Blog #32: Ceremony- The Connection to the Land

“‘This is where we come from, see. This sand, this stone, these trees, the vines, all the wildflowers. This earth keeps us going […] These dry years you hear some people complaining, you know, about the dust and the wind, and how dry it is. But the wind and the dust, they are part of life too, like the sun and the sky. You don’t swear at them. It’s people, see. They’re the ones. The old people used to say that droughts happen when people forget, when people misbehave” (Silko 42).

Josiah tells Tayo about the connection that natives have to the land. Josiah feels that this connection is “worth more than money” (Silko 42). It is more important to know about your culture and where you come from. The Native Americans are connected with everything from the “sand” to the “wildflowers”. The earth that they have grown up on “keeps [them] going”. The earth realizes this connection too and acts accordingly. The “dry years” that the people are experiencing is intertwined with how the earth is responding to the people. The wind and the dust “are part of life too”. The drought is not the fault of the wind and the dust, but the peoples fault for not remembering where they come from. Josiah says that “droughts happen when people forget, when people misbehave”. Native American people are forgetting their stories, forgetting where they come from and what is important. The land is reacting to this.

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Blog #31: Ceremony- The Significance of a Uniform

“The war was over,the uniform was gone. All of a sudden that man at the store waits on you last, makes you wait until all the white people bought what they wanted. And the white lady at the bus depot, she’s real careful now not to touch your hand when she counts our your change. You watch it slide across the counter at you, and you know. Goddamn it!” (Silko 39).

As soon as the war was over and the Native American people took off their uniforms, the discrimination started again. Suddenly the man at the store “waits on [them] last”. All the white people must get everything they need before the man pays any attention to the Native American individual. When their uniforms were on they may have been waited on when it was their turn, or maybe even first. But without a uniform, they are devalued and dehumanized, treated like second rate citizens. Now the lady at the bus depot is “real careful” not to touch any Native American’s hand. Not only is this discriminatory, but it is completely degrading. Not wanting to touch their hands is like saying they are not worthy of contact with a white person. Also, it is portraying the Native Americans like some type of diseased species. It is like the whites do not want any part of the Native Americans infecting them. When they were fighting for America, putting their lives on the line and giving the white American army another expendable body, the Native Americans were treated well. As soon as their service was over, they were no longer treated with respect. The whites used them as they needed to, only giving them respect for their willingness to die for the American cause. Their deaths would mean nothing to the white people, just as their lives mean nothing to the whites now.

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Blog #30: Ceremony- Stories

“I will tell you something about stories, [he said] They aren’t just entertainment. Don’t be fooled. They are all we have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death. You don’t have anything if you don’t have stories. Their evil is mighty but it can’t stand up to our stories. So they try to destroy the stories […]” (Silko 2).

The second I saw this quote I knew that I wanted to blog about it and later include it in my final paper. I wrote one of my responses about the importance of writing in Mumbo Jumbo and Omeros. The importance of stories in Ceremony completely ties into this idea. Oral stories were just as important to Native Americans in Ceremony as writing is shown to be in the other two novels. The Native American stories are not “just entertainment”. You should not be “fooled” by how they sound or what they may seem to be about. They are all the Native Americans have to “fight off illness and death”. The stories are clearly not just stories, they are devices of defense for the native people. The “death” in this quote is used both literally and figuratively. Native American people use their stories to fight off actually dying, but also use them to have their culture live on and avoid death. Just as writing in Mumbo Jumbo and Omeros give marginalized people a voice and a way to preserve culture, stories act in the same way for Native American people. Without stories, the people “don’t have anything” because stories keep alive their culture and everything they are about. The “evil” being described is the evil of the whites who have colonized them. Any “evil” the whites can dish out is nothing compared to the power behind Native American stories. The stories truly help Native Americans fight back against colonization by keeping their culture circulating (like the writing in Omeros and Mumbo Jumbo). The whites try to destroy these stories in order to dominate the Native Americans. Destroying their stories makes it easier to wipe out their culture, which in turn makes it easier to control them or have them assimilate.

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Blog #29: Last Evenings on Earth- Art

“Dentist”

“But that’s where art comes from, he said: life stories. Art history comes along only much later. That’s what art is, he said, the story of a life in all its particularity. It’s the only things that really is particular and personal. Its the expression of and, at the same time, the fabric of the particular” (Bolano 192).

