Wednesday, September 26, 2007

“The Other Wife” (Annotation G2-9/Goddard)

“The Other Wife,” takes place over lunch in a crowded restaurant. The development of the characters is potent and crisp, and the economy of the characters is in subtle clues and description. In the scant action and dialogue of the story, Marc, the husband quickly emerges as a believable and well-known character.

In the crowded scene the Maitre d’ attempts to lead the couple to a window table, which excites Alice, the wife. Marc nervously refuses the picturesque table for a table in the middle of the busy dining room to the dismay of the wife, and the Maitre d’ “stricken with a kind of nervous dance, who was standing next to them, perspiring,” (Colette 68). Alice indulges her husband asking him why he’d choose one table over the other. He cannot give her a straight answer and promises to once they get settled. After Marc regains some of his composure, he orders lunch and tells his wife why he refused the first table for one that is less comfortable in the dead center of the room.
“Marc Seguy never considered lying. ‘Because you were about to sit next to someone I know.’
‘Someone I don’t know?’
‘My ex-wife.’ (Colette 68).
The basic premise of the story unfolds in the brief conversation. Marc asks the second wife, Alice, if she is uncomfortable. Not at all, Alice insists: “She’s the one who must be uncomfortable” (Colette 70) Yet in fact the ex-wife sits placidly in her chair, smoking, gazing out the window. Marc characterizes her as a woman who could never be satisfied, in contrast to Alice, who is “obviously” completely happy, “How lucky we are that our happiness doesn’t involve any guilty parties of victims!” (Colette 69). But his reasons for this conclusion are interesting (and very revealing of him as a character). He thinks that because his ex-wife did not indulge him as Alice does, then his ex-wife must not have been satisfied in their relationship—when in fact he was not satisfied with her because she did not place him at the center of her world. He assumes that the act of indulging his wants must be satisfying to the woman as well.
Alice is unable to stop staring at the ex-wife who had divorced her husband only fifteen months before. As she listens to Marc’s descriptions of his first marriage and his first wife, Alice asks herself simply: “What more did she want from him?” (Colette 70). As the story ends, Marc is paying the bill, and grateful to leave the restaurant scene behind him. Conversely, Alice “kept looking, with envy and curiosity, at the woman in white, this dissatisfied, this difficult, this superior…” (Colette 70)

Colette. “The Other Wife.” Trans. Matthew Ward. Sudden Fiction International. Ed. Robert Shapard and James Thomas. New York: WW Norton, 1989. 67-70.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Juxtaposition of Characters in The Exile (Annotation G2-8/Goddard)

David Caspian is a modern day giant of the Hollywood elite, a movie star capable of big blockbusters and the subsequent fortune associated with it. Felix, black marketer in Nazi Germany can procure anything from gold to silk stockings. David Caspian has accepted the leading role in modern day space saga, Star Rover, and Felix has accepted papers to be Lieutenant Falkenhayn of Fuhrer Hilter’s elite force. The juxtaposition of two such radically different character in one novel is unusual enough separated by time and space, the end of WWII, Nazi Germany and Hollywood, present day. Kotzwinkle’s juxtaposition leaves his reader guessing, since Caspian and Felix is the same person, which one is real?
The Exile begins, uneventfully enough during a David Caspian hosted party, a party filled with his friends. As they discuss movies, and movie making, divorces and the art of actor agenting, Caspian lapses into a dark night of shadows. “Your papers please, barked the soldier. He jumped back, pulled out the Walther, and fired” (Kotzwinkle 15). Caspian lives the second life, alone in the night of Felix, a nervously confident man on the run in Berlin’s underground. Caspian is able to experience all Felix sees and does as an observer. Although he is able to explain the actions of 1945 Berlin in detail to his psychologist, Gilliard, Caspian is unable to exert his own will into Felix’s world.
Felix too, as he unfolds, and his world of war and Gestapo skirmishes can suddenly relax in a warm tropical climate he barely understands. Caspian is all knowing of Felix, and Felix seems to have a vague understanding of the other-side.
“Jung called it the integration of the shadow. Usually begins with understanding little pettinesses, hatreds, jealousies” (Kotzwinkle 84). Gilliard tries to calm Caspian, and continually reassures him that he is not crazy. As Felix occupies more of Caspian’s waking hours, he occupies more of the story of book.
In Caspian’s Double Dicho “A man may cease to be, yet still exist. A man may still exist, yet cease to be” (Kotzwinkle 275) both men appear to occupy the same influence in each other’s world. As Caspian finishes his movie shot of Star Rover, Nazi Germany is failing.
How real do these characters become? Felix has enlisted the help of the supernatural Luminous Lodge to aid in his escape from the punishment of war crimes and crimes against the state. As Felix explains to Dr. Gillard, “there were particular powers concentrated in the Third Reich. In any case, he is gone. And I am here” (Kotzwinkle 276). In modern day Hollywood Felix has assumed the body of David Caspian. Even in the final paragraphs of The Exile both characters exist, through mystic power, or loss of sanity.

