Family Isn’t A Word … It’s A Blank Verse

Comparing Broken Family In King Lear And The Royal Tenenbaums

If King Lear were set in a manicured shoebox set and filmed in a series of whip pans and slow motion montages, it could quite easily be Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. In fact, if King Lear were staged as a playbook within a film narrated by Alec Baldwin – it would be The Royal Tenenbaums.

T R A I L E R

The Royal Tenenbaums was Wes Anderson’s third film, and established his cinematic style as a integral to the modern cinematographic cannon. His previous two films, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore maintained a sense of obscurity and quaintness. Although later garnering a ‘cult classic’ (particularly Rushmore) reputation, The Royal Tenenbaums marked Anderson’s mainstream debut. The film was nominated for an Oscar in ‘best screenplay,’ and Gene Hackman’s tragic, Lear-like performance scored him a Golden Globe as Best Performance of an Actor.

The Royal Tenenbaums was Wes Anderson’s third film, and established his cinematic style as a integral to the modern cinematographic cannon. His previous two films, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore maintained a sense of obscurity and quaintness. Although later garnering a ‘cult classic’ (particularly Rushmore) reputation, The Royal Tenenbaums marked Anderson’s mainstream debut. The film was nominated for an Oscar in ‘best screenplay,’ and Gene Hackman’s tragic, Lear-like performance scored him a Golden Globe as Best Performance of an Actor.

The Royal Tenenbaums chronicle the comical tragedy of the Tenenbaum family’s downfall (and eventual redemption). Dysfunctionality, disappointment, and disaster plague Anderson’s whimsical, fictional Tenenbaum family and Lear’s family. In fact the archetypes within each story almost perfectly mirror each other.

Image result for pagoda royal tenenbaums

Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) as King Lear: The dysfunctional father
Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller) as Goneril: The bitter eldest child
Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) as Reagan: The neglected middle child
Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray) as Duke of Cornwall: The neglected middle child’s husband
Richie Tenenbaum as Cordelia: The favored, spoiled youngest child who least resents the dysfunctional father
Eli Cash as Fool: The comic relief and honest confidant
Pagoda as Kent: The dysfunctional father’s loyal servant

In Wes Anderson’s twee and warmly tinted world, a malingering Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) desperately seeks familial redemption after abandoning his wife and children. His three children: Chas (Ben Stiller), Richie (Luke Wilson), and Margot (Gwenyth Paltrow) Tenenbaum were all once child prodigies who quickly fall into a post fame depression fueled by their fractured family. Familial complications run deep amongst the Tenenbaums, but Royal is clearly the primary antagonist and catalyst of the family’s demise. Similar to Lear, he drives his children away with his bluntness, insensitivity, and pompousness. Detached from his children for nearly two decades, Royal Tenenbaum plans on redeeming himself as a father and husband after finding out that his wife, Etheline Tenenbaum (Anjelica Huston) is engaged to Henry Sherman (Danny Glover). In a desperate attempt to insert himself into their lives, Royal fakes a terminal illness to garner their sympathy. Comparable to the filial rejection Lear faces, Royal’s children initially reject his apologizes and offer him little sympathy. Like Cordelia, Chas is preferentially treated over his other siblings (who were left to the wayside), and is therefore the most eager to forgive and accept his rejected father. Royal is particularly hurt by this, one could even venture to say that “[it is] sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is/to have a thankless [Chas]” (1.4.301-302). Furthermore, the eldest children in both Lear and Royal’s families are the most resentful and first to denounce their father. The two stories end in bittersweet loss, inevitably anticipated by the audience. Though Royal initially fakes his malignant illness, he dies at the age of 68 from a heart attack proceeding Richie’s traumatic suicide attempt. Comparably, Lear ultimately meets his demise after mourning the death of his youngest, most prized daughter, Cordelia. In a way, the two tragic patriarchs both die realizing they came back to their families all too late.

The Royal Tenenbaums and King Lear both use ironic humor to enhance the tragic complexity of their characters. Uncoincidentally, both King Lear and The Royal Tenenbaums have been referred to as great ‘tragicomedies.’ They both strategically balance the devastating with the comical, adding to the bittersweetness of each piece. Anderson and Shakespeare succeed in intermingling this dry and crooked humor with gory tragedy. Richie’s bloody suicide attempt set to Elliott Smith’s “Needle in the Hay” dramatically contrasts his trickling blood with the cold, blue atmosphere of the family bathroom. This parallels the macabre of Goneril’s bloody suicide and Gloucester’s gruesome blinding.

