Sunday, April 29, 2007

Reflections of Friendship (Annotation G1-12/Goddard)

The relationship between Huck and Jim through the end of chapter 15 is established as camaraderie of two runaways. Both are running from the establishment, Jim from slavery and Huck from his Pap and the ol’ widow. The sum of their situation and friendship is the one event in chapter 16.
“It hadn’t ever come home to me before, what this thing that I was doing. I tried to make out to myself that I warn’t to blame, because I didn’t run Jim off from his rightful owner… But you knowed he was running for his freedom, and you could have paddled ashore and told somebody” (Twain 97) Huck’s inner dialogue is echoed by Jim who spoke of nothing but his freedom, and the shinny hope of his freedom once they reached Cairo. “Every time he danced around and says, ’Dah’s Cairo!’ it went through me like a shot and I thought if it was Cairo I reckoned I would die of miserableness” (Twain 97). The beginnings of Huck’s change occur here as he realizes Jim is a runaway slave, and the conflict as Jim becomes a friend. The idea of Cairo is freedom for Jim and in this freedom; it could mean the end of the adventure as well as the end of friendship to Huck.
They are forging ahead on the river, which is dangerous enough, and they both stand punishment or reward if caught. Huck knows letting Jim go would be wrong, and becomes determined to turn him in. Only moments later when Huck is separated from Jim and alone in the canoe and confronted two men in a skiff with guns he cannot bring himself to do it. Not answering promptly the men finally drag it out Huck that there is another man on the raft behind them. Black or White? Again, he is unable to answer promptly. Finally, after a challenge from the men with guns Huck returns the challenge to them to go see “pap.” Huck’s passiveness lures men into thinking something completely different about the man on the raft. They lose their venom for runaway slave hunting when they think Huck’s Pap is carrying small pox. Once they leave, Huck has successful saved Jim, and his conscious. After all, he hasn’t told them the truth or a lie about the color of Jim’s skin. Despite Huck managing to save Jim, it isn’t love. Fighting with the concept of right and wrong Huck simply buys time.
The true friendship Huck has for Jim begins once the men in the skiff leave him and he heads back to Jim on the raft. Despite the obvious age difference between Jim and Huck, Jim being old enough to be a father to Huck the two have an equal friendship. This relationship is comfortable to Huck, Jim treating him in a tender sort of way calling him ‘honey’ that he does throughout the book. The protection and company of a good friend is something that Huck lacks in all other adults in his life: Pap, the widow and Judge Thatcher.

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York. Penguin Books, 1986

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Comical Secondary Characters of “The Jewel of Amitaba” (Annotation G1-11/Goddard)

