Friday, November 9, 2007

Process Paper G2-5/Goddard

Annotation #13: “The Elephant”
Annotation #14: American Buffalo
Annotation #15: Seize the Day
Long Critical Paper revision
Chapter one From Color to Ansbach revision
List of Annotations

Dear Kyle,

Well, I really don’t know where to begin this process letter. I can say this, I have included the absolute bare minimum as far as the number of pages. However, in the spirit I have been working this semester, simply meeting the required page limitation has not been my mode of doing things. My packet number five is not the way I intended to end this semester.
I’m writing this process letter from Oakland, California. I got here a few days ago, and will be here for an indefinite amount of time. Emotionally, I’m wrecked. My cousin Butch (Donald) died a few days ago. I suppose I tell you this because in a way you know him, I modeled Cousin Joseph on my childhood memories of Butch. Aside from the obvious, being here is very difficult. Turns out Carmichael and From Color to Ansbach are closer to autobiography than I would have admitted before. If only I could get on a plane and go to some Bavarian town, perhaps this process letter would have a different feel. New thoughts are surging now, as I suppose is normal when there is death. Deana, Butch’s sister (my cousin) were the only ones to look at Butch’s body the other day. I had to see him, and still I was waiting for him to get up off the table and start talking shit to me.

Well, that’s that. I’ve had to finish my work here, which has been tricky. In my developing work process, I realize now how dependant I’ve become on a routine. The biggest growth I’ve had this semester it’s the routine of writing. I get several hours every morning (Between four and seven, typically) to be alone with my work. When I think about the last several months, the amount of reading, the critical writing and even my creative work, it has all developed due to lack of distraction, and a strict schedule. In retrospect, the biggest reward in the Goddard program thus far is a way of planning, and executing my thoughts, and having time to do it. Admittedly, I spent plenty of time on a weekly basis just sitting at the kitchen table and thinking about things. Being back here in the Bay Area I lack the scheduled time, and the appointed place and it really is a detriment to my work.

The annotations are continuing to help me formulate thoughts, and a constructive exercise in translating my thoughts to the page. In this set of three, I read a short story, a novel and a play. Conserving words, and making them all count was the underlining thought for me in the analysis of “The Elephant.” The use of the third person narrative in Saul Bellow’s Seize the Day has helped me in my thoughts of revision of my work from the first person to the third. Lastly, American Buffalo was an exercise in reading for me. I read the play four times, and I think I could probably benefit from yet another reading. I kept thinking about Fletcher, and what a powerful character he was to me despite never appearing on the stage (or page?).

The long critical paper was the only piece of this packet I worked on before leaving Denver. Denver, I bet it’s sunny there… I’m grateful to have had the third go around on the LCP, and over a couple of sunny days, I feel like I have a paper to be proud of. Thank you for your patience and considerations with it. It is more developed than that first short critical paper, the Charles Johnson’s paper. The thought of that first paper is such a marker of growth to me now.

My creative endeavors move quicker now. I took some time to think about the questions you posed to me, and I later posed them to the characters in the story. I have written the first chapter again. Using a different point of view is a very forceful way to look at the work differently. I revised the first few pages several days after rereading my first draft. I chose to leave it alone for those days and when I started writing, I elected not to look at the original draft as I worked. As I start up on this new direction of the story, I think the revision will be more meaningful to me as a writer. I think cousin Joseph will be more meaningful too. But I have to tell you, the events of the last week are more consuming than anything I’ve known before.

I would love some suggestions about a new advisor. I was terribly impressed with Sarah during my first residence, but I know she’s moved on. I don’t have any strong feelings about anyone else. So, please, I’m open to any recommendations. How does the process work? My only experience, of course, has been with you.

