Esther’s Space- journey through my life

October 25, 2008

I have nothing useful to add

Filed under: Rant — estherspace @ 6:59 pm

::sigh:: This week, while not unproductive, did not produce all that it should have.  And, can this lack of energy for academic thinking come at a worse time?  There are papers to start!  Proposals to write!  Books to read!  Discussions to engage in!

But all I want to do is socialize, consume various entertainments, and dream about a life that I don’t have.  Any tips on how to re-organize, re-focus, and do it all in record time would be appreciated!

October 18, 2008

Kath & Kim

Filed under: Uncategorized — estherspace @ 9:30 am

Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something missing from the new U.S. version of Kath & Kim.  It’s missing something key.  The character’s aren’t toeing the line with ugly enough, the clothes are too close to being ‘okay’ and the whole thing is politically correct.  Seriously, what’s Kath & Kim without the hated, trampled, disrespected best friend?  And I love Molly Shannon!  And, if it’s going to be set in Florida, I want to see something that points towards the embarassing habits Floridians have lurking under the surface.  But, instead we are giving generic-city, featuring generic mall and boring issues, since it’s very hard to care at all for the characters.  I’m going to have to see something much better before I’m going to give this one the ‘go-ahead’ nod.

October 9, 2008

flashthink on previous post

Filed under: Uncategorized — estherspace @ 8:42 pm

can I use the problems i’m having to illustrate the fact that it is impossible to break free from ‘the system’?  But then, how do I put the blame on the Booker?  maybe the booker is simply a cog in the machine, a tool, not a powerful, active, entity of its own.  It’s not to blame– it’s just doing what it was designed to do. ?  maybe.  But, for now, back to work at the real job that pays me money for not thinking.

October 8, 2008

Perfectly

Filed under: Australia, Rant — Tags: , — estherspace @ 4:48 am

So, I’ve reached that point in my writing where mini-meltdown usually occurs.  In trying to articulate the argument clearly, I’ve come to the realization that my original thesis is either perfectly correct or perfectly asinine, but I can’t tell which is the case.

I’m trying to argue that the characters in O&L are consistently trying to find the agency to break free from/rebel against the system as it stands (be it gender, class, race…), but also while this is taking place, the selection system of the Booker is simply co-opting the novel in order to use it in the propegation of the system (whatever system it may be).

The parts that are complicating my reading:

  1. Lucinda’s lack of passionate dedication to anything.
  2. Oscar’s completely non-masculine  character never proving to be anything but trouble for him.
  3. Lucinda at the end of the novel- pickle factory/factory reformer

To deal with #1, Lucinda is obviously different from everyone surrounding her.  But there is nothing (outside of her mother?) to help her make sense of how/why/to what purpose she is different.  This understanding of the aims of her uniqueness would be key in allowing her to become an opinionated participant in her own life.  (and I don’t have the book, so I can’t reference it, but she makes several comments about how she didn’t really care about glass, and had no interest in owning a factory for any social/political reasons, but instead that she wanted to have people that could pass as friends, and gambling and an interest in glass was one way to do it)  But, everything remains confused and Lucinda is repeatedly (and to her, unexplicably) penalized for not fitting into her proper role, and this penalization continues until she does become ‘who she is supposed to be.’

#2- I haven’t spent as much time dwelling on this, but Oscar really doesn’t seem to win in this novel. His life is all a series of misunderstandings that repeatedly lead to bad situations for him.  And, he never seems to be intent upon breaking free from society’s bonds, because he doesn’t really feel held by them.  So where does this put him?  Is he the image of the body that cannot be made docile?  If so, I wouldn’t want any part of it.

And #3, I have such a problem trying to place anything because of the narrator!  He shows up every once in a while, and when he’s not there, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out who is telling the story, because it’s stuff Mr. Narrator could not know.  But, to relate it  to Lucinda, at the end of the novel proper, Lucinda has been reduced to working in a pickle factory.  But, earlier in the book, the narrator tells the reader that Lucinda will someday be famous as a factory reformer, much more famous than her relationship with Oscar would ever make her.

