Brian’s first graphic novel adventure

I admit, prior to these two texts, I was a graphic novel virgin. As recently as two years ago, in fact, I recall thumbing my nose at the whole “glorified comic book” thing. I was young, impulsive, stupid. Still, even though, working in a pretty cool book store, I was surrounded by impressive looking graphic novels, I resisted – this time not so much because I was being a snob, but rather because I was a bit intimidated. It felt like I had missed getting in on the ground floor of the whole “graphic novel thing” and thus missed my chance – there was too much backstory, too much foundation. How do you catch up??

I bought Watchmen…and Scott McLeod…but I was still a little tentative about diving in. Enter Shooting War and In the Shadow

I read Shooting War, about a month ago, for the first time and have to say, after all the buildup in my head, I was disappointed. I had this idea that the “graphic novel” earned said title because it went beyond the comic book genre I so loved as a 7 year old…that somewhere out there was a William Faulkner with a sketchbook waiting to pen and draw the great American graphic novel. What I found in Shooting War (while clever and occasionally very funny..and with a brand of snark near and dear to my heart) was something too reminiscent of the stilted dialogue and flashy cuts of my childhood comics collection. I know I know, I get the satire and the hyperbole…and its fine to do those things, but the writing still has to be great…. the dialogue just felt a bit heavy-handed and it took me out of the text. Bite my tongue, but it felt like a glorified comic book..

I appreciated it mostly on a cinematic level – the angles and framing of the illustrations were innovative, the art itself is dazzling and I found myself spending more time reading the pages without any words on them, than those filled with exposition/dialogue.

Moving on…I opened up In the Shadow and a light shone in my heart! This is what I wanted graphic novels to be! Indeed…Spiegelman was tearing through the boundaries of what art, fiction, journalism, and narrative have set forth. In fact, the way he redefines/subverts/perverts the readers’ assumptions about story and news is just plain jarring and lovely. The multimedia/inter-hyper-textuality is just as baffling and chaotic as the events upon which the novel is based – and it’s an incredible success. I really wanted to love graphic novels. So many of my friends and colleagues speak so highly of them, so many professors are buying them from our bookstore for cultural studies/lit classes, and I wanted them to be a NEW form, not just long comics and/or not just a decent piece of fiction with some sidekick cartoons. Spiegelman gave me exactly what I was hoping graphic novels would be/could be capable of and much more. He exceeded the capabilities of both the traditional novel and the comic form and created something moving and terrifying and frankly more evocative than I think most authors would be capable if limited to a single medium.

Also, thanks to Sara for including his thoughts from AWP – really interesting and spot on.

Now, let’s address that whole “death of snark/irony/sarcasm” I heard so much about in high school….

Cold War and the Net, and 9/11 too.

This is the third of fourth time I’ve read through the Adams article and I’m still really hung up on the open vs. closed system idea. At first, I think I pretty much bought her argument, although cautiously. I was thinking particularly about the flow of information and how in Pynchon’s world it is overwhelming and intrusive – this leads to paranoia and chaos; yet in Yamashita’s world it is “designed less to entrap both character and reader in a postmodern labyrinth than to evoke the dense networking of people and goods in an age of global interconnection.”

The more I considered this idea, the more I began to agree with Adams’ assessment. The concept of, let’s say, the Internet, would have seemed incredibly threatening to someone like Pynchon in the 60s, through the end of the Cold War. Consider the earlier reception of Sputnik – an informational satellite perceived as everything from spy to death-ray – instant and global information-sharing must have been a terrifying prospect to those alive during the Cold War. Flash forward to the 90s, after the Cold War, and in the heyday of the early Internet and society had a completely different attitude towards information-sharing networks. The paranoia was gone and people, for the most part, saw the approaching global interconnectedness as a positive, rather than something to be feared. People sought out information, and instead of information being chaotic and cryptic (Oedipa), it made lives easier (Wikipedia!!!).

