April 8, 2007
Even though this doesn’t have much to do with summarizing what I thought of the class, I just wanted to ponder over something interesting that occured to me after reading Jon’s latest email about Blake’s blog. Some people have barely had anyone comment on their blogs, yet I’ve had quite a few comments on my blogs (and I’m not just saying that to toot my own horn). The thing is I never thought my blogs were particularily insightful, albeit I hope some of the ideas I came up with contained some value! What has been making people make comments on blogs? Is it easy access to just write a comment to someone who wrote in English, are people just being lazy and choosing the ones that are not as complex (aka my own blogs vs some that I have read). I just thought I’d put that out there.
Now on to what this blog is actually supposed to be about, the actual content of the class. I’m quite surprised how the class turned out. I was expecting to get and know right from the get-go that the books that I was reading were bad literature. I was quite unsure at the beginning when I did not know for sure whether or not Eva Luna was supposed to be considered bad literature by critics, scholars etc. After that moment it was almost as if we had this pressure put on us to make ourselves believe that each book we were reading was bad literature. Some books were obviously worse than others, but there were some books such as Mafalda that critically speaking, appeared to be perfectly fine “literature” for the genre that it is. I think as soon as this class was labeled Bad Latin American Literature, it filled us with preconceived notions of what we should be looking for, even though those ideas may have changed throughout the semester.
March 26, 2007
We talked about cheesiness being a factor that makes a book bad, well it can sure make television bad! El Corazon Salvaje is one large ball of cheese. What is great about watching a show together in class as opposed to reading a book solo is the fact that we can see and hear each other’s reactions to the telenovela, something you cannot do with a novel. We all know the parts that we laughed at because they were so outrageous.
Another interesting thing that I’ve discovered about telenovelas is how much they are like American soap opera’s, a new discovery for me as I have never before had the pleasure of watching one. They are not only cheesy like a soap opera; they follow the same structure as well. They both use overdramatic music. They both utilize beautiful actors wearing far too much makeup who also over act. And they both have over the top plots. In fact everything is over the top.
Is El Corazon Salvaje bad television? Yes, it really is, just like American soap operas are. Are they enjoyable and addictive? I bet they are. After all, who can’t derive pleasure from laughing hysterically at the passionate antics of the characters’ crazy love lives and deaths?
March 19, 2007
I don’t really know how to go about analyzing/critiquing this book as I have never studied comics before, but I’ll give it my best shot. I found it pretty hard to get some of the humor sometimes because of the language barrier; in fact I actually think that it’s easier to understand a Spanish novel over this comic’s humor. Of what I did understand, I found some of the topics slightly humorous, and others quite bizarre. For example, what is with Mafalda’s adverse disgust for soup? It’s such a strange idiosyncrasy to have. I know that some soup tastes bad, but not every type! And the fact that this is a recurring topic makes it even more bizarre. I also found it a tad tiresome to read over and over again about Felipe’s procrastination. It’s not a very stimulating topic. The political commentary is interesting; when you open up a North American newspaper, usually the comic strips that focus on children don’t contain many political themes. For example, I don’t ever recall Charlie Brown exclaiming over the state of the world’s political leaders etc. Some of the characters are pretty unique as well, such as Libertad. It is pretty amusing to see such a tiny girl speak so well. It was strange to see the characters age yet not change in appearance. When you watch a cartoon such as the Simpson’s, they do not age at all so it makes sense that they’re appearances do not change, but in the case of Mafalda it is just frustrating. This is not a very thought provoking point, but it was nice to see that the character’s clothing change through the strip. That is a slight pet peeve of mine when I watch cartoons and they only have one article of clothes. In fact I can’t really think of anything meaningful to say about this comic strip precisely because of the fact that I’ve never analyzed one before.
March 13, 2007
The second part of Los siete locos was not much better than the first part. I was bored to tears but that is not what I really want to focus on. The character profiles during the second part were more in depth than the first two chapters of the book, and the reader gets to see into the minds of other characters besides Erdosain, such as the Astrologer and Ergueta. It was definitely a fresh change from the ever whiny existential ponderings of Erdosain, yet this only revealed how crazy these characters also are. The Astrologer is completely delusional and his idea of what society should be is, well crazy. He definitely has that whole God complex going on inside his head. The whole notion of their secret society is silly and I definitely agree that they are doing this out of boredom, because who spends that much time concocting strange plans of world domination?
