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

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