My main issue with/question for Adams, originally was concerning the effects of 9/11 on the ‘new’ era of literary postmodernism. I originally figured that it would have been a Cold War redux situation…in that it would have increased paranoia and a fear of global information sharing. However, while paranoia was on the rise immediately following 9/11, I think people actually embraced technology and information sharing EVEN MORE. Sure there was some techno-fear (and considering the amount of fear-mongering…I think we all did pretty well..), mostly of the shoe-bomb/exploding shampoo bottle variety, but consider the boom of the 24hr news networks, the talking heads(not the band), the marketing. And here

We, instead of developing a legitimate fear of spies or technological home-invasion (at least not from the enemy…possibly our wire-tapping govt though), sought out every piece of “news” that we could get our hands and ears on. Information (the open system) was our friend, it was comforting, even when it was scary, to know that we knew as much as we could know. And the Internet was the biggest, most instant-gratificacious (not a word) tool at our disposal. We were not, as Adams says “entrap[ed” in any kind of “labyrinth,” but rather we reveled in our interconnection. So, indeed, it seems that the end of the Cold War WAS a major turning point, not just in literary postmodernism, but in societal understanding/comfort with information-sharing and global networking in general. Not even a trauma like 9/11 could make us turn our back on technology/information.

Sure, even Yamashita illustrates that “California (or the Net for our purposes) is a nodal point where globalization threatens to erupt into environmental and human catastrophe…..But she also hints that, as Adams says “[It can] also [be] where people find themselves creating unlikely coalitions that might work to remedy these problems.”

Horray.

Mao II and Optic Consumption

Mao II and Optic Consumption
Whenever two distinct cultures come into contact with one another, there is always resistance – either resistance to assimilate, resistance to acknowledge the other culture’s traditions, or whatever. Generally such an encounter results in consumption. One culture consumes the other, the other’s traditions/artifacts, or the other’s land. The bigger the gap between cultures, the messier the encounter seems to be, historically speaking – Europe and Africa, Europe/America with Native Americans, Brits and India, Spain and Anything South of Texas,…etc…add technology to the mix and things can get really out of hand.

 
Imagine, its like 1840something and you and your tribe are living somewhere in present day Idaho – your day consists mainly of getting food, taking care of your family, sleep, etc and a stranger, who looks nothing like you or your friends and has this crazy machine that flashes and makes your face appear on paper. How would you rationalize that? Sure it might seem primitive (though to be honest I still don’t understand the logistics of film and cameras) to conclude that said machine has somehow trapped or stolen your “soul,” but is the idea that a photograph or photographer can connote some kind of ownership, really that crazy?
The motifs of mass vs anonymity in Mao II are fairly evident and the consequences, or the “next step” inferences/reaction from/to such a situation – the inability to be recognized in a crowd, the desire to be isolated, etc – are present in the text. But more interestingly to me, is the focus on photography and its implications. Brit, a major character is a photographer…that’s gotta mean something right? Sure…but first let’s consider the “magic” of photography.

 
Sci-fi writer Arthur C Clarke (2001: A space odyssey/the sentinel) offered the following statement as one of his “laws” of future prediction: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. So is it insane for the Native Americans to conclude that a photo can steal/imprison one’s soul? If we’re dealing in a world of “magic” that seems plausible. Or consider the practice of the voodoo doll – a likeness of an enemy can act as a sort of psychic remote control, giving complete ownership to the doll’s creator. Or more recently, whether it should be termed postmodern, or pop art, or pastiche, or whatever, consider the re-appropriation of images of Mao/Manson/Hitler, whoever – using his likeness to subvert/pervert/remake their being. It’s said that people don’t just read books or look at art, but rather they consume…with their eyes, rather than mouths. The act of photography (or other visual media) is the first step in a process of optic consumption.

