Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blue Water Djinn by Téa Obreht

Blue Water Djinn

There is a sense of pervading isolation in this story starting with the main character a young boy named Jack. Little Jack is left alone at a hotel in an Arabic country . He is placed in a context of a foreign country, immersed within a foreign culture amid a hotel with foreigners from different countries all as displaced and separate as he is but perhaps more so because he is the only child. He lives in the hotel alone with little supervision from adults which enables him to slip in and out at night and witness the drowning of one of characters labeled the Frenchman. Unable to make sense of this adult drama he keeps this secret to himself as he watches everyone search for the disappeared man whose clothes have washed up on the shore. The secret further separates him from those around him and weighs heavily on him.

The Frenchman like Jack is also isolated by being in a foreign country, but also being set apart from everyone by his substantial weight. When they find his clothes washed ashore they laugh at the size as they lay it on the sand, he is considered more of a joke then a person. The Frenchman does not have a real identity or a name and is instead referred to solely by humorous references to his portly size and his nationality.

The Frenchman’s drawings of things caught in the fisherman’s net is a symbol of creatures pulled out their habitat similar to the plight of the main characters: the boy and the Frenchman. It also speaks of the creatures final separation from earth, death. The Frenchman is aware of what they symbolize as the author describes him “There was something cowed and lonely in the Frenchman’s face when he looked at the things that came out of the water.” Then later again he is confronted by a turtle which has been hurt and pulled out of its habitat which it struggles with great effort to return to as it takes eight men to hold it in place. Again the Frenchman is aware of the turtles isolation as the author describes the scene through Jacks eyes. The Frenchman clearly wanted to touch the turtle, but the struggle on the beach made that impossible. The phrases bespeak of isolation of being ripped from the familiar but also the isolation found in death when the Frenchman questions the hotel employees about the crack on it’s back. He experiences a sense of lonely association with this suffering animal but even here he cannot touch it or connect with it because of the situation.

In the last scene the child is again alone on the beach at night looking through the port hole of sunken boat for the Djinn that the hotel employees have told him reside there which is off limits to all guests because of the dangers it represents. He is able to access the boat because of the low tide and we wonder if the tide will come in seperating Jack from the living like the Frenchman.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Dredgeman’s Revelation by Karen Russell

This story seems to investigate the strangeness of life and death, being and not being, living and not living. The main character, Louis is born dead to a dead mother and then as if he reverses his decision to be dead decides to live. Unfortunately for him he is sent to a family where he describes his escape from them as a coming alive, while also alluding to having killed his adoptive father. Simple put he has killed not to save his life but in order to live.

Louis later signs up for work on a barge where the crews lives our put on hold so that they are waiting their return to land in order to live again while Louis wants to avoid this return to land and perhaps to living to the point he fantisizes about sabotaging the ship.

Then, the end of the story, the ship does not return to land but instead catches fire which kills a crew member attracting scavenger birds. Louis discovers before being killed by these birds that he does in fact want to live just as death is at his door step and it is to late for him to do so.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

An Honest Exit by Dinaw Mengestu

An Honest Exit by Dinaw Mengestu

There are two exists in Dinaw Mengestu's story in which both man intentionally leave something behind to take back their identity and through this their dignity. Their exit is described as honest since it is departure from their compliant roles.

The son who teaches at a prestigous class leaves behind a job he feels he has unwittingly played the part of a trained monkey teaching class concerning a history which is not his own effacing his own identity as a black man. His father's death acts as a catalyst for him to grasp at his own immigrant history to reaffirm who he is.

Then there is his father who is forced to play the compliant puppet obeying Abrahim in order to leave Africa but who once in Europe rebels reassuming his independent identity and his desires.

Then their is also the fact that there is something not so honest about either mans exit from their former behavior. The father is breaking a pact he agreed to maintain with Abrahim, and the son has invented parts of his father's history. In order to be true to themselves, as adults, they realize that things are not so simple as the son students beleive them to be and that sometimes being honest is not a luxury we always have.

New Yorker: Lenny Hearts Eunice

New Yorker: Lenny Hearts Eunice
by Gary Shteyngart

The Game of Love is the salt on the twisty pretzel knot of life demonstrating how a little love helps us to endure the meadering knots we all work through which also perversly make us appreciate life, love, and pain all the more.

Lenny knows he will struggle, fail, lose his job, be abandoned by new generation and suffer their redicule but will hold on to love and savor the moments he has.

The salty pretzel is appreciated because of it's twists, gaps, and finite quality. Enjoy it now, it's almost gone.

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