I went to the teaching practicum workshop last residency. The plan had been to start looking at the end of October for place to teach. I have a few ideas, I have been talking to one of my professors at the Metropolitan State College of Denver who has been helpful. Also, I used to serve the chair of the English Department of the University of Colorado at Denver when I was a bartender. I’ve known him for years, and at one point (about five years ago) he was trying to persuade me to attend UCD’s grad program. I haven’t talked to him in a few months, but I will be looking him up once I get back to Denver. The apprehension of these two leads, of course, is that the stakes seem to be really high. As I remember my undergraduate days, the instructors seemed so much older and wiser. As I think about it, perhaps they were not much older than I am now. Be that as it may, I don’t feel particularly wise. Who knows? Also, there are a few other options for me, we have so many continuing education associations in Denver, and I do have plans of cold calling some. We’ll see, and I can’t wait to tell you the outcome during the January residency. Can you believe this semester is already at an end and we’re already talking about January?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Long Critical Paper G2/Goddard

Three Narrators Proposing a Single Journey
(Life Story in Poland 1934-1946)

Bruno Schulz, Jerzy Kosinski and Viktor Frankl represent a small generation of literature involving Poland, World War II and a similar background. While all three were Jewish in heritage, they were not all three Polish. Although he could speak German, Schulz, born in Drogobych, Poland, and murdered there in 1942 at the age of fifty, wrote solely in Polish. The Street of Crocodiles is Schulz’s most notable contribution to Polish literature. In Jerzy Ficowski’s introduction to the English translation, modern readers have a thumbnail sketch of Schulz’s life. Kosinski, born in Lodz, Poland in 1933, wrote The Painted Bird in the 1960s in English while residing in the United States. Viktor Frankl, a native of Vienna, Austria, spent three years existing in concentration camps in Poland from 1942 to 1945. While not being an ethnic Pole Frankl’s pertinent contribution of “Experiences in a Concentration Camp,” is a memoir of his time in Poland. Man’s Search for Meaning, which includes his memoir, was published in 1946 after his return to his life in Vienna. The larger scope of Frankl’s book is a text of psychology defining “logotherapy,” that has roots in his experiences in Nazi occupied Poland. Using these three books as an overall cultural view of a record of a single journey through life, each represents different stages of an individual’s development. To place each, Schulz as childhood, Kosinski as adolescence, and Frankl as adulthood, the overall journey through life is compared using common themes such as historical events and some basic human needs like food, home, and identity.
The year is 1934 and Sklepy Cynamonowe by Bruno Schulz is published. Unlike his contemporaries, Schulz wrote in Polish, he knew German, but not Yiddish. An English translation of this book came nearly thirty years later, in 1963 by Walker and Company. The translation introduced the English-speaking world to Schulz’s memoir of childhood in the provincial town of Drogobych, a town on the eastern frontier of Poland. After the author’s death and the liberation of Poland, Drogobych fell into the borders of Ukraine and renamed Drohobycz. More than a memoir of childhood defined as the narrator’s coming of age, The Street of Crocodiles serves as a record of a mode of life before changes of age, war, and political reorganization. The reflection of the Schulz narrator represents a childhood, and prewar Poland. The son of a tailor, the child’s development is without the trauma of war, occupation or the associated fear which ensued within five years of the publication of Schulz’s book. With his basic human needs such as food, home and identity being met, the narrator defines childhood in a course of conventional development.
Through the descriptions of food, and home the child narrator’s intensity becomes his identity in Schulz’s prose.
On those luminous mornings Adela returned from the market, like Pomona emerging from the flames of the day, spilling from her basket the colorful beauty of the sun—the shiny pink cherries full of juice under their transparent skins, the mysterious black morellos that smelled so much better than they tasted; apricots in whose golden pulp lay the core of long afternoons. And next to that pure poetry of fruit, she unloaded sides of meat with their keyboard of ribs swollen with energy and strength, and seaweeds of vegetables like dead octopuses and squids—the raw material of meals with a yet undefined taste, the vegetative and terrestrial ingredients of dinner, exuding a wild and rustic smell (Schulz 25).