 
Bill, fears his picture being taken much like he is hesitant to release his newest work – presumably for the same reasons, that once both are no longer solely his own, they can be remade, subverted, perverted, reappropriated as the consumers see fit. He consents to a photograph under his own terms to, effectively, take control (yes a split infinitive!) over the frightening situation. Now I’m not advocating that a camera actually captures some ethereal portion of our being, but if we look at other depictions of people via photograph, still or moving, we can see at least the political and social implications of reappropriation of another’s image. Exp: Karen in the bedroom watching tv (with no sound so that she is able to re-author the scene) when film footage of a crowd appears. She describes a horrible writhing of thousands of people pressed into a fence and when it pauses into a still image, she describes it as a fresco in a tourist church..only as a master of the age could paint it. She redefines the image in her own terms but still the characters in said “fresco” remain anonymous in the crowd –a girl…men…maleness…etc – and she never speculates upon the event itself.

Lostness, epitaphs, poltergeists, and epigraphs

It seemed to me that Beloved was, maybe not at its core, but definitely somewhere near it, a story of lost. Not loss, but lost…lostness if you will. Lostness in the sense of being neither here nor there – a figurative (or, what the hell, a legit supernatural) limbo. Being stuck/lost between slavery and freedom, youth and age, being someone’s daughter and someone’s mother, life and death,  ‘evil and sad, ‘etc.

 So, running with that idea, I haphazardly googled “Beloved” and “Morrison” and “Lostness” and wouldn’t you know, something came up. This article:

Ten Minutes for Seven Letters: Reading Beloved’s Epitaph
Jeffrey Andrew WeinstockThe Arizona Quarterly. Tucson: Autumn 2005.Vol. 61, Iss. 3;  pg. 129, 25 pgs

 

Does contain the word “lostness” and does deal with it in a sense, but what I found most interesting was Weinstock’s discussion of the epitaph – language, really, by the living, in the language of the living, for the dead who cannot read it. He writes:

One can begin to approach the dilemmas posed by the idea of reading epitaphs by observing that to read something as an epitaph, as written on a gravestone, is, first of all, to make the relationship between language and death explicit-epitaphs are always curious types of dead letters that mediate the relationship between the living and the dead.

He relates the epitaph to the theme of “lostness” or limbo as he continues,” The epitaph marks a site of memory, a powerful zone of contact between the living and the dead. It performs the complicated function of calling to mind the departed as departed, that is, of foregrounding the present absence of the beloved. To read the epitaph is to remember its referent, to conjure the dead, while at the same time to be struck by the ephemerality of living. The materiality, the weightiness, the persistence of words literally etched in stone contrast with the fleetingness and fragility of life.”

The fact that we start with two epitaphs in Beloved, “sixty million and more” and the more literal epitaph “Beloved” immediately places the reader in a world of inbetweens. Morrison herself takes part in the act; the epi(gr)taph “sixty million and more” will be forever “etched” in every edition of her novel, reviving/conjuring those who died in slavery, while their actual physical lives were probably relatively brief.

Anyway, the seemingly conflicting ideas of the epitaph and the poltergeist are particularly interesting to me – the epitaph essentially ends a physical life as soon as the chisel lifts, while simultaneously (ideally) perpetuating the memorial/spiritual/emotional life of the departed; conversely the poltergeist attempts to perpetuate the physical being while altering/subverting/perverting the memory/emotion/spirit of the departed.  I’d like to see what shape  this discussion takes – the conventions of the epitaph…what is a haunting? (something very present in the text, an inability, unwillingness to move on.) Is a haunting, or is this haunting, simply an emotional/social construction? Is it meant to be entirely literal? It is memory? Is it the desire to remain within the limbo/ “lostness”? If so, why? Out of comfort? Fear? Evil? Sadness?

I’m Pro- Strong Women, really! Just not that into Ms. Russ

Look, i love strong women, digital or …analogue? well real. But The Female Man wasn’t my cup of tea.

