Discussion questions for Falling Man

In class today, I would like you to form 7 groups and choose one of the following topics. In your group, write 2 to 3 discussion questions that you will then ask the class to explore as we begin discussing how DeLillo writes 9/11.

Organic shrapnel

Names and naming (Bill Lawton,Justin/the kid, etc.)

Florence Givens/briefcase

Terrorists and their representation

Poker

Leanne as daughter

Storysessions with Alzheimer’s patients

Falling Man

 

Monkey Business

Over this past Christmas break my schedule was light. In fact, I didn’t really have all that much to do. I inevitably turned to Netflix to feel as though I was engaging in something (I read too, but that only gets me so far into the day). Through my perusing of what was available to watch, I found a documentary called: We Live in Public. (http://www.weliveinpublicthemovie.com/). The documentary was all about how one man essentially predicted reality television and the same level of personal use over the internet that sites like Facebook and YouTube allow individuals. Most notably from the film was the experiment Quiet:We Live in Public (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saupV-QUAjA), which was the Real World, but actually and truly unscripted and without rules. Naturally this got me thinking about sites like Facebook and YouTube and how in today’s society anyone anywhere can film anyone doing anything and post it, leaving it subject to the viewer.

This is where I feel Kushner can be brought in, “If culture can be thought of as both the exalted and the quotidian expressions of a people’s life, then all culture is ideological, political, rooted in history and informed by present circumstance.” (44). Here Kushner is saying that one’s culture and politics are not necessarily two separate concepts. Kushner is arguing the opposite: one’s culture and politics are inherent to one another. Furthermore Kushner goes on to say that every individual across the globe has and is a part of a specific culture (43), and all the videos, comments, etc posted on the internet are certain art as people are interacting with them, despite their sincerity or depth of interaction, and in some way are affected and shaped by such interaction.

And here is where I feel it is necessary to bring in Roy, who states on the subject of being active politically, “One is not involved by virtue of being a writer or activist. One is involved because one is a human being” (24). As individuals of a society where anything and everything can become the next internet sensation we must realize that our lives, as Roy states, can be and are a type of political activism and we must realize and accept this responsibility and do something other than throw our shit at the internet to see what becomes popular.

Works Cited

Kushner, Tony. “Some Questions About Tolerance” New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1995. Print.

Roy, Arundhati. “Power Politics” Boston: South End Press, 2002. Print.

Link

Everyone likes talking about what they are interested in, and writers are no exception. Writers also happen to typically be very opinionated people (why would we write if we did not feel that we had something to say?). Writers also seem to have no shortage of opinions on what it means to be a writer, what the writer’s  place is in society, and what responsibility and significance goes along with it. The overarching argument is about responsibility and what exactly that responsibility is.

Tony Kushner says in his essay, “Some Questions About Tolerance” that the writers responsibility is to make good art, any other responsibilities come after that.

Arundhati Roy in “Power Politics” says that the writers responsibility is to “ask ourselves some very uncomfortable questions” and “take sides” because these are “our responsibilities as citizens.”

Edwidge Danticat says that the writer’s responsibility is to her audience. She argues that we are called upon to “create dangerously, for people who read dangerously.”

The responsibility of the writer is foremost to be good at writing, I do not think that is easy to argue against. However, when writing is laced with the any broader political ideology, it gains a greater urgency to be good art. Kushner says, very succinctly, that  “If art […] has any political impact, and I believe it does, it seems to me that it’s most likely to have it by being effective art […]” As I have suggested, this seems obvious, but there is an edge to it.

Slam poet Taylor Mali, in his poem “How to Write a Political Poem ” speaks somewhat flippantly to the point that Roy brings up when she asks, “if what we have to say doesn’t ’sell’ will we still say it?” Mali takes a different approach to talking about writing the political than Roy or Kushner or Danticat. Mali talks about the craft of writing and how we try to formulate our political arguments. He points out that we are selling it from the moment we sit down to write. He points out that we have to “have a hook” and right at the start he says that “however it begins, its gotta be loud.” By saying this he is suggesting that no mater what you say, there is a certain way that you have to say it to help make people believe you.

