Sunday, December 23, 2012

Something Interesting

So as I was flipping through my latest copy of the Hawkeye comic I found an ad for another comic. A Deadpool comic to be exact. This is what I saw:

It kind of made me laugh and I now want to buy this comic because 1) Deadpool is hilarious and 2) I really want to know what he is doing with the crew of the Pequod. Just another way Moby-Dick has appeared in pop culture.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Where did the time go?

It is kind of hard to believe that this semester is almost over and that this blog post is the LAST blog post. I have thoroughly enjoyed the entire semester of discussion and I have to say that even though I wasn't looking forward to reading some of these books, discussion made the books 1000 times better. I think I am really going to miss this class and everyone I met this semester.

Anyway, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. In many of the literature classes I have taken the term "passing" has come up several times in discussions. Most of the time it refers to people of color passing as white but I have come across instances of women passing as men or vice versa. However, this story is very much a story of a colored man passing as white.

What caught my eye was the beginning of the book. The narrator did not realize that he was considered colored. He had light skin and smooth hair. He even made fun of the colored kids at school (though not to the extent his white "friends" did). He was passing as white without even knowing that he wasn't considered white. 

During discussion today I was reminded of a short story by Kate Chopin called "Desiree's Baby." The main character, Desiree, was found as a baby by a wealthy family and adopted by them. When she is of marrying age she is courted by a wealthy young man whom she later marries and they begin a life together. They have a baby and as the baby grows it becomes clear that the baby has darker skin and is not "white." Because Desiree doesn't know her background and neither does her husband, her husband claims that she must not be fully white. Desiree's adopted mother suggests that Desiree and the baby come back home and her husband basically kicks her out. Desiree doesn't go home though; she and the baby go out into the bayou and they are never seen again. The husband however is seen burning letters that Desiree had written to him while they were still courting and along with those letters we as readers discover that it is the husband that is colored. While it is assumed that Desiree is not at fault for the child's skin color, it is still never said what her race really is.

I just find it interesting how passing as white is such a predominate story line in many of the books and stories from the era. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Edith Wharton in Popular Culture

While looking for Edith Wharton in popular culture in class the other day, I stumbled across an interesting tidbit. Julian Fellowes, the creator of "Downton Abbey," is not only a Wharton fan, but claims that Wharton's works have influenced his own writing and even helped in his creation of the hit show. It was interesting to find out that Fellowes favorite Wharton book is The House of Mirth. Along with this information I discovered the Edith Wharton Lifetime Achievement Award which Fellowes was awarded this year.

While looking into the Edith Wharton Achievement Award I discovered it is put on by The Mount (or at least the people on the committee who are in charge of The Mount). The award has been used to honor artists such as Martin Socrsese, Eurdora Welty, Alice Munro, Brooke Astor, Kati Marton, and Anne Cox Chambers since 1996. Julian Fellowes received it this year for his extraordinary accomplishments in his field of writing, acting, and film directing. It is fitting that The Mount should host this award as it helped influence Wharton's own writing and it has helped influence many more artists since she lived and wrote there.

In Fellowes acceptance speech he attributed his success and the success of "Downton Abbey" to Wharton. He also mentioned how he first read Wharton as a young man and how the first time he read The House of Mirth he fell in love with it. He was quoted saying that the reason for the success of the series is the characters, "[I am] kind to them in their weakness, kind to the error of their is a lesson I learned directly from Edith Wharton, from her tolerance and her humor, even as she brings out the rod. I consider myself most fortunate to have made her acquaintance" (Rogovoy).

I found it interesting that Wharton had influenced Fellowes writing as much as she has. I always think it is interesting to see how other authors are influenced by authors of the past and this is no exception. The next time I am watching Downton Abbey I think I will be paying closer attention to the characters Fellowes has created and how they react to things in their environment as well as to what their weaknesses are. I know my writing is influenced by the authors I read and it is always fun to see how other writers are influenced in the same way I might be.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Popular Now, Classic Maybe

As we discussed in class today, we aren't 100% certain as to which books will be classics in the future. For all we know we could end up in a society like in the book Matched by Ally Condie where there are the 100 poems and the 100 paintings. It would be hard to live in the society created in Matched: everyone knows how to read, but the only readings are the 100 stories or poems picked out by the government. The characters don't know how to write however, and no one writes their own thoughts. The book is reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which could be considered a classic of now. Here is the list we created in class:

Popular Now/Classic in the Future
Harry Potter
Stephen King: Carrie
The Alchemist
The Hunger Games/Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic novels

Not Popular/Classic in the Future
Piers Anthony
Ayn Rand
Pillars of the Earth
Life of Pi
The Kite Runner/A Thousand Splendid Suns
Ann Brashares

Popular Now/Not Classic in the Future
Fifty Shades of Gray
Stephen King
Game of Thrones

Classic Now/Classic still in the Future
The Great Gatsby
Jane Austen
The Bronte Sisters
Ferdinand the Bull
Sherlock Holmes
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory
Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit
The Chronicles of Narnia

Many of these books are revered by our society today. It is kind of hard to believe that Harry Potter might not make the classics list when it is called the "series that got a generation to read (myself included)." At the same time however, Eragon isn't the most mainstream book series and it is possible that someday it may be considered a classic as well (which I really hope it won't be cause as far as main characters go, Eragon isn't the brightest...I would even go so far as to say that his dragon is a thousand or more times smarter than he is. Then again people who aren't me seem to enjoy the books more than I do.) I really do think that books like Lord of the Rings and Sherlock Holmes will continue to persist (hey, it has had a following since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first started the series which makes it one of the longest running fan bases ever). Over all I mostly agree with our placement of these novels. Sure we missed a few like Fahrenheit 451 and Lord of the Flies, but I am sure those books will continue to persist through out time. Heck, if our society does become like the one in Matched, maybe they will be lucky enough to be included in the 100 works that are kept while everything else is burned.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain

The overall plot of Pudd'nhead Wilson was one to keep readers interested. Crime stories are great for that very reason. But Twain wrote a more complex story than one about a murder. Many things in this book caught my attention, but none as much as the argument between nature and nurture.

