Esther’s Space- journey through my life

October 31, 2007

Galatea 2.2….4

Filed under: p()5t^^()d3,~]\[ — estherspace @ 6:49 pm

Galatea is one of those books where I read the last few pages, then close the book and search in vain the front and back covers, looking for clues that would make everything make sense. As usual, this tactic didn’t really work.

As for whether or not Helen was ‘conscious’, I’m afraid to go there. Though I hadn’t completely picked up on it when first reading, but the idea that Powers uses women (‘sucks them dry’) in order to fulfill himself, define himself, and write novels about his existential angst is very compelling. This seems especially true when Powers says things like:

“For years– forever– my reason had been C.’s She seemed set, pleased with what we had. I’d always thought the choice was mutual. Now I saw it had all been me. C. had drawn the whole curve of her adult life out of deference and fear.” (277)


With this revelation we are led to wonder if Powers has, indeed, experienced some epiphany that leads him to understand the terrible person he has been and strive to better himself. But, that is not to be the case, since he is obviously most concerned with himself and his experience of life. He admits that he was attracted to A. predominantly because she reminded him of all of the other women his life had been made up of, and she would be just another object by which he defined himself. To some degree, she would be his muse, except he would not love her for it, he would only need her.

As soon as Powers discovers Helen, his need for A. becomes different, mostly physical. With Helen in his life, he slowly realizes that he already has a source to glean from in order to create another novel, thereby validating him as a producer of something finite (which he truly loves, if we build upon his veneration of Taylor). As Powers says, “Each metaphor already modeled the modeler that pasted it together” (329). This book is the child of Richard Powers experience of ‘getting over’ C. He writes her as a used-up source, and in the process writes into the next chapter of his life, or, as (I think) he would put it, reflects upon a past life in writing his new life.


October 28, 2007

I was shelving the other day….

Filed under: Rave, Uncategorized — estherspace @ 1:48 pm

…and I came across Flesh by my fantastic Senior Sem prof., Hollis Seamon.  Like any other student, I have Googled H.S. to see what she has out there (we have to do it for the authors we read, why not the profs who teach us?!), so I was aware of this book’s existence.  What I was not aware of, however, was the subtitle: A Suzanne LaFleshe Mystery

Funny, since one of the collections of linked stories we are reading is The Strange History of Suzanne LaFleshe.  H.S. is so not pompous, and I am now totally psyched that not only are we reading one of the stories she has written, but that it was awesome enough that it became the title story for the collection. 

By the way, Flesh is great.  She tells the most average things with amazing beauty, and it takes place in Albany, NY.  I detect a bit of her own dissertation experience.  I started it during my lunch at APL, and I wish I had time to read the whole thing now!  It’s definitely going on the shelf for the end of the semester.

Galatea 2.2…..3

Filed under: p()5t^^()d3,~]\[ — estherspace @ 1:41 pm

Since the book has so much to work with, I thought it might be useful to attempt to pull some threads through (at least) this book, and perhaps with other things we have read as well.

In my first Galatea 2.2 post, I was interested in drawing connections between the neural network of Powers’ machine and the neural network of our brains, particularly in relation to how we read books. In saying such, I intended to illustrate how the author, Richard Powers, was illustrating the ‘sci-fi’ concepts he writes about in the book using the reader’s reaction to the novel. Ex.: every piece of information he gives us about a character causes us to ‘flip’ our mental switches and we come up with an idea of that character. However, as he gives us more information, we must cross-check those bits with the character info we have already been given, not to mention the stereotypes that we have associated the characters with.

Here, I want to look at how the character (and author?) Richard Powers is using the connections he discusses in the machines he works with to illustrate his own development and series of ‘flips’ and crosschecks that occur in his attempts to define or understand himself.

