Archive for April, 2009

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A Break in the Routine

April 30, 2009

I’m here to report that Chapter Seven brings a reprieve from Gogol’s standard formula that I’ve been complaining about..it also marks a bit of a reunion of characters past as Chichikov, Manilov and Sobakevich all come together again…I haven’t been this overjoyed by a reunion since Saved By the Bell: Hawaiian Style.

But I know that you’re probably behind me so I won’t give away too  much more than that…I will give the spoiler that there’s a Petrushka sighting though…that doesn’t tell too much, but might give you more of an incentive to read.

In other, only slightly related news…this past Saturday I went and saw the movie Adventureland.  In that movie one of the characters gives a copy of Dead Souls to a girl he is trying to woo.  Now I’ve found that this book (in particular, really Russian literature in general) is often used in movies to denote a character as a sensitive rebel (I’m not sure but I think that James Dean probably had a copy of “Hadji Murad” in his pocket when he was stargazing at the planetarium with Plato).

Anyway I’m trying to put together a list of times in cinematic history that Dead Souls is used to denote a character’s vulnerably idiosyncratic nature.

Here’s my list so far…

  1. Adventureland
  2. The Namesake (the main character is called Gogol for pity’s sake)

So the game is on…this is kind of like Dodo Thumping version 2.0

And in a really unrelated note I read this article yesterday from New Yorker magazine.  Its by Rebecca Mead and its about twin poets (they also played the Precogs in Minority Report!)  Anyway if you missed it, you should give it a gander.

That’s all I have…I would like to note the passing of my favorite Golden Girl, Bea Arthur.  In memoriam I’d like to re-link to the video I linked to on this blog earlier.  Only a consummate professional could make singing with a giant Muppet rat touching…and that she did. Rest in peace.

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A Brief Break From Thoughtful Analysis…and Zombie

April 24, 2009

It would be much easier for me to focus on Dead Souls, and my thoughtful analysis thereof, if you did not feel the need to litter this blog with gross exaggerations and out and out lies. (It probably also wouldn’t hurt if I actually read the book.)

Your description of our heated bubble exchange bares little resemblance to the actual events. I don’t know about your “bubbles were blowing bubbles” but I do have to admit that I do recollect that your bubbles did blow. 

Oh, that had to sting. Let’s see that again in slow motion:
“your…bubbles…did…bloooooooooowwwwwwww!

(How’s that for a verbal rendering of slow motion?)

And please trying to pass off the work in your last post as “Early Jon” is utterly ridiculous. Between the confident crayoning, choice of medium, variety of food stains (?), and size of the hand, that is obviously current day Jon work.

Also, I believe it was Hansel von Wordenrhyme who refuted ol’ Eustace Cultringham when upon seeing your bold innovation on the stick man, he boldly stated: “It is undeniable that Jon’s impact on the art world, nay on our very perception of what art is, will likely be larger than the hand in this very picture.” (Big hands being a signature Jon motif.)

Okay, I promise after this to stop bringing up  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but did I mention that there’s also a Reader’s Guide Discussion?

Did I mention that I love this book already?

Okay, tomorrow back to Dead Souls.

Justin

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Bubbles, Birth, and The Poky Little Puppy

April 23, 2009

You really want to bring up that bubble contest?  Do you really?  If I recall my bubbles were so big they were blowing their own bubbles (this is not hyperbole–my bubbles were amazing!)  I remember that every time I had a particularly magnificent bubble…a bubble that just might have redefined the common conception of what a bubble is or should be…you’d start yelling and a waving your arms shouting, “Look at my bubble!  Look at my bubble!” and we’d look and see nothing and you’d say “Oops, it just popped!”

I also remember constantly having to chastise you for trying to drink the bubble juice because you wanted to “make bubbles on the inside.”

It’s also funny to me that you mis-remember our birth.  At the time of our entry into this world we were locked in a game of self-willed patience…who can wait the longest to leave the womb.  So really your being born first was coming in second.  If I recall correctly…it’s really anyone’s guess–it was hard to concentrate with all of that amniotic fluid…and being a fetus.

