Friday, February 25, 2011

It was not a Blog Post to Pass on

     Beloved ends on a note as strange and poetic as its whole with musings of whether or not the titular Beloved was ever really there and the repeated refrain that speaks to the rythm of, "It was not a story to pass on." Alluding to the nature of the novel and in turn breaking, or at least nudging up against, the fourth wall that thinly separates our concetion of fiction from our bare boned reality. (an absolutely AWESOME website for understanding how stories work that you should totally check out sometime, largely for its previously stated awesomeness) defines the 4th wall as- "the glass on the front of the TV tube, the invisible wall at the front of the stage play set. This separation between the characters and the audience" In breaking the fourth wall, Morrison has made it explicitly clear to her readers that they are reading a book, a practice which could in theory alienate her readers from the characters they've been spending time with, largely just makes one appreciate even more just how much she has done to ensure absolute emotional realism on the part of her characters.
     Despite the presence of ghosts and other near supernatural phenomena, Morrison treats her characters as realistically as she can. There's nothing clean cut about the flashback sequences, as instead of being separated by chapter, they are intercut to scenes of present day, creating an at first disorienting effect on the reader. Still though, the reader quickly settles into its rythms as it becomes apparent that the fictional characters remember past events in the same way as real people. The memories are disjointed and sporatic, meaningful and meaningless. This, coupled with Paul D's fear and Sethe's guilt and Denver's isolation and Beloved's parental abandonment, make for truly realistic characterizations. So when Morrison breaks the fourth wall during the final experience, the effect can especially jarring, reminding the readers that what they're reading isn't real, just the trials and tribulations of fictional characters. (though admitadly based upon real events, apparently).

Stranger? I Hardly Know Her!

     The theory posited in The Stranger, boils down essentially to the idea that nothing matters.
     I don't matter. You don't matter. The keyboard that I'm tying this on doesn't matter. It's all just kind of there and kind of in free fall with the absense of a governing body to watch over and manipulate it all.
     Mersault embodies this line of thinking, wading casually through a lifetime of nothingness, passively assisting in the petty foibles of quasi aquantences and always telling the truth without fail. He renounces religion and kills a man simply because the sun is shining down so brightly upon him.
     Still though, he enjoys life and doesn't want to die once the death penalty is placed upon him. It's the little things- amusing, through still ultimately irrelevent- that give him joy. Swimming in the ocean, a nice hard cigarette and casual sex with an old aquantance from work do bring him joy. If we take The Stranger's thematic underpinings of absurdism and nihlism to heart and examine the little things that cause nominal, irrelevent joy, I think Art would pop up somewhere in that conversation.
     If life doesn't matter, than arguably art, which theoretically reflects life, wouldn't matter much either. The Stranger is a devisive book and your enjoyment of it is determined largely by your philosophy on life. A religious person or someone inclined to believe that life is, you know, meaningful, probably wouldn't that be turned on by its concepts, whist a nihilistic, or even realistically based person might find it amazing. What's great about art is that no matter where exactly you fall on that sldiing scale of philosophical beliefs, you can enjoy and appreciate art. If everything in the world matters, than experiencing art can be a deeply personal exploration of the mind and of the soul. If you think it doesn't, then reading a book can be an amusing enough way to kill an afternoon or an evening. Either way, it works.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Crime and Punishment and Procrastination.

It is late, and I have zero ideas for this post. I shall revisit.

Here's a King Henry post IV you!

    Henry IV. Seems like a much simpler time doesn't it? We read that book all the way back in September. September! People still talked about jersey shore back then! Boy, things really are different.
     Anywhos, there's a pretty big disconnect between the September 18th date of my last post on this blog and the February 24th date of present. This is due, largely, to inconsitant usefulness on the part of my computer, new television episodes, senioritis and general procrastination. Probably some other stuff too. Anywhos, here we are.
     Four posts in and already I'm starting to have an issue with my "big question", as it were. So let's make like the yoga class, and make this post a bit of a stretch.
     Undoubtably, art can be classically identified as art. Incidently, so can novels, and films and photographs and theatre productions. In recent years though, dramatic television has also been making the transition from pop culture garbage to a legitimate form of expressing stories and ideas. Shows like The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad have been at the forefront of this shift, paving the way for a genuine respect for the medium.
     But television can't all be epic interpersonal sagas about the struggles of a city battling with drug dealers and corruption. Also, quite frequently even, it's funny. Comedies tend to get no respect, often regulated the to the role of disrespected class clown to the drama's intellectual teacher's pet.
     Though it's written as a history, King Henry the IV has just as much in common with the manically plotted episodes of the sadly- neigh, tragically- cancelled comedic opus Arrested Development as it might with say, War and Peace.
     Look at it from the perspective of a few select scenes-
     (1). Innuendos and Double Entendres- Hotspur and Lady Percy's belligerent, quasi fight scene, which has enough sexual innuendos to fill a porkhouse, manages to advance and develop the main foil without sacrificing the enjoyment of the reader. It's a funny scene, even if the jokes lay slightly beneath the surface.
     (2). Hilariously Intricate, Arguably Stupid Plans- In the context of the play, Hal's plan is taken mostly seriously. Hal is a prince. His father is the king. Naturally, by the genial progression, people WILL think highly of him. But that's not enough somehow. So as to make sure that people will think even more highly of him though, he pretends to be a party animal. This way, when he rises to the occasion, people will go "wow, look how much he improved and look how fast he grew up! That's like 10 times better than if he had just ruled us honorably." Without the context of the play, this plan is messed up to the near point of hilarity, so neuorotic that George Costanza and Homer Simpson would attempt similar ploys of self grandeur centuries later.
     (3). Faking Death = Hilarity. Falstaff, arguably the play's breakout character, is almost out of a sitcom himself. Whilst the rest of the cast is concerned with public appearance and revolt and war, he's mostly concerned with making a few bucks, staying alive and cracking as many jokes as subtily as he can and as quickly as he can. Briefly, just after the climax, the audience is led to believe that Falstaff has perished. Instead though, he merely faked his death so as to avoid the possiblity of being killed in battle. This trope is a familiar one to any fan of television, as pretending to be dead frequently weilds hilarious (and wacky) results.
     At it's heart, Henry IV is a genuinly funny play that incorporates the tropes and story types of modern day sitcoms into a historic and dramatic retelling of Prince Hal's rise to power. My conclusion, in the best way I might be able to make it at such late an hour, is that supposedly low brow sitcoms and tv comedies might not qualify as art, but all can (and many do) transcend to that level. The difference between the two is in the execution. Henry IV crafts its jokes with subtilty and ambiguity, using the insane conceits to both draw and laugh AND further the plot, filling in character details along the way.