What I am trying to say is that Molloy comes across to me in layers, and I have to work through most of what he is saying, or attempting to say, in order to place him in the situation he his relaying.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
What I am trying to say is that Molloy comes across to me in layers, and I have to work through most of what he is saying, or attempting to say, in order to place him in the situation he his relaying.
Monday, October 29, 2012
I have some examples: "pitilessmost" and "corncrakes"(21); "index-knuckle" (23); "connexion" (28); "raglimp" (34); "sucking-stone" (59); "coenaesthetically" (72); and "floccillate" (89).
While I think words such as these are fun to come across, we can only somewhat decipher their meaning (some better than others--though many derive from actual words or mirror them closely). It's interesting to examine these in contrast to the simpler language. Take page 56. If you look at this page as a whole, the word "I" prominently jumps out to the eye. They're a series of first person, simple sentences. Compare: "The next day I demanded my clothes" (56) to "But sucking-stones abound on our beaches, when you know where to look for them, and I deemed it wiser to say nothing about it..." etc. (59).
Where do these words get us? They're becoming less fun, and more like little frustrations for me as I'm writing this blog post. Where does this experimentation with language get us, besides confusion?
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Is Molloy an account of life after death? Is Molloy even alive, or does he mean "ceased to live" less literally? Perhaps he has changed or evolved or regressed into a new person with a new way of life. The idea that decomposition is life too means that life goes on once we have perished. Do life and death have to contradict each other? I am not sure, clearly, if Molloy is alive or dead. But I am leaning toward the thought that he is telling this story of his life post-death. Maybe.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Monday, October 22, 2012
During the excerpt of short story ideas in the Yellow notebook, one of the stories breaks the naming convention of the other but also appears to break the thematic pattern of the other stories: "19 The Romantic Tough School of Writing" (page 539 in my weird edition).
I say it "appears" to break away from the themes of the other story ideas because it is one of the only stories in which the central speaking voice is male. In fact the narrator of this little story is Mike-the-lone-walker. While the gender of the main speaker has changed, it is worth noting that in at least one of the other short story ideas, one of the female characters is referred to as Anna, and another is an artist. With that in mind, it might not be too great a stretch to place Anna in the central role in all these short story ideas. Thus, we might even say that the nick name "the loan walker" might be linked to the idea of a free woman which Anna represents (or possibly her isolation).
The story also features a mixing of brutal physical violence with professions of love In that the boys, Buddy and Dave, say "I love you man" before pounding the other into unconsciousness. Considering that all the other story summaries involve people "in love" who proceed to emotionally wound each other, one might argue that the "romantic tough school of writing" is a parody of the other stories' cycle of love and emotional pain played out with physical violence.
With that context in mind, Buddy's declaration of love for the girl Rosie, implies that this cycle is played out in the adult world, though in a manner more akin to the other stories.
Friday, October 19, 2012
When I was 19 I worked in the production department of Granada publishing. One December evening I went out with one of the editors intending to go for a meal. He said he wanted to stop off at a Christmas drinks party for publishers. When we arrived at the club in which it was being held, I wasn’t allowed into the room, where I could see a hundred or so men, some of whom I knew, drinking, smoking and talking. My companion said he hadn’t realised that it was a men-only party, and that I should wait outside the room while he went in for a quick drink. I said I wouldn’t be doing that and walked in with him. There was a sudden hush in the room, then everyone tried to carry on as if nothing had happened and I wasn’t there. No one spoke to me, and soon I was asked to leave by some official, not because I hadn’t been invited, but because ‘women weren’t allowed’. I said no. My companion insisted that we leave. He was getting anxious. We went, but I skipped dinner.
The next day I was called in by the head of the department (the one with the filing for the bottom drawer) and told off; shouted at, actually. He had been at the party, too. I had behaved ‘very badly and immaturely’. ‘People’ in the profession had been embarrassed by my childish stunt. I was warned I had better not show up the company again.
