Blog 40

The comments from my classmates were extremely informative. I was surprised to find that my classmates were writing and thinking about similar things that I had written about in my blogs. I liked how Bibi commented that characters in “The People of Paper” want to be wanted. I thought this was an interesting point because I had mostly focused on Smiley. I was glad that Caitlin enjoyed the Sesshu Foster video and also how she said “Atomik Aztex” was “like an ADD attack.” His writing style is definitely different and hard to follow, but loaded with meaning. I thought it was interesting that Caitlin commented that Foster’s novel “is almost like poetry.” I never thought about the text that way so I thought it was cool that she pointed out that connection between forms. Rehana commented that the image of the projects was helpful in visualizing the projects described in “Omaha Bigelow.” I completely agree because it’s so crucial to pay attention to space and architecture within literature. Sometimes it is hard to imagine though because we have to get past the words in order to resurrect such unearthly structures in our minds. This can be quite challenging so I was happy the image was helpful. I appreciated Anthony’s suggestion of the Indiana Jones movie as a way to grapple with ideas expressed in Foster’s novel. He pointed out that “Americans take their lives for granted” which was a point well taken. Foster critiques the American consumerist lifestyle and has an Aztec warrior comment on it in a way that produces the disturbing effect of otherness.

Comments (1)

Comment for Bibi on “Unreliable Narrator”

Hi Bibi,
I understand your feelings entirely. “Atomik Aztex” was hard for me to get into as well. I often felt like I had to suspend my belief just to read it, actually just to finish the book. Zenzo is such an overt narrator and even if his reliability is questionable as you point out, his mental digressions which feel so much like a slew of conscious are entertaining and provocative. I was confused too; I was thinking, huh they are both Zenzos?? Weird stuff right? I think it’s very interesting that you prefer omniscient narration/pov in a story. I personally distrust them because they can subtly omit or add information on a whim. They can be pretty sneaky. I related to this particular blog post of yours because you said you weren’t sure if you believed everything that was going on in the book. I felt confused at certain points too and yes I agree with you when you question the narrator’s reliability, but that’s also what makes this book so one of a kind.

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Comment for Rehana on “Ed Vega’s Final Note in Omaha Bigelow”

Hi Rehana,

I was also taken aback by this page at the end. It really presented a different side and tone to Ed Vega. Isn’t it so interesting how Vega Yunque chose to place this page at the very end of the novel under “Author’s Note” because it reads like a dedication page, but they usually come at the very beginning of books. I wonder why he decided to position it this way. The novel did have its moments. I am still not quite sure what’s up with all the references to Omaha’s mom’s red nail polish. I also literally laughed out loud, especially when Omaha finds out his dad is Bill Clinton. I didn’t see that one coming. I think its admirable how Vega Yunque blends social/political satire with magical realism and then has his characters poke fun at the very form he uses.

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Comment for Caitlin on “Blog #30”

Hi Caitlin,

Your post reminded me of this other novel I read by Ruth Ozeki titled “My Year of Meats;” it also discusses the darker side of meat packing centers, also in vivid details. This grabbed my attention, you wrote, “Animals are very much objectified in reality much as they are in Zenzontlis account. The workers of the plants are also objectified and are objects of deflection of ownership by the owners of the plants.” I thought it was interesting that you drew a parallel between the slaughter of animals and the disposability of the immigrant workers. To take it a step further, you could connect to the Aztek warrior Zenzo’s narrative in which he discusses humans used for sacrifices. The elder’s p.o.v is pretty screwed up because he described the human slave trade in economic terms. Also, the little boy in Italy was almost kidnapped so his heart could be used in a sacrifice.

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Anthony’s Comment for “Writing Response 3”

Hi Anthony,

For starters thanks for pointing out my typo w/ ” sacrifice” (that’s so embarrassing- I have to remember to correct it after I type out this comment. I really appreciate it). I am going to respect your request and give some comments for this response. If you are interested in time in Garcia Marquez’s short stories, I think it would be worthwhile to check out that extremely long ending paragraph in the story, you know the one the runs on without a period in site for like a page. Well, it would be cool to compare discourse and story time (I forgot where that is in the Jahn article, but it’s there) and how these two different types of time can collapse. Also, I think you should look closely at grammar, syntax, and sentence structure and merge that with concepts about time. I thought it was interesting how you refer to Nabo being stuck in between worlds; this made me this of the separation between the body and mind because he is there physically, but his mind is somewhere else. What about weaving in the earthly versus the spiritual (because he is a man and there are numerous references to an angel…hey what about that other story about the man with enormous wings. Maybe you could pull that into your paper as well?) I also think it would be cool to see how you will overlap Garcia Marquez’s stories and time to Latin American Literary Theory.

