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I Am Twenty-One

I loved this story, because I was able to relate to it so easily. From the silly diets, to the test-anxiety, I felt attached to the character from the first sentence. There is so much emptiness and loneliness in this girl’s life, and the only thing we learn about her is the death of her parents. It seems that her only goal is to remember them, and carry out what they instilled in her: their love of art.

They had been secret artists . . . So they worked all their art urges out on me . . .

We live on after our parents have passed, and bits and pieces of them are alive in us even after they are gone.

I kept the picture around because, oddly, putting away the idea of my folks would’ve been worse than losing the real them. In the photo, they at least looked familiar.

Of course, we find out that she did in fact lose both of her parents, so it seems obvious that she would keep a picture up of them in her room. Here, we see for the first time though that maybe she doesn’t realize that they are actually gone. She wants to hold onto the memory of them, how she knew them before they were gone, yet in the quote above she cannot seem to accept their deaths.

I also absolutely love the casual tone of this story. Maybe it’s the diction,
maybe it’s the syntax, or maybe it’s both, but I can totally relate to the character. Her personality, the anxiety over the test, the way she studies so hard for something and then cannot perform, are all typical experiences of a college student.

There is also a certain emptiness in the story that I love. From the certain
mystery of the character, to her lack of food, to the lack of objects in her room. I love it because it keeps me wanting to know more; it makes her so mysterious.

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No Limits

At the telephone, Clark had a clear view out back and down to the porch.  He wanted to get drunk with his wife once more.  He wanted to tell her, from the greater perspective he had, that to own only a little talent, like his, was an awful, plaguing thing; that being only a little special meant you expected too much, most of the the, and liked yourself too little.  He wanted to assure her that she had missed nothing. -”Yours” by Mary Robinson

People thrive to read love stories.  Love stories remind us of people in our lives that lift us up, or maybe they read the story to remind them of somewhere they had once been, with someone they had once loved. Either way, people read them because they can relate to them.  Mary Robinson’s story, however, shows a different side to love that most people do not dare to face: the uncontrollable end to it.  Cancer doesn’t discriminate, it does not care if you are 35 or 78, but what else does not discriminate whether it be your age, color, or background? The answer is love.  The cancer in this story took the happy ending out of love.  But what it did for the story, was put in a sentimental value.  Clark loved Allison for her heart and her soul, just as Allison loved Clark for his, regardless of the number of years he has walked on this earth.  Cancer chose Allison out of the crowd one day as it searched to break a circle of hearts once more, but it also gave something to Allison.  When cancer chose Allison that day, it also chose to show her Clark’s unconditional love for her.  Whether or not her hair was real or fake, her breathing labored or normal, she was his girl.  She was the girl who got drunk with him and shared her deepest thoughts and fears.  She was the girl who he trusted- regardless of his family’s wishes.  Love is something that cannot be broken, regardless of a physical presence.  Cancer may take a loved one from you, but it shows that person your heart- so in the end, even the early and unexpected death can have reason and peace.

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That night, in their bedroom, a few weeks earlier in her life than had been predicted, Allison began to die. “Don’t look at me if my wig comes off,” she told Clark. “Please.”

A little over a year ago, my father was diagnosed with Waldenström’s Macroglobulinemia, a cancer that destroys the white blood cells formed in the bone marrow. His sickness is treatable, not curable, and he has about five years left to live. No, this isn’t fair; this is life – not everyone is dealt a royal flush. As his daughter, I can say without hesitation that this experience has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. I can promise you, watching someone you love fall closer and closer to death is terrifying. This isn’t about me, though, or Clark, for that matter. This is about Allison; this is about my dad. Both were too embarrassed to accept their disease, and both were too scared to fully acknowledge it. I could almost hear her in my head, pleading for Clark to look away if her cancer peaked out, and in that moment I heard my father’s voice trembling over the muffled volume of the Hannah Montana movie. “Don’t cry, pretty girl, I swear I’ll get better.” I watched him cry for the second time in my life that day – I felt him shake as he held me close, scared that he’d lose me forever. What I noticed above all else, though, was the shame in his eyes. It broke my heart to see his discomfort, and it broke my heart to see the same in Allison. It took my dad about a month to finally tell me about his disease – he was scared, and he was embarrassed – but he shouldn’t have been. Cancer is a horrible thing, and I’ll be the first to vouch for that, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