The clear difference between The Royal Tenenbaums and King Lear is their characterization of ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ The original Shakespearean play draws a clear distinction between purity and wickedness. The Royal Tenenbaums blurs this division, rendering each Tenenbaum family member as heart wrenching, yet lovable in their flaws. This isn’t to say that the characters in King Lear aren’t complex or layered. Edmund as an antagonist evokes a particular empathy from the audience, similar to the way viewers warm to see past Royal’s brash callousness. Despite Edmund’s suffering and slight redemption, he can still be easily distinguished as evil. Goneril and Reagan embody evil, yet Chas and Margot are in no way overtly cruel. Their distance and frustration clearly stems from childhood trauma, and although they are distrustful of their father they don’t actively seek to harm him (except for Chas’ snide verbal jabs). Although Chas is the kindest of the three Tenenbaum children, he is in no way a perfect embodiment of goodness like Cordelia. Though King Lear effectively develops complex villains, it ultimately dramatically exaggerates the line between good and bad. The Royal Tenenbaums is a more realistic portrayal of familial dysfunction, and the ending is significantly less theatrical. Royal achieves a palpable and heartwarming level of redemption with his entire family, dying with less remorse than Lear. Royal certainly “[spoke] what [he] [felt]/not what [he] ought to say” (5.3.393).

It’s About To Be Writ Again (But My Way)

As listeners hook their headsets to the silver screen, they transport to the surreal world of Bowie’s universe marked by shocking red mullets, clown-like rouge, and comical blue eyeshadow. Perhaps the hallmark of Bowie’s signature art-rock style, “Life on Mars” embodies the enigmatic, theatrical, and quirky characteristics that embody Bowie as an artist. Despite being one of the most renowned and culturally significant songs in music history, listening to “Life on Mars” evokes a sense of obscurity comparable to stumbling upon a never released experimental vinyl. This unusually composed song paired with its accompanying music video deviates so far from mainstream music, yet perfectly belongs in Bowie’s strange, intergalactic universe.

Life on Mars” was released on Bowie’s sophomore 1971 album, Hunky Dory. It was later released as a single. Bowie’s inspiration for the song derived from one of his earliest, unreleased pieces: an English adaptation of Claude François’s “Comme d’habitude” (As Usual). In the 60s, it was common practice for English artists to write their own lyrics to the melodies of hit European songs. Bowie titled his adaptation “Even a Fool Learns to Love.” Bowie never saw the project to completion and left it to the wayside. Paul Anka then bought the rights to the original French song “Comme d’habitude,” and rewrote it as the famous classic “My Way.” Frank Sinatra’s performance of “My Way” rocketed the song to fame, and Bowie then took it upon himself to revisit his interpretation of “Comme d’habitude,” which was “Even a Fool Learns to Love.” After much deliberation, ruminating, and hours of musical genius; Bowie produced what we now know as “Life on Mars.”

The piece hodge podged together several 20th century cultural references. Further influences include the Hollywood Argyles’ doo-wop hit “Alley Oop.” Bowie took the line “Look at those cavemen go” directly from “Alley Oop.” The orchestral crescendo of Bowie’s tune can not only be recognized in its parodic inspiration, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” – it also echos in Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, The Beatles’ “Somewhere,” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” (“Stairway to Heaven” came after “Life on Mars”)

Life on Mars” remains one of the most enigmatic songs of all time. Though many people enjoy parroting its catchy tune and memorable lyrics, listeners and fans alike often don’t have the slightest idea as to what the song means. With lyrics such as “Sailors fighting in the dance hall/Oh man! Look at those cavemen go” and “Rule Britannia is out of bounds/To my mother, my dog, and clowns,” “Life on Mars” is both a nonsensical word salad and a masterly allegory.

Life on Mars” is a critique of the media consumption culture, systematic oppression, and capitalistism that were prominent in the 1960s (obviously, this was not limited to the 60s, but Bowie was critiquing a very specific period in history at the time that he wrote this song). Bowie criticizes this culture through a satirical story narrated by the lyrics of the song. In this story, a girl’s parents forbid her from going out, so she lives vicariously through media consumption (particularly film and TV). She uses media as a form of escapism and way to travel past the confines of her mundane life. This escapism and vicarious exploration correlates with the title and repeated line “Is there life on Mars?” which expresses a yearning for life beyond Earth. Yet the girl quickly becomes unfazed by the very source of her escapism and excitement. She soon realizes the ridiculous, formulaic, and trite nature of escapist media. She concludes that artistic fantasies derive from experiences and phenomena present in the very world they seek to avoid. Bowie expresses this theme trough lyrical illusions to pop culture, vivid satirical imagery, and metaphors portraying mass consumers as primitive and oblivious to the cruel reality of life.

