How fortunate that you should be sitting there, reading this, which I am writing now! It's not very often that the right writer and the right reader find each other in this vast, electric jungle. It's a dangerous place. One minute you're searching for an article on coffee roasting, and the next thing you know, you've ordered three cases of expired Polaroid film and an edible arrangement for your least favorite cousin. ADD incarnate. And, unless you're an instructor who has assigned a letter like this, or a student who has written a letter like this, we are complete strangers--so really I could be anyone, about to spring any topic on you. I could be a member of PETA or a Tea Party organizer. Wait, don't get up, I'm only pontificating, I have no detergent to sell and I'm out of pamphlets, so you're safe. My point is: on the internet, it's easy to jump from one topic to the next, finding the thinnest common threads and faintest allusions. StumbleUpon is a great testament to this phenomenon--our hyper-awareness of how inter-connected everything is. And it's also a really great way to waste seven hours.
Oh! I almost lost my point again there. Text sets. Text sets are just another way we can think about the little connections we see between, well, everything. My roommate likes to play a game called "Convergence" and it goes like this: First person thinks of a random thing and says "One". Second person thinks of a random thing and says "Two". Together they say "Three" and then say their words out loud. Then you think of the perfect CONVERGENCE of those two words. First person to think of one says "One." Second person says "Two"...It's really simpler if you just watch it for yourself:
SO, the perfect meeting-place of "Sheep" and "Macaroni and Cheese" is "Rabbit Stew"! Besides being proof that everyone in my household is way bored and a little unhinged from finals week, this game plays on our human impulse to relate everything to everything else--to relate to each other--it's nice. And I liked this class because it first made me aware of the little connections that already exist, then it taught me to make my own.
I see each assignment as a little spider web, topics jutting into other genres, meanings evolving. Essentially, none of this could have been completed in a vacuum. And naturally none of it matters if no one ever reads it. So, really, by reviewing this portfolio you're doing me a favor.
When this assignment was first mentioned in class I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to choose as my text. Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. If you haven't read it you should. It's like high-brow, sci-fi, with a heart, blow-your-mind, twist ending, whirlwind all tucked into a pocket of quiet prose and reflective storytelling. It's like not even knowing you got socked in the face. And the film adaptation is coming out next year so I figured this was a good opportunity to forecast the soundtrack before it hits theaters. All of this is completely irrelevant because then I picked up Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You.
Miranda July has to be one of the strangest people alive. Have you seen You, Me, And Everyone We Know? There is some bizarre stuff in that movie. Small children picking up women on the internet and performance art and that thing at the shoe store. Her collection of short stories is really similar to the painfully awkward, ordinary, overtly sexual themes in her film. When choosing songs, I wanted to speak to both the plot of the story, and what I thought would sound good for a filmic adaptation of the stories.
But it started out as a totally different book.
2. PIT Journal Web Essay
There's something I need to get out of my system: Billy Bob Thornton's adaptation of All The Pretty Horses was so bad, that when it stopped running in theaters, they sent it straight to the glue factory. No, but seriously folks, it's not his fault, his budget wasn't very big--and I hear Penelope Cruz charges by the glance. And then the movie didn't do so well--But God love Thornton, he took the entire gross and bought the cast and crew a round of tequila and some SlimJims. Hey-O! Ok, that's enough.
I won't talk a lot about the concept for our paper, because I really felt we beat that dead horse (pun intended), what, with the conference and our presentation and all. I would like to comment on the experience of working in a group, though. We don't do this enough, now that we're in college. Especially as an English major, where I don't take classes with labs, I forget what it's like to really collaborate. And I didn't know any of my group members going into this, but we became friends just from working hard to achieve something together--a lot of Saturday afternoons and Chipotle runs went into the success of this paper.
Initially, we had a lot more content than we could use. But the other great surprise, was how easy it was to edit the paper as a group. I mean, in a group of four, you have three, built-in proof-readers for your work. And we all respected each other's research and creativity. Honestly, four heads is better than one.
Finished Product: Tada!
But first it was unbelievably long...
And then there were some gaps...
3. Print Essay
I first read Pudd'nhead Wilson last year and happened to have a really good teacher who pushed and prodded us to think about the 1001 implications of "twinning" as a literary device...and then never asked us to write a paper on that topic. It's been driving me crazy. So, first off, thank you for finally giving me a reason to write it and get it out of my system.
Of course, I seem to have deleted or otherwise misplaced the original essay. Apologies. You had in mind that I should cut The Prince and The Pauper(with good reason, because I handled my transitions poorly), but then I would have been left with only one text. And one text does not a text set make! Instead, I decided to flesh out my argument with the other examples of twinning (Jekyll/Hyde and Cain/Abel). Again, obviously there are some other relevant themes (like race, blood, rights, etc) in this text that should be explored, but I liked the permission to find these examples of literary twinning and try to tie them together.
I wish we had had a camera set up, so I could post a video of exactly what happened when Kate, Alex, Emily, and I got together to talk about our paper. Inevitably(and this came through in our formal presentation), we just wanted to talk to one another. It was fun to sit down with our resources and our notes and converse while building an argument, learning a little and teaching a little and not just clicking through slides like a robot. I mean, no one wants to hear you read your ten-page paper aloud, but a little arguing and some music and an accidental profanity and hey! that's some good conference fodder (These are the views of the author. PIT Journal does not condone or encourage the use of profanity in PIT Presentations).
And the conference was a total hoot. I'm not one for cookie platters and folding chairs and panels that run for two hours instead of one, but the PIT Conference was a lot of fun. It was fun to participate. It was fun to put on my high heels and share a little of my knowledge with some people who wanted to listen. I thought the keynote was fantastic, too. Barbour is my favorite lecturer--the kind of teacher who speaks to a room of one hundred and engages you, personally. And I thought that, for a conference that's really all about communication, a great communicator was a MUST as keynote.
For the purposes of this portfolio, I ended up putting our presentation into Prezi, though it didn't accommodate some of the music and video links we used in our actual presentation. I like clicking through the Prezi really fast while spinning in my desk chair. It's like sucking too much helium. I hear.
- Sarah Peck blogged about the Alice In Wonderland text set and I expressed my misgivings about the new Alice In Wonderland movie, here. Pretty much we all need to come to terms with the fact that the original Disney movie just wasn't that great. And, while Lewis Carroll's books were certainly more impressive in scope, the plot isn't the most riveting thing ever. Disappointed by the new movie? Yes. Was I ever that impressed with the animated version? Well, no, no I was not.
- I'm the "Blog Intern" at Algonquin Books, so I'm always posting and cross-posting and tracking and tweeting and sometimes people post back. THIS lady got real up in arms over something I wrote about nature. Seriously, I was trying to write something nice and contemplative to complement the book I was promoting and she went all PETA on my shotgun-loving-ass. Worst part? Did she honestly miss where I talk about being vegan?
- I would like to take this opportunity to say something more intelligent about this post from Kate: click. You want to talk about connections? This spoof video made its way into three of my classes this semester and was sent to me by four friends in three sates, independently of each other. Basically, I have a sign on my back that says "English Major" and you can direct any and all Shakespeare humor my way.
- I would like to take any opportunity to reference about Cool Hand Luke. The warden in that movie inspired one of my earliest memories of thinking, "Hey, I don't like that cop." Ah, youth.
- This article that Emily posted really explained a lot about the Google Book Settlement. I also read this on the BBC today. And I cross-posted Emily's link in my Why-I-Love-Books blog post for March.