Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Week 12 Intro


 Writer Mervin Peake was obsessed with keyholes. Peering through the keyhole, listening through the keyhole, calling through the keyhole – once a baby even had to breath through the keyhole when most of the main characters were locked in a burning room (they escaped of course, for killing off most of your main characters in the middle of the story sort of cripples the plot). Many characters in the Gormenghast trilogy had funny names like Prunesquallor, Bellgrove, Steerpike, Flannelcat and Mulefire. One can tell Peake must have had great fun had thinking of names. The writing itself is amazing – descriptive writing at its finest. Every beam of light, every shadow and every action is so well described I felt I was there. And then there is how he describes it all. A picture paints a thousand words, though a thousand words do not always paint a picture. If used right however, words can paint things beyond just images. In the case below, 173 words do just that.

Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls. They sprawled over the sloping earth, each one half way over its neighbour until, held back by the castle ramparts, the innermost of these hovels laid hold on the great walls, clamping themselves thereto like limpets to a rock. These dwellings, by ancient law, were granted this chill intimacy with the stronghold that loomed above them. Over their irregular roofs would fall throughout the seasons, the shadows of time-eaten buttresses, of broken and lofty turrets, and, most enormous of all, the shadow of the Tower of Flints. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow. (From Mervin Peake's Gormenghast trilogy) (http://www.mervynpeake.org/gormenghast/gormenghast.html)

And so sets the scene for one of the most fascinating, mindboggling, humorous and memorable books I have ever read and probably ever will read...

When I was fourteen, my mom read a book. Actually, it was three books; a trilogy rolled into one long book that took a few months to finish. She enjoyed it so much, she decided to read it aloud to me and my younger brother. The Gormenghast trilogy (which is made up of Titus Groan, Gormenghast and Titus Awakes) is rather a hard book to explain and all she really told us about it was that Gormenghast was a castle inhabited by "strange odd characters" whom one had a bit of a hard time getting attached to because they were such strange odd characters and that it had a lot of long words and descriptions. This was not a problem for me and my brother, for we knew that if our mother said a book was good, it was. However, I will endeavor to give a more explanatory one.
The lives of those within Gormenghast and the hovels in its shadow (but particularly the Gormenghasters) revolve around sacred rituals that must be performed. The earl of Gormenghast is the cornerstone of it all; almost all his daily movements are dictated by ritual. For example, on a certain day he dines from such-and-such a time to such-and-such a time, walks up a particular staircase (or if it has long since fallen down, a similar staircase that will take about the same amount of time to traverse), sees so-and-so, etc.. This is the world into which Titus Groan, 77th earl of Gormenghast, is born into at the same time that an ambitious kitchen boy decides to leave the kitchens.
That is how the book begins, but this nutshell of the world of Gormenghast does not come close to half explaining the plot, characters or the writing itself. This is not sort of story one can explain: one can only appreciate it by reading it.
Reading it at age fourteen, I felt in some ways it was similar to my own series I was slowly trying transfer from my brain to paper. No, my series was not about a people trapped in ritual and my descriptive writing is nothing like Mervin Peake's. The main similarity between our works was the complexity. Each of the three books in the trilogy was so long, so descriptive, with so much thought to the whole thing. It consisted of so many unusual incidents so fascinating that one may find amusement running them over in their brain an infinite amount of times. My own series, which also features a castle – though unlike in Gormenghast, the characters world extends outside of it – started out as something I was thinking up to write, but ended up becoming something in my mind I was writing because it was there. Day in and day out, I run the numerous unusual incidents over in my mind for little more than my own amusement. Was Gormenghast gone from Peak's mind once it was on paper or did he have his own castle in his brain?

Mervin Peake did not plan to stop at book three. He had planned for the series to follow Titus' life, but Parkinson's disease and an early death cut short the series. He did however, start the fourth book, Titus awakes, and it is possible to read the first few pages. After that, what little more he had written was indistinguishable. Peake is not as well known as writers like Charles Dickens, famous for his numerous popular books, including his last book, The Mystery of Edwin Drood – a book whose ending will always be a mystery due to Dickens premature death. This is considered a tragedy to his fans, but to Peake fans, the loss of the rest of Gormenghast is a tragedy just as big. If I ever get the first book of my series finished, I will have to write down important events and tie up loose ends so that any fans of the series will not spend the rest of their lives wondering what happened if I die before I can get it all on paper.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Week 12

I must apologize for putting up the last few weeks at the eleventh hour. Back in week 12, I had a bit of a stall. No, I did not have trouble picking a book to write an intro for -- I figured that out right off. It was a while before I got to start on it due to a history project, but the main problem was I just had trouble trying to think of what to say and in the end, it was not sounding any good. I spent way too long fiddling with it before finally putting it aside to do start on the review. What I had for it then could be a finished product, but I would rather not just dump it on and hope it is good.