Mali also brings out a larger point about how when we are selling our ideas (as that is what we do when we write, we try to sell the truth of what we are trying to say, just as I am doing now) it is exactly that, selling. Roy brings up the issue of commercialization of writing and Mali brings out a more resonant point that the idea of selling happens before, and in a different way than the idea of publishing and marketing. The selling happens as soon as one sits down to try to convince someone of your political point. The political, just as the literary, is always about selling your truth and that truth is our responsibility. How we choose to write that truth is up to each individual writer.

Works Cited

Danticat, Edwidge. “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work” New York: Vintage, 2010. 1-20. Print.

Kushner, Tony. “Some Questions About Tolerance” New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1995. Print.

Mali, Taylor. “How to Write a Political Poem” Youtube. 13 Oct. 2009. 30 Jan. 2012. Web.

Roy, Arundhati. “Power Politics” Boston: South End Press, 2002. Print.

Writers are present in our society, but they appear in various forms.  Whatever form they take, there are those that, with an eye on politics, should play the role of informant.  The piece we read by Arundhati Roy, “Power Politics”,  is great considering events of the most recent past.  Towards the end of the piece she calls for the need of “a new kind of politics” and goes on to say:

“What we need to search for and find is… not the politics of governance, but the politics of resistance.  The politics of opposition.  The politics of forcing accountability.  The politics of slowing things down.  The politics of joining hands across the world and preventing certain destruction.  In the present circumstances, I’d say that the only thing worth globalizing is dissent.”

Despite her writing this in 2002, this sounded like something right from an informed Occupy Wall Street protesters mouth. She actually talks shortly about OWS in this clip from Democracy Now:

The movement started mid-September and has been a source of opposition from the start.  One of the biggest issues the supporters of OWS have brought light to is the lack of accountability in concerns to those that have brought the nation to the various situations we’re faced with economically, politically, and globally.  Their mass presence from the start should have been national news, but largely the main news media sources overlooked the movement for several days, if not longer.  The way the word got out though was through the internet via blogs, videos on sites like youtube, and a variety of other information sharing mediums. People created their own means of extending the protests so that their voices would be heard.

Roy asks, “What is the role of writers and artists in society?” At least one of the roles should be that of informing others of issues that the writer/artist are aware of through creativity in whatever medium they find viable.  Now, it used to be that people could rely on the news, written or televised, to deliver important information to the public in a way that served the public.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case as well as it used to be.  The following video showcases a major network’s skewing of information about the OWS movement:

This is a great example of the artist playing a societal role of political informer, an action that is possible through the use of the internet.  There is a threat to this freedom though, and it comes in the guise of an act that was being entertained by representatives, which was known as the Stop Online Piracy Act.  For most people, reading these bills and understanding them can be an arduous task.  Luckily there are writers and artists out there that can help us to understand what exactly such a bill would mean for us.  Of the many who help interpret the bill, we have thanks to The Daily Show for delivering the information the way Roy would approve of because they have brought it “into the realm of common understanding.”  In the following clip we are shown how such a bill would affect things:

KO Computer – SOPA Runaway

With such a bill, the previous vlogger would not have been able to share the insight that he did.  But like Roy said, “Any overt attempt to silence or muffle a voice is met with furious opposition,” and it wasn’t just one voice being threatened, it was practically a whole nation’s voice.  Sites across the board protested SOPA by participating in a blackout, and in doing so were successful in stopping such a potential violation of freedom of speech.

Writer’s no longer need to express themselves in the traditional form of printed text to speak their minds, but there is still a need for them to make their presence known however they can. I think Roy is right when she says that we should take sides.  If we don’t, I would imagine those that have agendas will be able to slide on by without resistance.

