Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monsters in Literature


Group members:

Kristen W.
Mario P.
Kayla P.
Emily C
Tzivia H.

Looks like we can go with David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. Here's a link to the online book, so you can read while you wait for the hard copy of your book.

Posting schedule TBA.

26 comments:

Kristen W. said...

so we need to have a book decided by 12 noon tomorrow.. does anyone have any preferences?!

Tzivia H said...

I'm not sure what genre everyone is interested in. I know Emily isn't going to like some of the more classics. In spite of that, I was really interested in either Othello or Moby Dick (from Mr. Gallagher's list) or else Paradise Lost, A Clockwork Orange, or 1984. In terms of the last two, I'm not sure if these are necessarily very challenging. Nabokov also wrote another book- Invitation to a Beheading that might be interesting to explore.

Kayla P said...

From Mr. G's list, I was interested in either Frankenstein, but it sounds like Emily doesn't want that, or Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. But, I've always wanted to read A Clockwork Orange, and an Invitation to Beheading. So now would be a good time to do either.

Mario P. said...

I actually would enjoy reading either Frankenstein or Paradise Lost myself. Both are very interesting books. I am fine with really anything though, so don't be too concerned with me in making the final choice.

Kristen W. said...

well we need to make some sort of decision. So basically it is between, a clockwork orange, an invitation to beheading, and paradise lost.

so lets make a decision! everyone vote!

Tzivia H said...

I just looked up the David Foster Wallace one- Brief Interviews with Hideous Men which seemed quite interesting. I'd like to put my final vote in for that, which Kayla also expressed interest in. Other opinions?

Kristen W. said...

That one is fine with me!

Kayla P said...

So now we can narrow it down to clockwork orange, an invitation to beheading, interviews with hideous men, and paradise lost. I've never read any of them, so anything is fine with me. The library has copies of a clockwork orange,
but doesn't have copies of interviews with hideous men
When I typed in Paradise Lost, it gave me like 20 different possible choices, so I don't know if the one we'd want is there, and I couldn't find an invitation to beheading. But my personal vote is the hideous men one. That and clockwork orange. I'm stuck on those two.

Kristen W. said...

Kayla,
I've heard really good comments on both those books. So either one of those two is fine with me as well. I'd really like to read brief interviews with hideous men though. So that is my vote!

Tzivia H said...

1A

Frankly I've been dreading posting for the book, prolonging it as long as possible because I simply could not think of points of discussion. Wallace's decision to alter his tone, diction, topic, and structure make it extremely difficult to view the work broadly and to make connections between the stories. However, there were a few points I'd like to address that concern the book as a whole..

Thus far, it is apparent that many of the faults and missteps presented are of a sexual nature. "It cost me every sexual relationship I ever had," noted an interviewee on page 14. Either the men are highlighted for their sexual deficiencies or sexual dominance. Wallace seems to be commenting on the core carnal desires of humans, stripping us to our most feral. Wallace's candid way of discussing what could be considered touchy subjects was mirrored by his informal, conversational diction. As the breadth of the book was interviews frequent vulgarities, slang, colloquialisms were used to convey the human aspect of the narration. Ie, on page 65 as a young man reminisces, he notes, "But, just split seconds later, what I felt was I was so totally pissed off I could have killed him. It was weird- the memory in itself did not, at the time, get me pissed off, but only freaked out, like in a shocked daze." On that same note, one thing Wallace does most effectively is structuring his text to reflect dialog of varying pedigrees, education, backgrounds, etc. While all retain the conversational nature, the diction is altered slightly between interviews, providing nuance to the individuals. The interviewees are distinct while their predicaments are not.

Wallace also intermittently adds stories that are not interviews and do not focus necessarily on men nor the fault of men. This was especially prevalent within the story "Forever Overhead" (4-13). Focusing on a child on his 13th birthday, grappling with a diving board felt painfully irrelevant. Does anyone have any thoughts on its particular purpose?

To conclude, I felt that Wallace was most powerful when he broadened his scope away from simply failed or unhealthy relationships. This occurred primarily in the stories devoid of interviews, especially coming to mind is "The Depressed Person," (31-58). Through wry humor, Wallace accentuated an unfortunate human neediness and egotism. "The Depressed Person" and other comparable stories branch off from simply relationships and provide welcome development.

-Tzivia

Kayla P said...