In the first verse, Bowie establishes the monotonous, desensitizing nature of video media:

As she walks through her sunken dream
To the seat with the clearest view
And she's hooked to the silver screen 
But the film is a saddening bore
For she's lived it ten times or more

The hyperbole exaggerating the number of times the girl has relived the film (or comparable films) admonishes the unoriginality of cinema culture. The girl becomes dejected by living the film “ten times or more,” realizing that everything eventually repeats itself. As she watches society continue to feed the exploitative, capitalistic movie industry, she grows detached from both the far off universes in movies and her own mortal life. This strengthens Bowie’s argument that capitalism and media culture are harmful and pervasive aspects of global life.

Bowie further denounces mass entertainment and capitalism through an allusion to the pop culture figure Mickey Mouse:

It's on America's tortured brow
That Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow

“Cash cow” is a metaphor comparing steady businesses to a dairy cow that can be milked for several years with very little care. This line asserts that Disney is a cash cow, milking the same basic stories and characters to continually reap financial benefit.

Following this metaphor, Bowie shifts his critique to music media:

Now the workers have struck for fame 
'Cause Lennon's on sale again

These lines allude to John Lennon’s song “Working Class Hero,” which artistically stretches John Lennon’s childhood narrative into a proletariat power struggle. This is ironic because Lennon grew up in a detached, comfortable upper middle class life and built his musical career upon the very capitalist system he rebukes in “Working Class Hero.” Bowie attributes musical stars like the Beatles as just as guilty of playing into this corrupt system. Lenon exploits his own story just as Disney exploits Mickey Mouse. They squeeze all they can muster out of their own form of media in an effort to make the most money with little creative exertion. It is important to note that Bowie wrote this before reaching rock star fame. As his career progressed, he too contributed to this corrupt system.

Next, Bowie compares consumers to animals with a herd mentality:

See the mice in their million hordes
From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads

This establishes an image of people en masse, following whatever norm is set for them. This connotes that they are void of individual thought by letting systems control them. Ibiza and the Norfolk Broads were popular British tourist destinations. Comparing the tourists to mice in hordes reflects the idiocy of commercial tourism. Since people travel in hordes to the same destinations, they fail at escaping. Even though they change physical location, they do not break away from group norms which define the world they want to escape.

Finally, the chorus repeats this set of ever prevalent lines:

It's the freakiest show
Take a look at the Lawman 
Beating up the wrong guy

“Lawman” is a metonym for the corrupt police, security, and law enforcement system. Bowie both scorns the violent criminal justice system and the media’s fetishization of pain and suffering. Through this image, Bowie corroborates that mass systems are inherently oppressive. Furthermore, he articulates that this corruption is a two way process. Yes, the system enforces a dehumanizing power imbalance; however, this system maintains its legitimacy through consumer fascination with violence, pain, and suffering. This is similar to Benjamin’s assertion that dominance requires participation from both the oppressor and the oppressed.

Bowie uses these poetic devices to prove that media industries are corrupt monopolies, that consumer culture is an unhealthy and dissatisfying form of escapism, and that mass public support of these corrupt industries only strengthens their power. This illustrates the vicious cycle of capitalism.

Although “Life on Mars” never reached the household stardom of “My Way,” the song is both a musical and literary masterpiece. It reveals several layers of societal flaws whilst regaling a captivating narrative. Even if “Life on Mars” fades further out of public recognition, it will continue not influence music for decades to come.

Playlist with all songs mentioned in this post as well as notable covers of the song. Yes, “La Vie en Mars” is a French cover of an English song that parodied another English song that was derived from a French song.

First Love Never Die

Comparing Nostalgia And Bittersweet Young Love In Exit West And Norwegian Wood

For the past several months, I have been sporadically reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. The novel is a quintessential piece by the renowned Japanese author, often being the most popular of his works amongst American audiences. The coming of age love story of Norwegian Wood sets itself apart from the rest of Murakami’s writings. As seen in our short stories unit, Murakami’s works (The Elephant Vanishes, Barn Burning) are heralded for being jarring, fantastical, and action packed thrillers that defy the norm of Japan’s 20th century canon. However Norwegian Wood seemed to defy Murakami’s rejection of simple, worldly fiction by depicting a seemingly simple and relatively plain love story.

