WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I wasn’t sure I was going to have time to time to write this post as I was so busy putting duct tape up around all my windows to keep out the swine flu, luckily delicious, refreshing, Celsius provides me sustained energy while burning up to 100 calories an hour.

As both of the texts that we read this week, had to do with the media, I thought all the brouhaha dealing with swine flu was especially timely.  It is the perfect example of media sensationalism, and Americans’ seemingly unquenchable desire to be scared about insanely stupid things.  Ok, swine flu is believed to have caused upwards of 100 deaths in Mexico in the last report I read (sometime this morning).  However, the article did not mention the number of verified fatalities due to the virus, which would be much lower, nor did the mention whether there was a common characteristic in those for whom the disease was fatal.  Most likely, the people who actually died were the elderly and already sick, who unfortunately would have died if there was an outbreak of any strain of flu.  The cases in the U.S. among healthy, young people have sent some people to the hospital as a precaution, but they will all pull through.  The article does include the scary warnings from the US Travel Bureau, and the (over) reaction of the Obama Administration, which all ratchet up the fear.  Doesn’t anyone remember avain flu? SARS? flesh eating bacteria? Yes each of those killed a (very) small number of people, but none of them have turned into the pandemic that the media predicted each time.

In Barry Glassner’s The Culture of Fear, he points out that every year there are news reports around Halloween telling parents to make sure to screen all their children’s candy before letting them eat it, in fact, many parents now hold enclosed trick or treat parties where they control the guest list and the kids do not leave the house.  We look suspiciously at our neighbors and pine for a more  innocent era.   No one bothers to stop and think about how someone could physically push a razor blade into an apple with cutting themselves or mangling the apple, or tamper with the candy in any serious way without anyone noticing.    From 1958-2000 there were two deaths that were blamed on poisoned Halloween candy.  They later found out that one of the children died after he accidentally ate his Uncle’s heroin stash and the Uncle made up the story as a cover.  In the case of a child actually poisoned by candy, it was later revealed that the child’s father poisoned him to collect the insurance money.

At the best, the media plays on our fears to boost ratings, or just have something to fill out the multiple 24 hour news channels (Y2k is another good example I just remembered).  At the worst the media is complicit in allowing people to use our fears to manipulate us into taking actions we normally might stop and question.  The media’s coverage of the build up to the Iraq War, and their subsequent refusal to hold the previous administration accountable for essentially lying to us about why we went in (Saddam has WMD’s!) and allowing them to just change their reason mid-stride (It’s about Iraqi freedom!) is a low point in American journalism.

To switch gears a little bit, the choice to have McCain be President has come up in several posts, and I just wanted to comment on why I think Lappe and Goldman went that route.  Basically, it made it easier.  Republicans are easy to demonize.  It is easy to make fun of the angry, old guy, and make snarky comments about how he could survive a torture camp but not being President.  It would have made the book much more interesting if Obama (or Clinton may have been the front runner when this was being planned) was the President in the book.  A lot of Democrats voted to go into the war, because they had no backbone, but we don’t demonize them, we just go after Republicans.  However, that would have added some moral ambiguity to the novel, and the authors were obviously not interested in that.  And that was (one of) the reasons I could not get into it.  The novel was very clearly about the morally superior, rebellious cool guys, showing the evil, old, bible thumping uncool guys how they went wrong.  It was so hipster elitist with its lame jokes, and easy targets.  The novel is not an indictment of the state of journalism, it goes after Fox news and its surrogate “Global News,” an easy target for their primarily left audience.  Anderson Cooper and CNN remain unscathed at the end of the book.  The novel does not delve into what is systematically wrong with American politics, it blames everything on those old, out of touch Republicans.  If these texts want to be called “graphic novels” then I insist that we should hold them up to the same standards that we expect of a “novel.”  As a novel, Shooting War was lacking, so I am relegating it to comic book.

P.S. If swine flu ends up killing us all, I am going to look really stupid.