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“Yours” by Mary Robison

That night, in their bedroom, a few weeks earlier in her life than
had been predicted, Allison began to die. “Don’t look at me if my
wig comes off,” she told Clark. “Please”

 

At the beginning of the story, I thought for sure that the man, Clark, would be the one to die first. He was seventy-eight, and she was thirty-five, and I thought that the author only included this information to foreshadow Clark’s inevitable death. The lines above naturally threw me way off. I’d missed Robison’s subtle hints, including the wig, which might have clued me into what was going on beforehand. Even though Allison’s dialogue is so simple diction-wise, it holds so much emotion: fear, worry, embarrassment, and helplessness. The words stung as I read them. Maybe the words affected me so strongly because of my own experiences with cancer. My father was diagnosed in 2005, when I was only thirteen years old. He held on for two years, despite the very bleak prognosis he was given. He had a brain tumor, and they told us he’d live for a few months more, at best.  He lost his ability to walk and to talk, and the thick head of hair that I inherited from him was melted away by his treatment. I hate to think about my daddy when he was sick; I picture him in the years before his cancer, standing in front of the wheel of his dream-boat with the sun shining on his smiling face. But when I read this dialogue from Allison, I saw the last mental image I have of my daddy: wordless, glassy-eyed, and wrinkled without a speck of hope in his face. Reading this story was painful and brought back a lot of memories I would have liked to forget. Needless to say, Robison did a good job of conveying her message without ever really coming out and saying what Allison was suffering from.

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In a year you’ll write, ‘I wonder what I ever really saw in Jack. I wonder why I spent so many days just riding around in his pickup. It’s true he taught me something about sex. It’s true there wasn’t ever much else to do in Cheyenne.’

Jack is a realist; he knows being married won’t change the concept that he loves another woman, but the eighteen-year-old that he’s having an affair with is more so a love-struck optimist who ceases to believe that one day, Jack will no longer be inviting her into his pickup truck. I was a little disappointed that his mistress’s name is never revealed, but after contemplation, I believe the author purposely did this to allusively indicate just how insignificant his mistress is to him. Perhaps he loves her, but he directly addresses his lack of commitment in the relationship, and I think that’s very ballsy of him. Now, I do not respect this character in any aspect; if there’s one thing that angers me into oblivion more so than any thing else, it’s betrayal, but I do respect his ability to remain honest with his mistress, telling her how things really are between them and within their relationship. I do wish there was more description concerning both Jack and his mistress’s appearances, but the story was wonderfully written and very sad. It really is a shame how common infidelity is and how often it goes unnoticed.

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So where I lived looked not like a scholar’s den, finally, but more like a bum’s sleepover, like poverty. 

The ringing was coming from in me– probably from overdoing it with diet pills or from the green tea all last night and from reading so much all the time. 

Most people believe that your 21st birthday is the best one of all. We look up to that day and what it will unknowingly entail. We associate our 21st birthday with late-night parties and stories that we should probably never repeat again. What we don’t usually associate with that exciting day is the huge weight of responsibilities that will be placed on our shoulders. This short story by Mary Robison depicts what it is like to be a twenty-one-year-old. She doesn’t sugarcoat this supposed “great age,” and she doesn’t camouflage the bad with the good. The “what are you doing after college” questions start to pound you like bullets; the pressures of school work force you to cram for that “live or die” exam; and because you are no longer on your parents’ credit card, you are living off of the bare minimum. These are all truths that come hand-in-hand with getting older. There is no getting away from it, and we all will experience it in some point in our lives.

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This short story is presented through the eyes of a young college student. It begins with the scene of the student in the middle of an exam. As we go through every thought in her brain while she takes the test, the author captures the mindset of a typical college student in the most realistic manner…

I can recall myself on numerous occasions having that awful ringing sound in my ears that  no one else can hear but me. I can say that I have stayed in the library into all hours of the night, craming to get my work done, and overdosing on coffee and five-hour-energy drinks. I have also, like the narrator, been in an exam completely distracted by everything around me. There is always that annoying student who is blowing her nose…and you think, why can’t someone just give her a tissue? There has also been that annoying student who has finished 30 minutes before me during an exam. And that really bugs me. And then there is almost always that feeling when the clock hits the end of your exam, and you have only answered one question in full. That horrible gut-wrenching feeling that you just failed your exam and will never graduate.

