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In relation to the Fifth Comment:

Here in Sweden, Swedes can’t see beyond my ethnic look or what their eyes tell them I am. A brown person. So the idea of an American has also been hijacked by color lines. Although, much to my surprise Swedes don’t see themselves in those color lines though their idea of what an American is certainly is tainted by color. So they have a hard time seeing that there are Americans of brown disposition.

So it irritates me a tad that they can’t acknowledge my gringo side. I hate the fact that they are not able to see beyond my so called Spanish background.  It makes me feel incomplete.

In A Scotch Paisano in Old Los Angeles1 a seldom researched area is taken to task, namely, that of assimilation of Anglos in what is a predominantly Spanish-Mexican dominated territory era. Anglos converted to Catholicism and abade by Hispanic customs. So is the case also in Jovita’s book2. There is a lot of intermarriage with Anglos or Americans. Despite the rhetoric of the text that pits Anglos and Mexicans there is acceptance of Anglos in the community. I suppose that a lot has to do with this idea within mexicans that one must improve the race, or as is known in Spanish, mejorar la raza. A little unknown and zealously kept and guarded dirty secret we bear upon us.

Yet one has to wonder if this tactic of intermarriage wasn’t orchestrated or is a little forgotten blip in our history. Who knows. Research certainly is needed to shed light here.

I somehow can’t accept coincidence in California and Texas.

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1 Dakin, Susanna Bryant, A Scotch Paisano in Old Los Angeles, Berkeley, 1978.

2 González, Jovita. Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.

Carmen Fought has done a remarkable job by giving us a structured form of ChE. I haven’t read Chicano English in Context through and through though but I have stopped in certain passages where my eyes have noticed the value in the observations or the examples. One such example that has drawn my attention is on page 104 within the title of the paragraph Part II: Semantic/lexical features of Chicano English and under the subtitle General lexical items. In example 6 we have American, meaning ‘European-American or white’. So up tp this day we still regard ourselves as not American.

I have argued throughout this blog how deeply important it is that we feel American. I have argued for an americanness of our own.

We have for far too long relegated America to the gringo, the blue-eyed even when we ourselves and our kin may have blue-eyes. It’s enough. We are Americans, regardless of nations and regardless of political divisions. It’s time to reclaim what’s ours. As Don Juan Preston in Jovita Gonzale’s Dew on the Thorn we must reclaim our heritage, our position in society.

We Xicanos need to put an end to the centennial bickering Mexicans and Americans have had since inception days. We the children can no longer take sides we are Mexican and we are American no matter what ye old blood feud says. Let Mexicans fear the Gringo; we Xicanos cannot do that. Let Gringos fear the Mexican; we Xicanos cannot do that.

We need to tire of taking sides to move forward, backwards for to remain ackward is no longer an option.

By mistake I wrote Dew of the Thorn and once realizing my mistake I came upon a significance for the title of the book. I realized that dew is one of those things that is reminiscent of a new start. A new morrow if you will. Once I corrected my spelling error I proceeded to thank the gods of letters for my discovery, not. But yes, this is nice, this interpretation of mine. Dew on the Thorn allows us to see the new and allow us to realize the thorn in the eye before us. I always wondered why this string of words was a preferred choice for a title and I suppose I found my own interpretation for the book. So there.

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1 González, Jovita. Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.

I have fallen in love with page 150 of Dew on the Thorn by Jovita Gonzáles1. It’s a chapter entitled The New Leader and it’s about the second Fernando of the Olivares family, born 1871. He is a half gringo and a half Mexican.

Fernando grew up, and realizing when very young that he had American blood, felt very different from the rest of the boys. He had a feeling of resentment against his heritage that made him feel he was an outcast among his friends. Doña Ramona’s teachings […] made him feel that he could never have anything in common with his American grandfather. (p. 150)

Gotta love the reverse mestizaje in play. The reverse crossborder where it is the gringo in us that yearns to crossover.

Beautiful.

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1 González, Jovita. Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.

The authority of Tío Esteban, the new mail carrier, in “a forlorn-looking two wheeled vehicle” is an interesting passage. There is a palpable break. A sign that the Usted and borderlines of the Spanish language have ceased to permeate the everyday life of the community. It no longer applies as a rule. We must heed obidience to a new language code. As a mail carrier, a US postman, Tío Esteban has switched language masters’ (p.107)

In the backdrop of the early 1900′s in Dew on the Thorn by Jovita Gonzáles1 technological advances are no threat to the lifestyles of the ranchers who are in no hurry to catch up with the ever changing landscape nor is it rejected either. two wheel vehicles and trains are viewed with the eye of distant curiosity as if seeing an odd object. This product of the mind is not rejected by racial lines, indeed, we are curious no matter whence it cometh from. As always, and as most history insists in telling to our deaf ears. Technology is accepted far more than the gringo is or ever will be. So reading Chapter IX The Cupid of the Brush Country is quite interesting. These two phenomena: the ranchers still trying to live a lifestyle of old, ever refusing to let go of their glorious past, and the imminent change and the mechanical knowhow of the Yankees advance, flow in opposite directions yet together posit a mystery.

All this is reminiscent of Don Quijote who insists in living a long lost time in a present that has surpassed him beyond recognition.

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1 González, Jovita. Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.

In Dew on the Thorn by Jovita Gonzáles1 the color of races play a significant role, gringos have blue eyes and servants are dark. Yet more interesting is the fact that the Caste system plays a role in the late 1800′s as is evident that society revolves around the color of the skin. Add to this the fact within the narrative that these Mexicans of the late 1800′s in Lower Texas had never seen a negro in their midst and you got yourself a decent cocktail to churn out all kinds of speculations.

But what bothers me the most in Jovita’s narrative is that her main Mexican characters are not considered to be Americans. This binomial bothers me. They Americans and We, Mexicans. I don’t know, I just can’t seem to place myself in that narrative.

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1 González, Jovita. Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.

In Dew on the Thorn by Jovita Gonzáles1, the Anglo plays a rather significant roll not because we are not familiar with the eternal binomial in Chicano narrative between gringos and Chicanos but because it is an early ground we have walked upon before. Jovita is a predecessor of Aztlán geography and topology. It is a common ingredient in Chicano narrative to see the gringo in the distant. Way before we begin to deal with the gringo we have began to see Them. Jovita does this well. It details the aproximation of the inevitable, that is, the gringo in our midst. Then we deal with it. We can see this same technique in Ana Castillo’s novel So Far from God: The Peacock raiser encroaches in the consciousness unannounced. We have only heard of them and then we see them to lastly seek them.

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1 González, Jovita. Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.

In this essay I will use New Historicist Literary Criticism to try and understand a little better Robertson Davies What’s Bred in the Bone. This particular school of criticism lends itself quite nicely to this book because the milieu, embedded history and social components give enough material to see it through the lens of New Historicism. I will apply some of the concepts that are explained in New Historicist Literary Criticism as outlined in the book by Keith Booker. I hope to gain insight in some of the social attitudes that are drawn in What’s Bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies, in particular how respectability influences the main character of the novel, Francis Cornish.

There are a few concepts from this school of thought that I would like to delineate first. I will be referring to them in my observations I gather from the text in question. I am particularly drawn to the idea of shaping identities. I recur to the following citation to better understand Francis Cornish:

Greenblatt ultimately concludes that most of these writers shape their identities for themselves within the context of submission to some authority: ”God, a sacred book, an institution such as church, court, colonial or military administration” (9). (p.139) Booker.