Below is my mini-research essay. Unless I mistaken, I have posted all but one assignment and since I am allowed to miss one I am not going to try and hastily fix up my intro. I do however, really want finish it and would enjoy one last genuine John A. Goldfine comment. I should have it done by this weekend at the latest and could email to let you know when it is on.

Thanks again for three great semesters. I have learned a lot and am really fortunate to have been your pupil. If I write anything extra good (not just ordinary good, you have enough essays to read among your current students to be bogged down every single thing I write), I'll send it to you. Also, you are getting a copy of my book once I get it published and you will be on the dedication page.

Week 14 mini research


I hastened in from my walk. Things were going well. Our six five-week-old americauna chicks were finally out in the pen. Their adoptive mother, Captain Hook (named for her hooked toes) had been cooped up with them in a small cubby for the past five weeks, and the little energy bundles were finally big enough not to fit out holes in the fence, so out they went. They and their overtired mother had spent the past day reveling in their freedom. Things were going just as I had planned. Then my mom gave me some news.
One month ago, it would have been great news, but just then, it had come a little late. My aunt had just called my mom to inform her that she had seen an online advertisement that someone in our area had eight one-week-old bantam cochin chicks to sell. Several years ago, we had had a little cochin bantam hen. She had been the sweetest friendliest thing and a diligent layer, so we had always wanted to buy some more. However, they only sold them in batches of thirty chicks – a few too many for our small backyard coop – and since bantams cannot be “sexed,” we could not pick hens. This small batch of cochins was just right for our small coop and even if a large proportion had been roosters, we would not have had so many to get rid of.
But we already had five new full-sized chicks and counting them, we had a grand total of 12 and one third chickens (one was a bantam rooster). If we got the chicks, we would have 21 chickens counting by head and about 15 counting by size. Average the two and say eighteen chickens. That is a lot of chickens and we already had two roosters. Plus, I hated to take Captain away from her present nearly grown-up clutch and make her start all over again.
My mom called the seller to ask if he would have the same deal next year. She found out that the chicks were extras he had gotten with some other chicks he had ordered, so he would not have the same deal next year. At first we thought we were going to pass it over. A few hours later we were driving back home with the chicks next to me on the back seat.
Captain did not like being taken away from her five-week-old chicks, but found solace in the new clutch. As for the first clutch, they hung around the closed up nesting egg box Captain and the new chicks were in for couple days, but soon got over it.
About seven weeks later, Captain’s new clutch was still small enough to squeeze out the holes in the pen if they had really wanted to, but they were desperate for space. I put them out in the pen. Only one squeezed out the fence when it was being chased and I got it right back in. Captain, the americauna chicks, and the cochin chicks were all like one big family. They almost always seemed to be in one big group. Watching the little cochins run around, I knew statistically about half would be roosters. As of yet, it was way too early to tell though.
Or so I thought.
The cochins were two months old when I heard it. At first I thought one the chicks was trying to "awk." I looked into the pen. A little white cochin chick was sitting on a perch. It stretched out its neck and proclaimed "Uh-uh-uh-uh-uuuhhhh!" It was then that I realized: it was trying to crow. But he was not even past peeping stage! That was one early bird. Usually, our roosters do not crow until they are five months old. And that was not all.
While little early bird did not let out another crow for another two months, one of the others had a brief crowing spurt not long after. Then a third chick, a little tough guy by the name Checkers, started crowing and did not stop. When they were four months old, one of the adult roosters died. The next day, four of our eight chicks became aware of the void left by their departed elder and joined Checkers in a crowing session.
I looked at the five little cockerels. Cochins are round, extremely fluffy chickens with ball-like tails. These early birds were a cochin's polar opposite with their sleek skinny bodies and stick-like tails. The other three looked like cochins and one was obviously a rooster, though he had yet to crow. (A couple weeks later, he did crow and the remaining two were hens.) It was quite evident that those early crowers were not cochins. But what were they?
I decided to do some googling. My search term? Their most unique characteristic: "crowing at two months." The site at the top of the list was from ask.com or something. The link said "Why is my rooster crowing at two months?" I clicked on it. All the page had was the same question and the answer: "That is a perfectly normal thing for a rooster to do." What?!?! Either whoever answered that does not know chickens, or it was some computer generated answer that interpreted the question as "Why is my rooster crowing?"
I went to look at the other links and found a forum asking about the ages early and later maturing round headed stags crow. The early maturing varieties did crow at two months. I googled "round headed stag chicken." Results showed that round headed stags seemed to be a variety of game birds. They were bread for cock fighting and still used for it in states where it is legal. And the pictures? Skinny sleek bodied birds with stick tails. As if that were not proof enough, one of the pictures looked just like one of my early birds all grown up. http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/Games/BRKAmerGame.html
After learning of my findings, my mom pulled out our chicken catalog. We found bantam game birds on the third page. It said they were very alert, and the males had quote "a certain 'cockiness.'" Well that was that. We had three cochins and five game birds.
That was back in the fall. It is spring now. The roosters spent the end of fall and early winter harassing the hens (normally we do not have that until January thaw). Then they let off harassing the hens a little bit to harass each other. We tried to get rid of some of the extra roosters, but the only offers we got were from people hoping the scrawny little cocks might make a good a appetizer and we had too much heart to let our pets be dinner. Now, the roosters actually seem calmer in spring time they did in the winter (we did have weirdly warm winter, but still). At this point, the the flock seems pretty happy and stable even with six young roosters. The cocky little guys have grown on us and we have no desire to part with them. In other words, you'll all have to put away the marinara sauce.