This story depicts the most realistic aspects and thoughts that every college student goes through. This story hit home for me because I have never been the straight A student, nor have I been the student who gets up first in the exam room. I am the girl who is telling the story.

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He pushed me down onto the dirty floor of the pickup and kept one hand on my head while I inhaled the musk of his cigarettes in the dashboard ashtray and sang along with the Rosanne Cash on the tape deck.

Faithful people are hard to come by. This story presents a great scenario, one in which a husband is not faithful to his wife. He goes after a younger woman, a much younger woman. There is a plot in this story, but not much character development. The whole story is a dialogue between the husband, Jack, and his mistress. The mistress’s name is unknown, and so is the wife’s. The narrator in this story is the mistress, though. It is very interesting to me that we know Jack’s name, but not either of his women’s. It simply suggests to me that he is seen as the most important character and the two women do not matter enough for the readers to even know their names. Jack is a very selfish character who seems to care only about himself. When someone cheats, they normally do not look out for anyone but themselves. Jack clearly demonstrates this throughout the story.

He shows in a number of ways that he doesn’t care for his mistress. He does not even care about her enough to divorce his wife and be with his mistress. Also, he only tries to protect his own ass when he shoves her onto the floor of his pickup truck to avoid his wife seeing her. He doesn’t want to get caught, and he doesn’t seem to care what he has to do to not be caught. But, on the other hand, he clearly doesn’t care about his wife’s well-being either. He has enough of a cold heart to cheat on her with an eighteen-year-old. We don’t know how old Jack or his wife are, but it is implied that they are much older than eighteen. Towards the end of the story, Jack and his mistress are talking about what his mistress will write in the diary he gave her tonight, and years from now. They both have completely oppisite answers. Jack claims that they will never stay together and she will forget about him, but she claims that they will be together forever. To me, Jack is right in this scenario because he will never leave his wife. He wants it both ways, and as long as he has both of them, he won’t give that up. The mistress, being only eighteen, is clearly blinded by young love. She unfortunately does not know any better. Being faithful means knowing what you want and sticking to it. Jack obviously doesn’t know what he wants, and he shouldn’t hurt multiple people trying to figure it out.

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Etgar Keret’s  “Fatso,” from The Nimrod Flipout, is a highly entertaining story that conveys the insanity one man endures for love. The story is written in second person, which puts the reader in an interesting position. By using “you,” Keret is asking readers to empathize with the main character by taking on his point of view and his situation as our own. In the beginning, he is trying to console his girlfriend, who is debating about revealing an enormous secret to him. She is crying and worried about what he will think of her if she tells him.

“She asks: What if I told you that at night I turn into a heavy, hairy man, with no neck, with a gold ring on his pinkie, would you still love me? And you tell her of course you would. What else can you say? That you wouldn’t?”

The main character believes that his girlfriend is being melodramatic, so he says what he thinks she wants to hear. The rhetorical questions literally ask us to think about what we would do in this situation. In most cases, if someone you love comes to you with a distressing secret, you are compliant so that they will tell you. If you are a decent person, you help your loved one with their problem and tell them everything will be fine. You stand by them from the smallest mistake to the biggest disaster. Some people are shallow enough that they would stop loving their significant other, family member, or friend, because of a physical defect or abnormality. In “Fatso,” I was pleasantly surprised that the main character stayed with his girlfriend, even though she wasn’t joking about turning into a fat, hairy man. Of course, the main character does get the perks of having a beautiful woman during the day and the stereotypical crude, sports fanatic friend at night.

“Fatso” is a story that digs into the complexities of love and loyalty. It makes us as the reader think about how much we would do or go through for the people we love. Clearly, this situation is not likely to happen, but it is impressive that the main character is willing to adapt to it for his girlfriend. I have jokingly made up crazy scenarios, similar to the girlfriend’s curse, just to make my friends laugh. I am secure in the knowledge that if I turned into a ravenous mountain troll when the sun went down, my friends would still love me. They might lock me up at night, but they wouldn’t disown me. Loving people constantly tests your morals and your beliefs. If you care about someone, you assess situations differently according to their perspective. The main character accepts his girlfriend, rather than live without her. Relationships are hard, but without them, life would be monotonous and meaningless.

