A Master of His Domain

A Declaration of My Views and Insight

My Obsession

I have come to an obsession with a few things in my life now, but there is one thing that I have become increasingly attached to the past 4 years of my life. This “thing” is my Italian heritage. I was never really interested in where my family came from up until about my 9th grade year when I watched the movie The Godfather for the first time. That probably seems too young of an age for such a graphic and dramatic movie, but needless to say, my family was pretty frank in their speech and actions, which incidentally adds to the common Italian stereotype of being loud and vulgar. In my first review of the movie, of course there were things that I didn’t understand but overall I absolutely loved it. I was immediately more interested in learning about where my family came from and what my grandparents’ lives were like.

Coincidentally, I came to learn that my brother and I were the last generation in my family to be completely of Italian heritage. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to learn much from my mother’s side of the family because my grandmother died the year I was born and my grandfather died while I was in 8th grade, but my father’s parents are still living so I learned much from them. I learned the town from which my grandparents emigrated in Sicily, how their parents arrived in America, and what they did to provide for their families. Sadly, my grandparents never spoke in Italian to their children so now they are the only ones able to speak the language in the family. Every time I hear them speak in Italian, I am just awestruck by the history and culture in their voices. It makes me really proud to be a descendent of two extremely hardworking individuals that helped shape the United States into what it is today culturally.

Whenever I see something with the words “Italy,” “Italian,” “Italia,” or anything relating to Italy I simply must have it. I have a necklace with the Italian Horn piece on it, displaying my heritage. The horn is believed to be some sort of charm that protects the wearer against the curses of the “evil-eye.” Personally, I believe that’s just a myth but nevertheless, I love being able to display my heritage. Some time in the future, I plan on visiting Italy, I’d love to be able to go with my entire family but many of them are getting older now and some are afraid to fly, so sharing in that experience may be a lost cause, but that still does not deter me from wanting to go. I even began taking courses here at the University of Michigan in Italian language to get closer to my roots.

Now that I am a few years older, I have probably seen each Godfather movie about 5 or 6 times each and know many lines. I never get tired of running across it when scanning through the channels on TV and watching it for the next 2 or 3 hours. I even bought the trilogy on Blu-Ray disc for those times when I need to watch it immediately. I am always amazed when I encounter someone who has not seen them, but then I am instantly happy because then I can show them these movies and watch them again. If there is anything in this world that I am most thankful for, it would be that I was born into a tightly knit family of loud, always joking, and sometimes obnoxious Italian-Americans. This is my obsession.

 

Picture of an Italian Horn

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The Diag “Freeze”

I recently saw this video from my roommate about the upcoming Diag Freeze event and I thought it was just really cool. It made me think of the story we just read too in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. The people in the video are freezing in time just like how the narrator in the book will be “freezing” in reality but continuing to live in his subconscious world. I like how people are moving through the “statues” of people too. It really puts some perspective on how the narrator will be lost to reality, yet life will continue without him even knowing it. Just thought I’d share.

The Diag “Freeze”

Contextual Discovery: Shadows and The Mind

In the beginning of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami, the main character has to have his shadow removed to enter the mysterious Town that he has created within his subconscious. In this enigmatic world, the shadow represents an extension of the mind and when it is removed, it slowly dies and eventually the mind of the person the shadow belonged to dies away also. The person forgets completely where they came from or what their life was like before coming to the Town. Also, when losing one’s shadow, and the mind, you lose all emotions, all feelings, anything you might associate with mind.

While reading this book, I tried to figure out what the significance of the removing of one’s shadow could be. What I realized was that the person’s shadow represents a past and things that are hidden. By removing this past, the person has nothing to hide and nothing to go back to, so the only thing for that person to do is live openly and without secrets. Which is also quite ironic for this place, or The Town as it is called, because everything about it is an enigma. The Librarian tells the narrator to stay away from the Woods and the Pool, she doesn’t know exactly why she is afraid, yet she knows she is afraid and many others are too. She calls the Pool “dangerous” and she even says “there is something malign about it.” The people of the Town know things about the Town the narrator does not but they keep this information from him, as secrets, unless specifically confronted. It is as if the people have lost their minds to keep information secret, yet they have the mind to keep some information protected from the narrator.