Kotzwinke, William. The Exile. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1987

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Second Short Critical Paper G2/Goddard

Kotzwinkle’s Elephants

William Kotzwinkle’s 1971 short story collect Elephant Bangs Train is a fantastical collection of stories covering many subjects from Boy Scout outings turned melee to decadent social elite parties. Three of the stories, however, share elephants as a common thread. Perhaps the young Kotzwinkle simply liked writing elephant stories, and these three stories “A Most Incredible Meal,” the title story, “Elephant Bangs Train,” and “Elephant’s Graveyard” are more than subjects of interest. As entertaining as these stories are as works of imagination and fiction, they share myths about elephants. The importance of elephants is no secret to anyone. Times gone past when elephants provided more than mere scientific research, or a source of ivory. They are the material of myths of indigenous peoples of Africa and India.
In the modern world, elephants are still the fancy of new myths. Considering a myth as a fiction of a half-truth, especially one that forms part of an idea or an explanation, Kotzwinkle has touched on modern myths in each one of his three stories. As modern man looks at elephants, mostly confined to zoos and wildlife preserves, the conception of new myths are conjecture and convenient. Using scientific findings overlaid on these three stories, how true are the modern myths about Kotzwinkle’s elephants?
Modern myths surrounding long extinct wooly mammoths include far-fetched stories of their continued existence. The thought of them roaming or hiding in Alaska or Siberia is entertaining enough and the only proof is eyewitness accounts. Yet, genetically speaking, these elephants from the Pliocene epoch have left behind only traces in Asiatic elephants that live today.
Generally, when modern man meets a mammoth it is at the local natural history museum or in a textbook. In nature, the meeting with such a beast is reserved almost solely for the paleontologists who find skeletons, and more likely bones or fragments of bones. Rarely is an entire animal is uncovered.
Kotzwinkle’s “A Most Incredible Meal” introduces the uncovering of one Siberian Mastodon, and plays to one associated myth: can the meat of a discovered Mastodon be edible?
“The men of the village worked skillfully, cutting off great hunks of flesh, which were then salted, wrapped, and taken immediately to the castle. Each man received a cut of meat larger than his own torso” (Kotzwinkle 9). At the castle, the Count was entertaining his people, the most influential persons: the priest, the poet and of course Alexi Bulnovka, the woodcutter who found the animal. “The poet disliked the flesh of any beast or fish, but tonight he was gripped by a dark hunger. He laid a piece of the ancient meat on his tongue, and chewed into it” (Kotzwinkle 11). In this description of the poet’s enjoyment of the meat, Kotzwinkle embellishes the event of dinner. In the dark night, all the guests enjoyed themselves immensely: “a most incredible meal, said the Count” (Kotzwinkle 11). Kotzwinkle’s description of the party, the conversations around the dinner table, makes the feast of the ancient beast a plausible situation, however farfetched it may be.
To date, thirty-nine preserved bodies have been found, but only four of them are complete. In most cases, the flesh shows signs of decay before its freezing and later desiccation. Stories abound about frozen mammoth corpses that were still edible once defrosted, but the original sources indicate that the corpses were in fact terribly decayed, and the stench so unbearable that only the dogs accompanying the finders showed any interest in the flesh” (Farrand 730). Logically, the flesh of a newly butchered animal begins to decay within minutes. It is no surprise the carcass of a Mastodon would be decayed beyond recognition; hence, this myth is deflated.
Scientists surround modern day elephants, whether in zoos or wildlife preserves, these animals are available for research. In “Elephant Bangs Train,” the title story of Kotzwinkle’s collection we meet an adult Elephant who brawls with a train. “He had wandered from the herd, on the trail of greener leaves,” (Kotzwinkle 68). A rogue adult elephant strayed from the herd. (Incidentally, all adult males stray, only the females stay in herds.) As the elephant continues grazing he finds a strange trail, and on it is “a great serpent”. “It was dark-headed, with a cold, expressionless eye, and it lashed an enormous tail” (Kotzwinkle 68). Cleverly, Kotzwinkle has introduced the train from the elephant’s point of view. “He faced it, ready to debate over territory,” (Kotzwinkle 69). In the story, this adult male elephant stands for a challenge, which makes for an exciting bout between elephant and train, but falsely of behavior. To establish dominance, the larger, and the older of the adults is generally undisputed. Such displays occur during mating periods and with other elephants. The fighting between elephants and other species is uncommon, perhaps due to an elephant’s large size. Rather than the challenge suggested in the story, an elephant might throw up its trunk, or bugle, which is “usually addressed to smaller adversary, including humans. The same gesture is used to rip up and throw objects,” (Estes 7). Drawing from observed behavior, it is not impossible that an adult male would challenge a train, yet it is improbable.