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I thought that the story “Stitches” by Antonya Nelson was very bizarre. The mom and the daughter communicate with such ease. During the dialogue, neither one of them acts like she is a bit bothered by the conversation, and both of them seem completely comfortable. One part of the story that I like was when they were talking about how different it is when men cry than it is when women cry.

There was no good reaction to a man crying, not one that would work. Men didnt know how to do it,how to modulate, how to breather or minister to their own sudden emissions. Ellen though that men would be inept at childbirth,as well: they were so ugly in pain, so bad at giving in to a force larger than themselves. (596)

I like this because it is so true. I really believed the conversation they were having. Guys are so awkward when they cry. I only say this because it is only on a rare occasion that I see a man cry. Perhaps if it was a more of a familiar thing, then it would be no big deal. Men crying is awkward and painful to watch. In this story I like how she reflects on her husband crying and can feel that feeling again to help her daughter understand what was going on.

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Then the boy started growing big ears that Caesar thought didn’t belong to anyone in his family, and so after he had slapped the girl a few times a week before the child’s second birthday she confessed that the child belonged to “my first love.” “Your first love is always with you,” she said, sounding like a television addict who had never read a book. (420-421)

I found these lines interesting in this story because Caesar starts off with saying that he “used” to have a kid. Once he realized that he wasn’t the biological father, he wasn’t in the child’s life anymore. Personally, that seems very off because most people would say that you have parental instincts when something like this happens and you cannot just turn them off like a light switch. This quote, on the other hand, I believe to be very true. You really do not ever forget your first love. Your first love is always with you even if you aren’t in contact with that person. Caesar responds by thinking how lame she is and implying that she is uneducated by saying something so absurd. No matter if you are smart or dumb, love is something that everyone can feel. Caesar is just in denial and is probably hurting that this child wasn’t his, and so he is on the defensive end of the situation.

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We know that without it our lives would lack something, though we cannot say with any certainty what it is that we would lack. And we are proud that ours is a genuinely popular theater, commanding the fervent loyalty of young and old alike. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that from the moment we emerge from the cradle we fall under an enchantment from which we never awake.

“The New Automaton Theater” is not my favorite story I have ever read, but I did enjoy some parts of it. The writing and descriptions throughout the story were what caught my attention. The quote above was my favorite example of this. The quote is talking about the description of the theater and the people’s relationship with it, but I see it as a quote that you could use for the idea of love. Throughout our lives we lack something if we don’t have love. Someone without love would not be able to recognized this, so they are uncertain about what the missing puzzle piece is. When we have love we are proud that it is ours, just like the people are proud that the theater is theirs. The theater, like love, does not discriminate between young and old. From the moment you are born you are destined to love. You will never get rid of the void that is love. The theater stands for something more to them. They love this place, and it is a place that they can’t live without. Love is something you can’t live without.

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For all intents and purposes, I am a vegetarian. Some may call me a semi-vegetarian as I do consume poultry, but I try to be extremely careful where my chicken comes from — so much so that often my friends turn red when I ask waiters if they know where their chicken comes from. If they shrug their shoulders, I order pasta.The feeling of guilt of eating another animal is worse than taking the disgusting supplements and vitamins. For me, eating animals is a cruelty because they are so much like us. As I am three cats old and the owner of a fourth, I know by experience that each animal has a different personality, a different way of speaking, and a different way of getting what it wants. They work the system better than any human child every could. Therefore, I connected strongly with Sam when he observed:

If dolphins tasted good,” he said, “we wouldn’t even know about their language.” That the intelligence in a thing could undermine your appetite for it.That yumminess obscured the mind of the yummy as well as in the mind of the yummer. That deliciousness resulted in decapitation.

