Will the real Spiegelman please stand up?

Maybe it is because I have been reading Baudrillard and others discuss signs and signifiers for my final paper, but I couldn’t help but notice the ever-changing way that Spiegelman represents himself in In the Shadow of No Towers.  A great example of this self-representation is on page two.  At the top of the page there is a frazzled, red-eyed Spiegelman with an eagle/albatross around this neck.  In the next frame, there is a little more life-like drawing of he and his wife as they hear the plane hitting the north tower.   From there, the husband and wife duo changed into a what appears to be an homage to an older cartoon, two boys in jackets and ruffled shirts.  The catch is that each have a WTC tower blossoming from his head. In another strip on the same page just left of center, there is a black and white cartoon of Spiegelman looking into a mirror. All the reader has is a profile, but a fairly realistic profile at that.  The last frame of the four-frame cartoon is Speigelman looking into the mirror, but instead of the human, the reader sees a mouse.  (Presumably a reference to his previous graphic novel Maus in which he depicted the Jews as mice and the Germans as cats.)  The caption in this last frame is “issues of self-representation have left me slack-jawed.”  Finally, there is a sleeping Spiegelman on his drawing board with a human body, but with the head of a sleeping mouse.  

All of these representations have left me slack-jawed too.  Certainly Speigelman is aware of his changing self-representations and calls attention to with with the aforementioned quote.  However, is the reader supposed to take each sign or representation as a different side of Spiegelman? A different response to an element of the tragedy? A different emotion?  I tried following the last idea throughout the novel.  Does the stylistic rendering of one Spiegelman that portrays a particular emotion reoccur when the same emotion resurfaces later in the book?  Here was how I went about it.  

1)Frazzled, red-eyed.  Initial emotion: panic.  Appears on page 2, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

2)  Life-like husband and wife.  Initial emotion: stunned. Appears on page 2, 3, and 4.

3)  Old-fashioned boys with towers on their heads.  Initial emotion: panic. Appears on page 2, 4, 5, and sort of on 10.

4)  Profile–black and white–and mouse.  Initial emotion: astonishment.  Appears on page 2, 3, 9, and 10.

5) Human with a head of a mouse.  Initial emotion:  reminisce?  Appears on page 2, 3, 9, and 10.

Even though these same self-representations continually resurface throughout the book, the emotions association with each style change.  So this maze has lead me no where.  That said, the same story line does seem to continue through similar representations.  For example the stunned husband and wife on page 2 go in search of their daughter  at the UN school after hearing the plane crash into the WTC on page 3.  Similarly, the mouse/Spiegelman representation reoccurs when he is drawing connections to his parents time in Auschwitz to the horrors of the September 11th.  So which Spiegelman is the “real” representation?  Are all of these representations just simulations of Spiegelman?  Or to the reader do they become a simulacra of Spiegelman?  Is the cartoon representation more real to us as readers than the actual Spiegelman?

Baby Nostradamus and the Mechanical Tortoise

I thought I would touch on something that hasn’t been talked about yet–the two characters whose words can’t be read.  I am fascinated as to why Plascencia would include big blocks of black texts or binary codes in the novel.  While the latter may actually translate into words or images, the black boxes are destined to go untranslated.  Certainly this makes the novel look and feel postmodern to the reader.  (However, I would argue that it still is postmodern even without these characters.)

I initially wrote off Baby Nostradamus as a (humorous) allusion to the prophetic 16th century seer and nothing more–a gimmick of sorts that Plascencia used to be provocative in style, but maybe not in meaning.  Baby N. first appears on the bus with his mother. Little Merced makes an inquiry about him and his mother says, “At first I thought that he was brain dead; the doctors said that he was as dumb as a turnip” (23).  On the same page, the solid black box appears under Baby N’s name. As a reader, I zipped passed each of these boxes assuming the baby had no thoughts.   However, it wasn’t until chapter 23  that my reading of Baby Nostradamus changed.  In this chapter, Baby N’s thoughts are written as he instructs Little Merced in how to conceal her thoughts.  Ironically, even as he instructing her ,it is not done through spoken words, but “through telepathic lessons” (159).  The reader sees Little Merced trying to use the concealment technique to varying degrees of success throughout the rest of the novel.  Her examples are normally partially obscured by a circle, such as on page 209.  