In this passage, Bolano discusses a view of art that is very similar to the views discussed in The Lacuna and Paterson. Just as Frida says art must have life experiences in it and Williams (from an interview inserted into the novel) says that poetry must have the poet in it, Bolano’s writing here says art comes from life stories. All three novels essentially describe art (a phrase which, in my opinion includes poetry and writing) as coming from true experiences that capture the life of the poet. The speaker says that “art history” can only come after art is created. Artists cannot rely on art history to guide their work, because their lives in the art is what actually creates the history. Art is life including all its “particularities”.

Art expresses the particular as it makes up the particular at the same time. The speaker describes the particular as “the secret story” (Bolano 192). He then describes “the secret story” as “the one we’ll never know, although, we’re living it from day to day […]” (Bolano 192). Basically, art describes the secret story of life, the one that we live daily and do not pay attention to. Art captures all of the little things that seem insignificant. It shows the deeper meanings in life. While art expresses these meanings, it also helps to create them. What we see in art helps us to see “the secret story” and therefore helps people to create new art based on their understandings. It is like a big cycle. As long as art reflects life and its particulars, the particulars will keep being used to create more art. Art history is created this way, but cannot be done without the life stories remaining in art.

In its own way (or should I say, in its particulars), Paterson is art since it focuses on “the secret life” of Paterson. Harrison’s journals are art because they express “the secret life” of Harrison. They are stories with all of the workings of daily life.

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Blog #28: Last Evenings on Earth- The Tourist View of Mexico

“Anne Moore’s Life”

“They went swimming every morning; in the afternoon Paul painted while Anne read, and at night they went to a North American bar, the only one in town, called The Frog, frequented by tourists and Californian students” (Bolano 78).

This quote gives us the tourist view of Mexico. Tourists go to Mexico and like to swim in the morning, relax with their favorite pastimes (in this case reading and painting), and go to the bar at night. They even get to go to a “North American” bar in town and encounter other tourists and “Californian students”. Anne and her boyfriend use Mexico for everything they want in a get away. They are able to go here on vacation and enjoy the services they receive from the working native people. Bolano writes, “Then one day they decided to travel to Mexico and Anne quit her job” (78). Anne and her boyfriend have the ability to just pick up and go to Mexico (unlike Mexicans who could never just decide to go to American one day without any problems in their way). Anne has a certain amount of stability that allows her to be able to just quit her job. Meanwhile, the Mexican people must work their jobs to serve the Americans with this leisure. Like in Omeros, the Americans in this story enjoy the island as a getaway while the native people cannot even enjoy their own land anymore because it is infiltrated by Western people and ways.

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Blog #27: Last Evenings on Earth- Consequences of Emigration

“The Grub”

“It’s a very small town, said my father, wouldn’t be more than a thousand people (later I found out there weren’t even five hundred), pretty poor, not many jobs, and no industry at all. It’ll disappear sooner or later he said. What do you mean disappear? I asked him. Emigration, he said […]” (67).

The narrator is  describing the town that “the Grub” is from. The town is already small, poor, and not doing well economically. The narrators father says that the town will end up disappearing. This is a trope seen throughout Bolano’s book. People disappear and now towns can disappear. When the writers disappear (particularly the “bad” writers), never to be heard from again, their writing and work most likely disappears or is forgotten. Without anyone left in the town, it is possible that the history of the town and the culture of the town can be lost or forgotten as well. Since the town members emigrate, they end up in a new place and are pressured to forget their old town and ways of life. When people emigrate to a point where there is no one or nothing left in their native land, there is a danger of their native culture can be lossed to history, especially if the people assimilate to the new culture they encounter.

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Blog #26: Last Evenings on Earth: Hierarchy of Literature

“Henri Simon Leprince”

“Never before has he fully grasped the abjection of his place in the pyramidal hierarchy of literature” (Bolano 20).

Bolano’s entire book describes the same idea that this quote puts forth, which is that there is a “pyramidal hierarchy of literature”. Most of the stories in the book contain a character who is considered to be a “bad” writer. Like the character being described in this quote, it is those writers who are at the bottom of the pyramid. Their writing is not valued and their work is never spread. They are underneath those other writers who are valued by society and labeled as “good” writers. It is interesting that while reading this collection of short stories, it seems like many of them do not really go anywhere or have an important plot. This serves to highlight what happens to these “bad” writers. Their work does not really go anywhere or play an important role in society.

