Don Quixote Conspiracy Theory

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Sorry this is a bit late, but I thought it was better late than never (an unofficial Arts One motto really). I have a lot of notes I never used that makes for a fun theory.

So within the book there are many doubles, in a way that might confuse the readers as to what it could mean: there are two Stillmans (Sr. & Jr.), two Peters (Quinn and Stillman), two Daniels, two red notebooks, two William Wilsons, two Paul Austers, two HDs (Humpty Dumpty & Henry Dark) and two DQs (Daniel Quinn and Don Quixote). Out of these, I believe the most interesting double is the DQ, because judging by the conversation Quinn had with Auster the writer, there may be something to do with the identity of the narrator.

I briefly touched on this in my essay, but basically the argument Auster the writer brings to the table about the narration of Don Quixote could be a parallel to what may be going on in the novel City of Glass itself (just popped up in my mind but City of Glass the title could also be a reference to its mirroring effect). Simply put, both Cervantes and Auster (the real author) makes it clear that they are not the actual authors, but rather like an editor to the real narrator, in Don Quixote’s case Cid Hamete Benegeli and in CoG the unnamed narrator. While they are supposedly real events, both narrators are absent from the actual events. Here Paul Auster the writer brings up the theory: the narrator “is actually a combination of four different people” (152). He states that three of them are Don Quixote’s friends–Sancho Panza, the barber, and the priest–who stage multiple different ploys to “lure him back home” and “hold a mirror up to [his] madness” (153). The three involved in the case Quinn gets are the three Stillmans, who I theorize are the three in disguise. Virginia is the “woman in distress” and the barber (like Peter’s old nurse, Miss Barber(44)). Peter Stillman Jr. is the Knight of the White Moon and of the Mirrors (in Don Quixote they are both the same person as well), as his pale whiteness is highlighted from his first appearance and mirrors both his father in name and Quinn’s son Peter in his need for protection. Professor Stillman, then, must be Sancho Panza, not only in his initials but in his connection to language as Auster argues.

However, the reason why I wrote all of this in the first place is the last twist mentioned at the last paragraph of page 153. Auster believes that Don Quixote was in fact not actually mad, but only that he pretended to be to experiment whether it was possible to “persuade others to agree with what he said, even though they did not believe him” (154) quite like how us readers go along with his train of thoughts knowing they are far-fetched and likely unreal. “Would it be possible… to say… that puppets were real people?” (154) Apparently, yes. It is Daniel Quinn, like Don Quixote, who selects his players, first choosing the Stillman case to play out his detective story and choosing the professor out of the two doppelgangers to follow and make sense of. In Auster’s theory, it is Don Quixote who makes the events and writes the story. In CoG it really is Daniel Quinn who makes out the clues and writes in his notebook. Quinn, like Quixote, is the hidden narrator Cid Hamete who holds the “only true version of [his] story” (151). But who could be Cervantes, the one who picks up the story to show to all?

It is, then, my theory that the narrator is the one character solely written to be a reflection of Cervantes: the retired policeman, Michael Saavedra, who starts this chain of events by referring Quinn’s number to the Stillmans. That in itself is an interesting fact to think of, as Auster also imagines “Cervantes hiring Don Quixote to decipher the story of Don Quixote himself” (154) but most of all it is the name (Michael Saavedra=Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra) that convinces me.

In a way, it does feel a bit too simple and direct for Paul Auster (the actual author) to have written in this labyrinth of a novel. It certainly doesn’t connect to every bit of information given, but then again, isn’t the feeling of a clean, cathartic matching of puzzles the potentials of all the pieces a part of the essence of mystery novels?

Identity of the Sketchy Face

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So, as Jenna had pointed out in our Monday lecture, there are pictures of a strange, sketchy, screaming face dispersed throughout the City of Glass graphic novel. It is actually on the cover page too, though broken right down the middle just like Quinn’s face on the other side of the cover (I have no idea what this means or if it means anything at all but after hearing Mr. Karasik explain his planning process I really doubt anything is unintentional).

The first time you see this face is on page 7, when Quinn talks about what attracts him to mysteries. He mentions that it is because everything is significant and purposeful, and therefore, “the center of the book… is everywhere”. Just like a center, this face really is everywhere in the book, leading readers to think that perhaps, it is a clue to figuring out this mystery of a novel.
The next time you see it, it is on page 33, just under the quote: “it did not help that his son’s name had also been Peter”. With the assumption that the face is a lighthouse for clues, it highlights Peter’s connection to his son (though I suppose even without the face it’s pretty obvious) and after the first time through the novel, you think, “oh, a loss of identity as Quinn the family man the first time his son is gone, then the loss of identity as detective Work the next time Jr. is gone.” Okay, private I and i removed, now only the eye of a writer remains, which even then is passed onto our mysterious narrator by the finale.

