Imagination, illicit fiction, and coming of age, oh my!

I’m going to tell the truth and say that I skimmed Hayles’ reading. I’m easily distracted and I can’t even seem to keep focus within my paper, let alone on various texts outside of my own ideas. So I tried to distance myself from Hayles’ text. So I’m sticking with where I’m at in my paper.

While I seem to be drifting away from my original idea of illicit fiction and moving towards the larger context of a “coming of age” tale and how “The Uses of Enchantment” contributes to the larger conversation. I am still having a difficult time locating (and by locating I mean sifting through the hundreds of articles that are useless to me on the topic) and article that speaks true to the point I want to make.

I guess what I’m saying is I’m still having structural issue, that I won’t be able to fix until I have all of my sources locked down. There are a ton of different directions I could go into concerning a coming of age story, I’m just trying to pinpoint one that will be most useful to my argument of the “necessity of imagination” in puberty or maturation of a young girl. I think once I find that article that I’m looking for, it will be smooth sailing, or maybe that’s what I’m telling myself with the hopes that it might just be true.

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Panic, tissues, and cookies.

While doing research for my topic, I realized that I had no idea what I was doing. I had printed out roughly 20 articles, each one on a different topic, and after reading them all, I panicked. What was I doing? I began to question my life choices. I was drowning in theories and not sure what my next move should be, so I went back to the original text. I knew that I wanted to focus on the What Might Have Happened section of Julavits’ The Uses of Enchantment, but from there what was I doing? Scheherazade? Feminism? Teenage sexuality? What? So I read through the What Might have Happened sections again and what stood out to me was a quote from the man on page 112 that said, “What is the difference between one’s memory and one’s imagination in the end? What, really, is the difference?”

I think I’ve found my foundation: Imagination. The components of the illicit fiction created between the girl and the man were my original interest and the use of imagination is pivotal to this section. ‘

From there, I found two primary articles that seem to guide my way of thinking. Allessandro Giovannelli’s “In and out: The Dynamics of Imagination in the Engagement with Narratives” and Mark Sadoski’s “Imagination, Cognition, and Persona”.

Sadoski’s piece focuses on the use of imagination in the creation of a persona while Giovanelli’s combines narrative participation with appreciation and interpretations of imaginative texts.

My primary focus will be on the first scene in which the girl begins creating a fiction between her and the man and contrasting it with the scene in which she stars to let her imagination get the best of her (aka the scene where she makes up a story about the hunter that never existed). I want to focus on the extremes of imagination and how they affect the characters within the story. Any secondary source ideas will be greatly appreciated!

 

The Image/Emotion Connection

I found Beginners to be very narrative driven. 95% of the scenes include Oliver and the voice overs allow the audience to see into his head. Along with the voice overs, there are images attached to the short narrations. The first one gives the audience a little background story. He tells us that it’s 2003, then continues to show photographs of:

  • What the sun looks like
  • What the stars look like
  • What nature looks like
  • This is the president – Bush
  • My parents met in 1955 (shows images of rotary phones, the movie Lady and the Tramp, the president, pets, fireworks, smoking, kissing, happiness, sadness, all from the era)
  • His father worked in a museum his mother fixed houses, they had a child, she died after 4mo. after cancer. She ate french toast every day and watched the Teletubbies, she mistook straws for cigarettes, skipped back and forth from time eras (enter myriad of President photographs)
  • Video of his father coming out – confuses what he wore at the time
  • Image of father in various clothes
  • Video of him and his boyfriend Andy
  • Live shots of people from his new gay life
  • Shot of empty room where he died

At first viewing of the film, I thought that is was super cool to have various flashing images matching the narration as opposed to following Oliver around in his daily routine, but I didn’t think too much into it until the second images popped up on screen. When Oliver’s father was told that he had a tumor the size of a quarter, the image of a quarter was produced. When the doctor mention radiation to reduce spread of the cancer, images of a quarter to nickels, to dimes and pennies signifying the minimization of the cancer.