Now the black boxes have changed for me.  It didn’t mean Baby N. didn’t have any thoughts, but rather it was that he was concealing his thoughts from Saturn/ Plascencia and the reader.  I wonder if Plascencia wrote out the passages from Baby N while writing the book and then concealed them later on?  It would make for a good creative writing exercise. Yet, the concealment strategy is destroyed on page 218 when there is an image of Saturn superimposed over the top of the black box.  Is it a mistake on his part?  Does he mean to conceal his thoughts about Saturn?  Or is initially making the “mistake” Little Merced did when she is learning how to conceal her thoughts and ends up highlighting them instead.   I keep returning to the question: what is his role in the novel?  Is he more than just a soothsayer?  At times he is humorous, foreseeing the last lines of the novel on page 166.  But at other times Baby N. feels like a convenient way for Plascencia to incorporate the non-traditional structure.  

I don’t have as much to say about the mechanical tortoises. Since the author never translates their “words” for the reader, they go largely misunderstood. With that said, on page 156, the escaped mechanical tortoise’s purpose is brought to light–when we discover that he is working against the desire of the mechanics and bringing Tijuana and LA closer together by moving the earth.  Saturn goes on to say, “This is what machines did–they bridged the distance between cities” (156). A nice summary of the role of technology in the 21st century.  

Alana mentioned Plascencia’s choice of Saturn, and I wonder if it has anything to do about the myth of Saturn eating his children so that they wouldn’t overthrow him.  Seems to fit with Saturn’s/Plascencia’s fears about the characters taking over the story.  I too wonder if there are further connections in Latin American culture.

Freeways, Highways, & Underpasses

As I read Tropic of Orange, I was immediately draw to the highway images.  Thanks to twenty-four hour news stations, I have seen many high-speed chases down 805, 1, or some other highway in LA.   While there are a few chase scenes in the novel–Gabriel and Emi after the woman and child in a taxi; the Jaguar and the bus–this wasn’t what attracted me to the highways . Rather, I was draw to the apparent use of the highway as map in the novel, albeit not one that is easy to trace.   

Yamashita is able to have her characters situate themselves in connection to the roads.  Sig traffic accidents happen, the “NewsNow” van arrives on the scene, cars pile up for miles.  Many homeless men and women, such as Manzanar, are described as living under it or compose music by it.  Goods such as oranges and body parts are transported along its veins.  Each character could be placed on or around the highway, thus creating a map of sorts.  However, I don’t think the map would lead the reader anywhere, but would be constricting in some points and expanding in others.  It was this idea that made me think of the staircase in House of Leaves that continually alters and changes on itself.   The highway, like the staircase, traps and confines characters to enclosed spaces.  Such as when Emi gets caught in traffic on page 58,  “Doing the Joan Didion freeway thang.  You know, slouching around L.A.  Sorry, babe, but it’s hard to feel exhilarated going five miles an hour.”  Other characters are situated and sometimes confined in cars–Buzzworm sets up a semipermanent headquarters in a gold Mercedes (186), Mara Sadat does a live TV broadcast from “the open hood of a rusting Cadillac” which is filled with dirt and to grow herbs and vegetables (191).  At other times, the highway seems to stretch in unusual ways, “Harbor Freeway.  It’s growing.  Stretched this way and that.  In fact, this whole business from Pico-Union on one side to East L.A. this side and South Central over here, its pushing out. Damn if it’s not growing into everything!” (189-190). These images seems to link with Foucault’s “Of Other Spaces” essay that we read many weeks ago.  He could bring to the table a discussion of the highway as a public or private space.  (I think a case could be made for its functioning as both.) On page 23, Foucault says, “We do not live inside a void that could be colored with diverse shades of light, we live inside  a set of relations that delineates sites, which are irreducible to one another and absolutely not superimposable on one another.” Couldn’t these “delineate[d] sites” be transfered to the way we view highways in the novel–a way in which to organize our lives?

