Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Relationships of Kosinski’s Archetypal Conclusions (Annotation G2-6/Goddard)

Chronicling a young boy’s life in rural-central Poland during World War II, Jerzy Kosinski’s unnamed narrator in The Painted Bird experiences one atrocity after another each one becoming more horrifying than the last. His treatment by peasants is a fate, in many ways, worse than the gas chambers of the Nazi concentration camps. In Kosinski’s 1976 preface, he alludes to the motivation behind his book: “present archetypal aspects of the individual relationship to society. Man would be portrayed in his most vulnerable state, as a child, and society in its most deadly form, in a state of war,” (Kosinski xii). The narrator begins as a dark-skinned six-year-old boy at the beginning of Nazi occupation of the region. If Kosinski’s aim to portray relationship between the child and society is the text, the relationship between the vulnerable and the brutal within the narrator’s character is sub textual.
A child’s vulnerability surfaces throughout the novel, and most especially in Chapter 11 when a local priest saves him, he comes to live with Garbos, a peasant farmer. Garbos shows no compassion to the young man, and in fact torments him day and night. In a particular bout of torture, Garbos hung the little boy in a room with Judas, the farmer’s dog who was just out of reach of the boy. Had the boy lost his handholds on the hooks, the dog awaited eagerly to tear him to shreds. In these moments, he uses prayers for days of indulgence to pass the time. “Time went by and my prayers multiplied. Thousands of days of indulgence streaked through the thatched roof toward heaven” (Kosinski 132). The absolute brutality of his situation overlaid on the prayers taught to him by the priest exaggerates his role as the tormented. The boy prays, holds belief in God the father, God the son, and makes numerous trips to the church mentioning iconography there: the holy water, the cross, and the virgin. These manifestations make sense to the narrator during his time with Garbos and the dog Judas.
The shift in vulnerability and brutality in the narrator happens in chapter 18. Soldiers of the Red Army, Gavrila and Mitka, replace the priest of chapter 11. Lenin replaces religious iconography of God the Father and God the Son and Stalin, the cross becomes the assault rifle. The tormented becomes the tormentor. Our narrator has left lodgings of peasants, and Red Army soldiers and has made his way to an orphanage by chapter 18. In the orphanage, he meets The Silent One. The two boys become tormentors after the narrator has taken a beating by a merchant farmer in the market, and the two boys set about for revenge. They get revenge by oiling a railroad switch and later by derailing the train, which carries the peasant merchants to market, killing most of them. In this one act, an act of utter hostility the narrator ceases to be man at his most vulnerable state and joins society in a state of war.
The relationship between child and society can only be a fragile and ultimately ephemeral one. Eventually the child becomes an adult, perpetuating society.
Kosinski, Jerzy. The Painted Bird. New York: Grove Press, 1995

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Compact Story Telling in the Book of Ruth (Annotation G2-5/Goddard)

