it's about

the music of chance, obsessive writing, intertextuality, conversation -- oh yeah, and some "real" life...

29 November 2011

Notes from Underground

"I have in my own life merely carried to the extreme that which you have never ventured to carry even halfway; and what's more, you've regarded your cowardice as prudence, and found comfort in deceiving yourselves. So, in fact, I may be even more 'alive' than you are. Do take a closer look! Why, we don't even know where the living lies today, or what it is, or what its name is."

"through loss of contact with anything alive"

"lost touch so badly"

Frustration, Humiliation, Fear, Rage

The unnamed narrator in Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground is the exaggerated form of the man who continually reasons and therefore does not live. Incessantly, he makes plans that he believes will demonstrate he is a valuable individual. At times he merely wants to be considered an equal by others. But, most of the time, he is obsessed with issues of power, feeling powerless; he dreams of having some kind of control over other people, often involving abasement and humiliation. He ends up humiliated himself. Mentioned in the previous post, the only way for him to realize this power is to fantasize about physically clashing with others, including scenarios where he is thrown through a window or is involved in a duel. The actual encounter with the officer, where he does bump into him, instead of satisfying, leaves him feeling anxious and physically sick, especially when he registers the lack of recognition from the officer that the encounter even occurred. In the end, when he reveals his lack for living life, the reader is still left with the uneasy feeling that even if he, or we, were to actually live life, there might not be very many people to share the kind of intimacy that would be fulfilling to an open person.

24 November 2011

Fyodor Dostoyevsky Notes From Underground

What to make of the "slap" and the previous "knocking into" of the friend, the police officer? All of the narrator's efforts are focused on this one moment of physical contact.

21 November 2011

Michael Ondaatje The Cat's Table

There is a scene two thirds of the way through Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Tale where the narrator, Michael, also called Minah, sits on the bed of his beautiful cousin Emily. Michael is eleven. He tells her about the dog the boys brought onboard who was responsible for the bite that killed Sir Hector. Emily tells Michael, “Don’t...I mean, don’t tell anyone else about this -- what you just told me” and the narrator remarks on the “tradition” that has started between them of secrecy. Michael orders her coffee. Emily kisses him but we are not told if it is on his head or lips. She sits up and reaches for her robe and Michael says, “But what I saw hit me at the base of my heart.” Ostensibly, not mentioned, the reader believes he has caught a glimpse of her breasts. Michael experiences sexual awakening at this moment but it is more than this: “Suddenly there was a wide gulf between Emily’s existence and mine, and I would never be able to cross it.” Michael notes that he has experienced this feeling at certain times throughout his life, “And was it pleasure or a sadness, this life inside me? It was as if with its existence I was lacking something essential, like water. I felt in that moment that I had been alone for years. I had existed too cautiously with my family, as though there had been shards of glass always around us.” Michael’s thoughts reveal a lifetime experience with melancholy as he questions from what source it has sprung. Michael’s first taste of it allows him to more carefully and slowly consider the people and events around him as Ondaatje’s novel fills and more deeply explores considerations of the complications of experience.

16 November 2011

Michael Ondaatje The Cat's Table

The Cat's Table takes place on the ocean liner the Oronsay with the title referring to the table the narrator, Michael, is assigned to to eat dinner with the other lowest class travelers enroute to England. I am only about a third of the way into this novel and reading this account of the narrator, who befriends Cassius and Ramadhin, their discoveries during the voyage of 21 days which include meeting several idiosyncratic adults such as the botanist, Mr. Daniels; the performer The Hyderabad Mind who is part of the Jankla Troupe; and the musician, Mr. Mazappa. This 21 day voyage, a time of leave taking from Colombo and sailing towards an unspecified new life in England is a time of unprecedented freedom for the boy who, unfettered, grows.

02 November 2011

Entry 2 The Sense Of An Ending

When Adrian contacts Tony to tell him he is seeing Tony's former girlfriend, Tony relies with a pithy "everything is jolly fine by me, old bean." He decides to pretend he does not mind.Given his previous actions and comments, the reader does not see much evidence of why he should mind. The characteristics of the unreliable narrator begin to multiply. Later, he writes a "proper" letter where, "As far as I remember, I told him pretty much what I thought of their joint moral scruples" and tells Tony he thinks Veronica had suffered "damage a long way back." Damage is a consistent, recurring issue in The Sense Of An Ending which in our lack of empathy none of us can fully fathom and that reverberates and echoes in major and minor ways throughout the novel. Tony's estrangement from his own emotional life loom large. He thinks he knows what he is all about. Even Margaret's rather innocent catty nickname for Alexandria, "the Fruitcake" takes on a sinister meaning as we read to the end of the story. No one in the novel is innocent or blameless. And, actually, however much Tony tries to make sense, he cannot. And there is no ending or any kind of sense of one. Barnes' novel kept me awake last night thinking through the various scenarios repeatedly,as Tony does.

Entry 1 The Sense Of An Ending

Julian Barnes latest novel, The Sense Of An Ending, winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize, begins with the narrator, Anthony, in a secondary school classroom with the instructor, Joe Hunt, asking the boys the "seemingly simple question, What is History?" This question becomes the basis for Tony's quest sixty odd years later and proves to be the opposite of simple when it comes to attempting to determine any conclusions about the motivations and actions that occurred throughout his life once he left that room. Anthony replies quickly to the instructor without taking time to think: "History is the lies of the victors." Hunt states, "I was afraid you'd say that. Well, as long as you remember that it is also the self delusions of the defeated." This is exactly what Anthony forgets until he is well over 60 years old and is faced with Memory.