"What his tongue can do": Tasting The Book of Salt

Notes towards Day 20 of

What his tongue can do:
Tasting
The Book of Salt



"She wants to see the stretch marks on my tongue..."

I. announcements & coursekeeping

Judy Wicks on
"Building Local Living Economies," Thurs 8 p.m. Th 11/15 TGH

Carole Joffe on the Future of Abortion in the United States, 12:30-2, Fri 11/16, Dalton 300

Gertrude Stein on stage: Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, 7:30 tonight, Fri, Sat, Goodhart

(not unrelatedly:) Finish The Book of Salt,
catch up on postings, draft 6-pp. of final project before Th'sgiving...


In images AND words!

Louise inspired Melinda to find inspiration again
Barbara's bringing "lifelong theater-going" to Emily's project
Gail's cogitating "mental menstruation structures" for Nora.

(she also requested some more informal images of the class:
"I liked seeing the setting for the voices...." okay w/ you?)
Two volcanic responses to those "bouders" marybelle threw up:

Flora:
If I were to reject all of the logic around me that offends me and let loose all of the true anger and repressed sadness and heartbreak these actions have created inside of me, I wouldn't be able to forgive anyone....In my own thoughts and words, I am trying to stop the use of generalizations and widespread rejections....I don't want to throw up my hands and say "You're not playing fair." I want to be able to learn how to play a new game better than the person who created it.

sarahcollins: I don't understand why a feminist class would want to overthrow logic. Logic is not the enemy...I disagree with Flora about logic being the "master's tools"...All humans are capable of reasoning...it's pretty hard to learn about anything if you're not thinking about it....it behooves anybody to be capable of setting aside their feelings momentarily while they are sorting out a problem or issue....Why would a person ever suppress their own thoughts? And is thinking beyond someone else "taking advantage" of them? I think that line of reasoning can only lead to oppression and/or boredom. I really want to hear what everyone else thinks about this whole question.


II. Some afterthoughts/more voices/what everyone is thinkig about Kindred:

Butler:
"What a reader brings to the work is as important as what I put into it, so I don't mind attempts to interpret my fiction."

lvasko: why does Dana feel her own life is so important?...I couldn't help but feel that the entire novel was driven by selfish intentions. Dana wanted to help the slaves...as to not hurt her own chances at freedom....the nature of the Dana-Rufus relationship is rather Hegelian: master dependent on slave, slave dependant on master. Destroying the master would destroy the slave....and strangely enough, the slave's chance at freedom.

YJ: Butler's most powerful (for me, anyway) moment in looking at the history, was when Dana questions how much her and Kevin have possibly already bought into the mentality and system that pervaded during antebellum America...in order to survive....I wonder if we're not doing the same now-buying into a system because it's just so easy to.

jrizzo: by making Dana a writer, Butler has attempted to make it implicit that her protagonist must survive in order to tell the tale....This might begin to justify what looks like selfish behavior....That basic human selfishness that prompts each of us to guard our own lives...is what makes people slaves....people are less free to make this choice than we might think.

matos: It was jarring, and sort of frightening, to see the accusation that race relations haven't changed since the slave era...is my 21sth century mind making me greatful for rights I don't really have? Also, talking about scary, I'm also in the you can't blame Dana for self-preservation instincts camp. It's like a horror move (how far would you go to stay alive)...preserving your existence. If she didn't save Rufus, she wouldn't even have been a blip on the universe's radar. That's a terrifying thought.

sarahcollins: the characters were flat...I began to see...a (very) dramatized, science-fictive depiction of what it's like to be deeply deeply introverted...made into a mental power/ability....Kindred doesn't seem too concerned with preaching a feminist message, at least, but it's a little heavy handed in dealing out other lessons.


Abby: I just can't swallow a text like this and feel satisfied. To say nothing of Butler's feminism/ethics in the novel, I just need COMPLEXITY....I was left a bit ticked off that I had gotten so worked up for nor good pay off!... But, The Book of Salt = YUM

ndegeorge: I can't find one driving argument in the novel....I wouldn't put it in my feminist canon.
I hope The Book of Salt is better...

llauher: Book of Salt was incredible. I got overexcited and read ahead...

Stop reading! Start writing!

III. Compose a paragraph describing this image:




Here is Truong/Binh's description

"I am...enthralled by her upper lip with its black hairs twitching gently as she speaks. Her moustache, I think, would be the envy of all three of my brothers, who could only aspire to such definition after weeks' worth of unfettered growth. The arc of hair, like a descrended third eyebrow, is topped by a solemn moumnet to the god of smells. Protruding from her forehead, abruptly billowing out as it reaches her eye sockets, it is not so much a nose as an alterpiece that segregates the left side of her face from her right. Moving northward, her facial features disappear underneath a skullcap of hair, dark, absorbing the late-afternoon light. I am overwhelmed by the intrusiveness of it all until I look into her eyes. They live apart from their housing. Chasing the light that gilds this city in early autumn, her irides are two nets gently swoopng over a band of butterlfies. Catching the light, the circles erupt, bright with movement, the flapping and fanning of many colored wings" (The Book of Salt, p. 25).

Cf. her/his description and our own...
How are they like-and-different?
How do they comment on one another?
What do they tell us about the relationship between
the visual and the written?

Jan Clausen, "The cook's tale." Women's Review of Books 20, 10-11 (July 2003):
like a documentary film technique, the camara imparts its
own sense of motion to still photographs--
a swooped, focusing, animating effect...

"bloodless": heavy reliance on images and repetition
(overwritten? inviting of interpretation?)

lacks fleshed-out people...Binh flexible and mercurial,
but static, suspended between eventful memory and present w/ few choices

sex, linguistic homelessness, feminized stereotypes of Asian men...
"flat" appropriate both to their iconic status and
cook's need to know them as behavioral probabilities




IV. The novel begins and ends with a photograph....
why and what's that accomplish?

"Of that day I have two photographs and, of course, my memories...." (p. 1)




"GertrudeStein, unflappable, unrepentant, unbowed, starts back at me and smiles. This photograph of her and Miss Toklas, the second of two that I have of that day, was taken on the desk of the SS Champlain. It captures my Mesdames perfectly. I am over there, the one with my back turned to the camera...alongside the photograph taken at the Gare du Nord...I am partial to the one of them at the train station.

GertrudeStein and Miss Toklas are perched on the bench ahead of me. My Madame and Madame are posing for a small group of photographers who have gathered for the occasion. GertrudeSein looks almost girlish. The folds of a smile are tucked into her ample cheeks. Miss Toklas looks pleased but as always somewhat irritated, an an oyster with sand in its lips, a woman whose corset bites into her hips...."






The Accessibility and Assailability of Pictures:
are words more "assailable,"
more subject to common testing?

...and tasting?

V. TASTE THIS...
and write a paragraph about what you are experiencing

The novel is filled with tastes....
how is that accomplished?
What is the relationship between the sensation of a taste,
and the words with which it is described?

Between sensations (more generally),
and the words which represent them?

Kathy Neustadt, "The Folkloristics of Licking,"
Journal of American Folklore
107 (423), 1994: 181-196.

VI. What role does the representation of taste--and
sensation more generally--play in feminism?







 

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