic religions and Plascencia’s cynical, sardonic mockery or doubt of the goodness of God people who subscribe to monotheistic religions believe in. I especially think this because of the way saints come to be in the novel. However, I no longer believe that this is Saturn’s only meaning in the novel, as I have discovered who Saturn actually is. I am now wondering how much of this book is based on the going-ons of Plascencia’s real life as he was writing the novel. Reading biographies, I’ve discovered that much of the novel is based on the authors life- places especially, and the nationalities of characters. I guess that what I am saying is that Saturn is Plascencia, and is doing in the novel what Plascencia the author is doing to the novel. Plascencia is creating the turmoil for the characters in the novel and they are fighting back against him. Characters in the novel even feel violated by Saturn’s telling/writing about the private lives, and I wonder if Plascencia has put a lot about a past relationship in the novel that he may think someone may not like to see he’s written about. Plascencia seems to be making an overall statement on an author’s relationship to a novel and its characters as a God, and he is therefore the God of the novel and can do whatever he wants to do, write whatever he feels like.

alternating POV’s in Dream Jungle

What is with all of these character point-of-views. I’m almost finding this book to be as confusing as The Female Man with the perspective always shifting to another character. It’s not so bad when the title of the section is the character’s name of who’s point-of-view the chapter is written in, but it’s very confusing, at least for me, when it’s not specified, especially since sometimes the chapters are written in a character’s POV in first person and other times in 3rd.

I’m wondering if this method of having so many different POV’s and switching them so often has anything to do with what we talked about in class on Tuesday. We were talking about how Docherty said that all postmodern novels have characters in which readers can never obtain their “essence” or they never realize themselves in the story, or whatever definition we decided to use for “essence”. I think this does hold true for Dream Jungle, but I don’t know if Hagedom meant for it to be that way. She does a good job of describing scenes and bringing a reader into the setting an the action, but as far as keeping up with the characters, I am finding it to be difficult. I think the switching of the perspectives is also confusing the plot a little for me as well, though it might be a bit confusing otherwise since there are two stories going on that aren’t completely connecting yet for me.

I haven’t read ahead of Thursday’s reading so maybe I will be less confused once I do, but I know that I’m having trouble getting into to these novels with so many different, alternating POV’s. I’m wondering if that’s a trait of the majority of postmodern novels. Before reading the last two or three novels we’ve read for class, I wouldn’t say it is, but now I’m thinking that it might be. Which is annoying. For me.

boobz

After reading The Female Man, having never read or heard of any other of Joanna Russ’ works, I wonder what her intentions were when she decided to write this science fiction/feminist novel. I have looked up a bibliography of her work which sort of proved my original theory to be wrong, which was that she may have just been trying to enter a genre which was male dominated, and be one of the few women to have written a science fiction novel, challaenging sexist views through its contents and dedicating it specifically to women only to cause even more controversy. Joanna Russ has in fact written many science fiction novels. I have not looked further into her works to find out if they are similar to The Female Man in more ways, and I am sure that I won’t later, but I’m sure that at least some of them have at least feminist undertones as well, as Joanna Russ the person seems to be an avid feminist outside of her literature.

From what I have discovered about Russ’ writing, I now believe that her agenda the drove the writing of The Female Man was for a large part her attempt to try and change the image of women in literature, especially in science fiction writing. The four main protagonists, Jeaninne, Joanna, Janet and Jael all have different views on femininity and womanhood and all are trying to define their identities as women.

Since the novel was written in the 1970’s when the feminist movement was at its peak, I think that Joanna Russ was probably trying to create characters who would act mirrors to her writinga novel in a male-dominated genre, as well as the women who were struggling to be heard in the feminist movement of the 70’s.

hmm…

I suppose I would call Jael the hero/anti-hero. Jael tells Janet the she was the plague that made Whileaway what it is, a world without men, and her world doesn’t seem so immoral or bad until she hears this news and feels guilt and grief for the way in which it became a world without men. This ending represented for me the way in which people think they know what an ideal world would be, and would like to go straight there without thinking about what kind of things would need to be done to get there. If we could only get a world where everyone considers everyone an equal and there is total peace, but we had to kill a whole race or gender to achieve that world first, would we still want it?

In Female Man, Joanna Russ creates four female protagonists all existing in different times, different worlds. So far we’ve met Janet Evason from Whileaway, a futurustic utopian society with an all-female population, and Jeannine Dadier, a librarian living in a world that never saw the end of the Great Depression. By reading the synopsis on the back of the book I learned of the other two main protagonists, Joanna, living in a world similar to the world in the 1970’s where feminism was first started to become big, and Jael, who “is a warrior with steel teeth and catlike retractable claws, from an earth with separate– and warring– female and male societies.”