Although Greenblatt is talking about writers I believe that this can also be applicable to the novel’s main character. Hence, I intend to remark on some of the social forces that shaped Francis Cornish identity during the course of this essay. I will also be recurring to the following citation as well

New historicists believe that it makes no sense to separate literary texts from the social context around them because such texts are the product of complex social ”exchanges” or ”negotiations”. Booker (138)

This last citation demands outside help for the text to support my observations. Lastly the word respectability will appear quite often so I should define that word as well. The best approach is to use the sense within the text. Respectability is then an act of keeping up with appearances. In the novel, the best example of keeping up with appearances is presented by Arthur Cornish. He absolutely abhors the idea that his uncle, Francis Cornish, might be associated with criminal activity as Arthur’s wife Maria points it out: ”Anything that challenges the perfect respectability of Cornishes stirs him up.”

I will also like to add to the definition by including what respectability has meant for this period of time. This is a synchronic view of the term taken out of The Journal of British Studies.

[Geoffrey] Best calls respectability “the great Victorian shibboleth and criterion,” a means by which to judge strangers on the basis of their appearance and behavior. Provided a person was sober, conventionally dressed, clean, and polite on Sundays, he could attain respectability and with it the sanction of society. (Cordery 1995 p.37)

Although the book’s geography is Canada, Canada has had great influence by Britain and is part of the British Commonwealth. Hence the definition applies aptly to Canada because of the long traditional and historical ties Canada has had with Great Britain.

What’s bred in the Bone

In What’s bred in the Bone by Robertson Davies we are introduced to a set of divergent issues dealing with Francis’ Cornish respectability. This can be observed right off from the start. We have a threesome discussing research for a biography of the main character of the novel, Francis Cornish. There is an impasse because the biographer, Reverend Simon Darcourt, can’t seem to get enough information about the subject at hand and worst yet there seems to be some shady background behind the man that is being researched. This shady background cannot and should not be allowed to be published because it might damage the Cornish name. Upon threatening to cancel the project, the biographer then suggests to go public by his own means and curiosity about the subject is the only thing holding the respectability of Frank Cornish untarnished. This is a curious set of events because even after Francis Cornish death the issue of respectability haunts his deceased ens. It is also curious to observe that while it is perfectly acceptable to be eccentric (Davies p.5), miser (Davies p.6) and lonely, the idea that Frank Cornish might be homosexual, a thief and a conniving liar is not because this will certainly bring about problems, specially damaging the banking industry we are told (Davies p.4). Respectability, even in an era that prides itself in acknowledging that being a poofter is aceptable, is risqué. Respectability can make or brake fortunes we are understood.

How did Francis Cornish acquire his respectability? Well, Francis Cornish was born under a rather dark and unpure ambiance that bespeaks ill deeds. All to sustain an aura of respectability. All under a period in time that prides itself for being respectable. The logic is that respectability was to be maintained by all means necessary, the norm in Victorian times. It was in order to maintain a respectable appearance that before Francis Cornish was born, the death of his brother was simulated to cover up a stain of the past, something he discovers himself later on (Davies p.58;131). However this stain was not covered up sufficiently it seems because the school that Francis attends as a child everybody seems to know that something is being hidden in the family attic. We obtain this bit of information from the lips of the bully Alexander Dagg:

D’you know what I’am going to tell yu? There is something funny about your house. People see lights where a light’s got no right to be. My Maw says there is a looner in there somewheres. […] People wonder a lot about your house. (Davies. p.94)

Alexander Dagg speaks of Francis the First. Francis Cornish brother who is hidden from public view because he was conceived out of wedlock and suffers a physical ailment that renders him anormal. The act of conceiving out of wedlock was unthinkable in an era where Victorian values still held sway over people even during the relaxed reign of Edward VII. To admit fault betrayed appearances. In order to save face this meant hiding any stain that might tarnish the name of the Cornish family and this is how Francis comes to being, out of an effort to sustain an aura of respectability. Although there was a price to pay for keeping up with appearances. Respectability has a price after all.This entailed a series of complex social ”exchanges” or ”negotiations” (Booker p.138). In order to keep Mary-Jim McRory respectable, Francis Cornish mother, the Senator, Honourable James Ignatius McRory, had to strike a deal with another seemingly respectable person, in this case Major Francis Cornish whose respectability lies solely on the pins of his titles and past. Major Francis Cornish outlined a deal that profoundly astonished the Senator’s sensibilities because ”it hit him very hard in his Highland pride” (Davies p.42) yet he went along with it in order to keep respectability intact. The other paid price was that the whole town knew there were strange and odd things going on in Francis’ house. Though this seems to matter little for the Cornish family, so long as rumors are kept in check what the town knew was of little concern.

“Ah – for Francis the Looner was a lifelong reminder of the inadmissible primitive in the most cultivated life, a lifelong adjuration to pity, and a sign that disorder and abjection stand less than a hair’s breadth away from every human creature.” (Davies p. 207)

The first parts of the novel are the backbone of the title since the omniscient voices retelling Francis Cornish life argue that in order to narrate his life it is what is bred in the bone that matters. Respectability, then, is what is bred in the bones of Francis Cornish albeit a questionable sorts of respectability though very well in tune with what society prescribed as respectable in those times. This can be discernible when Francis Cornish decides to paint the myth of Francis Cornish. (Davies p.359) He decides to go ahead and paint a fake painting and he weighs in the consequences yet for the sake of respectability he chooses to do the wrong deed.

Although this should not come as a surprise since there are all sorts of outside social forces shaping Francis Cornish life. Both exterior and interior forces. For example, the first hundred pages of the book rob him of a say in an age were William James’ stream of consciousness is an almost du riguer technique. It is a curios aspect of the novel that in order to narrate Frank Cornish life the use of an omniscient voice, or voices in this case, are used to explain who Francis Cornish is. This in fact seems to add to the illusion of maintaining respectability. By not allowing Francis Cornish to have a stream of consciousness we keep the illusion of respectability intact. He is not responsible for his acts. Had the writer resorted to stream of consciousness god only knows what ideas had we formed about Francis Cornish. One can even question the choice of the omniscient narrators for Francis Cornish. They free him of all flaws, he is nearly immaculate. Frank Cornish is an exercise in immaculateness. Indeed, there is no real assertion of independent self because all the strings are being pulled for Francis Cornish. If the demigods aren’t tinkering with his self then there are the constraints placed before him by society. The nearly absent parents, the overzealous caretaker, Aunt Mary-Ben McRory, the school and even when there is a glimpse of assertion it is Dr. J.A Jerome who gives him the permission to fight back (Davies p.89).

However, being raised under the shadows of respectability radically determines Francis Cornish identity. He learns to keep secrets and learns the codes of respectability that seem to prevail in a society steeped in Victorian values. There is no doubt that respectability manages to shape Francis Cornish identity even to his own detriment. He is a secret agent for MI5 and manages to fake paintings although he can’t acknowledge that his is the author of them. He just fantasizes to tell the truth:

It was at this point that Francis, who had been suffering for two days and a half the torments of an inflamed conscience, […] felt that he should rise to his feet and make a speech in the manner of the late Letzpfenning: ”Gentlemen, I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little paint box.” (Davies p.393)

He does tell a lie of course and he seems to pay for it dearly. He is after all considered eccentric, rumors fly about his integrity and remains a loner the remaining years of his life sharing almost a similar fate that his brother faced. The looner ended up secluded because he wasn’t respectable enough to be seen in public view. They both hide behind the illusion of respectability. Francis has many defects that need to be kept secluded as well, MI5 for example. Respectability was sown and he reaped a dark and secretive life for it.

All in all we have a set of authorities deeply shaping Francis Cornish identity. Dr. J.A, MI5, the elementary school via Alexander Dagg and other persons as well. When is Francis Cornish himself though? Oddly enough it seems almost curious to observe that the only time Francis Cornish ever is himself is through the mechanism of forgery. It is in the realm of deceit where we experience a real Francis Cornish with his own stream of consciousness. A place were Daimon Maimas and Lesser Zadkiel are tending the needs of Francis Cornish.

