GOST Helped Me Rediscover My Love of Writing (part 2)

As Mr. Heidkamp pointed out, I left a major part out my blog post “GOST Helped Me Rediscover My Love of Writing.” I mentioned that I was writing a story based on the writing style of of Roy. I chose to write a fiction peace that adopted the concepts of boundless perspective and grammar. I have attached a rough draft of the first few paragraphs of the first chapter below.

“When she arrived at the airport, she stood alone holding her leopard print duffel bag, in her crisscross-y, strap-y sandals. A man, who she wasn’t so comfortable with calling grandpa but did so anyway because of his being a father to her father, was on the way to pick her up. She felt out of place, standing in the terminal without a parent, because her duffle bag and crisscross-y sandals made her look and feel like a child, the opposite of how a girl of 14, who always said she was 15 wanted to look and feel.

The girl’s name was Margo, which she always thought it was such a stupid name. It sounded like her parents plucked it straight out of a Boxcar Children book. So she went by Belle, not because it was her middle name or the name of an aunt or something like that, but because she was sure that no one in her family, not even any great-great grandmas twice-removed had been named that. 

She didn’t know what her grandpa’s car looked like, but knowing him, she expected it to be something small and grey. And it was. Out of the car, after parking like a true old person, came Belle’s grandpa. He was slightly shorter than her, but probably had been much taller back when he was younger. He wore inch-thick, saucer-like glasses that seemed to float on his face like little halos. 

There was an awkward moment when neither went in for a hug and that reminded Belle that this man didn’t love her, which hurt a bit, but ultimately she was okay with that because she hated hugs anyway. Instead he pushed the corners of his lips up into a smile and she waved a hand. He insisted on putting her duffel bag into the trunk, but Belle did it herself because she could.”

Obviously this piece is a rough draft and only a fraction of the story, but I hope you are able to see some elements of Roy’s writing. Here is the link to the story so far, if you are interested.

Orientalism and the Coronavirus

When we first started getting news of a disease in China, the detail many American kids were captivated with was its supposed origin: a wet market.

A wet market is, simply put, an outside butcher, where vendors sell raw meat, fish and produce. Rumor has it that Covid-19 came from the consumption of a bat from a wet market in Wuhan. When I heard that news I was devastated, not because I’m a vegetarian or because I really like bats, but because of the racist backlash I knew would follow.

Every year my Chinese class goes to Brooks middle school to talk about the Chinese program. This year, in addition to the usual comments about eating dog, we got many insensitive questions and comments about cooking bats and the coronavirus. The whole experience made me really mad

I’m not mad with the Chinese person who ate the bat, or the market that sold it, or the culture that deemed it okay, because its not my culture and it is out of my zone of control. I was mad at the inability for Western people to think from a different perspective because the Cultural norm, that is of course not shared by all Chinese people, to leave nothing to waste deserves so much more respect.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I suggest you read the book, Sichuan Pepper and Shark Fin Soup by Fuchsia Dunlop. In this book, Dunlop tells the story of her travel to China and her discovery of the province of Sichuan through its food. Most notably, Dunlop describes the practice by many Chinese people, to eat the whole animal and to leave nothing to waste. The parts that we Americans tend to leave aside, like intestines, eyes, and fins, are incorporated into some Chinese dishes.

Along with this norm comes the rare consumption of unconventional-seeming animals like turtles, dogs, and bats. I don’t think it’s wrong, not that my opinion really matters, to consume animals such as these. What’s normal is different in different places. For example, the rampant consumption of beef in America may be appalling for many Hindus who believe the cow is sacred and our normalcy of Cheese Wiz may, and probably does, make everyone else want to puke.

Now, what does this have to do with Orientalism? Well, Orientalism is the tendency to warp and exaggerate the differences in the West compared to the East. I believe that the difference in food consumption is one of the many things that has been exaggerated. Yes, the average American eats differently from the average Chinese, but the difference is not as stark as we make it seem and the American horror surrounding these differences really stems from ignorance.

GOST Helped Me Rediscover My Love of Writing

I used to love to write fiction. When I was little, writing scary stories or a silly poem could captivate me for hours. However, I learned to hate writing as soon as it became an assignment and teachers gave me a strict template to follow.

I found that the writing of The God of Small Things is different. Roy writes with no constraints on her sentence structure, her timeline, and the point of views she uses, and yet she is praised for her amazing writing. This boundless writing is exemplified in the passage below,

“Steelshrill police whistles pierced holes in the Noise Umbrella. Through the jagged umbrella holes Rahel could see pieces of red sky. And in the red sky, hot red kites wheeled, looking for rats. In their hooded yellow eyes there was a road and redflags marching. And a white shirt over a black boy with a birthmark. Marching (76). “

In this passage, two of the sentences are incomplete, two begin with “and”, and one is in passive voice. These structural issues would be something I would get points off for, that I would be deemed a sloppy writer for, but Roy is celebrated for it. It works.

The passage above also shows Roy’s tendency to over-describe, to ramble on sentences, adding extra clauses, to shove in extra details. I liked this style of writing, so I began to write my own story without bounds, just like Roy did. I experimented with perspective, detail, and incomplete sentences, and I found joy in doing so.

Thank you Roy for helping me make this quarantine a little less boring.

Death and the Maiden

Der Tod Und Das Mädchen is a classical, German song written by Franz Schubert.

Yes it is an odd choice for assignment in which we have to analyze the language of a song, especially given that I don’t speak German in the slightest. I do however sing in German, so I know how to pronounce the words (which is really all I needed).

