Interruption of Form

Art Spiegelman did the keynote address at the AWP Conference this February, and he talked about the form of In the Shadow of No Towers. He explained how comics typically lead readers from one frame to another in easy-to-follow boxes and text blocks. Because of his state of mind following 9/11, he created frames which were much more jarring. Reading through the pages, you can’t always tell where you’re supposed to begin and where to end. I think this echoes his feelings of alienation and confusion. He’s trying to make sense of what happened, but the frames, like his mindset, are fractured and can’t line up in any logical way.

Spiegelman continually reverts to depictions of the stalwart towers, either by revolving his frames into them, or showing their fuzzy images (like a TV screen) over and over again, just as the public was shown footage of the moments of collision over and over for a long time following the attack. However, instead of being desensitized by these images, his paranoia and shock reactions are just further inflamed. The skeleton of the tower is burned into his mind, to the point where he at one time even morbidly personifies the charred human skeletons of the running Katzenjammer Kid towers.

I’d be interested to hear everyone else’s opinion on the inclusion of the old comics in the back. I thought it was really interesting, and sort of creepy – creepy in the way that DeLillo kept talking about the twin towers in Mao II. I think the inclusion of these plates serves to recontextualize the events of 9/11, just as his multitude of styles and personalities (mouse, cartoon, etc.) places his own form in multiple realities. These are supposed to be nostalgic and innocent, and yet they’re flipped on their heads.

Now that I think about it, The People of Paper was hinting at graphic novel form too, although the formal structures and visual elements are dwarfed by the story and text (except when the black dots overtake the text). I guess in The People of Paper, the elements were competing, whereas graphic novels require a conversation between visual and textual elements. The narrative is equally dependent upon both.

Honestly, I found Shooting War kind of ridiculous. I read it at the beach, which may have had something to do with my reaction. But I think it was more the Jimmy Burns character (“I’m the hipster who’s going to save the world!”), and the “Burn, Baby, Burn,” catch phrase. I do like how they have the corporation logos rising clear above the rubble. And I appreciate how they created the frames to look like a buffering video shot. It’s like taking a fake site on the Internet and making a paper version – kind of like how House of Leaves takes a fake movie and makes a book. Kind of.

And it is a fake website. I checked. I mean, it’s real, but something different. Make sure to turn the sound up all the way.

Paper

Disposable, renewable, impermanent.

In his initial dedication, Salvador Plascencia writes “to Liz, who taught me that we are all of paper.” He later cuts out this dedication, emphasizing his point.

We jump into the story with a little boy buying back his three pounds of feline and reconstructing his slaughtered cat Figgaro. The prologue sets us up for themes of destruction, loss, and subsequent rebirth or renewal. It also places us in a magical realism situation, where we must accept that people can be made of paper.

Plascencia takes us into a world of impermanency, one where people are constantly shedding skins or changing. In the most physical sense, there’s Merced de Papel, who “never allowed history to accumulate, her skin changing with the news of the world.” (164) Other characters are changing themselves physically (burning, cutting, patching, covering up in lead); fleeing their own lives and leaving dust; or altering their identities in some other way. People become non-people, or at least not themselves. Rita Hayworth, for example: “Margarita Carmen Cansino shed syllables from her name and velvet curtains from her stage, rising, leaving a tail of draperies and scraps of paper cut from her birth certificate, to emerge as a star” (56) Hollywood’s presence, in the form of carried winds and background music, is a constant reminder of temporality.

Salvador Plascencia becomes a non-person too. He forgets about his characters (poor Smiley…) and then shuts them out to the point where they are able to censor their thoughts from him and the readers.