Re-re-try week 13

Oedipus was a prince prophesized to kill his father and marry his mother. In the Greek myth, Oedipus was left to die as an infant, but was adopted by a peasant and ended up unknowingly killing his father in a dispute over who had the right of way on a road. Later, he solved the sphinx's riddle and caused her to become so furious, she cast herself off a cliff into the sea. Everyone was so grateful to Oedipus for ridding them of the sphinx and thought him so cleaver, they asked him to replace their late king (his father) and marry the widowed queen (his mother), for they had never dreamed he was her son (http://www.ancientgreece.com/s/GreekMyths/Oedipus/). When Sigmund Freud put forth his theory that young boys have romantic inclinations towards their mothers which lead to a rivalry with their fathers, he called it the Oedipus complex after the man who had unknowingly killed his father and married his mother (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/425451/Oedipus-complex ).
In 1950, Frank O’Connor wrote a short story called My Oedipus Complexion. Reading it, one can see how it goes along with the Freud’s Oedipus Complex, though a modern reader can probably see an alternative reason for the boy’s conflict with his father: the boy was used to having his mother to himself and his father was practically a stranger.
The story took place just after WWI. It was probably a situation many small children – both boys and girls – in the position of the boy in the book went through. 1918: little Larry is five years old. An only child. Ever since he can remember, he has had his mother to himself. Her husband is gone; little Larry is her main focus in her life, the apple of her eye. Larry knows of Father. He and Mother are always praying to God to end the war so Father can come home. On occasion, Father does come home for a day wearing his fascinating khaki uniform. Larry does not see him come and go. In his words "Sometimes I woke and there was a big figure in khaki peering down at me in the candlelight. Sometimes in the early morning I heard the slamming of the front door and the clatter of nailed boots down the cobbles of the lane. These were Father’s entrances and exits. Like Santa Claus he came and went mysteriously."
That was how it was for the first five years of Larry's life. Him, Mother, and occasional Santa Clause-like appearances from Father. Then the war ends and everything changes. Father comes home and dons his best blue suit. Mother is beaming, but Larry liked the khaki uniform better. After returning from mass, Father puts on slippers and a dirty house cap and begins talking gravely to Mother. She looks anxious, which Larry does not like, so he interrupts him.

"Just a moment, Larry!" she said gently. This was only what she said when we had boring visitors, so I attached no importance to it and went on talking.
"Do be quiet, Larry!" she said impatiently. "Don’t you hear me talking to Daddy?"
This was the first time I had heard those ominous words, "talking to Daddy," and I couldn’t help feeling that if this was how God answered prayers, he couldn’t listen to them very attentively.
"Why are you talking to Daddy?" I asked with as great a show of indifference as I could muster.
"Because Daddy and I have business to discuss. Now, don’t interrupt again!"

The whole story is told like that – in first person from a child's point of view. That was what I found to be the most interesting part of the story. If it had been told from the point of view of one of the parents, it would not have had quite as much substance. The child's view of it all is what holds the story together and keeps the reader's interest. Little things like his putting Father in the same category as Santa Clause, his simple way of perceiving what was going on around him and the description of his morning routine were the juice of the story.