1A-
David Foster Wallace’s “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” is even better than I had thought. Though in the beginning I wondered what it had to do with monsters, the more I read, the clearer it becomes to me. In all of his stories, he discusses how there is some form of a “monster” in us, or haunting us, or in that specific person. I’ve read a little past page 60 so far, so I don’t think I’ll be spoiling anything, but there’s a warning anyways. Since Wallace seems to love side notes/ footnotes, (as shown in The Depressed Person), I’ll throw in my own: I love how the book starts on page zero. I thought it was so random. I don’t really have any insight onto how this contributes to the book as a whole, or shows how we are monsters or anything; I just thought it was cool. Moving forward, A Radically Condensed History of Postindustrial Life really struck me. Though I wouldn’t necessarily call it a monster aspect of ourselves, humans do have a tendency to act out of a longing for acceptance. Wallace used Like Tzivia, I couldn’t find too many connections, but I think the one thing each has in common is that there is some “monster” in their life. The Depressed Person’s monster was her own self, and overcoming her depression. Other “monsters” are less tangible. In “Yet Another Example…” the main character fears blindness. He cannot overcome it, and keeps dreaming about it, which makes his days difficult to take control of. I felt like in “Forever Overhead” the point is that the boy has many different monsters to overcome. The first one is becoming an adult. The next, he faces at the pool, climbing up the diving board. But then towards the end, he begins to face a different kind of monster: time and space. By using many different scenarios and voices, Wallace showed how monsters can come from anything, if we let them.
1B
Tzivia, you were spot on when you said “One thing Wallace does most effectively is structuring his text to reflect dialog of varying pedigrees, education, backgrounds, etc.” I agree wholeheartedly. He somehow manages to capture the thoughts of a thirteen year old boy, but soon switch to the paranoid fears of a depressed woman. He manages everything in between as well, like the anger of a young man, hurt by things his father has forgotten. This goes back to my original thesis, that being that there can be monsters present in anyone’s life. Each person has their own to conquer.
I think it’s interesting that you felt “The Depressed Person” covered things better than the interviews. I felt the opposite way. I thought the interviews forced the mind to work in ways other than what it is used to. You have to piece things together, though it is not totally necessary for a good reading. Though their predicaments aren’t clear, it adds an extra layer of interest to Wallace’s writing. Instead of doing a question followed by an answer, as most authors do, he omits the question all together. This keeps the monsters from being visible every time. Instead, we may have to guess at what is being referred to, though each one clearly has some sort of issue or another.
On a final note, did anyone find “The Depressed Person” to be rather repetitive? Do you think it was intentional? Do you think the repetition added to the story, or took away from it?

Tzivia H said...

2A

Two questions that have concerned me in my continued reading of the book: 1) Why men? Why is it that Wallace chooses to focus on men? 2) Why are the questions removed? Instead of writing the questions, Wallace employs a "Q." to represent them. I can only assume he is more greatly emphasizing the interviewee, and preventing extraneous distractions. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

As we've been loosely dividing the reading by 60 page intervals, the second interval presented new choices for Wallace. In the story "Octet," Wallace creates a series of pop quizzes that illustrate different human situations. His use of "X" and "Y" as characters in one pop quiz and the use of only pronouns in another conveyed a sense of impersonality. The questions that Wallace posed at their conclusion suggested a judgmental streak in humans, as Wallace chose to make the questions impossible to answer given the information. For example, after giving a small paragraph of information about two terminal drug addicts, Wallace prods the reader to answer: "Which one lived," (111). Not only does the reader not possess the faculties to answer this question but chafes at the insensitivity of it. The pop quizzes serve to oversimplify human interactions and situations.

"For you, this is all ideas, you think we're talking about ideas. You haven't been there," Wallace writes on page 101. This serves as the central conflict in the interview labeled B.I. #46 07-97, as the interviewee attempts to provide a more positive perspective to rape. I only bring this quote up, because while I find the example to be an extreme case, the values are valid.

1B

Kayla, you seemed to pinpoint the core of Wallace's work in establishing a sort of a flaw in all humans, cynical as that may be. As you noted, I found it particularly powerful on page 0, "A Radically Condensed History of Postindustrial Life," regarding humans' need to feel accepted. To continue this, it seemed that Wallace not only feels that this is a mass-experienced flaw, but that it is so widespread, and so pertinent to our actions that it in turn has been deemed our history, in a most oversimplified way. In other words, at our very core we are conformists and it is society's standards that are essentially responsible for our actions and decisions. I would think this is also why Wallace placed this story on page 0, as it is our history, the back-story necessary to understand the rest.

