Last week: Shooting Wars and House of Leaves

The experience of reading the graphic novel Shooting War is not unlike reading House of Leaves.  Though I feel like I should say reading House of Leaves is like reading a graphic novel like Shooting War.  Flipping the book around and being confused about where to read next is part of the process of reading a graphic novel (according to my limited experience reading graphic novels).  There are variations in confusion levels from graphic novel to graphic novel, but readers still expect the multimedia jumble of words and pictures.  Readers of standard novels don’t.

So while reading Shooting War wasn’t a completely mind-blowing experience, it was still fun to enter into the world of the graphic novel.  Being a generally apolitical person, I wasn’t paying so much attention to the politics as much as the plot lines and the stylistic techniques.  I liked the graphic novel’s sense of play:  with images, with text, with photographs, with screen shots, with predictions for the future.

The Shooting War, like House of Leaves, attempts to provide a representation of film through essentially still images, like text and drawings.  To do this, the Shooting War has to find creative ways of slowing down and speeding up time.  Whereas House of Leaves put single words on each page to slow things down, Shooting Wars might feature a single image on a two page spread.  Both House of Leaves and Shooting Wars used timers on cameras to show time.

I haven’t actually finished the graphic novel yet (I’m halfway through), so I’m not sure how the authors plan to end this thing.

Comments on the experience of reading The People of Paper

I plan to write the final paper on The People of Paper, and I find that I don’t really know what to say about it from an English major’s point of view.  What I remember is concrete images, like how Frederico de la Fe and his wife Merced stuffed their mattress with fresh hay and mint leaves, how the enamel on Little Merced’s teeth starts to rot because of her addiction to limes, the way Cameroon dealt with the pain of her father’s abandonment by maintaining a constant fever induced by hundreds of stinging beesl.

While doing some initial research, I found this review from The Mumpsimus blog that was actually quoted in the inside of the novel (the paperback edition with the blue cover and the paper hands).  The reviewer, Matthew Cheney (author/editor/high school teacher), had this to say about the experience of reading the book:

I will admit that I got so caught up in what the book was doing to me that I abandoned many of my analytical facilities and faculties in a fit of enchanted downsizing, that I didn’t stop to think about structure or symmetry, that I didn’t separate the elements based on visions of Intro to Lit textbooks dancing like sugarplums in my no-longer-New Critical brain. I read the book like a person in the first throes of love, blindly, enraptured, captured, chained, and, in the end, tortured and bereft.

That’s pretty much how I felt about reading this book.  Now I have to go back and reread it with the goal of untangling its postmodern concepts and techniques, which I’m afraid will ruin the experience for me.  Clearly, what interests me most (based on what I remember most) are all the ways that the characters deal with pain, and how that relates to the way Salvador Plascencia attempts to deal with his pain via writing the novel.  Maybe that is where I will start thinking about the book for the paper.

Week #12 (assuming we skipped #11) – Metaphors for writing in People of Paper

We’ve already mentioned in class the big metaphor between Antonio’s origami creations and the act of writing.  Antonio heals with paper, performing surgery on cats and eventually humans, and he also creates life with paper, through the character we come to know as Merced de Papel.  Professor Sample asked for examples of other ways Plascencia references other metaphors of writing in The People of Paper, and the only one I could come up with was the frequent description of blood as ink.  There are others.

On page 15, Antonio creates Merced the Papel from pieces of paper that he has collected, including pages from literature:  Austen, Cervantes, Leviticus, Judges, and The Book of Incandescent Light.  This strikes me as a metaphor for the way an author is influenced by existing literature.  However, The Book of Incandescent Light isn’t an actual book, as far as I know (apparently the monk named fifty-three wrote it)-though it is periodically referenced in The People of Paper as if it were an existing book.  This is not unlike MZD’s references to completely made-up references in House of Leaves, which scrambled the boundaries between real texts and imaginary ones.

Merced de Papel’s behavior could be interpreted as a symbol for a written work-even a symbol for the written work in which she was created.  For example, she steps over Antonio, her creator, when he passes out from exhaustion and paper cuts, and takes on a life of her own.  Plascencia has Frederico de la Fe and EMF do something similar to the author, Saturn, when he is made vulnerable by his breakup with Liz (which was due in part to his obsession with writing the book).  Also, she causes pain to men who are intimate with her.  This could allude to the pain in the novel, the specific pain of a man in love.