In this scene, the narrator first makes a mythological comparison of the housekeeper Adela to Pomona, and then describes the full baskets of food. The allusion is apt; to the Romans Pomona was the goddess of fruit. The description of the basket of food, and the delivery of it by the housekeeper, the reader learns two major points about the child narrator: he is not going hungry, and his family is of a social class able to afford a housekeeper. If Schulz’s book is the beginning of a single journey through life, Adela’s baskets are an Olympic prelude of the description of food.
The representation of the home in the child’s exposition is equally as graceful. Hopefully in the human development, the home represents a safe place to be, and a place to return, a place of sanctuary. Generally, with children, home may represent an entire worldview as children are in the care of family. Schulz’s narrator is no different with his description of the home, making the family’s house a mysterious and powerful character in itself.
No one ever knew exactly how many rooms we had in our apartment, because no one every remembered how many of them were let to strangers. Often one would by chance open the door to one of these forgotten rooms and find it empty; the lodger had moved out a long time ago. In the drawers, untouched for months, one would make unexpected discoveries (Schulz 37).
Like the narrator, the reader makes unexpected discoveries in this house. Describing rooms, which seem to have no end, Schulz has the set up of an endless maze above his family’s tailor shop. Endless rooms and borders again suggest the social-economic status of the family. Presumably middle class, the size of the house is grand. The home within its walls is exciting and vast with borders, rooms, hallways. Under the notion of what became of this provincial town of Drogobych, and the fate of middle class Jewish merchants, perhaps the home of this narrator is more magical than the prose on the page.
The development of the child’s identity goes beyond his day-to-day living, and his family’s status in a chapter entitled “The Cinnamon Shops.” This chapter holds the most reveling material in the book, as it was the original title of the novel. During a family excursion to the theater, the father becomes distressed because he has left his wallet at home. A brief conference between the boy’s mother, and Adela, the decision to send the boy home to retrieve the wallet leads to an adventure. Of all the events of the book, this one is the only occurrence when the boy is alone. As he leaves the theater, he decides on a route home, one that will get him there and back to the theater in time for the rise of the curtains. He chooses a less familiar route, a route with a shortcut, but it is less familiar to him. The two precarious aspects to the decision are his vague knowledge of the town as well as his loneliness. In his mapping, he chooses a way, which takes him by a group of shops that stay open late, and hold mysterious inventories. This choice develops his identity in one action. The reader learns more than the contents of the shops, he learns the beginning thoughts of the narrator.
These truly noble shops, open late at night, have always been the objects of my ardent interests. Dimly lit, their dark and solemn interiors were redolent of the smell of paint, varnish, and incense; of the aroma of distant countries and rare commodities. You could find in them Bengal lights, magic boxes, the stamps of long forgotten countries, Chinese decals, indigo, calaphony for Malabar, the eggs of exotic insects, parrots, toucans, live salamanders and basilisks, mandrake roots, mechanical toys from Nuremberg, homunculi in jars, microscopes, binoculars, and, most especially, strange and rare books, old folio volumes full of astonishing engravings and amazing stories (Schulz 89).
Compacted in this one paragraph of the errand home the narrator reveals himself and his interest in the world outside of his microcosm. His interest in the shops as well as their contents moves the child outside his known world, making his identity as a person something to reflect on. He has not ventured out of his town, but through the contents of the Cinnamon Shops he hopes to gain knowledge of the world. His wandering home develops an identity through the independence of the errand. Although he travels to other parts of his town, the child always has his home.
Similar to the Schulz narrator Jerzy Kosinski’s narrator begins his journey in The Painted Bird as a child. Kosinski sets the scene for his novel and his character instantly.
In the first weeks of World War II, in the fall of 1939, a six-year-old boy from a large city in Eastern Europe was sent by his parents, like thousands of other children, to the shelter of a distant village (Kosinski 3).
Kosinski’s six-year-old narrator at the beginning of his novel is presumably the same age as the Schulz narrator. Living an entirely new set of circumstances Kosinski’s narrator loses his childhood almost instantly, and his treatment of those basic human needs of food, home, and identity is different from a child living only a few years prior. The state of affair in occupied Poland changes the culture as a whole, and the facets of daily life become distorted and stressed. Through the experiences of Kosinski’s unnamed narrator the transition of the child to the adolescent happens quickly and without warning.
