First, I would like to say that Jamaica Kincaid’s writing is amazing. The last chapter of the book, there is a passage where she is describing the relationship between Xuela and her husband and uses their background as a way to show how opposite of each other they were. I fell in love with this passage (pages 217-220 for those of you who are interested in knowing which part i’m talking about exactly) because it made me think of Crusoe and how we never really hear Friday and this passage was like Friday responding to Crusoe about the relationship between the natives and the English-men. Kincaid plays with this idea of race and language and uses it to express the relationship between Xuela and her husband. Second, I found the ending of this book to be amazing; how Xuela explains her feelings of fear and loneliness as being something she never wanted to confront but realized its existence after everyone (even those she did not love) died, shows how much more real she has grown to become. The fact that she emotionally distanced herself from everyone and then felt connected to them once they died, makes me think that all along Xuela has felt as if she was never alive to begin with. So how can she relate to the living if she herself isn’t alive? Overall I really enjoyed the book, for its writing style and for the complex and messed up character it has given us.
Here is a youtube clip of Kincaid reading a passage from one of her other books. I thought it would be interesting to hear the voice behind the writing even if she is not reading from the text we just finished. The video starts off with Junot Diaz (another Caribbean author who I enjoy reading. His books: “Drown” and “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” are both really good) reading something from one of his writings, But Kincaid starts at 2:52
So in class yesterday, Jamaica Kincaid was compared to Gertude Stein in her style of writing (mainly by telling us what things are not rather than saying what they are). After reading the second chapter, I started to think about how Kincaid does have elements of Stein but I began to wonder why doesn’t Kincaid frustrate me as much? Is it because after she states what something isn’t, she moves on to something else and distracts me from thinking about the previous statement? Maybe I’m the only one feeling like this, but I’m wondering why Stein was so frustrating to read with all her “it is not green” and “it is not straw colored”, while Kincaid’s “Defeat is not beautiful; it is not ugly” isn’t frustrating to me at all?
I find it disturbing that Madam LaBatte is treating Xuela like a doll: clothing her and bathing her to present Xuela to Monsieur LaBatte. And it’s hard to tell whether Xuela truly likes it. I know she says she feels pleasure but she also says she can not wait to be in her own clothes, almost as if being this woman and having her husband isn’t pleasing to her. It’s weird to me, especially since she is only 15 years old at this point. another thing: I wonder why it took so long for Xuela to mention her actual name and how she got it. The only reason I knew her name before was because of the blurb on the back of the book but she never stated it in the text nor did anyone ever call her by her name. The first mention we have of her name is on page 79 and I wonder why it took so long for her name to be brought up?
Anyway, I’m still enjoying the read very much even though there are some VERY disturbing moments.
After having a whole class dedicated to searching through a variety of Robinson Crusoe books (from children books to operas), all I can think about are the different versions that were created using the same character. We have discussed in class whether or not the differences between the novel we read and the stories we have looked through, were the story of Robinson Crusoe and I have come to realized that no one but Defoe, has the real story of Crusoe. However, the different stories of Crusoe were altered to please the audience it was meant for. Whether Crusoe is seen as an arrogant jerk (which we pretty much said in class he was) or was depicted as a a generous hero in an opera, the adventure of Robinson Crusoe has become a story that has been changed through out the years to please certain audiences. Each version created a new lesson to be learned. All this I was thinking about while reading The Autobiography of My Mother. Reading the first 40 pages of this book (which I enjoyed being it was such a fast and laid back read compared to the numerous pages of Robinson Crusoe talking about the same thing over again), I was left feeling a bit confused. Not in the sense that I didn’t understand what was going on in the story but confused in why Kincaid would create such a young character incapable of living in a world of love. Why was this seven year old girl thinking similar thoughts as a 20 something year old Crusoe when it came to life and death? It amazed me how fragile yet strong this young character is made out to be and I can’t help but love the words written on the page. Each thought the character takes us through shows us a bit of her growth in a matter of a couple of pages (something that took Crusoe to do in like 10 pages). It’s like being her diary and experiencing her growth and her understanding of the world right before our eyes without questioning her sincerity. She is raw. Even the details that might be a bit disturbing make her more real than (I believe) Crusoe.
Reading someone’s blog, I came across the question of: why title it the Autobiography of My Mother, if her mother died while the little girl was born? I think this title is used to help the character reconstruct the life of her mother through her own life. Like the many people who have reconstructed the story of Crusoe, who have altered it to please a certain audience, I think the character in this novel is doing just that; reconstructing, altering, and creating the story of her dead mother in order to understand herself, her features, and the world she lives in. Like using it as a guide and finding some kind of love or satisfaction in her life and feeling that after created the autobiography of her mother, that she knows her.