Bibliography

Booker, Keith M. A Practical Introduction to Literary Theory and Criticism. Longman
Publishers USA 1996.
Robertson, Davies. What’s Bred in the Bone. Viking Penguin. Elisabeth Sifton Books. 1985

Cordery, Simon. ”Friendly Societies and the Discourse of Respectability in Britain, 1825
1875” The Journal of British Studies 34 (1995): 35-58.

One hardly sees so many subtitles on a book, but in Greg Grandin’s book, Empire’s Workshop, we do. More aptly, we are bombarded by the word Empire, just in the cover book we find it three times over. I resisted this term because I have a hard time believing that the US is a design meant to be an Empire, not yet anyhow. Our western narrative has made sure that empires are not good, that its ultimate destiny is to unravel into oblivion. Asimov what not. For a country based on Republican values this tends to send shivers down the spine of the few who retain nostalgia for the Old America.

Even more appaling regards visuals in the book is the flag of the US in an upside position which to most knowledgeable people means distress. Perhaps the more succint example of this kind of flag use is best described by the movie titled the Last Castle where Eugene Irwin (Robert Redford), “a military hero by all accounts, is killed for calling attention to atrocities committed by ugly Americans.”

In Empire’s Workshop, Grandin describes the US as grappling for its very soul. Grandin’s book is a refresh button for us that have enough RAM that stretches back a while. A fortysomething book perhaps, a book for the ageing X generation or university students taking foreign relation courses. It is intented to be provocative not because it opens old wounds but because it details how the wounds were opened in the first place. Both physically and spiritually.

Grandin analysis how Latin America has served as a training ground for its Empire designs. I suppose I am to be appaled by the atrocities being commmited or that were comitted, documented and all; pondered upon, at times, in huge swaths, in Grandin’s book. [He tends to get ahead of himself at times]. Yet the fact of the matter is that personal psychology helps little in this case. I can feel disgust at what the narrative so vividly brings fourth, but let us face the facts, I was not in in El Salvador, Guatemala or Honduras nor belong to the upper echeleons of the Latin America créme de créme hence little simpathy can be drawn from me there either. I have long known that the rich class of Latin America is far from being the patriotic ideal spoused by any decent country in the world whose foundations are based on Republican values.

Suffice to say, after reading the Latin American passages I find it rather ironic that those very mercenaries the US trained during the Cold War are now at the service of the mexican mafia, Kabiles I believe they are named. Or that Ecuadoreans are serving as hired guns to protect the Green Zone. Which is kind of actual as we speak now.

On a slight humoristic side, we are reminded of that great actor of our times, Ronald Reagen, in an astonishing manner tha it provokes the imagination to believe that perhaps Reagen kept its senses to the end while we believe it to be otherwise, purposesly or not. Is Elvis in the house?

Spiritual wounds are ones whose core is always open. There is no closing. Grandin maps, however crude, America’s eternal mana, predestination. The problem with predestination is that it never achieves a climax. There is always more one is predestined to do. But allow us to assume that we have achieved the goal set. And this is where the problem begins because the job is never done. So we are asked to envision the unimaginable. Worse yet, Grandin assures us that the US Empire design proyect is unfullfilled. Except that perhaps we have now turned a corner, flipped a coin what not. Lull before the storm etc.

Like I said, I suppose that one can be appaled by the atrocities Grandin describes in Empire’s Workshop, it is, after all, in our christian nature to deplore crimes against humanity. Consistent with our times open debate about christianity in our present time, I suspect Grandin also suggests, however slight, that predestination mechanisms are being used for ill purposes. Our modern day theocracy maluses the most common drive in America: the belief that we are meant for something aka we are predestined for schemes alien to the founding fathers intentions of our beloved land. Grandin never mentions the Calvin in all of us who nurture America in our hearts, but somehow he insuniates in the narrative that we are a herd whose leaders are awry.

Lastly, I was amused by the Mary Shelley prologue quote. Shelly warns us that resurrection is futile. No matter how grand our proyect. Yet Frankenstein remains in our minds, forever, no matter how monstrous the beast is. Is Grandin suggesting that Empire is not a business the US should not be resurrecting?

As an American myself I have always mulled the fact that we are a new race of people. It would behove us not to imitate the dirty concoctions of our European ancestors. We ought to come up with grander designs for our continent. I hope we do so.

I am miserable. Some bug decided to house itself in my body and alter the course of the daily affairs. I thought some whisky would kill it but it didn’t work. When it comes to colds I should just stick to my old ancestor’s household remedies, either tequila or mezcal. Some people would have a hard time swallowing the latter, specially in these Dr. Phil days but it’s true. Mezcal does the job.

I got a book from the Agonist team. Empire Workshop. I have just finished reading chapter one the preface, last night. And I already got some reservations about it. The front cover has a little Old Glory on it, albeit upside down. For those in the know the sight of such a flag implies and SOS. Then there is the Mary Shelley quote from her book Frankenstein. Frankenstein did not have a life of its own. This is contrarian to Manifest Destiny ideology.

This just might be a book about the Ugly American in the Good, the Bad and the Ugly American.

My ideas are starting to fly around, I want so earnestly to see if the author delves in the complex mechanism of language differences of Spanish and English and the power hierarquies between the more personal, one to one, we are all equal attitudes of gringos and more formal relations that characterize Latin American societies where, in essence, the Thou address is alive and thriving.

Like I said, I already have reservations. I have loads of history from México both at the book level and what my relatives have told me about gringos.

Greg Grandin doesn’t delve so much into it in the first chapter but the US prior to the Mexican Revolution owned huge swaths of land all over México. To mention just one guy we have the Hearst family which practically owned Chihuahua. Lore from my family used to tell that whenever the Hearst family wanted to over their domains they needed over two days in train to cover their land possesions.

***

Chapter One: it’s not for the layman. It is stricly an academic chapter which requieres heavy historical baggage and a lot of pity. It’s a me, me, me tale of US power. Lopsided if one wills.

The optics focus heavily on what the US foreign policy has caused in LA through its business proxies throughout the 19th century.

The enemy that has fought the US merits no more mention than the footnotes on top of diverse and selected words.

This chapter has a thin veil of approval of that sureriority that its is spoken of at the beginning of the chapter.

***

Several optics at looking at his: (1): you are an American and say: God, how can my government be capable of these atrocities (2) You are a Latino and say, Goddamnit! I knew these mutherfuckers had no heart and I hate them the more for so, (3) Grandind is building a case for himself, that is, trumping up credentials in the event the American government makes an about face in foreign policy (doubt it) and suddenly a Carter Like figure comes along (4) You admire Grandin’s narative and not think about the many religious references Grandin uses to make his case.

***

Chapter 2: Where in the hell is Belize in all of this? I have a hard time believing this narrative about American imperialism without America’s fave poodle in the court.

Even the title of the movie is ambiguous: Something the Lord Made, with Alan Rickman and Mos Def, both, without doubt, astounding actors who contribute to their art in many ways. The movie is set in the Jim Crow era when blacks had to seat at the back of the buses and when blacks had to pee in coloured designated bathrooms, hence the ambiguous title.

I do love a flick that manages to cast subtle critique at academia. Frankly speaking, I think academia is the last bastion in modern society that still safeguards old hierarchical values. Academia is infused with so many ceremonious bullshit that while its arguments á la Pound and its tradition arguments are solid, the fact that it hides an order is quite obvious. An order that sets a system well into place where it really shouldn’t be anymore, not now, not in this age, not this era I live in.

Academia is a frustrated limelight seeker that gives two dead rats over humanity. In academia everybody wants to be a star and everymotherfucker that steps unto its aisles is made to feel it is next in line to see God and hence a natural superstar that just needs to wait a bit before humanity bestows accolades upon accolades for nearly making it to the realm of the gifted ones.