I suppose the difficulties I had with The Female Man, aside from the obvious shifts and ambiguities in narrative (the vague first persons really dug into my skull, and the story, at that point wasn’t interesting enough for me to pay super-close attention to who the I’s in fact, were) was the fact that for the bulk of the text, there is very little, if any, plot.  I kind of have the feeling that if Russ were to bring this manuscript into a typical workshop, putting the pronoun issues aside, she would get a lot of comments about needing to use the character and situations to drive the plot….it seems that a pretty hefty portion of the novel is spent merely getting the characters to a point at which they can interact. Janet goes from here to there…a few amusing scenes illustrate that shes a fish out of water…Jeannine/Joanna goes here, goes there..etc, all the while declaring their views/positions in this continuum of feminism rather straightforwardly, until finally all or at least 3 of them are together in a world not our own.

Simply as a reader who enjoys sci-fi for its imagination, I was really having a tough time getting into any of these narratives. I know I know…in 1971 there were probably a TON of males which would have been quite accurately depicted by Russ, but the male characters were so over the top to me, a modern day reader, that it was hard for Russ’ points to not feel a little cheapened by those depictions, and (Please, im not a misogynist, or even that chauvinistic I swear!) some of her “asides” or declarations were just a little too overt, as to be cliché ..”My brassiere hurts.” AND YES I KNOW, its TOTALLY unfair for me to read this and apply my modernist views to a book from 3, going on 4 decades past (especially one which WAS seen as controversial, radical, even avant-garde  ) but I do believe a text should be able to stand up somewhere close to as well now as it did when it was published. Sure some details of Gertrude Stein (more recent) or Milton’s (pretty damn old) novels are antiquated, but those themes/ideas which bear the heft of the author’s point are timeless. Too much of The Female Man read, for me, as out of date. This is of course, not to say that feminism is or should be dead, nor is it to imply that women are treated equally anywhere, let alone everywhere, but her methods to illustrate such points just didn’t work for me.  I’m sorry… don’t call me any names.

Questions I had: is there a purpose, and if so, what is it?, to the initial lack of plot and intense focus on character? Im asking this sincerely, not snarkily!

Why did this have to be a sci-fi novel? Would it have been just as effective (or perhaps more effective) in a different genre? Western? Horror? Elvish Fantasy? Again…sincere, not snark.

Mr Monster demands smut of the highest caliber

Note on the photo…i did an image search for “house of leaves” and eventually came across this photo…which goes to show, in a world of endless space (weather the house or the internet), youre bound to run into george clinton. at least thats what my grandma always told me.

 

 

I was going to write about something like instances of form and function in-and out-world (in relation to the text) or how seriously we can take the narration and subsequent notations, but it seems like thats been covered rather extensively. Then I was going to write about sex, but Alyssa did a pretty awesome job on that…still im out of ideas, so sex it is.

I particularly enjoyed her idea of the little death and how each subsequent sexual encounter is a loss of Truant’s self. I actually was talking to my friend in the writing center this morning and was wondering how a strung out jobless tweak with a broken front tooth got so many women in a successive string. We came to a few conclusions — one, the encounters are (intended to be, by danielewski) in someway fabricated or embellished as per the unreliability of said narrator. two , its LA and most of the women were in the kind of bars where jobless dentally-injured men hang out. 3 the author wanted to be cool by proxy. None of these  previous ideas are particularly intriguing to me, but the situation just didnt make a whole lot of sense. Though, what does in this house?

..reasons 4 and 5(theyre kind of intertwined i think), however may give hint as to why these events are documented, or  at least they may come close . Reason 4 was pretty much Alyssa’s conclusion, that each encounter was a narrative device to show a loss of self, or descent(further) ((i actually had a little bit to say about how both truant and navidson (potentially us as readers and potentially zampano if i learn more of him…im not done the book yet..) begin to model campells monomyth…’hero’s journey’ …in certain ways, from initial refusal to descent, threshold passing, etc (this chart is pretty okay for a refresher), but without finishing the book i cant make that argument stand up much beyond the “initiation” phase, or phase I.