Warning! Some mild spoilers for Norwegian Wood are ahead.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

“I do need that time, though, for Naoko’s face to appear. And as the years have passed, the time has grown longer. The sad truth is that what I could recall in five seconds all too soon needed ten, then thirty, then a full minute – like shadows lengthening at dusk. Someday, I suppose, the shadows will be swallowed up in darkness. There is no way around it: my memory is growing ever more distant from the spot where Naoko used to stand – ever more distant from the spot where my old self used to stand.

“Murakami, Haruki. Norwegian Wood, p. 5.

“If they had but waited and watched their relationship would have flowered again, and so their memories took on potential, which is of course how our greatest nostalgias are born.”

Hamid, Mohsin. Exit West, p. 204.

Exit West chronicles Nadia and Saeed’s burgeoning, thriving, and finally–withering relationship with the same nuance and underlying bittersweet nostalgia that poignantly mark Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. Toru, the narrator of Norwegian Wood regales the story through a retrospective documentation of his memories, while Exit West takes on a more timely and omniscient narrative approach. Towards the end of Exit West, the novel unflinchingly portrays the distancing between two people and the transition from recent past to fading memory. These themes are prominent in Norwegian Wood as Toru learns how to devastatingly confront pain and loss. Similar to Nadia and Saeed, Toru and Naoko fall in love under tragic circumstances which bring to question if either couple were ever really in love at all – or if they were only bound by their shared traumas.

Toru and Naoko are linked by the death of Kizuki (Toru’s best friend and Naoko’s boyfriend). They connect through their mutual grieving, and throughout the course of the book, their relationship carries the fragility and sadness that united them in the first place. Similarly, Nadia and Saeed are brought closer by the political upheaval and violence that plagues their home country. Both couples are inextricably linked, even as they grow apart, because their partners are the only ones in the world who could ever understand what happened to them. In a way this is true for all relationships, but this deep understanding and shared experience is much stronger when trauma, death, and survival are involved.

Similarly both novels address young sexuality and passion under a similar light. This uniquely marks the characters’ journeys into adulthood. The couples’ physical intimacy adds another layer of nuance to their connection, but in both pieces their emotional attachment is far more intense. This layered, rich portrayal of both their connections leaves the reader longing and aching, for a time that never was or would never be. Both Hamid and Murakami capture the passage of time in a beautiful and familiar way. It is not easy to portray such complicated relationships in such a full, dynamic way – yet both authors mightily succeed at doing so.

Lost In Translation And Existentialism

The Discrepancies Between The Stranger And L’étranger And An Existentialist Conversation

I sat down to read L’étranger for the first time a few springs ago, and every so often I reread the first few pages or chapters aloud.

The flow of …

Aujourd’hui maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas.

Camus, Albert. L’étranger. Éditions Gallimard, 1942, p.1.

… is something that has burned into my memory.

Reading both the English and French version of the novel evokes vivid images and a world I constructed and fabricated so clearly sophomore year. Rereading the first few pages of this book had become an almost obsessive behavior, but it was comforting because it transported me to a world that paralleled a time in my life that felt hopeful and purposeful (which was somewhat ironic). I associated the way Meursault would hold a cigarette, the vast expanses of Algerian beaches, the bright lights of the funeral home, and the red sores of Salamano’s dog with the end of my sophomore year in an inextricable way.

When I picked up this book in English for the first time, I was off put. The same images that came with the rhythm of the French version that I had read aloud repeatedly ceased to appear. It was strange, so I would blink, and attempt to read again and conjure up the world of Meursault. I think that as I continued to read, but there was always a certain uneasiness that followed. Which maybe was an appropriate accompaniment for the book.

This anxiety that I am missing something surfaces everytime I read a book that I know was originally in a different language. Anna Karenina should be in Russian, Norwegian Wood should be in Japanese – what is slipping through the cracks of the language barrier that I will never be able to grasp? I trust modern translators, and I know that popular translations are meticulously constructed to preserve the original meaning. But I also know that there will always be something missing – which makes me want to learn more languages. But then I wonder if learning these languages outside of a native context will skew my understanding.

Nevertheless, last school year I hadn’t thought of Meursault for a while until 2020 had upturned all of our worlds in March.

Similarly, I recall turning to Huis Clos (No Exit) by Jean Paul Sartre in order to explain the absurdity and relentlessness that this year. I prominently recall a list of existentialist vocabulary that prefaced the play in our thin paperback copies.

