Monday, December 14, 2015

The Style of Song of Solomon

Song of ­Solomon is an interesting novel, not only for its content, but also for the style in which it is written. This novel seems to be a combination of a coming of age story as well as an epic heroic quest-type story. Song of Solomon also contains some elements of a tragic love story like the one we saw in Wide Sargasso Sea.
I think the way Morrison crafts Song of Solomon as a coming of age story is very unique. For much of the novel and Milkman’s life, we see very little character development. Only now, in his thirties, do we see him breaking away from his family and hometown, and really becoming an independent adult. When I think of a coming of age story, I think of one in which the main character is a teenager or young adult, not in his thirties. Even though the age at which Milkman really finds out who he his is a little delayed, Song of Solomon still follows a typical coming of age story line where the main character goes on an adventure or blossoms under an extenuating and learns a lot about the world and themselves.
The adventure that Milkman goes on brings me to my next point, the sort of epic quest in Song of Solomon. Like we talked about in class today, Milkman’s journey/wild goose chase through the south for gold is reminiscent of other epic quest like the Iliad and the Odyssey. Even though (as of yet) Milkman has not struck gold, he meets his relatives along the way and learns about his families past and in a sense, comes of age.
Throughout the course of this adventure and Milkman’s coming of age, made me develop a new opinion on many of the main characters in Song of Solomon. I like Milkman a lot more now that I see him being independent and also becoming a more empathetic person (e.g helping the man with the crate). Likewise, I no longer like Guitar and Hagar. Since Milkman has left (although even before for Hagar), they have changed for the worse. Guitar is trying to kill his best friend and Hagar completely defines herself by him. Where Milkman is trying to have his father dictate his actions less, Guitar and Hagar let Milkman solely define theirs.
I think that Song of Solomon could also be describes as a tragic love story. Hagar and Milkman’s relationship has deteriorated and Hagar is driven to insanity by Milkman’s lack of love for her. We see her as the “mad woman” trying to kill him every month, similar to how Antoinette was driven to madness by Rochester’s cruelty and tries to burn his house down once in England. Guitar and Milkman’s relationship at the end of the book is also pretty tragic. They used to be best friends and now Guitar is convinced Milkman is cheating him so he wants to kill him. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that Guitar want’s to kill Milkman, but that fact is a lot sadder because Guitar seemed to be Milkman’s only friend not related to him by blood.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Nailing The Twentieth Century (open-genre creative project)

For my open-genre creative project, I decided to turn our books into nail art. I painted my nails to represent important themes and scenes from many of the books we've read this semester (all of them except Song of Solomon and The Stranger). Above each nail I've written what it depicts and I've given explanations for the maybe not so obvious ones.

I think that these nail designs say a lot about the takeaways of the books. With time, I've probably forgotten some less crucial details of the stories, and only the really big things stick with me. My designs show what I think are the five most important things from each book. To condense these books into just five tiny snapshots required me to think about what the really important scenes and motifs  of each book were. It was really cool to figure out what I wanted to paint and then have to wrestle with the logistics to make it look decent (the bull and Gregor took forever to get right). I also enjoyed seeing my designs develop to look better and be more practical. In total I think I spent about five hours planning, doodling sketches of designs and stinking up my bathroom with polish and remover.