But I think The People of Paper also ironically confirms the existence of some kind of permanency. His one paper character is the last of a dying breed. And this novel is Plascencia’s way of physically documenting history. Incriminating himself for casting Liz in a bad light, he leaves everything he’s already told us where it is and writes on without her, or rather, with just her presence hanging over him much like Saturn hovers over de la Fe. He hasn’t actually deleted anything or pushed her out of his mind (or ours). She just becomes the girl who can’t be named. Paper allows his version of history to live on and be consumed by voyeurs like us who, like he says, don’t even know these people.

He also makes us aware of the book and its physicality, its history and process, even its price. He goes so far as to imply some readers would lick it to simulate licking Merced de Papel. I found Plascencia’s author/book/reader relationship more thought-provocative than, say, Joanna Russ’s abrasive/defensive approach in The Female Man, even when Plascencia denies us access to the text by blocking it out or relating to us the inner thoughts of the mechanical tortoise in binary code.

In fact, I like the complementary nature of form and function (combined with imaginative, often heartbreaking writing) so much that is my favorite book we’ve read so far. Plascencia manages to insert himself as a character halfway through without making me want to throw the book into a door. And just when I start getting annoyed with his despondency, he goes ahead and starts over right in the middle. He is repairing his history with paper, like Merced de Papel repairs her skin, like Antonio repairs his butchered cat.

Movements

I’d first like to just say that I think Yamashita’s use of music in her novel is beautiful. The book is written sort of like a song – with different characters working their way in and out of the text like instruments. I know it sounds really cheesy, but that’s the first thing that struck me. Small themes brought up in the beginning of the novel lead to great catastrophes or large events later on. Then, of course, there is the conductor who directs traffic. This, in and of itself, is a lovely image that lends itself to the text’s lyricism.

The movement of traffic is one thing that I think Adams explained nicely in her article. I like how she compared the freeway vein and impossible circuit of Pynchon’s California to Yamashita’s more musical and, in strange ways, hopeful freeway. I also like how she emphasized that Yamashita’s novel suggests the freeway is less crucial to the vital functions of a city. One infrastructure stalling doesn’t guarantee apocalypse. In the same way, the characters that survive are historically connected rather than flailing, and if they fail, that failure won’t necessarily destroy them. Adams makes some great points comparing the texts. I don’t think she’s disparaging Pynchon either – she’s more just calling attention to thematic and stylistic differences. In some ways I think the differences are just that (thematic and stylistic), and not necessarily bookends for an entire literary period. I feel like there’s a point where constantly arguing back and forth about whether something is postmodern just bogs it down and detracts from what we can get from the writing.

One thing I find strange was the emphasis placed on California, as if it’s this entirely different world and the center of everything. Maybe it is. At one point Yamashita mentions Joan Didion, and I kept thinking of her California freeway essay (and other CA essays) as I read the Adams article – how she made a game of the freeway, how she studied the freeway system, and felt completely connected to it. If California is this big a deal in the grand scheme of whatever postmodernism is, I sort of feel less connected to it than to Pynchon’s random red herrings and Cold War references.

There were a few other things I was wondering about. One was dialect – how did this strike other people? Adams mentions it in her article. At first I was wary of it because there are so many different conversational things happening, and for some reason I kept getting pulled from the story and thinking about screenplay dialogue. I’m not really sure why. But I see Adams’ point – that the use of dialect emphasizes a convergence of “underrepresented” people – I just wonder how accurate a representation it is.

The magical realism is also pretty stunning. In a weird way, it reminds me of Beloved – I guess just because it’s there, in this otherwise realistic piece. Perhaps the unreal elements sweeping into daily life emphasize the unreality or strangeness of real daily life.

Mediated Reality

I find the idea of reality mediated through photography, the Internet, advertising (and whatever else) both interesting and disturbing. Also overwhelming. Obviously our idea of the world is mediated through the news, etc., and it would be impossible to keep up with anything otherwise. And if news items weren’t pared down to what they are, there would just be information overload. I mean, it’s already information overload, but it seems like what remains often gets rebuked as sensationalism or biased reporting. Different newspapers and TV stations are known for specific political slants. But who decides what is important or accurate, and who is to say what is real when our reality is shaped so much by the media?

