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This is no doubt that there are a lot of issues that are being represented in this book. Kingsolver does a great job of packing lots of modern day societal issues into one story. Global Warming, Religion, Education, Social class superiority, I can really appreciate her ability to blend an issue such as education into the plot of the story. Like the interaction between Dellarobia and Ovid when he seems to be astounded at the fact that they did not have higher level math at Feathertown High, or the fact that most of the students who graduate don’t find a need to go to college. But with Ovid’s reaction to this fact, it has an underlying notion that these students don’t have the option to go to college, so they don’t even try. I believe that Kingsolver is trying to mirror the thoughts of society in this book. Dellarobia keeps comparing her way of life to those of a higher social class. Like saying “those college ho’s” or referring to more educated people who can shop at more expensive stores for Christmas gifts. I believe that with all the focus on social issues in this book, Kingsolver is trying to convey to the reader that there is a real issue with social class in this country. I believe that she might even be saying that those who are in a lower income bracket are not payed attention to by the government and society, and that this is a real problem. I can appreciate Kingsolver’s want and ability to intertwine these issues with such a fictional story.
There is one other thing that I noticed that is more related to the symbolism in the book. Dellarobia has an apparent discontent with the way her life turned out. I feel that the displacement of the Monarch butterflies in some ways is representative of Dallrobia’s displacement of her life, compared to what she wanted her life to be. She wanted to go to college, so she went to go take the ACT’s, but her unplanned pregnancy and shotgun marriage stopped her from fulfilling what so many others in her town failed to fulfill. God’s “gift” got in the way of her dreams. Much like global warming got in the way of the butterflies natural migration practices. I feel that Dellarobia’s urge to save the butterflies and have them shipped down to Florida so they can be saved is her way of subconsciously trying to save herself. But she cannot control her own life, so she takes the chance to save the lives of these butterflies. But yet again, the natural process keeps her from saving them, because they cannot be taken from where they ended up, in the cold mountains of Tennessee, away from what they wanted in Mexico. I feel somewhat sorry for Dellarobia, in a pathetic kind of way. Her moral compass isn’t exactly working, but she is only trying to make it day-by-day, much like everyone else.

“Flight Behavior”

After reading Edith Pearlman, I had expected that Barbara Kingsolver was also a short story author with different characters and themes in each story. Once I read the first two chapters, I was caught off-guard that the book was about one woman and her family.  However, I did enjoy how each chapter was a different look into her lifestyle and family because it offered a sense of connection between author and reader. It was an insight on how people must adjust their lifestyle in times of change, which were caused by the outside world. The everyday struggles Dellarobia faces each day make you wonder what could possibly happen next, and I think that is what makes this book so interesting to me personally. I found an article online about Kingsolver’s work being more of an impact to readers when it comes to environmental struggles and issues, than those who write non-fiction. I personally believe that most fiction has the power to spread more information and facts than any other genre.

Just thought I would post this interview for everyone before we start talking about Flight Behavior on Tuesday. I picked this interview mainly because of the following quote, and because it gives us a little taste of who Barbara Kingsolver is.

“As is Kingsolver herself: “I’ve always seen the world through the eyes of a scientist. I love the predictable outcomes that science gives us, the control over the world that that can render. But I came over to being a novelist and I never looked back and I think what it boils down to is a scientist has to be wedded always to the idea of finding answers and there’s a part of me that is in permanent flirtation with the mystery – I love the questions sometimes more than the answers.”

Happy Reading! Enjoy!

 

“Self-Reliance”

“Self-Reliance” struck me as an interesting story to end with since most of the previous stories never ended with death. In the very beginning of the story, I had a feeling that the overall reason behind Cornelia’s actions of buying a quiet home in New Hampshire, becoming more in tune with her surroundings and nature, paying attention to small details most people never do, were all leading up to her grand exit. Yet, I didn’t know how she would do it, but when she did, it reminded of the ending from “Titanic”.

I did a little research behind this story because I was interesting in what the inspiration had been since it was the very last story of the book. After I found an interview with Edith online, everything about almost every story began to make sense. However, it also made me somewhat upset because the implication behind “Self-Reliance” is extremely sad.

 

http://storyvilleapp.com/story/self-reliance/

Finishing this book, I am once again impressed and confused by Edith Pearlman.  One thing that I haven’t really talked about is the age of many of her characters.  In “Aunt Telephone,” Susan’s childhood, adolescence, and adulthood are explored through voice.  Pearlman manages to make the voice of Susan mature as she does.  She introduces the story like a nine-year old and ends it as a mother. Milo goes from a middle-aged man to an elderly man.  Parenthood and old age seem to be two very common characteristics of her main characters.  I think that it really adds to the story that the age isn’t learned until later, because it makes the main character relatable to many generations.  I think that people forget that their parents were once their age, and that parents don’t always think like parents, and Pearlman reminds us of that.

Pearlman chooses interesting scenes to really go into detail about, and she doesn’t elaborate on scenes that I would normally expect to be further explained. In “Aunt Telephone,” she briefly mentions a moment where Susan comes home from camp. Susan’s mother says, “It’s difficult to have her home.”  On the next page, Susan explains in detail her visit with Milo to Boesky’s Wild Animal Preserve.  This place ends up being an important place for her and Milo in the story, but the way that it is introduced makes it seem like a random irrelevant description. I like that she does this because it reminds me of how a brain functions, instead of how a story should be written. When a person develops memories, it’s not necessarily moments that are relevant to a story plot.  It allows the reader to feel like they are able to read the thoughts of the character.