I always woke with the first light and, with all the responsibilities of the previous day melted, feeling myself rather like the sun, ready to illumine and rejoice. Life never seemed so simple and clear and full of possibilities as then. I put my feet out from under the clothes – I called them Mrs. Left and Mrs. Right – and invented dramatic situations for them in which they discussed the problems of the day. At least Mrs. Right did; she was very demonstrative, but I hadn’t the same control of Mrs. Left, so she mostly contented herself with nodding agreement.
They discussed what Mother and I should do during the day, what Santa Claus should give a fellow for Christmas, and what steps should be taken to brighten the home. There was that little matter of the baby, for instance. Mother and I could never agree about that. Ours was the only house in the terrace without a new baby, and Mother said we couldn’t afford one till Father came back from the war because they cost seventeen and six...
Having settled my plans for the day, I got up, put a chair under the attic window, and lifted the frame high enough to stick out my head. The window overlooked the front gardens of the terrace behind ours, and beyond these it looked over a deep valley to the tall, red brick houses terraced up the opposite hillside, which were all still in shadow, while those at our side of the valley were all lit up, though with long strange shadows that made them seem unfamiliar; rigid and painted.
After that I went into Mother’s room and climbed into the big bed. She woke and I began to tell her of my schemes. By this time, though I never seemed to have noticed it, I was petrified in my nightshirt, and I thawed as I talked until, the last frost melted, I fell asleep beside her and woke again only when I heard her below in the kitchen, making the breakfast.

That was how it was before Father came back. Afterward, when Larry tried to run into his mother's room, Mother told him he must not wake Daddy and while he was allowed to stay with her that morning, that night she told him he must not do it tomorrow. Father was worried. He needed to go out and find pennies to bring home since the lady at the post office did not have any more to give them like she had done during the war. Mother said he needed to sleep and made Larry promise not to wake him. Larry did not argue, for he knew pennies were an import matter. The next morning however, while he did wait in his room for what felt like hours, he ends up running into his parents' room anyway. Both Larry and his father become so upset by the other's presence, they have a row that escalates into his father slapping him. It had really been more of a tap, but the indignity of being slapped by “a total stranger” who had turned his life upside-down sends him into a frantic furry.
From that day on, Larry and his father were "open and avowed" enemies with each trying to steal the other's time with Mother. Over time, Larry sees his Father seems to be winning the tug-of-war. For while, he is puzzled as to why. Eventually, he decides it has something to do with "being grown-up and giving people rings," so one day he asks his mother...

"Mummy," I said, "do you know what I’m going to do when I grow up?"
"No, dear," she replied. "What?"
"I’m going to marry you," I said quietly.
Father gave a great guffaw out of him, but he didn’t take me in. I knew it must only be pretence.
And Mother, in spite of everything, was pleased. I felt she was probably relieved to know that one day Father’s hold on her would be broken.
"Won’t that be nice?" she said with a smile.
"It’ll be very nice," I said confidently. "Because we’re going to have lots and lots of babies."
"That’s right, dear," she said placidly. "I think we’ll have one soon, and then you’ll have plenty of company."
Larry had always thought that a baby would brighten the household, but he was wrong. When little Sonny came along, he was nothing but a boring noisy thing that commanded all of Mother's attention. Both Larry and his father could see that, and eventually this common problem leads to them reconciling with each other.
The thing with short stories is that there is not much time for the story. The plot must draw in the reader in a very short amount of time. Sometimes, the plots are really good. Other times, one can sense an over dramatic plot trying to beat an impact into the reader, or a point being stuffed down their throat with a forcefulness trying to make up for the story's briefness. In the case of My Oedipus Complex, O'Connor did a pretty good job. The plot was interesting, and not too dramatic or forceful. As for little Larry, he was no characterless character. He was a real little boy and would have stolen the show even if he had not been the narrator. His point of view was simple and humorous and the main thing that kept me engaged.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Week 15 revision


In corner number one...

Checkers: a seven-month-old bantam rooster.
Coloring: black, white and gray barred.
Disposition: hot air balloon with out the brauns to back him up.


In corner number two...

Lichen: another seven-month-old bantam rooster.
Coloring: white neck, black body green tail.
Disposition: slightly smaller hot air balloon with the brauns to back him up.

Take your positions...
***

Uh-AAHHH!” Checkers exclaimed as he dashed away from Lichen. I watched the chase with little concern. I had had a lot of roosters and knew that it was normal for such things to happen, especially in their first spring. Sometimes this led to a lot of blood, though as of yet, we had never had a serious injury. Checkers was a bold cocky little fellow and he had had this coming to him for quite awhile. I did not suspect a near fatal outcome.
***

Checkers was hiding in the nesting egg box. I tried to give him a little food, but he would not eat. I could not even get him to drink. He was making some funny sounds in his throat. Had Lichen stabbed him in the neck? I shut up the box and went inside, wondering if Checkers might not survive the night.
***