It is nearly to the point of being poignantly ironic that at the end of the movie, Vivien, the star of the flick, gets its portrait hung amongst white intellectuals who are donning the cloth of academia while Vivien was painted wearing a suit. There are multiple interpretations to this dress code but it isn’t easy to not notice the snob.

I don’t like academia, specially the rules that surround its institutions. Academia is a very nasty beast that is a Golden calf that needs to be overthrown, a false God that cares not for humanity nor the advancement of humanity. Specially nowadays. The lifeless bloodsuckers that stand guard to its interiors are but a pack of bitter beings who are loath to admit their jobs are no better than a bureaucrat at the county offices of any county seat. These useless leeches have to go over a mountain of papers before they get any close to the chambers of God and while they peruse the stacks of papers they bitterly argue against their lot and how a waste of time their mundane chores are, that is, correcting papers made by mere mortals, Lord forbid they had anything they would be willing to teach humanity.

Well I’ve been slacking.

I was forced upon a swath the size of the Congress Library of work to do, and what did I do today? Slack, that’s right ese! so yeah, and my own personal protestant guilt tormentor from Queen Elizabeth’s time is beating the living crap of any shred of self-steem that still manages to eek a wriggle out of me (Cromwell, is that thou?) for being a slacker. It’s a mammoth sentence I know, so don’t get me started buckwheat!

So i’ve been reading loads of chicano literature in spanish. In spanish you might say raising an eyebrow or two, three would make you a freak. So yeah, Peregrinos de Aztlán by Miguel Méndez which is rapidly becoming a must read and taunted along the lines of Juan Rulfo which is to say a lot.

So my line of studies consists on focusing on the institutions and the making of the destitute in the novel.

In both cultures, because the characters revolve around Aztlán, which gives a huge boost to my theory that Aztlán lies south of the border as well, the institutions partake in the making of the destitute, that have no rights. It spells out in the desert, Califas and Tijuana.

The characters, the downtrodden mock the institutions that are supposed to protect them. The characters speak of the hypocrisy that the servants of the law engage in, specially those servants of the law in the United States which see the Chicano as nothing but a nuisance in all their protestant pulchritude. In fact, the Chicano character in the novel who is sentenced to jail by the judge whose story is detailed in french fetichism can not speak to the judge in the same language because he speaks chicano, not english.

There is also a mockery of the law institutions in México whose servants of the Law only serve the money God. They are depicted with even more desdain since at one point there is girl being used and raped and as she asks for help the police only tell her she is going end up in the can if she doesn’t stop the yelling.

The church institution is also made a mock of here because the outstanding citizens that abide by the laws of the christian Lord do not pay attention to the destitute.

The medical establishment is also made fun of here since no poor person can ever receive the same treatment as those destitute souls ans o eah, you get my drift.

The Republic of East L.A. – Stories (2002) by Luis J. Rodriguez

I am invariably always surprised at the ease with which I can understand Chicano literature. I can see right throught it. I figure it must be the cultural baggage. I mean I understand every concept, image, and connotation implied in those letters. I, at times, can’t help but feel sorry for those who aren’t acquainted with the fine letters my people are churning out, much to my delight, I can sit on any given midnightsummer day and just let the evening run its course while my head roams the loving fields of Aztlán, well, in these case the streets of LA.

I, incredibly enough, along with the Cisneros Caramelo book, bought these books here in Sweden, Stockholm to be precise, yes folk, our literature is going international!

So yeah, this fine fine book maps out rather nicely some of the territories that the Xicano soul has traversed in its relatively young culture. Rodriguez stories handle despair, hope, misfortune, treks, confrontation with the now defunct migra (INS), the confrontation and disregard that gringo institutions have given us, blue collar worker lifestyle (gloomy) have given us and well, the list goes on. His characters all have this snappy survival attitude to them and one can easily relate to them.

He even touches upon the different sorts of chicano manifestations that arise from our unique culture such as chicanos who dislike mexicans and who feel cheated because according to them mexicans from proper México give a bad name to american (USA) chicanos.

There are 12 short stories in this book and I personally loved reading My Ride, My Revolution, Las Chicas Chuecas, Oiga, Miss East L.A and La Operación, this particular one touches upon the migrating patterns of some indigenous people who are forced out of their homes in the Sierra Madre mountains in Chihuahua by drug lords and then by the migra once in the US, in essence, how they live only to be repressed by their governments and discriminated by their fellow brethen both in México and the USA. Heck, there is even one story there about my hometown Tijuana, I liked that one rather much I must say.

Rodriguez is a master storyteller, no doubt, but he has some flops in there but be they flops they are ok regards the theme they present. He uses a lot of chicano language that arises particularly along the border, I can even go so far as to say that southwestern spanish is nearly absent but I won’t. I was certainly surprised to see many words in there that we appearently use all the way up to L.A. This is not just english sprinkled with spanish words, there are unique chicano/pachuco words like wino (although I dislike this spelling since I think that it does not render the full phonological essence of the word. I think it should be why-no, whine-o, or wayno, but since the book is intended for an english audience I suppose the editors thought that this was the best option), neta, qué hubo, (I didn’t like this either, it should be Qvo), cagando el palo, rifar, and the likes of zafada. It is this sprinkling of full phrases in spanish (mind you, surprise! no translation is offered except in one or two cases!) that add its pizzazz to the telling and at times a rather amusing touch to it all.

Oh, and did I forget? He wasn’t born in the USA.

Some crazy ass shit, white man’s preoccupations and the plight Africa underwent.

So here at the university of Stockholm English Institute one of their favorite texts is Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The idea is to dissect the text and look at it through the prism of many researchers eye and even to shed some light into what others think about it, now please, bear in mind that I am Mexican, worse yet, am a Xicano, so whatever argument dished these guys up and the interpretations they make out of it is like watching two kids fight it out in the street for the mere pleasure of standing there and see the fight, in other words, as Tina Turner would say it succinctly, what’s love got to do with it? Even more I believe they give this text out for the sole purpose of entertaining the swedes as the swedes are central to this text’s narrative.

The text in itself is really about some old geezers sunbathing in the Thames one late evening in August and really there is nothing more than the comparison of two empires at play here, one, the Roman Empire and the other the British Empire.

However, there is a sense, a dimension at play here that is akin to an apology, a justification of sorts, a catholic/anglican church mea culpa, a Pontious Pilatos washing of the hands.

This text has a bad rap and I can see how the Africans are enraged by the narrative of this text, regardless of the value of the tale, its sole purpose is to whitewash the sins of the fathers. In other words, this text is merely apologizing for crimes committed against the people of Africa, (Judge Garzon, where are you when you are really needed) worse, making the British people have a heart of sorts, furthermore, and most disturbing, and whence the governments claims innocence of the acts of their subjects, is that they can claim innocence and distraction of their duties and play the good cop routine.

A perpetuation of the empire by benign means is at play, in others words, while crimes were committed in the name of the crown, the crown can always and always has the option of disclaiming itself from those crimes by alluding that its good intentions were hijacked by bad elements, and this is the case with this text, Joseph Conrad is apologizing for the acts of his people to the African folk, atonement, in English manners.

Curiously enough most of the critics in this book we are made to read are and have germanic last names, whether they are white, or black I have no idea, but it doesn’t stop me, a Xicano from finding this aspect as curious. Even more interesting, there seems to be a belief amongst critics that so long as one has a valid criticism about the text it is valid in all its aspect regardless of race, never mind that those races happen to be, for the most part, of the caucasian persuation.

Ok, now this is really something that makes you definitely scratch your head, I mean, this is amazing stuff in that if you thought of talking pointlessly in very fashionable manner then Husserlian thinking is the answer for you.

Who is Husserl anyways? just click away but don’t blame me later if you just shake your head in utter confusion.

