Monday, April 30, 2012
by Kriste Lapkus
The hardships of the immigrants who make up the unique “melting pot” of America are easily forgotten. These brave immigrants, arriving from all ends of the world, sacrifice so much to survive in a new environment while attempting to save their own culture’s individuality. The excitement and anxiety of leaving behind a beloved home and culture is the underlying theme in Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Unaccustomed Earth”. Lahiri, who is of Bengali descent and born in London, was raised in Rhode Island and presently lives in Brooklyn. She is living proof that the place where your closest attachment to isn’t always the country from which you are bound to by birth or blood, but where you feel most comfortable becoming yourself. In this collection of stories, this forgotten truth is quietly whispered between the pages, with a raw energy that only Lahiri manages to muster.
Jhumpa Lahiri begins a new type of storytelling, or writing that doesn’t necessarily teach a moral at the end of a typical happy ending. Each of the eight stories in “Unaccustomed Earth” doesn’t have a settled end to the hardships, unlike most classic stories have in the past. On the contrary, Lahiri teaches the moral of the stories along the way for the reader to learn on his or her own. According to the New York Times, “Lahiri shows that people may be felled at any time by swift jabs of chance, wherever they happen to live. Uncontrollable events may assail them — accidents of fate, health or weather”. The hardships and sufferings of the characters that were uprooted from their homeland are written realistically in Lahiri’s point of view and don’t always end in a stable ending, such as reality does. Her stories breathe the concealed reality that immigrants have to deal with on a daily basis.
Each of the characters of “Unaccustomed Earth” are brought to life by Jhumpa Lahiri, as if without trying. She seems to allow them to grow and mature while she sits back and waits from them to either bloom or crumble. In one of the short stories, “Unaccustomed Earth”, Ruma blossoms from a simple wife that recently lost a mother, to a complex woman. Lahiri writes, “there were times Ruma felt closer to her mother in death than she had in life, an intimacy born simply of thinking of her so often, of missing her. But she knew that this was an illusion, a mirage, and that the distance between them was now infinite, unyielding.” Through beautiful phrases such as these, her stories are brought to life.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s collection, “Unaccustomed Earth”, is a literary success. Each story is based off of the same theme, yet completely unlike the other. Lahiri shows the complexity of immigrant families while keeping it simple for the readers. By reading this assortment of short stories, the reader cannot stop him or herself from diving into the drama of Lahiri’s characters’ lives. Jhumpa Lahiri is out to change her reader’s conceptions of immigrants. So far, she is succeeding with great triumph.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
By Rachael Franks
Gregg spoke on many topics, often relying on examples she quickly spun off to demonstrate her point rather than insufficient explanations. Yet, perhaps what was most noticeable about Gregg’s visit was her genuineness. Poetry is her life; she is not just “fooling around” as she stated. This is evident in the respect she has for her craft, going so far as to say that poems have rights. A poem has its own journey to take and therefore as Gregg states, censorship has no place in writing. By altering poetry for fear of offending the reader, a poem’s integrity is lost.
Respect for her craft was not only shown through Gregg’s words, but also her appearance. Purposely dressed in grey and black, Gregg tries to “not notice” herself and not become a distraction so more focus can be paid to her writing. She is secondary to her work.
Such dedication takes a great driving force and Linda Gregg has found it in her own work. She is continually learning, discovering and uncovering facets of her world when she writes and it is that “magic” that has filled her life. It is this idea that lends itself to become the standard of good poetry, a topic heavily debated. Good poetry inspires the reader and reveals their world in a new way, regardless of topic, form or word count. Gregg’s poems encompass both of these ideals and therefore embody “good poetry.” Yet, even more as a writer, Gregg hopes to make her readers understand that all of us “are more amazing than we know.” She hopes her poems show readers just how fantastic our world and their life is and can be. I think she has done just that.
Nicole Krauss Visit
By Andrea Rubens
It was one of the first really nice days of spring on campus and everyone was loving the weather. I walked over to the Effroymson Center and grabbed some snacks and took a seat. Nicole Krauss was given a brief introduction and as she walked to the front of the room, you could feel her calm energy. Without hesitation she approached the podium in the front of the small room of students and members of the community wearing her red vest with interesting gold geometric patterns, holding a bottle of water in hand. She simply asked, “Okay. So who has a question?” and it began.