I’m finding the changing perspectives in the part that we read for last Thursday to be pretty confusing, especially as the “I” remains unnamed for what I’ve read so far, though I believe the “I” may be Joanna. Which makes me wonder about the naming of the protagonists– is this fictional Joanna going to be a representation of how Joanna Russ sees herself? Also, with the way in which all of the main characters’ names begin with “J”, does Joanna Russ consider each to be a respresentation of some aspect or characteristics that she sees in herself, or maybe in all women? If so, she doesn’t seem to like her Jeannine-like characteristics to much.

The format and writing in the book in general are more troubling for me than any content of the book I’ve observed. I really find it quite unsavory, and feel that maybe Joanna Russ was concentrating to hard on what she wanted to say when she wrote The Female Man and how she wanted the themes to form. I don’t think she spent to much times worrying about the writing in the book. Or maybe she feels that eloquence is too feminine a characteristic to use in her novel. At least that would be an excuse.

How did we get to be the way we are– our tastes, our style, our families’ household incomes? Do we structure ourselves and our tastes and styles based on suggestions made to us by internet algorithms such as Amazon.com?

When I think about the way I used to go about finding books to read or movies to watch when I was young, I remember that if I had seen a friend reading/watching or being suggested a book or movie by a friend, the only other way I had to base my choosings on was by going to the store, looking in whatever genre I felt like delving into that particular day, and then reading the synopses on the backs of covers/boxes. My taste developed from there, reading/watching first and then deciding whether or not I liked it and would watch it again in the future or suggest it to others. Nowadays; however, things are much different.

With sites like Amazon.com and friendship databases like Facebook and Myspace, we have a lot more resources to help shape our tastes than ever before. Product sites like Amazon.com track and record our searches and purchases to make future suggestions to us, based on what an algorithm rounds off what it judges to be our likings. Also, how fickle have we become with sites like Facebook and Myspace? If we see something on someone’s profile that we like, how likely are we to check out the other things in the same category to see if we like those too? Or for the ones of us who are the most maleable, what a person wears on their body based on their interests/tastes listed on their profile might influence another person to try and dress the same.

What scares me is that we have lost our ability to shape our own tastes and styles. How well do I know the people that I know? Are their styles their own? How did they come to like that book they recommended to me? Did they even read it or did they read one that prompted Amazon to suggest the one to them that they later suggested to me, almost knowing that I would like it if they knew my tastes already. That would be extra creepy!

in the end…

What I took from House of Leaves was that, like we mentioned briefly in class, this novel may be many things but its essence lies in its love stories. we mentioned many examples of “unconditional love” that occur in the book between the Karen and Will Navidson, Johnny and Pelafina, Johnny and Thumper, but I think that the linked love stories of the Navidsons and of Johnny and Thumper are the two most important and poignant ones, especially in the end.

Thinking more outside of the story lines, i thought about how much we’ve talked about how long Danielewski spent working on House of Leaves, perfecting it, learning it better than anyone else ever will, I thought that the novel is a sort of love story for Danielewski himself, his love of this book, of writing it, of telling all of the stories that are in it. I especially got this impression after reading the interview we were assigned to read last class, discussing the way that it started as a novella, Redwood, and then morphing into was it is today after an incident with his father that had a heavy affect on him and the writing of the book, and another when Danielewski explained that House of Leaves is to him, a love story. 

I think there are even more cases of this love of story telling throughout the novel with the way Zampanò is writing about the Navidson Records and Johnny telling the story of himself reading it, as well as all of the stories that he likes to tell to people, especially women, throughout the book.

The direct quote from Danielewski addressing the type of story that that book: “I had one woman come up to me in a bookstore and say, ‘You know, everyone told me it was a horror book, but when I finished it, I realized that it was a love story.’ And she’s absolutely right. In some ways, genre is a marketing tool.”

this might be a rant

House of Leaves is a trashbag full of puzzles, riddles, and codes, bits of information, all begging to be sniffed out and put together by extremely curious minds set in the heads of people with not much else to do or think about. It wants to take minds captive, make them dwell on seemingly important bits of information that feign being integral parts of the big puzzle that exists only to annoy, not to be solved. But its purpose cannot be known until all of the pieces that are found are put together, exposing all of the gaps and missing pieces that don’t even exist in the text in the first place. This is why Danielewski should be exiled.