Works Cited:

Democracy Now. “Arundhati Roy: Occupy Wall Street Is “So Important Because It Is in the Heart of Empire”” YouTube. 15 Nov. 2011. Web. 31 Jan. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1iwoHUIKvo&gt;.

“Fox News Blames Occupiers For Police Violence?” YouTube. 31 Oct. 2011. Web. 31 Jan. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USPW1BxJQXU&gt;.

“KO Computer – SOPA Runaway.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Viacom, 18 Jan. 2012. Web. 31 Jan. 2012. <http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-january-18-2012/ko-computer—sopa-runaway?xrs=share_copy&gt;.

Roy, Arundhati. Power Politics. Boston: South End, 2002. Print.

Let art be art!

 

If art (and here I lapse into the sin of being generic, though it is really the art of the theater I know and am speaking about) has any political impact, and I believe it does, it seems to me that it’s most likely to have it by being effective as art–in other words, that political agendas can’t successfully be imposed on the act of making art, of creation, for all that those agendas will invariably surface from within once the art is made. (Kushner 44)

Tony Kushner was really on to something whenever he said that “art is most effective as art.” (Kushner 44) I personally believe imposing secondary agendas on anything can be the fastest way to destroy it. Even though Kushner is specifically referring to theater, he is also correct in saying that this can be applied to any form of art be it performance, written, or even visual.

There are a few problems with attempting to use any form of art for strictly political purposes. First of all it can limit the range of interested viewers. Many people go see a play, read a book, see a dance performance, or even go to an art gallery to escape the issues of the world for a while–political headaches being one of the main reasons for these much-needed guided adventures into the world of the sublime. By labeling something as political art, or art which is presented with the intention of swaying the viewer towards or away from one political agenda or another, the artist is automatically scaring away the individuals who search for pleasure and escape in art. I know this because, not only do I personally know many individuals like this, I also fall into this school of thought (although if there are political undertones within the piece it is perfectly fine to me, just as long as it does not jeopardize the quality and primary intended effect of the art in question). Another problem which can arise from using art for strictly political purposes is that it can drastically decrease the overall effectiveness of the art. Telling people that they are supposed to get something out of a piece of art is the quickest way to limit their creativity. I believe that we must all be allowed the chance to formulate our own opinions about different things which we encounter–be it art or politics–and forcing a political agenda on something is wrong.

Needless to say I agree completely with Kushner–art should be created and enjoyed as art primarily. If an individual viewing the art in question happens to apply it to a political agenda or connect it with such things, then it will have a much more powerful affect overall than if one were to try to force a political agenda. We should dissolve the boundary between the two in such a subtle way that one can be appreciating a work of art and suddenly discover that they formulate his or her own opinion about what it means and how it is relevant to him or her as an individual.

Bibliography

Kushner, Tony. “Some Questions about Tolerance.”  Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness.  New York: NY.  Theatre Communications Group, 1995.  41-46.  Print.

artofpolitics: Silenced, 7E55E-BRN, 2011.

The Politics of Being a Woman Writer

In Power Politics Arundhati Roy expresses her aversion to being labeled a “writer-activist”: “why should it be that the person who wrote The God of Small Things is called a writer, and the person who wrote the political essays is called an activist?” (10). This is not the only label used to define and limit the power of an author’s writing. Women who write have often times been labeled as women writers instead of being regarded as part of the collective writing society. The question is, does being a woman impact the way the author writes? What is the importance and difference in what women write in comparison to men? Roy’s power as a writer is limited by defining her in a such a specific role. Only those who are interested in political activism will be interested in reading her work (this is a general statement on the purpose of creating the label). In this same way, only women will want to read women’s writing and what they have to say is no longer as important or impacting as those writers who are recognized as part of the writing society as a whole. By creating this division in the writing world does it change the way a women author’s writing is accepted and perceived? Is a woman’s political opinion taken as seriously as a man’s?

