Archive for November, 2012

Junot Díaz and the New Englishes

In “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” readers find a unique form of the English language influenced heavily by Dominican culture and the Spanish language. This unique and individualistic form of English harkens to the idea that English can be at once a universal language and a personal form of expression.  This particular dialect has much “glocal” import in that the audience can sense the cultural influence; the narrator, as well as the characters in the story, have a rich cultural background, and Díaz’s writing serves to illustrate that fact by giving readers cultural references and linguistic clues around which to build their perceptions of said characters. The author uses, in more than one instance, Spanish words in order to underscore Oscar’s or the narrator’s feelings, and makes mention of Dominican cultural norms in order to provide contrast to Oscar’s “unusual”  character. The idea that Dominican men are generally successful with women, for example, contrasts Oscars preference for science fiction and role-playing, in addition to his inability to find a romantic relationship.

Magical Realism in “Light is Like Water”

In García Márquez’s short story about two children who learn to sail in a room full of light, we see many elements of magical realism. The first and most prominent is the nonchalance with which the narrator tells us that, by simply breaking a bulb, the brothers are able to literally flood a room with light. The following events are entirely magical, and yet, they are described without a single mention of their fantastic nature. The second earmark of magical realism is the verisimilitude with which the narrator describes the effects of light-flooding. From the children, immortalized as they urinate into a flower pot, to the brothers, drowned by light, the audience is given no choice but to visualize this harrowingly beautiful final scene. As perturbing as these methods of description can be, the true perturbation occurs when the narrator breaks from the story to tell readers of the action that “sparked” this strange adventure. In what I find to be the most odd twist in the story, the narrator inserts himself into the life of the family he is describing; he goes from playing the role of an observer to being perhaps the most important character in the narrative. With the revelation that his simple answer to a simple question (one that he “wasn’t brave enough” to reconsider) is the entire reason the story takes place, readers find the text’s true source of magic: words. This simple and seemingly innocuous statement made by the narrator implies that words have the power to significantly alter reality, and, given the chance, to create a world of magic.

Borges and the Invention of Hypertext

In my reading of “The Garden of Forking Paths,” I was struck by the similarity in Borges’ style to the genre of hypertext, or texts which allow readers to choose or somehow influence the outcome of the story. Indeed, one could claim that Borges’ writing was a precursor or even the first instance of such a text; his narrative creates a seemingly infinite labyrinth of possibilities, the complexity of which rivals the fictional labyrinth of Ts’ui Pên, a creation of Borges himself. Borges is a master of paradox and recursion, and we find both of these elements in the text. Interestingly, Borges work evokes the attitude of the “many-world interpretation” known to quantum physicists, which states that all possible histories and futures are real and exist simultaneously. Borges’ narrative strategy pushes readers to imagine different outcomes of the story, ones in which perhaps Dr. Tsun does not kill his friend. The implication that the possibilities are endless leads readers to question the outcome with which they are presented, urging them to think more deeply into the story. However, despite the labyrinth of thought that the narrative creates, Borges presents his audience with only one outcome: Dr Tsun’s triumph, which costs him his life, as well as the life of his friend.