But the faces on 50 and 52 are absolute mysteries of their own. They are not even the same faces as the other ones. They are completely different, where the one on page 50 has a nose and eyebrows and 52 has an expression. What could it mean? What is it trying to highlight? Perhaps the more human-like p.50, where it stands alongside actual characters, is to show how the sound of the train changes to the “language of God” only Stillman Jr. understands. Maybe the language of God being made by something inhumane yet still filled and surrounded by humans mean something to the novel. But what about 52? An expression to show Quinn’s quiet and detached resentment for Stillman Sr.?

The next, 104, is under the quote: “wherever I am not is the place where I am myself.” It sums up Quinn, the man who’s identity is built on layers and layers of fake, fictional characters.

The but not least is page 119, where the face is shown to be flipped when Auster announces Stillman Sr.’s death. It is a literal shift of the center of the book as it was mentioned at the start. Quinn can no longer play the part of the detective and the book is no longer about protecting Stillman Jr. With that, the question is asked again: what is the face? If not a clue to the solving the novel as its own mystery, is it actually a part of said mystery? Perhaps a part of its identity?

Who knows. Maybe all of this is to point back at its introduction: that everything is significant, and even when it isn’t, it has potential–therefore, it has purpose.

This post itself is pretty all over the place. Let me know if you can figure this mystery out, or make something out of it.

Thoughts On Uses of Graphic Vs. Written Memoirs

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Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is a memoir that has been written/drawn as a graphic novel (apparently it is also described as a graphic memoir because to call it a graphic “novel” would be technically wrong, what with it being a totally different genre but I digress). I’ve read my fair share of graphic novels and a couple of memoirs before, and graphic memoirs weren’t too hard to imagine for me even before reading this book.

In a way, I do think that it makes sense for it to become a popular format for memoirs, with how different the subject content will touch the readers between the more traditional written text and the visually aided graphics. Memoirs, no matter how you write them, are obviously very personal and (most of the time) completely subjective. This here is the reason why I believe choosing to make a graphic memoir is much more effective and better suited for certain aspects compared to the written.

As an all-word written memoir, the readers are made to visualize the author’s experience themselves, whereas graphic novels simply show, and more (the little details that might seem out of the loop with the story that is currently being told may be added for, in a way, better understanding of specific characters like the example of the grease stain on page 39 which humanizes them and makes them that much more real unlike the fictional characters of any other novels). No matter how beautifully descriptive the author may have written out their memories, we as readers will each imagine our own versions of it, tweaked here and there with our own experiences. How engaging each version is depends on what kind of a reader you are really, and which you’d enjoy more is not anyone’s call. However for a memoir, I believe that knowing this story is exclusively, completely the author’s experience with the transferring and understanding of the memories as an outsider is important, though (once again) it may vary on what the author wants to accomplish. Thoughts?

Wanted: An Explanation of the Nunnerator

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In our first seminar, it’s been established that basically no one actually knows who our narrator, or should I say Nunnerator, really is. It describes itself to us, calling its species the “Little Little People” on page 3 and the “real Nunnehi” on page 5. They seem to have their own culture as well, what with the Nunnerator’s friends teasing him for being “asexual” when he wasn’t particularly interested in Tallulah’s genitalia (our narrator refers himself as a “he” on the same page, page 21 as well) and the drummers being the most curious of the bunch. They’re also somehow the cause of some of the biggest problems in the novel, like putting Irma with the Misfits (though it’s never explicitly stated what exactly they did and why they did it).

Their origins are pretty confusing too, with their universe being made barely 6 years ago yet their history preceding the 1400’s. I suppose it could be easily explained with them being sentient digital beings and their backstory made from an exceptionally creative history buff/techie but honestly, it’s would be a boring let down and still won’t explain how literally no one knows of their existence. The idea people came up with in the seminar was that they were like digital fairies floating through TREPP. It can explain a lot of stuff, especially why exactly they are called “Nunnehi”, and get away from the rest of the questions with the simply answer being “magic”.