Proof positive– 

  • “With each new boost to the number of connections, Lentz had to improve F’s ability to discard as it generalized.  Intelligence meant the systematic eradication of information.” (156)

compared to:

  •  “Writing this book meant telling him I finally understood.  Even when I didn’t.  Even when I wouldn’t, until long after the last page was done.” (p161)

Dig in–

These quotes seem to be paradoxical.  I think that ‘paradox’ is the best way to describe the relationship between the self Powers perceives himself to be and the self that he thinks he would like to be (cue Fight Club).

Powers is stuck in a habit that loves and respects literature, it’s composition, it’s enjoyment, and it’s enduring legacy.  Why else would there be the dream of being able to give up everything just to spend the day reading, or the reading to C. that kept them together and, to a large degree, acted as the basis of their relationship.

The problem that Powers (author and character-author) is now running into is the futility of that nostalgic yearning for the good old days of poetry readings, etc., which he sees as largely outmoded by the invention of the internet, which puts people into imaginary contact with each other at any time of the day, eliminating the need to self-entertain by reading.  This is why he feels such pity for the silly, misled graduate students that have made the terrible choice of dedicating their lives to books, which would never get them anywhere.

Part of the lead-up to this ennui is attributed to theorists, who have convinced the world that literature signifies nothing beyond itself.  However despite his intellectual adherence to such ideas, Powers finds  that writing fiction is the only way that he can arrive at some truths, such as the many about C. and her family, or about his life with C.

There can be nothing new written, as evidenced by the train heading south.  Since Powers is a career novelist, this provides a very scary outlook for his career.  So, in order to find his niche in life, now that his whole life has meant nothing, he goes back to his preliminary training as a scientist.  In assisting Lentz, he is hoping to discover his own (new) place in the (new) world, and see if there is any value that can be found in his previous 35 years through examining how literature and machine come together.

Other things I wonder about–

-Why Powers gets to name Helen

-“Life became an interruption of my description of it” (p215), but on p 211 he describes reading as an escapist thing

– character/influence of Taylor

– p 185- the unexamined norm (reminded me of Nikki Lee)

– p 172- “all learning was remembering”

-fiction as a means of communicating truth

October 26, 2007

Galatea 2.2….2

Filed under: p()5t^^()d3,~]\[ — estherspace @ 9:12 am

This segment of Galatea 2.2 struck me mostly on the relationship drama- level. If that is a literary level anywhere besides in my mind. This section, more than any previous, focused on the burgeoning relationship between Powers and Lentz, and the already ended relationship between Powers and C.

Some quotes that struck me:

“Memory was the attempt to capitalized on missed cleverness, or recover an overlooked word that, for a moment, might have made someone else feel more alive.” (145)

“I could not think of a book that was not either by, for, or about this. The elaborate seduction of the already attained.” (105)

“The photo was itself a prediction of its own chance viewing….the swerves our narrative lives had taken all found their retroactive meaning in this one memory posted forward from the past.” (102)

Looking at these quotes,  it seems clear that the function of memory is of great interest to the author.  Luckily, it is of great interest to me, too.  For Powers, ‘memory’ seems to represent some concrete truth, as evidenced by his “memory posted forward”.  This truth can be attained during a specific moment, or, if it was not acquired during an event, it is necessary to create it and impose it on the already-completed event.

In writing, Powers uses both forms of memory.  When he writes his first book, he bases it on the truths of the ‘memory posted forward’ in the picture.  At his current state, however, he has already exhausted that resource, so now he has to look back at his past and do his best to glean from it the truths that he could not see while in the moment.  In this process, he is engaging in the “elaborate seduction of the already attained,”  since he is nursing his past and his memory in an attempt to coax out of it some truth that he can write as a novel.

October 19, 2007

Galatea has way more underlining than is normal

Filed under: p()5t^^()d3,~]\[ — estherspace @ 12:45 pm

Galatea 2.2 is not my ‘normal’ book.  First of all, it is shelved in the science fiction section.  I’m not into that.  Maybe this book will change my mind, but I am doubtful.  Since we have covered so many different angles, I kept on running into little lines that struck me, resulting in the graphite-covered nature of my book. 

