Archive for February, 2009

February 25, 2009

Roy’s Insight on Human Nature

by brooklyn89

“I think perhaps that the question we should ask is, ‘What does it mean to be human?’” -Roy

This quote showed to us during Mondays class really brought together what I would like to discuss with you all.  To me this novel seemed to be exactly how Roy describes, ‘what does it mean to be human?’ I think Roy is touching on the small things that humans usually overlook in life. These seemingly small things however add up to form a bigger part of our being. Everything we do or say in our lives has meaning, things as small as a smile to as big as a kiss impact those around us in a great way. Particularly Roy’s character Baby Kochamma stands out as a symbol of some of the innate flaws in the human character.  On page 93 near the bottom reads “Baby Kochamma…would not admit to herself that she was looking forward to the picture. She preferred to feel that she was only doing it for the children’s sake. In her mind she kept an organized, careful account of Things She’d Done For People, and Things People Hadn’t Done For Her”. This character is the epitome of selfishness and she demonstrates many humans inability too look within themselves too see how their actions affect others. On page 78 we see another of the many examples of this, “In the days that followed, Baby Kochamma focused all her fury at her public humiliation on Velutha. She sharpened it like a pencil. In her mind he grew to represent the march, And the man who had forced her to wave the Marxist Party flag”. Baby Kochamma cannot stop, mirror herself  and see that her actions are irrational, she’s taking her pain out on someone else without good reason and being a mindlessly selfish person. In the end this character manages to destroy or at least play a hand in the demise of many of her loved ones. Why is it that people frequently lack the ability to see their selfish actions? How can people like Baby Kochamma live in such ignorance? People form emotional reactions and patterns to situations without even recognizing it. 

Perhaps if people like this took the time to stop and analyze the situation they would react differently. Is this linked perhaps to laziness? Are people too lazy to take the time to monitor their actions?  Roy really tries to bring light to many interesting and sometimes problematic human characteristics. Did you notice any interesting universal characteristics in other characters in the novel, or anything other interesting things about Baby Kochamma? What do you think it means to be human? Or maybe you have had a situation where you’ve seen yourself taking the time to think about your thoughts and actions and how they effect the people around you. Did your analysis of the situation change the way you would normally react?  Did you take the time to think about the consequences of your actions.

Another thing that I noticed was Roy’s notion towards the human characteristic to label things? In this novel we see peoples need to make things either one or the other, jam or jelly, Touchable or Untouchable. Things can no longer just Be, they have to fit in some place. Maybe this makes us feel safer and more comfortable in our world, when all things have a place and definition nothing is unknown or scary. What do you think?

February 25, 2009

The God of Small Things – Discussion

by reirei1

Discussing Roy’s Writing Style

Rei Tamori

This isn’t the type of novel I would choose for my leisurely reading. I pick books that have a progression of events and evolving characters with mysteries slowly unfolding and leading to another mystery, keeping me curious, and completely immersed in the story. “The God of Small Things” has the same elements, but is too choppy for me to enjoy. Although the metaphors are imaginative and beautiful, there are just too many. There are also too many fragments (for my liking). With so many metaphors and fragments, I find myself reading the same sentence or paragraph more than once because I have to stop and think about what the metaphor is for. As Aurelea mentioned before, most of the main events in the book are already revealed in the first chapter. And the rest have detailed explanations for these events which are revealed by going back and forth through time in the characters’ lives. This writing style of bouncing back-and-forth makes it difficult for me to enjoy reading because I cannot get fully absorbed in it. There is a lot of foreshadowing, hints, and repetition which I recognise, but cannot remember why they are familiar, and so I am forced to pause and go back either a few pages in the book, or into my memory in order to understand and therefore take pleasure in what I am reading.

However, I really like the metaphors and phrases on their own. They are descriptive, unique, wistful and again, beautiful. Another thing I really like that Roy does is capitalizing many phrases, giving them their own title and right. Some examples are: “She used her windows for specific purposes. For a Breath of Fresh Air. To Pay for the Milk. To Let Out a Trapped Wasp” (29). ; She deemed them Capable of Anything” (29).;“It was her idea that Estha be Returned”(31). ;“…She had loved them Double” (155).; “He was the Keeper of Records” (156). To me, this random capitalization of words shows the reader that these phrases are important to Roy and have a special significance. Her random capitalizations and intricate descriptions and metaphors make me feel that she is writing with a stream of consciousness type technique; that nothing about this story is necessarily planned or edited because she is writing as she thinks and what she feels intuitively about. And in, “The Salon Interview” by Reena Jana (that Aurelea showed us in class on Monday), Roy explains how she wrote the book, and how, like I had initially felt, she didn’t plan exactly the way the book was going to be written:

This is your first novel. How did you start writing it? What was your process? How did you guide yourself through it?

If someone told me this was how I was going to write a novel before I started writing it, I wouldn’t believe them. I wrote it out of sequence. I didn’t start with the first chapter or end with the last chapter. I actually started writing with a single image in my head: the sky blue Plymouth with two twins inside it, a Marxist procession surrounding it. And it just developed from there. The language just started weaving together, sentence by sentence.