The ending was another factor of the book that added to its weakness. It was a non ending, it is kind of analogous to the ending of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, the reader is expecting some sort of culmination and wrap up, but is left entirely disappointed because there is no tying up of loose ends. You have to wait to read Los lanzallamas in order to see what occurs at the end of the plot. It is really frustrating to be left with nothing at the end of the book, especially when it is such a disappointing book in general.
March 7, 2007
This is definitely going to be my most negative blog yet. Whatever was going on in Arlt’s mind when he wrote Los siete locos must have been some strange stuff because this book is ridiculous. First of all, there is only so much existential musing a person can take. Pages on end are Erdosain’s thoughts about the meaning of life and his anguish at everything in the world. It is incredibly boring and he is an insufferably whiny. Second of all the way the characters’ minds work are disturbing. This does not necessarily make a book bad, but when there are barely any characters with decent qualities it becomes a little bit much. Erdosain ends up deciding that it is ok to become a killer, and as long as he is happy it is alright. The fact that he also wants to kill solely out of curiosity is a tad disconcerting. The Rufián thinks all women are inferior to men and basically seems to think no woman is above a prostitute. He and the Astrólogo both discuss the Klu Klux Klan and how powerful they are in the
United States. Finally the Astrólogo’s idea for a secret society is basically a dictatorship as far as I can tell. The whole idea of the novel is desolate, somewhat anarchist and eerie. I have read literature where there are negative portrayals of life and what it means, but the way they are written creates a more thought-provoking idea of the plight of humanity. The existential philosophies within Los siete locos just bore me.
February 26, 2007
So far I’ve found this class fairly unique compared to other literature classes that I’ve taken. First of all, we usually read what one considers to be good literature. Second of all, we usually don’t spend time analyzing why literature specifically is good or bad. It’s definately an interesting take on a literature class that’s for sure. I’m surprised that the books that I thought were good at first were considered bad by most other people, but once I analyzed the reasons why people considered them to be bad literature, I understood where they came from. Although I don’t always agree with absolutely every opinion that has arisen in class, some arguments have actually made me change my mind about certain aspects of the books. I think that this occurs solely because perhaps at first I don’t necessarily think deeply about everything I read in an analytical sort of way; I just absorb it and if it is immediately appealing, I decide that I enjoy the book. Once I listen or read other arguments to the contrary of mine own, I have time to rethink all of the angles of a book, and then can reform a more educated opinion.
February 11, 2007
The magical realism from this tale is overpowering like the smell from the cooking of some strong spicy dish, an image quite fitting for this story framed by cooking and recipes. Como agua para chocolate was my first glimpse into magical realism all the way back in Spanish 100, when my professor Elena Polkhilko introduced the film to our beginners’ eyes. I had no idea how to really understand the idea of magical realism at first, except to see that this particular account told a tale of ghosts, food affecting the emotions of the people eating it and love overpowering all, so much in fact that the main characters burn to death with the heat of passion. Needless to say the ideas behind this movie were strange to my virgin mind of magical realism. Now in my wizened state as a fifth year (note the tone of sarcasm please), I have read many more books dealing with magical realism, and so understand the basic definition more so than in my first year, but it still does not get that feeling of oddness out of this particular novel. I do like magical realism; I find it unique and interesting to contemplate when analyzing a text, yet Como agua para chocolate seems inundated with the form. Every chapter has some sort of event that bursts into magical realism, whether it is a lake of tears; a sister that has an overtly sexual experience from her rose quail; nursing a nephew; lovemaking that creates flames for others to see; or a whirlwind of fighting chickens. I’m not saying that this book is necessarily completely bad, there are some elements to it such as the relationship between love, family and personal independence that the novel explores which creates a plot to think about, but sometimes a little magical realism is enough.
February 7, 2007
I really enjoyed The Alchemist when I first read it, and I read it all even before we needed to finish the book because I enjoyed it so much. But now I’m beginning to wonder if the opinions of others are starting to have an effect on me, especially after the debate when I had to be con to the novel. Maybe the simple philosophies in this book are just that: simple philosophies, philosophies that are so obvious that in their simplicity why even acknowledge them? The notions of everyone having a dream and trying to follow it no matter what are written in so many children’s tales; we all have grown up with the idea of the pursuit of a goal. Coehleo also mentions in his interview at the end of the book that everything has a soul, and everything is interconnected (ie the Soul of the World). I read the children series His Dark Materials, which includes The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife, and these books described the idea of everyone and thing being connected, so when I was a young teenager I decided I believed this notion. The fact is that I was young when I decided this and therefore it is a simple concept that even a child can comprehend. Do we really need to hear these philosophies in a book that has such a thin layer covering it’s self-help genre? I think if we can already learn these ideas as children it is a bit redundant to hear them again as an adult. The only conclusion that I come out of my musings is that it definitely pays to be an aware reader and therefore realize that a book that may seem wonderful may perhaps not be quite so at a second glance.