Another way to look at the highways could be to see them as another character in the novel.  Adams briefly touches on Yamashita’s humanization of the highway, “The great flow of humanity [runs] below and beyond his feet in every direction, pumping and pulsating, that blood connection, the great heartbeat of a great city” (35).  Adams contrasts Yamashita’s anthropomorphizing of the highway to Pychon’s passive description.  As I was reading Tropic of Orange, I found that not only was the highway given human qualities, but in some cases it served as another character making an appearance in almost every chapter.

Jonestown

I’m fascinated by cults–namely what drives people to join them.  In high school I remember  seeing images on the news of bedrooms full of hooded dead bodies wearing new sneakers in a compound in California.  The participants of the Heaven’s Gate cult were instructed to take the “Kool-aid” when the Hale-Bopp comet appeared, thus taking them off the earth before its destruction.    Also during my early high school years, the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas went up in flames, killing 75 members. What drives people to join these cults?  To forfit reason in service to a madman?  To hand over one’s future to someone who values the collective at the violent expense of the individual?  For whatever reason, time and time again people are sucked into cults.  

It should come as no surprise that I was drawn to the cult element of DeLillo’s novel.  The opening scene of Karen’s  mass wedding ceremony performed by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon sets the stage for the many cult references in the play.   Even though Karen later leaves the cult, she still is described as a deeply religious person who is fanatically devoted to Bill Gray. “If  it’s believers you want, Karen is your person.  Unconditional belief” (69). Karen openly and even wistfully describes her past in a community, but appears as though she is still living in one with Bill and Scott.  Together, Karen and Scott share the responsibility of cooking, cleaning, and even disciplining Bill.  It is unclear to me why Karen is so loyal to Bill. Clearly she trusts what Scott does and says and he brought her to Bill, but why stay?  There is something unusual about the part where Karen has sex with Bill on page 86.  It isn’t passionate or forbidden, but almost as if there has been agreement in the community that that is what Karen should do for Bill.  

 “Does Scott know you come up here”  

[Karen replies,] “Is there anything in this house Scott doesn’t know?”

“That’s what I thought,” he said (86).  Karen’s devotion goes beyond her housekeeping duties and extend into the fanatical.

 I understand Karen’s obsessive devotion; it is Bill’s that I don’t understand.  The part that I continue to have trouble with is why Bill Gray would go to such great lengths to conceal his whereabouts, curb his media presence and precisely time his release of a new book in the first half of the book, only to wake up one day and be persuaded he should drop everything for a publisher/friend, leave the comforts of his home, and enter into the international spotlight.   I understand having a political agenda.  I understand doing it to free a fellow writer.  I understand doing this for personal gain.  But all of these seem out of character for the Bill developed in the first half of the book.  I appreciate Osteen’s argument that Bill was modeled after DeLillo, but I don’t think it entirely clears of the question of motives.  The best explanation I can come up with is that Bill too was sucked into a cult: a cult of terrorism.  He blindly followed Charlie, George and Rashid, when he rationally should have been able to pull away or not get involved in the first place.   

Like Pulling Teeth

Like many of the posts before me, I feel uncomfortable calling this text postmodern, especially since Morrison calls herself antipostmodern.  (What does antipostmodern mean anyway?  Against the idea of postmodernism?  Against the tenets associated with the term?  Or is she saying that she is anything other than postmodern?  All would be interesting avenues of exploration.) Regardless,there is one part of this novel that struck my postmodern chord: the rewriting/ retelling of history in the novel.  