Metafiction

We discussed self reflexivity of a text as one of the characteristics of postmodernism on the first day of class.  This is, in my opinion, the most self reflexive of any of the texts that we have read so far this semester (although House of Leaves would be a very close second).  I give The People of Paper a slight edge because the actual author Salvador Plascencia shows up in the novel, as where Danielewski stayed hidden.

When it become clear that Plascencia is Saturn and a character in the book, the first thing that came to my mind was the movie Adaptation.  In the movie, Nic Cage plays Charlie Kaufman, who is the screenwriter of the movie.  We watch as he struggles with a script for a movie based on The Orchid Thief, eventually writing himself trying to write the script into the script he is writing, which is the movie we are watching.    Kaufman’s personal life effects what is happening in the script and the script is effecting what is happening in his life until the two become inseparable.  The book, the script about the movie, and Kaufman’s life are involved in this intertexual relationship that is the movie (the movie itself become part of the layering of the intertextuality as well).  For anyone who has seen a Charlie Kaufman movie, this paragraph makes sense, if you have not, it probably does not.  Kaufman’s latest movie Synechdoce, New York also deals with a lot of postmodern ideas, but I did not want to discuss it here because I am pretty sure I need to watch it again before I can make any sense of it.

Like Jennifer, I am sometimes annoyed by the authorial intrusions in some postmodern works (John Barth comes to mind for me as well).  However, I did not mind Saturn/Plascencia in this novel.  Instead of just popping in to remind us that we are reading a fictional work like some metafiction, Saturn’s role shows us how Plascencia is actively shaping the story.  The writing of the story and the resistance the author recieves from both inside and outside the fictional world he creates is the novel.  Just like in House of Leaves, once we learn something about Truant (namely Pelafina’s letters) it casts a new light on everything else that we have already read.  Merced leaving Federico de la Fe, Rita Hayworth snubbing lettuce pickers, the seeming cold-heartedness of Merced Del Papel all seem to take on a new meaning when we consider what happened with Salvadore and Liz.

Anthony wrote about it in his post, but I was wondering what other people thought of the treatment of women in this novel.  Is it misogynistic? Is there really a Liz? does it matter?

Adams Article

I do not agree with Rachel Adam’s assertions that postmodernism is somehow over, or that Tropic of Orange represents some sort of seismic shift in American literature that we will all inevitably follow.

First, a little defense of The Crying of Lot 49.  Yes, I can understand that students respond to the text as if it is some sort of cruel hoax.  That is because the novel is cruel in a way; it cannot be neatly wrapped up in a bow, it does not have a conclusive ending.  The problem does not lie in the novel, it lies in the students, and also in the education system in the era of N.C.L.B. (I’ve been trying to get everyone to call it “Nickelby”, but it does not seem to be catching on).  I do not want to go on an extended rant about education, but basically, the emphasis on standardized texting has led to a generation of students who are only interested in issues that are clearly black/white.  Students today cannot stand ambiguity, it makes them nervous.  To me, that is even more of a reason to continue teaching Pynchon, to take students out of their comfort zones.  If I decided that every novel that my students did not like was no longer relevant, then I would be stuck teaching Twilight and that book by the  Jon & Kate Plus Eight parents.

Also, if her students are unable to identify “the sharp polarization of the globe, fears of looming nuclear apocalypse, and … a government enmeshed in secrecy and conspiratorial activity,” then they are just not paying attention.  What have we been doing for the last 8 years if not polarizing the globe? We are so entrenched in an “us vs. them” narrative that we felt the need to change the name of our fried potato treats.  As the number of states that have nuclear weapons grows we should worry about a nuclear accident now more than ever.  Pakistan, North Korea, and soon Iran are all unstable states that have nuclear capabilities (I just found out that South Africa is one of the 10 nuclear armed states, seemed pretty random).  We went into Iraq under the assumption that Hussein was attempting to develop weapons of mass destruction.  Also, it is not just nuclear annihilation we need to worry about, there are plenty of other ways that humanity can kill itself off (See: environment).  The Bush Administration was incredibly “enmeshed in secrecy.”  Look at all the shady stuff that is coming out: the US attorney firings, torture memos, secret prisons, roving death squads, illegal wiretapping, chupacabras, detaining prisoners illegally, not to mention the sweet, sweet bribes.  The Bush Administration was a paranoid person’s dream (or nightmare, not sure which).  I think it is hard to say that the main ideas behind postmodernism are no longer relevant.