However, my biggest confusion still cannot be answered. If they are digital, how did the Nunnerator plug into Tallulah, a human being? If she was actually an android all along (maybe like a host #WestWorld) the implication in this novel about the Misfits may actually work with her as well (I mean she’s been stuck in this tour guide job for ages and she clearly wanted to get away for a long time but the money or should I say CAPITALISM held her trapped riding the Trail of Tears #ConspiracyTheory). Unfortunately, as fun as that idea may be, it can’t explain how the Nunnerator was able to unplug from her brain and get out onto her hair. It implies it has a physical body, even though it escaped from the TREPP in the first place digitally from the suit. How was he able to materialize a body for himself? From a human brain no less? As a character it’s got so much potential and questions to be answered yet it is barely recognized and remembered at all throughout the whole novel. Perhaps my brain just isn’t creative enough to imagine its physical transformation, or maybe there is something missing that I must figure out from the subtexts that are given about the Little Little People within the text. Either way, there must always be a reason for why an author put so much effort in creating such a character. Let me know your theories and answers!

What is Dabydeen Even Doing?

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The Slave Song can be a difficult read, full of violence and suffering. There definitely are some humour and softness within it, but it’s pretty obvious that that is not what the book is about. As someone who has never encountered Creole before, I had to read the introduction and the translation to even try to grasp the meaning of the poems. While I read the introduction, however, I came across a new question: why is it that Dabydeen stresses the “vulgarity” of the Guyanese?

He emphasizes how “barbaric” and “vulgar” the people of Guiana and their lives are, convincing the readers and stating it like there are no other ways to explain the lives of the Guyanese. I mean he really hammers it in, shown here: “This brings us finally to the ‘vulgarity’ of the language. It is the vulgarity of the people, the vulgarity of their way of life” (12). (I haven’t even noticed this in the poems; in fact, his descriptions are much softer in the translations, the “vulgarity/savageness” now “extraordinary richness” in “For Ma”) He does not say the language is simply rough on the ears, he says it is brutal, and that he is trying to exploit its brutality, along with the brutality of its users (14). You would think that, for someone who said “what is needed… is a recognition and expression of the uniqueness of the people” (15), vulgarity would not be the biggest thing to highlight. It really does sound like the voice of a biased outsider, which is strange, as we already know that he is a descendant of a Guyanese family.

I think there are two ways to look at it: one may be because he doesn’t want to downplay their sufferings, and to use such wordings will provoke a sense (or if we’re being real, at most an echo) of the brutality they faced. Being objective and detached will feel like injustice. It just won’t be enough for the years of pain they all faced.
Another reason may be because it is a part of the tongue-in-cheek critique that’s been debated upon until now. He already stated that his purpose was “not to provide a sociologically ‘accurate’ transcript of ‘reality’ but rather an imaginative rendition and reconstruction, a private fantasy” (10). He’s not hear to speak for the people, he’s telling us straight from the start that this is for his own pleasure, and the readers who stumble upon it. The postscript already shows that he can be a little (or a lottle) sardonic, and for him to mimic the sure and haughty voice of a European critic is definitely plausible.

The Lieutenant Cannot Have A Good Time—Not With That Attitude

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I’m pretty sure most of the people in our seminar agree that the protagonist of Lieutenant Gustl is terrible dude in general—he’s sexist, anti-Semitic, and frankly just plain rude. It’s as if he’s got some kind of superiority complex masking an inferiority complex, all masked by unnecessary aggression, especially if you note top of page 119 where he had that fateful encounter with the baker. As readers we can see this drama queen’s train of thoughts go from bad to worse to terrible in a matter of sentences (or ellipses, I suppose) and feel a sense of pity, or even annoyance (though I myself was snorting immaturely whenever he started saying “I came here to have a good time…” from the very first page because I thought that the next part of the meme “And I’m honestly feeling so attacked right now” fit very well into the story. Maybe someone can use this as their working title for their essay this week). However, I personally can’t believe that it wasn’t purposeful, that the author didn’t specifically write the soldier’s interior monologue to show his rather nasty mindset, especially considering how obvious of an anti-Semite the protagonist is when in fact Schnitzler himself was Jewish. It’s also pretty interesting that this is the first stream-of-consciousness narration (specifically designed to show a character’s various feelings and thought process) in German fiction, and that the narrator is a soldier who spends the whole night up contemplating suicide simply because he did not fight a baker for his honour. If we piece all these little tidbits together I’m sure we can come to the conclusion that this is a work satirizing the army’s bizarre priorities, and their obsessive need to follow their code of honour.

I’d love to read an essay on this, so if anyone’s thinking of this topic, let me know!

The Uncanniness of Heimlich

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Before reading Sigmund Freud’s The Uncanny, the only Heimlich I knew of was the Heimlich maneuver. Though technically the term for the maneuver was named after the first doctor to describe it, it is still interesting to finally find the meaning of the word itself in a totally unrelated work of text.