So, does it succeed?  Is Carey’s O&L a novel where agency is achieved (or at least consistently sought)?

It could be argued that Lucinda, while listless and unable to communicate for much of the novel, makes a breakthrough when she realizes how she and Oscar somehow missed realizing how much they loved each other and took this information to turn her life around.  The problem with this statement is that it relies upon a vast amount of speculation regarding events that take place outside of the novel and one statement from this (not wholly reliable) narrator.  What does the novel give me that I can use?

And, in Carey’s defense, he never seems to celebrate the fact that the ISAs and RSAs are successfully beating the characters into their proper roles in society (or, in Oscar’s case, killing off the untrainable).

ACK!  I still don’t know what I have.  We’ll see again in the morning.

October 4, 2008

On ‘Oscar and Lucinda’

Filed under: Australia — Tags: , , — estherspace @ 2:51 pm

When it comes to Oscar and Lucinda, Peter Carey’s 1988 Booker Prize-winning novel, it seems like everybody’s got something to say, and it’s all positive.  I agree, it’s an amazing novel.  But how, o muses, am I to begin to take it apart and examine all of the pieces more critically?

I just finished a long-overdue re-reading of the novel, and it has been a mind-blowing experience (well, not literally, more like the little explosions that take place when I have ‘realizations’ happened pretty often).  This is certainly a book that must be re-read.  Admittedly, while I enjoyed my first reading, I did begin to wonder if the story would ever actually end.  But, with a second reading, I began by just opening the book to a random chapter (they’re all pretty short and self-contained), and it was a richly rewarding experience.  The novel’s self-referentiality is astounding.  The end is no surprise if we were to pay precise attention to the novel leading up to it.  But, readers generally don’t pay that close of attention.  I think it’s because Carey gives us so many pieces of information that we would generally deem ‘important’ that it becomes impossible to track them all, so we start to pay less attention, only to find out that those bits and pieces we left by the wayside were more relavant than we anticipated.  Sneaky Carey.

But on to what I’m trying to figure out:  I am writing this paper, and am arguing that the characters in Oscar and Lucinda are endowed with a post-Foucauldian awareness of the mechanics of power, and spend their time searching for moments where they can claim agency for themselves as independent individuals (I’m thinking primarily of Lucinda).  And, while that is taking place within the novel, the novel’s position as a Booker Prize winner undermines this agency, since the Booker is, in effect, an exercise in postcolonial imperialism aimed at maintaining an exoticized image of the Commonwealth.  That these two pieces go together is a feat I’m still working on choreographing.

The problem:  Lucinda, while definitely ‘different’ from the other females surrounding her, is still mired in the cycle of society.  Her mother was ‘different’ too, but she never made anything unusual of herself.  Lucinda is raised in her mother’s shadow, feeling trapped by her mother’s ideas.  But, Lucinda herself does not necessarily prescribe to the same sort of radical ideas– she simply has no other model for behavior.  She is confused by the gender roles that she is hated for not adhering to, instead of being willfully opposed to them.  And the factory, what her mother described as the great home for female economic independence, is not something that Lucinda comes into owning as part of her cause.  Instead, she becomes involved because she wants friends, and the Bishop likes to talk about glass, so she gives them something to talk about.  It is the same with her card games.  It is not that she consciously is invested in shocking society, but that she wants some sort of friendship, and cardplaying, while a limited sort of friendship, provides this for her.  So, she doesn’t seem to be taking any sort of agency, but instead is a bit listless in her social interactions.  She’s confused by society instead of drawn into it, but is still ruled by it. 

Maybe I can use the imperial/colonial thing here.  Is it a problem in translation across the sea?  Is that why Lucinda is the way she is?  But, other women have succeeded.  And, at the end of the novel, Lucinda is working in a pickle factory.   But the narrator tells us that she went on to do those factory reforms that would make her famous, much more famous than her relationship with Oscar.  Throughout the novel inability to or miscommunication is consistently what stands between Lucinda and Oscar.  Perhaps her revelations about this after Oscar has left is what frees her from….from what?  from social expectations, or at least feeling bad about defying them?  I don’t know.  Just thinking out loud.

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