There seems to be something significant in the fact that she has the same name as Frederico de la Fe’s wife, Merced, and his daughter, Little Merced.  It reminded me of the part of Dream Jungle when Paz Marlowe’s mother reveals that all the miscarried children were given the same names.  It may also have something to do with the fact that many of the characters’ actions or situations overlap with the authors’.  These characters aren’t static personalities.

I was also confused about how Merced de Papel had “lost her civilization” and why she was the “only known survivor of her people.”  Is this a commentary on her specific type of literary character?  Who are her people?  Why aren’t there any more of them?

Week #10 – Art and Museums

I took an aesthetics course last semester that discussed African “primitive” art, and I remember the class talking about the “Primitivism of the 20th Century: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern” exhibit that Appiah mentioned on page 442.  “Primitivism” was such a controversial exhibit because it displayed African artifacts alongside famous modernist pieces that the artifacts apparently inspired.  For example, Picasso’s Les Desmoiselles D’Avignon was said to be inspired by this African mask.  This exhibit was so controversial because, the curator William Rubin seemed to imply that there was a universal formal aesthetic (what Appiah refers to as a modernist “ideology of disinterested aesthetic value”) by which both “primitive art” and modern art could be evaluated.  Critics of the exhibit cried that Rubin discredited both primitive art and modern art by putting them in the same plane instead of allowing each to be studied in their own contexts.

I personally can’t decide whether displaying primitive art on its own (in its own “context,” as far as a museum can replicate that context) is any less insulting than displaying primitive art alongside modernist art.  For Appiah, this question may be beside the point.  As Trish mentioned in her post, Appiah seems to be saying that the modernist tendency of Western museums and collectors to appropriate African primitive artifacts contributes to the commodification of African art.  According to Appiah, the central feature of modern society is not rationality but rather: “the incorporation of all areas of the world and all areas of even formerly ‘private’ life into the money economy.  Modernity has turned every element of the real into a sign, and the sign reads ‘for sale’ (433).  The reason why African art is so collectible is due, in part, to the Western myth of Africa as the Other.

As the list of possible words for Inquiry #4 points out, the subject of museums recurs in Dream Jungle.  Zamora displays Paz Marlowe’s Filipino mother’s painting in the same room as the painting in which Spanish conquistadors meet “natives with faces like Sonny’s,” a painting that Paz imagines smells like “blood and betrayal” (156).  There was something acutely unsettling about this grouping of native Filipino art (inspired by Amorsolo, one of the Philippine’s greatest artists) with a painting representing the native’s conquest by the Spanish.  Perhaps that’s one reason why the critics were outraged by Rubin’s “Primitivism” exhibit.

Week #9 – Dream Jungle

Like Pierce, I’ve only read a bit into Dream Jungle, but already there are some interesting things to point out.  First, the issue of the Taobo tribe’s authenticity, which I have a feeling the author is not going to reveal definitively.  It’s not clear who is narrating during the descriptions of Zamora (I keep wanting to call him Zampano) in the jungle with Duan and in the cave with Bodabil and his tribal family.  Zampano brings people into the tribe’s environment to capture their unique primitive lifestyle using cameras, tape recorders, and other such devices of representation.  The likely-inadequate representation of the cameras, the ambiguous authenticity of the tribes…these are all postmodern topics we’ve already explored in other works we’ve read in the class.

Another issue is the shifting narrators and the slightly shifting chronology-which seems straightforward compared to some of the other books we’ve read (House of Leaves, The Female Man).  The first person sections I’ve read, the one with Rizalina for example, attempts to capture the flavor of the speaker’s language (though the language gradually gets more and more sophisticated, I’ve noticed).  The third-person chapter, “The Cave: 1971,” tries to mimic Bodabil’s childlike thoughts.

There is also a wealth of cultures and languages in this book, which makes sense if we consider the history of the Philippines.  One question that might be raised is:  What is authentically Filipino?  The references to imperialism are everywhere in this book.  The Zamora family’s history, the names of Zamora’s dogs (Caesar and Brutus), Zamora’s displays of power against women (especially the servants).  What has the Philippines lost with the arrival of these Western powers?  What have they gained?  I expect that Jessica Hagedown has more to say about that later.

Heroes in The Female Man

The first person I think of is Jael when I consider who the hero of The Female Man may be.  She seems to have overcome something in her transformation from “an old fashioned girl” to a “grown woman.”  She’s also a cyborg, which is something of an idea in “Manifesto for Cyborgs.”  However, her status as hero is problematic because I’m not sure that killing men is the way to resolve one’s issues with sexism or to regain one’s selfhood.  Jael isn’t a very realistic character.

