White Noise Is Rather Tough To Take…

 

White Noise by Don DeLillo was a novel I was expecting to dislike. For some reason, the front cover was repelling me, and I thought it was going to something similar to a postmodern ghost story. I was right, to a certain extent, because Don DeLillo does write a prelude to a ghost story. He maps the mentality of death, and an abject fear of what is to come, and what comes afterwards. His protagonists, Jack Gladney, and his wife, Babette, represent a kind of paralysis of mentality; their fear of death overrides their sense of everything else.

This, I think, can be considered both an advantage and a disadvantage. A disadvantage, because they live, believing that they can and will be dead at any moment; their marriage is overshadowed by a fear of the other dying, and so their petty rows, and Babette’s ‘arrangement’ with Mr Gray is insignificant, in comparison to her fear of losing the physical and emotional entity that is Jack. Therefore in many ways, the sanctity of marriage and union itself is questioned.

The cover that so unnerved me… (1)

Their sense of death however is an advantage because it allows them to explore the parameters of marriage in terms of a whole existence. Instead of a focus on small events, the couple manage to look at everything as a whole. The ‘airborne toxic event’ is not an individual disaster, and instead, the protagonist seems to focus on the impact it has on his entire life; the fact that it is shortened by this unknown threat. In some ways then, the fear of death provides a mechanism so that both protagonists can stay united by the unresolved fear.

The novel places a very heavy emphasis on the importance of technology to modern-day life. Throughout the text, phrases such as “the radio said” are used. This reminds the reader of George Orwell’s 1984, because there is an outside force that influences the character’s movement. The instantaneous information that is available through the television and radio influences the fear of death that Jack and Babette experience; unreliable information seems to only emphasize the unreliable nature of life, and the unpredictability of death. The relative power of the medical industry is also highlighted by Jack’s “brackets and stars” status. His doctor represents an omen, and therefore towards the end of the novel, Jack refuses to visit him, to find out more details of his impending death. This refusal shows a monumental step in his life, because he refuses to indulge the fear itself.

By far my favourite scene however, is when Jack shoots Mr. Gray, the man who has allegedly created the drug that removes a person’s fear of death. The shooting can be seen as an irony, because Mr. Gray represents being fearless. Therefore by causing him serious injury and plotting to kill him, he metaphorically attacks the idea of being unafraid of death. Gunshot wounds are an unnatural way to die, in the same way that it is unnatural to be unafraid of one’s own passing.

The novel itself is an interesting comment on 1980s society, especially because of the novelty value of technology at the time. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I should.

(:

(1) http://theasylum.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/whitenoise.jpg?w=470

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To Read Or Not To Read; That Is the Question

I’ve often wondered about literary opinion, and how literary opinion differs between people. Everyone understands the world in a different way to somebody else, and so naturally, they will understand literature differently too. Literature, and one’s attitude and understanding towards it, depends on experiences. Experiences of education, literature, whether you enjoyed your lessons when you were in primary school, whether you have a natural love of reading. These are all key factors in understanding what literature is, and whether you enjoy it, or despise it.

I know people who have yet to finish an entire book, and I suspect there are people who go their whole lives barely reading books and magazines. This is of course, a life choice. Whether you want to read or not is entirely up to you; education demands a certain amount of reading. If you choose a literature, or essay based degree, you’ll find reading to be nonnegotiable. Arts courses tend to be much more vocational, and this choice depends very much on the style of learning one is accustomed to.

Philosophy of the Mind (1)

It’s difficult to know how you’ll feel about different kinds of literature, until you experience it. For example, I don’t like all kinds of literature. I really dislike mythical Greek and Roman texts, as well as finding James Joyce’s Ulysses utterly intolerable. Some regard it as an example of the greatest literary creation of all time. I think it is a grammatical abomination, and something that is so complicated that it begins to lose its point, because it’s completely inaccessible. Conversely however, I thoroughly enjoy T.S Eliot, who is well-known for regarding literature as an elite pursuit and past time.

Philosophy is something else that is considered highbrow, and rarely brought down to an accessible level. It is complicated because it involves thinking about the makings of the universe, and theorizing on that most illusive of characters, knowledge. However it’s less complex than some think; it’s a matter of having a good teacher and a simple reader, to introduce someone to the rudimentary elements of philosophy. There’s no need to over-complicate things, and dive straight into analysis on Plato’s dialogues.

I consider literature to be one of my greatest loves, and I consider almost everything to be literature. I think that the well-written blog can be considered literature of all sorts; some blogs can be understood as literotica, some can be understood as beautiful prose. New writing is the writing that will one day be considered classic, and will belong to the modern cannon, and so I think it’s important to look at new literature, read magazines, of all kinds; fashion, photography, literary; they’re all part of a modern culture that will, like all cultures before it, be revered by future generations.

It’s all about enjoyment, you see. Culture is formulated through the things that people enjoy; a city with a strong opera programme tends to become linked to the opera as a pursuit and therefore becomes a cultural construct. To this end, we create our own culture. I’d like to think we do, at least.

(:

(1) http://philosophy.uchicago.edu/workshops/_files/Philosophy-of-Mind-Workshop.jpg

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On Waiting, and Trying Again

The problem with being a potential candidate for something, is that there are also other, potential candidates. They all want the same thing; you all have the same goal. They probably all want it just as much as you do. They probably worked just as hard on their articles as you did. They probably researched just as thoroughly, as you did too. So how can you possibly play the guessing game? You can’t, is the reality of it. Sure, you can add up the possibilities; you can endlessly rake over your work, look at things you could have done better; you can reread, as much as you like, but the reality is that you can’t change the article you’ve already submitted.

