Bring on the Night

Posted in Uncategorized on December 23rd, 2010 by nishantmisra

Well here we are ladies and gentleman, at the end of this interesting journey. When registering for Global literature I expected text from all over the world and I was not disappointed. Sure I didn’t quite get along with all the authors we read but overall it was an enjoyable experience. The canon versus non-canon was well balanced as well but the transitioning was a bit awkward. I recall reading Persepolis and then shortly after jumping into Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury. I like nice pacing in all aspects of my life and that was a bit of an unwelcoming shift. But as Fritz Perls put it, “I am not in this world to live up to other peoples expectations, nor do I feel the world must live up to mine.” With that said let’s move on shall we.

I always understood Canon literature as the “white” opinion on what is a classic work of literature. I mean that in the sense of how things fell into place. During the early days of exploration, many European countries funded explores such as Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo to “discover” the lands that lie beyond their reach. This was done to further expansion and make a profit. The newly discovered lands were seen as hostile territories, which had to be tamed. The people of the land were seen as savage and needed to be restrained for their own well-being. This type of mentality is what led to the birth of canon literature. The only literature that existed and was praised was that of authors such as Faulkner, Hemingway, and Conrad. The cultures of other people were dismissed since they were labeled as barbaric and incapable of anything besides manual labor, i.e. slavery. This type of mentality is what makes me question the validity of why certain works are deemed classic to this day in age.

I am in no way refuting the magnificence of the works of the old age. The eloquence that T.S. Elliot and W.B. Yeats possess is awe inspiring. The way their words flow is ingenious. I just believe that they shouldn’t be put on a pedestal or instantly gain access on “must read lists.” Enter an English class and the usually names are thrown on to the syllabus. Ask any student for an author and you will hear Faulkner, Hemingway, Dickens, etc. We aren’t exposed to anything new and it’s the same dance routine every time. The names mentioned in this class will be no different. The next English class I take will most probably include them once again. Our educational system only perpetuates this issue. The past 30 or so years have seen a rise in South Asian literature, African American literature and so on. Before that however it was all about the “canon” works. This is my main gripe with canon. Of course you’re going to win a race when you’re the only one participating in it.

The rise of globalization has helped author such as Junot Diaz, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Marjane Satrapi come forth into the light. America is now filled with so many people of different cultures that it is a difficult not to wonder. The immigration experience adds to this as well. Going to a mysterious land and facing obstacles to survive is something you would think came out of an exotic story of a person trapped on an island. But that’s the case for many people who leave their homeland due to varying circumstances to start anew. This type of literature is what fascinated me the most. The hot, muggy days of the Laundromat in Kingston’s work, or the isolated world of Marjane while in a foreign land is what made my mind want to keep on reading. Coming from an immigrant background I find myself fascinated in the hardships others faced. I was one of the lucky few that did not have it as bad as Ramon from Drown who had to learn the language and the customs.

This is not to say that I did not enjoy a peek into the worlds that the canon authors created. T.S. Elliot draws a beautiful picture in his poem The Love story of J. Alfred Prufrock but at the same time he seems to be trying to keep the average reader at bay. From looking into his background and his other works he does have an elitist approach to his style. Only the privileged have access to it and even then it’s difficult to understand. I felt the same way with William Faulkner. Authors like this create so many walls that the reader is busy trying to take it apart brick by brick. Writing should be about spreading knowledge and ideas and not about hoarding it to a select few. When I sit down to read I want the words to flow. I want to absorb it all and then reflect on it. If I’m busy looking up thousands of obscure metaphors I ask myself why I’m wasting my time and move on. If that’s what the writers of the old age had in mind then they have succeeded.

I would also like to make it clear that canon and non canon need one another. It’s like asking what’s more important in a vinaigrette sauce, the oil or the vinegar? The sauce ceases to exist when one is taken out. A class like global literature just needs to make sure that none take more priority. But because of old Elliot’s style I found we spent more time on his poem The Wasteland then we should have. It’s a double edged sword really. Spend too much time and it’s a waste, spend too little and you don’t understand it in the end. This brings me back to my point of complicated work being way too inaccessible. Junot Diaz’s Drown was so clear and concise that I bet the old writers could have learned a thing or two.