Jeannine is another character who has undergone a similar transformation.  This transformation happens after Jael asks Jeannine if she’s ever killed a man.  Somehow this question leads to her becoming more self-possessed.  She begins to sleep in late and play with her food–two activities she felt guilty for wanting to do because she wanted to a “nice girl.”  She also decides not to marry Cal at the end of the novel and refuses her status as a mannequin.

I don’t think Janet changed very much throughout the book.  She is more of a static character than Jeannine.  Joanna is the character that is most difficult for me to analyze in terms of change or heroism.  Interestingly, the beginning of Part Nine begins with “This is the book of Joanna.”  It’s not clear whether this is Joanna the character or Joanna the author, but I assumed that the rest of Part Nine was narrated from Joanna’s perspective (which one, I don’t know).  At the end of Part Nine is this line:  “Remember, I didn’t and don’t want to be a ‘feminine’ version or a diluted version or a special version or a subsidiary version or an ancillary version or an adapted version of the heroes I admire.  I want to be the heroes themselves” (206).  I don’t know if Joanna ever got to that point, but it’s significant that she wants it.

Jeannine, Jael, Janet, and Joanna (another ambiguous “I”) are described by “I” as Everywomen.  This is at first difficult to believe, which “I” admits–especially concerning Janet and Jael.  With Jael in particular, “I” says “Every woman is not Jael…but Jael is Everywoman” (212).  I’m not exactly sure what that means.  Perhaps it’s addressing the obvious issue that very few women, if any, are like Jael, but also asserting that there’s the possibility of Jael in every woman–just as there is the possibility of Janet, Jeannine, and Joanna in everywoman.  This goes back to the idea that femininity is multifaceted and conflicted among the population of women but also inside each woman.

Week #8 – Jeannine in The Female Man

A couple of things confused me when I first started reading The Female Man.  The most obvious thing is the fragmented narrative structure that only alludes to the identity of the speaker.  How does this relate to the subject matter?  Perhaps it has something to do with the many different notions of femininity.  Many modern women are in conflict with themselves over the different notions of femininity that exist today.  Section VI suggests that these parallel female worlds can all coexist due to the infinite number of possible universes that do not necessarily cancel each other out (6-7).

I also wondered why Jeannine lived in a world “that never saw the end of the Great Depression” (so says the back of the book).  Jeannine is the female character with the most archaic and stereotypical notions of womanhood.  She’s always worrying about her appearance, as in this day dream:

If I had the money, if I could get my hair done…She casts her eyes down, rich in feminine power.  Had my nails done today.  And these are good clothes, they have taste, my own individuality, my beauty (16).

What is the connection between her notions of gender and The Great Depression?  I think it has something to do her overall lack of money and her desire for a strong, capable man who can support her.  This is why she is so disparaging of Cal, her reporter boyfriend who she describes as always saying, “I’ll make it some day, baby” (3).  With all four female protagonists, the environment in which these women shape their individual notions of gender.

I also found it interesting that Jeannine’s character was narrated in the third person while Janet and Joanna both spoke in first person.  I think this has something to do with the fact that Jeannine’s self-image isn’t strong enough for her to be able to claim her voice.

Week 7 – Does New Media count as art?

My boyfriend was in the room with me as I viewed the new media texts on my laptop, and I bitched to him that I had signed up to be a literature major because I wanted to read books.  We both had a good time making fun of this stuff, but then he asked me in all seriousness, “So how IS this supposed to be literature?”  A serious question deserved a serious answer.  I responded then that these texts were new ways of presenting a narrative, to get us to think about narratives in different ways.

Now that we talked in class about these texts, I want to refine my answer, but I’m not yet sure how.  For one thing, some of these texts don’t have anything to do with narratives.  There is no traditional story in Nelson’s “Conversation” (Conversation?  What’s the MLA format for new media texts?).  Some of these new media texts don’t even emphasize text.  Harris’s “The Whale Hunt,” for example, relies on full-screen, high quality photographs to reveal the chronological events (we might even argue that it’s a story) of the whale hunt.  Brief captions are available, but they are not a prominent part of the experience.

