April 2009 Archives

Hall of Imagination

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"If you're telling me this guy doesn't exist, I'm..."
Resurrection Blues, Arthur Miller (74)

I found this very conversation between Henri and Skip very interesting, and after reading it I couldn't shake the idea that maybe this man, messiah, whatever you might call him wasn't real, just something out of the characters imaginations.  I liked Henri most out of the figures in the book, and I got the impression that his philosophical idea may have carried some weight in terms of the message Miller was trying to get across: I don't know what it was exactly, but it still seemed substantial.  Also, the idea that the imaginary man was the only one who "still really feels everything" (76) seemed pretty ironic when considered with Henri's "hall of imagination" theory.

Other than that, the play appeared very straight forward as far as interpretation goes.  It poses the question, "What would happen if Christ showed up today?"  I think the result would be very much like Miller presented it to us, and that is very sad but true.

Sex Equals?

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After Foster said "the sex that occurs is invariably tied up with something else," (147) I wondered, hmm, what does that suggest about Henry's high sex drive? The Time Traveler's Wife covers the intimate acts of the couple's relationship, and Henry's sexual appetite (26 times in a day, wow).  Is sex here a metaphor for something else or is it just sex? Foster attaches a number of possibilities as to what sex can imply. But I don't see what else sex in a book chronicling a couples life together would mean but sex.  I did sort of think the physicality of it kept Henry planted in the present because it relaxed him like running did, but I don't know.  Any other theories?


A Response to Thoedore Roethke's "Prayer"

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My poetic reply to Theodore Roethke's "Prayer" attempts to infuse my understanding of Roethke's words with my personal attitude about the poem's theme, which I interpreted rather literally as an aging man's request to retain sight. While composing this poem, I considered other works by the author particularly "Epidermal Macabre" in which Roethke expresses intense feelings of disgust for the physical body.

By Theodore Roethke


If I must of my Senses lose,

I pray Thee, Lord, that I may choose

Which of the Five I shall retain

Before Oblivion clouds the brain.

My Tongue is generations dead,

My Nose defiles a comely Head;

For hearkening to carnal evils

My Ears have been the very devil's.

And some have held the Eye to be

The instrument of lechery,

More furtive than the Hand in low

And vicious venery--Not so!

Its rape is gentle, never more

Violent than a metaphor.

In truth, the Eye's the abettor of

The holiest platonic love:

Lip, Breast and Thigh cannot possess

So singular a blessedness.

Therefore, O Lord, let me preserve

The Sense that does so fitly serve,

Take Tongue and Ear--all else I have--

Let Light attend me to the grave!


Sense of Time

By April Minerd

Given a choice of merely one

Sense to serve my numbered days. None

Other than Touch would be enough.

Perhaps Sight indeed might see another through,

But if I may, I'd request a humbled hand--

Neither vile nor vicious in my command.

Grant me, O Lord, this singular condition

That I might forget this languished face. Aggravation, Aggravation! 

Locks of Gray now shadow these ears

Parodying sound from since past years.

Take the noise that interrupts present thought.

Leave instead a caress, an embrace, a faculty sought.

Age came swift, introducing a wrinkly Nose--

Grandmother's trait I'd deliberately dispose.

Smell now dull and dank from exhausted time

And this Tongue amiss pronouncing my rhyme:

What bitter words it chooses to announce.

So, remove it with the others I denounce...

Leave me to my memories and a stroke atop this weary head,

As I draw nearer a final resting bed.

Other Interpretive Projects

A Boxed Bird

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"He made the boxes because he was lonely. He didn't have anyone to love, and he made the boxes so he could love them, and so people would know that he existed, and because birds are free and the boxes are hiding places for the birds so they will feel safe, and he wanted to be free and be safe.  The boxes are for him so he can be a bird." The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger (386-387)

Originally I'd never heard of Cornell's Aviary boxes; I found some photographs of them online--they have a particular beauty about them--along with some information about Joseph Cornell, as well.  I looked because it's always nice to have a visual and because of the somber depiction by Alba, but that isn't why I picked this quote.
Things with wings seem to be special to the DeTambles.  Clare makes paper birds (and later wings for Henry).  Henry as a child falls in love with a bird book, Birds of America.  And not to be forgotten is, Papiliio Ulysses, a blue butterfly Henry remembers giving him a feeling only Clare has ever reproduced. (22).
The words Alba spoke seem to represent her father as much as they do Cornell. What would appear to be a freedom, time travel, actually holds Henry captive--like a caged bird. When he jumps throughout time he is never secure and often alone.  All of this makes him question his existence and dream about being free in the present.


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"'What a time to be born,' the protagonist thinks as he passes by, and it should be clear here that the birth with which Ellison is concerned is the protagonist's new birth as a public intellectual."
"Eloquence and Invisible Man," Christopher Hanlon (93)

For the record, I liked this second academic article much better.  I thought it kept a tighter focus on the topic, and retained a higher interest level for the reader.  Many passages from Invisible Man that Hanlon centered on and provided explanations to I found useful in aiding my own understanding of the work. For instance the passage I selected wasn't so clear to me, I remember being confused over why Ellison chose to insert this brief labor moment into the story.  Once Hanlon mentioned rebirth, I thought "Oh...."  I'm still taken back by the many functions a minute detail can hold in a story.  It's funny thinking back to how I once read, especially in association with the topic of invisibility, because I was blind to all the invisible connections.  It has been like being let in on a secret. I was also surprised to hear that the protagonist's speech at the "Battle Royal" was not Ellison's own thoughts but in fact the words of Booker T. Washington.

The Trouble With Bugs and Coffee Grinds

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"'Guess I'll have to get some better filters,' she mused. 'These I got just lets through the grounds along with the coffee, the good with the bad.  I don't know though, even with the best of filters you apt to find a ground or two at the bottom of your cup.'" The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison (323)

I'm fond of this quote for a few reasons, one being its usefulness as a simple life-reminder that the negative is a constant even in the best of conditions. The other relates to its placement and purpose (rather, what I think its purpose and placement suggest).  I've noticed figures in the book occasionally slip these hints to the narrator--red-flags if you will--that deliver the reader a "heads up" as to what lies ahead.  Although I haven't gotten too much further past this conversation, the suggestive capability of Mary's words surely stress more than the quality of a cup of coffee. 
There is also Mary's point about the filthy folks roaches:  "'Just let a little knocking start and here it comes crawling out.  All you have to do is shake things up a bit.'" Notice she doesn't refer to the insects as they, which would seem the more likely way to talk about a living thing, instead she says it as if speaking about the nature of something. My guess is the remark forecasts problems: all's fine while things remain calm, but let trouble come and out come the BUGS too.  I suspect these innuendos aren't aimed at The Invisible Man, but at us, the reader.

Oh, and has anyone else noticed how often the word staccato is used.  I only noticed because after encountering it several times, I decided my vague understanding of its meaning could use a refresher.  (For me it's one of those words you come across that you sort of get but if someone asked you to explain what it meant you'd fail.) Anyway after the word kept popping up, I looked it up: Detached, Disconnected, Disjointed were the (key) parts I was missing. Ellison's emphasis of this word might be significant, what do you think?


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