This idea reminded me of Hassan’s discontinuity of history in”POSTmodernISM.” According to the essay,  “We reinvent continually the past…Or individually, each man dreams his ancestors to remake himself” (6).  Clearly, this reinvention of history is a major part of Beloved not only with events happening out of order and the revision of the history through the mouth of a freed slave, but– more interesting yet– the reader sees several retelling of stories that happen to the characters in the novel.  A prime example is the narrative of Denver’s birth told (in part) to us by Sethe (31).  A more expanded version of Denver’s birth is told from Denver herself as she recounts it to Beloved.  “Denver spoke, Beloved listened, and the two did the best they could to create what really happened, how it really was, something only Sethe knew because she alone had the mind for it and the time afterward to shape it” (78).  This collaborative second-hand retelling of history based on Sethe’s story to them struck me as just the type of discontinuity of history that links Morrison to Hassan.  

Davis devotes quite a bit of her essay to Morrison’s rewriting, “rememory” as Sethe calls it, of history  though “origins, cycles, and reconstructing agency” (244).  While I don’t want to rehash her analysis of the novel, I did want to add on to her idea.  

The short two-page chapter on 133 and 134 appeared to be a beautiful metaphor of this very revision of history that Davis speaks of in Beloved.  In this chapter, Beloved reaches into her mouth and pulls out a “back tooth” (133).  She ponders this action and thinks that “her arm, her hand, a toe” would be the next to fall off (133).  This pulling / falling apart of Beloved seems to be a nice extension into thinking about history.  At any moment the details of events in the past could suddenly be lost.  What then?   Beloved appears to share these fears by saying that she has two dreams: “exploding, and being swallowed” (133).   The threat of losing the past could very well meet the same fate.  The interesting part to me was Denver’s response to this tooth loss episode.  

“Must be a wisdom,” said Denver.  “Don’t it hurt?”

“Yes.”

“Then why don’t you cry?”

“What?”

“If it hurts, why don’t you cry?”

“And she did.  Siting there holding a small white tooth in the palm of her smooth smooth hand” (133-4).  So Beloved cries after the suggestion has been made that it might hurt and she should cry.  If this is an extension of the retelling of history, Morrison would be positing the idea that a mere seed of suggestion can alter and shape not only our reactions to events, but the very events themselves.  A terribly postmodern idea.

Freud, Sex in the City, The Female Man, and Google

I am struck my the ever-shifting pronoun usage in this book.  I can’t keep up–I, me, us, we.  Who are these women?  Clearly they have separate identities, but often they appear as one.   In part three, Joanna takes Janet to a party; this section appears to be laden with one of the first instances of  narrator disorientation.  Joanna introduces Janet to her friends (whose names unexplainably all end in -issa) at the party as her Swedish cousin.  Janet quickly enters into a discussion with the Ginger Mustache.  From this point on in the chapter, the pronoun references are muttled.  “She showed him all her teeth.  He saw a simile.  […] and he took us by the wrist.[…] ‘Let me go’ said Janet.[…] All this time he was nuzzling her ear and I was showing my distaste by shrinking terrified into a corner, one eye on the party.[…] enfolding us in his powerful arms (emphasis added 45).  How can Joanna be observing Janet talking and then refer to her as part of herself?  

After this section, I was left wondering if they in fact are just one woman inhabited by many.  Come to think of it, Cal even acknowledges this morphing when he says to Jeannine on page four, “The vanishing woman [referring to Janet]. That’s you.”  She doesn’t deny it.  Just for the sake of experimentation, I can’t help but try out the theory that they are actually one woman.  I have heard it said that the four woman on Sex and the City aren’t really four distinct women, but rather alter egos of Carrie: Miranda, the career-driven one, Charlotte, the uptight prude, and Samantha the over-sexualized woman. While the stereotypes don’t align perfectly with Joanna, the fiercely independent 1970’s feminist, we have Jeannine, the mild-mannered woman waiting to marry; Janet, the futuristic Whilawayean who challenges all gender stereotypes; and Jael the warrior.  So instead of Sex and the City, couldn’t these women in The Female Man be parts of Freud’s theory of the id? If I had to label the id, the unconscious pleasure or need of instant gratification, it may be Janet in her sexual desires for other women, or her Jael in her animalist tendencies.  The ego, whose job is conscious and ready to mediate between the id and superego, may be Joanna as she tries to explain society to Janet.   And the superego, who seeks to act in socially appropriate ways, may be Jeannine confined by her expectations to her family, to herself, to society to marry, to make something of her life.  Again, not a perfect fit, but it might prove to be useful in our discussions.  