In her book History of Love, Krauss uses very unique and developed characters to tell a story. When asked about how she creates and develops these characters she simply answers, “I just always follow instinct”. Referring to The History of Love and its characters, Krauss says the development and characterization of Alma and Leo came from her realizing that she had empathy for the characters and the writing came out of her questioning herself: “Why do I have empathy for Alma and Leo?”.
The History of Love centers on Leo Gursky, a WWII refugee from Poland who currently resides in New York. Krauss has often been referenced as a “3rd Generation Holocaust Survivor” having a close relation to the Holocaust through family members’ experiences. She does not agree with that or associate herself with that generalization. She says, “My existence stemmed from that event. I think of my life as existing in the aftermath.” In terms of her writing Krauss says, “I think dramatically. The aftermath of a catastrophic loss or event is interesting because it has to do with the characters as survivors. In terms of Leo’s character [in The History of Love] his imagination lets him recreate the situation in his life.”
In terms of her writing style and the process of writing a novel Krauss says, “It’s a lot of trial and error. It’s only though allowing myself to go through the liberties of what my instincts suggest.”
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
By Rachael Franks
When I was younger, I was terrified that I would be cross-eyed. An irrational childhood fear to some, but I lived my tiny life within its constraints. I would follow my finger with my eyes or obsess over their placement in the mirror. At night, I even slept with my pinky finger nudged in between my eye and nose, hoping that it would keep them aligned until morning. These were imaginary cures for an imaginary problem. Yet, it all felt real to my five-year-old self. This power of imagination can be found in Nicole Krauss’s novel, The History of Love. As the title insists, it is a novel about love but less obvious, it is about the loss of love. In the novel, the characters Leo and Charlotte construct their own realities after the person they love is gone. They live within a constructed reality and much like me as a child, are constrained because of it. Yet, that is also how they manage to carry on. Leo and Charlotte survive loss by creating a world in which they can cope.
Leo creates a world around the love of his life, Alma. Their romance was arguably the strongest influence in his life. Everything he did or did not do was in response to her and that did not change with her absence. In fact, it only grew stronger for “if it weren’t for her, there would never have been an empty space, or the need to fill it (57). Fill it Leo does, or tries to with his friend Bruno. When he cannot have Alma, he becomes dependent on Bruno. Leo cannot “imagine a life without him,” and he creates a reality in which he never has to be without him (209). Despite Bruno’s death years earlier, Leo continues to interact with an imaginary version of Bruno. They check up on each other, tap conversations through the pipes, have breakfast together and even have fights. However, Leo does not construct this imaginary world for lack of sanity, but rather the opposite. “The truth is the thing [he] invented to live” and in this case, the invented truth was a world where Bruno was still alive (167). After Alma, Bruno is all Leo had and to survive he constructed his own reality where he could continue to depend on Bruno. Knowing Bruno was not real did not matter, because to Leo, he was alive and because of that, so was he.
After losing her husband, Charlotte enters an imaginary world where he still exists. She recaptures the way he made her feel through memories. These “memories… soothed her even while they made her sad,” for Charlotte desperately grabs for any glimmer of her husband (181). Yet, in choosing to live in a constructed world of memories rather than reality, Charlotte “sacrificed the world” (46). She even gave up her family, as they would never “be able to win over the memories she had” (181). However, this is not a reflection of her feelings for her family, as she tells her daughter, Alma, she loves her constantly, so much so that Alma wants to tell her mother to “love [her] less” (43). This is the aftermath of her husband’s death and Charlotte’s reaction to loss. By shaping the world around her to one in which her late husband exists, Charlotte will never be lonely nor happy. Charlotte can survive.
Living in a self-constructed world means giving up life. Yet, it also means preserving love. In reality, Leo and Charlotte would have to let go of their loves and move on. In their constructed realities, they can hold on forever. Author Nicole Krauss speaks about such catastrophic events, like the death of a loved one, and what those events ask of the survivor. In the case of Charlotte and Leo, they undergo what Krauss calls a “radical recreation of self” in order to go on. Their existence is dependent on the life of their loved one and are therefore forced to create a world where both fallen and survivor can live.