 One of the passages that struck me was:

The regulars took on personalities.  They Danish renegade.  The Berkely genius provacateur.  Slow and Steady, respected co-authors, in constant battle with their archrival, Flash-in-th-Pan.  Some speculated.  Others graciously deflated.  I saw myself as a character in this endless professional convention:  the Literary Lurker.

These are not personalities, they are stereotypes, or, as he described himself, characters.  This made me think about the Nikki Lee photographs, and how we attempted to describe what stereotypes she was embodying.  Like with the Lee photographs, these names don’t actually mean anything specific.  Instead, they hint toward any one of a number of random characteristics, all of which can be disproven in specific situations. 

In this paragraph, is Powers attempting to create the list of characters that we need in order to understand his novel?  It seems that by providing this list he is depending upon our understandings of each of these types, and using our natural tendency to make assumptions about how these stereotypical characters would interact.  Or, in a sense, he is setting it up so that our brains could write the novel itself.

Whoa, I think I just wrote through to an understanding of how the brain is like a neural network, and where literature fits into that.  Like we were talking about in class, the machine is fed information causing it to flip switches, etc.   So, when Powers feeds us this information, our minds are synthesizing it and flipping certain switches that correspond to our previous understanding of what to do with this information.  As we are given the characters, our brains are starting to create an idea of what the outcome will be when they interact.

However, Powers is taking our outcomes and feeding us new information to mature that understanding.  We believe that when these characters interact the outcome will be C, but Powers is  having their interactions, and even their characters be a little different than we’re used to (ex. of the neural networker who is well versed in literature).  This new information causes us to go through our switches again, making new assumptions based on the new data, and, in this process, we’re expanding the breadth of the connections we’re making.  Wow, it does make my brain hurt.


A neural network

October 11, 2007

Postmodernism & Photography

Filed under: p()5t^^()d3,~]\[ — estherspace @ 11:51 am

Okay, I really felt like I understood this reading. Photography was hailed as the means of ‘capturing’ reality, but, now we can see that even photography cannot claim the entire essence of an event, or how this event fits into a greater narrative. Things such as perspective, lighting, and a number of other photographic choices make a huge difference in what message the resulting photo represents. With all of this in mind, the photograph has lost it’s innocent ability to capture ‘natural’ life. And, today with photoshopping, the photograph is further from natural than ever before.

However, even though I think I ‘get it’ I am left with this basic understanding, which I have outlined above. In an attempt to prove my understanding, I went seeking ‘postmodern’ photographs to illustrate the manner in which photography is self-conscious of its own “representation-as-construction” (handout 39).

One interesting photographer that I found was Vik Muniz. His photography includes self-portraits that are ‘unnatural’ in that they have obviously been at least partially created by a digital system, and photography of the same self-portraits being shown in a gallery. Since he doesn’t want his work stolen, I can only link to the pieces I am referring to. You can find his self-portraits here, and the gallery shot here. Hopefully that works. If not, they were done in 2005, so check out his gallery.

While I am hit by this in some way, I cannot directly articulate how I think it fits into the larger picture of photography and postmodernism, but I know it belongs in the discourse somewhere.

So, in an effort to make some sort of decision, I continued looking and found photography Martin Parr. In his info page, Parr introduces the his idea that the overwhelming power of published images is “propaganda.” Parr has a number of relevant photo collections in regards to the ifluence of media on life, etc. Here, at the bottom of the page, there are photos of his chronicalling of the American influence in Mexico. I like it, because it is incredibly self-conscious, since he takes these photographs for Magnum Photos, and often he advertises what camera he uses, not because he likes the camera, but because of some agreement.

Just to bring it back to the people, I realized that I have taken a number of photographs in my life, making me as much of an artist as the others (right?).  Here’s a photo I took this summer while on a trip in Egypt.  I would mark it as postmodern because it takes a traditional image & puts in a non-traditional context (42 in handout), here that being a goat-herder passing our tour bus.  Am I right, am I confused, please help me clarify!


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