 

To the question about Women in Technology:  

Here is a NYT piece on Marissa Mayer, 33 year-old first female engineer for Google and now VP of search product and user experience.  I thought the angle of this piece was fascinating.  It didn’t just report on her work, but dabbled into the personal, including what her apartment looks like, the talk shows on which she appears, her hobbies, her Yelp interviews, etc.  Mayer herself seems to be spearheading her own publicity, but I find it fascinating.  

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/01/business/01marissa.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Here is another article about her from a San Francisco paper:

http://www.sanfranmag.com/story/adventures-marissa

After these articles appeared, Gawker ruthlessly tore Mayer and the articles apart.  

http://gawker.com/5162532/marissa-mayer-googles-biggest-failure

“This is what happens when you hurry through a maze: the faster you go, the worse you are entangled.”

Chapter IX elicited both pleasure and sheer frustration for me as a reader.  Appendix A refers to the possible title for Chapter IX as “The Labyrinth.”  (Odd that the possible chapter headings are buried in the appendix on page 540.  But why not?)  The reader sees iterations of the labyrinth in this chapter as the form starts to take various shapes and positions on the page creating a labyrinth of words for the reader to navigate.  Pages of text are divided into vertical columns and a curious box with footnoted material outlined in blue (at least in my version) appears in the upper right hand corder of the text.  Without warning the blue box of footnoted material appears on both pages.  But when the dueling boxes arrive, the text on the left-hand page is printed backwards as if the two pages were stuck together and the text on the right-hand side rubbed off on the left.  

It took several minutes of flipping back and forth for me to realize that the footnote continued for pages in these boxes.  While it did drive me a little nuts, upon reflection, it seems like an appropriate maze in which to lead the reader.  Simultaneously while the reader is navigating the maze of footnotes, Holloway, Jeb, and Wax are descending into the maze of endless rooms and expanding staircases in the Navidson House.  “At one point Holloway even succeeds in scratching, stabbing, and ultimately kicking a hole in a wall, only to discover another windowless room with a doorway leading to another hallway spawning yet another endless series of empty rooms and passageways…” (119). The very pages that the reader encounters with columns of text printed upside down and boxes dividing the page appear to echo the walls and passageways the characters encounter.  This layering effect seems to develops the infinite regression that Professor Sample mentioned last week.

 I have to pause and say that there is also something a little too nice and neat about this chapter.  While I could never have dreamt of putting a chapter together in this fashion, isn’t it a bit predictable? The title of the chapter, the form, the mazes for both reader and character to negotiate all seem obvious once the reader discovers Danielewski’s trick.  He even spends several footnotes discussing different theories of mazes:  Derrida’s ideas about structure and balance, Doob’s (made-up?) ideas about how to walk a labyrinth, M C Escher and then of course the Minotaur myth.  All of these self-conscious layers of mazes makes me think that Danielewski is taunting a reader to come up with an interpretation of this chapter that is not already embedded in the text.  While Professor Sample mentioned that the whole book appears to do this, I thought this chapter was a particularly good example of this.  One of the footnotes in this chapter even calls attention (or rather not) to the layout by saying, “Mr. Truant refused to reveal whether the following bizarre textual layout is Zampano’s or his own.–Ed” (134).  Thus slapping the reader in the face for trying to interpret the careful web Danielewski has spun.   