My main regret however is how authors like Kingston, Diaz, and Satrapi will fade in the background. They will be pushed aside as white noise and slowly forgotten. There needs to be a literature revolution where works by other authors are mentioned more often. I’ll consider myself blessed if I hear any of the names I mentioned above again. In this literary revolution I also think terms like canon should be erased completely. Why not simply classify them by time period or themes. Why add prestige to another facet of life that can do without it. Art such as writing should have no hierarchy or claim to fame. It should simply be another venue where a person can express their ideas freely and where creative energy just bursts forth. In the end however all that really matters is enjoying the work and the course, which I did without a doubt. The road was bumpy at times but if it was smooth all the way through then it wouldn’t have been worth it after all. Life needs conflict and debate and the same goes for literature. I hope I take English courses in the future that offer the engaging experience I received in Global Literature 255.

Good Evening Mr. President

Posted in Uncategorized on December 22nd, 2010 by nishantmisra

“The skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found.”

Miguel de Unamuno

When the book, Dreams From my father, was mentioned I knew I was going to have fun. Whenever a book involves a persona of great stature I begin to doubt it. This has nothing to do with politics but merely with the fact that the majority of celebrities who have books out haven’t actually wrote them. The person behind the actual work is known as a “ghost writer”. The famous person, in this case Obama, simply produces facts from his life and the writer does the majority of the work. I googled the book, which is not the best way to uncover the truth but it’s a start, and I came upon this website with a rather convincing article.

Now I took everything the author of the above article said with a grain of salt but nonetheless some facts seem to be logical.

Now on to the actual work. Regardless of my skepticism, I took on the tedious task of reading the work. I was surprised since I was expecting straight up political propaganda but I loved the style. Obama works as a spy and using various covert methods injects the work with the political babble most of us expected. This recurring theme of change, the almost philosophical coversations, etc. It all seems to be constructed to make Obama feel like he constantly is fighting a battle, his secret weapon being change. Reading this reminded me of a song by The Police which is titled De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.         (The song for your listening pleasure)       (the lyrics)

At first glance the song title sounds like something a baby would say. But upon closer inspection the deeper meaning of the song comes forth. Basically the Sting, the song writer, explains how words can be used, especially by politicians, to express themselves in an almost alluring manner. Even something as meaningless as blah, blah, blah, will have a deep meaning if said by a politician. The line in the song that I love the most is, ” Cause when their eloquence escapes you, their logic ties you up and rapes you.” This is the thought that ran through my mind while reading this.

I won’t say I didn’t like the style of the book but I just want to know if he actually wrote it or not. I guess in some ways it’s not a huge issue but then again we are reading a memoir. The timing of the memoir and the series of events following it make it a rather interesting coincidence. I would have preferred to have read something else such as Angelo or maybe even have finished up Persepolis. The second part of Persepolis was amazing, it really brought the character full circle. Enough of my complaining since you can’t always get what you want.

Silence for a Barbarian Reed Pipe

Posted in Uncategorized on December 21st, 2010 by nishantmisra

Kingston’s novel Woman Warrior explores many themes. Woman’s role, culture, and tradition are at the center. A hidden theme however is that of madness and silence. When it comes to the narrator, silence and madness go hand in hand. A woman’s role in an Asian culture is that of obedience and silence. I’ve had first hand experience of this from my time in India. The women only display their power and dominance over their children and no one else.  This is seen several times in the book when the narrator interacts with her mother. This is where I believe the two elements, madness and silence, fuse together. The silence slowly envelops the mind and sends it spiraling down to the dark corridors of madness. The bottled up frustration, anxiety, grief, and anger all make for a dangerous cocktail.

The narrator however has found a therapeutic method to quell this madness and let her thoughts be known. At the end of the  White tigers story the narrator tells the reader how she will fight her battles using words. After a rather fast paced and almost psychedelic action story about Fa Mulan the narrator comes back to the real word and realizes how powerless she is. Her dreams were her safety net but reality forces you to come back. Just like the sword made from the sky, the narrator realizes she can pull words out of the air and fight her battles where her enemies use “gook” and “chink” to degrade her.

