Lost in the Woods

Any of Hozier’s songs could be easily argued as poetry. He weaves lyrical metaphors together in a way few other artists can match, especially in his song “In the Woods Somewhere” from his album Hozier. The song could be interpreted in many ways, but I have always thought that it was detailing someone grappling with whether to continue living after his love has died.

The most obvious device that Hozier uses to convey this struggle is the extended metaphor of the woods. The woods represent his own mind; he is lost in his subconscious as he hovers between life and death. Hozier enhances this metaphor with descriptions heavily reliant on auditory and tactile imagery:

The moon still hung

The night so black

That the darkness hummed

This vivid picture Hozier paints of a forbidding forest helps set up the ominous tone of the song. Throughout it, these dangerous woods call to the speaker:

An awful noise filled the air

I heard a scream

In the woods somewhere

The speaker’s internal conflict is tearing him apart, and the mysterious noises coming at him from his surroundings parallel his fear of his undecided fate. His confusion grows as he ventures deeper into the woods, as if falling farther into his despair.

The speaker quickly realizes that, though he thought the scream was human, it actually came from a fox:

A fox it was

He shook, afraid

I spoke no words, no sound he made

The symbolism of the fox is no doubt intentional; foxes are traditionally representations of tricks and deceit, so it seems to be encouraging the speaker’s overwhelming desire to follow his love into death. He knows that he shouldn’t, but this part of his mind is compelling him to run towards her and let himself go.

The speaker then sees that the fox has been attacked, and he decides to put it out of its misery, much as he wishes to do with himself. However, he changes his mind right as he’s about to do so, realizing that the creature that hurt the fox is coming for him as well:

The creature lunged

I turned and ran

To save a life I didn’t have

The fox has led the speaker right into the path of death, and until this moment, the speaker has been complicit in his own deceit. This is the moment, though, that he changes his perspective, realizing that he values his own life too much to give up:

Dear, in the chase

There as I flew

Forgot all prayers

Of joining you

(Hozier also uses a bit of wordplay in these lyrics, using “Dear” to connect it back to his lost love instead of “deer” like in the original saying.)

The speaker finally flees the forest, choosing to see what the rest of his life has in store for him. He has chosen to live with the grief of losing his love, rather than allowing himself to be overtaken by it. Hozier brings the metaphor to a close at the end of the song, as the speaker recognizes how he changed after finding his way out of his mind, saying:

How many years

I know I’ll bear

I found something

In the woods somewhere

Exit West and the Fear of the Unknown

“Perhaps…they had understood that the denial of coexistence would have required one party to cease to exist, and the extinguishing party too would have been transformed in the process”(Hamid 166). This sentence is part of a passage from Chapter 8 of Exit West that had a significant impact on me because of how pertinent it is to the current global tension around immigration. The debate over refugees and immigrants is especially polarizing in the United States right now, and it’s hard for members of either side to see the perspective of the other. But Hamid offers an insight into the minds of both through the novel’s omniscient point of view.

Of course, since the novel is centered around two refugees (Saeed and Nadia), there is more of their perspective than anyone else’s. However, in this particular passage, as well as (sporadically) throughout the whole book, Hamid shows the thought process of their opponents, and I thought it was really interesting to see how he thought they might approach the situation.

In the novel, the “nativists” ultimately give up on their plans to ambush and massacre the refugees, and Hamid determines that “they did not have it in them to…slaughter the migrants”(166). As much as they–and real-life nativists–may advocate for the eradication of immigrants, it takes quite a lot to actually do that, and at the end of the day most people do not actually want that to happen. In truth, they are simply afraid of the change that immigrants represent, so they come up with extreme ways to prevent that change. But in Exit West, Hamid imagines a future where those people come to terms with the situation and accept it for what it is, as hard as that may be, and I hope that this future is a plausible one for the world we live in. As Hamid says, “Courage is demanded not to attack when afraid”(166), and I would like to believe that more people have that courage in them than is apparent right now.

A Story in Tweets: The New Serial Novel

When I first read “Black Box” by Jennifer Egan, the thing that caught me the most off-guard was not the language or the rules of the world, but rather the story’s structure. I didn’t understand the way it was formatted; all of the individual boxes and almost fragmented sentences were not what I was used to when it came to short stories. Out of curiosity, I looked it up, and I found that the strange organization came from the fact that the story was originally written through a series of tweets from the author.

The whole thing made a lot more sense when I thought of it coming out in that context. Using Twitter to tell this story actually fits the plot very well, considering that it was told from the point of view of the “beauty’s” mental information log, which has a similar condensed style to a tweet. Although we had to read the story as the New Yorker published it, I could imagine reading it in real time, feeling like you were getting updates from the woman’s black box itself.

Aside from its application to the actual story, I thought the method Egan used was interesting because it reminded me of old serial novels. Many years ago, authors used to publish their stories in fragments in magazines or newspapers, almost like episodes of a TV show. It was a popular technique among science fiction writers, but it was also used by famed authors like Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway. The appeal back then was that it was more profitable for the authors than exclusively selling full novels, but it also allowed their stories to reach a wider audience, seeing as more people could afford to buy magazines than books.

While tweeting out “Black Box” may not have been more profitable for Egan, it did have the same effect as publishing serials did for the authors of the past in that it went out to one of the widest audiences in the world: social media. A vast majority of the world, regardless of social or economic status, participates in social media to some extent, and using it in this way allowed Egan to reach so many more people than she would have if she had published it in book form. And who knows, maybe this will lead to Twitter stories becoming the 21st-century form of serialization–though I’m not sure if I’d be willing to read a Harry Potter novel 280 characters at a time.