I agree that “globalization” literature is an interesting field, and one that is very relevant to our current society.  However, as Susana pointed out, I feel that it points in a new direction for postcolonial or transnational literature.  And why does it have to be one or the other?  Why does Adams feel that the rise of one type of literature automatically leads to the demise of another? Why can’t we all just get along?

I just want to add that I enjoyed Tropic of Orange very much, my beef is with the article, not the novel.

Faultlines

I recently read Alan Sinfield’s “Cultural Materialism, Othello, and the Politics of Plausibility” for English 551 and I feel that it contains several ideas that relate to Don Delillo’s Mao II.  Sinfield’s article deals with how literature was able to attack the dominant ideology in Shakespeare’s time, the type of attack ability that Bill Gray sees missing from current literature in the novel.

Sinfield states that the elites are the ones in society that shape the dominant ideology.  They are able to create ideology by telling stories that are “plausible” or that appeal to what would seem to be common sense.  Sinfield also writes that dominant idologies inevitably contain “faultlines,” contradictions or instances of weakness that are susceptible to being exploited.  Sinfield believes that literature is a means for society to examine and confront these faultlines of the dominant ideology.  In Othello the dominant ideology that is being attacked is that a white noblewoman would be able to willingly fall in love with a black man.  It is not seen as plausible that Desdemona would choose to marry Othello, and the venetian nobles make up lame excuses to try and fit the marriage into their dominant ideology.  Desdemona’s father insists that Othello must have used some sort of magic to entrance his daughter.  Iago is able to use the dominant ideology to his benefit by telling lies that seem more “plausible” than the truth.  Cassio believes Iago that Desdemona would be more interested in him than Othello because that is more in accordance with society’s beliefs.  Othello begins to believe that Desdemona is unfaithful because it is hard for him to situate their marriage in the “common sense” beliefs of the time.

This theory would be in accordance with Bill Gray’s belief that writers were at one time able to shape the consciousness of the masses.  However, in the world of Mao II, and maybe our world too, writers are no longer able to effectively challenge and exploit the faultlines in the dominant ideology in society.  Terrorism has become the medium in which we question the common sense notions of our society.  Sinfield points to one possible reason why Bill Gray, and Delillo for that matter, may not see literature as an effective way to shape  consciousness or challenge the power structure of society.  The rise of theory in the twentieth century has led to the questioning of many differnt previously held assumptions, including previously held assumptions about theory itself.  If we accept the idea that consciousness is constructed within a language created by existing power structures, then is it even possible to conceive, let alone organize resistance to that power structure using the language it created?  Words and language are owned by those who dominate and any attempt to subvert from within the existing power structure is bound to be futile.  Resistance had to move outside of language, mainly towards acts, and more important the representation and reproductions of those acts in the media.

One possiblity is the Delillo is not actually saying that it is hopeless for a novel to shape consciousness.  He may just be using the novel to expose a faultline in our dominant ideology, namely that the novel is no longer able to effect change consciousness.  Irony is pervasive in postmodernism, and it would certainly be ironic to write a novel about the ineffectual nature of literature to point out how effective literature can still be.  It is also entirely “plausible” that I have gone off the deep end and am seeing things that are not there.

Technology in the Female Man

In the Harraway article that we read she expresses hope in the possibility that we can be saved if we all learn to live as cyborgs,  a blending of the human and the machine.  Joanna Russ would appear to agree with this idea as her Utopian society Whileaway in The Female Man is made up almost entirely of cyborgs.