Setting aside an elephants challenging trains, and the consumption of ancient meat of mastodons, some myths have a basis in truth, which is the case in the last story in the collection, “Elephant’s Graveyard.”
In the “Elephant’s Graveyard,” the reader meets three old and wise beings, King Sudarma, the mahout, the battle elephant trainer for fifty years, and chief elephant, the eldest bull. The three have years of battle, and have seen the growth of the kingdom of Daspur and its army in common. These experiences and age tie the three together, and the eldest bull, the chief elephant, is the first of them to die. “The eldest bull, said the mahout, raising his head, will die tonight. It is his wish to go outside, my lord, said the mahout. Lead him away, then, said the King,” (Kotzwinkle 140). In this passage, the mahout, the trainer, understands the life process of the old bull drawing near to his end.
Once outside the mahout and the elephant move through the night and deeper into the jungle. As he travels, the mahout on the back of the old bull, he reminisces past battles and memories. Granted, the story is really about the memories of conquest, success, and victory, but of all three stories, this story hits on a truth about elephants. “There is a legend in Africa that speculates that elder elephants knowing that their death was imminent left their herds and traveled to a place known as the Elephant Graveyard. It was believed this graveyard was the final destination for literally thousands of elephants and that their bones and tusks littered the area. This graveyard has never been discovered and has been the subject of speculation for many years” (Ploeg, 2). The idea of a highly evolved set of social standards among elephants leads to conjecture of our less scientific and more emotional ancestors to believe in the elephant graveyard. Even during the fictional times of the King of Daspur and his mahout, elephants were adorned with jewels, and battle armor and their relationships with the lumbering beasts include lifecycle knowledge. In all reality, the life spans of people in old times were about the same if not less than the life spans of elephants. In “Elephant’s Graveyard,” the mahout in his recollections talks to the old beast, and since he had been training elephants for fifty years, he is himself considerably old. This relationship makes the story one of tired old friends rather than creating, perpetuating, or making a myth.
“Very old bulls, ponderous hulks with the biggest tusks, are the most sedentary. They end their days in swamps where they can still consume quantities of herbage as their last set of molars wears out,” (Estes 13). With this model, the mahout leads the bull to the riverbank. “He saw a bright light and in it white cows dancing trunk to tail. His load fell away, and rose above the dawn,” (Kotzwinkle 147). Elegantly, the elephant dies.
Scientific findings of real elephant graveyards, human observation rooted in myth, and Kotzwinkle’s treatment of the death of elephants are different facets. Interestingly, if Mastodons exhibited the same ceremony of their own death as their modern day descendents, climbing into rivers to feed their last and ultimately sink in the mud, then there is no surprise that whole corpses are found. Likewise, it is not surprising when whole corpses of Mastodons are discovered there is still uneaten food in their mouths.
All three of Kotzwinkle’s stories are fun, and entertaining, and filled with humanistic sensibilities. “A Most Incredible Meal,” explores a possibility of what if, and the treatment obviously is man conquest over the Mastodon, simply by eating it. The myth of edible meat from an anciently dead animal however is outlandish. “Elephant Bangs Train,” is more of a conquest of nature over technology; after all, the elephant wins in the end by derailing the train. However, it is not an accurate portrayal of common elephant behavior. Lastly, “Elephant’s Graveyard,” is a story of death, and the story of friendship, however odd it may be with the direct correlation between man and beast. In this last story, Kotzwinkle has used a myth with scientific fact supporting it to treat a subject as profound as death. Even as works of fiction, Kotzwinkle has help to continue myths of elephants in a modern world.