His observation is extremely insightful for a young boy and one I agree with completely. Humans love dolphins because we are astounded by their intelligence, which we have inferred from their abilities to communicate. We may not even love them so much as want to solve the mystery of how their communities and communication works.We eat chickens because we never see them perform higher brain functions. We have never seen them perform a trick we trained them to do. They have never been useful in therapy, and they have never been a mystery. They are only useful to eat. Humans look at other creatures and ask them what they can do for human society and apparently chickens answered: you can eat us! No one has taken the time to see if chickens could amount to more. E.B. White, however, showed sympathy toward a pig named Wilbur and has kept me from eating bacon and ham for ten years. I think Sam is right; if animals are unable to prove that they provide another service before we deem them delicious, then their service becomes providing us with food. In fact, why did the chicken cross the road? She was afraid someone would ceasar!

 

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If you’ve never wept and want to, have a child.

Growing up, I was never girly and I was absolutely never maternal. I grew up with my three best guy friends, one of whom is my brother. When my brother and I were younger, everyone thought we were twins because we were so alike, inseparable, and only a year apart in age. Because I grew up a tomboy, I never felt that maternal instinct and even attempted to stay away from children because they irritated me. That was before Finley, the love of my life; he is now just seven years old, and I cannot imagine life without such a wonderful person. The love I have for him is so indescribable, and if you don’t have younger siblings, I can see how you would think it sounds strange, but I would do anything for that little kid. He is so loving and giving and intelligent. The day he was born, so was my motherly instinct. Suddenly, every outlet, sharp object, and staircase became a hazard. Everything seemed so dangerous to me, and I wanted to lock him up in my bedroom and never let him go out. The scariest objects were pools and cars. Every visit to the public pool or drive to the grocery store was an anxiety attack for me. Of course, I tried not to let it show, but the only thing on my mind was protecting this fragile life. Now that Finley is seven years old (and quite independent), I am more relaxed about what he is doing when I am not around to be there for him. But, of course, he is always occupying some part of my thoughts at some point in my day.

Reading David Foster Wallace’s “Incarnations of Burned Children” terrified me and left me holding back tears. It brought out all of the fears I had for Finley when he was younger. The quote written above struck so true with me — having a child (or becoming an older sibling) will completely change your life. It will make you happy, sad, frustrated; it will bring out emotions that you didn’t know you were capable of. I never knew I was capable of another bond as strong, or stronger, than the one I have with my first brother. It’s almost as if there can’t possibly be enough room inside my entire being to house the amount of love I have for Finn.

A frustrating and infuriating realization is that sometimes I will be powerless to help him. I can’t say that I have faced that challenge quite yet, and I hope I never have to, but Wallace’s story brought this realization to the surface.

. . . until the first wisp of steam came lazy from under the wrapped towel’s hem and the parents’ eyes met and widened — the diaper, which when they opened the towel and leaned their little boy back on the checkered cloth and unfastened the softened tabs and tried to remove it resisted slightly with new high cries and was hot, their baby’s diaper burned their hand and they saw where the real water’d fallen and pooled and been burning their baby all this time while he screamed for them to help him and they hadn’t . . .

That feeling of helplessness, of suddenly realizing that the damage is so much worse and it could have been prevented, of knowing that he was screaming for your help and you didn’t pay attention — it punches me in the gut and makes me ill. A child is so helpless and delicate and you think that he is unknowing of the world, not yet intelligent to the level of communicating his true emotions or correct feelings; so you hush him and tell him to “be quiet little one, you’re making such a fuss” and to stop attracting so much attention and you can’t believe how he overreacts and exaggerates. Then this happens,  then you’re overreacting son, you’re exaggerating daughter, your annoying younger sibling is seriously injured and it was because you didn’t pay attention, you didn’t see the signs. So you better get of you’re frickin’ high horse and pay attention because let me tell you, at that young of an age every small injury is much larger and much more painful to them, and if you are not paying attention then they will be crying out for help and you will ignore them and they will live their lives “untenanted..

I also wanted to note that I absolutely love that this entire story, running a length of about three pages, consists of only nine sentences total. Wallace’s extremely elongated sentences left me racing through the pages; these long sentences make the reader’s brain race through the action and feel the panic and pain and hold her breath. With such an important event, periods just slow down and ruin the reality of the moment. You wouldn’t — and probably couldn’t — have even half of a second to take a breath in such a scary and dire situation.

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They became instant friends, spending their days together while our fathers were at work. They talked about the lives they had left behind in Calcutta: your mother’s beautiful home in Jodhpur Park, with hibiscus and rosebushes blooming on the roof-top and my mother’s modest flat in Maniktala, above a grimy Punjabi restaurant, where seven people existed in three small rooms.