I agree that the interviews do allow the audience to think more, attempt to discern the questions etc. For my part, I just couldn't discern depth to them or gain anymore insight beyond simply the relationship issues. The issues themselves were distinct but they all presented relationship mishaps. "The Depressed Person" simply offered a welcome reprieve from the multitude of relationship quandaries. I just can't seem to generally get into the book, as much as I enjoy Wallace's style.

To answer your last question, I did find it very repetitive, although I believe it was done intentionally. The repetition of her gripes, her thoughts etc merely add to the readers' disgust with the character and, as you noted, her personal flaw (monster): her self-involvement and neediness.

R. Gallagher said...

The posts are looking very astute so far. Keep it up.

Kristen W. said...

1A.

So when I was trying to figure out how to blog for this story I decided to just jump right in and talk about my immediate first reactions to the story. At first I was a bit skeptical on the writing style. I wasn't sure how different interviews would connect and create an actual story. After I read "Death is not the end" I thought to myself, great a story with more details than an actual plot.

After I began reading each interview I had noticed that there is a sort of narration change as each story starts. In "Forever Overhead" it was told in a way that was a bit demanding and maybe overwhelming. It immediately involved the reader in the story. I found that very interesting. In the next part, it was a less demanding way and a more questionated way. It was set up more like an interview than I thought it would. The author's way of attacking tone is very interesting to me.

1B

To agree with Kayla, I had trouble finding the "monster" as well. I just didn't see how anything was scary in a way. I was looking for something on the lines of Frankenstein. I guess that was a wrong way to enter the story. Well anyway, I agree with you completely when you say that the monster is found inside the people. It is all about faults and how they are created. The little things are picked apart until the "monster" is unleashed. I really liked how you said that monsters can come from anywhere if we let them. That really is the whole point of the interviews to me so far. As I was reading I thought of the quote "You are your own worst enemy." This really displayed the idea that within every person, no matter who, is a demon waiting to get out. The monsters are the ones who actually let that demon get the best of them and let it take over. I really thought that these interviews show the different kinds of people that are affected, and provides proof that anyone can be considered a monster, as Kayla said, "if we let them."

Kristen W. said...

2A.

So I thought I was done for tonight, but then as I shut the book I noticed something. The cover caught my eye more than usual. Sometimes the text is what is focussed on and the cover is forgotten. I really noticed that the man with the bag over his head is dressed nicely. He is wearing a dress shirt and a tie. That is pretty nice seeing as if this is interviews with HIDEOUS men. I found that to be kind of ironic. I also noticed the bag. I thought of it as a sort of mask. This relates to what I was saying in my last post. Everyone can be considered hideous at one point. It is all about who learns to hide it better.

On page 132 I noticed that more than half the page is offside notes. These notes are the one thing that remind me that it is still the same author throughout the book. They style in each story changes so dramatically that often I find myself thinking that I am reading completely different novels by different authors. This book reminds me of a slap of reality. It shows that everyone has something that they are ashamed of. This book just truely brings it out.

2B.

I wanted to comment on one of Tzivia's questions. You asked why it was men that are talked about. I found this was done to bring out a sense of irony. Normally men are the "top dog" and woman are the ones with flaws. The fact that Wallace is actually picking apart men and not women simply amazes me. For your second question I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head. The Q is enough to let the reader know that a question is being asked. There is no need to finish the word. It is unneeded. I find it pretty ironic though that he takes away the word to make it less noticable, yet it is sticking out to a reader like you. I am finding a lot of hidden irony throughout the text. Are any of you seeing it as well? I may just be seeing things in my own way that is completely wrong. I'd really like to hear what everyone else has to say about those two questions that Tziv asked.

Kayla P said...