It was at this point in the film that I realized that the images seemed to be a representation of Oliver’s obsession with visual emotion. It’s clear that he uses art as a kind of therapy because he pushes his emotions on paper in a very unsubtle way. So the fact that there are images matched with his voice over give us insight into his raw emotion and how he views things. It puts things in perspective for him and gives the viewers a front seat to his perspective.

The images are a portal for viewers to see into Oliver’s mind and sympathize with him. In a later sequence of images, when he talks about his relationship with Anna, he says that she’s had 3 relationships and matches them to the men they were with. He then follows up with the statement that he had 4 past relationships and instead of photographs of these women, his drawings appear. It’s ambiguous whether or not that’s what these women actually looked like (I mean they are drawings) or if they’re just projections of how Oliver sees them, because again, we’re in his mind.

Oliver isn’t a very expressive human so the only way the readers are able to understand what he’s feeling is through the images he provides for us.

7 Types of Ambiguity or 7 Types of Lying?

When beginning 7 Types of Ambiguity I was immediately thrown off by the second person point of view. It wasn’t the POV that spoke directly to a reader, but to another character within the story, one we haven’t been introduced to yet. Sad to say, I unintentionally skimmed the first section because I didn’t know who was involved so I’m sure I missed some vital information, but who doesn’t when you’re reading a seven hundred page book?

Each part of the novel focused on a  specific character and their side of the story. Each section had their own inconsistencies within the story as a whole and each character had their own perceptions of the truth.

Yes, yes, I’m going to talk about truth again. It’s applied to so many of our texts thus far that it’s impossible to ignore.

There are a few instances in which characters stories didn’t align from section to section. Dennis (or Mitch) claimed that Joe took him to the brothel for the first time and in Joe’s story, he claimed that Mitch initiated the visit under Sid Graeme’s account. Angelique believed that her and Simon were dating, while Simon’s section focused on his obsession over Anna. I could go on and on.

I found Angelique’s section to be the most interesting and real. It was obvious that she has a difficult time accepting reality. To her, accepting the reality meant speaking the truth, which she didn’t often do. She didn’t tell Simon about her MS and she created the ideal fantasy between her and Simon. She mentions Alex as “a psychiatrist friend of mine”, which Alex later claims to Simon, that he is not (136).

This brings up the issue of timeline, which I found particularly hard to follow. I couldn’t tell whether the characters were telling their story retrospectively at times, which could explain some of the inconsistencies between some of the stories. If Angelique is telling her story retrospectively, then she may currently be friend with Alex the psychiatrist, solving one of the miniscule inconsistencies in their stories. Her section is told in first person, past tense, so she is obviously telling the story looking back on these incidents, but how far into the future is she? Maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe it does.

On page 142, Simon says to her, “The thing is, readers usually identify with one or other of the characters in a story so that they can the better escape from the problems and boredom of their own lives. That’s why most of them read fiction in the first place. They need to identify with some character in a story, or with different characters at different times if the story is true to life, in order to be drawn into the story, to be pulled along by it, because they want a break from their own lives. This is a need, a need that is recognized at least unconsciously by every reader…”

This section sums of Angelique’s section in a nutshell. Simon claims that readers read fiction to identify a character, but not so closely that it’s too realistic, as it would be with a memoir. I think that Angelique’s character is one of the most relatable in the novel, but that fact that she is a prostitute extends her our of the realm of being too relatable. Most readers won’t have experience being a prostitute, but they can identify with her character because of her slight character qualities. She is hopelessly in love with someone who doesn’t feel the same way and she is doing anything to keep herself afloat. Two themes that almost everyone can relate to in some way. Maybe it doesn’t matter if the characters are telling the truth or not because they are creating a fiction for themselves and the other characters allowing them a break from the reality of their own lives.

If I had time I would also explore the use of scent in this novel, the importance of Mitch, and the murkiness of the timeline that I was able to mention briefly.

 

Melancholia and the Anti-Sublime

Melancholia is split into two narratives: Claire and Justine. Each narrative was guided not by character but by their emotional diseases. Their personalities were lost and replaced by pure emotion, which is what makes this movie melodramatic and in turn, anti-sublime.  In Steven Shaviro’s “Melancholia or, The Romantic Anti-Sublime” he discusses camera usage and recurring themes throughout the film. In keeping with his article sections, I will provide summaries of each subject separately.

