Thursday, 16 July 2009

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut & Feet

Below is a piece of writing as part of a creative writing portfolio assignment for my degree. This is a commentary on Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut. It was supposed to be 250 words but is over 300. It was supposed to focus on a particular writing technique of Vonnegut's but in facet this reads more like a piece of critical analysis illustrated with quotes from the anti-surrealist philosopher Georges Bataille's essay "The Big Toe".
This piece of writing can not begin to do justice to Vonnegut's book. It took him 23 years to write it and anyone who has read it will understand that such a densely woven, exquisitely constructed, deeply moving and thought-provoking work cannot possibly be explained or illuminated in this manner.

But... I can talk about feet.

Kurt Vonnegut used the image of feet in Slaughterhouse 5 to signify corporeality amidst the time travel, alien abduction and mundanity of conventional American life. A signal to the reader that there is an inescapable truth being offered: here is humanity; here is the reality of war.
This meta-fictional Pilgrim’s Progress must also have its own barefoot Billy Pilgrim.
The anti-surrealist philosopher Georges Batailles, writing in his 1929 essay “The Big Toe”, described the big toe as “hideously cadaverous”, and said:
“One can imagine that a toe, always more or less damaged and humiliating, is psychologically analogous to the brutal fall of man- in other words, to death.”
Early on in the book the first mention of feet comes at a point when Billy is writing to the press about the Tralfamadorians view of death and the phrase “So it goes”, which he says whenever he hears of someone’s death. Directly after this Vonnegut describes Billy’s feet:
“His bare feet were blue and ivory.”
This concrete image is repeated when Billy is back in World War Two, and captured by the Germans:
“Billy found the afternoon stingingly exciting. There was so much to see – dragon’s teeth, killing machines, corpses with bare feet that were blue and ivory. So it goes.” Immediately the reader is reminded of Billy’s feet being the same as the corpses, and of his being there and of his experiences, and the affect they had on him.
Before his initial capture Billy is close to death and hallucinating:
“He was wearing dry, warm, white sweatsocks, and he was skating on a ballroom floor.”His feet are covered –he is no longer confronted by his own mortality. In Bataille’s view: “Man’s secret horror of his foot is one of the explanations for the tendency to conceal its length and form as much as possible.”

Where does the time go?

I've just looked here and I haven't posted anything since the beginning of June! This is a brief catch up before I start posting again in other words, this is a ramble.

Since my last post I have finished uni for the year, handed in all assignments and received most of the marks back- just waiting on one now. I did well- firsts in all but one which was marked at 2:1. I worked hard so I am glad it paid off.
Trying to find a metaphor or analogy to describe my experience of going to back to study is impossible.But it has been some of these: brilliant; bemusing; frustrating; challenging; a juggle; a culture shock; and made me feel very old at first!
I think next year will present me with a different set of challenges as well as the continued juggle with Sam and trying to find time to squeeze everything in. But I do feel like I've settled back in to the swing of academic life. I am hoping I won't have so many personal events e.g getting divorced (!) to deal with at the same time and can just concentrate on studying.

Sam and I had a lovely week away in Devon in June, on the borders of Cornwall near Bude, with my best friend, going to the seaside, visiting the Gnome Reserve (more about that in another post) and generally relaxing and chilling out.

We celebrated the solstice with a BarBQ and pink champagne in the midst of the beautiful and peaceful woody area we were staying in. With a view overlooking a hillside meadow and trees, a zillion stars in the sky and bats flitting about.

Unfortunately whilst staying at our lovely little holiday home, The Triangle House, or more properly "The Hives" I had a big flare up of hayfever, asthma and eczema. It was going to happen sometime and being suddenly surrounded by nature, and with visiting the ponies round the corner a couple of times, it decided to happen then.

Which was a bit of a pain but with the help of some blessed rest, some homeopathic remedies, reiki, eyedrops and a couple of antihistamines, and plenty of sea air, I recovered and my skin is almost back to normal now.
I've currently got a chest infection so have been taking it easy but haven't needed to resort to antibiotics or increase the medication I take for asthma so, with a bit more rest I am getting better.
Enough of the catalogue of illness! The fact is I am healthier(and happier) than I have been for years, and long may it continue.

I have been going to see some art in London and will blog about what I've seen later.

I have also been gardening and am looking forward to doing some more of this as well.

I haven't been writing- maybe I needed a break from it. In the last week I have been getting back to it, doing some research and reading and a lot of thinking.
The solstice has been and gone, a big marker in the year, and for all those who follow the seasons and such, as we head up to Lammas I find I am heading towards another crossroads... Love, Love, Love xxx