In the book of Ruth, “Long ago, in the time of judges,” replaces “Once upon a time.” Likewise “they lived happily ever after is summed up with “The child will give you new life and cherish you in your old age,” (The New English Bible Ruth 4.15). In the four short chapters of this book, all the elements of a story develop with economy: scene, character, plot, conflict, and resolution.
“In the time of Judges,” places the story in a remote past. In this short introduction, the story is past in setting. In the first chapter, a family from Bethlehem flees their homeland due to famine and taken residence in Moab, this sets the reader up for theme of foreigners in a foreign land. After the father dies, the two sons intermarry by taking Moabite women. “They lived there ten years,” when the sons both die. Within the first few verses, the story takes the feminine point of view, following the lives of three women: Naomi, Orpah and Ruth.
The bereaved Mother Naomi implores her two daughters-in-law to remain in their country while she flees Moab to return to her people. Orpah obeys, and Ruth does not. Ruth’s character develops as an obedient and loving woman following her mother-in-law into Bethlehem, making her the foreigner. Both women in this short piece are widows, and foreigners.
Ruth in Bethlehem is subject to more discrimination than her mother-in-law experienced in Moab. In Bethlehem, Ruth, reduced to “gleaning” the fields, a common practice, which was social custom of welfare, takes her place as someone lower than a peasant does. Her unending devotion to her mother-in-law endears the reader to Ruth.
Enter Boaz, a rich landowner. Taking special care of Ruth, he instructs her to stay close to his girls in the field. His instructions lead the reader to think about the potential danger of foreigners gleaning the fields. Naomi Explains to Ruth of local Israeli customs of widows, wishing only the best for her daughter-in-law. The obedient Ruth follows yet more instructions to go into the Boaz’s threshing floor and “turn back the covering at his feet and lie down,” (The New English Bible Ruth 3.4). Humbled to Boaz, he becomes inclined to help Ruth and marry her to her dead husband’s next of kin. The conflict of the custom becomes apparent as Ruth is a foreigner, and the Boaz meets her next of kin along with ten elders. As the man has, family of his own Boaz simply states; “I will act as next-of-kin,” (The New English Bible Ruth 4.4).
The resolution: “So Boaz took Ruth and made her his wife,” (The New English Bible Ruth 4.7). The last few verses of the book link the genealogy of their union to David.
Whether the intention of the Book of Ruth is a genealogical account of King David, or allegory of how to treat foreigners, the compactness of scene, character, plot, conflict and resolution is impressive.




The New English Bible. The Delegates of the Oxford University Press, and The Syndics of the Cambridge University Press, 1970.


The Compact Story Telling in the Book of Ruth (Annotation G2-5/Goddard)

In the book of Ruth, “Long ago, in the time of judges,” replaces “Once upon a time.” Likewise “they lived happily ever after is summed up with “The child will give you new life and cherish you in your old age,” (The New English Bible Ruth 4.15). In the four short chapters of this book, all the elements of a story develop with economy: scene, character, plot, conflict, and resolution.
“In the time of Judges,” places the story in a remote past. In this short introduction, the story is past in setting. In the first chapter, a family from Bethlehem flees their homeland due to famine and taken residence in Moab, this sets the reader up for theme of foreigners in a foreign land. After the father dies, the two sons intermarry by taking Moabite women. “They lived there ten years,” when the sons both die. Within the first few verses, the story takes the feminine point of view, following the lives of three women: Naomi, Orpah and Ruth.
The bereaved Mother Naomi implores her two daughters-in-law to remain in their country while she flees Moab to return to her people. Orpah obeys, and Ruth does not. Ruth’s character develops as an obedient and loving woman following her mother-in-law into Bethlehem, making her the foreigner. Both women in this short piece are widows, and foreigners.
Ruth in Bethlehem is subject to more discrimination than her mother-in-law experienced in Moab. In Bethlehem, Ruth, reduced to “gleaning” the fields, a common practice, which was social custom of welfare, takes her place as someone lower than a peasant does. Her unending devotion to her mother-in-law endears the reader to Ruth.
Enter Boaz, a rich landowner. Taking special care of Ruth, he instructs her to stay close to his girls in the field. His instructions lead the reader to think about the potential danger of foreigners gleaning the fields. Naomi Explains to Ruth of local Israeli customs of widows, wishing only the best for her daughter-in-law. The obedient Ruth follows yet more instructions to go into the Boaz’s threshing floor and “turn back the covering at his feet and lie down,” (The New English Bible Ruth 3.4). Humbled to Boaz, he becomes inclined to help Ruth and marry her to her dead husband’s next of kin. The conflict of the custom becomes apparent as Ruth is a foreigner, and the Boaz meets her next of kin along with ten elders. As the man has, family of his own Boaz simply states; “I will act as next-of-kin,” (The New English Bible Ruth 4.4).
The resolution: “So Boaz took Ruth and made her his wife,” (The New English Bible Ruth 4.7). The last few verses of the book link the genealogy of their union to David.
Whether the intention of the Book of Ruth is a genealogical account of King David, or allegory of how to treat foreigners, the compactness of scene, character, plot, conflict and resolution is impressive.