Mao II deals with a whole cast of characters confused or tormented by their own reality and place in both contemporary society and history. It plays with the idea of organizing and reorganizing people. Karen is one of the more exaggerated examples. During the mass wedding at the beginning, her father is shocked by so many people sculpted into an object. Confused family members hurry to take photos in an attempt to “shape the experience.” Karen sometimes seems like a parody, an extreme. But she’s also an example of how people are mediated through any number of technological or representational materials. Faced with multiple coded meanings, she wonders, “Which crisis do I trust?” (99)

While sitting for her photographs, Bill discloses to Brita: “Everything around us tends to channel our lives toward some final reality in print on film.” (43) Images have multiple roles, as mediated sources of power and detachment. In his essay, Mark Osteen says, “Moon gives his followers a supportive community that lends meaningful order to their lives” and provides a “projective narrative” (647) for his subjects. Narrative order through a promise of transcendence. Reorganized under the lens, people are no longer people, but commodities or tools.

Rather than being a person, Jean-Claude is something reassembled by terrorists and reporters. His own individuality is stripped – even he doesn’t know who he is. It seems like DeLillo equates terror to life lacking a narrative. He says, “When you inflict punishment on someone who is not guilty…you begin to empty the world of meaning and erect a separate mental state, the mind consuming what’s outside itself, replacing real things with plots and fictions.” (200)

After considering Osteen’s argument, I was reminded of House of Leaves. Brita comments at one point that even if her subject matter is horrifying, the photograph makes it appear beautiful. Karen too, equates the Sheffield disaster to a mural. I think Osteen uses the word aestheticizing. We aestheticize horror and therefore distance ourselves from it. We can look at horrifying pictures in a detached way. I really don’t think this is true all the time, but for many images it is. Anyway, I thought of Navidson’s Delial photograph, how he felt guilty and tormented by it. However, by this logic, I feel like with the amount of mediation going on in House of Leaves, Truant should never have gone as crazy as he did. Detached, yes, but not so excessively consumed.

Ownership and Fragmentation

In “Postmodern Blackness,” Davis explains memory as a hybrid version of history and time. She describes the cyclical occurrence of memory in Beloved, characters’ lack of control over changing the past, and the visually fragmented narrative that calls attention to lapses in memory. I like her reading of the text, regardless of whether Beloved is classified as postmodern. I also think many other factors are at work in Beloved, including internal conflict caused by lack of ownership, especially over oneself.

Most of the conflict arising throughout the novel seems to be directly connected to slavery or the aftermath of slavery. Unlike her relatives, who had been warned not to love their children as their own, Sethe becomes strongly attached to hers after leaving Sweet Home, so much so that she’d rather murder them than give them up. By the end she withdraws completely from the outside world because she feels that nothing outside her house belongs to her. Paul D also faces this dilemma, not only trying to hate beautiful things in the world because he feels they’re not for him, but also moving from room to room in Sethe’s house, ultimately relocating to the church.

Denver feels a sense of ownership over Beloved in the beginning, and Beloved, who at first has possession of the house she haunts, later takes possession of Sethe and her sanity. I wonder if the characters in Beloved exhibit tendencies toward claiming what’s theirs because they don’t really know what is theirs. Many have been forced to think that they don’t even own themselves, or that they aren’t even human. 

Paul D, for example, remembers overhearing his dollar worth, and the pain and humiliation of wearing a bit. Sethe is compared to an animal several times – Paul D tells her she has four feet; the students classify her human and animal features; and later, in her horrifying stolen milk memory, a scene of both sexual assault and degradation, she is treated like an abused barnyard animal.

