Borges, Hernandez, Arlt

From the beginning of “The Daisy Dolls” I felt it was pretty clear how crazy the story was going to be. The way things were laid out, though, I was expecting it to be one of those short stories where everything makes enough sense, initially, then at the end it’s revealed how completely insane the situation is. Besides that, I found the entire story quite confusing. It’s unclear where exactly the machines are, what they’re for, if they’re for making the dolls… And the whole thing with his shop. It’s mentioned briefly in the beginning how he has salesgirls in his “shop”, but then it’s never brought up again, like he doesn’t go back. And it almost seems like Frank could be working for him at the shop, but that is also unclear. The ending was not unexpected though. It seemed obvious that his affection for the dolls would wear off, because really, they don’t do anything. It must be exhausting taking care of them. You have to lug them around like a sack of potatoes, pretending that they’re real, dress them, and refill their hot water all the time. Seems like a lot of effort to me. Anyways, I liked the story well enough, just the details bothered me with their complete lack of clarity.

With “The Cooked Cat”, I thought the characters were really special. I couldn’t point out one of them that seemed completely normal. The husband is angry his wife went to the “dentist”. Not that anyone is believing that, but they all seem so strange. There’s the guy who’s consciously trying to make the other feel bad, by counting out his money on the counter right in front of him. The ending really fits with the character of the story. Completely strange, but not unexpected.

Borges has quite an imagination as well in his short stories. The Lottery of Babel was my favourite. It’s such a great conspiracy. The ending is really great, because it’s the kind that makes you question the rest of the story and what you assumed was true. I thought it was great how ludicrous it became. It was ingenious putting the negative side into the lottery and the myriad of punishments and how you could even choose your punishment for someone else sometimes. The fact that pretty much everybody played was confusing, but also added to the story. Just crazy good.

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The Metamorphosis, The Yellow Wallpaper

I’ve never really liked “The Metamorphosis”, probably because he becomes a disgusting cockroach-beetle thing, but also because I could never figure out how I felt about Gregor. On the one hand, he’s an idiot and his family takes advantage of that, living off of him, siphoning off money, locking him in his room, throwing apples at him, and he still thinks the best of them. On the other, he’s really just trying to be a good breadwinner for his family, and maybe a bit slow to not realize they’re actually quite hostile towards him, especially near the end. It may also be that none of the characters are likeable, they’re all very horrid. Grete puts on a brave face at first and tends to Gregor, which is nice, but she slowly develops resentment towards him. It seems that this occurs when she gives up hope he will return to being human. The mother is annoyingly fragile. The first thing she does when she sees bug-Gregor for the first time is silly, she faints. The whole women-fainting-because-they’re-delicate-and-fragile thing has just gotten irritating. Then, there’s the dad, who’s just selfish. He throws apples at his own son and lets them rot in his back. He’s also really disgruntled when he finally has to get off of his chair and out of his pajamas to go out and work. All in all, it’s a very depressing story, and I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

I liked “The Yellow Wallpaper” a great deal more. It has just the right mixture of sanity in the beginning and insanity for the end. It was written very well with the details. The yellow wallpaper is mentioned very subtly to start, and then the obsession develops, but the progression was really great. I’m not concerned with if she’s crazy or not when she’s creeping at the conclusion, but I am disappointed she remained stuck to the wallpaper, not even leaving the house. I was hoping that as her anger towards John grew, so would her craving to escape. It feels like a hollow victory. Yes, she’s finally defied John, but she still remains in his grasp. When he wakes from his faint, he will regain control of her, though probably not her mind, and she will be admitted to a psych ward. Really cool story, though.

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This wasn’t my first time reading Frankenstein, and I still love it. I found that the exact era where this was written had the perfect language. It’s not of the modern world with our lack of elegance in diction, but it’s not so far back that I need a dictionary to understand it, like with Shakespeare, where it’s completely ludicrous and pompous. I’ve always liked the different ways Shelley conveys the story, like with the letters to his sister, and the complex dialogue within narrative within letters. I’ve also always thought that Frankenstein should have made the monster a mate. Considering Frankenstein was supposed to be some sort of expert within his respective fields, I figured that he could have made a mate without reproductive abilities. He simply doesn’t think out the logistics too carefully, so that he even destroys the second monster partway through construction. It just seems that Frankenstein is altogether too rash and irresponsible. He never thinks things through or asks the right questions. He blames his father for telling him something was rubbish, instead of explaining that the scientist’s theories had been disproved. However, little Victor could have asked why. He always lays the blame on someone else. It’s his father’s fault he wasted his time on the scientist, it’s the monster’s fault that his brother is dead, that he’s miserable etc. He fails to consider that it’s really his fault for creating the monster and consequently running away. Victor is also so convinced of his righteousness he conveys it to Robert Walton on the ship. Then, later, when the monster arrives, Walton is completely convinced the words that speaks the monster are all lies, no matter how eloquent. It seems that Victor Frankenstein has surrounded himself with great people and taken advantage of their trust in him. His innocent little brother is killed, Justine is hanged, Elizabeth, after she marries him while he knows the monster’s threat to her, is also killed, poor Clerval, a great, loyal friend, is murdered as well. Finally, though Walton lives, Victor fills his head with his own truth, which remains warped and biased. Though Victor is a horrible man, it remains a great novel in my eyes.

