Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Having Multiple Areas of Interest

In life, I'd have to say that all of the most interesting people I've known have always had multiple areas of interest. Many things they are interested in. While yes, reading and language and such-like are my primary interests, I like to think that I have multiple areas of interest and that having those interests makes me an interesting human being.

What I forgot about grad school (yes, in the approximately three to four ish months that I've been gone): graduate school requires, yea verily--demands--a narrowing of multiple interests to something finite that can be included in a statement of purpose.

To which, tonight, I say:


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ways of Seeing, or Thoughts about Visual Representation

Lately, I've been wishing that I knew more about visual arts.

I've always had a little bit of a preoccupation with sight: three guesses why. (If it takes you three, that's kind of sad. Not that I'm judging. Except that I am. Just a little bit.) And I've been thinking about visual representations for the last couple weeks(ish) for different reasons: Inception, for one. Maus, for another. The illustrated copy of Dante's Divine Comedy I recently acquired.

(To detour for a brief moment: I don't think it matters whether the top stops spinning at the end of Inception. Cobb clearly thinks he has found exactly what he wants, so even if he'll eventually wake up, he's still happy for the moment. That said, I thought the film was masterful. Props to Christopher Nolan.)
Anyway, I have a lot of knowledge--some useful, some not--in my brain about literary representation. I've never felt uncomfortable analyzing my way through novels and dissecting different points of view, different descriptions, etc., etc. But I've recently found myself reading (Maus) or rereading (Persepolis) graphic novels, and I wish I knew more about analyze the artistic representations at work.

In some ways, I don't need to be able to analyze the art itself: writing a graphic novel, on its own, strikes me as an inherently interesting way to portray history and autobiography. Drawing a cartoony version of yourself acknowledges your own skewed self-perception, sometimes to a dramatic extreme. Persepolis actually features a page devoted to Marjane Satrapi drawing how she perceived her visual appearance changing as she grew older--and unsurprisingly, she's fairly hard on herself.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out the effects, either, of Art Spiegelman choosing to draw Germans as cats, Jews as mice, and Poles as pigs in his narrative. I don't need help with that part of artistic representation. But I also can't help wondering if the way Satrapi and Spiegelman draw holds other stylistic significance. Are they showing clear influences? How much does their artistic style correlate with their heritage? (From what I've read, Satrapi's style shows clear Persian influences... but I'm taking others' words on that.)

For now, it's a mystery. But I'm starting to hunt down more information about visual art, so hopefully it won't remain a mystery forever.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Some Thoughts about Possession

And when I say Possession, I mean the concept and the book. Feel free to drift here if you'd like to actually read a book review, because I don't want to repeat myself in that vein. And if you're too lazy to read the whole review, just know that I wholeheartedly recommend this book and that I love it. I loved it the first time I read it several years ago, and I love it even more now that I allowed myself to revel a little in A.S. Byatt's amazing language artistry.

This book started me thinking about possession as a concept: what do we actually mean when we say that we possess something, and what does possession imply? For some things, it's very clear cut. Possession is, quite simply, ownership. When I say that I possess my books, I mean that I own them. I paid for them, and in many instances, I marked them. (In some circumstances, I'd say the markings indicate possession better than a receipt might.)

Yet there are other, far more nebulous things, we often talk about possessing. Knowledge. Talents. Sometimes even other people.

Possession like that becomes inevitably more tricky: just because I know something doesn't mean it's mine alone. Just because I have a talent doesn't mean I'm the only one who has it. And who, really, can possess another person?

The novel is about many things, but primarily it's about love and scholarship. I feel I'm a decent scholar, but I'm bad at love. That's neither here nor there, just a bit of a confession, I suppose. But I think I hesitate when it comes to relationship because of the concerns that are explicitly and implicitly addressed in the book: is it inevitable--must you--lose some of your own self-possession if you fall in love and choose to share your life with another individual?

Clearly, I don't know. While my relationships were successful, I rarely felt that I was relinquishing ownership over myself to aid in either relationship's success. But selves aren't really things to be owned, are they? They are things we simply are. Not to say they can't change, by any means, but isn't people-possession a little bit ridiculous? (I mean, we abolished slavery for a reason, right?)

The two contemporary-timed characters in Possession come to feel linked to each other because of a common pursuit. The two past-timed characters fall in love, but it's heart-wrenchingly complicated and sad because both of them already have attachments to others. But they also want, in some sense, to belong to each other.

Is belonging the same as possessing? I posit no. But I'm immensely curious if anybody has some imput about these rambles of mine...