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.
Nicole Krauss Introduction
By Anne Gouty
Nicole Krauss is the author of three novels. The first novel, Man Walks into a Room (2002), was about a man who loses his memory due to a brain tumor; the book follows him on his journey to find who he is. This book earned Nicole Krauss the title "one of America's best young writers" by Esquire Magazine for its unique voice. The reviews for her first attempt were nothing but good, as were the reviews for her second book The History of Love . This work of fiction written in 2005 follows the path of two very different characters, Leo Gursky, an old man whose main goal is to be seen on the day that he dies, a day he thinks is coming soon, and Alma Singer, a fourteen year old girl who is determined to keep her family happy and together, and find the woman that she was named for. The paths both of these characters take to get to each other cross and wind in ways that the reader does not expect, but the story is always filled with emotion. Krauss's third novel Great House has the same segmented sort of storyline as her second book and follows several very different people on their own separate journeys that take turns and twists that intrigue the reader. Krauss likens the way the story unfolds and becomes one story to a desk with many drawers that all mean different things to different people. Krauss's newest book has gotten great reviews just as all of her books, for her unique voice that weaves a story that is fun for the reader to follow and makes connections that seem to transcend the human condition.
Simon Armitage’s Seeing Stars and translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight:
Armitage; a step in the evolution of language.
Armitage; a step in the evolution of language.
By Tom Curr
In his heart, Simon Armitage is a storyteller. He mixes satire, fantasy, comedy and horror with a fresh and newfangled use of language to acquaint his readership with the creative settings he creates in his poetry.
Seeing Stars is a true triumph of mixing poetry and prose to create a dreamlike description of twenty-first century Britain and its stereo-types, flaws and magnificence. In his prose poem, ‘The Practical way to Heaven’ (page 43), Armitage parodies the stereotypical divide in Britain between London and non-London folk. He creates an extremely comic scenario in which the so-called “London people” are convinced that the north is now safe from the disgrace that is a pie. However, the northerners, desperate for the artistic approval of the Londoners, cannot ignore their passion for pie and secretly bathe in a giant steak pastry: “We’re pie people. Our mothers and fathers were pie people, and their mothers and fathers before them. Pies are in our blood.” He finds an eclectic mix of crafted, poetic imagery, “like the sails from a flotilla of tiny yachts in a distant bay” and fresh, colloquial, and contemporarily vibrant lexis, “announced a nasaly Maggie over the PA system” to resonate both artistry and modernity. Another example of such amalgamation is found in the previous poem ‘The Knack’ (page 41). The beautiful descriptive line, “like a cross section of the Alps or a graph of Romany populations over the centuries” is shortly followed by the line, “Then James Tate, a poet much admired in America, went by in an autogyro, flicking Boris the V-sign”. This is Armitage’s most precious endowment; his flair and artistry with language encompasses that of a classically trained bard as well as that of a 21st century slam poet and is a link to his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
It had to be a wordsmith with Armitage’s rare ability to tackle contemporizing a 14th century romance. He has the skill set to remain true to the craftsmanship of the unknown Middle-English poet while, in the words of a Sunday Telegraph critic, “liberating Gawain from academia”. For example, Armitage translates the line, “Laykyng of enterludes, to laghe and to syng” to “between sessions of banter and seasonal song”. Not only does he utterly modernize the line and expose ites meaning for an uneducated readership, he also maintains the craftsmanship; replacing the repeated ‘l’ sounds in the original line with a, perhaps more effective, sibilance (‘s’ sounds).
To conclude, Simon Armitage is a much needed link between, the old school and the new. He has acquired the skills of both and is a master craftsmanship of language. And, like all the best things, he’s from England.*
Editor’s Note: Tom himself is British born and bred
Must Love Simon Armitage
By Jasmine James
The World English Dictionary defines love as “to have passionate desire, longing, and feelings for something or someone.” Just about any person in a heterosexual relationship knows that love is a complex feeling and when trying to please both sexes it becomes even more difficult. The poems of Seeing Stars scream the voice of Simon Armitage. Through his book of poems he creatively addresses the issues of love. He illustrates betrayal, true love, and the overall mystery of what love is and how both men and women take their own approach to this universal but abstract feeling. Although this intense emotion still remains a semi-mystery, Armitage very well represents the different type of feelings and proves that true love endures all.