The process of using people as commodities or animals turns their lives into disjointed fragments. The haunted house is more human than those living inside. People are displaced. Nobody lives with their whole family, nobody knows quite where they came from, or the accuracy of the history described to them. No one is whole or in the right spot. Many of the characters don’t even know their real names. When Sethe, Beloved, and Denver finally experience a sense of unity at the end: “Beloved / You are my sister / You are my daughter / You are my face; you are me,” (255) it quickly dissolves to a breaking away from reality. Denver gets excluded from Sethe and Beloved, and Sethe and Beloved exclude themselves from the outside world entirely, spiraling into an ownership and retribution battle which affects their health and sanity.

I think the fragmented narrative literally represents the lack of wholeness many of the characters experience. At the end, Sethe lies under a quilt, appropriately, and wonders if Paul D will bathe her in sections. There is this feeling of helping one another become whole at the end, as he looks at Sethe’s split back and thinks of what Sixo said about the Thirty Mile Woman: “She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order” (321).

Authorship, Cyborgs

“I am the author and I know,” Russ says on page 165. If, as Karin and Jael propose, all four women are the same woman, made different by their external circumstances, it seems to contradict the idea that women only appear to be the same because their circumstances repress them to the level of household objects. Maybe the four women are not the same person representing one-dimensional sides of a conflicted self, but they are just different possibilities of the same person, upon which each woman’s bizarre circumstances have shaped her so that other possibilities of herself are strange and horrifying to her (the murderous one, the lesbian, the repressed wannabe-housewife).

By claiming she is the author, Joanna Russ asserts her control over the text, but also shows the complications and uncertainties underlying that control. The alter egos filter through in interchanging blurbs. Jeannine says, on page 122, “Who am I, what am I, what do I want, where do I go, what world is this?” I think the multiple realities and personalities the J’s find themselves faced with represent the feeling of dissociation present in real life. This disjointedness and confusion is represented by the jumbled, fragmented structure, which Alana commented on earlier.

Also, as Anthony brought up, there seems to be an idea of self-criticism and self-deprecation, as well as multiple layers of authorship. There is the recurring question: “I know what I am, but what’s my brand name?” (174), and an unending search for self-identification in the midst of multiple dehumanized worlds. The book as a whole, which acknowledges its author and offers its own harsh criticism, is as self-aware, self-effacing, and confused as its characters are.

Examples of dehumanization are both literal and symbolic.  Almost every conversation between a man and woman is infuriating and results in the complete ignorance or mishearing of the woman’s words. This happens, too, between women, as in the conversation on page 113-114, where Jeannine’s words are misheard but unnoticed anyway. Russ seems to grapple with how one can possibly be his/her own person, or even a person at all, in the face of oppression. And of course, the cyborgs are literally dehumanized.

Speaking of cyborgs, what do people think about the half-changed people in Manworld? And does anyone quite know what to make of Davy, the robot/sex toy Jael has? He’s this ultimately dehumanized man in the middle of a book where women are the ones who are constantly objectified. Thinking about it more, I realized that while women are the main characters, men are also dehumanized stereotypes. She kind of takes the humanness out of everyone, and gets away with it because she’s created all these alternate worlds. But men are so oddly one-dimensional, except maybe Cal, who is strangely complicated and conflicted, both generically repressive and oversensitive. And then here comes this beautiful objectified robot-man? What are we supposed to get from all of this?

  

Also, on the topic of women and technology in the news, here’s an article from the Washington Post yesterday, called “Limbaugh, the Vatican and a Woman’s Place”: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/georgetown/2009/03/limbaugh_the_vatican_and_a_womans_place.html.

The article is very short, but touches on a lot of nerves (women’s rights, Catholicism, political affiliation). Some passionate user comments follow.

More on Form and Function

Yes, I keep feeling ridiculous for trying to analyze this book. Last week when we were talking about whether or not Johnny Truant was a reliable narrator, someone asked, why does it matter? I’m starting to feel that way about the whole book. Danielewski leads us around in his little text mazes, getting deeper into the analysis of a movie that doesn’t exist, about a house that doesn’t exist. Truant, for that matter, doesn’t exist either. Neither does Navidson. Or Karen. Or her problems. Danielewski’s writing fiction here.