The land of plenty described by Schulz in 1934 is definitely gone in the 1939 world of Kosinski.
The occupation of that part of the country by the Germans only deepened its misery and backwardness. The peasants had to deliver a large part of their meager crops to the regular troops on the one hand, and to the partisans on the other. Refusal to do so could mean punitive raids on the villages, leaving them in smoldering ruins (Kosinski 4).
This juxtaposition is the comparison with time and place: Schulz describes a peaceful pre-occupation provincial town and the status of the middle class, Kosinski describes the countryside where the peasants were poor (producing meager crops) even before the war. As a child in such circumstances, the lack of a basic need such as food colors the actions as well as the thoughts of this youth. Aside from the scant gatherings of food, this unnamed narrator is orphaned and dark-skinned, placing him as either Gypsy or Jewish neither being an asset during Nazi occupation.
The ceremony surrounding food is just as important as the biological need for nourishment. In the foster care of villagers, Kosinski’s narrator is fed, but not a part of the ceremony of dinning.
The miller’s wife served supper. They ate silently. The miller sat at the middle of the table, his wife on one side and the plowboy on the other. I ate my portion squatting by the oven (Kosinski 36).
While the boy eats, the action is for sustenance only. Although the miller feeds the boy, the peasants leave him subserviently in the kitchen. As he watches the men eat with appetite his formulation of thoughts and ideas are from afar. Not being included in this meal may not be a detriment to his development; however, the scene helps the reader to understand the boy’s position as outsider.
In Kosinski’s brief italicized introduction, it is blatantly clear that the major issue surrounding the narrator is not having a home.
The child was left alone to wander from one village to the next, sometimes sheltered and sometimes chased away (Kosinski 3).
Lacking all that is associated with a home, such as stability, shelter and role models, this narrator lacks the apparent childhood the Schulz narrator enjoys. Without a childhood, the narrator becomes independent much earlier in life, forced by circumstances to find identity.
The first of two identity-forming incidents happens when the youth takes residence with Garbos. Garbos, an abusive man, beats the boy without reason or warning. The boy’s only reprieve becomes the church.
I quickly rushed to the church alter. I started reciting prayers desperately, and again only those with the greatest number of days of indulgence attached to them. I had little time left. Besides, who knows, perhaps prayers at the alter itself, under the tearful eye of God’s son and motherly gaze of the Virgin Mary, might carry greater weight than those said elsewhere (Kosinski 129).
Finding solace in the church and in prayers, the boy gains identity with religion. The prayers themselves are his way of coping with the adversity at home and the abuse of his guardian Garbos. Identifying with prayers keeps him from the immanent danger he feels with Garbos. However, keeping with the basic premise of the novel, his life with Garbos and the church is a brief sheltering, and eventually the boy chased away is alone again.
The more astonishing second incident of formation of identity happens after the Red Army takes control of Poland. Mitka and Gavrila, two Soviet officers, take the boy in and help to rear him.
I read my first book with Gavrila’s assistance. It was called Childhood and its hero, a small boy, like myself, lost his father on the first page. I read this book several times and it filled me with hope. Its hero did not have an easy life either. After his mother’s death he was left quite alone, and yet despite many difficulties he grew up to be, as Gavrila said, a great man (Kosinski 186).
As Gavrila teaches the boy to read and exposes him to “great” Soviet literature, influencing him again, he finds identity for himself. Soviet doctrine has no need for religion, and the narrator quickly abandons the cross, God the father and God the Son for the Red Star and Lenin and Stalin.
The boy’s stay with the regiment closes and he goes to the orphanage in Lodz. “I put on a Soviet Army uniform which was made especially for me by the regimental tailor,” (Kosinski 208). For the remainder of the story, the boy never removes the uniform with the big Red Star on it. Once returned to his parents, a reunion after six years, the boy is unruly and has no want for parenting. As peace settles around him, his war continues at night where he finds refuge with the night people of his parent’s town. “I felt at ease with these people whose faces were concealed in the darkness of night,” (Kosinski 232). Ultimately, as his relationship with the night people end with a battle between militiamen, the night people go to jail, including the boy, Kosinski defines the parent-child relationship with one short sentence: “My parents looked at me puzzled but said nothing,” (Kosinski 232).
