Wait, there’s a book?

September 27, 2007

It would seem that in order to comment on the book, I would just be repeating everything I had said after we watched the movie. 

There is one big difference between the film and novel.  The novel starts off like the film in that we are already in the building and the narrator has the gun in his mouth and all of what follows is a recounting of the events which got us to this point.  In the film, the main goal of Project Mayhem is to destroy all the credit card buildings.  In the novel however, it is revealed that the building they are in is going to be destroyed simply so that it will collapse and destroy the museum next to it, “The last shot, the tower, all one hundred and ninety-one floors, will slam down on the national museum which is Tyler’s real target.”  And from that same page, “This is our world, now, our world,” Tyler says, “and those ancient people are dead.”  It would seem that Tyler would agree with Baudrillard’s notion that we as a society need to create a visible past for ourselves, which is why museums are built.  And Tyler feels that in order for mankind to move on and move away from this, all relics of the past must be destroyed.  Thus leaving all focus on the present and future.

One thing that I’ve always wondered whenever I watch the movie, and something that came up again after reading it, when the narrator is at one of the support groups and they are instructed to go into their caves and see their power animal, why a penguin?  Nothing against penguins, but I always wondered if there was some meaning behind the narrator’s power animal being a penguin.

   

Jameson

September 27, 2007

This piece was pretty lengthy and most of it went without my understanding, but I will try my best to expand on what I can.

There is much discussion on “the subject” and on page 14 Jameson writes, “This shift in the dynamics of cultural pathology can be characterized as one in which the alienation of the subject is displaced by the latter’s fragmentation.”  I read this and thought of Fight Club.  Edward Norton is alienated in his life, he has nothing but his collection of catalogue merchandise.  However, his alienation stops when he “fragments” and Tyler is created.  His life then becomes extremely fragmented, he loses large chunks of time and has no idea when he is being Tyler.  So his alienation ended when he fragmented into two personalities.

Jameson discusses the ideas of parody and pastiche and on page 17 he writes, “the producers of culture have nowhere to turn but to the past: the imitation of dead styles, speech through all the masks and voices stored up in the imaginary museum of a now global culture.”  This is very closely related to something Baudrillard wrote on.  Baudrillard wrote that we as a society need to have a visible past and a means to see where we came from.  This is why we have museums and dig up mummies and put them  display. 

Our class discussion on Titanic goes along with what Jameson writes on pages 19 and 25.  On page 19 he writes, “instead approach the ‘past’ through stylistic connotation, conveying ‘pastness’ by the glossy qualities of the image.”  And on page 25, “The historical novel can no longer set out to represent the historical past; it can only ‘represent’ our ideas and stereotypes about the past.”  We don’t know what happened on that boat, all we know for sure is that it went down.  We have an idea of how people dressed in that era and how they talked.  We put all of our preconceived notions of that time period together, put them on a boat, add a Celine Deion song, and there is Titanic.  As the quote from  page 25 suggests, there is no way to accurately depict history, so movies like Titanic will only represent what we assume to have actually happened.

This is Bob…

September 21, 2007

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I was a bit nervous coming into the class discussion today.  I really really like Fight Club and I was afraid that our post modern analysis of it could somehow take away from what I love about the movie.  Luckily, that was not the case.

Something that always interests me about the movie is Edward Norton’s description of his frequent flights and how he encounters everything in single-serving form.  Single serve meals, butter packets, shampoo/conditioner combos, and even single serve friends to describe the people he meets on the plane.  And it seems that things change in his life when he breaks away from the single serving mentality, especially with people.  His continuing attendance at the counseling groups have a profound effect on him, also his interactions with Tyler and Marla.  It seems that when he breaks away from his cozy little view of life and interacts with people more than once, it caused the changes on which the entire movie was built on.

In class we touched on capitalism and its role in the film.  Edward Norton goes to great detail in describing all of the things he has accumulated for his apartment, and he seems to be proud of it.  There is a scene where he tells Tyler that he is close to having the perfect wardrobe, and another where he claims that the apartment and all those things were his life.  No man’s life should be judged on what kind of end table he has, or how many ties he owns.  This is one of the things that Tyler helps Edward Norton see.  And I imagine that Edward Norton accumulated a pretty big credit card debt buying from all those catalogues and late night info-mercials.  Luckily he’ll never have to pay off that bill.  There are other attacks on capitalism in the film as well.  One assignment of Project Mayhem (the incident that ended with Bob’s death, I always feel so bad for Bob) was to destroy a piece of corporate art and take out a franchise coffee shop.  Then there is the soap; made from, well we all know what it’s made of.  That is an attack on high society and all those who can and surprisingly do pay $20 for soap that is made from, again, we know what it’s made of.     