Latest photo of myself... (1)

The same sort of thing happens at job interviews, and in the case of being a student, the question is not whether you are good at your job or not, or how much experience you may have; it’s about your ability to be able to work consistently, throughout the year. And in the course of being a student, I live on the other side of the country to home. Which means that I would not be able to work during the holidays, because I have a job at home to go back to, and a family, that I like to see at least every three months. However, employers aren’t satisfied with having you for nine months of the year; if they want to hire you, they want it to be on a consistent basis. This is currently one of the challenges I am facing, in finding a job down at university; even pubs seem to be looking for permanent, and not absentee-for-three-months-a-year staff. This, coupled with the present state of the job market, makes part-time employment increasingly more difficult to obtain.

This tirade, you might say, was somewhat unprovoked; however in my little (exhausted) mind, it all made perfect sense, because I’ve been submitting applications left, right and centre. It sounds petty, and it sounds pathetic to be so cross, about this, but it’s a journey that seems futile. Having recently read Mr. Palomar as well, things are certainly feeling a bit futile; the man’s constant existentialist crisis makes me want to shout at him, and ask, (almost) politely, whether he has a real problem. A debt collector, or an illegitimate child, perhaps. Anything that would motivate him, to actually do something. And this is entirely the problem; even when you do everything, all the time, it doesn’t always work out perfectly.

But nevertheless, even though I’m not feeling optimistic today, due to a combination of being tired, my muscles hurting, and being buried under a pile of work, it will “all come to he who waits”, as my mother often says. A phrase that has annoyed me since I was about twelve years old. I hope she continues to be right; it would be beautiful timing to end the trend of “Mum is always right” now. Anyway, chin up, chuck.

(:

(1) http://www.routerfreak.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/frustration.jpg

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My Misguided Affair with Jane Austen

For a long time now, I’ve hailed Jane Austen as my least favourite author. Having suffered through Pride and Prejudice at GCSE and despising every second of it, I couldn’t bring myself to suffer through Sense and Sensibility. However now, I’m compelled to read Mansfield Park  in preparation for next term, and so snuggled up in bed with a pot of tea, I braced myself for yet another sitting room drama and social commentary. And was extremely pleasantly surprised.

I’ve always found the endless social details of Jane Austen nothing but intolerable, but when I began this novel, I was slowly brought around to the idea that I may actually enjoy Jane Austen. The story of Fanny Price departs from the diatribe that is (at least in my opinion) Pride and Prejudice and begins to explore themes a little wider than marriage, and the roles of women; she begins to look at adultery and themes of friendship. The humility of Fanny is endearing to any reader, and unlike Pride and Prejudice, there seems to be a little more in the way of progression and action, which as a reader, I find crucial.

Jane Austen's House (1)

In much the same way as I find Much Ado About Nothing intolerable, I like a novel to have an engaging and interesting plot, if only so that I can enjoy it on a superficial level, and to give some enjoyment to  the physical act of reading. There is nothing worse than having to struggle with a novel, reducing it to being an unendurable experience. Fundamentally, reading should be a positive act, something to entrance the mind instead of repelling it. By making literature inaccessible to everyone say a selected few, the author strangles his industry. That is not to say that Jane Austen is inaccessible however; only in my personal opinion, at least she was, up until now.

Whilst I haven’t quite finished the novel quite yet, I feel as though I’m going to enjoy it. I may become fascinated with her as both a person and a writer, and I think that after this novel, I will try to tackle Emma. Suggestions here are welcome!  I think my plan for the evening involves a small drink with my flat mates, an episode of Blackadder, and then an evening of Mansfield Park. What more could I ask for?

(:

(1) http://www.infobritain.co.uk/Jane_Austen_House_Garden.jpg

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The Art of Procrastination

There is something very inviting about procrastination; not doing what you really ought to be doing, in favour of doing something that is either productive indirectly, or productive in terms of increasing your knowledge of Channel 4 “mockumentaries” or spending money your student budget doesn’t cover, or chatting to your friends on Skype. However, it becomes a paradox in that there is a guilt underpinning the procrastination, and said victim of procrastination is likely to be sitting around saying “I really should be doing…”. And thus begins a cycle of unproductive behaviour and subsequent lack of self-worth.

Therefore, the art of procrastination is to only do it when it will actually be productive to do so; for example, when you’re about to rush into buying another woollen jumper that you don’t really need, or when you’re considering going to sit in the student union all night, spending disproportionate amounts of money in relation to the amount of fun you actually will have. You should procrastinate here. This kind of procrastination is what I’m going to call “positive.”

However, being a student, I’m learning about procrastination; procrastination on reading invariably makes it harder and harder to begin such a venture, leading to the hapless look on a person’s face in a seminar when they realise that they really should have done a little research into the concept of Greek catharsis, or Aristotle’s explanation of the tragedy. Also, by not doing to reading, life becomes slightly less enjoyable, because you become a tiny tadpole in an ocean of knowledge, about to be eaten by the sharks swimming around. So procrastination is a bad thing in this scenario.

There are also little everyday scenarios where procrastination may be a negative thing, for example. Procrastinating of laundry, which leads to a lack of clean clothes and an ever-growing pile of dirty t-shirts in the corner of your room. This inevitably creates the smell of socks. Also, if you procrastinate in either the buying or preparing of food, your diet begins to consist of supernoodles, cup-a-soup and Kitkats. A typical student existence then.

But, speaking for myself, I only procrastinate on two occasions: exhaustion and illness. I lack the strength of will for extensive procrastination, you see; the guilt eats away at me, ruining the supposed relaxation anyway. So now, I’m off to investigate The Second Sex, by Simone De Beauvoir, to stave off any potential seminar regret tomorrow.

(:

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