Anyway, in addition to reason 4 (alyssa’s theorem, if she were old and greek), reason 5, which i cant decide if its entangled with or the exact opposite of reason 4… is that perhaps Truant has sex for the same reason Tom tells jokes to Mr Monster, and Navidson needs to be a savior, and Holloway shoots rifles, and Karen ignores….its an attempt to hold onto something quintessentially them..a “me-ness” or “them-ness” needed to be kept safe in the face of a place that erases or destroys the things not specifically held onto or enacted  — like when, i believe its jed…or maybe wax…notes that the buttons and backpack have all but disintegrated..he says something like (rough rough paraphrase) “in this place, its like if you don’t think about something, it disappears/gets destroyed”…

That is to say that Truant needs something primally and concretely “Truant-y” ..something of his ‘old’ life to lean on so that he doesn’t disappear completely. Why the graphic depictions? perhaps the more in detail he recalls the events, the more real they are, and the more concrete “it” he has to hold on to. If he “doesnt remember/think of ” something, these things, perhaps they will disintegrate into nothing, and take him with them? maybe, theres no room for vagary in the house of leaves. maybe blur gets eaten.

1/4″, 5/16″ or whatever

I suppose the things that interest me most so far in House of Leaves in no particular order are : the way danielewski plays with the assumptions of genre– here he is hopping in an out of narrative, scholarly journal, confessional, etc. The way the footnotes often overtake the “narrative,” and the subjectivity involved in the order of reading; they do some really cool things. I think it says something about authorial intent/control. danielewski, i suppose, directs us in certain directions, but unlike in the traditional linear narrative, the ultimate decision is left up to us. Kind of like a darker “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, only with less giant squid or space vampires:

You could (presumably as I’ve not finished the entire book yet) theoretically and to a certain extent read all the narrative pieces straight through and then go back to the footnotes, or vice versa, or read them in simultaneously (though at some point(s) you must diverge from one or the other for a page or two…).

What, then is he saying about narration, or authorship? I suppose it could be that he wants stories to tell stories (rather than writers telling stories), thus the book/story reveals itself in its own order/pace, similarly to the mysterious hallway. The parallels, as I think Alana pointed out, between the text and the room/hallway are many. The “overfullness,” the new/multiple arterial pathways, the pacing, the shadow, which exist inside that extra 1/4 (or 5/16)”.

Surprisingly, I’m most interested when danielewski is completely absent from the text — when it is zampano, truant, -Ed.(still detached from danielewski) etc, speaking. but, mentioned by name or not, danielewski does seep in on occasion. In the “spilled coffee” rant by zampano and following commentary by Truant, in which Truant claims he would have just as soon edited the whole thing out if not for fear of (severe paraphrase here) “minimizing all thats left of the old man,” danielewski is too present for my taste. his self-conscious-about-being self-conscious commentary (as zapano as truant as -ED or whatever) breaks the fourth wall….what it boils down to, here in this passage, is a writer commenting on essentially poorly and overlywritten fluff (I know, it serves a purpose here, hear me out) and then calling attention to it, effectively passing the fictitious buck from himself to truant and from truant to a fear of somehow increasing zampanos absence…does that make any sense? probably not. Maybe it’s like an author righting in dialect, only the dialect isnt any good…but he/she justifies it with, “well thats what the character said. thats not on me.” It’s really not the quality of the zampano passage that bothers me…its the way danielewski oversteps his bounds, whether its in someone else’s voice or not.

So, in spite of my lengthy and circuitous complaining, I’m really enjoying this work so far.

Whats in a name? Im not really sure.

 

 Coming off reading the Crying of Lot 49, I’m of course, obsessed with names in the Lathe of Heaven, but I’m having some serious trouble cracking the name of the protagonist. George Orr (which I actually heard as JOR-JOR before the alien said it, because I was listening to an e-book the other day and it sounded like a robot) has a complicated situation regarding his name – Orr, or Haber refers to him “Mr. Either Or” is a median.