It’s rather hilarious actually, so far I have read only 12 pages of Inlet to Husserlian Phenomenology by H. W. Fawkner and already I had a few cracks at it. This is what I so far have come to in this 50 page document that was sent to me via email in conjunction with my D level course at the English institution:

1.- There are a lot of hyphenated compounds to explain single variable concepts or meaning carrying units, in essence, as far as I can visualize this theory, what the meaning of these compounds give, to use an example, is best represented by the very hyphen that seems to unite this tripartite item.

2.- I haven’t figured out yet how to apply this course of events that Husserlian theory intends to describe so I won’t bother you with interpretations that might be false but in essence much goes out to discuss a certain middle ground between two acts, such as the utterance the tree.

you, the interlocutor says the tree ———> the hearer hears you, the tree but Husserlian theory is not concerned about the interpretation of tree in the hearer nor the utterer, it is concerned with the ’——->’.

Yeap …I haven’t either even figured out if I got it right but my hunch says that it is going along those lines

Let me put it another way, the document uses the analogy of offside from sports. If you are a sports fan you might understand that technical term which I have at least heard in some soccer games although I have been at a loss as to its significance until now. Ok, I confess am no sports buff, but hey! am still ok right? Anyways, since you are into sports then you know the object is to win, if you loose, well then a series of events unfold that carry dire consequences at times, and here is where I can find a suitable explanation and real comparison to what Husserl is trying to say, and again, I confess that I might be wrong, but you know that expression ‘it’s not important to win, what matters is how you play the game’? Well, it is my belief that Husserlian thinking goes along those lines ….jejejeje but seriously folks, I mean it.

On the cover of the book, you can tell he’s flirting. There he is, on the front cover, staring at you, sideways, coquettish almost, with his blurred hands in a pose that exudes calmness and a defiant attitude, just Chicano enough to fool you to believe that it is what you are seeing, a real tromp d’oiel. Near his Indian looking face there is the word Brown. You know it’s subliminal, he’s toying with raza, you know brown is for us like red is for indians. He is actually not even that brown as the cover of the book presents him.

I feel he wants to get closer to his xente, there are too many words in his recent book that have those extras that english doesn’t have and that Spanish abounds with, little accents and other orthographic niceties, I mean why in the world would he otherwise employ the diaeresis in naïve? Or accent other words? Then there is the word “discovery”, yes, in quotations, you know that has been a darling word in raza speech for years.

I’m not done withya yet Richardito …

Yet more exciting information at hand from the Lexicography dept:

Dictionaries: Collins English Dictionary Fourth Edition updated 2000 according to the blurb: 21st Century Edition

The New Britannica-Webster Dictionary and Reference Guide 1981

The query at hand: Compare the macrostructure of the two dictionaries:

“A dictionary’s macrostructure refers to what constitutes an entry in a dictionary and how the entries are arranged.” Lexicography: An Introduction – Howard Jackson (2002)

I took a common prefix: im- for the investigation of this quest.

The Britannica-Webster refers me to seek in- in the dictionary. So I did and at first we get a definition of the prefix. Then, a three small column of a list of words beginning with in-. In fact, the prefix in- enjoys a set of entries in the dictionary at hand, and every sense of it has a full headword status. Aside the above-mentioned list, which has 69 words that have a correlation to in-, there is a plethora of words with the prefix in- in alphabetical order. Words that have morphological bending are treated in the same headword but the dictionary only provides the abbreviated suffix of said morphis.

Collins, on the other hand does not redirect me but instead tells me that im- is a variant of in- ¹ and in-² with superscript indicating sense status. Although there is no redirection indicated, I believe one is to assume that if we are to look for the ‘real’ definition of im- we are to understand by the word variant, that this prefix is nothing more than another form of in- hence I ought to look in the direction of said prefix. So I did. In- has two full headword status in the dictionary and thereafter a host of words with that prefix are shown although intermingled with other words that have no relation to the prefix in question. So that while you can find inappropriate in the list following the definition of the prefix, you will also find a definition for inasmuch as. Words that have a morphological bending are shown in boldface type along the whole spelled word and not just the suffix. So that if you look for inarticulate, you will also find within that same headword, inarticulately and inarticulateness.

While our current reference book for this course indicates that words that enjoy full headword status in a dictionary are more easily accessible, it is of the opinion of this student that it really does not make much difference whether a word has full headword status or not.

The reason for this statement is because it is in the understanding of the student that the approach to words is according to the next of kin method, and as we scan the headword in question, scanning is done in a vertical manner.

When we find that which approaches our search we scurrily take a quick glance to the next headword to seek for a potential similarity but in the event that said word is not there our eyes takes a horizontal turn and down the headword that most resembles that which we seek until we find it.

Vertical descension take that! You downward spiral, your days are over! jejejeje, over dramatized it a little, didn’t I???

Rolling in laughter yet?

Further jolly good fun from the folks at the lexicography Dept.

The dictionaries chosen at will:

Collins English Dictionary Fourth Edition updated 2000. According to the blurb: 21st Century Edition and The New Britannica-Webster Dictionary and Reference Guide 1981

The query at hand: Compare the prefaces of said dictionaries:

The dictionaries in question do not have a section called preface in their books, but according to the etymology of the word from the Britannica-Webster its origins are : [Middle French, from Latin prefatio “foreword”, from praefari “to say beforehand” from prae- “pre-” + “fari” “to say”] and according to Collins preface comes from [C14: from medieval Latin praefatia, from Latin praefatio a saying beforehand, from praefari to utter in advance from prae- before + “fari” to say] hence I will use the Foreword, indicated in both dictionaries, to mean ‘preface’.

Collins seems to address its audience with much more in mind to say since there are far more wordy compared to Britannica-Webster who has less than a half page dedicated to their foreword. Collins has one and a half pages addressed to its readers. The information presented in the Britannica-Webster is placed smack in the middle with three short paragraphs and the one presented in Collins has one full page of information in two column rows and a second page half full also in a two column row formation.

Britannica-Webster has a near childish approach to its reader, and the emphasis on the didactical aspects are way over done. More oft than not it sounded like a blurb, highlighting much of the contents and what it had. It is a mere self-laudatory foreword to the dictionary as if the selling pitch has to continue to convince the reader that said dictionary is a sound investment. A few recommendations as to what to do first with the dictionary were dished out by the Editors. Collins also has the tendency to hype up its foreword by lauding its efforts in bringing about said dictionary, much of the information, if you bypass the sales pitch that seems to permeate every other labor that was done in an effort to bring the dictionary about, is handy and I guess that credit must be given were credit is due.

Bloody good review if you ask me!

Having fun yet?

I was recently told to compare the microstructure of two dictionaries in my very exciting lexicography class which makes me question WHY is it that I like lexicography so much, specially etymology.

The dictionaries chosen at will:

Collins English Dictionary Fourth Edition updated 2000. According to the blurb: 21st Century Edition

and The New Britannica-Webster Dictionary and Reference Guide 1981

The query: Compare the microstructure of the two dictionaries:

I took the entry: rest

The results:

Collins:

· This word has a superscript number for the headword to the right of the word. The dictionary indicates that all homographs are so treated.

· Word class is marked by italized abbreviation and if a word has more than one part of speech it is separated from others by a lozenge

· Pronunciation transcription according to the IPA is provided

· Senses are numbered and if there is more than one sense within the same number an alphabetical order is attached to the number.

· Fixed noun phrases are given full headword status

· Etymology comes at the last of the definition of the word which is indicated by bold brackets [ ] and according to the Guide to the Use of the Dictionary, ‘ The Etymologies show the history of the word both in English … and in its pre-English source languages.’

Britannica-Webster

· This word has a superscript number for the headword to the left of the word. The dictionary indicates in its section titled Using The Dictionary that ‘The order of homographs is historical.’

· Pronunciation transcription is provided right after the boldface entry word is shown.