“An Accommodation” shows that true love never dies. Although a relationship may change, what originally separated a couple may be the very thing that brings them back together. The net that divided the home of couple helped them to rekindle their relationship. As it is initially placed “the net was the net, and we didn’t so much as pass a single word through its sacred veil, let alone send a hand crawling beneath it, or, God forbid, yank it aside and go marching across the line (4).” As impermeable as the net seems to be, it is the vary thing that unites the couple, as proven “but there it remained, and remains to this day, this tattered shroud, this ravaged lace suspended between our lives, keeping us inseparable and betrothed (5).” Years passed and yet the net still remained, like a symbol of the love they shared. This is also a representation that soul mates may endure many trials but they will still be stable for the other person.
For many sentimental reasons, people often believe that there is one special person just for them. The idea that someone out there is their soul mate gives many people closure and the confidence to find that person. Despite what the world is like around you there is one person that is always there for you. “Last Words” is the epitome of that theory. As Dean is about to take his last breaths he ask: “‘do you think we could have made it together?’ ‘I think so,’ she whispered. ‘I don’t like courgettes,’ Dean joked, and those were his last words. ‘I would have done broccoli instead,’ she breathed, ‘or even cauliflower. Whatever you asked for I would have made (22).’” Even the fact that Dean and C die together is a symbol of true love. Them dying at the same time would never let them find another person that would be just right for them as they are for each other.
True love is not something that is meant to hurt. If it is really supposed to be true then there is no doubt that both people will be genuine about it. “The Cuckoo” has another one of Armitage’s strange hoax. Although James feels that he really loves Carla she is merely acting. “’Didn’t it mean anything, Carla?’…’Dunno,’she shrugged. ‘I’d have to check the file.’ James could have punched a hole in her chest and ripped out the poisonous blowfish of her heart (7).” The fact that she is able to shrug it off shows that it is not true love and can easily be broken apart.
Armitage proves that true love is practically unexplainable. The fact that two people can love each other so much it defies all odds against it. True love is able to rebound and find each other again. The fact that two people find each other just as they are about to die is not simply chance but it is meant to happen. The “rule” that says there is one soul mate for each person makes it possible. Through his poems Armitage shows that he knows something about love.
Review of History of Love
By Jaci Turner
The History of Love features interrupted love stories within many different contexts. The relationships created by Nicole Krauss are dysfunctional which allows readers to connect to their imperfect characteristics. When asked about the creation of her characters in a question and answer session at Butler University, Nicole responded that she starts with a character and then begins to imagine conversations that the character might have. She said that she writes in almost a stream of consciousness form, with the end result being a book that is three times the length of the book that will be published. This thorough process might seem inefficient, but it allows Krauss to develop characters that seem to be rich with life experience. Throughout the novel, the characters of The History of Love experience relationships with unresolved endings.
Leo Gursky is a survivor of the Holocaust who escaped to New York to pursue his childhood love, only to find that she has married and has a son. True to one of his teenage promises, Leo stayed true to her: “Their love was a secret they told no one. He promised her he would never love another girl as long as he lived. ‘What if I die?’ She asked. ‘Even then,’ he said” (Krauss 11). Leo loves Alma his whole life, even though for most of his adult life it was completely unrequited.
This is echoed in young Alma’s relationship, or lack thereof, with Misha. Alma is Misha’s first friend in America, and in many ways, Misha is Alma’s first real friend as well. Their friendship has much more meaning than many childhood friendships, Misha and Alma share secrets and insights that seem far beyond those of a 12 year old, “I told Misha everything. About how my father had died, and my mother’s loneliness, and Bird’s unshakeable belief in God. I told about the three volumes of How to Survive in the Wild, and the English editor and his regatta, and Henry Lavender and his Phillipine shells, and the veterinarian, Tucci.” These are complex ideas and feelings, much deeper than what a preteen girl would feel comfortable sharing with a boy she has just met. When their relationship blossoms into something more, it is Alma again who flees, following the footsteps of her namesake generations before. When the story ends, Alma and Misha have not reconciled - a heartbreaking thought. Alma and Misha’s romance could have left the reader with hope that they would have the great love story that Alma and Leo never did.