Another example of madness created by silence is in the story Song for a Barbarian Reed pipe. In this story the narrator wants to speak up but at the same time want’s to be quite. She fears she will be ridiculed and called names.  This even transcends the hostile nature of the school and overflows to her own community. The narrator’s mother’s friend is famous for giving out American names and upon hearing the narrator she comments how her voice sounds like that of a duck. “She has an ugly voice. She quacks like a pressed duck.” Negative criticism like this will only make a person already feeling trapped in a hole to dig deeper to escape.

This was another favorite read of mine in this class. It’s rare when an author can combine two elements such as silence and madness and then allow the reader freedom to explore and interpret it in their own way.

All hero’s eventually fall

Posted in Uncategorized on December 8th, 2010 by nishantmisra

The “Shaman” and “At The Western Palace” give a great account of the same person during two different phases in their life. Maxine’s mother is seen as a cunning, strategic, and highly intelligent student in the “Shaman” while being portrayed as an old, withering lady in “At the western palace.” I enjoyed the first story far more than the second one but there is something rather insightful with the latter.  Age, culture, and expectation all lead to her madness.

The “Shaman” depicts our heroine as an ambitious woman who despite her age decides to better herself through education. She studies at a medical school where she’s displays an high level of intelligence and grasp of the material. She even goes as far as getting up in the middle of the night to study. In the book it says, “The sweat of hard work is not to be displayed.” Displaying your success as effortless is a great way to psyche out people around you and appear larger than life. There’s even one point where she dukes it out with a “Sitting Ghost” and has the other girls work together to take it down.  This even displays her ability to raise hope in people and remove any fears they may have.

The second story fast forwards to when our heroine is old and her years are starting to catch up with her. She is at the airport to pick up her younger sister who she hasn’t seen for 30 years. They bicker like all siblings do and it’s rather amusing at times. In the very beginning they are arguing about each others physical appearance which adds a light touch to a story which takes a darker turn later. Brave Orchid (our heroine) is truly tested in this story. Her sister’s mental health really take’s a hit when Moon Orchid (younger sister) goes to her husbands house to reclaim her position as first wife. When he rejects her she starts to succumb to her madness.  At one point claiming to be surrounded by various ghosts. Brave Orchid is seen as weak and helpless at this point and knowing the kind of woman she once was makes it even more disheartening. As hard as she tries she just can’t solve her sisters problems. As the oldest child I can understand this feeling. It’s the worst feeling in the world when your younger sibling is in a bind and you can’t do anything to help them.

Culture was another deterrent in Brave Orchids being. She loved her Chinese culture and the customs. The American way troubled her and how it scattered her family all over. This and her unwillingness to adapt to new ways further broke her spirit. The once Brave Orchid who could rally people together for a battle with a Ghost now worked at a laundromat and picked tomatoes. This was a bit surprising to me initially. I figured Brave Orchid would do fine in America. She would bring her cunning into this new land and systematically would integrate herself.  Brave Orchid reminded me of my grandmother but unlike Brave my grandmother quickly adapted.

This shows that even hero’s fall. Everyone hits their prime when they are invincible but that one pesky obstacle takes them back to level one. Brave Orchid did endure but I was hoping for an equally strong willed person in the very end.  So far though I do enjoy this work. It’s up there as a favorite for sure.

Blog hopping

Posted in Uncategorized on December 3rd, 2010 by nishantmisra

Jess Spinosa- I don’t mean to be a follower

Caitlin Machicote- Where’s the Love?

Jessica Ruiz- Obama, I am on your side!

Talk about a tough choice

Posted in Uncategorized on December 3rd, 2010 by nishantmisra

Junot Diaz’s Drown was absolutely stellar. It’s a bit difficult to place one story above another or pick a favorite but alas the task must be done. Of all the stories I found the “Negocios” one my overall favorite. The entire time we hear bits and pieces of information on the father. We also find out his name which is Ramon. He seems to be your typical man chasing the American dream. His family is on his mind but on the back burner. His entire section allows the reader to delve into his psyche and finally understand his lack of interest in his family back home. He knows it’s his responsibility but he experiences first hand how tough it is in a new land. He ends up getting married to a lady he meets and the entire episode is a bit of a mess for him.