· Word class is marked by italized abbreviation. If the word has another part of speech it is given a separate entry.

· Following the word, pronunciation and word class, the Britannica-Webster offers synonym paragraphs because according to the dictionary ‘[they] help the reader discriminate among a number of similar and often confused words.’

· Senses are numbered and if there is more than one sense within the same number an alphabetical order is attached although the number does not follow and the alphabetical letter stands alone. Every definition in the Britannica-Webster is set off by a boldface colon whether or not there is a number before it. When a meaning has multiple variations, the meanings are given according to their historical status with the oldest recorded meaning having first status and newest ones last status.

· What Collins refers to as idioms the Britannica-Webster refers to as run-on entries and they do not have headword status in this dictionary, nor much by way of distinguishing them either, they are ‘ … the last element of many entries.’

· Etymology is in square brackets following the definition. In the etymology, the entry’s history is in italics and its definition in quotations marks.

Exhilarated yet?

Linguistics is one of those fields that have no real use for those of us who are natives to the language in question since much of it is already ingrained. It only becomes a useful tool when studying a foreign tongue. Reading Patrick White has given me the opportunity to put into use these tools in a new different way. Had it not been for those studies I think I would not have enjoyed Patrick White’s autobiography Flaws in the Glass as much.

In it you’ll find the usual British English with many instances of articles or conjunction elicitation. At times the nominalization is eye-catching in its use in Australian English such as fossicking and acquaintanceship, I mean, how do you fossick and since when did an acquaintance become a process? As far as I know how to use ‘acquaintance’ it is more of a stage rather than a continuous process.

There is a fondness for compounds too in the first 40 to 60 pages, almost as if the language didn’t, couldn’t do with single words and wasn’t enough to describe the environment. We have examples such as, double-youlker, biscuit-colored, not-so-successful, stage-struck, tea-trays, pansy-shaped, bomb-scarred, green-to-yellow tones and many many more, almost, as I suspect, as a manipulative technique on the part of the writer to emphasize his roots to the land. It is as if there is a need to stretch the language to the maximum; as if it is incessant to unify words to explain a whole.

Furthermore, you’ll find in the text that nouns enjoy some of the most wonderful modifiers like the following ones I loved so much that I underlined them and kept them for myself: the odd recce, those ochreus houses, a packet of foolscap, grubby at the edges, an etiolated beauty, the maker’s fretsaw and smiling treacly smiles. Possessive noun modifiers also gave a new twist to the tongue such as: a welter of adenoidal sighs … nosegay of pink oxalis. Some of the biggest noun modifiers ever brought uncountless giggles to my face, just take a peek at this:

It is also why an unlikely relationship between an Orthodox Greek and a lapsed Anglican egotist agnostic pantheist occultist existentialist would-be though failed Christian Australian has lasted forty years. p.102 (my italics) or

Language is indeed what makes this text so fresh and new despite the fact that it has been on the shelves a long time, I was rather thrilled in finding so many new words and phrasal verbs that I have never seen before, it refreshed my language. New phrasal verbs such as junk up and bawl out and even a few idioms like odd and sods sparked a curiosity that I hadn’t seen in ages.

I also increased my vocabulary immensely with new words that my CD ROM Macmillan (American) English dictionary lacked a definition for such as, saltpetre, planchette, latticed, caryatid, pinchbeck, gunyah, tittuping, thick fug, flibbertigibbets, archimandrites, sabras, a revenant, doxie and a slew of other vocabulary that the book indicates with an asterisks as if the language wasn’t foreign enough already.

Although there is a knack to hold in high esteem the mother country, the UK, the local language is used to de-colonize the mentality as the list of words above indicate, there is a preference for the local and new as opposed to the old and known.

Just as well because I somehow have an underlying belief that he uses/manipulates language to suit his aim, purpose, to convey his roots. There is a sense that he enjoys language so much that even when he breaks off from a relationship like the one with Sir William Dobell when they were ‘…belting out obscenities as hard as [they] could.’ He says, ‘I believe the chandelier tinkled a bit …’ this is giving language more power than one would expect.

On another plane, Patrick White, born in London, raised in Australia, is one of those expats who are more citizens of the world than the country they profess to belong to. Like Robert Graves, he just went through a minefield unscathed while serving in the army during WWII where he became a well-traveled man and during much of his stints abroad he picked up on the romantification that writers tend to exploit once in a foreign land. I often wondered as to the significance of geography in autobiographies and pondered what do we want to rub in or what kind of statements are we making when we do so? I mulled this as I went along reading getting the sense that the writer wanted to pull us into a glitzy glamor that we are suppose to know of and thereby cause some sort of envy.

Much of the autobiography is a retelling of uneventful nights made pleasurable by the uncanny eye of the narrator. He has dexterity to describe psychological states, like when he describes Baron Charles de Menasce smile, he says the following: ‘Round the corners of his mouth clung that faint webbing which cynicism leaves on those too tender to have faith in others and, worse still themselves.’

Homosexuality plays a significant role in identification but it is not the whole of the story here, while it is part of the telling, it is a part as much as in any other person when he or she says they are Catholic. There is much self-retrospection or reflexive thinking going on here as far as autobiographical interests go, so that at times you’ll read that what he is reliving all this, to tell you, the reader, he’ll say he is doing nothing more than ‘recycle shit’ yet for the same token you’ll here that what he is doing is ‘painting this self-portrait’. More oft than not, one gets the sense that more things are being said than what it is written.

Patrick White focuses much in the habits of others which begs the question, what does he want to say by making note of the habits of others? From my point of view, I think we have a case, if not an inkling, of an author wanting us to get closer to him.

The issue of influence is also a recurrent one, which necessarily raises the question: Why give a historical account of others and their fate in an autobiography? Worse yet, inevitable, as a writer, one becomes aware of one’s place, which is nearly God-like since one is retelling the fate of others as one sees fit, and according to one’s agenda. I say this because the juxtaposition with the fate of others, to that of ones own, can be used to justify ones being and is very much present in this autobiography. At times Flaws of Glass just plainly resorts to vignette biography to justify ones judgment of others. I find theses vignette biographies interesting though because they serve to reinforce how the author thought and gives great insight into the ontological and epistemological value system of the subject.

All in all this autobiography gives much into the account of the writer in question, the only flaw I saw was that of relying so much on the lives of others but in the end I guess we are all nothing but the product of our surroundings.

Vera Brittan recounts her fight for her independent self as an uphill battle. We get this, as it seems that she is engaged in a Sisyphus task in order for her to accomplish her education.

Our hero is put to test her belief; the devil is society, her milieu.

I find it amazing how Beauty for these Victorian writers seems to be the highest ideal of all. Edmund Gosse, for example, became offended because zealots in the Christian community destroyed pieces of art in museums. Vera Brittan, p.48, says that ‘…my sexual curiosity was always a bad second to my literary ambition.’ And war is ‘…an infuriating personal interruption …’ to her studies.

The appreciation of a literary education is on a higher pedestal, and a higher social class. There is no higher aspiration than to acquire a profound knowledge of the arts, letters and conversation. Social life is at best a nuisance, an obstacle to that end. Although fine coterie is desired.

Spanish philosopher and novelist writer Miguel de Unamuno comes to mind at times when one is reading this autobiography. He comes to mind so much because this autobiography has what he terms ‘intrahistoria’ that is, the story of the common people, away from the shakers and movers of power.

World events were just in the way for her, hindering progress, her way for an upper education. There is much time spent brooding over how these significant events like war, Edward the seventh’s postponed coronation or the death of the Queen played little importance in the life of Brittan in the early chapters of the novel. (p.98,110)

Our pity is for her, the invocation of pity according to Aristolean principles that leads to catharsis?