L’absurde – Reality is absurd because we recognize our inability to explain its existence. The outside world exists without apparent justification, foundation or purpose.

La nausée – Nausea is the feeling of repulsion that takes us when we become aware of the absurdity of reality.

L’angoisse – Anguish is the normal condition of those who have become aware of their total liberty, and the fact that there are no universal values that can justify the choices they have made.

L’authenticité – A man who has grasped and accepted the fact that he is free, who has realized what his situation is, and who has, within that situation, chosen to engage himself in the world around him so as to affirm his liberty, is an authentic person.

Le choix – Man is condemned, because he is free, to choose what he is going to be, by his daily actions. This choice also implies the attitude of the Others and hence is another source of anguish.

La liberté – To be free is to recognize one’s complete independence; to make one’s own life through one’s own initiative; to reject any idea of absolute Good or absolute Evil and to accept no judge or mentor to save one’s own conscience.

I remember writing that I was overcome with la nausée while driving in my car, listening to Dreams by Fleetwood Mac last spring. I had taken to driving long distances with my Dad as a form of escapism. I would drive along rural highways and never get out of the car, and that gave me a lot of time to be pensive. I felt as if I was hit by something so large and overwhelming that is was indescribable. It sunk in my stomach like lead. And everything around me seemed to take on a new lens as irrelevant and frivolous. As a went through the sequence of trying to justify the turbulence that had uprooted my junior year (before March, I had also had a difficult and unusual year), I realized that searching only made it worse.

It was cringely nerdy, but I had to take out my copy of Huis Clos in order to explain and document this feeling that had overwhelmed me on the drive. I realized that this was la nausée, but this brutal experience had taken me one step closer towards la liberté. It was something I had to grapple with in order to move away from the brink of hopelessness. Which I sometimes fear removes its authenticity. I can’t use it was a means to escape something, because that is just as harmful. I think I am grappling with my relationship with l’absurde everyday, but not in too conscious a way. It is a balance that I will be trying to find for the rest of my life.

A Conversation about Cinema, Race, and Bread

In Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ short story “A Conversation About Bread,” a ‘meta narrative’ calls attention to the complexity of storytelling regarding race, culture, and socioeconomic disparities. It questions the function and implications of academic cultural studies by chronicling an interview between two anthropology grad students who are working on an ethnography project.

One can’t help but become painfully sensitive to their own interpretation of the short story, which is later extended to our broader relationship with stories and storytelling. This questioning of storytelling, immediately made me think of film and cinema.

When Eldwin, one of the anthropology students, reflects on the complexity of storytelling; he asks himself the following important question.

Didn’t every story provide a narrow representation at best and fetishize somebody at worst?

Thompson-Spires, Nafissa. “A Conversation About Bread.” Heads of the Colored People, p.183.

This immediately brought to mind a film analysis video essay I watched on one of my favorite directors, Sofia Coppola. You can watch the video essay here.

Although skepticism of Coppola’s privileged and narrow narrative had surfaced for a while, her 2017 film The Beguiled was the recipient of the most controversy. Consistent with Coppola’s hallmark style, the film was chock-full of painteresque tableaux featuring a group of southern women portrayed by Kirsten Dunst (as always), Elle Fanning, and Nicole Kidman. Shockingly (or maybe not so shockingly), in Coppola’s rendition of Thomas Cullinan’s 1966 Civil War Era novel, the two characters of color (a black slave, and a biracial character) are void from the plot entirely. This directorial decision sparked passionate debates and criticism, drawing attention to Coppola’s privilege and blindness to the diversity of femininity.

According to Eldwin’s philosophy, wouldn’t Coppola’s decision to omit Black characters from her film be better than portraying them problematically?

I feel as if a stereotypical, tokenized, and flat addition of black characters to accompany the white leads or to promote a narrative of white saviorism could be far worse than the narrow view Coppola offered. Read this article about Viola Davis and The Help.