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Sesshu Foster reading poetry

When Sesshu Foster was reading his poetry, his voice reminded me so much of Zenzo’s narrative when he goes off on these really long tangents and digressions in italicized words. His reading seems to push forward without pauses or gasps of air. This is the similar feeling I got while reading some parts of “Atomik Aztex” when Zenzo critiques politics and economics. I felt like he was throwing out so many different ideas while he was reading so it was hard to keep up sometimes (the same way I felt reading his novel in class). I liked how he jumped from talking about how Marx failed, to Mayans, to dirt failing because a mom washed out the stain. It’s like he jumps from ideas, but still keeps them connected in his own unique way.

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Ed Vega Yunque on the Irish and PR

Vega Yunque’s bit is for the first 5:55 minutes. I had no idea that he had some Irish lineage in his family. His jokes are hilarious, especially when he talks about meeting “Barry, Bryan, and Brady.” His joke about Britain colonizing Puerto Rico was delivered in such a nonchalant way, but that’s what made it so amusing. When I was listening to him speak, I kept thinking about the way he writes. For some reason when I was reading “Omaha” the tone, or rather narrative voice, I imagined in my mind was aggressive and mocking. Listening to him actually speak is so different because he seems so laid back and his jokes are light, but really pack a punch. I enjoyed listening to him talk about pieces of his family’s history in PR and how the Irish heritage figured into it.

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Meat Packing and Aztec Sacrifice

Sesshu Foster likens the meat packing plant’s slaughter of pigs to Aztec human sacrifices. Both are closely tied to economic dependencies. Farmer John thrives on the products produced from animal slaughter and the Aztec religion relies on a vast supply of human hearts. These two images probably would not normally be shown side by side, or even linked in any way shape or form. Foster produces the effect of alterity by depicting modern culture in twisted terms. When these two images are side by side, our own prejudices become clear. The animal (presumably a pig or cow) and the man from the Aztec sacrifice lay on a sacrificial slab.

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Graffiti in NYC

A graffiti  artist named Chico created this work. Its somewhere in Manhattan (the website did not specify where). This image grabbed my attention because it shows a commemoration to Cuban singer Celia Cruz in the center, to the left is an American flag advertising some website, and above is an advertisement for Russian vodka. Different cultures mix together and literally live side by side and share space in Manhattan.  The blending of cultures is shown quite literally as the murals and advertisements share space on a brick facade of some building. In “Omaha Bigelow” different cultures interact such as the Flecka the diner, Molotov from Kinko’s, among many others. I think it’s interesting that NYC boasts of its cultural diversity and diffusion and rightfully so, but at the same time there is an inclination to define ourselves separately from other cultures on the basis of comparisons and statistics. The murals also have a clearly defined boundary with regards to space; they do not spatially overlap, similar to the way that housing projects divide up neighborhoods and people.

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Lower East Side Housing Projects

The NYC Housing Authority website (www.nyc.gov) includes the following information on the Jacob Riis Housing Projects:

Street Boundaries
FDR Drive/Avenue D
East 6th Street/East 13th
Street
Subway Lines
F to 6th Avenue and 14th Street – transfer to
M14
L to 1st Avenue – transfer to M14
Bus Lines
M14C,M14D at
14th Street to 10th Street and Avenue D


NAMED AFTER: JACOB AUGUST RIIS (1849-1914) – Danish-born American
journalist and reformer whose reports on living conditions in city slums led to
improvements in housing and education. His stories in newspapers about slum
dwellings and abuses in lower class urban life were collected in “How the Other
Half Lives (1890).” Riis dwelled on the city’s slum tenements and how the people
there lived. His vivid descriptions, often depicted on slides, caused audiences
at his lectures to moan, shudder and even faint. He founded a pioneer settlement
house in New York City named after him. Riis Houses is in Manhattan.


SITE STATISTICS AND DESCRIPTION:
Jacob Riis Houses on Manhattan’s
Lower East Side has 13 buildings, 6, 13, and 14-stories high. The 11.73-acre
complex has 1,187 apartments housing some 2,903 residents. Completed January 17,
1949, it is between East 8th and East 13th Streets, Avenue D and F.D.R.
Drive.
Jacob Riis II on Manhattan’s Lower East Side has six buildings, 6, 13,
and 14-stories tall. There are 577 apartments housing some 1,402 people. The
5.94-acre complex was completed January 31, 1949 and is between East 6th and
East 8th Streets, Avenue D and the F.D.R. Drive.

The building itself looks foreboding and extremely cramped in spite of its towering height. Hundreds of families are cramped into tight spaces in an attempt to solve larger issues such as unemployment and lack of housing (which by the way do not have a quick fix). This image reminded me of the projects that Maruquita lives in from Edgardo Vega Yunque’s “Omaha Bigelow.” Ironically, housing projects both marginalize and bring people together; in Vega Yunque’s novel, the housing projects in the Lower East Side are a place where Puerto Ricans live. Minority groups are cloistered in these massive buildings which bring them closer together. People of similar backgrounds create an internal and often times complicated sense of family/community within this space. At the same time, housing projects have multiple negative connotations because it herds people on the edges of the neighborhood.

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