In the story “Self-Reliance,” Cornelia Fitch lives by herself.  It is later revealed that she has cancer.  Following her thought process, I like that whenever the cancer is brought up, there’s a detailed description about something unimportant, like a wig.  This also helps the reader feel like they are in the brain of the character.  She’s avoiding her sickness, and her thought process shows that.

Once again, Pearlman really explores the complexities of relationships between people.  When Cornelia is dying, her Aunt Shelly is described. “No endearment was equal to her insults, no kiss as soothing as the accidental brush of her lips, no enterprise as gratifying as the attainment of her lap.” (372) I like the way that she describes why this Aunt is important because it makes the relationship more believable. She emphasizes imperfections instead of perfect, uniform relationships.  It makes the character more likable because they have certain quirks, instead of being described the same way that bonds are described in most stories.

I really enjoyed reading Binocular Vision because it showed me multiple styles of writing that I hadn’t seen before. I really liked her characters, and I want to work on developing characters in my stories so that they are also liked for unpredictable reasons

One thing that I find fascinating about Pearlman’s stories in Binocular Vision is her exploration and portrayal of different relationship dynamics.  In “Mates”, the story is told in first person (which was shocking since all of her other stories are in third person and usually jump around with perspective).  It explores the family dynamic of the Maguire’s, but it is told in the perspective of an acquaintance of theirs.  The speaker explains them in a way that reminds me of small town gossip.  She knows and has interacted with them regularly, and her perception of them is based on these interactions along with things that she has heard from other people in the town.  There is a distance between the speaker and the people being spoken about, and Pearlman does a good job of keeping this distance while still allowing the family to become known and liked by the reader.  Also, by the end of the story, you know a lot about the speaker, almost as if she were an old friend telling an old story.  In many of Pearlman’s stories, there is a random character that doesn’t quite fit in, and in this one the narrator is that person.  I’m not really sure how she was relevant to the story, but the perspective she gave really interested me.

A completely different relationship dynamic was explored in “The Coat.” This story was part of a collection about the same woman, Sonya.  I liked this story because Pearlman was able to show how a slight affection for someone can develop into a form of love, however she also demonstrates love in a way that isn’t seen often.  The relationship between Sonya and Roland seemed to start over convenience (and probably hidden hurt for Sonya), but in this story they are a newly married elderly couple.  It’s complicated to describe the love the Sonya feels for Rowland, but it definitely isn’t a passionate irresistible love.  It’s affectionate, but friendly and slightly distant. Pearlman also does a great job at portraying the fear of losing one’s spouse.  Sonya’s quick movement to volunteer to do things for Rowland after his heart attack shows her building inner worry over losing him.  Also, since the story focuses on a coat, and Sonya’s liking to it, it is also interesting to see the appreciation that Pearlman has for being alone.  This is something that I saw in many of her stories with elderly female characters.

I really like that Pearlman develops each character individually, along with exploring their spousal relationship.  In “The Story,” Harry and Lucienne are both explained before they were married.  This is interesting because the reader is able to see how a person acted before a marriage, and which characteristics they brought into the marriage.  In any relationship that a person enters, it’s important to know about the other person’s life before they met you.  I like that Pearlman acknowledges and explains this in her stories.

After finishing Binocular Vision there is no doubt that Edith Pearlman is one of the most talented authors introduced to me in my college career. Every story is full of wisdom and insight to the most common problems that remain behind closed doors. Whether the story is about love, divorce, a sick child, or suffrage;  Pearlman has strategically placed the most important insignificant moments throughout the pages so simply they can easily go unnoticed.

What I appreciated most out of the collection was how the year in each story remained ambiguous. Pearlman often gives clues to the time period but exempting it from the text allows her to remain unanchored. When I took my first creative writing class I decided that one day I wanted to write a book of short stories about college tales based on the relationship and traditions between an all girls school and an all boys school. I wanted the stories to be timeless. I wanted to show how strong traditions could be by creating a blend through the decades so all readers would relate. I wanted the lady I babysat for to read my story and see her friends at Hollins piling into the car fifteen years ago; and for the Judge at the coffee shop to remember being that guy who jumped off the roof of the Boathouse, all while the girl graduating in 2020 to read it and think, this is totally about us.  Although my great book idea was far from Pearlman’s, she masters that void in time that I have always wanted to be able to create.

This is by far the most telling interview with Pearlman that helps us understand more about her genius method of writing. Get this, she uses a typewriter! And this interview will tell you why…

Edith Pearlman Interview with Sarabande Books

Book Review

This is a review of one of Edith Pearlman’s earlier collections How to Fall; however, it is interesting because the reviewer makes the comment that Pearlman’s work always includes some sort of conflict for her characters, yet they still seem to make it through the challenge in the end. I thought this was an interesting observation as it brings into question how much conflict can really exist in Pearlman’s work if there appear to be no lasting effects.

Link to article.

I’m including a link to an interview Edith Pearlman did back in April regarding her work and the importance of short fiction.

Link to article.

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