The people on Whileaway are trained to become one with technology from birth, and eventually it becomes a part of them.  Although its description seems rustic and pastoral, the society of Whileaway is only possible through their use of and coexistence with technology.  I have no idea what an induction helmet is, but it must be pretty awesome if “with their induction helmets on their heads, their toes controlling the green peas, their fingers the vats and controls, their back muscles the carrots, their abdomens the water supply,” (51).  Not to mention that at some point they figured out how to not only have babies without any males, but to genetically modify those babies to an almost perfection.

My question is this:  Is technology necessary to conquer nature?  Not only trees and butterflies nature, but human nature, or more specifically female nature?  Russ spends a great deal of time explaining to us that the idea of “female nature” or “maternal instincts” are just social constructs that are meant as a mode of domination by males (and other females as well).  Men in the novel constantly assume that it is part of a woman’s DNA that she will be happy with pretty clothes, or that all she wants to do is sit on the couch and eat bon bons while her husband Climbs Everest (what is a bon bon anyway? I’ve always wondered that).  So why is it so necessary that technology be so ingrained in her idea of a utopia.  Women are only seen as strong enough to exist on their own  on Whileaway, and only with the help of all their technology.

Janet would be considered the most advanced J, or most enlightened, in a way.  However, her and the rest of the people on Whileaway are completely dependent on advances in technology to survive.  Jael would be the strongest J physically, and the one could argue the toughest.  However, she relies on her robot boy-toy for pleasure.  Also, the women of Womenland are dependant on technlogiocal advances to survive using it as a means of commerce, namely baby farming and time travel.  Jeannine seems to be the most connected to nature, with her cat (Mr. Frosty!) and her plant, but she seems to be the weakest of the J’s to me.

If Russ was attempting to get across the point that women can do whatever men could do and that the differences between the sexes is illusory, why this emphasis on technology?

I may have completely misread the novel.  I am assuming that Whileaway is meant to be  a utopia.  It is possible that it was not meant to be and therefore everything I said above would be pretty much worthless.

Going Back to Hassan

I think that House of Leaves more than any other book we have read so far invites us to consider what Hassan meant by what he called the “Rhetoric of Dismissal.”  For Hassan the rhetoric of dismassal was related to the way that the establishment tried to keep down anything new or daring that was going on.

House of Leaves would be most easily dismissed as “The Fad,”  which according to Hasssan is not accepted becaused it “implies permanance as absolute value.  It also implies the ability to distinguish between fashion and history without benefit of time or creative intuition,” (9).  I could easily see people writing this novel off as a fad.  Or something cool to do once, but really not anything with any real future.  Which would mean future works that are similar to House of Leaves would fall under the “The Safe Version” dismissal, which Hassan says claims “the entrance fee has been paid, once and forever.”

Anyway, my point is, I think Danielewski is daring us to dismiss his work. He wants us to put it down in disgust, or frustration.  Look at how many times the book starts, then stops, then goes back to the beginning again, or just starts a completely new beginning.  We start with the Truant letter, the first one which seems to lead us to believe that we will be reading a book about Zampano writing this book.  Then we stop, go back, start learning about The Navidson Film, which begins to interest us. Then on page 18, we stop and go back and begin Truant’s story (and it is not like you can ignore it, Danielewski makes it long enough that you would have to skip 3 pages to get back to The Navidson Record, which no reader will do).  Then with Chapter 3, we stop and go back and learn Navidson’s history and psychology.  Think about how many times we stop and go start new somewhere else: learning the histroy of echoes, Truant’s mother’s letters, Henry Hudson, Magellan, Karen’s short, Lude’s List, Zampano’s poems, the Pelican Poems, Zampano’s Letter to the Editor, etc..  They all just lead to us stopping what we are reading and beginning again.