So if these new media texts don’t necessarily involve stories or rely on text, how can we justify talking about them in a literature class?  I think we need to think about new media in broader terms, to analyze these new media texts as art pieces that don’t quite fit into the categories we already have (visual art, music, literature, etc.).  For example, one of the articles we read in Pomo CoNo mentioned John Cage’s piece,4’33,” which involves a conductor, an orchestra, an audience, and complete silence for four minutes and thirty-three seconds.  We can’t accurately describe this as music, but we can consider it an interesting art piece that experiments with sound.  Then there’s Marcel DuChamp’s “Fountain,” a piece of installation art involving a urinal, which Marcel displayed and signed “R. Mutt.”  Neither of these pieces requires much “artistic skill” or even effort, but both demonstrate the kind of innovative thinking that the art world thrives on.  These pieces force us to ask and attempt to answer the questions:  What counts as art, and why?

I have to remind myself that we once rejected the novel and impressionistic paintings, and now we take it for granted that they are legitimate art forms.  Maybe the same will happen with new media texts in the years ahead.

Week #6 – The Singularity of Experience in New Media

In “The Digital Topography of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves,” Mark B.N. Hansen argues that the novel is designed to emphasize-both thematically and formally-the “singularity of experience.”  Hansen says:

In an age marked by the massive proliferation of (primarily audiovisual) apparatuses for capturing events of all sorts,  from the most trivial to the most monumental, House of Leaves asserts the nongeneralizability (or nonrepeatability) of experience-the resistance of the singular to orthography, to technical inscription of any sort (606).

It’s easy to see how this plays out in the book.  There isn’t just one way to read the book-both in terms of the physical act of following the words on the page as well as the mental processing of the information.  For example, you can read all the footnote first or the main text first.  You can choose whether to go to the appendixes when prompted or choose not to.  And there are also several ways to react to the book, Johnny Truant’s disturbed reaction being one of them.

There’s an obvious correlation between the “singularity of experience” in reading the House of Leaves and the experience of reading the new media assigned for next week.  For example, in “My Boyfriend Came Back From the War,” the more you click on the images or on the text, the more boxes appear.  There aren’t obvious guidelines for which boxes of text to click first.  There isn’t an apparent linear order in the narrative.  You can click on all the bigger boxes first to have the smaller boxes pop up; you can click on one smaller box until it runs out of choices and then move onto the next smaller box until it too runs out of choices.  You can click on boxes randomly, clockwise, down in rows.  You can assume that every reader will make different choices, that their experience will be singular.

Whereas I can see how the House of Leaves has the singularity of experience as one of its main themes (as Hansen argues), I’m not quite sure why “My Boyfriend Came Back From the War” uses such a narrative technique.  The “plot” is basically what the title implies, a girl’s boyfriend comes back from the war, and they deal with issues that arose from their long separation.  It’s implied that the girl cheated on the boyfriend while he was away.  At times, it’s not so clear who is talking.  For example, “My mother told me you could change” could have been said by either the boyfriend or girlfriend.  Also, it seems like some lines from one box could be connected to a line in different box, forming a new meaning altogether.

I’m hoping that looking at the other new media pieces (and doing Inquiry #3) will help me figure out what this is all about.

Week #5 – References and Allusions

**SPOILER ALERT!**

When I was reading House of Leaves for the first time, it was impossible to look up all the historical, literary, religious references that MZD added to the text.  Since I went through the book several more times to build the model for Inquiry #2, I had a chance to slow down a bit and was able to do some research on some of those references.  I thought it’d be fun to talk about a few of them here:

Ash Tree Lane

Obviously, the Navidson’s house is on Ash Tree Lane.  The ash tree apparently plays a significant role in Norse myths.  The Yggdrasil (Old Norse for ash tree) was believed to be the World Tree that stands at the center of the universe.  This World Tree joins the nine worlds of Norse cosmology, which includes worlds that exist above, on, and below earth.  MZD might have chosen Ash Tree Lane as the location for the Navidson’s house because it a place where the human world and the supernatural world coexist.  The reference suggests that the house is at the center of the universe, or at least suggests that something important and universal happens in that house.  I wonder if there is any mention in the text of the existence of nine worlds.

Succoth

While I’m on the topic of the location of the house, the narrative also describes the house as “sitting quietly on the corner of Succoth and Ash Tree Lane” (18).  Succoth is Hebrew for the Jewish Feast of the Tabernacle, but it can also refer to a location.  This location could be (among other places) “the place of entering into darkness” or “where Jacob, on his return from Padan-aram after his interview with Esau, built a house for himself and made sukkot (booths) for his cattle.”  The Jacob reference is connected to Chapter XI, where critics attempt to make a comparison between Jacob and Will Navidson.  I’m still not really sure how this comparison is important to the overall scheme of the novel.