How did you arrive at the final sequence that became the novel in its finished form?

It just worked. For instance, I didn’t know, when I started writing, that this book would take place in exactly one day. I kept moving back and forth in time. And then, somehow, I realized that in some of the scenes, the kids were grown up, and sometimes they weren’t. I wound up looking at the scenes as different moments, moments that were refracted through time. Reconstituted moments. Moments when Estha is readjusting his Elvis puff of hair. When Estha and Rahel blow spitballs. When Ammu and Velutha make love. These moments, and moments like these in life, I realized, mean something more than what they are, than how they are experienced as mere minutes. They are the substance of human happiness.

In the part where she talks about the “moments like these in life” and says that “they are the substance of human happiness”, I think that some of the moments she is referring to are the capitalized phrases.


Do you think that this book would have gotten as much praise and attention if it did not have so many metaphors and meticulous descriptions and/or was not out of time sequence? Like if it had only the plot, characters, and few metaphors and phrases? Or was it the poetic-like words that made the book so successful?

Why might a book like this one be more interesting or thought provoking with its hidden meanings, foreshadowing, back and forth jumping through time and concentration on several different characters in different chapters, than a book like “How Late it Was, How Late”, where there is focus on one main character and the plot is carried through in sequence as each page is read?

Do you think that more people would consider “The God of Small Things” closer to “real” literature than “How Late it Was, How Late”? And if so, then do you think the reason would have something to do with the above-mentioned elements?

February 24, 2009

Nervous Conditions

by haleywilliams

Cultural Identity in a Changing Society

Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions is a captivating novel that from the first sentence catches the reader’s interest. “I was not sorry when my brother died,” (Dangarembga 1) starts the novel and from there begins the story of the Tambu, a young black girl from a poor family, who is trying to create an identity for herself within the guidelines and restrictions of her surroundings. Set in the 1960’s in colonial Rhodesia, the novel explores the trials of coming of age in a time of political and cultural change, and the fight for rights as a woman. Tambu is joined in this struggle for independence by the other women in her life: her cousin Nyasha, her two aunts, and her mother. While the women are searching for different types of freedom, they struggle against a cultural resistance to change that threatens to devastate the family.

Growing up in a poor family in rural Rhodesia, Tambu is denied the opportunity to go to school even though she performs well on her tests. Her brother, as a male and the oldest, is given the opportunity to study at the mission school which is run by his uncle. When he is killed, Tambu finally has her opportunity to escape the rural lifestyle of her family and seek what she believes will help her to become free, an education. Little does she know that her education will not be salvation from her worries and that she will be faced with new problems that she is not prepared to handle.

This is a story not only about searching for an identity, but also conflict created by the attempt to embrace a new culture that is not compatible with existing cultural beliefs. Nervous Conditions is a perfect title for the story as the characters fall prey to confusion and the emotional turmoil that arises from a disconnection from country and alienation from one’s own people. Specifically Nyasha, raised partially in England and isolated by not speaking her own language and holding different values then those around her, succumbs to a bulimia as a physical escape from her emotional turmoil.

Dangarembga shares with the reader all of the uncomfortable situations that the narrator must transcend through and the identity questions that she is confronted with on her journey to understand who she is as a Rhodesian and a women. It is a beautifully written look into the experience of one who is rarely heard and seldom listened to. It shows that conformity to an exterior force can have intense repercussions and how crucial the need to find a sense of peace within one’s own culture can be.

Haley Williams

February 19, 2009

How Late It Was, How Late

by cristinamoody

by Cristina Moody

Shoes too small, no laces, without his trusty lone-star belt buckle, and in jail is how the down-and-out character of Sammy Samuels starts off and sets the pace for the rest of the novel How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman. After having “peed the floor” of his jail cell Sammy finds himself blind and his grim situation never improves. He arrives home, from his alcohol-induced problem of a weekend, to a missing girlfriend and a subsequent speedy return to jail. These quick shifting events that surround Sammy don’t happen so quickly for the reader. Evidently sense of time goes out the window right along with his sense of sight. After the first few pages of fast-paced police slugfests we find Sammy “cannay see” and is struggling along, “quite slow really,” trying to get by with his new disability. The events of Sammy’s life are told with painstaking detail and digression as Sammy explains his “brains man they live a life of their own, ye’ve got nay fucking control, nayn at all” making a convoluted but interesting read.

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February 19, 2009

Nervous Conditions, Inner Conflict, Global Scale

by jentooley

Jen Tooley

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga is written by the young Zimbabwean writer and director. This young and promising artist’s talent lies in her ability to make comments about human tendencies and psychological conditions that are universally felt, making her work relatable to any reader at any age, race, sex or nationality.

