musings

from the land of the rising sun

Literary Essays

"A Trip Not Traveled" (25 Aug. 2018)

"A Trip Not Traveled" (25 Aug. 2018)

"A Trip Not Traveled" (25 Aug. 2018)

 This paper analyzes Tom Wolfe’s language in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a book that defined a generation. The reason for choosing this work was that it is one of the most important books of contemporary nonfiction (CNF), an emerging field of writing in the United States. This essay is also in honor of Tom Wolfe as it was written in the year of his death. Wolfe was an innovator of “The New Journalism,” and the purpose of this essay is to show how his methods at obtaining the content of his stories was unique, and that the language he used was evocative to his own personal experience with the Merry Pranksters. Wolfe, as a writer of nonfiction, was bound to the writing of a truthful narrative. His methods are explained to show how he could merge with his subjects, much like an anthropologist would do when trying to understand a culture. Wolfe would not take notes until later, after the fact. This shows his superb memory for detail and diction. Also, it is found that Wolfe’s language and that of the main character, Ken Kesey, eventually merge as the book progresses. This enables the reader to experience the text in a more active rather than passive way, resulting in a more profound delivery of the book’s interpretation. 

"Tinkering Gods" (16 Dec. 2018)

"A Trip Not Traveled" (25 Aug. 2018)

"A Trip Not Traveled" (25 Aug. 2018)

 Paul Harding’s Tinkers was released on a small press but soon found immediate popularity with its rather convoluted and experimental narrative. This paper examines the characterization of the three main characters of the book, the patriarch tinker (a tinker is a gypsy salesman), his son and grandson, in terms of how they are metaphors for the gods of Greek and Roman mythology. This paper also explores Harding’s crafting technique which resembles abstract painting, where words rather than paint are layered upon and then removed from the page. Harding’s technique is important in that his focus is characterization to create depth and engagement with the reader in order to push through the challenging plot. As Harding has noted, plot then becomes something that his characters, the driving force of the narrative, simply do. Three mythological gods are proposed as metaphors: Uranus, Saturn, and Mercury. The traits of each and how they are integrated into Harding’s characters are explored. This is the secret to Harding’s depth of characterization in that he uses ancient and unconscious archetypes to solidify and clarify his characters in the minds of readers, enabling the plot to be secondary. 

"Showman & Shaman" (23 Aug. 2019)

"The Unwitting Anthropologist" (23 Feb. 2020)

"The Unwitting Anthropologist" (23 Feb. 2020)

Alberto Ríos grew up on the border between Mexico and the United States, and his poetry is grounded and nurtured in this multicultural childhood experience. This paper examines 11 different poems by Ríos and suggests that his label as a magicorealist is inaccurate. Instead, Ríos uses language in his poetry with themes similar to his fellow Latino writers, but is not chained to any one style or vision. Ríos’s poetry goes beyond the borders or limits of humanity in order to explore our affinity with the cosmos. His vision reaches beyond his own community. And in this way he is both shamonic and magical. The poem “Border Lines” is found to be emblematic of the poet’s intent, which is to state that “The border is what joins us,” and it is “Not what separates us.” Such themes are important today, and Ríos’s poetry should be examined more to give a voice to not only the Latino population but to everyone who shares a border somewhere. The poem, “Madre Sofía,” is the final poem chosen to show Ríos’s mastery of language, rhythm, and imagery. The poem focuses on the truth to reveal the lie, much as prose writers aim to do, showing Ríos’s ability as an artist to transform at will. 

"The Unwitting Anthropologist" (23 Feb. 2020)

"The Unwitting Anthropologist" (23 Feb. 2020)

"The Unwitting Anthropologist" (23 Feb. 2020)

 Kobo Abe’s most famous book outside of Japan is examined here. Abe has been compared to Kafka, which is partly explored here. The Woman in the Dunes is considered a metaphor for life, whether that life was in post-war Japan or today. The aim here is to make sense of Abe’s very challenging and often detailed language. A multidisciplinary technique is used, incorporating a famous but dated theory from Anthropology to analyze the culture of the sand community where the main character is imprisoned. The theory, the layer cake model of culture, was developed by Leslie A. White in the 1940s and 50s. This analysis finds that much of the main character’s experience can be explained by the layer cake model. The model also reveals an alternative interpretation of the book which is not discussed in this paper but should be a focus of future studies. In addition, Kurt Vonegut’s famous lecture on a story’s shape is used as another model to measure the story. What is found is perhaps Abe’s original question about the book: is everything meaningless?