Checkers was on the floor of the coop. Lichen was pecking at him. So was one of the other roosters, though not quite as much. I tried to shoo them away, but they kept coming back. The only thing to do was move him into cubby where kept chickens who had to be separated from the flock. The front is wired over so that those within and without can see each other, but not get at each other. I still always hate having to separate a chicken from the flock though -- especially if they were on the threshold of the big chicken coop in the sky. But I could not leave Checkers prey to such veracious harassment. I put him in and tried to see if I could get him to drink some water and discovered that he would take tiny sips if I put his beak in the water. It had to be in quite awhile for him to open it however, and he was just laying on the floor with his eyes closed so I suspected he would not make it through the night.
***

I hastened through the twilight and opened the door to the cubby again. How could Checkers still be alive? I had thought he would be briefly staying in the hospice before finally stepping over the threshold of the big chicken coop in the sky. Yet two days later, he was exactly the same. Laying around with his eyes closed, taking tiny sips of water if his beak was in the water long enough and pretty much only moving if he had convulsions. A while back I concluded that Checkers had not been stabbed due to the lack of blood, but what had happened? Probably an internal injury, but why wasn't he dead. I had long since given him up for so, and could not stand the lingering. On top of that, the tedious task of putting his beak in the water, waiting for him to drink, and drying his beak and waddles off afterward (it was below freezing out, though a lot warmer than normal) was very stressful taking up a lot of my time. Part of me wished he would hurry up and die so I could go on with my life and I felt terrible about that. Worst of all, I was beginning to fear that instead of a swift death from his injury, Checkers would die of starvation. I could not bear the thought of him slowly wasting away.
***

I had an idea. When little chicks arrived a little weak from shipping, sugar water was supposed to give them a burst of energy. Perhaps it would work with Checkers. If this did not work, I did not know what would. The first time I went out, he seemed the same as he had been for the past three days. I got him to take two sips of the water then went in for breakfast. Afterward, I went out to try again. I set the little cup in front of him.
He put his beak in by himself.
Up until then, I had to either put his beak on the edge and tip the cup, or hold him over it. Never had he put his beak in himself. Whats more, he took a big sip and tipped his neck back to swallow almost as if his neck were not injured at all.
He took another sip and another. Big drops of water landed on his front and the newspaper covered floor. One of these drops landed on one of the "pellets" I had been trying to get him to eat at one point. It became soggy and turned to mush. Catching sight of it, he leaned over and ate it! I pushed a couple into another drip and he ate those too. What had brought about this miraculous change so quickly? Had the two sips of sugar water done this, or would it have happened anyway? Had he really been as weak as he appeared just an hour before or had he just been waking up? Whatever had happened, Checkers began taking large strides away from the big chicken coop in the sky.
***

Checkers was rubbing up against the wire. He appeared to made a complete recovery. The day after he had started eating again, he been strutting around and crowing. Now he wanted out. I was a little concerned about doing so. He had been out a week and Lichen often prowled along the other side of the wire with a hostile on Checkers, but Checkers seemed to be in the pink now and it would be better to reintroduce him sooner rather than later.
***

Checkers hastened up the ramp with Lichen in hot pursuit. He had chased Checkers several times in the ten minutes he had been out. Some of the other chickens had too, though Lichen was the most veracious. Otherwise, his reintroduction seemed to be going fine. Then Checkers got into the coop and tried to leap onto the perch. He hardly got off the ground.
He could not jump.
***

I continued putting Checkers out for a little while at a time. As the others got used to him again, I was able to increase the amount of time. I had feared Checkers had permanently lost his ability to jump, but one day, he leapt straight up in the air with a great fluttering of wings. Later, he flew onto the perch.
Checkers was out full time now.
***

I still do not know what was wrong with Checkers. What sort neck of injury could drive a chicken to the threshold of the big chicken coop in the sky, then go away in a day leaving only a temporary problem with his ability to jump for a few weeks? Oh well, I am just glad Checkers is able to strut his stuff again and he and Lichen finally resolved their dispute. Well, it's pretty much resolved...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Re-try review

(I pretty much only altered the beginning and last paragraph. The only part I altered in the middle was graf 5, which interrupts the long summary to say that the boy's point of view was the best part of the story -- just changed the wording slightly. Am wondering if that was the wrong place for that graf or if fits in fine.)