Danielewski wants us to get angry, he wants us to be mad.  He is literarally daring us to come at him.  I think he feels he is like Truant with the Gdnask man fight, he is going to let us come at him with all we’ve got. just sreaming “706 PAGES OF THIS? ARE yOU SERIOUS? AND WHAT THE F IS UP WITH THE FOOTNOTES?” then he is going to take our punishment and wait till we turn our backs and hit us in the head with a jack daniels bottle, and possible rape and murder our girlfriends.

Someone brought up that Danielewski may have put in all the Truant sex scenes because he wanted to be cool by proxy.  I think there is something to that.  Originally I thought it was purposefully absurd to point out the unreliability of Truant, but the nerd porn theory holds up just as well.  Especially as I read the end of the book, I got the idea that Danielewski just thinks he is so cool, and it bothered me.  But I do not want to give anything away, and I need something to talk about next week.

Oh, I actually liked the book by the way.  It may not seem like it by what is above, but I dug it.

Confusion of Authorship and the Gothic Novel

I know that as a literature grad student I am supposed to be able to step back and recognize fiction for what it is: made up stories about made up people ( I know that this definition is overly-simplistic, but whatever).  That being said, what I have read in House of Leaves so far seriously creeps me out.  I’ve only managed to read the first 80 pages that were assigned, but I am hooked, and may not get any sleep tonight because I want to know what happens next.  The last time a book freaked me out this much was when I misguidedly read Stepehn King’s It in middle school, alone, at night, and constantly worrying that a killer clown was going to come out from under my bed and do terrible things to me.  A coincidence I noticed was that Bret Easton Ellis offered a blurb praising this book saying that both Thomas Pynchon and Stephen King would want to bow down to Danielewski after reading this book.  It is a coincidence because the three books that pop into my head when I read House of Leaves are It by Stephen King, The Crying of Lot 49 by Pynchon, and Ellis’ Lunar Park.

Lunar Park is probably the book I most think of when I read this because it explores many of the same themes as House of Leaves (although admittedly many years later).  The main two of these themes being the hiding/layering of authorship and the physical house itself as the sourc of terror.  Lunar Park is a book written by Bret Easton Ellis, author of such works as Less than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, and American Psycho, whose protaganist is Bret Easton Ellis, author of such works as Less Than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, and American Psycho. The first sentence of Lunar Park is “You do an awfully good impression of yourself.”  With this sentence, and throughout the novel Ellis attempts to hide/layer the actual authorship of the book by writing about the fictional Bret Easton Ellis writing this book.  The blur between the fictional Ellis’ and the real Ellis’ life are purposefully blurred to the point that his fictional actress wife, Jayne Dennis (I think, I have not read it in awhile), has her own website ( on which she is reported to have formally dated Keanu Reeves……Whoa!).  The novel includes enough actual facts about Ellis’ life that it is hard for the reader to know where the fiction starts and real life begins.  Like many of my classmates, I am so completely caught up in Zampano’s/Truant’s story that I forget that it is all just coming from Danielewski.  I keep feeling like if I stop reading and get on Netflix, I can put the Navidson Record on my queue, and I REALLY want to watch it.  As where Ellis creates the fictional Ellis to hide/confuse authorship, Danielewski manages to completely mask himself and the reader forgets he even exists.

The other thing I noticed was that there seems to be something gothic about this novel’s treatment of the home.  In gothic novels danger/otherness/creepiness shifted from coming from outside the house to coming from within or from the actuall house itself.  This most likely had something to do with Victorian mores about sex according to some scholars, but that is neither here nor there, the house, home or living space generated the otherness/spookiness.   I just thought this was interesting as we have discussed how postmodernism has been a reaction to other modes of literature.  We have mainly discussed how it relates/ contrasts to modernism, but House of Leaves seems to be  a postmodern take on the more traditional gothic novel.

Oh, and if anyone else out there is an Ellis fan, how awesome does the trailer for The Informers look? Spoiler: the answer, pretty awesome.