Haber goes so far as to say something to the effect as “you cancel yourself out to the point that nothing remains” – this would seem that he is completely neutralized. If we are to understand that Orr is in fact, neutralized, then it would seem the plot of the Lathe of Heaven revolves around the fact that technology/science(or pseudoscience)/associations/un-or-subconciousness (or perhaps just the misuse of such) only serves to muddle and complicate our understanding of the reality and the world, yet we, or Orr have/has little effect…being neutral and all. The other possibility is not that Orr is totally neutral, just that he is neutralized by Haber.

Either way, my difficulty in accepting Orr as “both, neither, either, or,” lies in his full name, or as it sounds Jor Jor – a doubling. How can he be neutralized when at the same time he is double? Though, to complicate things further, I suppose to double zero is still zero..? Also, as some people have posted already, there is the idea that the Orr refers to the multiple realities created by his dreams.

Haber is just as interesting. There are two main (and not necessarily intentional, just intriguing) connections I made with Haber. One – Fritz haber, inventor (I think) of synthesized ammonia pre-WWI and “father of chemical warfare.” It is in part due to Fritz Haber’s work (nobel prize winning actually) that the death tolls of WWI were unlike what anyone had ever seen (think population loss). Two haber in Spanish is an auxiliary or helping verb meaning “to have”…ironically it is not used to indicate that one has or owns/possesses something, (that is tener, as in yo tengo) but rather haber is used in conjuction (unable to operate alone) with another verb in the perfect tenses (ie I have gone to the movies).  So yes, that’s a huge stretch, but I thought it was at least coincidentally funny, as that kind of fits how Dr Haber is unable to do his work without George, and that his name means “to have” but not in a to possess connotation.

Finally there are some really interesting points made about the sub/unconscious and it’s neutrality by way of its irrationality. Not irrational in an insane way, just literally without rationale. The subconscious or unconscious mind (whichever we are really dealing with here…that might be up for debate) simply flows, like George’s “shortcuts” taking the mind from peace to aliens in one easy step. There is little logic involved in dreams, which makes Haber’s scientific method all the more interesting. Dreams, at their most basic functioning level, are to help us understand reality; REM sleep is a time to recharge and put all the library cards of our day in order, in an easily recallable and logical filing system -yet the dreams themselves, the picture of the process is often as chaotic and disorderly as the imagination can imagine. Reality molds our dreams, and to think that dreams mold our reality, is subversive and wonderful.

Jumbled thoughts on pynchon and being jumbled

A lot of really interesting points have been raised so far and I wish I’d posted earlier so that I might at least have the illusion of an original thought. Something I found most intriguing in Pynchon’s work was what drew me to Lethem’s short story in last week’s reading – the compatibility of form and function.

 Just as Lethem highlighted the banality of Super Goat Man’s world with an ultra-straight matter-of-fact narrative, Pynchon continuously builds an atmosphere of fracture, confusion, and ambiguity. It actually becomes a bit disorienting for the reader – something I always find quite impressive (like checking under your bed after a decent scare-flick, when a book can physically daze you a bit, it’s an accomplishment). In fact it reminded me of a bit of a cross between a few of Vonnegut’s novels and some short stories by Shirley Jackson – I think I have “The Tooth” in mind, if that’s the actual name.

 I want to quote Alyssa’s assertion, that “the more [Oedipa] uncovers the more she realizes how incoherent all of the narratives are” – I agree not just with the statement regarding Pynchon’s narrative, but also the comment it could potentially make about narrative in general (both literary and real…that is, real life you-and-me narrative).  I think there is a sense of authenticity in the fact, if we consider the proposed arbitrary nature of words and things, the signifier and signified, if you wish, or just the exponential implications of admitting a letter symbol (then the word symbol then the thing symbol then the idea symbol) is arbitrarily assigned, … that not each “thread” encountered, whether it be by a protagonist or by one’s self, always “ties-in” to the main schema of narrative.  Its been said that this text is full of contrasting, even contradictory ideas/names/actions/objects – this seems to be another. In some sense the absurd (I know that’s not the right word) and arbitrary lends itself to authenticity, realism.

