Where does it hurt?

November 20, 2007

Probably my favorite scene from the book is when our narrator meets Albie.  Our first introduction to Albie is him pulling up in his Bentley, leading us to believe that he is still living the sweet life from all that barbed wire money.  But the narrator enters the car to find it filled with groceries and a make shift cup holder.  Albie’s house is nothing but emptiness; a place left with nothing but animal heads and plenty of hot dogs.  We learn this comes from his divorce, after which his wife made off with most everything.  Like Albie’s ex-wife, the town has taken and used his name, Winthrop, but now the town is leaving him too.  Soon the name will be changed and he will be left with nothing.  He’ll just be the crazy guy in town who walks around in a sweat-suit who thinks he’s everybody’s friend. 

The part where the narrator is describing the scene at the awards ceremony at which all those in attendance are constantly looking at each others name tags so that they may engage in useless chit chat with their new friend.  I likened this to a particular episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine is going out with Lloyd Braun, who is an adviser to Dinkins, a man who is running for mayor of New York.  While in  casual conversation with Lloyd, Elaine mentions that she always thought the citizens of New York should have name tags, that way everybody would know everybody and it would be a friendlier place.  Lloyd passes the idea along to Dinkins, who puts it on his mayoral platform.  This move makes Dinkins a laughing stock and costs him the election.  While at the awards ceremony, the narrator believes that the name tags should be labeled with what people really are, and not their names, which is what they want people to think they are. 

The two defeats the narrator suffers the night of the barbecue are interesting.  The first coming at the Border Cafe which is “a Mexican joint that belonged to that robust tradition of lone ethnic restaurants in the middle of nowhere, beloved by the natives in direct proportion to the lack of competition.”  I love that description.  The narrator feels a sense of belonging among the help tourists, he equates to the giddiness that goes along with the last day of anything.  The final sense of connection seems to come with the party-wide recognition of the song “Peep This”.  The narrator is so moved that he jumps atop a table and is about to announce his new name for the town when his leg gives out and the whole moment is ruined. 

The second defeat comes when upon returning to the hotel after the embarrassment, the narrator finds that the cleaning woman finally forced her way into his room and organized it.  The narrator also finds his “do not disturb” sign neatly torn and placed on his bed.  The privacy the narrator has sought to keep since his injury is now gone. 

The fate of Winthrop is similar to that of the narrator’s toe.  Lucky is well on his way to making the new Winthrop into a haven for commercialism and yuppies who wear their college sweatshirts on the weekends and drink too many half-priced margaritas and sing karaoke.  But along the way there is some stubbing.  The first came in Regina’s surprise vote against him, thus putting on hold their coup of Albie.  Then there are people like Muttonchops and all those others who do not want the name of the town to change and do not like the direction Lucky is taking their home.  There are little bumps along the way, little stubs on the way to New Prospera.  Each time, a band-aid is placed over the wound.  But it doesn’t hide the hurt in the town, there are infections festering underneath that band-aid; eventually something is going to have to be amputated from Winthrop.  And it would seem that Lucky is the one holding the scissors.

Apex Hides the Hurt

November 13, 2007

Just to get this out of the way, when I was reading the first section of this book and we get the description of our narrator as a man who not only isolates himself from other people but also walks with a limp as a result of an unfortunate incident, I mean is there any other connection that can be made there except for this?

Aside from that, I didn’t see a whole lot else in the first fifty-three pages of this book.  We learn that the narrator has a job as a nomenclature consultant, which as a profession is probably even cooler than it sounds.  In talking about his job, the narrator hits on just how important names are to products.  No matter what the product is, a bad name could kill it commercially.  He also mentions how he has names for things that don’t even exist yet, but when the time comes, he’ll have to perfect name for it.  This notion kind of brings back a little bit of Saussure and Baudrillard.  With Saussure, there is the whole sign, signifier thing.  The names which he creates become more important than the products they represent.  Baudrillard comes in with the mention of having names for things which don’t exist yet.  According to Baudrillard, the creation of simulacra and hyper-reality comes from the creation of needs for things which we don’t actually need but are made to think we can’t live without.  So the narrator already has a named stored away for something that doesn’t exist, but when it does come to be, it will have a fancy name to help persuade the public that it is the next great thing they couldn’t possibly live without. 