Stories spun by William Kotzwinkle in his collection Elephant bangs Train are delightful, insightful, and immensely humorous. “The Jewel of Amitaba” layered with outlandish characters and exotic settings are really the jewel of the collection. The depth of each character is described in scant and brief descriptions; generally, the reader gets the feel for the character in the sentence describing them, sometimes by a short sentence of action, and by the character’s name in itself. The vast amount of secondary characters is the story itself, the plot development and the action.
Adria La Spina, the central character is complex enough, and introduced as thus, “Veiled only by her long black hair, and a necklace of elbow macaroni, Adria La Spina, the beautiful pasta heiress, snaked her hips to electric guitars, while the paparazzi shot their flashbulbs off around her.” (Kotzwinkle 48) In this introduction the reader knows she is rich of course beyond measure, an heiress, and somehow in the limelight as a minor celebrity. Her appearance is telling, the thought of electric guitars and her hips set a party mood, and the outlandish idea of a necklace of elbow macaroni, she has to be young, foolish and perhaps a disgrace to those pasta barons who came before her. Aside from her description, Kotzwinkle’s choice of name is interesting. Clearly, Kotzwinkle knew how to name his characters, La Spina, in Spanish means simple, The Thorn.
The majority of the characters in “The Jewel of Amitaba” are party revelers on the grounds of La Spina Villa. Next up in the line up we meet “Norton Blue, the celebrated pornographer, with his sensitive Polaroid.” (Kotzwinkle 48) Heiress and pornographer are met with music: “O.K., fellas, hit it! Jeekers Peltz, derelict leader of Jeekers and the Stools, gave the downbeat.” (Kotzwinkle 49)
In these opening paragraphs, and these open characters can’t set the scene of the party, “beautiful Luisa Pina-Bodega came riding across the lawns of La Spina on an irredeemable Cuban Donkey famous for a decadent nightclub act in old Havana,” helps push the party along (Kotzwinkle 49). The donkey itself is irredeemable described, and Louisa? Perhaps Kotzwinkle has chosen an appropriate name, Pina-Bodega simply translated Penis-Shop.
At the party the reader meets, Cojones Colada the Jack-booted Cuban revolutionary. Cojones meaning simply balls, or big testicles. Other names as descriptors: Ali Clarkbar, the renowned sitarist; Ali seems authentic enough, but his last name is a renowned candy bar. Moreover, than candy bars, Ali is not the only food named character. “In the third week of the party, Monsignor Farina visited Adria secretly in the night by the rose trellis outside her balcony” (Kotzwinkle 56) Farina is simply Wheat.
Wheat and pasta make for insightful relations of Adria La Spina. Norton Blue introduces Adria to Fat Tong. “He is a disciple of D.T. Yumabachi, the Macaroniotic Master. Yumabachi, as you may recall, ate but a single macaroni a day boiled in dog’s milk. Slept standing up in a cupboard and lived to the remarkable age of twenty-seven” (Kotzwinkle 56). If a Macaroniotic Master was not outlandish enough, we have a United States Senator in attendance: Sparrow Bowlwater.
As secondary characters are met one after the other in true house party chaotic fashion, Adria wearing only long black hair and a necklace made of macaroni doesn’t seem too far out of her element. As the weeks long party is raging and characters come in and out, they all see to share the propensity for partying and the paparazzi. Everyone is glamorous, rich, and intense all except the last uninvited guest. This last guest being grotesque by any standard obviously does not fit the La Spina profile. In the mists Adria’s invited guests Kotzwinkle gives her something very human: compassion. “Please, said Adria, and stepping around him, looked into his face. It was a gargoyle, with temples bloated like a hammerhead shark; he had no eyebrows and his nose was a baboon’s. His skin was sick and prickly as a plucked chicken. In human traffic, he was a monster. Come with me, she said, I’ll give you something to eat” (Kotzwinkle 59).
With this group of guests, their short descriptions and names, the events of the party are told through actions, yes, but more interestingly through the revelers.

Kotzwinkle, William. Elephant Bangs Train. Clinton, Massachusetts: The Colonial Press, 1971

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Future Alluded (Annotation G1-10/Goddard)

Denis Johnson’s casual storytelling in his short story collection Jesus’ Son is compelling enough, dream-like, nightmares with drug induced realities and conversation like retelling of events. Each of his retellings is complete enough and told in an almost present like real time detail. Other than drugs, deeds and wounds he gives the read background information on situations and characters. The background information does not necessarily move the plot of these stories along, but lends insight into a world very different from most. Johnson’s background information does not come before the event, but after. The use of allusion to future events is more entertaining, more shocking and in the case of Jesus’s Son more powerful.
“Two Men,” the second story in the collection is long night after the dance at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall. The narrator has relations with both men “I had forgotten my friends had come with me, but there they were. Once again I hatred the two of them.” (Johnson 15) As the three go about their business, the narrator gives us all the background information about their relationship in a future alluded way. “Later on one of them got hurt when we were burglarizing a pharmacy, and the other two of us dropped him bleeding in the back entrance of the hospital and he was arrested and all the bonds were dissolved. We bailed him out later, and still later all the charges against him were dropped, but we’d torn open our chests and shown our cowardly hearts, and you can never stay friends after something like that” (Johnson 16). In these, two sentences which have absolutely nothing to do with the situation of the story gives the reader a tremendous insight to what will become of these characters. Should the story go on longer, a reader might be inclined to eagerly await the night of the pharmacy burglary. The length of the story as well as what really is going on in “Two Men” the reader will never get to see the burglary or the dissolving of the bonds between these characters. This narrator in two sentences has set a feeling of doom and hopelessness for the future.
This “future alluded” technique is a craft devise Johnson uses in most stories. The two sentences in “Two Men” are potent, but a three-sentence passage in “Dundun” leaves the reader with more than the feeling of hopelessness. Dundun lives in a farmhouse and apparently has access to pharmaceutical opium, and on the day which the story takes place our narrator has gone to visit. The entire story takes place in a car transporting McInnes to the hospital after Dundun has shot him. Again, the “future alluded” passage gives tremendous insight into the Dundun character but has nothing to do with the plot or the action of the short story which bears his name. “Dundun tortured Jack Hotel at the lake outside of Denver. He did this to get information about a stolen item, a stereo belonging to Dundun’s girlfriend or perhaps to his sister. Later, Dundun beat a man almost to death with a tire iron right on the street in Austin, Texas, for which he’ll also someday have to answer, but now he is, I think, in the state prison in Colorado” (Johnson 51). If the reader could not tell Dundun was rascal enough in the events of the short story, the three-sentence interlude of his future certainly deflates any mystery.
The “future alluded” technique rounds out the events of the current action in the brief stories in Jesus’s Son.