  I suppose I’m trying to say, that perhaps, in a more “traditional” novel (again I doubt that’s the correct word I should use) the threads might be sewn up at the end, for catharsis’ sake, without any dangling “clues” or hints along the way; the symbols would become clear, and the meaning (or un-meaning) of character names, in a more Dickensian way, would make themselves known (or at least the deciphering pattern would be a consistent formula).  For Pynchon, there is room for untidiness. Of course this is not the first, nor last, novel to end without total closure, and that doesn’t make it a good or bad, an innovative or derivative text in itself, but I just think that the fracturing Pynchon shows us (that it isn’t healed but in a way, expands like a glass-crack in the winter) says more about difficulties in narrative, authenticity, language (symbolic and practical), POV, or whatever etcetera …what Prof. Sample called their “unknowability.”  

 Finally, there are pages and pages one could write about the names of people, places, bands, and so on. As someone pointed out, the differing “formulas” for cracking certain names, ie some are pre-fixed with negations or amplifiers, some are opposites some are contradictions, etc….anyway, so I won’t bother going into it now, but look forward to this conversation in class. ….sorry if this was all over the place. Pynchon’s in my head.

More dehumanization, or less humanization

I think the idea that Sara proposed, that of “dehumanization” is an apt observation throughout this week’s readings. In Link’s story, Soap is dehumanized, or dehumanizes himself, preferring to go by inanimate names (soap, art) or by false identities/characters (Will, Wolverine). Likewise, Carly pretends to not be the host of the party and tells Soap about her parents and their relationship through a depersonalized third person narrative.

The idea of zombies, as I am a huge Romero fan myself, stuck out particularly to me as “dehumanizing” – not simply for the obvious reason that they are no longer human beings as we know them, but also for the reasons that Soap is attracted to them, the things that make them un-human. The fact that they move in groups but have no social structure, that they literally consume or desire to consume the very organ associated with and responsible for our identity and personality (which then turns the victim into a consumer of brains/identity, some kind of dehumanizing machine), that a zombie in a gas station attendant’s uniform is no more a gas station attendant than he is the president of the United States, once that brain is gone. Ironically, I don’t think Soap is really afraid of Zombies, or at least not for the reasons we might think he should be. He’s not afraid of losing his identity – in fact it seems he’s afraid of keeping any identity for very long. It seems like Soap would be more afraid of being “locked into” Zombie, forever, and not having the chance to be Sweetheart, Wolverine, Soap, Art, or any other future selfdom.

De Lilo’s characters do similar things, focusing so much on the clothing and accessories worn during their “revolution”…also the seemingly arbitrary nicknames (identifying someone as something unrelated to their identity) and the desire for a [any] “black militant type” just to “round” things out.

Lethem’s story, Super Goat Man, does something interesting with the concept of dehumanization. He both dehumanizes, and ultra-humanizes the titular character. When it behooves Everett, he makes the “hero” less than human, making him super-banal, almost pathetic, yet the narrator is also pretty hard on SGM, as Everett holds him, at times, to higher standards than the non-hero men of the story. For example, there seems to be less disdain for the other men living in the commune.
And obviously the last line of the story shows how he holds the largely dehumanized hero to an unrealistic standard, an ultra- or super-human standard (what did the other men do to save the boy? How close did they come to saving the day?) despite the fact that he seems repulsed by the idea that a “sub-human” super-hero was with his wife.
Lastly, Super Goat Man is dehumanized, partly, in that he isn’t given the inalienable human right to mess up, by Everett at least. Sorry that was inarticulate to say the least.