Virginia Woolf addresses the idea of what it should mean to be a writer, especially a woman writer writing about being oppressed by the male dominated society, in her essay “A Room of One’s Own”. Woolf makes a statement about what writing should do or really not do: “The mind of the artist, in order to achieve the prodigious effort of freeing whole and entire work that is in him, must be incandescent…there must be no obstacle in it, no foreign matter consumed” and continues referring to William Shakespeare and his success as a writer, “All desire to protest, to preach, to proclaim and injury, to pay off a score to, to make the world the witness of some hardship or grievance was fired out of him and consumed. Therefore his poetry flows

free and unimpeded” (DeShazer 43).

This entire idea of the artist or writer keeping agendas and anger out of their writing or filtering out specific complaints about injustices they have perceived reminded me of Kushner’s essay Some Questions About Tolerance. Kushner states: “political agendas can’t successfully be imposed on the act of making art, creation, for all that those agendas will invariably surface from within once the art is made” (44). Perhaps Kushner and Woolf are correct in saying those ideas take away from the art or writing, but perhaps there is something special and influential in making blatant statements about political and social issues. Political opinion should not detract from the sta

tion of the writer; it is simply a characteristic of their writing. A characteristic which has impacted many a reader and should be valued as much as the writing that is perhaps not as obvious or directed.

DeShazer, Mary K. “A Room of One’s Own.” The Longman Anthology of Women’s Literature. New York: Longman, 2001. 16-72. Print.Kushner, Tony. “Some Questions About Tolerance.” Thinking about the

Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness: Essays, a Play, Two Poems, and a Prayer. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1995. 41-47. Print.

Moss, Tara. Women Writer’s Book. Digital image. The Book Post. Tara Moss, 16 Oct. 2010. Web. 30 Jan. 2012. <http://blog.taramoss.com/media/2/womenwritersbook.jpg&gt;.

Roy, Arundhati. Power Politics. Boston: South End, 2002. Print.

Less is More

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy6eingHcOs- stop at :45
Less is More

For the purpose of this specific blog, the clip above is only needed until :45 min.



System of A Down was one of the few remaining political bands in recent history to have the ability to spread their message to a giant audience. Serj Tankian, the lead singer, lyricist, and figure in the video above is the main driving force behind this band when it comes to political message. Pick out any System of A Down song and try to tell me that it’s not politcal. I dare you. It’s not possible. And if you’re not a fan of the band or aren’t familiar, just sample any song on itunes or youtube and you’ll see what I mean. It’s pretty interesting to hear a man who has written five albums which were all extremely political say that when listening to music, he does not focus on the message of the song, nor focus on the intentions of the author. Instead he says that he gets a feel from the song and through the emotions within the song he finds his own feeling to “riot”. By experiencing what the song says through emotion, the listener understands the message naturally without having to focus ONLY on the lyrics.

The same philosophy could be said about literature. It really could be applied to any form of writing at all, but is very applicable to literature as a whole. In his essay on tolerance, Tony Kushner made a similar comment on writing the political in literature. Kushner says, “ …political agendas can’t successfully be imposed on the act of making art, of creation, for all that those agendas will invariable surface from within once the art is made. Tankian did not state that intentions should not be present going into the process as Kushner did. Tankian more so commented on the fact that political agendas should naturally flow out of a work and should not beat the reader over the head. Tankian most certainly writes his lyrics with a message in mind, which does eventually evolve into beating the listener over the head. But that’s the point. he’s fine with that. He’s fine with making the message obvious because the messages he touches on don’t always have large media coverage; in fact they rarely do. Kushner feels that the political message should flow out of art, and similarly Tankian stated that he receives the message of the song at hand by feeling emotions, not only listening tot he message. The message for Tankian “ surfaces” from the art at Kushner would say. 

 I haven’t read too many works that beat the reader over the head with a message, but the few that I have have left me never meaning to return to them. If a writer wants to really reach the heart of the reader or listener in some cases, they must ease into it. To the beginning listener or reader, less is more at least at first.