Even if the underlying contempt for women has not exactly disappeared (read the tabloids, look at trolling on the internet), it is one of the great social improvements of the 20th century that it must be almost impossible for a young woman now to imagine a time within living memory when the superiority and dominance of men was so completely embedded into the normality of the world that I was faced with a man’s seething indignation simply for having walked into a room full of them.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
My allusion/reference also comes from this scene. The group is in a kopje full of barricades built by the Mashona in defense of the Matabele. These two groups were native tribes to Rhodesia, and the Matabele attacked and killed many Mashona until Britain began to protect the Mashona. The Matabele were known for taking Mashona women captive as sexual prizes. On page 403, Paul says "Imagine... Here we are, a group of Mashona besieged. The Matabele approach, in all their horrid finery. We are outnumbered." Paul puts the group into the perspective of the victims, not the conquerors. I wondered why he chose to take that perspective and what he thought the looming danger was. I'm still not totally sure. What I did infer, however, had to do with the plight of women at the time. Anna and Maryrose both say they would rather kill themselves than be sexually imprisoned like the Mashona women (403). The men, however, assert that women love them "all the more for our brutality" (411). Obviously, the men here aren't listening to what the women say. The women would rather die than lose their freedom, but the men seem to believe that men that are warlike (taking women captive) are also virile and loved by the captured women. These two conflicting perspectives cannot both be true, can they? Are the problems in the novel's relationships because the men don't take enough control, or because they take too much? Love is submissive, and Anna would rather die than to submit.
As Mrs. Marks would say, "And so?"
So, I drew these pigeons in class today during our close reading discussion. Something I quite enjoy about the passage on page 393 is its first sentence: “Today on the pavement a fat domestic London pigeon waddling among the boots and shoes of people hurrying for a bus.” The structure of this sentence mimics - or displays in another way - the image the sentence describes. This opening line is not a complete thought, but a series of thoughts strung together to reveal the feeling of chaotic streets, the motions of both men and birds. How do their (human footsteps & bird feet) rhythms match or interrupt each other? The language replicates the waddling movements of the birds; it is a chunky and clumsily organized sentence that is still read as an eloquent description of one London moment. I believe it is a great example of form as it mimics image, and one of my favorite images/ language bits of The Golden Notebook so far.
Also, an unrelated question/ thought that will backtrack some -- I have been into the idea of boulders // mountains for a while (from page 199). "The boulder is the truth that the great men know by instinct, and the mountain is the stupidity of mankind." Does this mean that truth is relative but stupidity/ ignorance is more solid/ lasting? That people are able to believe different truths at different times (because "we push the boulder") but we can not change who or what is "stupid"? I am curious to hear any thoughts about this boulder/ mountain issue...if it is even a relevant passage to bring up.
Lessing/ Anna continually speak of "real men" and it makes me wonder what exactly a real man is? On 463, Anna says "...women have this deep instinctive need to build a man up as a man...this is because real men become fewer and fewer, and we are frightened, trying to create men." What man is Anna trying to create? The majority of men Anna seems to think are "real men" are unfaithful and polygamous or they're insensitive, unapologetic, and generally just bad people. The ones who are kind-hearted and seem to care are bad at sex or homosexual, and Anna seems to immediately dismiss them, often comparing them to girls or depriving them of their masculinity. She even generalizes this to an entire country saying England is "full of men who are little boys and homosexuals and half-homosexuals." So what does Anna want in a man?
I would argue that ultimately Anna doesn't want a man. She is a "free woman" and despite her constant myriad of relationships, and despite her need to "play the girlfriend" she is content deep down with no permanent desire for attachment. Despite her cracking up and own bouts of panic, she needs the freedom to experience her full self. Thus she constantly critiques masculinity, with no man ever being the ideal "real man". In this way Lessing illustrates the empowered woman, though I wonder if she will continue to remain so independent until the end of the novel.