This histrionics idea bothers me more and more. I suppose she is bound to histrionics (hysteria?) but only, I believe, in her life, the hurdles she encounters on way to meet her goals. I would prefer to name those acts as acts of indignity. She is indignant at how others react to her femininity, gender. How she developed this acute sense of independence is not told I believe, but her impulse, metered by her patience and temperament, is in the end met. One thing disturbs me here though, inasmuch as men are granted the belief that they are ‘predestined’ for X why isn’t this same belief granted to females? Robert Graves after all did the same, although he expressed it in the name of valour, is this a minimizing of the female voice once again?

Wherein lies the feminine here? In the way her indignant voice comes out? In the display of shock at the behaviour of her surrounding ‘barbarian’ society which fails to include women? I believe this is so since she is battling a society bent in turning down her best desires. She asserts herself as a woman through many emotional perils.

Since last monday Jean Paul Marat has been in my head. In particular the painting Jaque Louis David did of him titled Marat Assasiné . I first came across him through a book by Peter Weiss that I must of surely found in a second hand bookshop back in the states. I must of liked the cover, it had the painting mentioned above, and then became enthralled by it because I do remember that I read it right away. The title of the book? The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade– more commonly known as Marat/Sade. ( More pictures ) I loved it and ever since there there are two quotes which have lasted within ever since:

Act one, Conversation Concerning Life and Death:

Marat: The important thing
is to pull yourself up by your own hair
to turn yourself inside out
and see the whole world with fresh eyes.

and

Act one, Continuation of the Conversation between Marat and Sade:

Marat: I never believed the pen alone
could destroy institutions.

Well, that’s what has been haunting me since monday the 13th.

Went out for a stroll and decided to take a book with me, so I took David Lodge along. I started reading Consciousness and the Novel (2002) in the beginning of the term. I found it in the New Books section of Stockholms Library. Of eleven essays, two I totally skipped, of which the remaining 9 others were succulent pieces. He definitely treats the subject well, that is, how conciousness exists in novel characters.

He has an eye for criticism, for example, I was very much amused and amazed at a critique he made regarding an essay on E M Forsters novel Howards End, titled Forster’s Flawed Masterpiece. He says: “Some of the purple passages towards the end of the novel sound like George Meredith on a bad day …” I mean, to make that kind of critique you really must be well versed in literature. And he sure sounds like he is. He is one of those novelists that also sidejob as scholars, like Richard Holmes. He has good, delicious essays on Evelyn Waugh, Kierkegaard, a nice discourse on Philip Roth’s geriatric sexual habits. A topic I only seen touched on by a swedish writer, Theodor Kallifatides in Seven Hours in Paradaise ( De sju timmarna i paradiset ). Dickens came along as well, and this essay covered mostly things of a nearly biographical nature. Although very informative stuff about his sexual life and the near lack of conciousness in of some Dickens characters.

Went out for a stroll and decided to take a book with me, so I took David Lodge along. I started reading Consciousness and the Novel (2002) in the beginning of the term. I found it in the New Books section of Stockholm’s Library. Of eleven essays, two I totally skipped, of which the remaining 9 others were succulent pieces. He definitely treats the subject well, that is, how consciousness exists in novel characters.

He has an eye for criticism, for example, I was very much amused and amazed at a critique he made regarding an essay on E M Forsters novel Howards End, titled Forster’s Flawed Masterpiece. He says: “Some of the purple passages towards the end of the novel sound like George Meredith on a bad day …” I mean, to make that kind of critique you really must be well versed in literature. And he sure sounds like he is. He is one of those novelists that also side job as scholars, like Richard Holmes. He has good, delicious essays on Evelyn Waugh, Kierkegaard, a nice discourse on Philip Roth’s geriatric sexual habits. A topic I only seen touched on by a Swedish writer, Theodor Kallifatides in Seven Hours in Paradaise ( De sju timmarna i paradiset ). Dickens came along as well, and this essay covered mostly things of a nearly biographical nature. Although very informative stuff about his sexual life and the near lack of consciousness in of some Dickens characters.

I’ve read thus far in this term several auto/biograpies/memoirs from the Victorian period, Edmund Gosse, Robert Graves, Strachey, Eminent Victorians: Florence Nightingale, Oliphant, Autobiography. Ed. Elizabeth Jay, and Virgina Woolf, “The Art of Biography”, “Sketch of the Past”. Its strikes me as curious how all more or less come from the same middle class background and how much importance they attach to their acquaintences. Its filled with what we nowadays call name dropping. Their relations with the upper echelons seem to make them who they are regardless of their chores in life, they belong to one and the same innercircle. The name they bare sets them aside from blokes, say, like me. Therein lies the difference, as far as I can see between Brits and Americans, while I haven’t read any memorable autobiographies, biographies or memoirs of Americans I know the value system in the States are different, because I know that what is valued in the US is the ability to exceed above your deficiencies, society will reward this. About the only thing worst frowned upon in America is the Nouveau Richie. This class is seriously out in a limb there but they seem to love a story of the poor farmer who made it to the top.

He talks about being a puritan and a Catholic at the same time, and while he has puritan behavior he is a catholic. The real mother and father of the likes of him, an orphan whose real mother shuns. Brown is understandably a book about the many myths that permeate his persona and the beliefs that hold the fabric of the beings we are, we do not know, concludes in his conclusionless book, whence cometh we. He lauds the mestizaje, the Chicano, and reunites himself thereby, his own way to the only community where he matters, the Chicano Community.

Why otherwise would he run over a snake in a so an American truck? To assert himself? and why did he describe the mexican man with the snake hanging around his neck? “don’t tread on me” is the legend most Americans like when there are times of trouble. He ran over one, didn’t care; another mexican, just like him picked it up and placed around his neck, laughing, joking about it, as a trophy, a cohort, a partner in crime. They smashed it, both, and American legend, they mulled the snake and both went back to gloat about it, showing little remorse, he didn’t even look. He is a defiant Chicano in his middle age.

One of the things that most amazed me, is that after he tells us that his father was an orphan he still buys the mythical myth that all Mexicans descend from some sort of Spaniard and indigenous racial intermix. It is a near blind belief in that which he denies he is, “my mexican father” he tells us, and then proceeds to pack the cultural luggage that permeates the fabric of mexican culture, this, despite the fact that he will deny, in your face that he hasn’t any cultura. He lacks a sense of belonging and takes by association that which he all along has questioned, his mexicanness.

As I read this book I often wondered how whites read this book, there is so much in that book, that lacking the appropiate cultural baggage, one is surely to miss gaps tantamount to the Grand Canyon.

Since last monday Jean Paul Marat has been in my head. In particular the painting Jaque Louis David did of him titled Marat Assasiné . I first came across him through a book by Peter Weiss that I must of surely found in a second hand bookshop back in the states. I must of liked the cover, it had the painting mentioned above, and then became enthralled by it because I do remember that I read it right away. The title of the book? The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade– more commonly known as Marat/Sade. ( More pictures ) I loved it and ever since there there are two quotes which have lasted within ever since:

Act one, Conversation Concerning Life and Death:

Marat: The important thing
is to pull yourself up by your own hair
to turn yourself inside out
and see the whole world with fresh eyes.

and

Act one, Continuation of the Conversation between Marat and Sade:

Marat: I never believed the pen alone
could destroy institutions.

Well, that’s what has been haunting me since last monday.

After incubation I came to more conclusions regarding this text. I realized there is a certain conflict here, she seldoms questions the validity of her emotions yet distrust to a degree as to how to proceed and record, as asuch, said emotions. She has trouble putting it in ink. The fear of going astray is always latent for she chastises other autobiographies for falling short of their aims, she complains that they often leave in the background the very person that they are supposed to be speaking of. She falls into that trap to, and I guess that she tried to circumvent it, this with a minor victory.