Melancholia, according to the New York Times, “described by Freud as “a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity to love, inhibition of all activity, and a lowering of the self-regarding feelings to a degree that finds utterance in self-reproaches and self-revilings, and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment.”

1.)    Cosmic and Melodrama – Thought it’s apocalyptic, it’s not a disaster film. The end of the world films that we are used to usually include a giant natural disaster of an ape takeover, but Melancholia is different. Director Lars von Trier purposefully chose the anti-sublime route that was lines with melodrama.

One of Shaviro’s main terms in this section was “Capitalist Realism”. In normal disaster movies use the apocalypse or other major disasters as a way out of debt, but Melancholia is showing the other side. The wealthy have worked hard to get their commodities and money that they couldn’t imagine living without it which in the end is showcased by John’s suicide. He discredits Earth’s impending doom, but when he finds out that Melancholia is going to crash, his suicide takes place off screen (another instance of the anti-sublime).

2.) TableauxPrologue is anti-narrative which is an 8 minute long sequence of 16 shots of a fixed camera view. It’s foreshadowing of what’s going to happen throughout the film with CGI powers that the rest of the film doesn’t contain adding to its anti-sublime restrains.It presents the themes that will be alluded to later. For example, the image in which Justine is running in her wedding dress, but tree roots are slowing her down. Nature is holding her back: She can’t escape or submit.

photo (2)

Amanda is not the only one to feel this way, Shaviro describe the rapid camera movement in relation to a camera suffering from ADD.

Shaviro said that “There is no functional reason for these movements,” (Shaviro). The movie was filmed to have a pseudo documentary feel to it. The background music was nonexistent except during the Prologue. Which is probably why Adrianna’s tweet was as follows:

photo-13.)  Post Continuity –The camera is in the midst of the action – not identified with any of the protagonists. It blurs the line between the action of the camera and the movement of the actors and the movement of the frame

4.) Depression -Depression = rejection of social norms

Justine is unable to comply with the social norms of the bourgeois society, so she acts out in progressively more disruptive ways. The depression is embodied within her character. Many see it as a minor condition that someone cannot just ‘get over’. Von Trier, someone who has suffered from depression, employs the melodrama to know the intrinsic aspects of the disease and emphasize that it’s not self-destructive.

This portion of the article reminded me of Silver Linings Playbook in which David O. Russell produced the movie for his son. He wanted to showcase bipolar disorder in a way that would make his son realize that he was not alone in the disease and it isn’t something that he should be embarrassed by. It was also a way to show viewers the depth of the disease and how it affects people.

5.)  The Despair of Claire – Claire is the rich housewife, who is “consumed by domesticity”. She is constantly trying to uphold family values and the high class life until the very end. She is trying to restore the world to what she knows it to be in the hopes of finding solid ground, but as the film progresses she continues to lose control eventually leaving Justine to care for her son Leo.

Justine is beyond the point of worrying because to her, the world is already over because the depression manifested inside of her making living/dying irrelevant. It’s her depression that keeps her from feeling the impending doom because it’s a feeling that she is already familiar with. The first half of the film showcases Justine’s depression and psychological state while the second half showcases the inflated “objective correlative of her state before Earth’s destruction (Shaviro).

6.)    Anti-modernism

  1. Form does not equal function – Excess of pictures during the Prologue with a shaky, non-focused camera throughout.
  2. Form cannot be expressive in its own right. Everything works together to create the content. Nothing stands alone.
  3. Contains cliché’s, but they add to the melodrama

Each aspect of the film is over the top, extending beyond normal film form. The rejection of modernism is dramatized throughout the narrative.

Modernist films are using their edge – more of a marketing scheme as opposed to rebellion. Melancholia is rebelling against the rebellion of the classic film.

Melodramas are anti-modernist because there are excess emotions, sentimental, histrionic, cliché, trivial domestic situations, female protagonists dubbing it a “women’s film”.