I did a little internet research on shadows and on the mind and how it works. Firstly, the simple know how to shadows. A shadow is defined as an area where direct light, from some source, cannot reach due to an obstruction from from an object. I found this definition to be really interesting actually. Again, the idea of a shadow seems that there is an area of a person’s life that person is trying to conceal, ergo the shadow. Yet, in the Town, the shadow is stripped from its owner and nothing can be concealed, nothing can be hidden, or kept secret. In this Town, there is not one area of the person’s life that can be obstructed from everyone’s view, which brings to mind this definition of “shadow”. Secondly, there is the mind. From an article from slyasafox.com, the mind is a “pattern recognition system.” The “mind creates, stores, and recognizes” patterns it receives. Your mind can take in raw data and place it into a recognizable pattern which we can decipher. This immediately brings to my mind the end of the story where the narrator works for hours to decipher the pattern and create the Librarian’s mind from the “old dreams” inside the unicorn skulls. This information was at first jumbled, unreadable, and indiscernible when he was originally doing the dreamreading, but when he discovered these “dreams” were actually pieces of the mind, he collected them and pieced them together (or so we believe from the ending of the story). These two objects become one in the sense that the shadow of the story holds the lost pieces of information that one associates with the mind. When this is taken from us, we can no longer decipher, decode, or what-have-you any incoming information; we can only perform what we already know. This reveals how intertwined the shadow and the mind were in this story. To be able to piece together a scrambling of information, we must be able to recognize these random pieces. Since the mind is also the shadow, the person cannot even try to formulate a new pattern with no prior recognition because the mind is not there to piece things together.

The shadow and the mind give some interesting insight into this story. They together illustrate an object of concrete nature for readers about how the mind works for every individual.

Contextual Discovery: Whirlpools

When first introduced to the whirlpool of the End of the World that the narrator visits in his subconscious, I thought it was quite interesting. I was really interested and confused about this mystic whirlpool. Apparently, it is supposed to be very deadly and will suck anything down into an abyss if they get trapped by it’s current. So I did a little more research on whirlpools; how they are formed and how dangerous they can really be.

Firstly, for a whirlpool to be created two opposing, powerful currents meet at one point and this causes the water to spin and create what we know as a whirlpool. Interestingly enough though, large whirlpools are even called ‘whirlpools’, they are called ‘maelstroms’. When reading Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, I pictured this dangerous whirlpool as the something quite large, like Charybdis from Homer’s The Odyssey, that can destroy anything that happens to fall into it. Yet, something even more interesting is how dangerous these whirlpools truly are. Looking at some websites, such as Wikipedia.or, apparently most whirlpools aren’t very dangerous because they are so small. Some of the larger maelstroms can cause damage to small ships though. One such maelstrom is the Saltstraumen maelstrom whose currents have been recorded flowing at speeds of 25+ miles per hour.

I think this whirlpool in the woods is quite interesting because of where it is and how it brings fear into everyone in The Town. For whirlpools to be created, they are almost always in large expanses of water like oceans, or at a point in a strait where two bodies of water are meeting and their currents are strong enough to cause the water to turn into a vortex. This whirlpool has claimed the lives of a few in this Town and now it has become one of the biggest fears in the townspeople. It’s interesting how this whirlpool could be a representation of the Town itself. It pulls things into its grasp and once they have entered, they can no longer leave. The captured are forced inside and no matter how hard they try, they can’t escape its hold, just like the people of the End of the World Town.

Corryvrechan Whirlpool

I’ve added this link to a youtube video of a whirlpool that has been taped off the cost of Scotland. As you can see, it is in the middle of a large body of water, probably the ocean, and it isn’t the huge catastrophic vortex of popular belief. The boat and people taping are clearly getting quite close to the whirlpool and not being taken into it. Of course, I believe they do have some sort of motorboat, so the powerful motor probably isn’t easily overpowered, but in any case, the horrible picture of a giant water funnel leading to the dark depths of an abyss are of no fear here.