The distinction between the definition of ‘heimlich’ and ‘unheimlich’ (or perhaps the lack thereof) was at first pretty confusing and difficult to wrap my head around. For a pair of words to be both antonyms and synonyms of one another is still strange to me, and I am unsure if I have completely absorbed the idea yet. Nevertheless, Freud’s interpretation on their connected linguistic uses is valid enough to be intriguing and stop me from complaining about him (if only momentarily). If I am correct in reading this, his idea is that the usage of the word ‘heimlich’ has extended into its opposite because what was originally familiar has been repressed so that once we come into contact with it again it is now strange and unfamiliar (see page 241 of The Uncanny). Perhaps it can be fancied to be a Schrodinger’s word, for it to be both familiar and alien at the same time. It is also interesting to note that the feeling and atmosphere it brings is uncanny, and the experience as a whole can be categorized in the uncanny’s noun form.

If I’m honest I do think his linguistic explanation of the word ‘heimlich’ or ‘the uncanny’ is a fascinating thing to think about (which I must point out is a super big compliment to Freud considering how much I hated him in my high school psychology classes and how petty and contrary I can get where his ideas are concerned) and I hope it can be fully dissected and discussed in our following seminars.

Thoughts of Man vs. Nature on Darwin’s Theories

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During the lecture there was a section on natural theology of the 19th century, which was the culture Darwin was raised in. It was interesting to know the decline in Darwin’s faith in it as he went on with his research, proposing ideas far removed from the theology, like Natural Selection. Then, to what extent does the idea of natural selection affect one’s understanding of religion? Though it may argue against the belief that nature is governed directly by a divine creator, it allows enough room for people of faith to hear it without abandoning their religion. Science and religion are not exactly married, but that doesn’t mean it has to be mutually exclusive either.  The Tree of Life doesn’t disprove god, as one can still ask, who planted the tree?

Another question that came to mind while reading “On the Origin of Species” was this: would nature’s products be better than a Man’s for individuals in modern society? Why or why not? Darwin mentions that though man can and has produced many great things, it can’t really compete with nature. However, one of his arguments is that while “man selects only for his own good” (Darwin 177), nature does so only for the good of the being tended to. Then with that logic, shouldn’t it be, in the perspective of Men, that men’s selections are better than nature’s own for the men? Darwin also adds in that because of our short life spans, our views on natural selection will be imperfect as we see only the incomplete stage of development. With that, it is assumed that nothing of nature has yet come to the perfection it has striven for for all of the ages. Then, what good is that to a society with such short time? Men are impatient enough to try to recreate and reform the works of nature, and seek for immediate benefit. We are also selfish enough to destroy those natural works. However, if we are to talk as individuals, a man-made product may be of more use than a natural kind. (As a side note, I am talking about nature vs man in terms of banana production and domestic breeding, not arguing for deforestation or burning fossil fuels. I am considering the literal products of nature and man.)

Though religion and inventions are usually separated, they can both be found questioned in his writings. His enthusiasm and reverence of nature are quite interesting to read, but they bring me to think of a rather dangerous idea: would it be possible for mankind to ever overcome nature?

Introduction

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Hello, my name is Yun. I was born in Korea and moved to Canada for Grade 2. I joined Arts One because its schedule gave me a lot of freedom to do what I wanted to do. I unfortunately do not have a grandiose reason for it but regardless I’m hoping it will be a steady first step into post-secondary education. If I were to make a list of facts to describe myself it would look like this:

  • I both love and loathe writing. I’ve written many things and I will show some if asked but, let’s be honest, rarely are they finished. I myself am a work in progress (a mess).
  • I love Halloween. I mean chocolate has a lot to do with it too but there’s also my birthday (November 1st!!!!!!! write it down on your calendar) and really funky bumblebee/pumpkin aesthetics I’m always up for. I will dress up. No one can stop me
  • I’m a big fan of sci-fi/fantasy so if anyone wants to talk to me about books I’m currently reading Six of Crows. Also I am an avid fan of Star Trek’s Dr. Leonard Horatio “Bones” McCoy. Please talk to me about Star Trek because I will not shut up.
  • I have watched the Cornetto Trilogy multiple times which is a tragedy as I cannot think of Steve Coogan as anyone other than Phileas Fogg running with Jackie Chan’s Passpartout and this very idea throws me off the plot of corrupt, murderous villagers every time
  • I used to play piano competitively. I now have a kazoo

I look forward to finding my peers and myself improving our skills as a writer and a student. If there is anything you would like to discuss I am most likely free. I hope to have a fun year together 🙂