I chose a photo titled Rome, 1977 by the American Photographer Francesca Woodman. Woodman had a particular interest in self-presentation/self-preservation, space, and the “long single exposures that blur the trace of the subject”. I can’t help relate Woodman’s interpretation and portrayal of space and the momentariness of the blurred girl to the ways in which internal/external, public/private space are working in The Golden Notebook. I am particularly interested in the relationship between domestic and public space and how/if Anna’s interactions and experiences within these spaces enable her to form, preserve, or more clearly forge her identity. Anna denies order but fails to acknowledge the necessity of form to understand the seemingly overwhelming chaos and what it means to "crack up." Anna dwells in the out of body liminal space, the space of "I" and "Anna". Although the term “cracking up” implies a fragmented array of chaos and disorder, there is also a sense of integrity associated with active moment of “cracking up.” Although the term cracking implies a division, breaking, or disconnection, it simultaneously preserves a moment of action where the entire or whole object shares the moment with the potentiality of separation; this moment preserves or even traps Anna in patterned process of cracking up, the space between the various dichotomies established throughout the text. As discussed in class, much of Anna’s anxiety derives from her desire to define/label/reveal a reason for her existence. These distressing surges towards self-discovery force Anna to rely on other people and her environment to constitute an a sense of self. Anna’s experience on the train urges her to demystify her obsession with “cracking up." The transient motion and public space of the train challenges Anna to physically collide/interact with the “yellowish grey and large-poured” man and the intimidating “living city” environment. The short, fragmented s descriptions of the Anna’s repulsion towards “the face” following her further indicates her initial inability to view things as whole or complete; Anna refuses to convey an integral image of the man, and we can, consequently, only envision parts or sections of his body and face, unable to see him as whole or human. These seemingly threatening moments reveal Anna’s reliance on the distanced space between the dichotomies that plague The Golden Notebook: living/dead, feeling/thinking, and internal/external, physically/mentally, and order/chaos. Overwhelmingly, once Anna enters the Tube, she must include her external environment in her attempt to forge an identity. In this sense, the collision of the public space with Anna’s desire to be defined and her simultaneous fear of order enables her to almost preserve a whole version of herself in a world where she can be "alone in chaos” (285). Anna “felt a swaying”, “and saw the sway”, and is finally “feeling the shake and sway” (373). The development from “felt a swaying to “saw the sway”, and finally Anna’s “feeling the shake and sway” suggests that perhaps Anna was able to successfully defeat the physical/mental dichotomy and merge her mind and body in an instant of momentary completion. Furthermore, Anna finally refers to the face as a man after “touching the smooth” fruit to counteract the intimidating ugliness of the “living city”. Even though Anna can momentarily exist in the collision or “swaying” motion of the patterns created by the process of “cracking up”, she reverts back to the calming “immunity” and facilitates the distance created through various oppositions, by buying the fruit. Instead of acknowledging her identity as one that is cracked and therefore also whole (in the pattern of actively cracking) and in this sense, ordered through the process of chaos, she retreats to the side of the living fruit and further distancing, fragmenting, and disconnecting Anna's physical act of purchasing the fruit and "smelling at the tart clean smell, touching the smooth or faintly hairy skins” from her internal world; Anna hides in the calming sensory moment of the fruit instead of feeling, acting, and thinking her way through the challenge of a "crack up."
Only evanescently, after a dream is she “both giddy and afraid”) without struggling to maintain a balance of the various divisions that external world demands (373). Although Anna comes to close to self-preservation of a whole self in her external environment, she nears a more perfect moment of collision in the domestic space of her flat: “She went into the kitchen, and ran a glass of water, slowly: running the water to watch it splash and sparkle, to hear its cool noise. She was using the water as she has used the fruit earlier-to calm… ”, or in this case, the dash relates a distance to distance associated with calm. In this instant, Anna momentarily realizes the necessity of collision instead of distance or space by confessing “I’m right off balance” suggesting that she was once on balance and now takes refuge in the impossibility of attaining the type of balance required by whole of society. Instead, this realization in the private setting of her flat suggests the importance of both a domestic and public space to enable the experience of a “figure that sprang into shape and personality against the defining light" (378). The potential “personality” or identity for Anna awaits if she accepts the notion that chaos is capable of producing form/shape, meaning, and finality. Just like before the dashes and fragments thwart the connection of thought, Anna, and act of cracking up: “And she thought: this time intelligence, it’s the only barrier between me and-but this time she didn’t finish it, she knew how to end the sentence. Between me and cracking up. Yes” (378).
