Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sister Moment #1: Adventures in English

My Dear Reader,

As you may very well know by now, HermanaMayor and I are both English majors, which has its positive and negative aspects to it. On the negative side, I have the same major as my sister. On the positive side, we can edit each other's papers, and we end up being stuck late in the library together when it comes time for finals. So last time finals rolled around, there we were, in the library on a Saturday night writing papers like good sisters do. I was doing research on a poem by William Blake and getting nowhere, and she was writing a paper on The Rings of Saturn by Sebald and something else I don't remember. As we were sitting back to back in the computer lab, HermanaMayor tapped me from behind. She asked me how I was doing with my paper, and I told her I was about to pull my hair out. I asked her how she was doing, and she gave a similar response. Then we decided that it might be a nice change of pace if we switched places.

Now, I wasn't about to go and write HermanaMayor's paper for her or anything (plus, I hadn't read the book, so it wouldn't have done much good), but I thought maybe I'd write something that would give her an idea on what she could write, as that was what her problem was in the first place. So going from the outline that she wrote, just started writing whatever popped into my head. The result was the following paragraph:

"Sebald’s setting in his novel, however, is so ambiguous that even Sebald himself has trouble keeping up with it. This is evident by his cries of 'and what was I talking about again?' and 'Who am I? What is my purpose in life? I need to get 112 pages out to my publisher by Monday and all I have so far are two sentences about how Vogel ate a carrot for breakfast. So I think I’m going to change the setting around here, mainly because I forgot where we were last time' (156, 9875). In the novel, the main character seems to be in this setting, by page 76, however, he is obviously not there anymore, as he talks about being on a beach and going surfing when before we thought he was in Minnesota sipping tea with grandma. By page 145, the setting seems to have changed again, when Sebald describes a violent snowstorm, causing the reader to wonder how it could possibly snow on the beach. When confronted with a seemingly nonsensical setting such as this, the reader can become confused and want to throw the book at a despised enemy or treasured loved one, but luckily Sebald has enough writing skill to keep the setting ambiguous in a way that is more confusing than enraging, or otherwise he would probably be sued for malpractice. This creates a somewhat ethereal effect on the reader, as the setting turns into some kind of dreamy wasteland full of billy goats and hippies. There is obviously a reason as to why Sebald decides to do this, and this is what I’m eventually getting to. The reason is simply that Sebald hates us and wants us to die without running the risk of being sued for malpractice. I guess that if you want a narrator who loves you, you’d have better luck reading Dr. Seuss."

Okay, so I was probably having too much fun with that, but there you go. Classic words straight from the brain of Cecily Jane.

In the meantime, HermanaMayor actually helped me find some useful articles. Go figure.

Regards, best wishes, and the sebald code,

-Cecily Jane

*This leads to the misconception that either we are exactly alike or that I was so desperate to choose a major that I just copied her. First of all, there are many big differences between HermanaMayor and I, even in the way in which we each approach the major. For example, I can spell. She can't. She does outlines and pre-writing. I don't. She is on the reading side, and hates writing, while I push myself through the reading so I can get to the writing that I love so darn much. In the end, she's going to law school, and I'm hopefully going to sell a book, so yeah, we've got some differences there. Secondly, it took me three years to choose my major because I really didn't want to choose the major my HermanaMayor chose. I chose the English major because I tried doing just about everything else and it just wasn't working. After that, I avoided actually declaring my major until the beginning of my fourth year of college because I was so embarrassed about having the same major as my sister. So there.


Anonymous said...

Just for the record, I can spell. Also, I just wanted you to know that I love that we have the same major. Its something we actually have in common. And, who cares what your major is as long as it makes you happy. Forget what everyone else might think and be what you want to be! I'll support you the whole way. Love you!

Cecily Jane said...

Thanks, Meg. It's kind of fun reading each others papers, isn't it?