Jhumpa Lahiri explores the dynamics of  friendship and loss through the eyes of a young Indian American girl, Hema. Hema’s parents move to Massachusetts from Calcutta before she is born and befriend an older Indian couple, the Choudhuris. Their friendship arises out of necessity and familiarity but fades once the Choudhuris move back to India. Hema’s parents resent them for fleeing back to India instead of sticking it out like the rest of the immigrants. Then, seven years later, the Choudhuris ask if they can stay with Hema and her family because they are moving back to Massachusetts. Her parents consent and buy all kinds of new household items to impress their old friends. Her parents always felt inadequate compared to the Choudhuris because they had more money. When they come back, they seem more “American” than when they lived in the United States. Hema’s mother, Shibani, is both envious and repulsed by the way Parul Di has changed and how her husband spoils her. The whole time the Choudhuris are living with Hema and her family, everyone seems unhappy except for Hema. The Choudhuris’ son, Kaushik, reveals to Hema that his mother is dying of breast cancer and that she was the reason for their move back to the United States.

Lahiri’s writing style was both unfamiliar and refreshing. “Once in a Lifetime” is being told from Hema’s point of view, but it’s as if Hema is speaking or writing to Kaushik. This allows us as readers to feel intimately connected to her because we can see intimate details from Hema’s life. However, our knowledge of her emotions is limited because we only know what she tells Kaushik. The relationship between their mothers, who were once as close as sisters, represents a universal truth about friendship. As time goes on, it’s hard to pick up where we leave off in our friendships.  The friends that we have in elementary school may be completely different in high school. After high school, people often go their separate ways and never turn back. The strong and almost instantaneous bond between Parul Di and Shibani is similar to bonds between families in the military.  My father’s career in the military was emotionally stressful for my whole family. My father would be gone for months at a time and my mother would have to act as both parents.  Even though it was difficult, the military taught me that it’s better to embrace change because as Benjamin Disraeli once said, ” Change is inevitable. Change is constant.” Having supportive people around you who are going through the same changes is very comforting, especially if one or both of your parents are deployed. Army families come together to support each other and form strong friendships that last a lifetime. Although our lives have changed with each death, divorce, birth, graduation, and birthday, and although seven years have passed since we left, I am still in contact with the friends I made in Germany.

“If you’ve never wept and want to, have a child.”- David Foster Wallace

While this may be one of the shortest lines in the story, it leaves echoes with you when you read it.  The rest of the story just seemed like detail to me, while this line brought together the entire purpose of it all: no matter what you do when you have a child, you will mess up eventually.  This is so true when it comes to parenting.  Non-parents can go through their lives and weep only when the uncontrollable happens, such as a family member’s death or a natural disaster destroys their home.  Parents, however, are completely responsible for the life of another individual they decided to bring into the world, intentionally or not.  The father in this story acted completely out of love for his baby as he did everything he could in an emergency rescue mission, but he still failed.  He failed because while he could not have helped what had happened to his baby that day, he could have checked his whole body; he could have looked for one more second and found the true source of the screams escaping his baby’s lungs, but he didn’t.  Now, the father will sit on his sofa in the living room staring at pictures of the short lived life of his child, and he will curse himself for forgetting the diaper, for wanting a cigarette while his baby was dying, and even for marrying his stupid wife who did not pay close enough attention that day.  In the end though, it was all uncontrollable; but hey, he still chose to let that baby into the world, so he will always blame himself, and he will always weep over his lost child.

It’s not that I think this show about Hawaiian Policeman is very good, it’s just that it seems more real than my own life.

It’s devastating for a girl with such uncontainable imagination to have such a dull life. This very short story by Lydia Davis spoke to me more than any other piece we’ve read this semester. I find it so accessible because her reasoning for watching television perfectly describes my own. Being imaginative comes at a high cost. For the most part, I release my creative buildup through writing. If that fails, I listen to music, and then try to write some more. When I’ve exhausted all of my other outlets, I resort to Netflix, and I watch hours upon hours of shows and movies. I jump into the lives of the fictional characters for half of my day so that I don’t have to live my own. Mountains of homework, work, classes, and an unshakable reluctance to do any of it: how is that more real than Hawaiian policemen catching criminals? How is sitting at a desk for hours more real than bearded, sweaty, grungy men catching swamp critters? I have watched every episode of The Office, every season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And today in my desperation to escape the gloom of the cold rain, I started to watch the ancient show, Dark Shadows, that my mother used to stay up late to watch in the seventies. It’s terrible; but because a brooding vampire with horrible dialogue is more exciting than the rain, I finished the first season an hour ago.