In the end it all comes together nicely with Ramon rescuing his children and wife from their dreary life in the Dominican republic. Ramon’s tale also reminded me of a story this man told me who lives in my neighborhood. The circumstances were different of course but he shared the same cultural adversities Ramon faces.  Getting into Ramon’s mindset was what drew me to the story the most. The other stories are also told from a similar perspective but the lack of information on Ramon is what makes his tale far more interesting.

Ramon also encompassed the stereotypical machismo archetype. In on scene he even states on how he does push ups and sit ups to stay fit and his interactions with his friends also reveal the alpha male persona. But when we get Ramon alone he displays his emotions. The burdens he carries weigh him down and his shining armor starts to get a bit dull. The letters he reads from his wife depicted this state the best. He was not a man of words but of actions even though it clearly shows how much he wanted to comfort his wife with words. This sociological element is another unique aspect of Diaz’s work in all of the stories as a whole.

The Swordswoman and I…

Posted in Uncategorized on December 2nd, 2010 by nishantmisra

Of the two short stories so far White tigers is without a doubt amazing.  No name woman was excellent in itself. It did a wonderful job of setting the stage for a confused Chinese girl caught in the middle of the American and traditional Chinese culture.  The White tiger was our narrators cry for something more empowering. She starts off by going to the mountains and initiating monk like training. Soon a tragedy befalls her village and she witnesses her husband and younger brother being taken away by a Chinese baron. She pleads to her mentors to allow her to fight them off but they say her training is incomplete and she must wait. The story turns into the age old revenge tale.

The last paragraph ends with, “The swordswoman and I are not so dissimilar.” I took this as our narrator once again empowering herself. The swordswoman of the tale created courage and bravery our of absolutely nothing. Her society had certain phrases to describe the uselessness of woman. My favorite had to be,  “it’s better to raise geese than girls.” Ignoring all that our woman warrior took a stand and didn’t let the majority of people hold her back.  I also loved the dichotomy she possess. She does what no man as a warrior could do. I’m referring to the bit where she takes her newborn child on a sling and carries it into battle. This juxtaposition of the gentle nature of a woman alongside the fierce nature of man makes her the ideal warrior. One minute she’s tending to a wound the next she’s creating a fresh one. The girl in our tale who dreams of this all want’s to be just like her warrior persona. I believe she also finds her own weapon to carry into battle. This weapon is the art of writing.  The story ends with, “And I have so many words-“chink” words and “gook” words too-that they do not fit on my skin.” This is her version of the “sky sword” which seems to appear out of nowhere but brings wrath and destruction to all those who are unjust and corrupt.

Diaz has style

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22nd, 2010 by nishantmisra

Right of the bat I knew I would enjoy reading this collection of short stories. This type of writing goes to show that reaching the maximum amount of people is what matters when it comes to language and writing. Faulker, Hemingway, and Elliot were all great in their own regards but the barriers they set up at times were not needed. Elliot more so than the rest. His elitist attitude towards knowledge is what makes me despise writers of that era and mentality. Junot Diaz could teach writers like that a few things. His realist approach makes the text accessible and enjoyable. It’s a way for people who don’t read that much to truly appreciate it more. I believe that most people are turned off by reading for the sole purpose that they cannot always comprehend abstract ideas and metaphors present in truly great writing. It’s an ingredient which is important but not always easy to put your finger on. It’s like that little touch in a horror movie when the perfect music comes on when the bad guy approaches the helpless victim. Junot Diaz goes for the more in your-face down to earth type approach without the smoke and mirror effects of metaphors and other figurative language. The only instance I’ve noticed of poetic imagery was the bit about the fiery bed sheet.

This is an enjoyable read. Although it starts off grim in nature it also reminds us that this is what life is. I’ve looked into the authors past and although he denies the biographical nature of the narrative it is heavily influenced by his own childhood. The setting, language used, and situations can’t be all fictional. I read the entire thing in a single sitting and I loved every story. The most interesting narrative was when the father get’s a spot on stage. His presence was barely known throughout the stories until we finally get to see his perspective. I thought I would maybe sympathize with him which I did find myself doing but it was more akin to Jason’s character in Sound and Fury. What you see is what you get. The father did do what was necessary but at the same time he did cheat his own family for a less complicated situation. Nonetheless it was beautiful told and I currently have Junot Diaz’s other work The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I’ll surely be following his work from now on. Professor Gross you have received the highly coveted Nishant Misra award for a solid reading selection with the runner up going to Persepolis.