It is a song told in two points-of-views: death and the maiden. The maiden is confronted by death and is afraid, but death greets her fear with kindness and tells her not to worry. The lyrics work to reassure the listener that death, though initially scary, is in fact not so.

Der Tod Und Das Mädchen is not only a poem for German-speakers, but also for non-German-speakers who listen to it preformed in German. Now, that makes no sense, right? One can only analyze or be swayed by language if they understand it, right?

Wrong!

The first section of the song goes,

Vorüber! ach, vorüber!
Geh, wilder Knochenmann!
(Roughly translated to “Go away! Go away! You wild skeleton man”)

If you look at the word “Knochenmann,” (pronounced cuh-noch-en-man). the very sound of the word sounds like rattling bones. A different word could’ve been used, but Schubert, decided to use this one, which perfectly encapsulates the expectation of death and the fear the woman must be feeling upon confrontation with death.

The switch of point of view to death can be clearly heard by the change in tone. The woman is shrill, whereas death is calm and sings mostly in “d’s.” Death sounds nearly feminine, which makes death sound much more comforting and kind. This contrast the listener hears, affirms that the expectation/fear of death is much exaggerated.

When death speaks, death says,

Gib deine Hand, du schön und zart Gebilt (Again roughly translated to “Give me your hand, you beautiful and delicate creature”)

Now this takes a little bit of German knowledge (or google translate), but if you hadn’t been won over by the kind tone, what death says is very shocking. Why is something that causes so much pain and suffering, actually warm?

The lyrics of this song were written in a time when young people died more frequently, so I believe that Schubert wrote this song to reassure the loved ones of the deceased that death is not as bad as it might seem.

Sometimes I don’t know what’s happening

From what I know, Beloved is a classic. When I pulled the red-covered book out of my bag, my mom said, “Aw man, that’s a great book.” There has been similar reactions by every single adult in my life. Now, as a relatively smart student, I tend to find the books we read in class to be a breeze.

Jane Eyre—Easy!

The Scarlet Letter—A little bit harder, but not too bad.

But I have to admit that while reading Beloved, every couple of pages I check in with myself and realize I have no idea what the hell is happening. I know Mr. Heidkamp said the flashbacks and confusing bits would start to make more sense as the story went on, but the only way I can get through this book is by reading very slowly in complete silence, waiting for Mr. Heidkamp’s explanations, and doing little check ups with sparknotes—I’m not ashamed. 

My question is, how on earth is this a classic? Yes, I understand that it is an amazingly written story, stuffed to the brim with symbolism. However, I don’t understand how so many people could read it. If I had been trying to read Beloved alone, I would have given up after the first few pages. Maybe everyone is just a much better reader than me. Or maybe only a few people truly understood what was happening in this book and everyone else just stumbled, like me, through the metaphors and symbols, pretending to know.

Don’t get me wrong, It’s an amazing book.

A Perfect, Failed Love Story

In Exit West the main characters, Saeed and Nadia fall in love. In fact they “stay together” even through the most horrific events. We as readers see their relationship flex and fray throughout the story with them not sleeping together and not showing affection. We as readers also expect them to find their love again at the end of the story. This is because we’ve been taught that happy endings should result from this type of romance.

Instead, Nadia leaves Saeed. I like this ending because it is much more realistic to life. But I also like how It was still a happy ending; Nadia falls in love with the cook and Saeed falls in love with the preacher’s daughter. In each situation, they found something in their new relationship they realized they had lacked in their previous relationship.

You do not have only one shot at love, with each romance we have, we learn what makes us happy and change our expectations for the future.

The Mormons and Existentialism


Most of my extended family belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. You might know them as the annoying little white boys who show up to your home bearing a sickly sweet disposition and a bible, ready to save your soul. My family is Mormon…

Now before you jump to assumptions, let me clear some things up. I am not Mormon and neither are my mom or dad, the rest of my dad’s family is. But I know that Mormonism is a “living” religion; the president of the church supposedly talks to God every once in a while and hears His “revised” word (that’s how they flex with changing times). Mormons believe that if they do their duty on earth, they will be rewarded with a planet (yes you read that right, a planet…) to live out eternity with those they love. I think the fear of not receiving the reward by disappointing God is why they are some of the most externally kind and polite people I’ve ever met.

You’re probably thinking, Why on earth am I learning about Mormons and what does this have to do with existentialism? Well when we talk about existentialism, we refer to a lack of understanding of purpose and motivation to exist. Mormons, like many other religious groups, have a purpose. They believe they are on earth to serve God and that everything that they do in their life has meaning and culminates in a reward after death. My question is: How might I talk to my religious family about existentialism?

Let me draw up a metaphor; A researcher someday finds a cure to cancer (lets just say all cancers), and someone else, for some reason, doesn’t like or believe in that cure and continues to search for a new cure. She then gets frustrated and says The cure to cancer must not exist! She then goes to ask the cure creator, I need to find a cure for cancer, but I don’t believe in your cure. Please help me! Now the researcher does his best to convince her that the cure he found works, but is unsuccessful in winning her over. So he thinks talking to the woman is silly. Why would he talk about finding a cure, when he knows the one he has works?

Now replace cure with the meaning of life and the researcher with a Mormon. A Mormon who has found the meaning of life (to serve god), must find it ridiculous to talk to someone about an alternative or nonexistent meaning of life when they believe their religion is factual. Now of course as a not-super-religious-person, I think that much of the Mormon faith is ridiculous (no offense to anyone who believes in god defining purpose- everyone has their own beliefs), but I still want to understand the meaning of life.

In conclusion, I don’t know how to talk with a religious person about the meaning of life… If anyone knows, please tell me.

~Simone Paul