2A
Wallace continues to show the flaws in humans, the monsters they all hold within them, in the next 60 or so pages. In “Think” Wallace used a stream of consciousness. As the character finds himself in a… let’s say, adulterous situation, he mentions “Her expression is Page 18 of the Victoria’s Secret catalogue…a combination of seductive and aroused, with an overlay of slight amusement meant to convey sophistication, they loss of all illusions long ago. It’s the sort of awkward expression that looks devastating in a photograph but becomes awkward when it’s maintained over real time. When he clasps his hands in front of his chest, it’s now clear he is kneeling to pray.” This narration adds a definite interest to the story. It also shows very clearly how things form in our brain, and what leads us to act. Humans generally don’t get one singular thought, and act on it. There is generally many little thoughts that finally lead to an action. (Take this with a grain of salt, of course.) In other stories, Wallace yet again dazzles with his ability to change from one type of voice to another. In B.I. #40 06-97, the main character talks about his arm, as it had never fully formed, which he refers to as his “asset.” He plays the pity card, which made me resent him greatly. That, I thought, was actually a good thing. Wallace makes me hate his characters. He creates such a strong personality for each of them, that you can’t help but love them or want to kill them. Not many authors make me feel that way, so I give him props for doing it.
2B
Tzivia, here’s an attempt to answer your questions. As to why Wallace chose to focus mainly on men, I can think of two possible reasons. One might be that he feels more comfortable writing about them. Being one, he can get into their minds more. Yes, he is good at switching personalities, but we all have our limits. Another more plausible reason that I can think of would be that talking about “men” could just sum up humans as a whole. Especially since this book is focusing on each human having a flaw, this could be just another flaw Wallace is pointing out. Since the beginning of time, women are thrown to the side. There are stories in the bible, like when Jesus fed the 5,000, it talks about how there were 5,000 men, and they just didn’t bother to count the women and children. In some languages, such as French, you use il for males, elle for females. If there is a group of nine females and one male, you automatically refer to them as ils. It’s a world that men dominate, even though people always tell us how equal we all are. Perhaps having this book be mostly about men, even though some things are things females do or think about just as often, was just a subtle way to point out yet another flaw. There was the interview about the man whose father worked in a restroom, and how hardened it made him. There is nothing that stops a female from experiencing the same grief over a family member gone cold. There are many other examples throughout the book that could be tweaked to fit a female’s views or feelings, yet Wallace chose not to take that route.
As far as the questions question, why does there need to be a question? You said that you felt it was to prevent extraneous distractions. I feel the opposite way. (I feel like I said the same thing on the last post I commented to you on, sorry for being contradictive. =]) I feel like the story could be told without the Q’s. Omit the “Yes” or whatever follows. In B.I. #46 07-97 it says “ ‘It’s a totally great book and now think about it, if there wasn’t a Holocaust there wouldn’t be a Man’s Search for Meaning.’ Q. ‘Alls I was trying to say is…’” and on it continues. But was the Q really needed? In some cases it does add some interest, yes, like in the interview before it, B.I. #19 10-96 “ ‘I think for me, it’s your smartness more than anything else.’ Q. ‘Ha. That’s possible, I suppose, from your point of view.’” It makes you wonder what was said. But it still doesn’t take away from the story. Like you said, each one presents something wrong in a relationship.
So another closing question: Is Wallace talented? Or do you think any author could change personalities so flawlessly? I think he’s talented, but we don’t know how long it took him to write this book, what kind of help he got, and not to mention, I’ve never tried writing in so many different characters. But I still think he’s talented. I’m almost positive I couldn’t write like this if I tried. Just one more thing to ponder.

Tzivia H said...

2B

Kayla, in terms of our "Q" debate, I may have not been entirely clear initially. I wondered why Wallace chose to omit the questions and simply write "Q" rather than wondering why there were questions at all. As you noted, the "story could be told without the Q's"- which was precisely the point I too was making. By writing "Q" instead of divulging the question in its entirety, Wallace allowed the focus to remain on the answers of the interviewees. Wallace thereby suggests that the interviewers' questions are immaterial and unimportant in the face of the responses. I fear I wasn't clear as we are essentially saying the same thing.

In response to your last query, I must agree that Wallace displays a level of talent especially in his seemless transition from interviewer to interviewer. However, in conceding that Wallace is a talented writer, I can not also concede that I am enjoying the book. There seems to be no development since the beginning, no changes, no progress, and even the differences in relationship issues offer no new themes or ideas. I wonder what other opinions you all may possess concerning the book as a whole.