Layers of echoes

Several posts have been about Danielewski’s lack of presence– dare I call it his silence?–  in the novel.  I was certainly struck by this as well.   However, Danielewski’s voice, like so much of the postmodern literature that we have studied, is buried under layers of intertextuality–editors, Truant, Zampano, Navidson, Karen, etc. The only way we “hear” Danielewski’s voice is through layers of fictitious characters.  While we occasionally hear Navidson, he is presented through a film clip, or through a critic’s interpretation, or through Zampano.  Even Zampano’s voice, which is primarily heard through footnotes, is being interpreted through Truant. And Truant’s voice (or absence like Susanna pointed out) is also qualified by the editors.  All of these layers of distance and absence are important to simulation of reality.  I don’t feel like I quite understand Baudrillard’s successive phases of the image (or even if they can be successive), but the bit about the Moebius strip splitting in two and always calling into question the real by the imaginary seemed to fit in this case.  Isn’t Danielewski using the imaginary, the intertextuality, to define exactly who he is?

Another layer (real or imagined) was the lengthy and sometimes tangential comments about echoes in chapter v.  The very nature of an echo is imaginary, even mythic as the opening to the chapter suggests.  The echo isn’t the actual voice, but the mimicking of a voice– calling to mind the very strategy that Danielewski is using in crafting his book.   Many moments of the echoes arise in this chapter, mainly in regard to the hallways.  “In the living room, Navidson discovers echoes emanating from a dark doorless hallway which has appeared out of nowhere in the west wall” (57). These echoes are the voices of his children lost in the hallways.   

Not only do the echoes add a type of layering to the story that mimics the structure of the story, but they also add to the eerie tone. “Delay and fragmentation repetition create a sense of another inhabiting a necessarily deserted place” (46).  After the children’s shouts are heard throughout the living room, Karen “freezes on the threshold,” paralyzed by fear of the unimaginable.  This same sentiment is brought up a few chapters later when Navidson is lost in the hallway at 3:19 am.  Instead of the echoes being created by the hallways,”suddenly immutable silence” takes its place (67).  After hearing the growl, Navidson makes vain attempts to call out to his wife and brother, but his shouts are met again by silence.  Couldn’t this absence of words be relate to the echoing of words?  Each is missing some sort of reality of words.  Is Danielewski trying to do as Baudrillard suggests and define something according to its binary?  

By way of a tangent, it’s interesting to note that “Simulacra and Simulations” is the article being read by the character Neo early in the film “The Matrix.”  The movie contains multiple other references to the essay, including the phrase (uttered by Morpheus upon his revealing the wasteland that is the ‘real world’ of the future earth) “the desert of the real”– a direct quote from the essay.

Mr. Either Orr

George Orr is the most forgettable character I know.  I was expecting invisibility, super-strength, flying, lightning fast changes into spandex and capes, but not banality.  My expectations for a main character in a sci-fi / postmodern novel have been upended, and in their place is left normalcy.  Our first physical description of him is ordinary, even boring: “haircut conservative shoulder-length, beard short.  Light hair and eyes, a short, slight, fair man, slightly undernourished, good health, twenty-eight to thirty-two.  Unaggressive, placid, milquetoast, repressed conventional” (7).  Le Guin has decidedly chosen the most mild-natured man in Portland, or even the world to be suddenly thrust into the spotlight.  I can’t help but wonder: why Orr?

Not only is he average–but the Le Guin goes out of her way to say just how average he his.  Habor even justifies Orr’s averageness by confirming it with psychological test results:  “Creative/destructive, on the Ramirez scale–same thing.  Both, neither.  Either, or.  Where there’s an opposed pair, a polarity, you’re in the middle; where there’s a scale, you’re at the balance point” (137).  Why would a man so average and mundane be caught in the middle of these dream experiments?  Maybe his name has more to do with him being caught in one reality or another. One dream or another.  One experiment or another. 

