Sunday, March 19, 2017
"But his eyes...brood on over the solemn dumping ground." What was the purpose of describing in such detail, or even mentioning Eckleburg's billboard? I'm guessing that it was symbolic, that someone or something is watching over the valley of ashes, just like his eyes are in the billboard. "'Myrtle'll be hurt if you don't come up to the apartment.'" Why are Tom and his mistress to insistent on having Nick along with him? What purpose do they have for him to be there? I would think that they would want some privacy, and considering that they try to keep it on the down-low from most other people, what is so special about Nick that he should get to know about them? "'Come to lunch some day.'" I think it would be in the best interest of Nick to get away from this crazy little group of people while he still can. He has almost nothing in common with them and they're not really people that he would want to associate with. They are largely lacking morals, contrary to Nick. He should find a new group of friends to hang out with so that he doesn't get any more tangled up in their business, or feel guilty about the knowledge of Tom's affair. They seem eager to incorporate him into their group, to corrupt another person into their haughty little club. It definitely did not seem like Nick had a good time on this little trip with Tom. I hope that he can avoid them as much as possible throughout the rest of the book.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
The streak below the left eye looks like a tear, also the edges of the eyes seem a bit more watery than the reflection in the center, so it would make sense that the face has been crying. The reflection in the eyes seems to be a person's body, skin-colored and shaped like a person lying awkwardly. Some of the black outlines and other colored shapes in the bottom-right hand corner are shaped like dials, and make me think of looking behind the dashboard of a car at night. The lights near the bottom of the cover are bright and colorful and appear to be shining or exploding, they're dramatic and in-your-face, while the face above is filled with melancholy and darkly colored and drab. Is attaining the American Dream as fulfilling as we expect to be? I would guess not, because the face on the cover seems saddened and empty, despite the excitement that takes place beneath it.
Monday, February 27, 2017
"We talk about other times, other places, other persons, and lose our living hold on the present" He was a smart man, this is definitely something that I struggle with. I could have benefited from listening to one of his sermons. Although he goes on to talk about this in the context of getting stuck in the past, and I think I much more often get lost in dreams of the future. But I am glad the book has just brought this to my attention, and I'm going to try working on this in my daily life for the next few weeks, sort of like we did for the virtue chart. This is what I enjoy about reading, the little mini-lessons that you stumble upon in a book and can apply to your life, even though they are brief and unrelated to the main theme of the story, which I don't usually get as much out of as I get out of excerpts like this. "New Brown" I'm not quite sure what to make of the significance of this chapter specifically, in previous metacognitives I have explored the importance and function of religion in the story, and it seems like this is some sort of way to put a bookend on that. Maybe it will have more significance after reading to the end. "But I did quit, partly because I got tired of running" This seems to be the turning point in James' own life. That seems to be the structure of this story, he told the story of his mother and her turning point and how it lead up to him, then how her life influenced his early years all the way up to his turning point, which was made possible by his going back to learn about his family history and his mother's past before her whole life changed. I think this last chapter "Finding Ruthie" does a good job of pulling it all together, and connecting the alternating italics chapters of his mother's life and regular text of his own into one big hero's journey. Ruthie found herself, and James found himself by finding out about Ruthie. "I turned to peak as Mommy wiped her reddening nose" I think it's a little bit weird that he still calls her 'Mommy', especially now that he told the story up to the present day, and is publishing a book out into the professional world as full-grown adult with a family of his own. Maybe it shows how he always sees her that way, as a mother trying to figure out how to raise all 12 of her kids, even though they have long since moved out, that is the role that she assumes in his head. Still kinda weird. "She was standing in front of the synagogue entrance...lost in thought" This is very uncharacteristic of her, which leads me to believe that the great lengths James has gone to connect her to the past have actually made a significant impact on her, despite the matter-of-fact attitude that she maintains throughout the endeavor. I guess this is about as good of a resolution to the story as you're going to get. It's satisfying to think that maybe, after all these years, she might actually take a second to stop and think about her own past, even though she has tried to distance herself from those memories as much as possible for almost all her life. Maybe she has finally come to peace with it, and that allows readers to come to peace with the story.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