We know that Tyler came into existence out of Edward Norton’s insomnia combined with his unhappiness in his life.  And all of Tyler’s characteristics come from being the opposite of what Edward Norton is, and that is what draws Edward Norton to Tyler in the first place.  As with most schizophrenia sufferers, the created ego once no longer supressed wants total control, which Tyler has for a majority of the movie.  However, slowly Edward Norton regains control.  And it is after the death of Bob that his mind starts to be getting clearer, because it is after the death of Bob that he goes some time without seeing Tyler.  And there is a scene towards the end where Tyler finally realizes what is happening and realizes that he needs Edward Norton if he wants to continue to be in the picture.  That is when Edward Norton is trying to stop Project Mayhem and also attemtps to shoot Tyler, and hits the van filled with soap.  This distresses Tyler because he realizes that if something happens to Edward Norton then Tyler won’t be around anymore.

Lyotard

September 15, 2007

I tried to look up what exactly the Bauhaus project was (71) but Google only gave me stuff on some software programming.  And I’m pretty sure Lyotard wasn’t talking about C++ when he wrote this.  Moving on, “I have read in a French weekly that some are displeased with Mile Plateaux [by Deleuze and Guattari]”  After having to read about rhizomes last year, I was pretty displeased with those guys too.

On page 74 Lyotard writes, “But capitalism inherently possesses the power to derealize familiar objects, social rules, and institutions to such a degree that the so-called realistic representations can no longer evoke reality except  as nostalgia or mockery, as an occasion for suffering rather than for satisfaction.”  This harkens to another theory throwback, Baudrillard.  One of Baudrillard’s favorite words was hyperreailty, a state where the real doesn’t have any meaning, making it not so real anymore, and it seems like that is what Lyotard is describing in this passage.  I caught another Baudrillard-ian tidbit on page 77, “Modernity, in whatever age it appears, cannot exist without a shattering of belief and without discovery of the ‘lack of reality’  of reality, together with the invention of other realities.”  

On page 79 he writes, “A work can become modern only if it is first postmodern.”  After reading that, I was left feeling like I was the first time I read that the center wasn’t the center  at all.  According to what Lyotard writes on page 81, that works which are considered postmodern, are postmodern because they “are not in principle governed by preestablished rules, and they cannot be judged according to a determining judgment”  It would appear that with postmodernism there are no rules and no guidelines by which to critique anything which is or may be postmodern.     

“Finally,it must be clear that it is our business not to supply reality but to invent allusions to the conceivable which cannot be presented.”  (81)  From this I get that it is not the job of postmodernism to come up with anything new, but instead make allusions to what was once new.  A lot of what I wrote didn’t make much sense, and I’m looking forward to moving on to Fight Club.

So the story was interrupted by a brief anatomy lesson.  On page 115 there was a very cool line in the narrator describing Louise’s illness, “The security  forces have rebelled.  Louise is the victim of a coup.”  I like the way of presenting her illness in a way that it is not an outside force that is makeing her sick, but instead her body is turning on itself.  Continuing with the anatomy section, on page 129 the narrator says, “…but what I wanted to do was to fasten my index finger and thumb at the bolts of your collar bone, push out, spreading the web of my hand until it caught against your throat.  You asked me me if I wanted to strangle you.  No, I wanted to fit you…”  That just sounds incredibly bizarre and extremely painful.  I know I brought up this line in class, but it still sticks out to me, “I will ride you like a nightmare.” (page 131)  And I can assure you that I will probably use that phrase in a conversation at least once by the end of the week, just to see what kind of reaction it renders.

On page 150, the narrator recalls a time he/she visited a church, “I decided to go to church.  Not because I wanted to be saved, nor because I wanted solace from the cross.  Rather, I wanted the comfort of other people’s faith.”  The narrator did not she this visit as an uplifting experience, “No wonder they talk about Jesus filling a vacuum as though human beings were thermos flasks.  This was the vacuous place I’d ever been.  God my be compassionate but he must have some taste.”  The narrator seems to have no use for religion and sees no point in it; describing it pretty much as a filler to peoples’ lives, giving them nothing in return.