At one point, Orr wonders,”What kind of man am I?[…]I haven’t any strength, I haven’t any character, I’m a born tool” ( 74).  He seems to want to take a stand against Habor, but can’t dream the right dream, convince the right attorney, or be in the right reality.  However, there are a few moments of assertiveness in Orr’s overwhelmingly banal personality.  For example, after the curious incident with aliens, Orr insists that Habor call the HEW Minister and explain the miscommunication.  It is at this moment that Habor wonders, “Why had this gift been given to a fool, a passive nothing of a man?  Why was Orr so sure and so right, while the strong, active, positive man was powerless, forced to try to use, even to obey, the weak tool?” (124). Additionally, when Heather goes to the cabin to learn why Orr missed their lunch date, she acknowledges that “He is the strongest person she had ever known, because he would not be moved away from the center” (96).  Since Heather is described as Orr’s antithesis, one can’t help but mark this unusual role reversal.  

Even though Orr may be forgettable and mundane, I can’t help but think that this was Le Guin’s point.  Haven’t all of the superhuman strengths been chronicled and the stereotypes of science fiction been established?  So where does the postmodern novel turn to create a main character?  The yawning averageness. 

Lastly, I am not sure what to make of this, but there were all of these unusual references to Orr being similar to different types of animals:  a monkey, an insect, a goose, a dead elephant, etc.  What is a reader to make of these?

The problem with certainty

 I must admit to being a little dazed after completing The Crying Lot of 49.  What is a reader to make of symbols of postal horns appearing in windows of  herbalists in Chinatown, or children who have sketched them on sidewalks, or on the bathroom stalls, or in the corners of stamps?  I think I am just as confused as Oedipa as to whether or not there is a secret conspiracy to suppress Tristero/Trystero or if it is all a hoax?  Clearly, this is one of Pynchon’s points.  

It seems that everywhere Oedipa turns, she encounters uncertainty regarding The Tristero. After she meets with Mr. Thoth and sees the WASTE symbol on his ring, she is compelled to tell Fallopian.  “‘You think it’s really a correlation?’  She thought of how tenuous it was, like a long white hair, over a century long.  Two very old men.  All these fatigued brain cells between herself and the truth” (74).   Chasing after leads, Oedipa tracks down the missing line in the “Whitchapel” fragment, only to find out later that that version is corrupt according to professor of English at Cal, Emory Bortz.  Then there is the concidential (?) meeting of Arnold Snarb who dons the WASTE symbol on his lapel pin, but he uses it as a symbol of his membership in I.A. or Inamorati Anonymous. It is Arnold who Oedipa contacts at the end of the novel, who now seems to be involved in The Tristero after all.  Even Dr. Hilarious’s experiments with LSD and other drugs on suburban housewives like Oepida seem to give rise to the question of whether or not she is involved in a larger plot against her.  Ironically, Hilarious preformed experiments of induced insanity–certainly calling into question Hilarious’s own sanity.    In the end, he too is silenced by the “cops.”

As the novel progresses Oedipa appears to question this idea of truth and certainty more frequently.  “Oedipa wondered  whether, at the end of this (if it were supposed to end), she too might not be left with only compiled memories of clues, announcements, intimations, but never the central truth itself[…]” (76).  The notion that she is in a dream continues to appear, as Oedipa encounters more clues.  Leaving her to “have trouble sorting the night into real and dreamed” (95).  When her perception of reality fails her, she is left to test reality through touch.  When the sailor throws a letter at her in the hallway, “she was overcome all at once by a need to touch him, as if she could not believe in him, or would not remember him, without it” (102).  Poor Oedipa. What is she to make of all of this?  Her notion of certainty has been turned upside down.  

The notion of certainty seems to be the pivotal idea when discussing the difference between modern literature and postmodern literature.  The modernists– Eliot and the like– established New Criticism in hopes of identifying one meaning in a text.  Hemingway wrote in excruciating detail about certainty with stories about the practical– how to fish for trout or watch a bullfight.  Whereas in postmodernism, nothing is certain.  Fact and fiction are one in the same.  

Just for kicks, I looked up up the Thurn und Taxis family and it turns out they have their own website.  Click the link below.

 http://www.thurnundtaxis.com/

Don’t skip the intro that contains pictures of their palace.  You can even rent out the dining room to throw a private party.  In addition, the current Prince turns out to be a 25-year-old who loves to race Lamborghinis.  Here is a picture of him.  

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