In Marta Figlerowicz’s essay,” Comedy of Abandon: Lars von Trier’s Melancholia”, she argues that the melodrama goes so far that it becomes comedic; a play on the extremity of human emotions. I found her argument fascinating, but held less factual instances than Shaviro’s paper. I think that Figlerowicz has a potentially good argument, I wouldn’t say that it was the director’s intention (not that I could say that anyways).

7.) Gender – Lars von Trier is known for making his female leads suffer. He is known as a masochistic and sadistic director who creates passive female leads in order to watch them suffer. Melancholia is filled with gender stereotypes, but they seem to only be true on the surface. According to Shaviro, men are painted as reasonable and active while women are passive and emotional.

Throughout the film, John pretends to have power but besides being ostentatious, he holds no real decision making power. Kills himself when he finds out his death is inevitable, but could it be interpreted as his final act of control? He is the breadwinner of the family while Claire stays at home, but Claire holds more power than she seems to.  John’s assertive personality seems to overshadow Claire in the first half, but does he really hold the power? Not according to Shaviro. Instead Melancholia, devalues male authority and Justine rebels against the social norms, which women should submit to.

8.) The Truth of Extinction

  1. World-for-us = “The world we live in”
  2. World-in-itself = world as it exists apart from us
  3. World-without-us = speculative world that only exists in the limits of our mind

Justine tells Claire “we’re alone. Life exists only on Earth. And not for long.” She can only speak this way because she is distanced from herself and the situation because of the depression, otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to discuss world-without-us because it’s such an inhuman experience.

Truth of extinction is not a truth because it destroys the possibility of the future

9.) The Magic Cave -Leo represents the future

He doesn’t know it’s the end of everything. His innocence is a stark contrast to Justine’s calmness

The ending is anti-sublime in its silence and poetic beauty.

Teepee representative of Native American womb of Mother Earth.

Less than Wao-ed

Despite the title, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The story isn’t all about him. Oscar is the sun, while all the other narrations circle around him (But according to Sherlock, who cares if that’s how it works. Irrelevant). It’s how the narrative flows. From what I can tell, Yunior is the main narrator of the story, hiding within the narrative, until he slowly produces himself as a character. So how does Yunior: the narrator affect the story at hand?

When the story begins, telling of Oscar’s stage as a seven-year-old player, the narrator is telling the story from a seemingly omniscient point of view, but this is broken on page 36 when the narrative reads, “Later she’d want to put that on his gravestone but no one would let her, not even me. Stupid.” This is only the first instance of the narrator breaking the seemingly omniscient third point of view, so the question remained, who was narrating the story? It had to be someone close to the family because there was history. It had to be someone who knew Oscar really well. Lola was eliminated as a possibility because she held her own sections of the novel in which she were able to tell her story. Now it’s complicated! Three narratives. One third person and two first person.

Now we have Lola and Yunior as first person narrators, then the mysterious third person point of view. I became suspicious while reading Yunior’s first person narrative. He admitted to reading Oscar’s diary, which would give him an insight into Oscar’s mind allowing him explicate Oscar’s feelings through the third person narrative.

“Nothing more exhilarating (he wrote) than saving yourself by the simple act of waking,” (201).

I think Oscar Wao is a combination of the narratives of Mr. Peanut and The Uses of Enchantment. On one hand, Oscar Wao is a book within a book with a few novelists and perspectives as in Mr. Peanut. But the reliability of the narrator is question as in The Uses of Enchantment. The story isn’t told by Oscar at all. We are only given his thoughts through Yunior and excerpts from his diary, which puts the narrative itself into question. How does Yunior know how he felt about everything. You can only get so much out of a diary and Oscar was a Sci-fi writer himself. Who’s to say that his diary is true? Which brings me to page 285 “A Note from your Author” in which the narrator breaks the third wall and directly addresses the reader corroborating the truthfulness of the story. Basically, the narrator is asking for the readers to trust him.

“A puta and she’s not an underage snort-addicted mess? Not believable. Should I go down to the Feria and pick me up a more representative model? Would it be better if I turned Ybon into this other puta that I know…Would this be better? Yes?

