Species of Spaces

17 Apr

This story by George Perec is an interesting narrative about different kinds of spaces, and the setting is space.

He starts out by describing his writing in regards to space; what kinds of things he writes on and how he breaks up a page (taking into account the different parts of a page, like footnotes and margins). The narrative then moves on to describing space in general as different scenes in nature or different scenes that one sees in their everyday life.

The next space he talks about is the bed. He uses very descriptive language to describe different aspects of the bed: what it looks like, what its general purpose is, what his own bed does for him, and what his own bed is like. He then zooms out a bit and does something similar with the bedroom: what goes on there, what different kinds there are, questions as to what it means to live in one, etc…When he zooms out to the whole apartment, he writes out a typical family’s daily schedule to map out what goes on in what part of the apartment and at what time. He goes into describing “useless space,” that is, rooms that are left empty, and wonders what possible purpose they could have, and later lists a bunch of verbs that are involved in moving out of and into an apartment. Lastly he talks about the parts of an apartment, like doors, staircases, and walls.

Perec uses a lot of his own personal experiences and memories to give “life” to all these different spaces he describes.The mapping came in different forms. There was how he wrote a footnote and wrote in the margins to describe a page, starting with the bed and eventually zooming out to the room and then to the apartment, and the family schedule.

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Urban Safari

9 Apr

For this project, I decided to use three walks: the walk from Sendik’s to Bayshore that I take occasionally, the walk from the bus stop to my house that I take practically every day, and the rare walk around downtown Cedarburg (which I always love). The first two were pretty directed and planned when it came to what I wanted to write about them. The walk through Cedarburg however, well, I went in not knowing what I should focus on and took a bunch of random notes about what I did and saw. As a matter of fact, I just went there because it was somewhere different and easily accessible (thanks to mom). Towards the end, I realized there was a mini adventure in it afterall. I wanted to find a bead store that I had been in once before in the area. Our walk became more about that than it did collecting “data” for writing. It turned out to be an interesting and rather unexpected “journey,” so I guess I succeeded afterall! It’s weird when things don’t turn out the way you expect them to, but they still turn out.

Emergency

2 Apr

This short story by Denis Johnson has two main characters: the unnamed first-person narrator, and his friend Georgie. These two are characterized as two drug users that work in a hospital (where they get their drugs from). The narrator tells us right away that Georgie likes to steal pills, and we can see right away that he has already taken some, because he is STILL cleaning blood off of the floor in the operating room, even though the floor is already clean. Surprisingly, Georgie is able to prep a patient with a knife in his eye, and successfully pull the knife out.

Later, the two go driving after they have both taken pills. They drive and they drive, and keep going only because they got lost and want to find their way back home, and that Gerogie wants to save the baby bunnies they found. They sleep in Georgie’s truck on the side of the road because Georgie didn’t want to drive at night without headlights.

The main conflict is that Georgie and the narrator don’t know where they are, what’s really happening, or exactly what they’re supposed to do (especially when it comes to the baby bunnies) because they are on drugs. This conflict is resolved when they wake up in the morning and they go back to work as usual like nothing ever happened. They had forgotten about what happened the night before. Another conflict arises at the end with Hardee, the boy who ran away from the army. Georgie and the narrator want to help him escape to Canada, but we don’t know whether or not ths conflict is ever resolved.

Tall Tales from the Mekong Delta

12 Mar

I found this short story by Kate Braverman very strange, yet very complex.

The two main characters are an unnamed woman and Lenny. The woman is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. We find out from Lenny that she is a rich Creative Writing teacher living in Beverly Hills with her daughter and cleaning lady. From her interactions with Lenny, we discover that without her drugs, she is very vulnerable and easily influenced, even though she does hesitate a lot. Lenny is a very persistent stalker-type guy. He follows the woman around town and shows up everywhere she is. He is a Vietnam veteran and a drug addict/dealer. There is also a third-person limited narrator. The narrator mostly describes the setting and thoughts that the woman has and what she sees.

The story is told from the woman’s point of view. We see the things she sees, hear what she hears Lenny say to her, and sense her fear. The narrator digs into her head and tells us what she’s thinking and feeling. We never find out how Lenny feels or what he is thinking; we only see the words coming out of his mouth.

In the beginning, the woman is very afraid of Lenny and tries to avoid him. As time goes on, she starts to slowly give in to him, and eventually he causes her to go back to drinking and smoking. He tells her that it’s all ok, and her weakness and vulnerability is what causes ultimately allows him to convince her.