These two interrupted love stories, along with many others woven in throughout the story, show the complexities of love and their long lasting impacts. Alma and Leo’s romance left many heartbreaks and lifelong regrets, which is why I, as a reader, ached so much for Alma and Misha’s falling out. They seem to being following the same path for heart ache, which makes me want to reach out and show them the mistakes they’re making.
This is one of Krauss’s strengths as a writer; she develops characters that make the reader empathize with and reach out to with guidance and support. Young Alma is like a younger sister that you want to help and give advice to, and Leo is an interesting uncle that tells stories from the war. Her characters are real people that bring about real emotions. Even with the complex plot and intermingled character relationships, the story is easy to follow because the reader genuinely cares about characters’ emotions and opinions.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
Introduction to Jhumpa Lahiri
By Jaci Turner
Jhumpa Lahiri is a Bengali American author, having immigrated to the United States at a very young age. She has been quoted as saying, “I wasn’t born here, but I might as well have been.” Her background and connection to her parents’ homeland of Calcutta, however, shines clearly through in all of her short stories which are bound together with the common link of Bengali American immigrants and their struggles with identity, family, and what it means to live in America.
Lahiri published her first collection of short stories in 1999 and won the Pullitzer Prize for Interpreter of Maladies. This was a huge success for her because it came after years of rejection from publishers. Also, the stories were very personal to her background and family, even though they were fiction. In an Online Newshour interview, Lahiri expresses the personal connection to her stories, “It's also, in part, drawn from my own experiences and a sense of... I always say that I feel that I've inherited a sense of that loss from my parents because it was so palpable all the time while I was growing up, the sense of what my parents had sacrificed in moving to the United States, and in so many ways, and yet at the same time, remaining here and building a life here and all that that entailed.” The stories in Interpreter of Maladies focus on the gap between generations and how immigrant families feel distanced from their relatives back home and their new American neighbors.
In 2003, Jhumpa published her first novel, a story that follows a Bengali American family as they struggle to keep their culture while still embracing what America has to offer. The novel shows the tension of a couple whose son will never understand the roots of his culture and to his parents’ dismay tries to disregard his culture even to the extent of changing his name. The novel was adapted to a movie in 2006 in which Lahiri even has her own cameo. In an interview with the New York Times Lahiri discusses the differences she experienced between writing a novel and short stories, “I don't make a huge distinction in terms of what they require because I think an idea is either working or it isn't. And it can work—or not—at long or short or medium length. It depends on what the story I want to tell needs. I always think first about the nature of the story. When I had the idea for The Namesake, I felt that it had to be a novel—it couldn't work as a story. One difference is that in The Namesake each piece was contributing to a larger whole.” The Namesake is more of a coming of age story; it focuses on Gogol’s transformation, the full circle, rather than the small snap shots of character’s lives in her short stories from Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth.
Lahiri’s latest novel, published in 2008 has been critically acclaimed as well and was selected as number one on the New York Times Book Review list of "100 Best Books of 2008," and it also won the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. Unaccustomed Earth features many stories with characters that are in the process of finding home. For example, in the title story “Unaccustomed Earth” the main character has recently lost her mother and moves across the country with her American husband away from her father. She begins to miss her family and her childhood growing up in the East Coast. When her father comes to visit, he plants flowers and engages her son in activities and makes her new house feel more like home. When asked about this new theme in her writing in an interview with The Atlantic, Lahiri responded, “It interests me to imagine characters shifting from one situation and one location to another for whatever the circumstances may be. In this collection the reasons are more personal somehow—they're reasons of family dynamics or death in the family or things like that. In this book I spend more time with characters who are not immigrants themselves but rather the offspring of immigrants. I find that interesting because when you grow up the child of an immigrant you are always—or at least I was—very conscious of what it means or might mean to be uprooted or to uproot yourself. One is conscious of that without even having ever done it. I knew what my parents had gone through—not feeling rooted.”