"Tateh had put out a detective to look for me" Wow! He always seems to have such little interest in her, and then he goes and does something like this. Of course I don't think he got a detective because he cared for her at all, but probably just for selfish reasons. Still, its surprising that he would be desperate enough to go that far, regardless of his intentions. "that's when I started going to Metropolitan Church" Here I was, thinking that her passion for church stemmed from the contrast to her strict Jewish Orthodox upbringing, while in reality it may have had more to do with coping with Mameh's death and learning to forgive herself. "A Bird Who Flies" Maybe the bird as Mameh, passing away. Maybe it is Ruth, learning to fly again from her new church, or flying away from her family forever, towards living with Dennis. "She picked that life for herself and she lived it, that's all" It seems that any onlookers to her life held her in decent esteem, they are relatively forgiving of what she had to endure and what she made of her life after the fact. On the contrary, people who were close to her were very polarized. People that she knew from early in life, including much of her family, lost all respect for her and refuse to associate with her in any way. People from the later part of her life like her husband, second husband, kids, and friends from the city generally adored her. Interesting to see the difference in perspectives and thus opinions they had. "A Jew Discovered" I wonder if James went so far as to actually convert and become a practicing Jew? Most likely the chapter is just referring to him connecting with his roots and learning about his family history. But with all of the kindness he was treated with, maybe he would even decide to convert. I wonder what his mother would say to that if he did. But it's almost like she lost her identity as Jewish when she separated from her family, leaving a little bit of identity as Jewish for James to pick up as he discovered more about his past. "The first time I went south with him was the last time" This reminds me of that new show on TV 'This is Us' where the man finally meets his biological father who is dying of cancer, so they go on a road trip to his childhood home in the south, but he dies there in the hospital before they make it back home.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
"Ma went back and forth on this for weeks" Why can't she make up her mind about this? Nothing has really changed since she first decided to move, so why be so conflicted about it? Usually, when a family makes the decision to move, the kids just have to go along with it even if they don't really want to, so it couldn't just be girls keeping them there, could it? Is the mother just being wishy-washy because she is still in some sort of state of depression and doesn't know where to take her life next? "She also was drained emotionally and felt tremendous guilt" So it must have become increasingly more difficult for the remaining children, with little or no role models remaining in their lives, no longer a step-father or father figure around, a mother who has become very absent, undecided, and guilty, just trying to get by. Now they're in a foreign place from where they grew up, with more discrimination and segregation. Plus I know personally how difficult it can be when all of your older siblings progress to college and move out of the house, as it becomes more of an empty nest. Even though James is already a little bit older and more developed at this point in his life, it still leaves me more surprised than ever that he was able to grow up to become a successful person, given the conditions that he lived through. "Most of my work was in the field" It's sort of interesting, the situation that James had working with Mr. and Mrs. Dawson is almost how some people in the south tried to portray slavery, many years earlier. Of course slavery was in no cases anywhere near anything like this, but that is what the propaganda of the slave owners in the south would have wanted you to think slavery was like at the time. "Lost in Delaware" is the same idea as Lost in Harlem. When the chapter ends, that is the end of James being lost in Delaware, as he is off to college and the beginning of the rest of his life, but his mother and remaining siblings will undoubtedly still be lost in Delaware. Also, I found it interesting when the mother says "'Go away and learn to live on your own'" because she is trying to pass the lesson on to her children, speaking from experience. Even though her children's childhoods were happy compared to hers, she still encourages them to go off on their own because she understands that is what they need to begin the rest of their life. "he went to New York because he wanted to pursue music" Maybe one of the reasons James' mother was so emotional about him leaving home was because he is following the same path as his father had and she is reminded of him. "'Promise me you'll stay'" It's not really a fair situation for either of them to be in, and it's not their fault. It's horrible to leave Dee-Dee there alone without anyone else, and she is still so young and has no way of escaping, but also her sister needs to get back to Dennis and make something of her own life. She probably should have never made that promise and just been honest, but it would be so hard to say. I don't know why Dee-Dee would hold it against her so many years later though, she obviously is not the one to blame.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