Rejection of modernism

One of the possible ways of defining or categorizing postmodernism is by its rejection of modernism ideals.  The Lathe of Heaven does this in several ways.

One is by its rejection of Freudian and Jungian ideas.  Freud’s ideas of psychoanalysis and Jung’s archetypes figured heavily into modernist ways of thinking.  Both obviously were also interested in dreaming and what it said about the human psyche.

Haber’s therapy sessions seem to reject basic Freudian ideas and techniques.  At one point he says the only holdover modern psychology still has is the couch, but he uses it for patients to sleep on, which Freud very much opposed.  For Haber, modern psychology is all about technology, not about the analysis that Freud and Jung practiced.

Haber also rejects the ideas of Freud and Jung that the unconscious was a dark and scary place:

Your unconscious mind is not a sink of horror and depravity.  That’s a Victorian notion, and a terrifically destructive one.  It crippled most of the best minds of the nineteenth century, and hamstrung psychology all through the first half of the twentieth.  Don’t be afraid of your unconscious mind! It’s not a black pit of nightmares.  Nothing of the kind!  It is the wellspring of health, imagination, creativity….. there is nothing to fear. -88.

For Freud and Jung and their patients, there was very much something to fear.  They told us that our subconscious was full of dirty thoughts and secret motives and monsters that we were not even aware we had.  The idea that there was a whole other layer of the brain that we could not tap into, yet was controlling our behavior to some point was a scary notion indeed.

Haber also is rejecting the Jungian ideas of archetypes, which was found throughout modernist literature.  When he is trying to make George feel better, he rejects the idea that the aliens are some universal archetype that represent the fear of the unknown, and says that they were probably just influenced by sci-fi movies from the 70’s.  George wants to stop before he brings out more monsters from his unconcscious, but Haber tells him he is being silly and that they must proceed.

Another way that this postmodernism rejects modernism is the “incredulity towards meta-narratives” that we discussed in class and that Harvey discusses in his article.  The Lathe of Heaven definitely rejects meta-narratives in the fact that there is no consistent reality.  How can there be one meta-narrative when reality is fundamentally altered every time that George Orr has an effective dream?  A world with 7 billion people can not have the same narrative as a world with 1 billion.  A world with racism can not have the same narrative as a world with no race.  A world with aliens living among us can not have the same narrative as one that doesn’t.  By rejecting the idea that the world has any singular, continuing reality the idea of any narrative to go along with reality is rejected as well.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you’ve always imagined. -Henry David Thoreau

I randomly grabbed a bookmark from my desk for The Lathe of Heaven, and this Thoreau quote was on it, it made me laugh.

Significance of Names in The Crying of Lot 49

Someone in one of the earlier posts noted Pynchon’s use of names in The Crying of Lot 49 and I feel that the names are significant to the text.  Although I did not necessarily find meaning in all of the names (there is nothing funny about Dr. Hilarius in my opinion) I feel that some of the names are either a big clue, or at least more ways that Pynchon is trying to deliberately confuse.

The earlier post mentioned that one first thinks of Oedipus when they encounter the name Oedipa in the story.  I would agree, though I think there is a different reason that Pynchon chose this particular name.  As the story progresses and it the question of just what is going on here becomes more prevalent, there are some instances where Oedipa could follow up on certain leads, but decides not to.  On page 144 Oedipa is discussing an article that Gengis Cohen (no idea of the significance)  shows her with Bortz.  Oedipa says it is interesting “if the article is legitimate.”  Bortz tells her it would be easy to check up on, but Oedipa never does.  I think it is because Oedipa does not want to know the truth, because the truth will be so terrible that it will cause some sort of Oedipus-like reaction (though that was pretty extreme).

There also is Oedipa’s last name, Maas, which would sound the same as “mass.”  I think that the idea of Oedipa as a “mass” would work because a mass would be needed to center an orbit.  Oedipa is the center of this orbit of either the Trystero, Inverarity’s practical joke, or her own paranoia.  Whichever one is true (if it even matters) is definitely revolving around Oedipa, the “mass” that centers the whole thing.