Nature vs. nurture seemed to be a big point of this book. Would the real Chambers have turned out to be such a non-caring, cold-hearted, gambler if he had been raised as Chambers? I don't think so. And would the real Tom have turned out to be such a nice and caring person if he had been raised as Tom? I don't think so on that either. I do think that the Tom who grew up as Chambers would have had some differences. He would have been educated like he was supposed to be, but I'm not sure if he would have gotten into gambling. I also don't think he would have been harsh toward the real Chambers. I honestly think that nature and nurture both play a role in socializing members of the community. The real Tom seemed to have a kind soul and he either learned it from the world he grew up in, or he was naturally that way. It is hard to know because he wasn't raised as a white person, but both nature and nurture could have been thrown into the equation.

Chambers, the real Chambers, on the other hand might not have turned out as sweet as the fake Chambers had. Chambers seemed to think of himself first (which could have been a learned trait, but most humans tend to be self-centered). I think he learned to be cruel from the world around him and he felt like he had a right to the things in his world. I'm sure it was a hard punishment for him to suddenly become a slave after all the years of being privileged and I think it might have even made him more bitter.

Where the real Tom is nice and doesn't know what to do with his new found freedom, the real Chambers probably also feels trapped in his new role as slave. The pair really are two sides of the same coin and their destinies were tied together the moment Roxy decided to swap them from the cradle. Because of this, how much of their personalities were constructed because of those who nurtured them and how much was because of their nature? I guess it would be hard to tell because neither boy grew up in the world that they should have and that might have made all the difference.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ending Thoughts on Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

After reading and discussing Moby-Dick for four weeks, it is a bit odd to be finished with the book. Even with those four weeks, I know we didn't cover hardly any of the content. This book is just so full of everything from Ishmael's made up whale classifications to the foreshadowing of what is eventually going to happen to the crew to Ishmael's use of mythological stories. I don't know if we would have been able to talk about everything even if we had been given more time.

Now that everything is said and done, I would have to say that I probably wouldn't recommend Moby-Dick to too many people. It was an interesting book and there were parts I enjoyed, but it really wasn't my cup of tea. I'm sure that I will probably re-read it at some point because I am sure I missed a lot of things while reading it this time. I think I would like to take the time to think things over and ponder what some of the chapters are actually meaning. I would probably recommend Moby-Dick to people who I know that tend to take things a bit more slowly. It wasn't a life changing book for me, but I can see that it is important to the literary canon.

This brings me to the pie chart I made earlier.

I still agree with this pie chart. Even after the entire tale is done, we still don't know much at all about Ishmael. We know he survived and that is pretty much it. It still kind of bothers me that we never knew if Ishmael is his real name or not. I also still find it hard to trust much of what he is saying because of this. I was hoping for some kind of character development on his part, but I never really saw any. He kept to himself and he reported on everything he saw on the ship. Mostly he reported about whales though. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to see whales in quite the same way after this. I also think that Ishmael got the adventure he was looking for. I'm just not sure that he actually saw the world. He did see a lot of ocean though.

Overall, Melville's Moby-Dick is a good book. It has a little bit of everything and a lot of crazy. It pushes the boundaries and makes people think. Which, I suppose, is what a good book is supposed to do.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Wounded King

Arthurian legend tells of a king who is charged with keeping the Holy Grail. This king is the Fisher King or the Wounded King. He is almost always wounded in the groin, but other versions say that he is wounded in his legs or feet. This wound never quite heals making it hard for him to move on his own and the wound has made him infertile. His injury affects not only himself, but his lands as well - the Fisher King's kingdom is a wasteland where the crops wither and all the king has left to do is fish from the river near his castle.

Ahab is very much the Fisher King within Moby-Dick. In Chapter 106: Ahab's Leg we as readers find out that Ahab's false leg had nearly pierced his groin before their journey began and left him in an incurable wound, much like the Fisher King. While one doesn't necessarily think about Ahab's wound, it becomes clear that this is another sign of foreshadowing with in the novel. Because of Ahab's wound the Pequod and its crew are headed for destruction, much like the Fisher King's wound and infertility led to the destruction and infertility of his kingdom. 

Moby-Dick is Ahab's Holy Grail. Ahab is searching for the white whale, but at the same time the whale is kind of in his charge. Ahab seems to know that no other whaling vessel will be able to defeat the whale, but in the back of his mind he must also know that he cannot defeat it as well. He uses his influence over his crew to keep going after Moby-Dick and he refuses to listen to reason. In the Fisher King story, knights from Arthur's court come to try and heal the Fisher King, but none are able to do so until Percival. In much the same way, Ahab is unable to reach Moby-Dick until Ishmael is on board. Ishmael doesn't cure Ahab, in fact Ahab becomes more insane as the story progresses, but Ishmael is able to write down the happenings and Ahab is finally able to face the beast who took his leg originally.

Both Ahab and the Fisher King rule over a particular space; Ahab over his crew and the ship, and the Fisher King over his land and people. They are both charged with keeping track of something valuable. Ahab keeps track of Moby-Dick and the Fisher King keeps track of the Holy Grail. They both think that the things that they are keepers of will give them piece of mind, but in reality Ahab only finds death while the Fisher King still sits on a throne that rules over a wasteland. In Ahab's case the whale is his undoing.