However, as much as it resists analysis, it kind of cries out for it. Sure, nothing really exists, but really, neither do the dark hallways, so everything at least relates. It reminds me again of the layers in The Crying of Lot 49. Peel away everything only to reveal more layers:

“From the outset of The Navidson Record, we are involved in a labyrinth, meandering from one celluloid cell to the next, trying to peek around the next edit in hopes of finding a solution, a centre, a sense of whole, only to discover another sequence, leading in a completely different direction, a continually devolving discourse, promising the possibility of discovery…” (114).     

Even if Danielewski doesn’t want us to interpret it, there’s this need to at least mull over the deeper implications of everything that happens. Especially when he presents so much analysis of everything. I mean, given the interpretation of Minotaur-as-deformed-child, how could people just move on like that isn’t an interesting consideration? At the very least, we can analyze his analyses, right?

I really like the part about the Minotaur, even though it’s hard to read because of the strike-through. I also like how he describes how to read the text sort of the same way he describes how to view the movie. For example, he’s talking about how Navidson mimics the distress code by timing his film clips to the pulse of SOS. At the same time, the text in the book forms a similar pattern. Later he leads us through the maze of text and footnotes, some dead ends, while explaining how to interpret a maze. I suppose this is pretty gimmicky, but I kind of like it because it reminds me in some ways of a comic strip – how you’re visually led from one frame to the next. 

If the form of the text is so interwoven with the interpretation of the movie, is it any wonder the book itself gets analyzed? I’m not sure how to read it without constantly applying whatever he says to Truant. I’m also not sure what to do with the Sheehan Disability Scale. I guess it’s like the ultimate form of analyzing the book, right? Put it through psychotherapy?

Also, can I just point out that on page 84, an article titled “The Illusion of Intimacy and Depth” appears in an issue of Ladies’ Home Journal? That’s pretty funny. So was the story about the captain with the red shirt/brown pants.

The Absence of…

Maybe it’s a copout to focus on absence, because what novel has everything? House of Leaves, however, seems to delight in its own absences, and furthermore build upon them. The absence of ¼”, for example, sets the obsession with space rolling. The whole phenomenon described is that of impossibility, that of the house being bigger than itself, or at least not easily contained.

And one of the biggest absences is that of a complete story. While the supposed narrators supposedly make every attempt possible to leave in everything and cite all sources, we can’t help but notice the absence of, say, the movie itself. Truant says plainly that many of the footnotes aren’t even accurate and that one of them is covered by an ink stain and others unintelligible. You get both the detailed analysis of a movie you’ll never see by an unreliable dead blind man, and the reactions of a slowly maddening Truant by way of disjointed footnotes. There’s this whole question of authenticity, noted upfront on page 3, which brings in the idea of artifice vs. reality. Even the introduction is written by a fictional person. The book seems to pretty much be a self-proclaimed fraud drenched in painstaking details to deny its fraudulence.

Here we have a photographer/moviemaker, a person skilled at manipulating light and space in order to “capture reality.” Someone in the book mentions Escher at some point, and I’m reminded of anamorphosis, that weird process of playing with perspective to create space that isn’t there. Take, for example, the St. Ignatius church in Italy, where the dome is painted so as to appear, when you’re standing at a certain point on the floor, to exist. Really the church ceiling is flat on the outside:

dome

There is also the famous Ames room, an optical illusion where part of a room extends further than it appears, so when two people stand on either side of it, one looks tiny and the other like a giant. This is an illusion. Observe the creepy children:

ames roomAnamorphosis is a centuries-old technique (if I remember right, it started as a way to obscure political cartoons from kings), and has practical purposes (arrows and directions drawn on streets are distorted so as to look normal from a driver approaching in a car). It shows up in film, such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Jim Carrey as a disproportional child under a table). It’s also used in sidewalk art:

coke

Product placement!

