Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hemingway's first novel

Right from the start of The Sun Also Rises and until the end, Hemingway brims with a hard boiled masculinity. It’s quite apparent that his writing style is that of a man’s man. Aside from kung fu flicks and comic books, few stories channel so much raw masculine energy.

Looking at the way he constructs sentences, without recognizing the deeper meanings, I get the sense that he's throwing flurries of verbal jabs in the form of short, concise, to-the-point sentences.  His persistent, hard-hitting brevity reveals his robust masculinity.

Ironically, Hemingway writes about a guy named Jake who struggles with sexual impotency, and that name also ironically brings to mind one of the most sexually potent people in the Bible - Jacob.  It’s intriguing that a manly man such as Hemingway would create a main character with a physical inadequacy that was in stark contrast to his dynamic, real life persona.  It seems that Jake is a way for Hemingway to contemplate his own identity.  I wonder if he was trying to redefine gender roles.  I wonder if he was trying to make a statement on the underlying powerlessness that exists beneath the surface of man’s supposed masculinity.

Even Jake’s love interest, Brett, exudes masculinity. She bears a manly name, banters in manly ways, cuts her hair in manly fashion, and also refers to herself as a “chap.”  In fact, she comes across as more masculine than most of the male characters. Jake, along with the rest of the men, deals with various insecurities and feelings of inferiority while Brett remains confident and unflappable, basically dominating the others with her flair and promiscuity. What was Hemingway’s intention and inspiration for such a woman? Was he trying to describe the emancipated woman of the 1920s? Was he trying to reassess gender roles? Was he painting a portrait of his ideal woman? Was Brett a manifestation of latent homosexuality?  I don’t know, but I wonder.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

a poem by Juana Ines de la Cruz

(She was a nun in colonial Mexico who lived from 12 November 1651 to 17 April 1695)

To the Matchless Pen of Europe

I am not the one your think, 
your old world quills
have given me another life,
your lips have breathed another spirit into me,
and diverse from myself
I exist between your plumes,
not as I am, but as you
have wanted to imagine me

Found this in Sor Juana's Second Dream by Alicia Gaspar de Alba.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sandra Cisneros

Last week I had the opportunity of seeing Sandra Cisneros (acclaimed author of The House on Mango Street) in person.  My high school English teacher from many years ago had a playful, yet obsessive infatuation with her, so I was curious and excited to see the person he adored so much.  I don't have any pictures to prove the happening of this event, so you'll just have to take my word for it.  She along with other writers were at the University of Houston to talk about poetry and politics.  She had a quirky, down to earth, wise, passionate aura about her.  She read poems from various obscure authors, but before doing that she told us how she was having trouble picking one of her own poems to read because "I couldn't think of one I liked."  After the readings she participated in a panel discussion.  She listened more than she spoke, but every now and then she offered her insights.  She entered the conversation saying, "Politicians sound like mirrors of each other.  They say what people want to hear, and poets say the truth."  She went to describe the poet as the "antithesis" of the politician.  Later the conversation shifted into the moneymaking aspects of poetry, and at that point she said, "It's more important to deliver the poetry than for people to buy it."  Then she offered her unique suggestions to make poetry more prevalent in our everyday lives, "Poems should be on the back of cereal boxes.  Poems should be in bags of Frito chips.  Clothes should have poems for when we stand in line."