The situation the narrator finds himself in is something new to him, is not being asked to come up with a new for the newest anti-depressant or sure fire cure for natural male enhancement, he is being summoned out of his seclusion to rename a town.  The once quaint little town of Winthrop is looking to become more modern and there are some who feel the town needs a new name to go with its corporate face-lift.  There are those who see no problem with it, the couple the narrator meets in the hotel bar; but then there are those like old Muttonchops, who have a long history in Winthrop and don’t want to see any changes to the town’s moniker.  So we wait for the rest of the novel to unfold to find out what new name the narrator will come up with for Winthrop.  If I had any say in the matter, I would probably rename my town Fort Awesome.

What paper?

November 12, 2007

So last Thursday maybe I was a little less than prepared when it came to a possible post modern paper idea. 

So here’s what I got so far; it only seem fitting that to go along with this paper I bring back an old friend from days past, Mr. Baudrillard.  In reading up on Baudrillard, I came across some interesting stuff on opinion polls, media, and politics.  I was thinking taking those ideas and writing my paper about today’s society and how even with the influx of new forms of technology which should make access to information easier, we are still left in the dark on most important of things.  For the text to go along with this idea, I plan on using the film V for Vendetta.  I know this seems a little scrambled and the idea needs a lot of polishing, but at least it’s a start.

The Rest of Galatea

November 1, 2007

It seems we get a different side of Lentz when he and Powers go to visit Audrey.  We see that he is capable of caring for another person.  We also get the idea that this experiment may have some implications in regards to Audrey and her deteriorating mental status.  On page 170 it reads, “We could eliminate death.  That was the long-term idea.  We might freeze the temperament of our choice.  Suspend it painlessly above experience.  Hold it forever at twenty-two.”  It would appear that Lentz is much like Dr. Freeze (from Batman), in that while both may not seem to be nice guys, all that they do, they do in an attempt to help their wives, both of whom are severely sick.  But as we later learn, that is merely a side effect of this experiment, and was never the desired outcome.

In Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, there is a scene where Mr. Ramsay equates his life’s accomplishment with letters in the alphabet.  Mr. Ramsay feels that he has reached Q, which apparently is pretty good because, “Very few people in the whole of England reach Q.”  And as far as completing the alphabet, “Z is only reached by one man in a generation.” (on a personal note, I would probably put myself at about L for my life thus far)  There’s a connection to Galatea, I swear.  I connected this to the different imps that Powers and Lentz are going through.  Each ascending lettered imp is more advanced than the one before it.  I find it interesting that it was imp H, that was the one they felt was the most advanced and suitable for use in the competition.  Had they kept going and developing new imps, how advanced would imps T or W have been?  And it seems like to keep going forward, imp Z would have to be a human.

And it’s gotta make you feel at least a little proud that when Powers feeds Helen info from the nightly news that this absolutely horrifies the machine and Helen shuts herself off from people for a few days.  It’s nice to know the human touch can have that effect on something.  And I think I finally get a chance to break out transhistorical party.  Powers was constantly feeding Helen literature, some of which had to contain tragedy of some sort.  But this has no effect on Helen, this is the brand of transhistorical party which is contained by some sort of literary device, thus making it more acceptable.  However, when Helen gets fed the stories of actual human behavior, like the road rage incident, this horrifies her because it is not contained in a story, but is actual human behavior.

I think my favorite piece from the text comes on page 317 when Diana’s son William comes home and is feeling a bit distraught about school, “‘First grade,’ he choked.  ‘Done.  Perfect.’  He swept his palm in an arc through the air.  ‘Everything they wanted.  Now I’m supposed to do second.  There’s another one after that, Mom.  I can’t.  It’s never-ending.'”  He has no idea how right he actually is.  This idea of never-ending relates back to something which Powers discusses with Helen on page 291 about literature, “Always more books, each one read less.’  She thought.  ‘The world will fill with unread print.  Unless print dies.'”  So it would appear that in the world of academics and literature there is no end.  Literature will continue to be printed, and as long as that is happening, scholars will be forced to analyze it and decide what it means and whether or not they hate it.  And in the end, Powers makes this all the more true by saying that he has some more fiction left in him, and goes off to write another novel.