Getting back to absence, I’d just like to point out there seems to be absence of feeling, especially with Karen (“she has no room for him” p. 12), and Navidson’s and Truant’s absent childhood families which supposedly lead to an absence of love and conflicted emotions later on.

There is also an absence of grammar. I realize that’s a bad segue. But seriously. Errors occur most often in Truant’s footnotes. For example, he keeps saying “I should of..” or “I could of”. While these seem to imply he’s just not a grammarian or that the “editors” hesitate to lose the contrived authenticity of the thing, there are also those which seem more intentional.

On page 31, Zampanó gets flowery about coffee spilling over until there is “nothing more than a brown blot on the morning paper” and then Truant footnotes it, saying the passage is unnecessary but left in so as to avoid absences, keep it authentic. However, Truant misspells morning, saying instead: “Easily that whole bit from ‘coffee arcing tragically’ down to ‘the mourning paper’ could have been cut.” Not only does the substitution of mourning for morning seem intentional, but it also serves to target Truant as unreliable (not that his drug-infused rants and ramblings don’t already do so).

There are at least two places where the word “pieces” is represented with “pisces.” What is this about? On page 41, Zampano’s talking about Echo and says Pan “tears her to pisces.” In the appendix of Johnny’s mother’s crazy letters, she says “such terrible news tore me to pisces.” (599)

There is also some discussion on page 45 of the substitution of “care” for “caves”. I wonder if these misspellings are meant to have the effect of echoes. Aloud, mourning sounds the same as morning. Later Daisy says “Always” is a game, which the narrator notes might echo “Hallways”.  He also says: “An echo, while implying an enormity of a space, at the same time also defines it, limits it, and even temporarily inhabits it” (46). Maybe this has something to do with the hallways which constantly redefine and shift outside and inside of the house, carrying the person within them along.

Free Will vs. Control, and the “Problem of Perspective”

The quote Jennifer mentioned from Harvey’s article describes Orr’s experience perfectly. Harvey discusses the coexistence of fragmentary “possible worlds” in an “impossible Space” superimposed upon one another (48), and says that rather than unraveling a mystery (the old detective story theme again), characters must simply ask which world they are in and what they’re supposed to do there. It’s interesting that the novel is told from multiple perspectives. If it were only told from only Orr’s point of view, we might start to doubt his reliability as a narrator.

Orr’s situation is unusual for a lot of reasons, one being that only he and others present at the time of his hypnosis register the shifting of reality. Not only does he realize it, but he also remembers all other realities as well. This forces him to feel at odds with the world and overwhelmed by his circumstances (like Oedipa and her many counterproductive clues): “He took it as it came. He was living almost like a young child, among actualities only. He was surprised by nothing, and by everything” (126). I think this confusion plays off of the fragility of memory itself. Memory is already unreliable–no two people remember the same story exactly the same way with all the same details.

Despite memory inconsistency, there is still this idea that linear history and memory continuity provides some frame of reference for our daily lives. But Harvey says: “Postmodernism abandons all sense of historical continuity and memory, while simultaneously developing an incredible ability to plunder history and absorb whatever it finds there as some aspect of the present” (54). Orr’s dreams completely disrupt his sense of the past, which makes for a disturbing, turbulent reality.

Throughout the book there’s this ethical struggle between Orr and Haber. At one point Orr wonders if other people have the same gift he has, and if so, whether everyone’s reality is constantly being replaced and renewed, to the awareness of only the dreamer. If so, he says it’s probably better that the rest of the world is ignorant to these constant changes. This hypothesis would basically wipe out free will, even by the dreamer controlling the world (as dreams are typically uncontrollable). Their reality becomes like a dream itself, in which there is no free will anyway. The mind does what it wants, creates its own reality, and subjects that reality upon others’ histories.