Since starting House of Leaves, I have noticed numerous people carrying around the book, pages tagged throughout, and I have to say that this sight gets me just about as sad as I get when I see my younger brother and his friends playing computer games all day long. I’ve actually wondered if Danielewksi created this maze with the opening line “This book is not for you” because he knew it would be like creating a playground that he would be able to watch people playing on often (often, because to explore every in and out, every footnote, one would have to carry the book everywhere they went for months or maybe longer). My guess is he gets off watching people trying to solve all the puzzles, big and small, in House of Leaves that fit together to make a big nothing! Being a book is like a promise that all of a readers quanderings and explorations of a text will eventually pay off to reveal the true meaning and reason of the text, but I think that House of Leaves may be one of those that can’t be detangled rationally.

Lodge talks of many postmodernists texts as being laberynths without exits. “Endings, the ‘exits’ of fictions, are particularly significant in this connection. Instead of the closed ending of the traditional novel, in which mystery is explained and fortunes are settled, and instead of the open ending of the modernist novel, ‘satisfying but not final’ as Conrad said of Henry James, we get the multiple ending, the false ending, the mock ending or parody ending.” Lodges gives Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 as an example; however, The Crying of Lot 49 is less than 200 pages and has no footnotes. And it is funny, unlike House of Leaves, or at least in my opinion, which is radical but stubborn, so even though I haven’t finished the book yet, I can say that it’s just plain unsavory for my taste and I probably wouldn’t even finish it if it wasn’t for class. Not even to tell other people that I had. I probably feel a lot like this girl I mentioned in class…

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/27769

disorienting reading

Mapping out a definite way to read House of Leaves has become a seemingly impossible task, and I’ve begun to think that Danielewski meant for it to be this way. For the first hundred or so pages I was find my way around the book just fine, reading from left to right, page to page, stopping at footnotes and flipping back to appendices whenever I was referred to them. However, many of the footnotes run on for whole pages, forcing you to go back and reread/relocate the place in the text where you left out. This going back and forth between footnotes and text, especially between appendices and text, where we are forced to flip all the way to the back of the book and sometimes stay there for near a hundred pages before going back to the text, seems to be a simulation of the constant back and forth, incongruous Explorations in the Navidson Records.

Danielewski creates a way for readers to physically feel disoriented along with the men on the Explorations, swanning our way through the book House of Leaves as they swan their way through the labyrinths in the house of the title. He also creates for readers a sort of spacial perception as we are many times forced to flip the book all the way around itself to read upside-down passages, and for many pages, there are only a couple of words per page amongst a white backdrop, undefined and empty.

I hate to make this comparison, since I hated the movie when it came out and I wouldn’t put myself through watching it again today to confirm my hatred of it, but House of Leaves seems sort of Blair Witch-esque to me. I don’t know it anyone else got that. It is a pretty unsavory piece of cinematic crap, but my comparison is only insofar as both achieving to make their audiences feel as lost and disoriented, probably among other feelings as well, as the characters in their plots.

communal sunsets and shopping sprees

I see a parallel in the way in which the sunsets and shopping sprees in White Noise seem to bring people/families together temporarily, absorbing whoever is watching/consuming, distracting them from their fears of death and freeing them from their everyday worries. People gather in crowds on the overpass to watch the sunsets, just as they do at the mall to go shopping. Jack describes the purpose of crowds as people wanting to gather to “keep out death…to break off from the crowd is to risk death as an individual” (73).

An excerpt from Ch.40 :

“We go to the overpass all the time. Babette, Wilder and I. We take a thermos of iced tea, park the car, watch the setting sun. We find little to say to each other. More cars arrive…People walk up the incline and onto the overpass, carrying fruit and nuts, cool drinks, mainly the middle-aged, the elderly…but younger couples also, arm in arm at the rail…Some people are scared by the sunsets, some determined to be elated, but most of us don’t know how to feel, are ready to go either way…The sunsets linger and so do we…There are people walking dogs, there are kids on bikes, a man with a camera and long lens, waiting for his moment. It is not until some time after dark has fallen, the insects screaming in the heat, that we slowly begin to disperse, shyly, politely, car after car, restored to our separate and defensible selves” (325).

People gather to watch the sunsets together, an ominous and sublime event. While they are there watching, the people seem unified within their families and even as a town, but as soon as the sunset is over, they all leave alone as “separate and defensible selves.” It seems as if the people come to watch the sunsets together because they feel safe from dying and from dying alone, but the sunsets can only provide temporary relief which is why they keep going back.

An excerpt from Ch.17:

“A band played live Muzak. Voices rose ten stories from the gardens and promenades, a roar that echoed and swirled through the vast gallery, mixing with the noises from the tiers, with shuffling feet and chiming bells, the hum of escalators, the sound of people eating, the human buzz of some vivid and happy transaction.