As The Painted Bird ends, the young narrator has returned home after a long time of wandering the frontiers of eastern Poland. The story must end here, in 1945, at the close of the Second World War; additionally, the story must end due to the nature of the narrator, because he is no longer “left alone to wander, sometimes sheltered and sometimes chased away,” (Kosinski 3). Essentially, the young narrator has gained his independence and at his young age has reached adulthood.
The perspective of the adult represented in Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning takes an entirely different approach to food, home and identity. Frankl’s treatment of food is what one would expect from all reports of life in a concentration camp.
During the latter part of our imprisonment, the daily ration consisted of very watery soup given out once daily, and the usual small bread ration, (Frankl 30).
Frankl’s treatment of food is the mere explanation of the famished.
Those who have not gone through a similar experience can hardly conceive of the soul-destroying mental conflict and clashes of willpower which a famished man experiences. They can hardly grasp what it means to stand digging a trench, listening only for the siren to announce 9:30 or 10:00 A.M.—the half-hour lunch interval—when bread would be rationed out (as long as it was still available); repeatedly asking the foreman—if he wasn’t a disagreeable fellow—what the time was; and tenderly touching a piece of bread in one’s coat pocket, first stroking it with frozen gloveless fingers, then breaking off a crumb and putting it in one’s mouth and finally, with the last bit of will power, pocketing it again, having promised oneself that morning to hold out till afternoon,” (Frankl 31)
Frankl’s depiction of food and the manner consuming it in a concentration camp is ideal in a continuity of story, from the full baskets of summer in Drogobych to the fugitive feast by the miller’s stove to absolutely no food at all, is the progression of time in Poland from 1934 to 1946.
Frankl’s description of home in Man’s Search for Meaning relies on the barracks in various concentration camps. However, in the final days of the war, Frankl transfers from one camp to another to help ease the suffering of fellow inmates afflicted with Typhus. On a train from Auschwitz, the inmates are crowded in cars with no room to move. Their destination, unknown, although many believe they are doomed to the gas chambers of Dachau. In the car, the prisoners who stand are able to see out the “peepholes,” while those seated listen eagerly to the descriptions of the passing scene. Frankl stands in this car.
I caught an eerie glimpse of my native town. I had the distinct feeling that I saw the streets, the squares and the houses of my childhood with the eyes of a dead man who had come back from another world and was looking down on a ghostly city,” (Frankl 33).
In his place of origin, his home, Frankl feels dead, and for him, home is not the comfort Schulz describes. Perhaps the difference between Frankl and Schulz’s narrator is age, time, and education. The first still lives with home close in his heart, whereas the second displaced narrator experiences home with detachment.
Identity being the last indicator of character is more insidious with the Frankl narrative. Having been an adult already at the onset of the war, Frankl’s perspective is not one of an emerging adult, but as an adult losing identity. His identity is lost instantly upon his arrival at Auschwitz.
While we were waiting for the shower, our nakedness was brought home to us: we really had nothing now except our bare bodies-even minus hair; all we possessed, literally, was our naked existence, (Frankl 15).
Aside from Frankl’s description of naked existence, perhaps the greatest point of the loss of identity is the loss of names. Frankl becomes number 119,104. Each of his fellow inmates losses a name and becomes a number. For their existence in these concentration camps, their identity is only as a number.
What stood behind that number and that life mattered even less: the fate, the history, the name of the man. In the transport of sick patients that I, in my capacity as a doctor, had to accompany from one camp in Bavaria to another, there was a young prisoner whose brother was not on the list and therefore would have to be left behind. The young man begged so long that the camp warden decided to work an exchange, and the brother took the place of a man who, at the moment, preferred to stay behind. But the list had to be correct! That was easy. The brother just exchanged numbers with the other prisoner, (Frankl 53).