Devil’s Ear

In the story Johnny tells about being a Pit Boxer includes the detail that the Captain took him to Devil’s Ear in Florida (15).  Devil’s ear is an underwater network of caverns that reminds me a lot of a labyrinth.  The experience of going through this cave network is probably similar to the experience of exploring the labyrinth of the house.  In fact, people have died in that cave despite the efforts to enact safety measures such as this sign.

There are also subtler connections between this underwater location and the text.  Reston becomes sea sick when he goes on the rescue mission into the house with Navidson, and the metaphor of sea exploration appears throughout the text.  In addition, the reference to the sea and to the ear is mentioned in Navidson’s Dream #2.  In footnote 385, Derrida plays with the French word for snail (limaçon), which could refer to a spiral staircase (such as the one in Navidson’s house) or the spiral canal of the inner ear (the cochlea).  Note that the diagram of the cochleal fluids vaguely resembles the map for Devil’s Ear.  The reference might also be related to the theme of sounds in the novel (e.g. the echo), since the cochlea is the part of the ear that transforms vibrations from the air into nerve signals to the brain.

Week #4 – Parallels between Truant’s footnotes and the Navidson narrative

I keep trying to see if there’s a connection between Johnny’s crazy stories and The Navidson narrative, but often the links are often easy to miss.  Sometimes it’s just a single word or concept like “photograph” or “ghost.”

For example, in footnote on page 37, Truant talks about “the picture printed in the newspaper” of his father in a tractor-trailer accident.  On the same page, the Navidson criticism discusses the photograph on Billy Reston’s wall from when he tried to outrun a falling high voltage wire and failed.  Both photographs capture moments of extreme tragedy:  death on one hand and paralysis on the other.  Both images resonate strong emotional value despite being only 2D images of the events.  What comparison is being made by juxtaposing these two photographs?  There’s also the obvious link between photography and Navidson, the Pulitzer-prize winning photojournalist.  On page 22, the criticism explains that Navidson was devoted to photography because “it gave permanence to moments that were often so fleeting.”  I see these connections, yet I can’t really explain why they were put there.

Another example is Truant’s footnote 164, which starts on page 128.  Truant’s footnote was added to a line in the Navidson criticism about Jed’s knocking, which was described as drumbeats using the word “tattoos.”  In his footnote, Truant also describes the difference between the tattoos he draws and the many scars he has on his body.   In that same footnote, Truant also tells a story about when he met a ghost in his boarding school dining hall.  When the Navidson criticism starts up again on page 134, it also mentions ghosts:  “Perhaps here is a good a place as any to consider some of the ghosts haunting The Navidson Record.”  By convention, footnotes are supposed to draw from the text, but it almost seems like Truant’s footnotes actually shape the text.

All of this raises the question:  whose text is this?  Since Truant supposedly compiled this text from the bits and fragments of material he found in Zampano’s apartment, he could have arranged this compilation in whatever way he wanted.  I don’t know if I’d say this is Truant’s text, but he does have a lot of control over it.

Week #3 – Fragmented realities in The House of Leaves

Even though I’ve only read what amounts to 4% of the book (I’m on page 31), I feel like I already have a ton of concepts to work with-and a ton of things I don’t quite understand.

First, the “reality” (or maybe “realities”) of the book is hard to pinpoint because it’s mediated through so many different elements.  From what I’ve read so far, I think what we’re supposed to think of as the “true” reality of the novel includes Johnny Truant’s life (as laid out in the introduction and his courier font notes) and the lives of those around him (Lude, dead Zampanò, the tattoo parlor employees, Thumper, etc.).  Inside that frame is Zampanò’s mess of notes and scribbles, which Truant compiles into the book (which I think we’re supposed to consider fiction?).  Inside the book, is what sounds like academic criticism of The Navidson Record, complete with footnotes by the author and suspiciously tangential notes by Truant.  The Navidson Record is a documentary filmed by photographer Will Navidson.  In the documentary, Will Navidson records his family’s move to a new house, including the strange transformations the house underwent while the family went away for a wedding-but there’s controversy over whether any of that is real.  Framing this entire crazy structure is the fact that the author on the cover is Mark Danielewski, even though the title lists Zampanò.

The effect of all these layers of mediated storytelling is a feeling of discomfort that reminds me of the Heidegger passage on page 25 about the uncanny.  The uncanny is the feeling of “not-being-at-home,” where “everyday familiarity collapses.”  This novel messes with the way people usually read novels.  There is no clear, linear narrative.  Instead we’re forced to jump from body text to footnote to try to piece something together out of the fragmented text.  Because the text forces us to switch gears so much between narratives, the fictional realities often seem indistinguishable from the “true” reality.