Johnson, Denis. Jesus’ Son. New York: HarperCollins, 1993

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Process Paper G1-4/Goddard

It’s with great pleasure that I submit packet the fourth. I’d also like to thank you again for our conversation a few days ago. Unfortunately, I did not get too much time to work on my first short critical paper. However, after our conversation I found plenty of time to work on a few revisions on my creative work. Something curious happened in the process. Don’t we always talk about the process? Well, as it turned out I decided I would spent a writing session revising “The Bicycle” thinking it would get me in the mood or at least the right headspace to rework the short critical paper. It got me in the right headspace for sure, and I’m pleased with the revisions I’m sending to you. Please know I listened to what you had to say, I thought about it, and I will continue to think about it.

First, let me give you a few words on my annotations. I think the reading of short stories this go around was a big help in the revision of these pieces of my manuscript. In a way, I tried to treat them like autonomous stories rather than smaller pieces of a whole. Obviously I read Steinbeck’s story first, and what a great place to start. I’ve always been a fan of Steinbeck, and to read a short story rather than a novel was interesting in itself. I read it a few times and once aloud to a friend, which was very cool. I did the same with “That Evening Sun,” and decided I won’t be reading Faulkner anytime too soon if I can help it. The Carver story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” was an intense read and prompted me to drink a little gin myself. After I wrote the annotation, I read the other stories in the collection and with great zeal. All three of these stories were firsts for me. I haven’t read a short story in a long time, and now I can’t really remember why I stopped.

The writing of the annotations was easier this go around. The Carver annotation was a little more difficult than the others were. At any rate, I am ahead on my reading; I read the Denis Johnson collection Jesus’s Son and Elephant Bangs Train by William Kotzwinkle, so please look forward to those annotations in packet 5.

During this packet period, Chris got the letter I wrote to him during our closing ceremony. The letter was cool, even though it was quickly written and a bit illegible.

Now onto Omma. I have a renewed sense of purpose in my work with Omma after our conversation. I know we spent most of our time talking about the critical writing, but I rethought a few things. The writing of this piece has been a challenge in that I’ve never shared pieces and parts as the writing is still going on.

You wanted to know how much of this story is autobiographical. Not too much. I lived around Ansbach when I was in the Army. I knew Ansbach pretty well in 1990-1992. Frau Gernhert is a composite of just about every German woman I knew. I had a neighbor, an older Swiss woman who talked to me occasionally. There was a real Frau Gernhert; I met her years later when my buddy Ryan had an internship in Cologne. I think her name was actually Gernhertkessler or something like that. The Ashling character is also a composite, although she is terribly underdeveloped as a character still. I really love this Ashling, and I want everyone else to love her too, so I’m still laboring with her a little. In the fall of 1996, I was back in German visiting friends. During that trip, I met an Irish girl named Ashling in a bar in Nurnberg. We had a very brief conversation and the only thing that made an impression on me was how long her tongue was. Omma is completely fabricated. Papa? I have an African acquaintance here in Denver who really does work in a kiosk. He sells gifts and watch batteries. Like every African I’ve met here, he is very intelligent, hard working, and worldly. It never ceases to amaze me how a person can be a lawyer or an engineer, speak seven or eight languages, and come to the United States to get a job selling junk to tourists, or feeding fat Americans hotdogs from a cart. My friend Todesa is from Senegal, and I see him probably once a week. His kiosk is down the pedestrian mall about five blocks from the restaurant where I work. Todesa and I speak in Spanish together, and I thought my accent was funny sounding. Therefore, my Papa character has a real face, and one I see often. In rehash, how much is this Omma story autobiographical? Not very much. Furthermore, I don’t want it to sound that way. As you can tell, I’ve been working on it more, and this whole revision, or rethinking or whatever we call it is working out for me.