Although I wouldn’t characterize my last post as a “sub-text competition”–you are correct that I was doing some fictional name dropping.  I think it was because I was feeling threatened and I think that is because of Art.

You brought up the “Justessellations” and I couldn’t help but remember the glowing review it received from Eustace Van Culturingham IV in the The Jeffryes Family Post Intelligencer-Bugle-Tribune…words  like “sparkling”, “redefines shapes” and “Euclid-acious” were bandied about while the same critic said of my art show that was hanging at the same time (Stickmen: ReDeFINEd): “I hope that boy never draws again.”

Granted it was supposed to be a series, but then Danger Mouse came on and this is all I got finished:

 

My Art

My Art

And I don’t know how many times I have to apologize for that peanut butter!

Rest assured the only contest I’m engaged in with you right now is a race to the end of this book…and it looks like I’m winning…Just finished Chapter 6 baby!

And on a completely unrelated note.  I have to share a story from my real life, because it is too hilarious.  Today, at the library at which I work, we were being honored with a national award.  So they had a big celebration with speeches from the head librarian and someone from our university’s administration.  Cupcakes were served, a band was hired, it was open to the public.  Anyway I’m standing around chatting with some colleagues (about the relative benefits and costs of Dewey Decimal versus Library of Congress classification–because that’s all librarians ever talk about) when one of my fellow librarians says “The Poky Little Puppy’s here.”

Now I was sure I’d mis-heard, but I turned around anyway and when I did, lo and behold, there stood a five foot-five inch Poky Little Puppy waving to us.  

It was like some surreal dream.

Just thought I’d share.

And that’s all I have,

Jon

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Competitive Subtext and Zombies

April 22, 2009

Now, Twin Brother, I realize that you and I have always been somewhat competitive. Friendly competition has been a hallmark of our twinship since birth. From our race from the womb (which you may remember, I won) to our present day fierce battles over  Trivial Pursuit, competition has been a part of who we are.

Honestly, I thought we had hit a new low a few weeks ago when quality time with the nieces and nephew devolved into a competitive bubble-blowing contest.

(In case you’re a bit cloudy on the details, I was blowing these elegant, bigger than life, translucent works of art while you were producing spittle-like soapsuds as you continually blamed the direction of the wind and claimed you were “just warming up.” Although points to you for winning out on trash talk. My favorite  comment of the day was when you turned to me and told me, “I will never be impressed by anything that comes out of your wand.” That one still stings.)

Like I said, I thought that was as low as our competitive natures could go. But then you had to take it one step lower and get all competitive by way of subtext. 

Petty, Twin, petty. 

Let’s look at two examples from our current blog posts.

First mine:

I have to be honest with you, I really hadn’t noticed the plot (or plot-less) pattern you described in your last post. (I have never been much one for patterns, which could explain the failure of my short-lived visual art efforts that I lovingly referred to as “Justessellations.” Althougth one critic did describe them as “expectation-defying*” and another described them as ” really special.**”)

Subtext:

Wow, Jon you are really good at noticing patterns. Art is neat.

Now your post:

Now if Steven Urkel has a precursor in the Russian Novel (and I believe he does) I think a better fit would be Dostoevsky’s titular idiot Prince Myshkin.  Here’s why:

  • Both are social misfits (Myshkin is, um The Idiot and Urkel, I believe,because he wears suspenders and oversized glasses).
  • Both hold unrequited loves (Myshkin his Nastasya Filippovna, Urkel his Laura Winslow)
  • Both have high-pitched nasally voices (Myshkin in my head, Urkel as played by Jaleel White)

Subtext:

  • Jon is well read in a variety the Russian greats and can easily bandy about with references to Prince Myshkin.
  •  His thoughts are well organized and expressed clearly. (He uses bullet points!)
  • Justin is an idiot.
  • It’s fun to say Myshkin.

See, that’s just sad.

On a somewhat related note, I haven’t had a chance to read in a few days. But the good news is I finally received my long-awaited copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It has instantly catapulted up to the top of my reading list.

Here’s just a taste of what’s in store:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

Is it possible to love a book without even having read beyond the first sentence?