But then I’d be lying. I know I’ve thrown a lot of fantasy and sci-fi into the mic but this is supposed to be a true account of the Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Can’t we believe that an Ybon can exist and that a brother like Oscar might be due to a little luck after twenty-three years?”

This was the most interesting part of the novel. The narrator is calling himself out, saying that this may sound so unrealistic, but that’s what makes it real. He’s asking for trust that he is telling the truth. Despite all the sci-fi, he wants the readers to read this story as the truth, but should we believe it? Or is this just a story Yunior wrote as a last hoorah for Oscar? It could be that this story was meant to give Oscar a legacy and break him free of his Ghetto Nerd status, but I guess that’s up to the reader to decide whether the narrator is reliable. It’s possible that Lola’s story is meant as the backbone of the story – she holds the truth from the family perspective. It’s hard to say.

I’m not a hug fan of the novel. I think the narrative is fascinating in it’s construction. I liked how the narrator wasn’t revealed until the end, but it seemed like a cheap trick, not introducing the narrator as a character until page 167, but maybe it’s just me.

 

 

We’ve been Sherlock-ed!

Ah! We’ve witnessed the great Sherlockian “death”. Sherlock Holmes is not dead, but his fake death was fascinating. I wish the third season was out so I could learn how he didn’t die, but it’s Sherlock Holmes so I tend to expect the unexpected and expect that he will explain it to me eventually. But on second viewing of Season 2, I began to notice Sherlock slowly falling apart episode by episode until the moment where he jumped off the building.

A lot happened in Season 2. In the first episode, Sherlock is stumped by Irene Adler. I hate to say it, but the fact that he couldn’t use his senses to ‘read’ her reminded me of Twilight (awful I know). That was the first step in his downward spiral. He found his weak spot and he fought like hell to keep her safe, the reason maybe unknowing to him.

The second episode marked his official downward spiral that led to his impending ‘suicide’. The episode begins with Sherlock in a chaotic state. Recently off cigarettes, Sherlock is restless in a frantic search for a pack of cigarettes, while insulting Mrs. Hudson. All the while, Watson is the grounded voice, speaking calmly. He was the voice of reason which is usually Sherlock’s territory.

Once the two reach the moors for the first time, Sherlock stands on a rock. The camera shot from the ground, looking up at Sherlock standing alone on the rock, shows isolation. It’s also a moment of foreshadowing. Watson stands on the ground with Sherlock up high – a foreshadowing of Sherlock’s apparent suicide.

The scene in the pub in which Sherlock and Watson sit by the fire after the incident in Dewars Hollow is the ultimate power shift (not power shit as my tweets lead you to believe). The camera shows a head-shot of Sherlock who is shaking and drinking. He says he is afraid, his body’s disappointing him, he was having trouble divorcing his feelings, but he claimed “There’s nothing wrong with me”. He has always relied on his senses to guide him, but fear impeded his senses.While Sherlock was dealing with his fear, the camera showed Watson calm, trying to help him, again being the voice of reason. But when Sherlock says, “I don’t have friends” in a final attempt to divorce his feelings, Watson gives up and leaves Sherlock to figure it out.

This is the first time that Sherlock feels doubt. The doubt causes him to slowly crumble: setting up the third episode.

In the Hollow, while the secrets were being exposed and the fog is everywhere, Dr. Frankland is revealed as the cause. But drug induced Sherlock sees Moriarty, insinuating that he is afraid of Moriart,y because the drug is known to show them their fears. Moriarty, a man always in the back of Sherlock mind, is what leads to his apparent downfall. Though he wasn’t present in the episode, Sherlock’s mind caused him to see Moriarty as the cause of the mystery behind Baskerville. His inability to feel emotions is what caused him to be hoodwinked by Moriarty in the third episode, but as we know, there is not greater power than Sherlock Holmes.

 

Sherlock + Technology = Frankenstein

As we all know, Sherlock Holmes is the smartest literary detective ever printed. He has the ability to solve crimes with a single glance.