Anna’s attempt to live and preserve her identity in the moment of various patterns that make up the process of cracking up, is analogous to our experiences as readers; we experience the patterned repetition of the notebooks and, like Anna’s tendency to define herself in regards to people and spaces, we want to define our identity/commitment to a particular notebook and “crack” the seemingly mystery of the chaotic format of the book. We are experiencing the frantic process of reading a novel riddled with chaos in anticipation of an end, finality, or conclusion of some sort. She doesn’t want to make meaning of the chaos because that would impose of type of order or pattern; a fixity or wholeness that Anna would be outside of instead of safe within. Once we have claimed to have solved this novel then it’s over finished; whole, complete…where does that leave us? Which “notebook were we preserved in? Will Anna ever become preserved and accept being composed of fragmented chaos.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
With this understanding, Paul and Anna's laughter in response to Wili's defense of socialist philosophy followed by Paul's instance that he does not laugh when he is happy makes the phrase "cracking up" and the idiom for laughter much more unified in meaning than I would have first suspected.
In this case Paul and Anna's mirthless laughter in the face of socialistic policy represents a portion of their lives where they are vulnerable. People who laugh when they are happy do so from a more stable place, where they do not fear the exposure of their raw emotions. Maryrose and Willi claim to be a part of this group. In contrast, Paul and Anna's laughter expresses their instability, the cracking up of their own world.
of course after this I could not find an image that I thought adequately expressed this idea but I did find this.
I think there might be some meaning that can be extracted from the fact that this is the traditional representation of theatrical comedy. The lines across the mask serve for cracks and I've always thought the comedy mask looks very close to crying.
I chose this image because it reminded me of the passage we discussed in class on Tuesday. When Anna is in the elevator she is clearly in panic. Although the elevator she was in was tightly fit with others, she had her eyes closed for the majority of it. I feel as though a lot of the internal conflict that Anna feels is not necessarily dictated by immediate outside forces. Her sick feeling is present before she even realizes the man in the elevator is staring at her. While her panic was fueled by the crowed situation, what she is battling with is entirely internal at first.
I chose to look up the Rosenberg reference in the text because I have seen it in many other places. Julius and Ethel Rosenburg were executed June 19, 1953 for conspiracy to commit espionage. They were suspected of giving the Soviet Union information about the atomic bomb.
Pardon the language... But I think this image is relevant to The Golden Notebook. Perhaps we can even hear Anna saying that. I thought of the yellow notebook and Ella's letters that she receives for Women at Home. We mentioned in class yesterday how Ella and Paul refer to the letters as "Mrs. Browns," thus reducing all of the letter writers into one category. Most of them are housewives with mental problems, and our protagonist in the story wants to escape that, to be a "free woman." I also thought about when Ella goes to Paul's house and notices that his wife reads Women at Home. Ella doesn't believe that his wife can possibly be happy, but Paul insists that she is. The image above represents the women, like Ella/Anna, wanting more out of life than "fifties housewife bullshit."
I have also researched the Czech Sabotage Trial, mentioned on page 236 in the text. Also referred to as the Slánský trial, Communist Party General Secretary, Rudolf Slánský and his thirteen co-defendants were arrested, unjustly accused, tried, and executed as traitors and western spies. The trial was orchestrated by Soviet advisors, sent to Prague by Stalin, and assisted by Czechoslovak Secret Service interrogators and members of Czechoslovak Communist Party Central Community. They were thought to have adopted the line of the maverick Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito and were accused of participating in a Trotskyite-Titoite-Zionist conspiracy. The trial was the result of a split within the Communist leadership on the degree to which the state should emulate the Soviet Union and was part of a Stalin-inspired purge of "disloyal" members as well as a purge of Jews from the leadership of Communist parties. After Stalin's death, the victims of the trial quietly received amnesty one by one.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
This painting by the contemporary primitivist John Lurie is watercolor, ink and oil pastel on clayboard. It feels reminiscent of the scene on pages 372-3 that we close-read in class today, with all the "oozing" and "squeezing"--ostensibly a coalescing as opposed a fragmenting--though in this case, the "compartment," the "crammed smelly place" which contains what might be termed "the undifferentiated blob" is a mental rather than a physical public space. I'm fascinated by this idea of the fragment-mistaken-as-whole, either within consciousness (as in the painting) or manifested within a public space as a crowd/mass (as in the passage); every "whole" ultimately has it's container--is in fact a fragment. The floating eye (also contained) might be equated with Anna's self-consciousness, the moments in which she becomes explicity "conscious of Anna" (373), almost as if she splits herself in two or looks down at herself from an analytic balustrade.