 

Cortázar’s “Bestiary” of a Tiger

“Bestiary” is a tangling story of a girl who went to visit her relatives for the summer out in the country. Like many of Cortázar’s pieces, this story was full of mystery, intrigue, and questions. The main character Isabel, seems to be a very intelligent and observant girl. She notices a lot about the other people in the house, especially between Rema and The Kid. Her first strange observance of the two was at night when she was heading to bed. Rema had come to give The Kid a cup of coffee and when she give it to him, his fingers touched her’s very slightly. This was enough to bring some fear to Rema, and she immediately jerked her hand away from him. I saw this as very strange. I immediately questioned, “Why was Rema acting this why?” The next day, Isabel saw Rema’s hand next to her ant farm and began to imagine the ant’s crawling up her hand, and this reminded her of that strange experience with The Kid and the coffee cup. This led me to believe that there was a bad relationship going-on between Rema and The Kid. Even later on in the story, as Isabel is heading to the kitchen late at night, The Kid stops her and tells her to “tell Rema to make [him] a nice cold lemonade and bring it to [him].” This part kind of freaked me out a bit. He could easily go to the kitchen and get himself something, or even have Isabel bring it back for him, yet he tells her to get Rema to do it. Rema’s response is even more chilling to me, she tells Isabel that she will “make the lemonade and [Isabel] can take it.” She is very fearful of The Kid for something, and she can’t even bare to bring him a glass of lemonade. Something is going on in this household between this characters, and it almost frightens me inside somehow because of the mysteriousness of it.

Also quite odd and intriguing is the recurrence of this tiger on the property. We never actually see it or know why it is there, but it just is and we know the people can’t go near it. Isabel’s aunt and uncle even have hired a crew of grounds people to let them know where this tiger is at all times. At first I had thought this tiger was some sort of metaphor or symbol for The Kid, but then there is a point in the story where the tiger is in The Kid’s study, and he cannot even go in there. The tiger doesn’t do anything, and I’m not even sure if it has any sort of role or significance in this story besides scaring the characters. Maybe that’s it, maybe the tiger isn’t supposed to have a deeper meaning. Maybe its one and only purpose is to arouse curiosity in readers and scare the inhabitants of this house into staying away from it.

“Bestiary” was a quite interesting read. It’s subtle undertone of fear and pain help to reveal its classification of a magical realist story.

A Quote to Ponder On Valentine’s Day

What does one woman see in another that a man cannot see? Tenderness.

-Sylvia Plath

(This also kind of reminds of Irving’s “The Broken Heart”)

How A Yellow Flower Can Be Uncanny

The idea of strange and fearful things can be stirring in itself. Yet, would it be strange to have these feelings when you look at something natural and beautiful? In Julio Cortázar’s short story, “A Yellow Flower,” the stories main character sees a small yellow flower growing by itself in the grass, and he has these same feelings; feelings of fear, loneliness, and mortality. The man has been battling with the struggle of his life continuing on through a boy he spots on a bus. The boy ends of dying “mysteriously” and the man thinks he will be happy with his recurring life finally coming to an end, yet he actually finds that he wants someone to continue the life he had. As he ponders this, he comes across this flower on the grass, and he stops in memorization as he sees this flower and what it represents to him. This flower could possibly represent the beautiful life that he brought to an end by coming into this boy’s life, or it might reveal how now that his continuation of life has been severed, he can continue on with his own. But for me, I feel this flower was a symbol of the boy who he contributed to killing, and now that this flower (the boy) is dead, there will be no one to carry on this life he lived.

This story is uncanny to the effect of the man supposedly having some sort of “blood line” that will continue on and on forever. The people will not necessarily be related through blood to him or his family, yet their lives with have occurrences and events that are very close, if not exactly the same to his. It makes me this of this picture:

In this picture, I see the man’s life as the little girl. His life will go on and on for however long, maybe infinity, in the same exact fashion, possibly there will be some small variations, but as a whole it will be almost identical. This is what he put to a stop by the boy, Luc’s, life ending.

 

 

The House Is Taken Over! But By What?

The line between the real and the imaginary can sometimes be quite thin. I found myself trying to decipher what was really imaginary in the story of “House Taken Over” by Julio Cortázar. I didn’t know what exactly Cortázar was trying to say to us, as readers, through this story, but I think I made some small connections with it. This story tells of a quaint pair of older siblings living in the large, colonial house of their ancestral family. This brother and sister spend a large majority of their time cleaning the house and just enjoying their free-time. The sister, Irene, consumes all of her free-time with knitting. This could possibly be because she refused to marry two men in her life, and she compensated for her lack of ability to take the joining vows of marriage by weaving together wool and yarn, only to undo her work and start over. The brother, who remains unnamed, and who is the narrator of the story, likes to spend his time reading French literature. I thought this was quite interesting because when I think French, I think very feminine, emotional, risqué, romantic things. So this brother could also be trying to make up for a moment in his life. The brother’s fiancée-to-be, María Esther, died before he could propose to her. He even seems to have some disdain for this unfortunate event when he states she “went and died on me before we could manage to get engaged.” It seems to me like he couldn’t get over her death, so he turned to French novels and literature to fill his love loss.