**Note: this post is sorta long, but it's mostly pictures**

 The Mezzanine


Broken Shoelace

CVS Logo


Cookies and Milk

Mrs. Dalloway 


Clouds, to represent the motor car montage

A hat for Lucrezia and Septimus

A clock, to represent the passage/use of time in the novel

More flowers

The Sun Also Rises


Fish, for Bill and Jake's fishing trip

A bull

A matador's cape

Art deco, because the novel is set in the 1920's

The Metamorphosis

An apple

Fabric, because Gregor is a traveling fabric salesman


A key

Wide Sargasso Sea

A heart, for all the romance (good and bad) in the novel

A rock with blood and a tear for Tia and Antoinette

Waves, for a wide Sargasso Sea

Rochester's stick figure drawing


Monday, November 9, 2015

First Thoughts On Wide Sargasso Sea

We’ve been reading Wide Sargasso Sea for a while now and in the beginning I kept getting an almost déjà vu sensation that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I have since come to realize that Wide Sargasso Sea was reminding me of Mrs. Dalloway. The way Jean Rhys has huge jumps of time in her narrative and switches narrators reminds me of Virgina Woolf’s free indirect discourse. Now that I’ve recognized the similarity between Rhys and Woolf’s writing style, I’m wondering if their novels share any other characteristics. I’ve noticed that they both do that thing where they introduce minor characters for one scene or chapter and then never mention them again. As I continue reading Wide Sargasso Sea, I am now on the lookout for flashbacks and more narrator changes. On the whole, I am enjoying Wide Sargasso Sea, although I find it very confusing. I don’t always know how old Antoinette is or the names of all the people she is surrounded by. The children who tease her, the nuns in the convent, even Tia, now seem inconsequential. Other then giving us a glimpse into how Antoinette’s life, they don’t always move the plot along.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Twentieth Century Novels Need More Aliens ( Thoughts on The Man Who Wasn't There)

The movie The Man Who Wasn’t There reminded me a lot of The Stranger. From the absurd ideas to the trial, there were lots of similarities. It was a little difficult for me to follow along with the plot of The Man Who Wasn’t There and that combined with the general vibe of creepiness the movie gives off made it an unpleasant two hours for me. While I wouldn’t want to watch it again or recommend it to a friend, I could be convinced to watch a sequel about what happens to Birdy, Frank and Dave’s wife after Ed is executed. The one thing I did enjoy about this movie was the UFO references. It didn’t play a huge role in the plot, but I found it lightened up an otherwise serious story. Imagine if all of our twentieth century novels had aliens in them; “Gregor is returned home after a night aboard a UFO to find himself a giant cockroach” or “Howie found the aliens’ spaceship rather interesting. He wondered what life was like on their planet. Were they so advanced that they had invented special tear- proof shoelaces? Or perhaps they had evolved to no longer need shoes at all”.  I have found some of the books we’ve read a little boring and aliens could definitely liven them up.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Strange Title

The Stranger by Albert Camus is proving to be a captivating and thought provoking book. It centers around the events leading up to and after Mersault’s murder of an unnamed Arab. I am really enjoying this book and I find it the most accessible novel we have read so far this semester.

The one thing I don’t understand about this book is the title. Why is it called The Stranger? Who is the stranger? As of page 99 out of 123 (80% of the book) I have no idea why this book is titled The Stranger. In The Mezzanine, Mrs. Dalloway, and The Metamorphosis the title had a clear connection to the novel.

Am I’m missing something? Perhaps I don’t yet understand the title because its reasoning is revealed later in the book.  As I continue to read The Stranger, my curiosity only grows about the meaning behind the title. I have resisted the urge to visit Wikipedia and have come up with a few hypotheses about the significance of the title.

1.         It could refer to the Arabs in the novel. They are never personally named and appear in the novel to be one indistinguishable friend group that just shows up. We never learn anything about them except for the fact that the sister of one of them was Raymond’s mistress. In that sense, to the reader, the Arabs are almost complete strangers.

2.          This hypothesis is a spin off of the previous one, but instead of the Arabs being strangers to us, the Arab who Mersault murders was a stranger to him.

3.         Could the term “stranger” refer not to an unknown person, but to one who is strange? Mersault and Raymond and Salamano all have major issues and are very strange. Mersault is especially strange in the way he goes along with Raymond even when it is not ethical, has no sense of self preservation and in the way he reacts to his mother’s death.

4.         The title could be a reflection of Albert Camus’s intrigue with the absurd. The absurd is the idea that everything in the meaning only has meaning because we give it meaning. That said, maybe Camus is trying to say we are all strangers until we meet and give meaning to our interactions. I think this one is a little far fetched, but it could be a possibility.

These are just a few ideas that have been floating around in my mind as to why The Stranger is titled The Stranger. Hopefully as we finish up the book, we’ll get a clear answer and the title will make perfect sense.