“I’m not a Psychopath, I’m a high functioning Sociopath.” -,Sherlock Ep. 1

What I found the most interesting throughout Season 1 ( I cheated and watched Season 2, so I will try to avoid that chatter) was the use of technology throughout the season. Obviously, there was no technology in the original Sherlock stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But the viewers were immediately set up for a technologically advanced detective. The first use of technology was Watson’s blog. Instead of taking notes and writing a novel, Watson is creating a blog, for the public to read as they go about solving cases.

Sherlock has a website called, “The Science of Deduction” (a chapter title in “A Study In Scarlett”) where “fans” can view his site, his workings, status’, etc.

Sherlock uses technology: cell phone trackers, weather updates, mafia searches, shoe manufacturing, local murder/suicides, nationalities of gangs/countries, camera phone, etc. The list goes on an on. But what’s the point?

In the first episodes, “A Study in Pink”, Sherlock analyzes the body of the dead woman who scratched “Rache” into the floor. Throughout his analysis of the body, the viewers are given an insight into his thought process. It seems to me that this is to establish a narrative truth. Why should the viewers trust Sherlock’s deductions from the get-go? The step by step analysis of his thought process gives the viewers a chance to follow his ideas and establishes a form of trust. It makes his thoughts believable, so  in later episodes, we are inclined to believe what he is saying about each case. It also makes it more realistic, which is an aspect of television that viewers need nowadays. If Sherlock is able to deduct these answers, the audience should have the same ability. It involves them (us) in the action. The fact that he uses a cell phone to find a number of answers is another form of reality for the viewers. How many times a day do we use Google to prove a point or find an answer to a question? I’m not mathematician, but I would say it’s a lot.

I think the technology serves an alternative purpose as well. I believe that the Sherlock uses technology as a disguise. As Sherlock literary fans know, he is the master of disguise.

“The art of disguise is knowing how to hide in plain sight” – Sherlock Ep. 3

What’s the best way to hide your identity without actually concealing yourself? Cell phones: text messages and phone calls. There are a number of points throughout the show where Sherlock uses other people’s phones to send a message in case someone recognizes his number because it’s on his website. From what I can tell, in the television series, technology is his most common disguise. He hides behind cell phones because it’s anonymous and they often do a lot of work for him. You can always hide in plain sight when you’re using a cell phone that doesn’t belong to you. We all do it every day. In the age of technology, it’s easy to hide who you really are.

 

POV who? POV what?

When I first began “The Uses of Enchantment”, I was immediately drawn in by The What Might Have Happened story of the girl who willingly got into the car of a stranger, but then I was jolted into the future with who I assumed was the “abducted” girl. But I kept going, assuming I would figure it out, but I was only thrown into a number of narratives and points of view.

The What Might Have Happened section is told in third person with a focus on the man, the current narrative is also told through third person with a focus on Mary, and Dr. Hammer’s notes are strictly first person. I find the weaving of narratives fascination. The What Might Have Happened narrative and Dr. Hammer’s notes paint a version of Mary as a teenager. Both of which create a less than flattering portrait. She is shown as controlling, someone scary female. Is that just the male perspective?

Throughout the story, the focus seemed to be on the males perspectives on sex. K, as named by Mary, was not an active participant in the implied sexual acts. On page 297, the girls says, “If you’re going to molest me, I demand your respect.” This implies that there was no molestation, but a consensual act. But the fact that the act was “consensual” was not explicitly stated because the POV was focused on K. K was wearing a blindfold while the girl (implied to be Mary) molested him, with no objection from the man. The term “molestation” was used a number of times, but while this sexual act was beginning to unfold, Mary said that she would tell her therapist “bad lies” (303). Something that proves true through her sessions with Hammer. But the fact that Mary seems to be quite deranged doesn’t deter K from allowing a teenage girl to take advantage of him. Through this he takes no fault, because he was not the initiator of the act. He was merely an innocent bystander who allowed a strange girl into his car. To me, he seemed to be a passive aggressive molester.