3A

I am again drawn to a story that branches away from the relationships, as it piqued my interest more. In the story entitled, "The Devil is a Busy Man," (162-164), Wallace describes the impossibility of acting altruistically. He notes, "Meaning, it would infect the "motivation" for my nice gesture-- meaning, in other words, that part of my motivation for it would be, not generosity, but desiring gratitude, affection, and approval towards me to result. Despairingly, this selfish motive would empty the nice gesture of any ultimate value, and cause me to once again fail in my efforts to classifiable as a nice or 'good' person," (162). In broadening his scope, Wallace unearthed a fault in most humans rather than simply men, which I found more relateable. It hearkens to the first story, "A Radically Condensed History of Postindustrial Life," which so too disseminated a core flaw in all humans. In each example, Wallace cynically notes humans' natural tendency to pursue their own hidden agendas.

Kayla P said...

3A. I’ll begin this time with a question: On page 125, “Datum Centurio”, was a complete mystery to me. I had no idea what was going on. Was anyone else lost? Does anyone what any idea what it was about, and why it was included? I feel like I have a general idea, but I think it’s pretty off. The “gender specific” aspect of this dictionary goes back to what Kristen, Tziva, and I had all discussed in regards to this book clearly showing the more negative aspects of men, though it could be seen as showing flaws in every human. Also, dictionaries are very precise, causing some people to believe they are 100% flawless. Meanwhile, this is just Wallace pointing out one more time that humans will never be perfect, with each one having a monster, a mistake, or something else following them all the time. Like I said though, I don’t think this is correct. Does anyone else have any ideas about it?
Wallace’s pop quizzes would make anyone’s head spin. Many people I know love taking surveys or figuring out brain teasers. I feel that this is why Wallace chose to include these impossible quizzes. They are extremely detailed in some aspects, yet still manage to leave out a lot of information. Wallace throws in all the extra information to make it appear as if he is giving the whole story, yet he still leaves out whole chunks. I think he did that to make the mind work more. I feel like one thing he is saying in this book, aside from the monsters in all of us theme, is that none of us think enough. He sets up all these seemingly random things (like the Q’s, using mostly men, and the list goes on…) and it is up to us to choose if we’re going to question it or not. We can either just take it for what it is, or actually try and figure things out, which I think we’ve done a pretty good job of.
One interesting thing I found in these 60 pages was the Adult World stories. In part one, Wallace told it like a regular story. After awhile, the details began to repeat, as he seems fond of doing, and then after what seemed to me like a long stretch, that story stopped when there were still many unanswered questions. Then, Part two came along. This was told in a completely different format, more like hasty notes than a story. Though my attention had been shifting during part one, it was pulled right back in part two as I struggled to decode his use of initials and other techniques.

3B. Tzivia, pardon my misunderstandings. I completely agree that Wallace does this to show that the questions and the person asking them has essentially no effect on what the outcome of the interview will be.
As a whole, I thoroughly enjoy the book. I think the lack of change in relationships just shows how we are as humans. (Quick, look at this ) From Adam and Eve of Bible times to everyone of our time, we do one thing, we get hurt, we do it again; we wonder why we keep doing it… it never ends. So Wallace uses all these different voices in all these different scenarios to show essentially the same problem, and in doing so, he creates a realistic depiction of human nature. Instead of having characters with grand epiphanies, as many of us have so rarely, he creates these repetitive characters, which fits us much better (though we hate to believe it).

Kayla P said...

4A.
As Wallace continues to portray the monsters within, I notice more and more the truth in Tzivia’s comment. She said that essentially nothing changes. Yes, the format changes, and the monsters change, and the characters of course, but they are all the same, which made me think of how “unspecial” we all are. Isn’t that sad? As I mentioned in my last post, in essence, we’re all just turning in circles. The saying “History repeats itself” is nagging me as I write this. Each one of Wallace’s characters has an irritating monster that they acknowledge, but don’t seem to understand that something should be fixed. They take it as it is, not bothering to do anything about it. In B.I. #28 02-97 on page 226, K—and E—are discussing what women want. K—says “‘Whether it sounds Neanderthal or not, I’m still going to argue it’s the big one. Because the whole question’s become such a mess.’” Isn’t that true of everything? Wallace is showing that things don’t change; yes, they might sound Neanderthal, but that is how we are. We haven’t found a better way to process things, or a better way to do things. Even in B.I. 59 04-98 Wallace uses the sexual shortcomings of a man to show that things can’t change. We still haven’t found a way to push past our shortcomings so we can function in every aspect of life. We still have desires that we can’t figure out how to fulfill. Nothing is changing, be it in Wallace’s book, or in our very own life.