I’m excited about beginning the fifth packet. I can’t believe it; this semester has really gone by fast. I think I’ve learned a few things, however knowing myself I won’t be able to tell you what it is I’ve learned for sometime to come.

One last thought… I see what you mean about these process papers. It’s candid. I feel like I ramble a little, and it is like a letter. When I was a teenager, I met a girl who lived in Alaska. We wrote at least a letter a week from Thanksgiving of 1986 until we lost touch sometime in early 1999. In the letters over those 12 years I always felt like I was rambling too, she rambled. However, in the rambling it must have been interesting enough to continue writing. In this day of e-mail, text messages, and free cellular minutes perhaps, we’ve lost the charm of a handwritten letter. I bring it up now only because I’m thinking about the new approach to that Charles Johnson critical paper. Write a letter to a character in the novel, that was a good suggestion.

Thanks Kyle for your time, and I look forward to your feedback and suggestions.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Reports of Gin and Conversation (Annotation G1-9/Goddard)

The flow of conversation in Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” matches closely the lowering levels of a bottle of cheap cut-rate lousy gin. Obviously the more gin, which the characters consume, the drunker they become. Carver’s use of dialogue as reported through his narrator Nick is reliable, smelling of gin and an indicator of drunkenness.
“Maybe we were a little drunk by then. I know it was hard keeping things in focus” (Carver 152). When Nick thinks everyone is a little drunk, the reader believes him. He is after all a very trustworthy narrator. The entire story is from his point of view, he even relays all the conversation. As a narrator, he is objective, and fair. He passes so little judgment on the rest of the characters, “My friend Mel McGinnis was talking. Mel McGinnis is a cardiologist, and sometimes that gives him the right” (Carver 137) Of course a more judgmental narrator might say “my friend Mel was talking. Mel is a drinker of gin, and sometimes that gives him the right.”
Superficially, the reader knows they are all drinking gin: “There was an ice bucket on the table. The gin and the tonic water kept going around” (Carver 137). In Nick’s retelling of the conversation, his observations also help the reader to feel the drunkenness. “Laura was having a hard time lighting her cigarette. Her matches kept going out” (Carver 150) A more compelling and certainly clever drunken indicator is the dialogue in itself. Nick has told us about his friend Mel, the cardiologist, and someone who spent five years in seminary. We know about Mel’s wife Terri, although not as much. Nick says of himself and his wife Laura: “Laura is a legal secretary. We’d met in a professional capacity” (Carver 141) All four of these people, aside from their age, ranging 45 for Mel to 33 for Laura are professional people and presumably educated people. In the beginning, the manner in which they speak to one another is reflective of their age and education. As the conversation continues neither Carver nor his narrator need to slur words on the page. It isn’t necessary. Mel is trying to tell a story of love, something disturbing and from his experience in the hospital. Mel’s report of the incident is continually interrupted. This story, which is probably hard enough to hear, is gory by nature something commonplace to a doctor. With each interruption Mel gets sidetracked and angry. In these interruptions, Carver has subtly clued readers in on the level of gin in the systems of his characters. Mel moves into a tangent of armor clad knights and misspeaks the word vessel for vassal. When corrected” “Vassals, vessels, what the fuck’s the difference? You knew what I meant anyway. All right. So I’m not educated. I learned my stuff. I’m a heart surgeon, sure, but I’m just a mechanic. I go in and I fuck around and I fix things. Shit” (Carver 149) The way in which he speaks, short sentence, lack of continuity in his story telling abilities and the profanities in his speech are a character change due to gin.

Carver, Raymond. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Stories. New York: Vintage Books, 1982