Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fiction Reflections

One thing I loved about the fiction section within the anthology was the authors’ abilities to address characteristically human emotions and predicaments with such varied styles and structures. Ray Gonzalez’s dreamlike, stream of consciousness pieces serve as extremes on this spectrum, versus the more "traditionally" organized short stories; Gonzalez favors a composition emphasizing a brevity of scenes, lack of formalized structure and scheme, and repeated use of subject-verb-predicate sentences. This in turn creates a sense of urgency for the reader that engages the reader and allows him to momentarily overlook the implausibility of the events taking place: We must find out what happens to the komodo dragon!
Sherman Alexie’s "Assimilation" was particularly captivating in its astute anecdotes and character quirks that—for me—make the story easy to relate to. Bearing witness to the thought processes of the characters—like Mary Lynn’s conclusion that her infidelity is a "political act"—allows us to relate to them through our shared human experience and characteristics, and reminds us that we are all subject to vices and imperfections. There is no threat of over-explanation in the story: relevant details flow together without superfluous information that might be "boring." Another tool that makes the piece particularly interesting is the author’s use of in-the-moment revelations and thoughts of the characters that punctuate the narrative (On page 9, for instance, "his secret: He was still in love with a white woman from high school he hadn’t seen in decades."). This structure reflects genuine human thought processes, which tend to be spontaneous, sporadic, and seemingly random.
"Nelson’s Run" by Peter Bacho is another intriguingly constructed short story. Using the juxtaposition of two superficially unrelated prologues as a narrative structure requires an intimate story-reader relationship, in that it stimulates deeper thought and analysis on the part of the reader. Trying to understand the reason that the author includes both prologues requires reflection and retrospection on the deeper meaning and themes of the gestalt piece. This method of writing permits contradictions and nuances in social belief to emerge from the characters’ interactions. For example, the reverence of women and maternity within some cultures—shown in the scholarly presentation of Dr. Bulaklak—is immediately debunked as a contrary treatment of women is revealed through the story of Nelson’s Daddy, and the subsequent maturation of Nelson.

1 comment:

christinag said...

I enjoyed much of the prose section in Humor Me, particularly the story entitled "Godoy Lives" by Daniel Chacon, and Sherman Alexie's "Assimilation." In general, Sherman Alexie's writing is astutely hilarious, and "Assimilation" is no exception. One of the more comedic aspects of the story is in Alexie's allusions to Shakespeare and Sitting Bull. He uses Shakespeare and Sitting Bull as foils for the white Jeremiah and his Native American wife Mary Lynn. The first line of the story runs,"Regarding love, marriage, and sex, both Shakespeare and Sitting Bull knew the only truth: treaties get broken." As I have recently been researching Sitting Bull, this was especially funny and sad to me. Later, toward the end of the piece, Alexie writes that Mary Lynn, "found the one truth Sitting Bull never knew: there was at least one white man who could be trusted." This is funny for obvious reasons. A few lines down, Alexie writes of Jeremiah, "He found the one truth Shakespeare never knew: gravity is overrated." He ends the piece with the sentence, "She and he loved each other across the distance." This is quite fitting. He refers not only to their geographical distance but also to the figurative distance between people of different "races" and therefore different cultures and oppressions, and to the figurative distance between any two people. Overall, the piece is incredibly realistic and hilarious, yet still conveys complex abstract ideas regarding love, sex, race, etc.
"Godoy Lives" is an equally compelling piece, though not quite as humorous, in my opinion. The story deals primarily with racism and conveys its point clearly and simply. Juan is a poor Mexican man who has been subjected to much oppression and abuse, including from people like Pancho. Pancho believes Juan is his relative and is kind to him and treats him as an equal, unaware of his origins all along. Thus, there are no essential differences between "races," only arbitrary (skin color, for example) or imagined.