The New English Bible. The Delegates of the Oxford University Press, and The Syndics of the Cambridge University Press, 1970.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Process Paper G2-1/Goddard

Contents:

Annotation #1: Henry Miller
Annotation #2: James M. Cain
Annotation #3: Horacio Quiroga

Second Short Critical Paper: Kotzwinkle’s Elephants

Creative Work: From Ansbach to Color
Spider Blankets and the Man from Nairobi
World’s Of Wurzburg


Life here in Denver is returning to a new kind of normal. I spent a lucrative week at the residency. I must admit now, I was feeling shell-shocked in many ways when I was there. I loathe the summer, and I will not be lamenting the end of it. By the time the residency began, I was feeling beat down by the heat, too much work at the saloon, which provides a living for me but little else, and my wits end with my writing and the process as it were. During my time in Vermont, I thought mostly about the future and how I would begin things again once at home. In one of our conversations we talked about the amount of time was I working each week. I could tell from your expression a level of concern, which I suppose prompted a revision of many things. You know as well as I do how much I hate to revise things I’ve written, well you can imagine the distaste I was feeling when I thought about how to revise my life. I spent the two weeks following the residency touring Montreal, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Maine, and Massachusetts. I figured a little time away from life would help me to think through things, a chance to clear my head. Well, I suppose the head clearing came in Moncton, New Brunswick when I had to buy a winter coat, and I did it smiling knowing it was well over 95 degrees here at home. As I buttoned up the coat, I realized many things; first, I only hate the heat of summer because of trauma in the past, all of which is over now. Second, the question of my use of time is solely dependant on priorities and my priorities are easy assembled when I think about what my values are. By the time I got on the ferry from Wood Island, PEI I had an accurate idea of what needed to happen, and what it was I needed to do.
Mechanically speaking, I have cut my hours at work in half, I no longer train the young waiters, I don’t work the bar anymore, and I don’t work double shifts. Now, work takes up four to six nights a week, which leaves my mornings free. Mornings, traditionally speaking are clearer, more fluid times for me. Rather than working ten to fifteen hours a week on schoolwork, I’m working four to five hours a day six days a week. I hope you’ll be able to see a difference. Now, I feel like I’m getting more time to revise what I have written before I send it to you. Although I don’t think I’m exactly where I need to be, I know I have made progress from last semester. I spent time rereading last semester’s work, and I feel like I’m where I need to be, on the path to better writing, clearer thinking, and passionate action. In this regard, I feel like I’ve done more work this semester, already, than all of last semester.

Annotations: They are becoming fun to write. The remedial reading of stylebooks and “How to” has helped me. Mechanics, as well as confidence are becoming part of my thinking and consideration of this process. I think the annotations in this first packet are an improvement, and I hope to gain this feeling of improvement in subsequent packets. Both the Henry Miller and James M. Cain were lighter reads than I am generally accustomed to, but stylistically I enjoyed both as complex. The short story “The Dead Man” was more difficult. Developing thoughts emerged only after I read the story a dozen times. Short, short stories like this one continue to baffle me, and my only thought is this: It has to take less time to write a developed story of 150,000 words than a story of 1,500.

The second short critical paper was such a joy to contemplate, design, draft, write, and believe it or not, a joy to rewrite. I have become such a fan of William Kotzwinkle, and Elephants. In the process of this second paper, I see the problems I had with the first one. I knew what I was getting into with this second paper, and I knew what to expect not only from a reader, but from myself. If that isn’t growth, I don’t know what is. I believe it is a tight paper, if you see any bolts that need tightening, well, nuts!

