veemignon: (alicewonderland)
The word "perception" came from Latin, originally meaning, "receiving, collection." A collection of senses make up our memories. Sight is usually the strongest, but smell and hearing and sometimes even tactile experiences are lodged in our memories. They play out when one is walking down a street, passing a hot-dog vendor while a childhood memory about grilling flits by one's mind. Or one sees the waves rolling in at the beach and an image is sparked in the mind, that of running across the beach with parents. But these memories are perceived solely through our senses. Filtered through our visions.

Perhaps you never went to the beach with your parents as a small child, but somehow, that image is lodged into your head. Who's to say that you're telling a lie? If what you perceive is the truth, than everything you've ever lived is a lie, because no one else can perceive the truth as you have.

This is what Umberto Eco's Baudolino focuses on. Baudolino is seen as a liar. He was adopted by an emperor, trained in Paris, and created a city simply with words. Niketas doesn't believe him. What Niketas writes down is perceived as history. But history isn't through one pair of eyes, it's through a collection of memories. And I think, by becoming the storyteller that he is, Baudolino has become a collection of people rather than himself. His body houses history; whether it's true or not is up to the reader.

. . . I always felt like a prisoner of something that surpassed the powers of my imagination. )
veemignon: (ghostworld)
As a student who majored in English, it's a good idea to make best friends with any number of online etymology sites (my favorite's here). In one class, I was required to find a word I liked in Paradise Lost, research the history of the word, and then write an essay on why Milton would have used that word, considering the context as well. This breeds great habits in readers (and possibly writers, I hope). When I was reading The Brothers Karamazov, I noticed that Dostoevsky used the word "despair" constantly. After 700 pages, I realized that there were many words Dostoevsky focused on. Susan Howe gave me "categories," considering that she is a collector of words. And while reading The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, I noticed a particular emphasis on the word "definition." This makes things especially eerie when the word the writer has chosen to focus on is pertinent to their history.

Virginia Woolf was a writer I had every intention to dislike. There was something about her prose that rubbed me in the wrong way when I first read Mrs. Dalloway at the tender age of twenty. I picked it up again at twenty-five, hoping to have my mind blown by all the content I had missed. My mind was not blown, but I was writing furiously, jotting down notes in the margins, looking up the etymological history of words; this is a sign of adoration on my part. I was surprised to find that I loved this book and that it spoke to me in perhaps one of the worst parts of the year. The word that Virginia Woolf focuses on is "plunge."

. . . passing invisibly, inaudibly, like a cloud, swift, veil-like upon hills, falling indeed with something of a cloud's sudden sobriety and stillness upon faces which a second before had been utterly disorderly. )
veemignon: (alicewonderland)
I think for everyone who has an interest in reading, there's a book that always sits in the back of the mind. Whenever a new book is read, that one book is conjured in the head, simply because those are the themes and archetypes you relate to the most. For me, it's always been Alice in Wonderland. Every creative work I read or watch, Alice is always in the back of my head, and I see her in the heroes of my books. Most recently, The Brothers Karamazov, in which Dostoevsky had a note about how readers have a hard time seeing Alyosha as the hero of the novel. I could even take this back to RahXephon, where a character like Ayato was more of an observer in a new world.

Alice in Wonderland is a story of an absurd world, one that people have a difficult time categorizing. And I've discovered that when people have a hard time categorizing something, they desperately want to categorize it. Take nearly every film adaptation of Alice's adventures. What is a world with no meaning becomes a world fraught with meaning. There was a TV special where Wonderland was created simply to help Alice gain self-esteem so she could sing in front of an audience. Alice's journey has no tangible rewards. Her journey is of reflection and observing, possibly allowing herself to further understand who she is. Through not understanding, she comes to an understanding.

Down the rabbit hole . . . )

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February 2013

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