In Dr. Hammer’s notes and sessions, he explicitly focuses on the loss of innocence, virginity, and sex in general. Early into their second session, he asks her, “Have you been taught that sex is naughty and dirty?” (72). This question isn’t only naughty and dirty in his wording, but seems highly inappropriate for someone in his line of work. Not that I’ve been to a shrink or a therapist, but from what I know about them, they aren’t supposed to imply such things. he could have simply said, ‘What are your impressions of sex?’ as opposed to putting words in her mouth. Creating the story he wanted her to have. He used sex as a way to throw her off her game and manipulate her into telling the story that he wanted to hear, the story he wanted to write about, a story related to Bettina Spencer.

On the contrary, the current storyline that follows Mary’s perspective, rarely, if ever mention sex. What I found interesting about her narrative is that she was constantly calling herself an unreliable narrator. When she finally comes face to face with K after all that time, she says, “You’ll just have to fake-abduct a more reliable narrator…” (314). Implying that she deliberately mis-told her story to Dr. Hammer, whether it was to his directions (which I think it may have been, along with her predisposition to lie to her therapist (303)) or on her own personal agenda. Later in the novel, Earlier in the novel, the narrator says, “If [Mary] were narrating this, she thought, she would say an uncomfortable silence descended,” which shows her lack of control over telling her own story because of the many lies she told (308). She had the ability to tell her story in this close third person narrative, but she is still the unreliable narrator that lied to Dr. Hammer.

The use of POV in this novel is critical to character development. Without the switching of the POV, the reader’s wouldn’t get the ludicrous dynamic between Mary and her mother (which could be a whole other blog post). It’s the dimensional narrative of the novel that makes it great, that rounds out the characters, and creates an interwoven plot that blurs the line between truth and lies.

Inceptioned by Mr. Peanut

After finishing Mr. Peanut, all I could think was “what?”, plus a few choice curse words to explicate my confusion. Separately, the narratives were easily followed but towards the end when the stories intersected to form the “ending”, confusion erupted. This plot was anything, but linear. I sat to myself coming up with possibilities of what the narrative had to do with the story. The point that kept jumping out at me was the fact that throughout the story Pepin was writing a novel, a novel that mirrored his life more than he cared to admit.

“Real writers kept the boundaries between art and life clear, didn’t they? Knew dreams from days. They had to. Otherwise, how could they discern the arc of a story or recognize their themes? Ride narrative logic like a wave, from swell to shore. His book had become something entirely different. It wasn’t a story anymore. It was him. It was Alice. It was them.” (270).

In this passage, I believe explains the novel in it’s entirety. I feel like I’ve been Inceptioned (A word I just made up, referencing the film). The novel it seems, is a narrative within a narrative, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. From what I can tell, the novel is a mixture of Pepin’s novel and what is really happening.

There are a number of existential thoughts throughout the narrative that bring up the idea of the unreliable narrator.

  • “Did she exist during this time? Did she wonder, “Does he?” (81)
  • “And of course there were significant events in their lives–that is, history–but for some time now it seems that recalling them, or plucking a coherent narrative from this mindless flow, this endless reloop, required mental effort of reconstruction, a refocused recollection of things prior to this long tranquility that were overwhelmed by and set apart from the here and now.” (82).
  • “For a moment, he wasn’t even sure if Harold was real.” (114)

If the narrator of the novel is unsure of what is real, how is the reader supposed to trust what he is saying? In Richardson’s brief explanation of unreliable narrators he claims that they follow a certain path, “one goes from unreliable narrators to incompetent ones to delusional and then completely insane story tellers,” (2). If I were to classify Pepin as an unreliable narrator, I would say he leans more towards the delusional side. That much is clear when the novel opens with, “When David Pepin first dreamed of killing his wife…” (1). Pepin’s inability to clarify what is real and what is fantasy makes him an unreliable narrator in my opinion. Whether a portion of the novel is the novel Pepin wrote, the failure to clarify that for the reader, makes the reader lose trust in what the narrator is saying.

Throughout the novel, it is hard to determine what is real and what is imagined by the narrators. I want to say with certainty that Mr. Peanut is part Pepin’s novel and part reality, but I can’t. I won’t pretend that the narration didn’t confuse me, but it did intrigue me. The more I think about it, the more ludicrous ideas I come up with about the construction of the novel. I could go on for pages with my theories, but I won’t because then I will most likely confuse reality with my own fantasies about the nature of the novel.