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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana X -- chapter 9: FLIP-FLOPPING ITALY

  1. This might be entirely out of context or beyond the scope of the book, but the disregard (contextually justified) of his sister's box of elementary- and middle-school things makes me think about the degree of selfishness this trip represents in Yambo.  He has had one afternoon with his daughters and grandchildren that, perhaps, pulled him at least slightly and temporarily away from himself.  Of course we have no indication that their visit did any more to help him than all his much less selfless hours, but yet I wonder: might he not be better off simply living his life as best he can, and if the memories come, great, and if not, then, oh well?  This taps into the issue, of course, that we've touched on already: would a character realistically want to rediscover (and likely thereby have to relive) his past, having to balance and negotiate the potential discovery of unsavory memories, acts, thoughts, etcetera.  None of Yambo's friends or family have acknowledged (beyond his infidelity, which, apparently, is no big secret anyway) that there's anything Yambo should be scared or hesitant to discover, but still, is there a potential advantage (I don't know of any advantage specifically, so I'm throwing the question "out there" for suggestions) to altruism rather than selfish seclusion?
  2. What do you make of Yambo's dubiously effecting act of turning on the radio panel light and then playing a record? The last chapter indicated the necessity of the records rather than radio, but why does he bother with the entirely connotative radio light?
  3. Gee Whiz 1: The B and V phonemes are very similar, and in some alphabets even interchangeable, and commonly misused by children learning to speak, among others.  I'm not going to get into the details, but if you don't believe it, try out each letter and consider what your mouth is doing to produce each sound.
  4. Connect the lie of fog to the fascist propaganda; then disconnect it (or whatever you think best) by the "truth" of fog.
  5. Gee Whiz 2:  Italian pronouns for address, and their levels of formality: tu (singular) = you, informal; lei (singular) = you, formal; voi (also 2nd person plural) = you (singular), more formal; loro (also 3rd person, plural) = you (singular or plural), super formal, as in for royalty or, more likely today, sarcastic formality.
  6. "That song must be why, years later, I took note of this passage from Corazzini’s poem 'The Streetlamp': Murky and scant in the lonely thoroughfare, / in front of the bordello doors, it dims, / and the good smoke that from the censer swims / might be this fog that whitens out the air.  [¶]  "'Lili Marleen' came out not too long after the giddy 'Comrade Richard.' Either we were generally more optimistic than the Germans, or in the interim something had happened, our poor comrade had grown sad and, tired of walking through muck, longed to go back to his streetlamp. But I was coming to realize that the same series of propagandistic songs could explain how we had gone from a dream of victory to one of the welcoming bosom of a whore as hopeless as her clients."
  7. What is the potential for the Italians' experience in WWII to be a parallel of some sort to Yambo's current predicament?
  8. What is the value of one's past childish ambitions and dreams to an adult?
  9. Unbreakable.
  10. "I was still missing some link, perhaps many links. At some point I had changed, but I did not know why."
  11. Finally, what do you make of the chapter title?


  1. 1. I think that you have a point, but at the same time, I sympathize with Yambo. I know that there have been tons of times in which I forgot one fact, and it wouldn't stop bothering me. I can't even imagine losing my entire personal memory. I think that I would do everything that I could to get it back--even if ultimately it weren't in my interest.
    2. It's a nice try, right?
    3. Yeah, in Spanish the V is pronounced like the B. I think that F and W are also somewhat similar.
    4. The propaganda obscures the truth during a war in the same way in which fog obscures whatever it covers.
    5. I had never heard of having a super-formal version. Really neat.
    7. Confidence, disappointment, confusion?
    9. This is a very sad story, even atheistic, I think.
    11. There's a sense of irony in it, like the narrator knows something that we and Yambo don't.

  2. This chapter emphasizes for me the sadness of the whole story. Based upon general foreshadowings, not to mention all the war stuff of this chapter, it's almost a no win situation, though that depends greatly upon how Yambo feels when/if the memory returns. The radio and the breaking unbreakable glass are both perfect examples of this. The past will never be as it once was, and perhaps the best he'll ever manage is books--written words, paper memory--and a light, a knowledge that it is even HIS OWN past, but no sense of connection to it; the glass is so much like the little figurines in Tennessee Williams' "Glass Menagerie": it is a Yambo--his heart and soul and being, and he confidently expects it to be invincible, but some abuses are just insurmountable. So perhaps the question is, How is it that Yambo threw himself at and cause himself to shatter upon the floor? Or, maybe simpler, what is the floor upon which he shattered?

  3. So you think that the glass is Yambo? I was thinking it was faith in something, whether it's God, the goodness of humanity, etc. Maybe we're both right, and it's faith in himself. I think that overconfidence has to play a part in here somewhere, given the nature of the story. Almost a tower of Babel feel to it.

  4. The glass is a pretty flexible symbol--the most effective kind, I think. I think we're both right, and I really like the Tower of Babel connection. I don't remember exactly how the story ends, and am eager, with this deeper reading, to get there and see how it falls together (or apart).


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