The most immediate narrator-the one we’re supposed to trust the most since he inhabits the “true” reality-is notorious for wild, skillful, storytelling and there he is something clearly wrong with him psychologically.  The book is really haunting him, making him paranoid and affecting his breathing.  He’s unreliable, in other words.

My description of searching for a “true” reality seems pointless anyway, since I think the point Danielewski is trying to make is that we can’t find it because it doesn’t exist.  Or at least, we can’t really prove that it exists?  The realities in the book are simulacra.

One obvious question is:  Why is the word “house” always in blue?  Clearly, this is an important concept in the book (something related to the uncanny, perhaps, and the fact that the Navidson’s house is the main thematic focus), but I don’t think I understand how yet, being only 31 pages in.

Random connection I discovered recently (though maybe everyone knows this):  the musician Poe is Mark Danielewski’s sister.  Her album “Haunted” contains lots of songs that relate to her brother’s book.  He even reads a part of the book on one of her tracks.  There’s a song called something like “Five and a half minute hallway,” which relates to something that happens later on the book (I couldn’t tell you exactly what).

Week #2 – The reluctance of characters in White Noise to say what they really mean

DeLillo goes into detail to describe the conversations Jack Gladney has with family and friends.  The conversations that stick out to me most include the bedroom conversation between Babette and Jack in Chapter 7 in which they argue for almost two pages about who should be pleasing whom.  Jack says about the interaction, “I get the feeling a burden is being shifted back and forth.  The burden of being the one who is pleased” (28).  Both are reluctant to spell out what they want and instead act ridiculously polite.

Though the interaction was supposed to be arousing (it’s about sex), the conversation is not sexy at all.  I got the feeling that neither wanted to be pleased, and that perhaps neither wanted to do the pleasing.  Babette doesn’t necessarily enjoy reading “sexy stuff” to Jack, though she seems to do it regularly-just like she reads the supermarket tabloids to Old Man Treadwell even though she thinks the reading material is trashy.  Why does she do this?

Another conversation that stuck out to me was one that Jack and Babette had with Murray Siskind in Chapter 9.  Murray invites Jack and Babette to dinner, but is inordinately polite about it to the point that it sounds self-deprecating and silly.  He says:

I don’t want to feel like I’m holding you to something.  Don’t feel you’ve made an ironclad commitment.  You’ll show up or you won’t.  I have to eat anyway, so there’s no major catastrophe if something comes up and you have to cancel.  I just want you to know I’ll be there if you decide to drop by, with or without the kids.  We have till next May or June to do this thing so there’s no special mystique about a week from Saturday.  (40)

He seems desperate to make sure they know he isn’t trying to force them into “an ironclad commitment,” giving them several ways to back out of his invitation to dinner.  He never says, “I really want you to come to dinner.”

In both conversations, there’s a noticeable reluctance to state clearly what one wants, how one truly feels.  People in the novel seem to use others as a gauge for how they should feel.  I think that’s why the family watched Wilder “with something like awe” after his marathon crying session.  Jack describes Wilder as coming back from “a place where things are said,” emphasizing how people don’t really say what they mean (79).  Wilder’s crying was a true, intense expression of personal feeling, something that his family regards as a feat “of the most sublime and difficult dimensions” (79).

Wilder doesn’t seem like a “normal” child.  Jack mentions that he thinks Wilder is too big to sit in the supermarket shopping cart, yet it is his childlike behavior that endears him so much to Babette.  Does Wilder have a mental disorder?  It hasn’t been explicitly mentioned.

The most difficult/surprising thing about the power haunt

The most difficult thing about the power haunt inquiry was trying to reign in all the ways that the single power haunt (in my case, the ATM) related to million other themes in the novel.  The novel is so dense that a single paragraph can allude to millions of different ideas.  It was also difficult to pin down exactly how the place was a “power haunt” or a “source.”  Even Gladney himself didn’t really understand why certain things and places had a mystical, spiritual element to them.  Trying to talk about all of these themes within a coherent argument with a logical structure was tough.  Themes branch out and connect in non-linear ways.

In writing this inquiry, I ended up thinking about themes in the novel I hadn’t expected to discuss or even find in the passage I was analyzing.  For example, I discussed a seemingly random line about the deranged man being escorted out of the bank within the paragraph in which Gladney discussed his ATM transaction.  That led me to compare the state-mandated insanity of the crazies in the insane asylum and the zany citizens of Blacksmith who are allowed to roam free.


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