A passage on 176 caught my attention, “DIY has never caught on.  There’s something macabre about making your own coffin.  You can buy boat kits, house kits, garden furniture kits, but not coffin kits.  Providing the holes wer pre-drilled and properly lined up I forsee no disasters.  Wouldn’t it be the tenderest thing to do for the beolved?”  I can’t tell if the narrator is being serious or not, but something about make-your-own-coffin doesn’t really sit right.  Probably cheaper though 

Written on the Body- Part 2

September 9, 2007

pat.jpgAfter the last class, and being made aware to the fact that it is a distinct possibility that our narrator could be a woman, I read this section looking for any kind of clue to the gender bending mystery.  Firstly, there is a passage on page 58, “But I’m not a Boy Scout and never was.”  If the narrator were a woman then this would make sense.  But then I was never a Boy Scout.  There was also the instance where after Jacqueline has ransacked the apartment, there is specific mention that the toilet seat was missing.  Big deal?  Finally there is page 92, “I had a boyfriend once called Crazy Frank.”  This sentence leaves us with more questions than answers.  But whatever the gender of the narrator, that doesn’t change the fact that they spent time with a circus freak who carried his midget parents around on his shoulders.  That’s just weird.  So it looks like the androgyny continues.

A couple things in this section caught my attention.  For starters, there were some passages that reminded me tremendously of Fight Club (the film).  Page 76, “Perhaps I’m not meant to to have any worldy goods.”  In the film,  Edward Norton’s character compulsively orders things from overpriced catalogues, only to lose them all when his apartment explodes.  And also on page 80, “Night-workers and frequent fliers are absolutely the victims of their stubborn circadian clocks.”  Edward Norton has a similar feeling about flying too much.”  In other non Fight Club related news, on page 59, “movies are a terrible sham.”  That’s just a throwback to theory and Horkheimer and Adorno.  Then there was page 61 where Louise calls our narrator “Christopher Robbin.”  I don’t really get this, unless it’s some sort of pet name and the narrator refers to Louise as Pooh, or Piglet or Tigger.

It would seem that in this section of the novel, the narrator has taken on a different perspective towards love.  In the first section the narrator chastises those who fall in love and live by the cliches.  But the narrators situation with Louise has him/her falling all of those cliches.   He/she is always thinking of Louise, all of the sentimental thoughts about how they should be together forever.  And the narrator falls into one of the biggest love cliches ever, making a huge sacrifice because you think it’s what’s best for the person you care about. 

Written on the Body

September 6, 2007

First impression of this novel is, boy, this guy gets around.  While I was reading I was looking for ways to tie postmodernism in with his, let’s just say, escapades.  Postmodernism is a moving away from old standards and rigid structures, and it seems that this guy is moving away from what we would consider the norm when it comes to love and relationships.

It is on the very first page that he goes after the phrase “I love you” three words that are not to be taken lightly.  His feelings on the phrase, “Why is is that the most unoriginal thing we can say to one another is still the thing we long to hear?”  It’s hard to say whether he is against saying “I love you” or if he is opposed to the notion of love itself, which his relationship pattern might indicate. 

He also seems to have no regard for the sanctity of marriage.  On page 13 he says, “I used to think of marriage as a plate-glass window just begging for a brick.”  And then on page 16, “Odd that marriage, a public display and free to all, gives way to that most secret of liaisons, an adulterous affair.”  This man details several of his encounters with woman who are married, and he has done it so many times that he has memorized the dialogue between him and the women, which he gives on page 14-15.  So it is pretty clear that he holds no regard for marriage, and is more than willing to help a woman stray from her vows.

There is a point where he seems to have been developing feelings for Jacqueline, but it is made evident that relationship won’t last for very long.  So I would call this guy postmodern in that one of the facets of postmodernism is to break with tradition and the set norm.  And this guy has no interest in finding a nice girl, and settling down and having the white pickett fence.

Modern or Postmodern?

September 2, 2007

It wasn’t that long ago that I was using this blog to try and describe what kind of theorist I see myself as.  Now I’ve dusted it off and right off the bat I have to decide whether I’m modern or post modern.  So much for easing back into things. 

The thing I always find amusing about postmodernism, is that whatever you read on the topic, the beginning is always very clear to let you know that postmodernism has to set definition.  The Malpas book is no different.  It only took til page 4, “Unfortunately, finding such a simple, uncontroversial meaning for the term ‘postmodern’ is all but impossible.”  So is it even possible to define yourself by something that has no definition itself?  So by that definition, anything and everything could be considered postmodern.  Like would this be considered postmodern?

As I read over the handy list on pages 7-8 of Malpas, I found myself kind of leaning more towards the left side of the list.  So does that make me a modernist?  It seems like the post modern era will never end, because what is modern now will certainly not be so a year/month/week from now.  So what may be post modern now could very well be modern in a relatively short period of time. 

Looking back over this blog, I guess I didn’t really give a clear definition of what school of thought I place myself in.  Maybe that lack of a definition makes me more postmodern than I thought I was.