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Notes Towards Day 17: Continuing Prodigal Summer

Anne Dalke's picture

I. A Day of Choosing: Election Day....

Cf. The Paradox of Choice:
what does Kingsolver's novel tell us about choosing?
who chooses? what part of what selves?
how much choice/free will does it give the characters?
how do their choices relate to those of the animals around them?

p. 52: "a thousand silent females ready to chose and make the world new"

79: "The unbearable, exquisite pleasure of being chosen."

97: "This day was going. Was gone already...
all the choices she had thought she'd made for good."
188: "'Deanna had made an unlucky choice in an otherwise perfect morning...
she'd chosen the route"

266: "'That's a startle response, not fear'...'that's not fear, that's disgust....'
Foolish choices...People make them every day.'"
279: "Evolution isn't helter-skelter! It's a business of choosing things out."
323: "Most people lived so far from it, they thought you could just choose, carnivore or vegetarian, without knowing that...just clearing the land...had killed about everything on half the world."
365: "It didn't matter what she chose. The world was what it was, a place with its own rules of hunger and satisfaction. Creatures...would go their own ways, of their own accord."

(That's the quote for this week's forum-->does it matter what you choose??)

How much of choice is conscious in this book?
What role does the unconscious play?

55: Damned thing, self-consciousness, like a pitiful stray dog tagging you down the road--so hard to shake off. So easy to get back.

Eddie, 256: "if nobody's looking, there's no weirdness."

Garnett, re Nannie, 269: Birds and oak tres have minds like hers, he thought, surveying this profoundly deluded little world with an odd satisfaction.

332: He...prayed hastily to the Lord to forgive the unpredictable frailties of an old man's mind.

363: When a body wanted one thing wholly and a mind wanted the opposite, which of the two was she, Deanna?

388: But maybe that was what this was going to be: a long, long process of coming undone from one's self.

Can we choose what kind of story we tell about what happens to us?
Concrete test: does this story get revised during the process of its telling?

One way to read the novel might be as a re-interpretation of the story of what is "normal," what is "right" [in farming, in living]. It's about making different choices,
even changing the "genre" from a tragedy to....

what? what sort of story does it end up being??

238: she felt her grief shrinking...Or...ceding some of its dominance over the landscape...

304: Cole Widener...stolen by death...It was a Greek tragedy.
322: the undercurrent of tragedy that went with farming. And the hallelujahs of it, too....

Nannie, 390: "There's nothing so important as having variety. That's how life can still go on when the world changes....It's the greatest invention life ever made."

437: There was no plan to speak of...all these scattered accounts were really parts of one long story, the history of a family that had stayed on its land. And that story was hers now as well.

The novel
gives us some examples of multiple interpretations:

87: His eyesight had clouded to cataracts so slowly that his mind has learned how to fill in details like fence wire, tree leaves, and the more subtle features of a face."

Not exactly ambiguous figures, but an example of the mind guessing/
developing its own stories....

115: It had taken her a year to learn that when mountain people said "I don't care to," they meant the opposite of what she thought. They meant "I wouldn't mind."

131: Compost piles. "Laziness lots" would be a better name for them. "Stacks of sloth."

372: "people are suppposed to be dead and buried at our age. That's normal."
II. Second big choice this week is what to do with this paper...

Re-write last week's 3 pp., correcting technicalities
(quotes! p. #s for quotes! works cited!...
also, the age of the line-edits has ended....)
THEN: expand your original reading of the novel to 6 pp.

how can you do this?
--build a "turn" into the argument:
use Kingsolver to critique the critic
(ex: Jessica on Garnett as unhappy "satisficer")

--"enter" the conversation yourself:
where do you stand in the conversation you set up,
last week, between novelist and critic?

--add another critic (Lehrer, Thaler and Sunstein, Pollan):
Cole, 45: "People get sentimental in a place where nature's already been dead for fifty years, so they can all get to mourning it like some relative they never knew."

177: "I don't love animals as individuals...I love them as a whole species...they should have the right to persist in their own ways"

293: "despair...for all the things people used to grow and make for themselves before they were widowed from their own food chain."

323: "You can consider the costs of your various choices."

Garnett, 343: He thought he'd been working alone. You just never knew.

348-9: "specializing makes life more risky. If their food dies, they die."
III. Reading a sample (or two?)
and advising this writer/these writers on next steps/filling in.

The last assignment was to read the novel from the p.o.v.
of one of the critics we've read, and demonstrate what
dimensions they would highlight; what they would see.
What is the thesis in these papers, and what the p.o.v. that articulates it?
Then: how might these writers expand their arguments....?

IV. Finish discussion of novel under Peter's direction on Thursday

(I'll be @ SLSA in Atlanta, talking about Encoding, Decoding and Transformation...]