The creative work. I was at my wits end with this piece sometime before the last packet. At the residency, I wanted nothing to do with it ever again. Reluctantly, I agreed to continue work, rework, vision, and revision on it, but I didn’t believe in it with my heart. When I got home, and reorganized my life, I suddenly had plenty of time to write; even then, I had no vision on the manuscript. Instead, I decided to write something else. Something else became two something elses… “Mascaras Y Munecas” and “The Cataract” both of which were longer than the initial Omma piece of last semester. There was something liberating in writing not one 100 plus story, but 2. However, neither of which were what I committed to write. Perhaps I’ll share them with you someday, but not any time too soon. By the end of “The Cataract,” my main character fell into a discussion of orange, by the end of his discussion I found a natural end to that story. Likewise, I found the beginning of the piece I should be working on. The title emerged instantly “From Ansbach to Color.”
There was absolutely nowhere for me to go with the manuscript of last semester. I already wrote the end of the story. Back-story? Text and subtext? Write the unseen? All great titles for workshops, how did they relate to my story, Carmichael’s story? I don’t know, but I am thinking about it. What you are about to read is all new material. There is more new material to come before I’ll be able to pick up with what was written last semester. I can say this I have found a few worthwhile ingredients to make the process easier and more meaningful. I’ve been asking questions of myself, and on the page I’ve been asking questions of my characters. I’ve been thinking about reading in a different way too, what leads from this point to the next, and mechanically looking at what I’ve been reading superimposed on what I’m writing is helping me to see what’s on my page more objectively. With confidence I can say I am more excited about this project than ever, and I can’t wait to tell this story.


I hope all is well with you and I eagerly await your response.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Startling Similarities between Stop-Time and Omma (Annotation G2-4/Goddard)

The two impressions I got from Frank Conroy’s Stop-Time were how incredible well written it is and how strikingly similar his memoir is to my novel. Never having read a memoir before, the story of a young Frank Conroy kept me turning pages. The basis for the memoir the questioning of linear time: “I began to believe that chronological time is an illusion and that some other principle organizes existence. My memories flash like clips of film from unrelated movies” (Conroy 21). His unrelated film clips change from present tense to past tense flawlessly. Clever writing aside, Stop-Time became eerily close to home in chapter 18 almost telling the same story as my manuscript from Ansbach to Color.
The Frank from chapter 18 and my Carmicheal share so many similarities. They are both seventeen. They are both poor students, Americans and in Europe, Denmark and Germany respectively. “Like myself, they had wanted to leave their own countries but could not afford tourism,” (Conroy 255). Neither speaks the language of their host countries. Frank plays chess with his old grandfather, Carmicheal plays chess with an old African. Both have foreign girlfriends. Both have the desire to make a new life for themselves and escape their childhood.
However, the principle difference is Mr. Conroy has written a fantastic memoir of his childhood from birth to arrival at college, and I’m writing about one time period in the life of a fictional character. Should Mr. Conroy attempt a memoir of Frank’s experience in Denmark my story would be nearly the same as his. I only pray my voice differs from that of Mr. Conroy and with time, my craft becomes as diligent and brilliant as his does.
Through the Frank and Carmichael, characters are so similar the treatments of the stories are vastly different. Having read Stop-Time this late in the evolution of my project I have Frank’s experience to reflect on, and the structure of Mr. Conroy’s memoir to study. His use of narration is appropriate for the title of the book Stop-Time. The use of mixed tenses gives the reader the reflection of the older and somewhat wiser Frank Conroy. The sporadic use of the present tense passages lead the reader into the sense of urgency the young Frank feels. In chapter 18, during the more intimate goings-on of his school days, Conroy uses little of the present tense soliloquies and employs his more regular use of storytelling. During this chapter the narrator moves through the time of his foreign study, nearly as a transition to the next adventure. The final sentence of the chapter gives the transition away: “in the spring I went to Paris,” (Conroy 272).
Although the two narrators are similar in age, and in situation, Stop-Time covers nearly eighteen years of a young man’s life, whereas in the emerging story of From Ansbach to Color, the story spans a few months.

Conroy, Frank. Stop-Time. New York: Penguin Books, 1977