The common thread throughout Lahiri’s books seemed foreign and intimidating at first. I was not sure how I would be able to connect with characters that were immigrants or felt foreign in their surroundings. I have lived in the same house my whole life and my aunts and uncles live down the street from me. The characters’ internal struggle with identity and home is the factor that creates the bond between the reader and the characters.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Love, the Killer
By Erin Palm
We have all heard the sayings about love. We’ve heard that falling in love is the greatest thing ever, that love can heal all wounds, and that nothing can kill love. But the other side of love, the side you don’t usually hear about, is how love kills and destroys things. Poet Linda Gregg seems to know of the disappointment, despair, and loneliness that comes when love overpowers you and leaves you in the dust. From many poems and stories, we see that love is a surveyor, but what of love’s other side, the killer that love can be? Gregg has readers ask, how is love a killer?
Love can bring you up and give you a life to live, but it can also tear you to ruins. Gregg tells us of a house in ruins after the departure of love in the poem “Silence and Glare.” She inspects this adobe house made of mud and straw. It’s falling apart even though “A house / made of mud and straw otherwise can last / for centuries,” (p.33, 5-7). She sees bees coming in and out, plaster falling, uncovered windows, and dirt floors. She states this house is “A place to be now that love is gone,” (p.33, 16). In stating this, she means that this abandon, decrepit house is perfect for someone who is falling apart for love is no longer in her life. Love was the key element for both the speaker of the poem and also the house. Love was essentially the glue keeping them together, but now love is gone and the house and speaker are falling apart.
Love is the most powerful force on Earth. For Gregg this is an understatement. Love is powerful enough to kill. It’s so powerful that even the Gods can’t stop it. This is clearly stated in Gregg’s poem, “Even if the Gods look Down.” Gregg starts the poem off with the lines “Hawks are flying slow high above / the barren ground where love / used to be” (p.4, 1-3) These hawks are an indication of something dead, love in this case. The fallowing lines “The heavy salmon / are dying as they struggle with the last / of their strength in the shallows / to get home.”
(p.4, 3-6), show how the salmon are dying from trying to swim through shallow waters to their homes. Their homes are what they love, so in a way they are dying for love.
The next line “Even if there were gods / what could they do about love” (p.4, 6-7), hints at how love is too powerful to stop. That love is the ultimate force to be reckoned with. Love can kill you, love can give you strength, and love can keep you alive. Gregg states that love is so powerful, that if there were any gods, they would not be able to stop it. It will either help us or it will destroy us.
In the final lines of “Even if the Gods Look Down”, Gregg goes on to talk about how tender and loving the heart is. The heart is beautiful and full of life, yet it can be “slayed” (p.4, 9), meaning the heart can be hurt, slayed, or killed by love. She compares the heart to a deer. A deer is beautiful, free, full of life, yet often it is “killed and eaten” (p.4, 11), for the love of it meat or in this poem, it’s liver. Gregg says that love will kill for whatever it wants, and then it will leave you to rot or bleed out, much like how the deer is killed for its liver and then “hung outside to bleed” (p.4, 13).
Since love is such a harsh killer, it’s hard to survive the hits and blows we get from it. In two different poems of Gregg’s, she tells the reader of how damaging love is and how hard it is to get over the pain it causes. In the poem “They Cripple with Beauty and Butcher with Love,” Gregg states that love causes pain with the line “If the man lied about love / or even if it was true, there was immense pain,” (p.35, 7-8). As a whole the poem talks about getting over the pain of love, about forgetting the one you loved, and about starting over “At the beginning where / love ends,” (p.35, 9-10). For the other poem, “Surviving Love,” Gregg spends the day walking outside and praising life, yet at the end of the day she states it’s hard to get over love, “Back in the house, I lie down in the heat / for a nap, realizing forgiveness is hard / for the wounded,” (p.57, 12-14). For whatever reason love has left and abandoned someone, it will always be hard and challenging to return to normal life and get over it.
Love can heal you, bring you to life, make your world beautiful and worth living. On the other hand though, love can ruin you, leave you in pieces, make the world ugly and unforgiving, but most importantly love can kill you. This is why Gregg writes of love's power and unstoppable ways. She praises those who fall in love, but warns them of the aftermath. Gregg states that love can make you do things, can tear you apart, and can hurt you permanently. She turns the tables on love, showing the killer that lurks inside.