It is hardest to question the things we love and cherish the most, but as a Chinese American girl coming of age – I can’t help but feeling subordinate to this limited, warped portrayal of the delicacies of female adolescence. How could someone who looked like me, or my friends ever exist in this universe of long gazes out of passing windows or the effluvia of the Lisbon sisters’ bedroom paired with melancholically eerie soundtracks by the French band, Air. Would anyone other than a Kirsten Dunst archetype ruin the aesthetic and dreaminess of these films centered around this angelic pinnacles of Eurocentric beauty? Simultaneously, Coppola has been one of the most successful female directors, and has carved out a space for the rawness of female adolescence that was previously nonexistent in mainstream Hollywood. Her attention to feminine aesthetics and detail has often been criticized as superfluous; interestingly enough male directors who do the same, such as Wes Anderson, are often praised for being unique and artistic. Her films have played a critical role in my coming of age, and serve as constant artistic inspirations. Yet her choice to prioritize the privileged, white female narratives in times of historical urgency is questionable. Not only that, but I feel as lonesome as her delicately shielded protagonists when I am led to believe that artistry and beauty is defined by characters such as these. As my own coping mechanism, I have attempted to build this world around myself and for my friends in a way that feels authentic. The ruffles, the longing emptiness, the way the light reflects through the lawns of a suburban neighborhood – it all is translated through my own mind to somehow redefine these stories starring girls like me.

The critical role white female fragility plays in systems of oppression is undeniable. At times, it can arguably be the most oppressive and influential when it comes to the marginalization of womxn of color. Womxn is intentionally spelled with an “x” in order to awknowlege trans and non-binary womxn (who undoubtedly have no place in Coppola’s worlds), and to avoid the sexism associated with man and men. Read this interesting essay on the power of white female fragility over womxn of color.

The solution that the video and I both come to is that Hollywood needs to make more space for womxn of color, instead of tasking Coppola with representing all womxn. As we learn through Thompson-Spires’ characters, the readers are just as responsible as the writers when it comes to highlighting the stories of marginalized people. As an audience, how can we learn to compensate for the finite representation we are given? How can we do so without fetishizing or tokenizing a group that is culturally different from our own? That is a question without a clean and simple answer that we must revisit throughout our lives.

kirsten dunst as Marie Antoinette – if it's hip, it's here

The Human Connection and Poetry

One of the most prominent concepts I take away from this piece is the separation between romance, desire, platonic connection, and human empathy. Are these various connections that are defined under the umbrella of “love” independent from each other, or are they melanged in a blend of raw human emotion? In the end, Jeff sacrifices himself for – and cares deeply for Rachael. Not because he loves her romantically or sexually. But because beneath any criminal, beneath any monster there always seems to be an underlying current of love. Those who are most hardened by life are not forced to grapple with and reveal this tenderness until dire circumstances are imposed. Or sometimes they never have the chance at all …

An interesting detail I picked up on was the character of Verlaine. Last year I was rifling through the cabinets in the French classroom, and I took home this book of poetry. Verlaine’s work is synonymous with the beauty and elegance of words. His poems weave words together in a truly artistic way. Saunders’s must’ve intentionally known this when naming one of his characters Verlaine. The most prominent connect I draw is between Verlaine’s (the poet, not the character) poetry and the drug Verbaluce. In Escape from Spiderhead, the drug Verbaluce inflicted by Abnesti and Verlaine (the character, not the poet) causes its recipients to describe experiences in great poetic detail with vivid imagery. When Jeff is induced by Verbaluce his description and perception of a garden meanders from simplistic, mundane, and childlike to one of great detail and literary skill:

“The garden still looked nice. It was like the bushes were so tight-seeming and the sun made everything stand out? It was like any moment you expected some Victorians to wander in with their cups of tea. It was as if the garden had become a sort of embodiment of the domestic dreams forever intrinsic to human consciousness. It was as if I could suddenly discern, in this contemporary vignette, the ancient corollary through which Plato and some of his contemporaries might have strolled; to wit, I was sensing the eternal in the ephemeral” (46).

Jeff continues these poetic descriptions when recalling his experiences with the girl’s he is artificially induced to love and desire. Every time they make love under the influence of Verbaluce, Jeff verbalizes the mental images of places he has never seen in great detail, “… a certain pine packed valley in high white mountains, a chalet-type house in a cul-de-sac, a yard of which was overgrown with wide, stunted Seussian trees” (50). These mental images appear regardless of the girl Jeff is with. This imagery reminds me of the way Verlaine composes his poems.

A view from my workspace of a book of Verlaine’s poetry
What kinds of unique books does the library have? Are there any handcrafted  books like the livre d'artiste? – Booked Solid
One of Verlaine’s poems in an illustrated edition of one of his books.Paul Verlaine, Parallèlement  Lithographs by Pierre Bonnard (Paris: Ambroise Vollard, 1900)
Considered to be the originator of the livre d’artiste, dealer Ambroise Vollard commissioned Pierre Bonnard to create lithographs to illustrate Parallèlement, poems by Paul Verlaine. The work was published in Paris in 1900.