January 29, 2007
So I guess I am an anomaly because it seems like I like books that other people find really bad. I really liked the message behind The Alchemist though, albeit the language style was utterly rudimentary and it sounded like it was a children’s book. Paul Coelho writes the tale as if it is a child’s fairy tale of some sort. He omits most names and the thought processes of the protagonist are simple at times. But perhaps the author is using a simple prose style in order to reflect the simple nature of the philosophies that he touches opon within the text. It’s as if the plot spells out philosophies of life, religion, love and creation in layman’s terms, in order for everyone to understand. After all, the text claims that these ideas should be simple yet mankind makes them complex and therefore at times impossible to comprehend. For example, the boy wonders why the Englishman makes it so complicated to learn about things such as the language of the world and the Alchemist explains that the secret to alchemy is simple, and men with their complicated philosophies tried to understand it but made it hard to understand simple concepts.
I guess one of the reasons I like this book so much is because, unless I heard wrong the other day in class, this book is really pessimistic, and I’m pretty sure I’m somewhat of a pessimist myself. The idea of attaining your dreams according to The Alchemist is very similar to Nietzsche’s philosophy of happiness: basically you can only reach true happiness once you have experienced utter desolation and hell. Once you have achieved complete misery, then you will finally understand how to truly be happy, sort of like how Eugene O’Neill portrays the philosophy in his play The Iceman Cometh, where the character Hickey spouts out this philosophy and claims that he now is happy. I actually think this philosophy works (at least for me it did), and the boy does have to undergo a lot of pain until he realizes his personal legend, and then he is truly happy. Hey it might not work for everyone, but it works for me.
January 22, 2007
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Eva Luna is a whirlwind of characteristics, and if you do not get anything out of this story, hopefully you enjoyed the many exotic stories that encompass her life. I hear people say that the story is too convoluted, there is too many characters shoved into one narrative and the reader only gets a superficial look into their lives, but I could not disagree more. The narrative of Eva’s life mirrors her own stories; she spins tales of faraway lands and intricate plots. She herself lives in a world of the imagination, first in a house of mummies, moving on later to a house of a prostitute and then to a small hamlet forgotten to the rest of the world, where she resides in an abode filled with a foreign culture.
The many characters that Eva encounters help spin the tale of her life into a detailed web. This is what makes an adventure so interesting, and her life isdefinitely an adventure. Each character is a representation of some sort. Huberto represents rebellion and chaotic freedom and dreams. Mimi represents a world of minority and struggle, yet one where the underdog sometimes gets ahead. The Yugoslavian represents escapism and fantasy. The Senora represents the margins of society, and somewhat mirrors Mimi when she was Melicio. Rolf represents many of the things that Eva herself represents. Eva represents all of the things that the characters that she encounters represent. She is a female in a land and time of machismo, therefore she represents a marginalized sex. She is also from a low class and has grown up struggling for freedom, financial gain and to just survive. She has been beaten, violated and extorted for labour. Eva also represents creativity and the freedom that one can gain from it. She tells tales that she can forget herself in and help other people forget the pains of reality by escaping into her fictionalized reality. The reader can encounter the same types of stories in many of the other characters. For example Rolf, Eva’s parallel character (who eventually ends up being her ), is a minority in a foreign country. He too was abused and grew up struggling for survival: to survive his father’s thrashings and survive through a world war. He too represents a form of creativity that helps people alleviate their pain by either viewing a brutal existence worse than the one that they are living or seeing the truth that is going on around them, and perhaps giving them some hope.
Finally, I think that some people do not realize that there are many important events occurring within the narrative, and that if one is bored or tired of the intensity of the plot trajectory or the intricate details of the story, that perhaps they should delve a little deeper and they will find a few gems of wisdom. Allende is not describing so many political events for the fun of it and for narrative entertainment, she is making is a pretty stark point in including these occurances. If the reader is bored of the day-to-day world of Eva maybe they should pay more attention to what is happening around her, and in the end to her.