4B.
Kristen, I was looking for a Frankenstein at first too. I expected all these men to be criminals, or whatever. Yet, all these men that Wallace wrote about were regular men. Each one was a person that you could meet on the streets. You can even find a bit of yourself in this book if you look hard enough. Though most things were extreme, sometimes that’s the way things are. But if you can tone things down a bit, they suddenly start to seem familiar. I had a few “Ah ha” moments, remembering tidbits from here and there where I could relate. I’m still amazed that Wallace was able to show all these different parts of people. I think as a whole, this book was amazing, if not just for opening my mind and showing me that there is a monster inside all of us.

Kayla P said...

5A.
Though Wallace continues along with the theme of monsters, in “On His Deathbed…” he chooses a new kind of monster, one that hasn’t appeared, or at least not so prominently before. This monster lives within us, even though we can only see it living in others. The father angrily lists all the faults of his son, from how disgusting he looks, to how stupid he is. Consumed with jealousy, the father recounts every one of the boy’s faults from the day he was born, to the day of his marriage. Wallace creates this angry father, whose points actually seem very valid, to show how and why we can’t always see that the monster belongs to us, instead of the person we are reflecting it onto. The father speaks of the way his son “threw things aside and clutched at things, the way he broke things and just walked away… Psychotic, sociopathic. The grotesque lack of care for what we gave him.” (258) Even though the father gives enough of an explanation as to why the child was such a beast, the average person can probably guess that the hate the father felt was his own problem, instead of the child’s. By choosing to ignore his own monsters and portray them in someone else, the father becomes a perfect example for Wallace to show that humans love to take the blame off of themselves, and put it on anyone else. The same is true in “Suicide as A Sort of Present”. Though the mother recognizes her faults, she still continues to press her monsters onto her own child. Yet again, Wallace points out a flaw many humans have of depicting their fears on someone else.

5B. Kristen- in your 2nd post, you talked about the cover. I think it goes to show that everyone is hideous on the inside. Most likely, there is more good than bad, but everyone has that potential to be hideous, and not just in the physical sense. Men and women go to work everyday, wearing their nice clothes they just washed and pressed, and they walk down the street with a smile on their face, but inside something is eating them up. As far as the paper bag goes, aside from it being the usual thing someone uses to cover their face (at least in jokes), it’s also an average thing. You can get a paper bag almost anywhere. It’s plain and simple, and not gaudy or bright.
I had the same problem with remembering that it was all by the same author. I kept thinking “Who are these men, where did he find them?” then I’d realize “Oh wait, he IS these men, he’s making them all up.” I wonder though, how much truth is in these stories. Are these all things Wallace has experienced, or is he that capable of making things up? I guess it’s just a deeper look into human life that will show you all these things, but to be able to portray it so eloquently is such a marvel.

Kristen W. said...

3A

When I was reading this novel, I really couldn't help but notice the repetition in some of the chapters. In the chapter labeled, "Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders (XI)" the word "men" is used multiple times. This chapter focus' on certain events or circumstances and expands on them. It labels what a man could do wrong in any of these places. The diction is very simple and the sentences are short and to the point. That is one thing I noticed about this novel as a whole. Nothing is prolonged or dragged on. Everything seems to be straight up and concrete. Since the topic was bathrooms, I found it really interesting how he made the connection to the label of the door saying "MEN." I think this is why he creates the repetition of the word; to emphasize the fact that this is the "men's" bathroom and they are talking about "men" only. In this novel, everything is connected by a single common ground, men. That is where the title arrives from. These are the flaws of mankind. When I thought a bit more into this I wondered, yes it says "men" but often times woman are recognized by their man. Could this be a situation where it is about mankind rather than just men? It's just a thought. Anyone with any ideas?

3B

Kayla, I really enjoyed reading your comment on 4A and it really caught my attention. I really agree completely with what you wrote. Overall, nothing changed. Everyone has their problems. Although different ones arise, deep down nothing is quite that different. Satisfaction is not a word that I would use in today's world. No one is ever satisfied in anything that they do. That is what the monster is. It is the feeling of emptiness and realization that most of the time that void cannot be filled. I'm glad you added the quote "History repeats itself" since I was thinking about something on the lines of that. Everyday another problem occurs that is unable to be fixed or not even attempted. That is just how our world is functioning. It lives off of flaws. So I completely agree with you when you say nothing is changing in the book or reality.