Now to turn to the pretty confusing part of this story, the entrance of “them.” Right in the middle of the story, the brother/narrator was going to get some sort of drink called a mate, and when he was heading to the kitchen, some strange noises could be heard down the hall. He immediately is filled with some sort of fear and closes the door to their side of the house, and locks these things on the other side. I was having the hardest time trying to figure out when these things came into the story, why they were there, and what they were? I read the story and reread the story over and over trying to discover some clue to what the answers to these questions were. The only thing I could think of to give meaning to these creatures is that the old brother and sister are simply psychotic. They have been stuck up inside this old house, cleaning it over and over again, lost within their obsessions. It seems pretty logical to me to think that they simply went a little crazy and started imagining things. This is a great transition for the meaning of “magical realism” in this piece. Magical realism is the seamless encounter of fantastical or magical occurrences in a work within the real.

I found this story to be interesting in the aspect of magical realism and literal realism. Are these events in the siblings’ life magical or paranormal while still seemingly real, or is it an actual psychosis that is happening to two real people? I guess we can never really know.

The “Appearance” of Bookmaking

When I was assigned my English paper, I was told to choose a story from our class novel, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon by Washington Irving, and further my understanding of some literary term through that story. I was really interested when we read the story “The Art of Bookmaking.” This short story is about a man you finds himself in a mysterious new place where authors create books: The British Library. The man sees these fascinating “Magi” (63) and what they are doing to create books, by “taking a morsel out of one [book] and a morsel out of another” and compiling these pieces to form one ‘new’ book “as heterogeneous as those of the witches’ cauldron in Macbeth” (64). To many of us now, this scene probably seems very far-fetched because why would authors be described as Magi?or why would authors be taking pieces of other works and putting them together to create their own?

It is this exaggeration that I plan to build my paper on. The term is hyperbole, and it means to use obvious over-exaggeration in a piece of literature. Within this story there are plenty of places that Irving is hyperbolic and one can infer that some real exaggeration is going on. In my paper, I plan to research more into this story and read these “exaggerations” more closely, because I believe that although we may perceive these descriptions by Irving to be purely exaggeration, there may be pieces or instances where this exaggeration is not really exaggeration. Also, there may be times where Irving’s hyperbole is unclear in the story or not clearly obvious, which is contradictory to the standard denotation of hyperbole.

I know this picture seems quite childish because of the simply clip-art, but I thought it seemed clever and could easily convey the idea of a hyperbole through over-exaggeration.

 

The Reality of “The Broken Heart”

I recently read Washington Irving’s short story, “The Broken Heart.” It tells of the differences between the heart of a man and the heart of a woman. In the heart of a man, one would find the love for power, for respect, and for the control over other men. Yet, in the heart of a woman, one finds affection, sympathy, and passion for the people that she is close with. When I read this, I was taken back by how right Irving was and still is. Even in the 1700s/1800s when he wrote these stories, Irving detailed the traits of men and women that are still prevalent in today’s society. These “traits” are almost like hereditary genes that have been passed on through all humankind from parent to progeny.

I feel as though woman are much more connected with others and their emotions and feelings. I’ve seen my own mother cry about things she has seen on TV that she has had no influence in or received from. Her womanly/motherly psyche has such a connection to the feelings of others that it allows her to sympathize and genuinely feel positively and negatively inflicted. I find that really strange how woman can just be so empathetic in such a way. In my experiences, any man that watches or comes in contact with the same stimuli really shows no outward sign of affection. So seeing that Irving has made this connection also between man and woman amazes me because although he lived in a different time then do today, he too experienced the same sort of juxtaposition.

 

“The beauty of a woman must be seen from her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.”  –Teresa Mahieu

(I found this quote from a poem by Mahieu titled “The Beauty of a Woman,” this truly does exemplify the soul of a woman. If one wants to discover the mystery that is women, he must look to her heart.)

 

 

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