September 23, 2016
In our two most recently read novels, we ventured into texts that attempt to manipulate the regular prose form. The first of the books we read in unit two, The Raw Shark Texts, was a little bit intimidating at first. Hall’s book shows us an unexplored vision of what a ‘book’ can consist of, leaving this book almost in a genre of its own. I find it almost too easy to recognize a pattern in this book, as there are repeated figures and forms that certainly do not follow the regular notion of reading words from left to right, and from the top of the page towards the bottom. Though full of a wealth of meaning and reserving lots of space for speculation and analysis, this repeated textual element does not require close observation to recognize. Anyone could pick up a copy of Steven Hall’s groundbreaking novel and by flipping through the pages once, would see many oddities on the pages. For this reason, I have chosen to specifically try to find a pattern more rooted in the text, rather than in the form of the novel. To do so, I began to examine our second novel of the unit, A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. The Pulitzer prize-winning novel, while still incorporating intricate and unique textual elements, is written in a much more normal format than the aforementioned Raw Shark Texts.
While analyzing the text, a couple of themes kept reoccurring, but I would like to examine on in particular. Though not individual to this novel, the concept of time plays an instrumental role in how the characters interact with each other, and more importantly, how the reader interacts with the text. Here I have provided a handful of passages in the text that highlight the importance of time in the book.
“The pause makes you think the song will end. And then the song isn’t really over, so you’re relieved. But then the song does actually end, because every song ends, obviously, and THAT. TIME. THE. END. IS. FOR. REAL.” –From Chapter 12, amidst the PowerPoint slides.
“Time’s a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?” Scotty shook his head. “The goon won.” –Bottom of pg 332
“I will never leave you, I’ll be curled around your heart for the rest of your life” –From pg 207, last passage of Chapter 10
Time, a concept that both mesmerizes and perplexes us, is so widespread amongst every facet of our lives that it often goes without mentioning. The passing of time is so fundamental to the continuation of our daily lives that we often go without appreciating it. A concept so simple and yet so complex, we all know exactly what time is, but not a single person can say that they have some mastery of the idea. From the beginning of our universe, the only tool to use to track what happened is time. We all go from point to point, moving and travelling throughout our lives, without ever appreciating the in between moments, the medium that gets us from A to B.
Based on the notion that life is finite, time is a harsh reminder that we must keep moving and keep changing before our death comes around. If you were never to perish from this earth, there would be no need to employ time as a dimension of your life. Unfortunately, all of us will die eventually, and just as the amount of physical space in this life is limited to the confines of possibility, we can only maneuver ourselves through one direction in time. Now, when I first considered this concept to write about, I was thinking that the only way to travel through time was forward, as a continuation of going moment to moment. I have come to realize, through analysis of the text, that this is indeed not the case. I invite you to look at how much time out of your day you spend preparing for the future, based off of things you have been told or learned in the past. We are, I suppose, stuck on a tightrope called ‘the present’, balancing between the opaque and the crystal clear.
As Egin suggests in the text, time is a goon, a construct that controls, directs, and defines us. The significance of Egin’s depiction of time in this story could be pointing at multiple different ideas. Throughout the book, we see the conflict of interpersonal relationships between the characters. The structure of the book and the story is non-linear. She pulls us through various decades to divulge important clues. We see the character develop through highlighted scenes, all happening in real time, throughout different scales of time. What could Egin’s intention be while writing like this? She is certainly not the only author to write a non-linear story. Through analysis of the text, we can begin to derive what she is setting out to prove by manipulating time like she does.
In the slideshow chapter, one of the most heavy hitting and important in the novel, we hear of Lincoln mapping the pauses of great Rock n’ Roll songs. In my personal experience with Autism and Asperger’s syndrome, those few small things that are focused on often have some extremely complex significance. The tragedy is that it can’t be readily communicated to others. Let us then pick apart what Linc puts his focus on, small pauses. These pauses signal the end of the song, an end of the elapsed time for the soundtrack. In reality, and what I think Linc and Egin are alluding to, the timely pauses are sometimes more important than the music itself. Looking at the following line can expand upon this complex idea, “I will never leave you, I’ll be curled around your heart for the rest of your life.” Is there any room for love in this life without time? Without a beginning and unfortunately, an end, we would have nothing to offer our fellow man. I can fall in love, and devote my life to making someone else happy, but even that is finite. Egin, through her depiction of time throughout the novel, suggest that we are better served to dwell in the present, rather than occupy ourselves worrying about the past, or fearing the future. In her opinion, that’s all the present is, a simple balance of the past and the future; but it is our responsibility as people to value the present in such a way, that we find no reason to regret anything or to be afraid of what is to come. Though this might be a lot of analysis to pull from three short passages, I am confident that Jennifer Egin would share my opinion.
- Explain your thoughts on what genre The Raw Shark Texts should be associated with. What evidence supports your claim, and what elements from the text can be cited to prove your claim?
- Choose any character from the TRST and any character from AVFTGS, find some conceptual similarity in their character’s development, explain how it is important to the course and how it draws some contrast or similarity between the two novels.