My Oedipus Complexion. A short story written by Frank O'Connor in 1950. Set in 1918. Storyline: a little boy spends the first five years of his life as the center of his mother's world. Then Father comes back from the war.
Oedipus complexion. Sigmund Freud's belief that small boys ages three to five have romantic attractions to their mothers, leading to rivalries with their fathers. Named after the Greek myth character Oedipus who unwittingly killed his father and married his mother (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/425451/Oedipus-complex ). Not thought so highly of today (http://www.a2zpsychology.com/psychology_guide/oedipus_complex.htm ). A modern reader of My Oedipus Complexion would most likely see the conflict between the father and son as the result of the boy being used to having his mother to himself and his father being practically a stranger.
But this is not a psychological paper.
The story took place just after WWI. It was probably a situation many small children – both boys and girls – in the position of the boy in the book went through. 1918: little Larry is five years old. An only child. Every since he can remember, he has had his mother to himself. Her husband is gone; little Larry is her main focus in her life, the apple of her eye. Larry knows of Father. He and Mother are always praying to God to end the war so Father can come home. On occasion, Father does come home for a day wearing his fascinating khaki uniform. Larry does not see him come and go. In his words "Sometimes I woke and there was a big figure in khaki peering down at me in the candlelight. Sometimes in the early morning I heard the slamming of the front door and the clatter of nailed boots down the cobbles of the lane. These were Father’s entrances and exits. Like Santa Claus he came and went mysteriously."
That was how it was for the first five years of Larry's life. Him, Mother, and occasional Santa Clause-like appearances from Father. Then the war ends and everything changes. Father comes home and dons his best blue suit. Mother is beaming, but Larry liked the khaki uniform better. After returning from mass, Father puts on slippers and a dirty house cap and begins talking gravely to Mother. She looks anxious, which Larry does not like, so he interrupts him.

"Just a moment, Larry!" she said gently. This was only what she said when we had boring visitors, so I attached no importance to it and went on talking.
"Do be quiet, Larry!" she said impatiently. "Don’t you hear me talking to Daddy?"
This was the first time I had heard those ominous words, "talking to Daddy," and I couldn’t help feeling that if this was how God answered prayers, he couldn’t listen to them very attentively.
"Why are you talking to Daddy?" I asked with as great a show of indifference as I could muster.
"Because Daddy and I have business to discuss. Now, don’t interrupt again!"

The whole story is told like that in first person from a child's point of view. That was what I found to be the most interesting part of the story. If it had been told from the point of view of one of the parents, it would not have had quite as much substance. The child's view of it all is what holds the story together and keeps the reader's interest. Little things like his putting Father in the same category as Santa Clause, his simple way of perceiving what was going on around him and the description of his morning routine were the juice of the story.

I always woke with the first light and, with all the responsibilities of the previous day melted, feeling myself rather like the sun, ready to illumine and rejoice. Life never seemed so simple and clear and full of possibilities as then. I put my feet out from under the clothes – I called them Mrs. Left and Mrs. Right – and invented dramatic situations for them in which they discussed the problems of the day. At least Mrs. Right did; she was very demonstrative, but I hadn’t the same control of Mrs. Left, so she mostly contented herself with nodding agreement.
They discussed what Mother and I should do during the day, what Santa Claus should give a fellow for Christmas, and what steps should be taken to brighten the home. There was that little matter of the baby, for instance. Mother and I could never agree about that. Ours was the only house in the terrace without a new baby, and Mother said we couldn’t afford one till Father came back from the war because they cost seventeen and six...
Having settled my plans for the day, I got up, put a chair under the attic window, and lifted the frame high enough to stick out my head. The window overlooked the front gardens of the terrace behind ours, and beyond these it looked over a deep valley to the tall, red brick houses terraced up the opposite hillside, which were all still in shadow, while those at our side of the valley were all lit up, though with long strange shadows that made them seem unfamiliar; rigid and painted.
After that I went into Mother’s room and climbed into the big bed. She woke and I began to tell her of my schemes. By this time, though I never seemed to have noticed it, I was petrified in my nightshirt, and I thawed as I talked until, the last frost melted, I fell asleep beside her and woke again only when I heard her below in the kitchen, making the breakfast.



That was how it was before Father came back. Afterward, when Larry tried to run into his mother's room, Mother told him he must not wake Daddy and while he was allowed to stay with her that morning, that night she told him he must not do it tomorrow. Father was worried. He needed to go out and find pennies to bring home since the lady at the post office did not have any more to give them like she had done during the war. Mother said he needed to sleep and made Larry promise not to wake him. Larry did not argue, for he knew pennies were an import matter. The next morning however, while he did wait in his room for what felt like hours, he ends up running into his parents' room anyway. Both Larry and his father become so upset by the other's presence, they have a roe that escalates into his father slapping him. It had really been more of a tap, but the indignity of being slapped by “a total stranger” who had turned his life upside-down sends him into a frantic furry.
From that day on, Larry and his father were "open and avowed" enemies with each trying to steal the other's time with Mother. Over time, Larry sees his Father seems to be winning the tug-of-war. For while, he is puzzled as to why. Eventually, he decides it has something to do with "being grown-up and giving people rings," so one days he asks his mother...