I’m just overall glad that after reading Robinson Crusoe,we can read something a bit more fast pace 🙂
As soon as it was
and that poor thing began to
I got up
to help Her:
and She shook
and She pulled
and before morning
had peeled off yards of that paper
about as high as my head
and half around the room
when the sun came
and that awful pattern
began to laugh at me
would finish It
“There was no one in him: behind his face (which even through the bad paintings of those times resembles no other) and his words, which were copious, fantastic and stormy, there was only a bit of coldness, a dream dreamt by no one. At first he thought that all people were like him, but the astonishment of a friend to whom he had begun to speak of this emptiness showed him his error and made him feel always that an individual should not differ in outward appearance.” -Jorge Luis Borges, Everything and Nothing
In the passage above, the key problems that comes to mind are “What is the ‘self’ and how does one define it ?” This passage specifically questions the artist asking “how can the artist separate him/herself from their art?” Borges, who is talking about Shakespeare and his struggle with finding his ‘self’ aside from his work, defines Shakespeare as someone who has “no one in him” creating this perspective of Shakespeare being unable to define who he is outside of his art, making it seem that Shakespeare is not just one individual but a collection of the characters he has created. This perspective given by the narrator brings to surface the question of identity; can an artist separate his true self from the art he has produced? Or does the artist create a new sense of self with every new art work he forms? As the passage continues, an opposition is presented when the “friend” believes that the outward appearance should be the same as the individual’s self, which continues to show the struggle Shakespeare is facing now knowing that not everyone feels the same way.
Through out the passage, certain grammatical features help bring this question of the self to focus, such as the colon after “there was no one in him” signifying that he has lost his true identity and sets up the struggle we (as the reader) are about to learn of. The parenthesis in the middle of the sentence that follows the colon, breaks the narrators perspective and gives insight to his thoughts. As the sentence continues, a series of commas are presented, emphasizing the struggle of finding one’s self and prolonging the problem. With all the negative and “cold” vibe, the word “fantastic” is placed in the middle of the description of Shakespeare’s words and shows that even though the narrator may think Shakespeare has no one in him, his art is very much appreciated and loved and in his art, a part of his self can be found. It brings the reader to think that even though one’s self may be lost in his work, his work does not have to reflect the coldness that one feels inside.
Reading Arthur Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell, I couldn’t help but think of Dante’s Inferno and the circles of hell. Through the whole reading I felt as if I was spiraling down hell with him. Rimbaud’s short opening sentences really brought me in his mind making me feel like I was trapped in his words. In class, we discussed of the devil and Satan were two different people and all I kept thinking about as we were talking about who Beauty is and who is Satan or the devil was that Beauty is the devil. I feel like this guy is just trapped in this woman’s beauty and is trying desperately to find a way out but finds himself getting more and more lost in his thoughts. As the reading goes on, he beings to kind of rant about all these life learned lessons and how he is realizing that he is in hell because of everything he has experienced, from being forced into a religion by his parents to the realities of war and then finally his love and hate of women:”I saw the hell of women back there; and I shall be free to possess truth in one soul and one body”. Is he fighting a battle between reality and his inner thoughts? Is he just going crazy over this Beauty figure and Satan? Each level of hell he brings me into makes me want to escape and I think Rimbaud’s form of writing allows his readers to be trapped with him until he is finally free. Since his lines flow so nicely you feel trapped in his words, does he do this because he is trapped? All this talk in class about the mind vs. I just makes me think the narrator is fighting the same battle Jane fights in the “Yellow Wallpaper” or Robinson Crusoe fights when he goes back and forth with his faith in God.