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This was the first novel I was actually completely stoked to read. Before I started reading Watchmen, I was expecting a relatively fast read, like a darker Archie comic. I soon realized how wrong I was. When I first began reading, from all the books and texts from arts one, I went into an automatic reading mode, and for the first few pages I almost completely forgot about all the pictures, and the significance they could potentially hold. Once I started looking at both the text and the pictures, it got better and better. This was definitely, by far, the best selection from arts one. Considering I had seen the movie already, I knew very little of what was happening, or where things were going. Apparently the only thing I really remember very well is the Rorschach blots on the mask and how they moved. That’s the one thing I can say the movie improved upon. The rest, well, I don’t really remember. So, as I read I didn’t realize Ozymandias was going to blow up New York City, that was a surprise bonus. However, it seemed a bit lengthy getting to the whole plot to save the world, there was a huge amount of build-up, especially where not too much happened. I did love this graphic novel, but that was one bit I found a bit tedious. The rest was amazing. The drawings were pretty cool, and I love that Adrian Veidt blows everyone up. Though some people think that what he did was wrong, I definitely think he was the hero. Rorschach has his morals which he sticks to, and that works for him, but he really never accomplishes much past the petty criminals. Ozymandias saves the world from nuclear war. I just think that the hero is the guy that gets it done. Not necessarily the best guy, and he now has enemies in Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl and those guys, but he did save humanity from itself, which is pretty impressive. In any case, I thought this graphic novel is worth the hype. The illustrations are great, the storyline is cool, and I’m glad I finally read it and know what’s going on.

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I really enjoyed reading Foe overall, but I can completely see why some people here may have not enjoyed it so much.

It doesn’t lend itself to explaining certain aspects when it needs to – instead of clarifying certain back stories and messages at times, the text decides to include pointless details and troubling narrative scenarios (do we really need to know that Susan thinks Friday is incompetent every couple pages? Was it not apparent within the first section to the reader?).

However, for me at least, it was far from a dull read. I love the fragments it is broken into – the first being a recounting of life after Susan’s fateful crash on the island, the second being notes to Foe, some of which do not make it, the third being some deeper insight into the contrast between the orator (Susan) and the writer (Foe) and what the fate of her story shall become, and the fourth being some (this is what I gathered from it, anyways) subtle description of Susan murdering Friday, and then offing herself (?).

None of these segments dragged in particular at all, and thankfully the third segment ended with the closest thing as possible to a conclusion – with Foe and Susan engaging sexually for the first time and a glimmer of hope for Friday in terms of writing. Which is perhaps why I so easily dismiss part IV – sure, it left me confused, even after 5-6 re-reads, but the Coetzee seems to ultimately recognize it as an epilogue, full of metaphors and confusing imagery, but at the end of the day, not necessary in affecting the outcomes of any of the characters’ story arches.

One last thing to get off my chest, and perhaps this bugged me the most – when Susan was on the island, with Cruso still alive, she essentially attested to having intercourse with him solely on a purpose of what seems like pity – sympathizing with his loneliness almost entirely as a reason. Maybe women in this seminar could help me clarify this – surely I have never met a man who engaged in intercourse out of pity for his partner…

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I’ll get this off my chest first – why an alien, Veidt? I think the movie had it better (it is just an explosion – mind you not near as horrific as the comic book’s depiction).


So Watchmen is at heart, a graphic novel, which seems to be an increasingly popular medium for literature on a global scale. Personally I found that Watchmen’s story couldn’t have been told as well in a typical piece of prose. If the picture-only panels were instead replaced with text, and the combining panels of both text and images replaced with slightly more text, I feel that the text would not rise above the ordinary. So much of this piece, in my opinion, owes credit to the text. Specifically the beginning of Chapter 12, which are solely pictures of countless dead bodies and destroyed landscapes. To this day, something which not even Survival in Auschwitz could capture (despite how great it was), I have yet to read text which can encapsulate the feeling of pure trauma. It seems most novelists try to deal with the impact of trauma by simply mimicking its forms and symptoms, side-showing temporality and chronology, and offering repetitive narratives. Watchmen has many more ways to do this because it is a graphic novel, and has access to many stylistic options – such as disregarding it’s conventional 9-panel grid and replacing the first few pages of Chapter 12 with just full panel pictures. Instead of confusing the reader, which seems to unfortunately result from most prose fiction writers trying to create trauma through solely means of text, graphic novels have the capability to switch in and out of essentially movie like techniques – framing, wide-angle shots, fragmented narratives – all whilst still making sense.

Other than that, the drawings are really good, and that just helps you better envision the world of Watchmen. There are a ton of easter eggs and symmetrical images in the text that you would not be able to subtly include in a plain text.

I liked it a lot overall. Also it was probably the first book in this course I read 3 times over….

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