We drove home in silence. We went to our respective rooms wishing to be alone” (84).

This is Jack’s description of the mall as he is leaving after his family’s shopping spree. The mall seems ominous as well, almost supernatural with a life of its own. During the Gladney family shopping spree, there exists the illusion of the family being unified, shopping together, but when it’s all over, the Gladneys leave and return to their normal lives not as a family but as separate individuals, not even speaking to each other, wishing to be alone. But it seems like shopping provides everyone a temporary relief or diversion from the constant fear of death they all suffer from…as long as they stay together, shopping amongst the crowd of people in the mall, they feel protected from their fear of dying alone.

“Toyota Celica”

In class we brought up the passage containing the line “Toyota Celica,” and the confusion behind its meaning; however, then and now, I myself can’t get past the thought that this line and others like it are mainly Delillo’s attempt to make us laugh. Lines like this are absurd, and seem to add to the absurdity of everything that is going on in the plot before they occur. “Toyota Celica” is a perfect example of this:

Steffie turned slightly, then muttered something in her sleep. It seemed important that I know what it was. In my current state, bearing the death impression of the Nyodene cloud, I was ready to search anywhere for signs and hints, intimations of odd comfort. I pulled my chair up closer. Her face in pouchy sleep might have been a structure designed solely to protect the eyes, those great, large and apprehensive things, prone to color phases and darting alertness, to a perception of distress in others. I sat there watching her. Moments later she spoke again. Distant syllables this time- but a language not quite of this world. I strruggled to understand. I was convinced she was saying something, fitting together units of stable meaning. I watched her face, waited. Ten minutes passed. She uttered two clearly audible words, familiar and elusive at the same time, world that seemed to have ritual meanings, part of a verbal spell or ecstatic chant.

Toyota Celica.

A long moment passed before I realized this was the name of an automobile. The truth only amazed me more. The utterance was beautiful and mysterious, gold-shot with looming wonder. It was like the name of an ancient power in the sky, tablet-carved in cuneiform. It made me feel that something hovered. But how could this be? A simple brand name, an ordinary car. How could these near-nonsense words, murmured in a child’s restless sleep, make me sense a meaning, a presence? She was only repeating some TV voice…(154-155)

We discussed the possibility of this passage and others being Delillo’s shots at American consumerism. And while maybe he is trying to make a point here, I can’t help but think he’s not as serious as he may sometimes be taken to be. Nothing in the passage leading up to “Toyota Celica,” about Steffie’s sleep-talking was really as mind-blowing and crucial as the passage makes it out to be, as Jack is watching her. For me, the only thing that this passage is really doing is poking fun at the fact that when we all read “Toyota Celica” after a passage like this, we are all going to scratch our heads and wonder what all deep symbols this absurd statement carries in it. “Ten minuted passed,” seems to be making fun of us trying to find deeper meaning as well- ten minutes pass while we struggle in vain to pick out the profundities of this statement. It really just seems like another sardonic statement to me, but I could be wrong. It does stand out, but I’m not sure Delillo meant for readers to look into it as much as they may tend to.

 

*Also, sorry this is a little late!

Inquiry #1

I found that the amount of sensory detail woven through the accounts of the Gladney’s shopping spree at the Mid-Village Mall was so large that it was hard to glean every bit of information to put into my paper on how the mall is a sort of mystical source of comfort, practically breathing a life of its own, supernaturally. There were so many different sites and sounds to take into account….

Late-Capitalism and the Information Age

Jameson states of his theory on the “waning of affect”: “As for expression and feelings or emotions, the liberation, in contemporary society,from the older anomie of the centered subject may also mean not merely a liberation from anxiety but a liberation from every other kind of feeling as well, since there is no longer a self present to do the feeling. This is not to say that the cultural products of the postmodern era are utterly devoid of feeling, but rather that such feelings…are now free-floating and impersonal…”

Could this be the reason for why depression has become almost a way of life for Westerners in this so-called postmodern era? With modern technology, have our social interactions become emotionless and shallow? Are we lacking in real affection? Has the information age imprisoned Westerners rather than liberated us?

And what about the cheapening of sex and intimacy through the information age and modern technology? Sex, as well as “media, arts, and education” has also become commodified in contemporary culture, has it not? And even the intimacy of a well thought-out letter to a friend or family member has been lost in the meaningless chatter of the information age. While the response may come quick and easy, it’s not exactly fulfilling- it lacks depth.

Is it possible for Westerners to be fulfilled after the effects that late-capitalism has had on contemporary society, and with the commodification of basically every aspect of our lives?