As for my gloss, I've selected the kopje, a geological formation, usually dome-like, which becomes isolated through the process of erosion. This feels important considering the theme of isolation (which also relates to fragmentation) that runs throughout the text.
According to the interwebs, a leucotomy occurs when the connections to the frontal lobe are severed. This operation was very popular in the '40s and '50s for patients with severe psychotic or depressive illnesses; however, the operation is rarely performed now because in greatly increases epilepsy.
Once Paul explains what his job is, Ella is surprised, stating, "But you know when you've finished that operation, it's final, the people are never the same again?" (313). This finality is something that seems to worry Ella, and consequently, Anna. Both characters have a difficulty finishing things: affairs, jobs, friendships. For Anna, especially in the case of her novel Frontiers of War, she can never be finished, because to be finished she would have to be happy with her work. Anna continuously strives for the truth, for the most real writing she can achieve, but she struggles. Anna tries for finality occasionally, but most often she is content to remain where she is. The most striking description of Anna that describes her willingness to simply stay where she is just because is "But it seemed too much effort to leave it and find another" (293). This quote comes from Ella, but the same quality of staying can be found in Anna. For Anna and Ella, it is easier to live in the moment or in past moments.
This is why I chose a picture of clutter to represent the novel so far. The clutter is organized - like the notebooks, pushed aside yet still present - like the memories, and the clutter is not changing or going away - like Anna and Ella.
The first historical reference that I didn't understand in The Golden Notebook is on pages 152. It's in the Red Notebook. The Rosenbergs have just been executed for alleged Marxist activity and Anna opens a paragraph with a one-word sentence: "Koestler."
It turns out she's referring to Arthur Koestler, a Hungarian/German author who was once a dyed-in-the-wool Communist. Stalinism, however, proved too brutal for him and he left the Party in 1938. He went on to write several novels and biographies that essentially beat totalitarianism with a crowbar. (He later killed himself because he had been diagnosed with cancer, but that happened after this book was published. Still eerie, no?)
The Korean War, mentioned in Anna's clippings, arose amidst the Cold War. A result of North Korea invading South Korea, the UN were alerted to arms to try and stop the fighting. I feel like I could go into some serious detail here, but I'm going to leave it at that simple summary.
I hope you guys laughed out loud at this image like I did when it popped up on my "Battle of the Sexes" Google search. But as hilarious as this poorly manipulated photo is, I feel that this image of the "Battle of the Sexes" is absolutely, positively relevant to The Golden Notebook. I'm a little hung up on the notion of "free women" and what that exactly entails, but I see it enforced as the novel moves along. There seems to be with every turn of the page, a subtle (or sometimes not-so-subtle) stab at maleness in juxtaposition with womanhood. Again, it's something I feel I could write a whole lot more on, but I am going to save my thoughts for our presentation on Thursday. See you then team EBF!
Monday, October 15, 2012
Since everyone else is posting moody and abstract images, I felt a little levity would be helpful. Although Anna describes her news-paper snippets as being about "death and destruction," there is definitely a focus on the activities of the USA. And many of the snippets have to do with McCarthy, or the imprisoning of communists. To the contemporary outsider (i.e. non-American) might think reading about these events, it seems appropriate to post an image that reflects the mass over-riding of common sense in the name of "security."
Though the first thing that comes to mind whenever I think of this book is F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Crack-Up, the second associaion that I think of is, oddly enough, Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining. Admittedly, I don't think that Anna is going to end up attempting to murder her family; nor do I believe her issues to be at all supernatural. However, there are a number of similarities between Anna and Jack Torrance, not least the fact that they share a profession. And, while Jack's journal contains only one very creepy phrase in the film, I think it's significant that the act of journaling is indelibly linked with the issues both characters are facing.
A woman on p. 384 of The Golden Notebook makes reference to the R.S.P.C.A. after she witnesses a man kick a pigeon on the street.
The Royal Society for the Preventino of Cruelty to Animals is a charity that has operated since 1824; it is the oldest animal welfare charity in the world. Queen Victoria granted it "Royal" status in 1840, and since then it has served as a model for animal welfare charities across the world. The society has been charged with a number of misdemeanors over the years of its existence, including the charge that its members have impersonated British police forces.