This quote reminds me of how in The Lacuna, Harrison was told to read certain literature because it was important. Harrison must read the literature that is valued in society, which is the literature he needs to know in order to succeed in school. In our educational careers, we ourselves are forced to read the authors who are considered to be at the top of the hierarchical pyramid. In high school and college specifically, we must read certain novels that are a part of the canon that has been developed. The question is, who exactly decides what is in the canon? How do the people on the top of the pyramid get there? Who puts them there? Certainly not the marginalized members of society or minority members. Going back to a previous blog post, the canon is developed by those who hold the most power and influence, people or institutes that represent “the Man”.

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Blog #25: Paterson- The Female Binary

“The whore and the virgin, an identity: / – through its disguises // thrash about – but will not succeed in breaking free / an identity” (Williams 208).

Williams’ novel portrays Phyllis as falling into one of two extremes, the “whore” or the “virgin”. When seen in the context of having an affair with Paterson, Phyllis represents the whore; she is a “hussy” (Williams 153). When she is with Corydon, he is most concerned with the idea that any other men have been with her. When she says no, he says “good”, clearly happy that she is (or has presented herself as) “still a virgin” (Williams 169). There is not option in between, Phyllis must either be considered as one extreme or the other. Either the whore or the virgin are her possible options for her “identity”. No matter what “disguises” Phyllis attempts to put on, she will “not succeed in breaking free an identity”, which is in identity which has been assigned to her as her only options.

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Blog #24: Paterson- The Power of Literature (Even if it is “Bad”)

“It is dangerous to leave written that which is badly written. / A chance word, upon paper, may destroy the world.  Watch care- / fully and erase, while the power is still yours, I say to myself, for / all that is put down, once it escapes, may rot its way into a  thou- / sand minds, the corn become a black smut, and all libraries, of / necessity, be burned to the ground as a consequence” (Williams 129).

Williams acknowledges the power of literature in this passage. Not only can well-written work be powerful, but work that is “badly written” can be powerful and dangerous too. Words have the power to “destroy the world”. This reminds me of The Lacuna because the media and the wrong information it prints has the power to start an uproar in society and the potential to destroy Harrison’s life. While you are still in possession of the writing, the power is “still yours”, but once it gets out there you are not holding the power anymore. The power lies within the people who read it. Even if you write something with a specific intention or message, those who read it can interpret it anyway they like. Work can be read to mean different things with the same quote being able to support various different readings. Work that is badly written can be open to some dangerous interpretations. Thousands of people can think he writing is dangerous and then all of the libraries will be burned in consequence.

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Blog #23: Paterson- Poetry

“But the pathetic library (that contained, / perhaps, not one volume of distinction) / must go down also – // BECAUSE IT IS SILENT. IT / IS SILENT BY DEFECT OF VIRTUE IN THAT IT / CONTAINS NOTHING OF YOU // that which should be / rare, is trash; because it contains / nothing of you” (Williams 123).

I would say that poetry is a language charged with emotion. It’s words, rhythmically organized . . . A poem is a complete little universe. It exists separately. Any poem that has worth expresses the whole life of the poet. It gives a view of what the poet is” (Williams 221).

This first quote from Paterson reflects what Frida is saying about art in The Lacuna. She describes true art having to be about something that is true, something from personal experience and life that you put into your work. Writing in itself is a form of art, as Williams shows in his epic. Just as Frida thinks that it is pointless to make art without truth and your personal experiences, Williams writes about how books are “trash” if they contain “nothing of you”. Williams refers to the library as pathetic because it contained not “one volume of distinction”. The fact that the books were all the same and had no distinct quality is what made the library pathetic. The library needed to burn down because it was silent and it was silent because the books had nothing of the writer. The books were not virtuous, or “right”.  They had no reason to be admired. Books that should be rare and admired can only be considered as “trash” if the writers personal voice or experience is not behind it. The second quote also reflects what we see from Frida in The Lacuna. The words of a poem should be full of emotion and be a “complete little universe”. This universe should come into existence by expressing the “whole life of a poet”.

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