Kotzwinkle, William. Elephant Bangs Train. Clinton, Massachusetts: The Colonial Press, 1971
Estes, Richard. The Safari Companion. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 1993
Farrand, William. “Frozen Mammoths and Modern Geology.” Science Mar. 1961: 729-735
Ploeg, Dirk Vander. “Legend of Elephant Graveyard May Be True” ufodigest. Jun. 2007.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Third Person Narration in The Talented Mr. Ripley (Annotation G2-7/Goddard)

From the opening chapter in a New York bar of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley to the final scene on a pier in Greece the paranoid Tom Ripley is a conman turned psychopath. The chronicled adventures of Tom Ripley from IRS fraud artist to murderer make him more despicable rather than talented. The effective use of Highsmith’s third person narration separates the reader from the inner most of Tom Ripley’s emotional intentions and makes his actions the plot itself.
In this third person narration, which could have easily been written in the first person voice of Tom Ripley, the reader knows Tom’s thoughts. “My God, what did he want? He certainly wasn’t a pervert, Tom thought for a second time,” (Highsmith 4). This example of Highsmith inclusion of many ‘he thoughts’ in the narration, but more often than not the internal thought of Tom Ripley is not specifically stated. In an interview with the police later in Rome, Tom Ripley posing as Dickie Greenleaf has many conversations. In such passages, the narration is overtly objective, merely reporting the conversation as it transpires. However, the interjecting thought leaves the objective third person narration momentary issuing Ripley’s thought. “Could it all be a trick, really? A sly little bastard, that officer,” (Highsmith 173).
Her style is fluid, easy to read, a feat considering the motivations and changes in the Tom Ripley character. Although he is not telling the story outright, leaving the job to the writer herself. The interjecting thoughts of Ripley are sometimes the thoughts of Dickie Greenleaf, as Tom Ripley has assumed his identity. The thoughts between both sides of the Ripley/Greenleaf character are equally as apparent. As the opportunity to travel the world presents itself to Tom Ripley, he knows he would rather see the sights as Dickie Greenleaf rather than himself. “The idea of going to Greece, trudging over the Acropolis as Tom Ripley, American tourist, held no charm for him at all,” (Highsmith 180). In this passage, as narration goes is written simply as statement. Tom in Greece, not good enough, but Dickie in Greece is the preferred way to travel. The narration leaves no room for guesswork. The events are clear: travel to Greece. The innermost thoughts of Tom Ripley are also clear: no good to be a common American tourist. Lastly, the thoughts of the new assumed personality of Dickie, who at this point is already murdered are clear: “he wanted to see Greece as Dickie Greenleaf with Dickie’s money, Dickie’s clothes, Dickie’s way of behaving with strangers,” (Highsmith 180).
This third person narration leads the reader to understand Tom Ripley through his actions, and through his conversations with others with the added bonus of a semi-bias knowledge of Tom Ripley inner workings.

Highsmith, Patricia. The Talented Mr. Ripley. New York: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 1992

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Process Paper G2-2/Goddard


Annotation #4: Frank Conroy
Annotation #5: The book of Ruth
Annotation #6: Jerzy Kosinski

Long Critical Paper: Continuity of Story

Creative Work: From Ansbach to Color
Soles of Locomotives (new material)

Dear Kyle:

To answer a few of your questions from your response letter to packet one: I read the “Dead Man” in both English and Spanish. I must admit the story alluded me in both languages, but I often find that when I read the same story twice. Instead of looking for the truth in the prose, or even the poetics, I often look at the mechanical differences in the translation. Mired in minutia, I suppose. I try to read in Spanish every chance I get, language is a muscle, if not regularly used it will atrophy. About ten or twelve years ago, I kept a journal in Spanish for that very reason. Can you imagine? The stories I wrote were pretty silly, but the purpose of it was practice rather than expression. As an aside here, if the current population projections are to be taken seriously, it’s not inconceivable the official language in the United States will be Spanish someday. What becomes of us then? Any work done by our writers today will have to be translated, why not write in Spanish from the get go?
On the point of revision, I’m beginning to understand that as a process too. I found the perfect definition for revision. I can’t tell you if I would have come to this conclusion at any other point in my life, as I did recently. Anyhow, a week or so ago I was at the library checking out CDs. It was one of those wonderful late August days when you can tell the summer is nearly gone (and thank God). I had checked out several old albums, in fact all them were CDs of which I once had but have lost over the years. The pinnacle of them was a reissue of The Cure’s Head on the Door. Once home I discovered that it was a double CD set. The first disc was the same disc I knew, and the second was previously unavailable B-sides, and Demo versions. In listening to the Demo of In Between Days, I found the best minute twenty-five seconds of my day. This Demo makes me so happy. As beautiful as I think it is, in the sleeve notes Robert Smith explained how he had recorded that demo in his bedroom. As a stroke of utter inspiration, he recorded his little song. When compared to the studio release of the same song, the melody was not lost. In fact, the melody becomes the vocals, which add an entirely new feeling, and with words. The guitar, the drums, typical pop music, I guess. In this revised work, the sound is so much more rounded, developed, and complete. So in the whole idea of revision, yeah, I get it, and even more now, perhaps if you come across another student as rigid as I was about revision you can let them listen to In Between Days, and hopefully this puts the concept into terms they can understand.
That said... I just made a demo version of my Long Critical Paper.
Oddly enough, I have been enjoying the process of this long critical paper. It’s horribly flawed, I’m afraid. I don’t think I’ve ever had an undertaking quite like this paper before. Does an “undertaking” get its beginnings in grave digging?
I began the paper early in August. Shortly after I finished Kosinski’s novel, I was turned on to both the Viktor Frankl and the Bruno Schulz. It has taken weeks for me to pull my thoughts together, and I think much of what I need to work on is clarity of thoughts. It’s difficult, many times for me to adequately get what I’m thinking into a workable set of sentences on the page. I was really hoping to have more confidence in giving the paper to you, but as I said, a demo version. Oddly, the conundrum is not so much with the paper, but the schedule of packets. I realized when I received the return of packet number one that we decided to put this long critical paper due in the third packet. Unfortunately, I must include it in this packet, partly because it is what I’ve been working on, and mostly because it is all I have. At any rate, I do hope turning this LCP sets me up for further success this semester, a revision of it is fine, I had intended on it.
Now back to the short critical paper… I agree with your criticism. I really felt I nailed ol’ Kotzwinkle’s elephants, but in looking at it now, I see so much room for improvement. I will have the revision by packet number three.
From Ansbach to Color, I’m sorry to only give you this scant little chapter. I’m learning a few things about it. I’m starting to see how events fit together, and the development of Carmichael as a narrator is not the toughest chore I thought it was going to be. I know we outline new and revised creative material in each packet. I will revise the creative material, but in this packet, I’ve included eight pages of new stuff. I have a few things to fill in yet, gaps in the story, gaps in the flow of events, gaps in the narrator and the writer, I know. As things are developing, I am seeing so much I didn’t see before. This new material in this packet and packet number one is the jumpstart I needed in my work. Thank you for your critiques, I look forward to the rewriting of these first three chapters.
The reading list is going along with swiftness. Honestly, I’m getting more out of the reading portion of the program than I thought I would. Odd, I’ve been a reader my whole life, and now it’s taking on a new facet I never got before. Does that make sense? The exception is American Buffalo, Ruthie’s pig iron, what am I looking for? Ruthie’s pig iron, I feel like I’m missing something. I can’t remember the last time I read a play. Can you give me some pointers on how to read a play? When you read a play, what are you reading for? Storyline, I know, but what else? And can you lean back in an easy chair and read a play? I don’t think I’m getting confused by who’s talking, it is printed right there before the dialogue. It just feels so jumpy, even when I try to read it aloud.
Well Kyle, thank you for your kind words and thank you for your patience, I appreciate your guidance, and I look forward to the response on this second packet.


PS I hope you enjoy In Between Days, analogy of revision