Kristen W. said...

4A

Around pages 134 and 135 I thought more than usual while reading. The "pop quizes" that Wallace places within his novel really provoke my thoughts. The situation he sets up are simple, yet diverse. Ideas can be argued from both perspectives. I really believe these were incorporated within the text to have the reader's brain argue with itself. This provides an idea about how sometimes the monster within everyone can have a huge impact on an idea. Wallace, I noticed, is not afraid to write of events that most authors wouldn't dare to touch upon. That is what makes his novel so enjoyable to read. He stands out by opening expressing any idea that he feels he wants to incorporate in his text. These situations that he sets up really give the reader a chance to throw in their OWN ideas about a topic, rather than just listening to what Wallace has to say. He connects with the reader on a personal level by doing this. I believe he connected with me while I was reading. I felt as if Wallace really did want to hear my opinion on his topic. Within his text is something I never thought I'd read about, the truth about everything. (although sometimes exaggerated for effect)

4B

Ah! Kayla, your post 5A completely answered one of my questions while reading "On his Deathbed..." I really was a bit confused on what Wallace was trying to say by adding this chapter in his text. I realized that the monster was the father indeed, yet I wasn't sure why these faults were being picked apart about the son. That makes so much more sense to me. Everyone seems to believe that if they point out the flaws of others, theirs may seem to dissapear in a way. This is never the case, but people like to believe that it works. Often times people find themselves angry. This anger is taken out on the people around them to make that person feel better. This is the sad reality that we live in. Everyone brings down peers to make themselves feel better. Now that you said that Kayla I really feel like I have a much better grasp on what Wallace was saying within that chapter! Society will never change, will it?

Kristen W. said...

5A

For this blog, I decided to focus on one paragraph that stood out to me. It was located in "B.I. #72 08-98 North Miama Beach FL" He opens up by saying how he loves woman and everything that there is about them. I found the tone of this paragraph to be completely sarcastic. Wallace writes, "I love how you can never understand them." I found this line to be the most sarcastic of them all. Many men think of woman to be much to difficult, yet Wallace is treating the subject as if he is seeing it from a woman's perspective. He writes, "I love to watch them move." This really stood out to me as well. Watching them move as if it were some type of documented project. He is not saying this in a bad way, but I found it interesting how he is relating woman to being extremely different than men. He even states that the function in which their bodies move is different than that of men. Love is also emphasized throughout the paragraph which may counter my original thought of sarcasm. Does anyone have any input on what this paragraph means?

5B

To respond to others, I wanted to also talk about the reasoning behind the "Q" instead of an actual question. I completely agree with both Tzivia and Kayla when they said that it is just unneeded. I feel like the focus is on the answers only and Wallace wants to keep it that way. The questions themselves are left open for interpretation. This lets the reader be involved within the story. The questions may take away the focus of the answers themselves. So I completely think both of you were right on the money with your ideas on the reasoning behind it.

Tzivia H said...

*** These are accidentally and unfortunately late

4A
A noticeable shift occurred in the section, "Church Not Made with Hands," that I'd like to discuss. Although Foster's tone does alter between his different interviews, between the distinct characters, the writing always appears both forward and open. He does not mask any of the more distasteful, vulgar, or suggestive conversations with lyrical metaphors. It is for this very reason that "Church Not Made with Hands" was a surprise to read. Going against the grain, Wallace was extremely metaphorical and expressive throughout the story. The last section in it, "Rotate" noted that "The sky is an eye./The dusk and dawn are the blood that feeds the eye./The night is the eye's drawn lid./Each day the lid again comes open, disclosing blood, and the blue iris of a prone giant," (180). This elaborate quote notes the final connection between the desolation of a mourning father, perspective, and the artist Vermeer, that had been subtlety hinted at throughout the piece. Nevertheless, the story was quite convoluted and I don't think I comprehended all of its nuances.