So last night as I was working a project graduation being held at the gym, I couldn’t help but think about this Friday character Defoe created as a slave (or maybe even a companion) for poor old lonely Robinson Crusoe. It may seem strange that while working a high school event with teenagers running around and bouncing on those bouncing things, that I thought of this human-eating character, but seeing the way some of them attacked the food after playing some basketball or racing a friend in an obstacle course, made me think of Friday’s description as a “savage”. As I’m thinking about this Friday character and the way he is being described, I was a bit disturbed at the fact that Defoe made it seemed as if “Savages” (and by this meaning anyone who isn’t “westernized”) are pleased with being the subordinate to a European man. I mean ok so pretty much we have this whole set up of how Robinson Crusoe saves this “savage” from a group of cannibals planning to eat him (mind you Friday is a cannibal himself ) and takes him in, feeds him, clothes him, teaches him his language, how to work and tells him about the Christian religion. And during this WHOLE process of converting this “savage” into a “civilized man”, Friday just seems to enjoy it. I mean granted in the beginning he wasn’t too comfortable with clothes and questioned Robinson a little about God and the Devil, but in the end Friday is made out to be contempt and happy with his way of living like a slave. Now what is the message that readers are supposed to take from this? That saving someone who isn’t westernized and has a completely different culture than yours means they would be sooooooo happy to be your slave? At one point in the book Robinson states that Friday wanted to learn as much as possible so Robinson didn’t have to work… I mean really? You have this guy who was perfectly happy to live in a life where he captured prisoners and brought them to some random island to eat them and after being saved one time he just changes like that? If I was Friday my ass would have kept running and hide until those guys were too tired to chase after their food and then find some way to go back home (Robinson left a perfectly good canoe on the other side of the island after running away from foot print right?) OR being that Friday was so good with the sword, after Robinson gave him the sword to kill the guy chasing him why not just turn around and kill Crusoe? He saved his life but so what he’s supposed to be a “savage” remember? So ok not only is Friday just so happy to be slaving for Crusoe, but it seems as is he is so willing to change his whole life around just because Mr. Crusoe said Friday’s way of living is wrong. So what is the message people reading this are supposed to get? That natives of a land are just waiting to be saved and turned into slaves and change their whole way of living? Weird! Anyway moving on… So in class talking about the similarities between Friday and Crusoe’s last servant, Xury, I just kept thinking: why is Crusoe so self centered that he believes anyone working for him loves it and is so willing to do what he pleases? Part of the reason why Crusoe sold Xury was because Xury basically told him that it was ok to be sold. How is it that Crusoe gets so lucky as to have TWO people to serve him and enjoy it? (As I’m writing this my mind is going crazy with all these thoughts so excuse me if I just start talking about a whole new topic out of no where. Speaking of which…)
Ok going back to Friday and his way of living. Who is to say anyone’s way of living is right or wrong? If these people wanna eat other people then why not? let them be. Why do we always feel the need to change someone who is so different from us and try to make teach them that our way of living is more right than theirs? I mean the same way Robinson ate goats and turtles is the same way that Friday ate prisoners. This whole debate of how its wrong to eat humans but not wrong to eat animals (generally speaking of course) makes me think of this movie DayBreakers and how everyone (with the exception of few people) had turned into vampires and the whole world was using people for blood (liking milking a cow for milk only people where captured and having their blood drained out of them). It was like people became the animals and vampires became the masters that milked and fed off of them. Now because the majority of the population were vampires and the minority became the prey does that make it right? The same way someone sees a turtle as a pet someone else may see it as dinner and because they see it that way are they completely wrong? Anyway I’m just saying Friday is a bit of an odd character but still Crusoe is way to full of himself and this whole weird message Defoe is trying to bring to surface just shows the mind of people at the time (and unfortunately some who still think this way)
After reading Fantomina, I couldn’t help my mind from thinking: “what the hell is this?” and “what does this guy have that drove this woman to change herself so many times?” I found it so hard to believe that a different hat or jacket or accent or whatever story she could make up about her character, could really make him believe she was a completely different person. I mean her body was exactly the same no matter who she was trying to be. Is this guy just so horny he doesn’t even realize he is having the same woman over and over again? And NO the answer given in the story which reads, “I can only say, that besides the Alteration which the change of Dress made in her, she was so admirably skilled in the Art of feigning, that she had the Power of putting on almost what Face she pleased…” does not satisfy me. Even Avatars somewhat resembled the actors who played them, and I know her costume wasn’t as high tech as Avatars so no her acting may be good but i don’t believe it’s that good for someone not to figure out all these women were the same person, ESPECIALLY someone who is having sex with all these characters. Besides feeling a bit frustrated at this fact, I must confess that the story is well written but hard for me to fully believe. Even if this whole thing was believable, I’m still wondering what this Beauplaisir had that she just couldn’t get enough of and that made her go to the extreme of paying people to pretend along with her. Although I do see the power she did have over him, to me it didn’t even matter because she ended up screwed (literally and figuratively). Not only does she end up pregnant, her secret is revealed, she doesn’t keep the child and she’s send off to a Monastery in France. So really other than the fact she was able to fool this guy and keep her true identity hidden until the very end, the power she had over him was all for nothing. Even if the ending were different and she didn’t get pregnant, the power she had as the individual characters didn’t last long either since he got bored and didn’t go back to the “different women” until “they” wrote to him first.
Now after writing MY FIRST BLOG EVER, all I can think about is Lupe Fiasco’s song “Dumb it down”. How this relates I don’t know but it’s stuck on my head so i’m leaving the music video just because… enjoy!!