I love the organization of the story too. There really is no buildup or climax; to me it seems that she is just sitting in a quiet room, musing. Her train of thought was easy to follow, and as I said before, highly accessible. We all just want something to happen, and when it doesn’t happen in our own lives, we jump into the lives of others; until the credits roll and we have to come right back.

It will skip over so much, it will skip over all the complications, knowing we will understand, so that major event will happen abruptly….It will skip over all the complication because there is not enough time to prepare for major events” (Davis 212).

Through the sarcasm and pessimistic voice of the narrator, Lydia Davis’ “Television,” explores various ways that television is, ultimately, an escape from reality. In the story, Davis uses a lot of repetition, which I find very ironic because television essentially is repetition: same series of plots, different places, different actors, but winding up with the same outcome. Davis points out that people, naturally, want to believe what they see and hear on television, so much so, that they forget about their own lives and start thinking “that it seems more real than [their] own life” (Davis 210). As stated in the above quote, we want to watch something more exciting, something with only major events. We never watch people doing their homework, picking their split ends, or washing the dishes–thing we do on a regular basis, because that isn’t exciting. In our world, we are so caught up with our own daily routines and stresses that we turn to shows, where everything happens for a reason, because the author made it that way. Through all the ups and downs, eventually, there’s an end. In a way, I think we all hope that’s how reality is, but we become disappointed when that isn’t the case.

…the Daddy moving quickly and well and his man’s mind empty of everything but purpose, not yet aware of how smoothly he moved or that he’d ceased to hear the high screams because to hear them would freeze him and make impossible what had to be done to help his child, whose screams were as regular as breath and went on so long they’d already become a thing in the kitchen, something else to move quickly around.

 

This part of Wallace’s story really affected me. For the last three years I have been employed at a childcare facility. I’ve been recruited to make “ouchies” go away more times than I can remember, but I hadn’t dealt with a serious injury until last summer. My favorite child, Ariel, fell off of a playground and broke his arm. In that moment, everyone panicked. Each one of my coworkers froze as they watched him lay on the ground, and before I knew what I was doing, I had him in my arms. His screams were nothing more than whispers in my ear; his tears were nothing but water. All I could think of was how long it would take the ambulance to get him, and how worried his parents would be. This story, though much more severe, hit a nerve inside of me. It forced me to realize that when a shocking situation takes place and people are put under pressure, the intensity causes them to remove their emotion from what is happening and act off of instinct.

I also noticed that the sentence lengths in this story really evoke the emotions that these parents are feeling. They are long, rambling thoughts that seem to trip over themselves because of how quickly they move. Wallace’s technique matched the mood perfectly; his writing sped up and slowed down in all the right places. Though it was horribly shocking, “Incarnations of Burned Children” was an eye-opening, exciting story.

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The diaper, which when they opened the towel and leaned their little boy back on the checkered cloth and unfastened the softened tabs and tried to remove it resisted slightly with new cries and was hot…they saw where the real water’d fallen and pooled and been burning their baby all this time while he screamed for them to help him and they hadn’t.

 

This story had no suspense leading up to the heinous drama that engulfed their household on this dreadful day. Their baby boy, a beautiful toddler, suffered third degree burns, eventually leading to his death. I read this story gasping at every detail, each sentence tugging at my heart. I could never imagine the severity of mental impairment after experiencing the loss of a child, especially seeing the child suffer and feel as though you’re partially to blame for the child’s death. It was an incredibly poignant story, but I did not necessarily like the implementation of “the daddy” and “the mommy” in the text. I felt like it was overused and a little dragged out. It also alleviated the sadness that came along with the plot of the story, and with the circumstances, I feel like the downplay of the plot itself took away some of the emotional grasp it had on me.

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