Justin

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Sitcoms and the Russian Novel

April 21, 2009

Funny that your mind went to sitcoms as well when you came across the character Nozdryov.  He didn’t remind me so much of Urkel (although you draw some interesting parallels) but rather he brought to my mind Neil Patrick Harris’s character on How I Met Your Mother, Barney Stinson.  

My book reads, “No gathering at which he happened to be present, went off without some ‘history'”…and that reminded me of Barney’s catchphrase “It’s going to legendary” every time he and the “gang” go out.  That and other characteristics (“They are always great talkers, drinkers and gamblers, and dare-devils, always in the public eye.”) makes me think that Barney’s great-great-great grandfather might be Nozdryov.

Now if Steven Urkel has a precursor in the Russian Novel (and I believe he does) I think a better fit would be Dostoevsky’s titular idiot Prince Myshkin.  Here’s why:

  • Both are social misfits (Myshkin is, um The Idiot and Urkel, I believe,because he wears suspenders and oversized glasses).
  • Both hold unrequited loves (Myshkin his Nastasya Filippovna, Urkel his Laura Winslow)
  • Both have high-pitched nasally voices (Myshkin in my head, Urkel as played by Jaleel White)

“It’s a rare condition/In this day and age” to see such uncanny similarities!  I know from now on in my mind ‘Mother’ Winslow will be tending a samovar and planning a Name Day party with Telma Hopkin’s Aunt Rachel.

And speaking of episodic-ness so far chapter six is falling right along in the mold of chapters 2-5.  Ho-hum.  If something interesting were happening in this story I’d be doing less time searching for complementary characters in Russian Novels and the early 90s hits of ABC’s  T.G.I.F.  (If this book doesn’t get interesting fast I’ll have a thesis on the connections between Anna Karenina and Just the Ten of Us).

Jon

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Conclusion Jumping

April 19, 2009

I have to be honest with you, I really hadn’t noticed the plot (or plot-less) pattern you described in your last post. (I have never been much one for patterns, which could explain the failure of my short-lived visual art efforts that I lovingly referred to as “Justessellations.” Althougth one critic did describe them as “expectation-defying*” and another described them as ” really special.**”)

But now that you point it out, I do see it. But it doesn’t get my dander up. It reminds me of an episode of Sanford and Son (or I should say, it reminds me of the only episode of Sanford and Son that I’ve ever seen) in which Lamont and Fred sit in the junk shop while a series of visitors stop by. The visitors run the gamut of social classes from the blue-blooded guest star, Nancy Culp, to weekly regular Aunt Ernestine. Each giving Fred the opportunity to make pointed social comments on any and all.

So, much like Sanford and Son, with Dead Souls the plot is secondary. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

Now, was I the only one who was surprised by the drastic change in character from Nozdryov from the beginning to end of chapter four? At the beginning of the chapter, i had him pegged as the Steven Urkel of Gogol’s biting satire.

Just like Urkel, Nozdryov enters the book as a unassuming, laugh-producing, catchphrase toting (in Urkel’s case, “Did I do that?” in Nozdryov’s case, “Let’s make a bet on it!”) who would ultimately go on to to steal the show. (In the case of Dead Souls from Chichikov, in the case of Family Matters, from Reginald Vel Johnson.)

Well, I had almost convinced myself of this by page 65, but by page 80 things, though, had taken a most decided turn. 

I guess that’s what I get for jumping to conclusions. I guess my search for the literary antecedents Steven Q. Urkel will, for now, have to continue.

Justin

*Okay, that was me.
**Grandma

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Update

April 17, 2009

Chapter 5 follows the same pattern!

Arghh.  But we do meet Sobakevich…who I believe has been referenced before…but really this format is so frustrating.  I still like the way Gogol describes things (he’s very witty) but my interest is waning and I’m sort of just skimming.  Then I’m afraid that I’m so concerned about the plot that maybe I’m missing something larger that’s going on (you know forest, trees, blah, blah, blah).  

That’s where you come in Twin…if you’re onto a larger trend then let me know ASAP!

I’m not a bad person (granted I should probably give more money to charity) but I do ask for something of a plot.  Is that so much Gogol?

I’ll let you know what I think of Chapter 6.

Adieu,

Jon