"Mummy," I said, "do you know what I’m going to do when I grow up?"
"No, dear," she replied. "What?"
"I’m going to marry you," I said quietly.
Father gave a great guffaw out of him, but he didn’t take me in. I knew it must only be pretence.
And Mother, in spite of everything, was pleased. I felt she was probably relieved to know that one day Father’s hold on her would be broken.
"Won’t that be nice?" she said with a smile.
"It’ll be very nice," I said confidently. "Because we’re going to have lots and lots of babies."
"That’s right, dear," she said placidly. "I think we’ll have one soon, and then you’ll have plenty of company."
Larry had always thought that a baby would brighten the household, but he was wrong. When little Sonny came along, he was nothing but a boring noisy thing that commanded all of Mother's attention. Both Larry and his father could see that, and eventually this common problem leads to them reconciling with each other.

The thing with short stories is that there is not much much time for the story. The plot must draw in the reader in a very short amount of time. Sometimes, the plots are really good. Other times, one can sense an over dramatic plot trying to beat an impact into the reader, or a point being stuffed down their throat with a forcefulness trying to make up for the story's briefness. In the case of My Oedipus Complex, O'Connor did a pretty good job. The plot was interesting, and not too dramatic or forceful. As for little Larry, he was no characterless character. He was a real little boy and would have stolen the show even if he had not been the narrator. His point of view was simple and humorous and the main thing that kept me engaged.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Week 13 review

Oedipus was a prince prophetized to kill his father and marry his mother. In the Greek myth, Oedipus was left to die as an infant, but was adopted by a peasant and ended up unknowingly killing his father in a dispute over who had the right of way on a road. Later, he solved the sphinx's riddle and caused her to become so furious, she cast herself off a cliff into the sea. Everyone was so grateful to Oedipus for ridding them of the sphinx and thought him so cleaver, they asked him to replace their late king (his father) and marry the widowed queen (his mother), for they had never dreamed he was her son (http://www.ancientgreece.com/s/GreekMyths/Oedipus/). When Sigmund Freud put forth his theory that young boys have romantic inclinations towards their mothers which lead to a rivalry with their fathers, he called it the Oedipus complex after the man who had unknowingly killed his father and married his mother (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/425451/Oedipus-complex ).
I did not know that when I read Frank O'Connor's short story My Oedipus Complexion when I was in high school. The story was interesting and a little more entertaining than some of the others in the book of short stories I was reading, but I did not understand the title. It was not until I took a psychology class two years later that I found out what Oedipus complex meant and was finally able to make sense of the title. Thinking back on the story, I thought yes, I could see why the author called it that, though the theory itself sounded crazy, especially since it supposed was affect three- to five-year-old children. Surely, the behavior of the little boy could also be due the fact he was used to being his mother's only companion and not used to having his father about. Oh well. I shall leave that point for the philosophers and psychologists to discuss.
The story took place just after WWI in Cork, Ireland near the sea, though it was published in 1950. It was probably a situation many small children – both boys and girls – in the position of the boy in the book went through. 1918: little Larry Delaney is five years old. An only child. Every since he can remember, he has had his mother to himself. Her husband is gone; little Larry is her main focus in her life, the apple of her eye. Larry knows of Father. He and Mother are always praying to God to end the war so Father can come home. On occasion, Father does come home for a day wearing his fascinating khaki uniform. Larry does not see him come and go. In his words "Sometimes I woke and there was a big figure in khaki peering down at me in the candlelight. Sometimes in the early morning I heard the slamming of the front door and the clatter of nailed boots down the cobbles of the lane. These were Father’s entrances and exits. Like Santa Claus he came and went mysteriously."
That was how it was for the first five years of Larry's life. Him, Mother, and occasional Santa Clause-like appearances from Father. Then the war ends and everything changes. Father comes home and dons his best blue suit. Mother is beaming, but Larry liked the khaki uniform better. After returning from mass, Father puts on slippers and a dirty house cap and begins talking gravely to Mother. She looks anxious, which Larry does not like, so he interrupts him.

"Just a moment, Larry!" she said gently. This was only what she said when we had boring visitors, so I attached no importance to it and went on talking.
"Do be quiet, Larry!" she said impatiently. "Don’t you hear me talking to Daddy?"
This was the first time I had heard those ominous words, "talking to Daddy," and I couldn’t help feeling that if this was how God answered prayers, he couldn’t listen to them very attentively.
"Why are you talking to Daddy?" I asked with as great a show of indifference as I could muster.
"Because Daddy and I have business to discuss. Now, don’t interrupt again!"