Does this novel imply the absence of some sort of God or higher power, then, too? The whole premise is that of “playing God,” naturally and technologically, at the same time as hesitating to do so. Orr is a draftsman. He understands the logical design of elements, but believes that “it’s wrong to force the pattern of things” (82). Haber, who seems to believe he is truly doing humanity a service, overlooks the wiping out of thousands of people as well as all historical significance. (History, by the way, threw me off at the part when Orr enters the Antique shop. For example, why was Eisenhower still there in photograph form, and was he gray too?)

One last thing I wanted to bring up is about human complexity. Orr, whose name is pretty overtly used as symbolism (he’s Either, Orr, the perfectly average human, not a superman despite his immense power), is pretty wishy-washy almost always. Yet he is the one experiencing the most humanlike questioning of ethics (at the same time as being used as an object, a tool). Heather is supposedly nonexistent in the gray world solely because her skin had once been brown. And Haber is often seen as the most complex and powerful of all of them, although he becomes quite vegetable-like at the end. Actually, he’s compared to an onion, too: “slip off layer after layer of personality, belief, response, infinite layers, no end to them, no center to him. Nowhere that he ever stopped, had to stop…No being, only layers” (81). There is no person under the onion, just like Oedipa and her millions of clothes. How is it that these two contrasting people can exist in world after world, but Heather disappears?

Self-Awareness, Dehumanization

I agree with Jennifer’s summary of Foer’s story. He attempts to create a symbol-driven handbook for categorizing the depth of emotions arising from, among other things, love and illness. But the complexity of human experience cannot be limited to the characters on a standard keyboard. The approach reminds me of Hassan’s point that “we no longer know what response is adequate to our reality” (23). Hassan also describes dehumanization as a process of turning emotions into an equation, calling it a “revulsion against the human” (20). Foer’s story plays with this, but I wouldn’t call it dehumanized. Actually, I think its form allows it to have an opposite effect. Obviously no generic handbook would ever have such intimate examples, and by disguising itself within generic instructions, the underlying sensitivity is exposed.

I just mentioned Hassan, but I mostly didn’t know what he was talking about. I’m curious about what others thought of the “POSTmodernISM” essay. I had a hard time with it, partly because I’m unfamiliar with many of the names and works he referenced, partly because the form threw me off.

As for Link, I think I liked her story better than Jennifer did, but the ending also confused me. The zombies were what initially attracted me to this story, too, and it’s nice that Soap fears them but at the same time appreciates their simplicity. I don’t consider them much of a metaphor; I think they’re just zombies, but by the end I still felt like I’d missed something.

One part I found especially engaging and hoped would be expanded more was when she described Soap’s painting on 158-159 like a depiction of the story itself, the story of being lost in the woods. No one really knows what the painting is supposed to be or where it came from. Maybe it’s a forest inside of which is a prison, inside of which are these strange characters. But that’s about as far as I got with that interpretation. I like how the narrator calls Soap so many names, the preferred name being an object. Does this count as dehumanization? Sometimes he’s Arthur, or Sweetheart, or…Wolverine? At the end he’s not there at all. So whose story is it?

I’m also curious to know what everyone took from the Cage piece. I was initially skeptical because of the multiple fonts–they seem a little gimmicky and annoying, especially since they don’t really make a pattern and I really want them to. But I enjoyed the story/poem and how self-aware and contradictory it is right from the beginning, with its hopeful title and hopeless parenthetical title. It’s sometimes like a piece about good intentions gone wrong. Tunnel workers go on strike to make more money or have better conditions, but the government ends up not just not needing them, but actually doing better without them. That’s so sad.

But back to the fonts: What do you think about them? Are they just there for attention? I don’t get why the form is the way it is, unevenly centered and mashed together, unless maybe the point is to look jagged (which is possible) or maybe there’s no point at all (also possible). What is it that holds everything together here?