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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana IX -- chapter 8: PULP FICTION and other POP FROM THE PAST

  1. "Are you clear about the distance between you and these stories?"  Is this a valid question, despite Yambo's argument that he's not crazy?  On the other side of the equation, how might recounting the stories as he is to children and grandchildren be perhaps a better way to spark the flame than simply rereading them alone in the attic?
  2. Why might pulp literature--or even Stevenson--be a better vehicle for the spark and flame than "Homer, Manzoni, and Flaubert"?
  3. "Radio, the voice that enchants"; "enchants," being, of course, the operative word.
  4. Tabula rasa is a Locke coinage, as far as I know.  Certainly Yambo's slate has been razed, but is it true that by listening to his friend it's being spoiled by/with another's memories?
  5. "Over the previous few days, I had been trying to imagine the divided self of a boy exposed to messages of national glory while at the same time daydreaming about the fogs of London, where he would encounter Fantômas battling Sandokan amid a hail of nailshot that ripped holes in the chests and tore off the arms and legs of Sherlock Holmes’s politely perplexed compatriots—and now here I was learning that in those same years the radio had been proposing as an ideal the life of a humble accountant who longed for nothing more than suburban tranquility" (emphasis added).  Yambo seems to worry his way through this and subsequent paragraphs that all the varied media stimuli might have incited moral contradiction and confusion in his past self (though, interestingly, he seem to be observing or discovering his own past in the third person, but not necessarily as the past but as if it were presently happening).  Is the massive exposure to media such a problem as Yambo imagines it to be?  Why might he be worried about it at all, as that boy from the past is him, and, well, hasn't he turned out all right--except for this whole amnesia thing, of course?
  6. So why is it so vital that he find his old schoolbooks?
  7. The woman ("like a saxophone in heat" ... uh, whoa!) in the lyric recalls a bit the women of the cocoa and antacid tins from the previous chapter.  Obviously women play/ed a big role in Yambo's life, but what, by evidence here and elsewhere, do you supposed that role really is?


  1. 1. Perfectly good question so far, I think. But I think that it also might suggest that we as a society as a whole are a reflection of pop culture items.
    2. More cultural connections. Also, I love how he says that Stevenson isn't pulp fiction.
    4. I think so. I know that I've done this before where in my childhood I heard other people's stories and now remember being somewhere, even though it's impossible that I was there.
    5. He doesn't know that he's turned out alright! In fact, I suspect that he hasn't.
    6. Begin at the beginning. Nice cross-book connection there? :)
    7. None of them seems to be truly lasting now that you mention it.

  2. 1. So are we a reflection of pop culture, or pop culture a reflection of us--or is there a difference?
    2. I know, right? So what is his definition of pulp?
    4. Memory is frightfully plastic, and it rarely asks permissions before a shift or inaccurate addition or subtraction. My point--unfairly left unmentioned--is that he is reading to so much stuff and [1] some of it may not be part of his past and [2] reading is always a vicarious experience of another's (fiction or un-) experiences/memories. What's the difference between listening to his friend reminisce or, say, Ciuffettino?
    5. My point exactly! So what is this perhaps teaching him about his past? (And sorry; the deliberate, rhetorical leading of a question away from its intended answer is an old habit from teaching high school. I hope it's not too annoying, because I'm sure I'll do it again and again, and often without realizing it.)
    7. This one's still pretty up in the air for me, but I agree with you, especially based on what we've seen of his experience since the Event. Even his daughters take an ancillary role....

  3. 1. I think that we're a reflection of pop culture sadly. You're a middle/high school teacher. You know this. :)
    2. Maybe it's catching him that "Treasure Island" is at once pulp fiction and a classic at the same time, so it feels wrong just to call it pulp, but come on! It's a great book, and Long John Silver is one of my favorite characters in literature, but it's not one that I find myself thinking about when I can't get to sleep.
    4. AHHH that's what you were getting at. Actually, I don't know that the difference is as concrete as Yambo/Eco would like it to be. I think that you're right on.
    5. Haha, no problem. I keep thinking that what he SHOULD be learning, and I don't know if he is, that there's a reason that he doesn't remember his past, and it's not going to be pretty when he remembers. But at the same time, given such a situation, would you rather know or not know? I can never decide.

  4. 1. You know, I'm not entirely convinced. At the most optimistic pop culture is a "vicious" cycle, because you have to consider who the "lowest common denominator" is, which is, of course, the target for everything pop. The creators of pop craft their junk for their audience--give them what they want. At the same time, the creators can manipulate the vulgar crowd, but they can never do it with giant steps. Consider that "classical" music, and even more so for opera, not to mention Shakespeare and Bronte and Hugo (among so many others) were the pop artist--nee the PULP artists--of their day. However, these creators' works, like Stevenson's, have surpassed, or at least outlived/outstripped, the pulp moniker, because they are excellent and continue to resonate. Okay. I'll stop.
    4. I wouldn't go as far as to say this is an error (and it's pretty subtle, really), but it seems like an unlikely misstep by someone who shouldn't make such "mistakes."
    5. Yeah. I think there's a level of involuntary "blocking" (ala post-traumatic stress syndrome) that perhaps jumped at the opportunity of the stroke to kick in. There's something nasty in his past. As far as wanting to know or not know, well, can you have some of both, or is all or nothing?


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