I must note also the aptness of Wallace's writing. In a section entitled, "B.I. #28 02-97 YPSILANTI MI [SIMULTANEOUS], Wallace presents a discussion between two men who initially appear extremely insensitive and chauvinistic. They go on to discuss what a woman wants,
"K- 'From a male.'
E- 'From a guy.'
K- 'Sexually.'"
From this initial interaction, Wallace presents the men with male-superiority complexes, objectifying women into sexual objects. However, from this inauspicious beginning, Wallace does a surprising thing with his text. The men ironically seem to know a great deal of the plight of women, noting "who wouldn't be nuts with the kind of mess of contradictions laid on them all the time in today's media culture?" (193), and that a woman is further "expected to be both sexually liberated and autonomous and assertive, and yet at the same time she's still conscious of the old respectable-girl-versus-slut dichotomy.." (194). Wallace creates men who both understand women in some respects but still possess some archaic views on them, ie, "they do make great moms" (198). In this way, Wallace built a more realistic image of men and their flaws.

3B
Kristen noted a technique of Wallace's that is used with frequency throughout the text. Kristen, you wrote, "That is one thing I noticed about this novel as a whole. Nothing is prolonged or dragged on. Everything seems to be straight up and concrete." This certainly has been prevalent throughout the book as Foster goes to great lengths to be overt about his subject matter. As I mentioned before, it is especially for this reason that the story "Church Not Made With Hands" created such a dichotomy between the other stories, as it does not possess this core trait of undisguised language.

Tzivia H said...

4B

I'd like to continue a very compelling point that Kayla made concerning "On His Deathbed.." As you mentioned, "By choosing to ignore his [the father's] own monsters and portray them in someone else, the father becomes a perfect example for Wallace to show that humans love to take the blame off of themselves, and put it on anyone else." It is the structure of the piece that makes it most engaging. Rather than simply overtly discussing the father's flaws, Wallace chooses to imply them through his discussion of the son's flaws. I have to disagree slightly with your analysis though, Kayla. You noted that the father's sole flaw was his ability to immorally place blame on others, but is not jealousy and superfluous hatred a flaw as well? I wonder, could not his inherent jealousy for his son be a flaw too? Just a thought.

5A

Also on the subject of "On His Deathbed," I would like to add a new point to the above analysis. The decrepit father spoke throughout the story to an ambiguous, "Father," ie "I know too well how this might sound, Father," (232). By the conclusion of the story however, the reader realizes that the father was not talking to a priest at all, but his own son in a hallucinated haze. The irony of this section springs mainly of the use of "Father." The priest, or "Father," that the dying father believed himself to be speaking did not in reality exist. This was very much mirrored by the father and son's relationship. The man was a father in name only to the hated son, much like the son was being called "Father" in name only (through the hallucination).

I'd also like to comment on the conclusion of the piece, ending with the story- "The Porousness of Certain Borders (XXIV)." Through his discussion of twins, one mimicking the other, Wallace notes the natural tendency of humans to conform, the "gross and pitiless sameless" (273). Wallace uses the conclusion of the book to expand his purpose once more and disseminate a flaw in all humans, rather than simply men. He does this too at the very beginning of the book, noting humans' need to feel accepted and natural tendency to conform to society's standards. In his reiteration of this point, both in the beginning and end of the story, one could assume that Wallace finds mass conformity, or "sameness as he noted with venom, a core failing of human beings. He certainly is a cynical author.

Tzivia H said...

5B

To conclude, I'd like to continue a discussion that Kristen began. You wrote of the interviewee's watching women, as if they "were some type of documented project." This denotes the core assumption of that interview- objectifying women. Although appearing harmless, I actually find the piece moderately offensive. The interviewee generalized and stereotyped women into categories, rather than recognizing their distinct differences and unique personalities. While the interviewee discussed some characteristics of different women, how he loves "short ones, tall ones, fat ones, thin," (191), he viewed them only on the surface. For this reason I found it highly ironic that he went on to say, "I love how different they all are," when he does not even seem to register any of the nuanced differences between women. The interviewee rather noted only the blatant, most apparent, physical differences between them- their appearances, voices, smells. With a biting irony, Wallace writes through the interviewee, "What would the world be without women?" (192). In this manner, Wallace recognizes the importance of women sardonically through the eyes of a chauvinist- valuing them only for their physical attributes. To go back to your original point Kristen, you waffled between love and sarcasm as the main element in the paragraph and to be frank, I think they're both prevalent. The man is experiencing some loving feelings, however, he is quite misguided. His archaic values glorifying only the physical characteristics of women is especially highlighted through Wallace's sarcasm/irony.