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February 19, 2009

Nervous Conditions

by angelakm

Angela Matthews

On the surface Tsitsi Dangarembga’s bildungroman, Nervous Conditions, presents the compelling coming of age story of a young Zimbabwean girl, Tambu. Once the surface is scratched Tambu’s story becomes a powerful tool in comprehending the realities, effects and legacies of colonialism. Dangarembga, once a young Zimbabwean girl herself succeeds in giving an outsider a genuine insiders perspective into what has been coined colonialism. She understands that to many it may seem so distant, abstract and broad. She challenges this by providing a medium, Tambu, whom we can see and walk through her village and life with.

Throughout Tambu’s journey through life we are constantly left wondering whether Tambu’s life is truly a success story or all too good to be true. Growing up in Zimbabwe is already difficult enough but for Tambu things couldn’t get much worse. She is dealt with the hand of young, black, poor and female, just about the most unlucky hand anyone could be dealt. Despite all odds, Tambu is determined, questionable to being a blessing or curse, and makes the most of it.

To say that her determination ridded herself of fear is an underestimation, like the title of the book, almost every character is living under the influence nervous conditions. Tambu’s determination, though she des not like to admit it t can be seen as growing out of her fear of being less, missing out, especially when the possibility to be more exists, “ I could not accept responsibility for my weakness.”

Family and cooperation was key to growing up on the homestead, it was not impossible but hard especially for a young girl. Tambu knew and could see that her brothers education was taking him else where, like her uncle, a headmaster living comfortably in town. By an unlikely event that most would consider a tragedy, Tambu is graciously lifted out of her reality with a get out of jail free card. Though Tambu is living her dream, getting an education she is constantly battling with the angel and devil on her shoulders and at most times not even sure which is which. Though her education is her emancipation, it comes at a cost. “ That boy Chido can hardly speak a word of his won mothers tongue” one of those costs her cousin was paying and soon she might too. Was the cost really worth it becomes the question, “Look at him he may look all right, but there’s no telling what price he’s paying.”

The story puts colonialism into a real scenario where its’ effects are played out daily in the lives of Tambu and her family. Tambu narrating the story describes it as “a long and painful process” but fortunately for her “something in my mind began to assert itself, to question things and refuse to be brainwashed.”

February 19, 2009

Nervous Conditions

by robinkate

Nervous Conditions is a novel written by Tsitsi Dangarembga illustrating the effects of colonialism and the alienating influence it can have on those involved. Based in post-colonial Africa, the story is narrated by Tambuzdai, a young girl struggling to find her place in a patriarchal society that allows for little to no rights for women.

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February 18, 2009

How Late It Was, How Late

by joeyjddavis

by Joey Davis


            “Ye wake in a corner and stay there hoping yer body will disappear, the thoughts smothering ye; these thoughts; but ye want to remember and face up to things.” These words can only begin to explain the uncertainty and confusion expressed by Sammy Samuels in How Late It Was, How Late.  Sammy is a shoplifting ex-con who awakes in an alley one morning and starts a fight with a pair of plainclothes police officers.  His story does not become much more pleasant as his struggle leaves him blind and he is forced to struggle through the maze-like system that is the welfare bureaucracy.

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February 18, 2009

How Late It Was How late Review

by justineb89

            In the novel How Late It Was, How Late, James Kelman takes readers through the life of Sammy, a shoplifting ex-con from Glasgow Scotland. Sammy awakes in jail cell, blind, after being brutally beaten by what he refers to as “sodjers”. Kelman, then goes on to describe the trials and tribulations of Sammy, which include with failing relationship his girlfriend, Helen, his inability to find or uphold employment, his difficulties with the law and his new disability, blindness.

            Kelman may have been one of the most controversial winners of the Booker Prize for How Late It Was, How Late. As the readers first impression is the vulgar language, as on the very first page the ‘f’ word is used five times and the profanity continues throughout the novel. The lack of punctuation, chapters and use of proper English in the novel may discourage readers, as it can be difficult to become accustom to when starting the novel.

            However, the unconventionality of the novel allows readers to understand the character of Sammy in more depth. As the switch Kelman makes throughout the novel between third and first person gives the reader insight into Sammy emotions, which is almost addicting while reading. As Sammy is blind, there is heavy emphasis on sound in the novel, this engages the reader in a new ways as instead of building an image through sight, one is forced to use there sense of hearing. This is an interesting way to compose a novel as throughout the 20th and 21st century visual multimedia has become a major component of our everyday lives, most of become reliant on this type of communication and entertainment.

            Through the 274 pages of Kelmans How Late It Was, How Late, readers will be able to understand and appreciate the strife that many Scottish lower middle class individuals face. As Sammy’s character is infatuating and keeps readers on the edge of there seats.  

February 18, 2009

How Late It Was, How Late…Maybe a little too late, Better Luck Next Time

by daanishali

Daanish Ali

James Kelman’s How late it Was, How late, is an award winning book about a disgruntled ex-con who can not get anything right in his pathetic life. Written in a Glaswegian working-class dialect, which could be called “gibberish”, along with no apparent structure, this novel is poised for mixed reactions. Ultimately, this work is an admirable attempt to deliver a blow to literary intellectuals that adhere only to traditional approaches. However, the question remains: how devastating a blow can he deliver?

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