The Denouement April 8, 1928

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13th, 2010 by nishantmisra

Well here we are ladies and gentleman to the end credits.  I have mixed reactions to the end. From the blogs I have read my classmates seem to just despise it.  To quote a few mates LisaMarie says “I was outraged at the seeming lack of resolution.” I also loved the honesty in Stephanie Baique when she writes, “To be quite honest, I really disliked The Sound and the Fury.  This is actually the only book in the course I completely gave up on, not to say other readings weren’t boring, but at least I didn’t give up on them. ” So to sum it up disappointment is what ends the novel. I for one though enjoyed the way the finale was set up. The lack of resolution is alarming but at the same time it’s the same old message of life goes on. Ben’s ride with Luster fits in to their routine of going to the cemetery on a Sunday much akin to what life is for most of us, routine.

I also loved how the narrative goes from the first person to third person. The change was insightful in that it allows for a more clearer view of the action. We step back and check out the bigger picture. Initially it was off setting at first because I was in the mindset of a first person perspective. I love when were allowed to be delve into the mind of someone and explore it. That’s when you get the really good stuff. But I quickly adapted to the third person in this section. Like i said before it clarifies it a whole deal in my opinion.  The lack of Caddy was also welcomed in my opinion. With her absences it allows our minds to wonder and ask questions. Where is she now? What does she think of what’s going on? I like it when a book, movie, or any idea allows me to do that. It reminded me of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel Netochka Nezvanova. Although it was prematurely ended due to the authors participation in revolutionary activities it allows the mind to imagine the rest of the book. At first I was angry at reading it, the same reaction I got with Sound and fury. I thought to myself why the hell did I just read this pile of excrement but while thinking about it I came to the conclusion that life isn’t perfect. It’s best to make the best of the situation which is what I did with Sound and fury.  I could just be simply justifying my wasted time on the book but as long as I’m content with the end result it’s all good.

April 6, 1928 Clarification Indeed

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13th, 2010 by nishantmisra

There are many things clarified in this section most notably Jason’s warm and wonderful demeanor towards people. He just loves everything and everyone equally, not! Jason is one of the best characters I have encountered in a book before. You really do love to hate this guy. People, birds, family you name it Jason hates it. I do admire his honesty. Seems like what ever he is thinking he just spits it out.

Jason’s brutality and cunning are well displayed in this section.  The one thing that hit me the hardest was the way in which Jason tormented Luster. Jason possessed tickets to a show that Luster wanted to go to. Luster had no money but begged Jason to give him one of the tickets. Jason refuses and then burns the tickets in front of Luster. Meanwhile we have Dilsey idly watching this heinous act as is shocked. She figured Jason was simply teasing Luster and it would be the end of that. She was caught by surprise with his act. We also learn that Jason has been taking Caddy’s money by deceiving his own mother. He burns a fake check in front of her by justifying he doesn’t take the money of a bitch (on the account of her past deeds) and the mother accepts it. This money is also for Quentin, Caddy’s daughter, and she never gets to see a cent of it.  Jason also resents having to feed the 6 “niggers” under is employ at the house although there are only 2, Disley and Luster, and they keep the house running. There is no need in justifying his actions in all reality. He is hatred in it’s purest form, unbiased and unrelenting.

I thought that perhaps Jason would be justified in his section. A look into his psyche would reveal a child huddled and weeping in a corner. But alas there is no such thing. Jason is as presented. The only reasonable explanation would be Jason having to take responsibility after the death of his father but that doesn’t sound plausible. I can’t imagine a person becoming so resentful of everything because of a thing like that. But that’s where my sympathy for Jason begins and ends.

The last thing I have to say for Jason is he ability to control situations.  He manipulates situations and people to get the desired results. Like the incident with Luster and the tickets and with Caddy’s money. From the narrative it seems as if for Jason it’s the ultimate high. The mixture of hate and pleasure is what makes Jason such a solid character. This section really made the book come alive for me. This was definitely a high point in my roller coaster ride.

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