Throughout the story, the symbol of the color blue shows up repeatedly. The color blue traditionally represents depression and sadness. In the story, the blue becomes a character in the way that it clings to the woman’s body in clusters while she’s in the pool, or how it’s a sound that she thinks is coming from her, and especially something that knows where she lives. I would like to argue that the “blue” is Lenny: the one that follows her around and makes her fall back into her old habits. The blue is also the weakness, vulnerability, and depression the woman feels because of her withdrawal from drugs and alcohol. It’s ultimately her struggle with overcoming addiction, and since that’s something that sticks with a person wherever they go, that’s how the blue/Lenny clings to her, comes out from inside of her, looms over her head and knows where she lives.

Question

5 Mar

This poem by May Swenson, to me is a poem about describing her relationship with her body, as well as a question about what happens in the afterlife.

She refers to her body as her house, her horse, and her hound. Her body os just a form-changing vessel in which she, as her soul, resides and uses to carry out its purpose and to survive. The way she asks her body what she will do when it is dead shows that she realizes the mortality of a physical body, but believes in life after death. She’s just unsure what to expect after physical death.

She says, “How will I know in the thicket ahead is danger or treasure when Body my good bright dog is dead?” Her uncertainty about what lies ahead after death frightens her. She feels that her soul will no longer be safe and she will be exposed. It seems her attachment to her body comes from the sense of security it provides her. Since she can manipulate her body to be a house, horse, or hound, she can also manipulate it to be a hiding place for things she doesn’t want others to know, just as one can put on a fake smile to hid sadness. Swenson likes having the ability to manipulate her body, and is afraid to lose that in death.

Study of Two Pears

4 Mar

I felt it fitting to eat a pear while writing this entry.

The meaning of this poem by Wallace Stevens is simple: it’s an attempt to describe two pears. Actually, the way that the stanzas are numbered, and the way that the shape and color of the pears are mentioned in each turns it into six separate poems: each a failed attempt to describe the pears.

The first stanza tells what pears are not, then says pears are don’t look like anything at all. Looking at the half-eaten pear sitting in front of me, I’d say that pears do have a very unique, distinguished shape. There are many different things, shapes, or forms you can try and compare them to, as Stevens does in the five following stanzas, but as he says in the last two lines, “The pears are not seen as the observer wills,” in shape or in color. Stevens also talks about the color of the pears. Most are not one solid color. The pear I’m eating is a perfect example. It has multiple colors, but I can’t list each color separately, because as one with a background in visual arts, the colors are layered one upon the other. I can see how hard it was for Stevens to describe this because it’s difficult to mentally visualize “layered colors.”

So, Stevens’s poem is six ways to describe how a pear looks, but describing how delicious they taste is a different story!

Cathedral

4 Mar

I remember reading this short story in AP English.

This is a story about acceptance and learning to take a walk in someone else’s shoes. The man that is the main character is characterized as very judgmental and prejudiced. He scoffs at the name of Robert’s wife and automatically assumes it’s the name of a black woman. He thinks it’s ridiculous that a person can love someone they can’t see. When Robert first arrives, the man discusses the beautiful scenery that can be seen on the train ride Robert took, and says it can be seen best from a certain side of the train. He then asks Robert which side of the train he sat on, just to be purposefully inconsiderate. He thinks that all blind people walk around with dark glasses, a cane, and a seeing eye dog, and is shocked to see Robert walk in wearing a suit and beard. The surprises continue as Robert eats his meal and smokes. If it wasn’t pointed out that he was blind, we as readers wouldn’t know because he is characterized as just a normal man who is different only because of his blindness.

The way the man talks about the relationship between his wife and Robert makes him appear somewhat jealous of Robert. He makes a point to note that he never got to hear what Robert said about him on his tape, and didn’t care to. He talks about how his wife let Robert touch her face, then wrote a poem about it and goes on to say that he didn’t read it because he doesn’t understand poetry. As his wife and Robert converse, he becomes slightly upset that he wasn’t mentioned at all, but rather the conversation revolved around Robert. When his wife falls asleep and her thigh is exposed, he goes to cover it up, before realizing that Robert can’t see it anyways.

As the story continues, the main character starts to warm up to Robert; offering him drinks and dope. They talk about the program that’s on TV. The man starts to become sympathetic towards Robert, and offers to describe a cathedral to him the best he can. When that doesn’t work, Robert suggests that they draw a picture of one together. The man gladly accepts, and halfway through Robert tells him to draw with his eyes closed. Robert then tells him to open his eyes and look at the masterpiece once it’s all done, but the man decides to put himself in Robert’s shoes and keeps them closed to “view” it instead. It becomes an eye-opening experience for the man, even if his eyes are literally closed.