The whole story is told in first person from a child's point of view. That was what I found to be the most interesting part of the story. If it had been told from the point of view of one of the parents, it would have been no more interesting than most of the other short stories in the book. The child's view of it all is what holds the story together and keeps the reader's interest. Little things like his putting Father in the same category as Santa Clause, his simple way of perceiving what was going on around him and the description of his morning routine were the juice of the story.

I always woke with the first light and, with all the responsibilities of the previous day melted, feeling myself rather like the sun, ready to illumine and rejoice. Life never seemed so simple and clear and full of possibilities as then. I put my feet out from under the clothes – I called them Mrs. Left and Mrs. Right – and invented dramatic situations for them in which they discussed the problems of the day. At least Mrs. Right did; she was very demonstrative, but I hadn’t the same control of Mrs. Left, so she mostly contented herself with nodding agreement.


They discussed what Mother and I should do during the day, what Santa Claus should give a fellow for Christmas, and what steps should be taken to brighten the home. There was that little matter of the baby, for instance. Mother and I could never agree about that. Ours was the only house in the terrace without a new baby, and Mother said we couldn’t afford one till Father came back from the war because they cost seventeen and six...


Having settled my plans for the day, I got up, put a chair under the attic window, and lifted the frame high enough to stick out my head. The window overlooked the front gardens of the terrace behind ours, and beyond these it looked over a deep valley to the tall, red brick houses terraced up the opposite hillside, which were all still in shadow, while those at our side of the valley were all lit up, though with long strange shadows that made them seem unfamiliar; rigid and painted.


After that I went into Mother’s room and climbed into the big bed. She woke and I began to tell her of my schemes. By this time, though I never seemed to have noticed it, I was petrified in my nightshirt, and I thawed as I talked until, the last frost melted, I fell asleep beside her and woke again only when I heard her below in the kitchen, making the breakfast.



That was how it was before Father came back. Afterward, when Larry tried to run into his mother's room, Mother told him he must not wake Daddy and while he was allowed to stay with her that morning, that night she told him he must not do it tomorrow. Father was worried. He needed to go out and find pennies to bring home since the lady at the post office did not have any more to give them like she had done during the war. Mother said he needed to sleep and made Larry promise not to wake him. Larry did not argue, for he knew pennies were an import matter. The next morning however, while he did wait in his room for what felt like hours, he ends up running into his parents' room anyway. Both Larry and his father become so upset by the other's presence, they have a roe that escalates into his father slapping him. It had really been more of a tap, but the indignity of being slapped by “a total stranger” who had turned his life upside-down sends him into a frantic furry.
From that day on, Larry and his father were "open and avowed" enemies with each trying to steal the other's time with Mother. Over time, Larry sees his Father seems to be winning the tug-of-war. For while, he is puzzled as to why. Eventually, he decides it has something to do with "being grown-up and giving people rings," so one days he asks his mother...

"Mummy," I said, "do you know what I’m going to do when I grow up?"
"No, dear," she replied. "What?"
"I’m going to marry you," I said quietly.
Father gave a great guffaw out of him, but he didn’t take me in. I knew it must only be pretence.
And Mother, in spite of everything, was pleased. I felt she was probably relieved to know that one day Father’s hold on her would be broken.
"Won’t that be nice?" she said with a smile.
"It’ll be very nice," I said confidently. "Because we’re going to have lots and lots of babies."
"That’s right, dear," she said placidly. "I think we’ll have one soon, and then you’ll have plenty of company."


Larry had always thought that a baby would brighten the household, but he was wrong. When little Sonny came along, he was nothing but a boring noisy thing that commanded all of Mother's attention. Both Larry and his father could see that, and eventually this common problem leads to them reconciling with each other.

The thing with short stories, is that there is not much much time for the story. The writer must quickly introduce the characters, throw you into a plot, and end it all at a point that feels like an ending. For example, a point of finality, the denouement of a particular incident, or maybe leave you hanging after some shocking incident. Often, a short story is just a simple slice of something bigger with little time for character attachment or side plots, so the plot itself must draw in the reader in a very short amount of time. Sometimes, these plots are really good. Other times, one can sense an over dramatic plot trying to beat an impact into the reader, or a point being stuffed down their throat with a forcefulness trying to make up for the story's briefness. In that book of short story's I read in high school, I encountered stories from both ends of the spectrum. As for My Oedipus Complexion, it is somewhere slightly above the middle. The plot was interesting, and not to dramatic or forceful. The boy's point of view was very realistic and and was the main thing keeping me engaged. Others in the book were better and I wonder why I chose this one to review. Well, its a point in O'Connor's favor that for some reason I did.