"I lost my mother and sister when I left home" I know from earlier in the book that she doesn't reconnect with her family at all, and that she is essentially dead to them. But can her mother and her sister really blame her for leaving, knowing what kind of life she was subjected to in Suffolk? Certainly I can see how they would be upset with her for leaving on her own, without offering any help to them, and causing them to suffer the brunt of the father. However would they really never forgive her for this? After years, they would still hold this grudge against her? "caught a Greyhound bus for New York the very next day" This chapter is called graduation because not only is it literally about her high school graduation, but it also details the turning point when she sets off from her childhood and into the rest of her life, graduating from her parents' jurisdiction and setting off from her family in Suffolk. She makes up her mind about who she wants to be, and begins recreating her identity for the first time. "Weed was my friend, weed kept me running from the truth" James was using drugs and alcohol to run away from his problems and avoid the reality of life. I wonder if a lot of us people rely on less dramatic or harmful crutches, that we're unaware of or in denial about, just to get through the day. What sort of addictions or habits are we using to try to protect ourselves and we can't we be rid of them? I wonder if I have any that I can think of in my own life? "'You only have one or two good friends on life'" Why so few? What about the rest of a person's friends, what makes them not good? If this is true, have I already met my one or two good friends? Will they come later in life? How many of the people I consider friends now will I still be in contact with in 30 years from now? "But she had left her past so far behind that she literally did not know how to drive" This sentence basically summarizes the significance of the chapter title, "driving". She had to re-learn how to do something that she had been more than proficient at her entire life, because she had completely recreated herself from the ground up, and her skill at driving was left in the past. I guess maybe the purpose of discussing this in the book in detail is just to emphasize how much different of a person she became, independent of her earlier experiences in life. There's a lot of different themes that can be drawn out of that, about learning and growing and change, choose whichever applies to you best. "I had to break away and not go back home to her, because Bubeh reminded me too much of what I was and where I came from" Family can always be very sobering, and if you know that they wouldn't approve of what you're doing, then you probably shouldn't be doing it. I've learned that usually it's best to rely on your family to help you make decision because they have the best of intentions and just want to help you out. If you're choosing others over your family, then you either don't have a very reliable family or you're starting to become someone that you're not. That's what the chapter title, 'Lost in Harlem' is referring to, she is drifting away from her family and getting involved in some sketchy business. Although in her case, it is a little bit of a different situation, because much of her family doesn't have the best intentions for her. That's why she is so lost, she doesn't know who to trust or who to associate with, or who she is as a person, and she is lost in Harlem searching for these answers.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
"He fled Virginia around 1927" So much of this book has been seemingly random anecdotes about family members or other people mentioned. I wonder what is the purpose of telling all of these stories? They aren't imperative to the plot of the story, if it even has a plot, other than being a sort of biography of James and his mother. But both of them could certainly tell their life story without going off on tangents about every single person ever related to them. I wonder if it acts more as a way to explore humanity, interpersonal relationships, and the characters of people as a whole, rather than their loose familial connections. Regardless, I like to hear these stories about peoples' lives, but they get fairly boring after awhile, at this point in the book. And I don't know fully trust a lot of the details of the stories, because they are practically tertiary sources. "since I was the oldest living at home, I had to watch out for Mommy and my little brothers and sisters" That's a lot of responsibility to put on a kid who is also emotionally burdened with the loss of his step-father. I wonder what will happen with James' future, it would be hard to walk away from that situation to pursue a college education or something like that. I still wonder why any of the older siblings never went back to help out the family once they completed college or had a stable job. At this point managing the household must be incredibly burdensome to the mother, now without the step-father to help out, especially financially. "He was not a man for dialogue" I definitely aspire to be a lot like this man as he is described, he seems very loving and caring, he worked hard and had a lot of different talents, he was generally simple and calm, he cared about his family that he went out of his way to become a part of, he had good taste and was always cool in an old school sort of way, and he was quiet, never speaking just to fill the silence, and not caring about what others thought of him. "Bubeh had diabetes and had to take insulin every day" My mom has type 1 diabetes and I know everything she has to go through on a daily basis just to stay alive, so it must have been exponentially more difficult back then. At least this part of their family has money to be able to afford insulin and medical care, it must have been nearly impossible back then to do it in worse conditions without the medical advancements that we have today. "not knowing what to keep and what to leave behind" I know what it feels like to be in that sort of situation, it can't definitely be hard on you, make you act in ways that you might not otherwise. It seems like everybody's always looking for a place to fit it, but changing themselves to make it there. "I began my own process of running" This section following reminds me a lot of one of my friends who went through a lot when his parents had an ugly divorce. There are a lot of similarities; practically dropping out of high school, substance abuse, hanging out with new people and avoiding his family, turning towards music. But I guess James turned out all right after all that, and hopefully my friend will do alright later in life too.