I would even venture so far as to say that VW is resistent to the whole idea of writing a Bio. I mean what gives impulse to write this Bio? Alas, it turns out to be just a mere side project for her.

Well, apart that I was proud that I could read the text in 4 hours I derived no more pleasure out of that than that. There a few instances were I found great delight in reading her, and that was when she got into a sort of attrition with her father in a boat, opinions were dished and Victoria took it for what it was. However, at other times I got the sense that she was like a drink that slowly intoxicates. In retrospect, I came to think that much of biographies at times resort to what we nowadays refer to as name dropping, at least that’s the case for this victorian period in which somehow I ended up in.

I have admired Virgina Woolf for a long time now, to the point of having gone to a theater play named Who’s of afraid of Virgina woolf? back in the early 90′s in San Diego, California, without understanding a iota of it and only going there because of the significance of the event. And then there is that line somewhere, I forget where, that has ever since haunted me, ” …you have to read a book twice, at least, to fully understand it …” something I never managed to do fully. Modern fiction was of course one of those text that parts water but at any rate, A Sketch of the Past was to my opinion at times very dull and at times only a few bubbles of joy did pop up now and then.

Second half of the book.

Incredible, I went through the whole book in expectation of some sort of outrage from part of Graves in regards to the title. He just resolved not to return to England without much ado. What a jester.

It seems that this man’s greatest adventures were mere happenstances of his day. A man whose destiny was shaped by forces outside his power and his only response was to act nearly sangfroid and superstitiously to his surroundings.

His memory prowess baffles the mind. He has great memory for detail and because of that it tends to work up ones jealousy.

Describing life in war trenches, Graves makes it sound like a Sunday walk through the Parks of Hell.

Like I said before, this guy writes with a bellicose passivity that yanks grins out your mouth when you least expect it.

Its just one of those books that teaches to take life as it comes, grudge all you want, this is it. And make the best of it.

What struck me as amazing was the same parallels I drew from the voices of dissent coming out of Graves autobiography with the voices of dissent we here in the eve of the Irak-USA war.

I guess what I call homosexual writing is really nothing more than what the British call sensibility. He cares. There is a level of manly emotion that I never seen expressed, nearly feminine, to it. These days there is a look that is much praised amongst those in artistic circles, and which is an outward androgyny. I believe that Graves managed quite well to paint an inward androgyny that exist/ed/s within his writing.

Running Bit Mark Amerika

“… I sort of decided to let quality take care of itself – because how do you decide on the quality of something you don’t understand? …”

– Ronald Sukenick

This is the kind of conciousness in a text that I would like to explore more, mainly, the altercation between ego and superego.

First half of the book.

Language is difficult and almost alien to me. It depicts life in England as I never seen it pictured before. Rare names pop up now and then. The military traditions are all told in a manner that makes them look nearly silly. These traditions are built upon feuds between individuals and a hierarchy of bureaucrats who oppose them. Their successful efforts then become traditions.

The same goes for the time he spent in school, traditions are poked fun at and the whole system is made to look supercilious, except him of course. The relationships between boys are almost as if he had in mind homosexual relationships like those in ancient
Greece and Rome, this goes too for when he is in the trenches. Boys fall in love with each other.

There is a lot of research done in this text. Military history at its best.

If there ever was a homosexual voice in this writing I think I have found one. He has a manner of coming to conclusions that borders a flair of nonchalance. Almost light humor if you will. Although I like to think that his writing has a definite boxing style to it. One, two, and Pang! You get number three. He has a way of making witty remarks; by building up the narration with seriousness only to kill it off with charismatic wit. Quite enjoyable indeed.

For example: “… Although they could see we were officers, they [Welsch soldiers] did not jump to their feet and salute. I thought that this must be a convention of the trenches; and indeed it is laid down somewhere in the military text-books that the courtesy of the salute must be dispensed with in battle. But, no, it was just slackness.”

Bullying seems to be a central theme throughout. At times it felt as if I was in some Harry Potter dungeon.

The text runs with an amusing bellicose passivity.

For example: “Two young miners, in another company, disliked their sergeant who had a down on them and gave them all the most dirty and dangerous jobs. When they were in billets he crimed them for things they hadn’t done; so they decided to kill him.”

Yet another example: “Sergeant Dickens was a different case: a born fighter, and one of the best N.C.O.s in either batallion of the regiment. He had won the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Bar, the Military Medal, and the French Médaille Militaire; been two or three times promoted to sergeant’s rank, and each time reduced for drunkenness.” Ch 16

Text online: babysitter The Jack Derrida version, according to me, since I didn’t find a full integral text anywhere else.

Read Coover’s The babysitter online. It smacks of 1950′s, like the show Happy Days.

Except that this version is the violent form, insults and all. It could be that this is what all those goody-two-shoes characters really had underneath their conscious. Curiously enough, it also had some of that atmosphere one can find in Raymond Carver’s The Cathedral. Does this ever have a ring to Thomas Newman’s American Beauty or what! The type of suburbia such as the one described in Edward Scissor Hands comes to mind too. Well, I can see why this text is popular, there is a lot of sexual implications. It isn’t too strange then that this period (1969) also had the sexual revolution. I personally find all sexual commentary here a worst outbreak than the outness Victorian prudishness
had when it left those vestiges in the past.

Thought: This text is impregnated with Christian values. The sweetest reward is to have sex. Yet taboos run all throughout the text, impeding men to full fill their acts. Its only Christian moral values that hold them back. Mr. Tucker’s incessant need of an aspirin reminds me of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman with his need of new material things and his failure to see his reality and accept the present.

This also has some of Julio Cortazar’s fantasy style characteristics like those in La Isla a Mediodia (The Island in the afternoon). There is a lot of rave regarding the sentence structure on the net over this text.

I’ve been reading some books concerning the Victorian period in my Autobiography class such as Edward Gosse’s Father and Son, Harriet Jacob’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and a chapter in the book Eminent Victorians called Florence Nightingale and it strikes me how much the Christian Judeo faith is steeped into the very essence of the writing. One is made to take at face value what it is said, and even if there is a slight chance of disbelief atestaments are provided. As if being thoroughly religious gave one the power to be in the “Truth” as it were. There wasn’t any doubt about one’s follies and every event is attributed to Almighty God. One feels the scrutiny under which these peoples characters are being put through, not so different to modern censorship nor George Orwells 1984. It is perhaps no mischance then that people like George W Bush abide by such religions since it gives a structure, a mechanism by one can easily manipulate these sorts self observations under the watchful eye of God. It is also little wonder then that every dollar in the USA has Annuit Coeptis as it’s motto alongside a pyramid with an eye looking dead straight at one. For more info on this subject: back of the buck

Well, I’ve digresssed well off into something else more akin to conspiracies and left the Victorians in their little isle, but suffice to say, as regards the conciousness of these people who wrote autobiographies I can say that the very same sort of impulse that convinced them how to be is no doubt also the very same impulse that justified some of the worst cruelties in human mind. Which goes to prove that character managent that goes unchecked falls short of rotten.

Incredible, I finished my first e-book, I am now a full member of the cyber world!

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs.

The book is a myriad of emotions uneasily untangled. One can discern several traces of Plato’s, The Apology and even Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre. This is the first time my skepticism is debunked from the high horse it usually sits on and for once I had a remorse every time a shadow casted doubt on the narrative. It seems hardly adequate to judge this book from an academic stand point and close reading seemed unneeded. At times, one was betrayed into easily accept the arguments southerners put forth for the kindness they expressed to their slaves only to later realize that one was siding with the devil itself!

Reading now: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Hate network
covers darkness
futile escape
eyes everywhere

ye of hope
run to me
embrace will I
your precious ambition

Even if you’re caught
lashing out lasting pain
the hate network dies
everytime you freedom try

the pain and memory remains
in our crying swelling hearts
when read do we today
of slaves of white men