On the other side of all this is Pierce Inverarity, another interesting name.  First, one notices that the last name is a play on some form of “veritas” or “verite” which means truth.  However, his name isn IN-verarity, or un-truth.  Therefore we can see this as a clue by Pynchon that Inverarity represents untruth, or that this is all a sham he put together.  However, when we take his first name “Pierce,” we now have a name that relatively means “puncturing the untruth,” or getting the real truth.  What is the real truth?  That he wants Oedipa to play this little game that he set up, that he wants her to see through all of the lies and deceptions that he himself set up before he died?  Or maybe he wants Oedipa to uncover the truth about the Trystero? His death was never explained by the way, if this was a detective story it is totally plausible that Trystero “muted his horn” and he left clues to his executor in hopes of being avenged.  Or, maybe he wants Oedipa to “pierce the untruth” in the world.  To see beyond what she has always taken for granted.  To see the alternate reality that a large portion of the population were living in.

There is also a good chance that the names mean nothing, or are more red herrings thrown in by Pynchon to make us lose sleep over this book.  I enjoy it a lot, but if I think about it too much I start to go a little crazy.

Form and function

I agree with the post’s that have commented on this week’s readings in regards to seeing the authors experimenting with how their content is being delivered.  Although Cage’s “Diary” at first seems to be a fractured mess, you can see strands of text looping back on themselves throughout the work.  One of the strands that I picked up on and most interested me concerned how content is delivered and digested by reader and author.  Although haphazard in appearance at first, Cage put great thought into how this piece was put together, the snippets of text he chose, the fonts, sizes, etc.  He also alludes to the importance of form several times throughout diary.  He references Joyce and Finnegan’s Wake (as does Hassan) repeatedly, which I have not read, but is known for its difficult syntax and structure.  Cage writes on 208 “TO RAISE LANGUAGE’S TEMPERATURE WE NOT ONLY REMOVE SYNTAX: WE GIVE EACH LETTER UNDIVIDED ATTENTION, SETTING IT IN UNIQUE FACE AND SIZE; to read BECOMES THE VERB to sing”. Cage’s use of different fonts, sizes and grammatical structure is meant to keep the reader on their toes, so that they give each letter undivided attention, which gives the words themselves and their structure as much meaning as any overarching idea that the work is presenting.  Cage also writes about how reading should be enjoyable, and that enjoyment can come out of the artifact itself as much as its content: “Paper should be edible, nutritious.  Inks used for printing or writing should have delicious flavors.  Magazine’s or newspapers read at breakfast should be eaten for lunch.  Instead of throwing one’s mail and in the waste-basket, it should be saved for the dinner guests”.  I also think that Cage is trying to replicate what he admired in the ancient chinese language, that it was free of syntax and”floated in no-mind space.”  Cage is rebelling against modern ways of delivering language that he feels have become “arthritic.”  I personally enjoyed the Cage piece and thought it was similar to the mash-ups we were listening to in class when exploring postmodernism, many disparate parts being brought together to add up to something that is more than the sum of its parts, while at the same time making you appreciate each of those parts that you are experiencing in a new context.

The Jonathan Safran Foer piece also explores new ways of delivering language, although in a much more personal way.  I thought his piece was about how the traditional forms of communication, or writing about communication fail to really capture the essence of what is being said/felt.  Foer sees gaps in languages that cannot be filled by the traditional methods of writing and seeks to fill in those gaps with his new symbols.  However, in the end it is futile as those new symbols will leave new, smaller gaps, and any attempts to fill those gaps will create newer, smaller gaps, and so on.  I think Foer just wants the reader to step back and re-examine language and communication.  We take language for granted and assume that words have a fixed meaning, but really they are just signifiers and each of us have our own perception, based on what we have learned/experienced, on just what those signifiers mean.