Viktor Frankl’s aspect of this overall single journey is not contained solely in “Experiences in a Concentration Camp.” Being only the first pages of the book, Frankl reports the goings-on of daily camp life, his transport there and between camps; however, he has only written enough to illustrate his theory of Logotherapy. Hence “Logotherapy in a Nutshell” consumes the latter half of the book. A psychologist before World War II, Frankl naturally faced the circumstances of his imprisonment with the attitudes of a man of science. He tells the reader of the numerous scrapes of paper he used to write the beginnings of logotherapy.
The basic premise of Frankl’s school of psychology is the will of meaning into one’s life. In short, the individual has to draw his own meaning from existence into his life. Once a life has meaning, any suffering and pain no longer becomes a detriment to life.
Logotherapy in comparison with phychoanalysis is a method less retrospective and less introspective. Logotherapy focuses rather on the future, that is to say, on the meaning to be fulfilled by the patient in his future, (Frankl 98).
Ultimately, in the course of identity, Frankl’s contribution of individuality is more spiritual; one has to find personal meaning. In light of the former two narrators, Schulz and Kosinski, their identity is more the circumstances surrounding them. The development of will to meaning, not being on the forefront of their actions is understandable, their positions in the overall plot development is that of a child and an adolescent. All the understanding the Schulz narrator has is the perception of a young man in a world before adversity. The sights and sounds of a peacefully safe provincial town move him. Kosinski, conversely has the plight of a refugee in a hostile environment, he moves from place to place looking for the safety ordinarily granted to a young person. Using Frankl’s theory of Logotherapy, the will to meaning in the young Kosinski narrator is too difficult for him to see, although he makes strides to find it. The church and Soviet doctrine help him find some meaning in his surroundings, but they prove only to be the external influences imposed on him by others. Frankl must end the journey. Frankl makes sense of the suffering he and others experience by the Nazis and the time. In his musings he has felt life as a free man, and in the concentration camps of Poland, he lives a life closer to death than not. Summing up of the esoteric compote of camp life vignettes, Frankl distills the quiet essence of life into a single meaning, the willing meaning to life, and the future.
Thankfully, not all readers can relate first hand experience to the contents of these three books: The Street of Crocodile, The Painted Bird, and Man’s Search for Meaning. As a record of time and historical importance Bruno Schulz, Jerzy Kosinski and Viktor Frankl have left behind a legacy of events in and around Poland from 1934 and 1946. Using universally known facets of life, such as food, home and identity, an understanding of the development of each narrator is comprehendible.
The portrayal of the overall single journey, represented here in three aspects of development, childhood, adolescence and adulthood poses one assumption: can three narratives by three authors constitute one continuous plot line? In light of the short time period, a matter of about twelve years, this is a great possibility. The norm of human development from developing child to adulthood is about the same amount of years. The continuity of the story is perhaps the development of an entire people, the Polish, during those pivotal years during the middle 1930s and through the end of the Second World War. The change in attitudes, such as the cultural views of Jews of Gypsies from the time of Schulz to the time of the Red Army’s liberation takes into account attitudes imposed by an invading army. Changes in daily life, the views of food for instance, are completely indicative on the external forces within the borders of Poland at the time. Lastly, the values of the writer’s observed here are the reports of quality of life, even in their respective stages of development. The best each narrator achieves is the telling of their story, each building on the one before it, Schulz as the child, Kosinski as the adolescent, and Frankl as the adult.

Frankl, Viktor. Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 2006
Kosinski, Jerzy. The Painted Bird. New York: Grove Press, 1976
Schulz, Bruno. The Street of Crocodiles. New York: Viking Penguin, 1977