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Ben Miller - English 304
Saturday, 6 December 2008
Impossible, Improbable, Imaginative

One, nibble on the moon for a midnight snack.  


Two, wake up well before sunrise, build a portal through the chimney and land on the top of a mountain.  Suspend time at the exact moment the sunrise is at its peak, an orangish glow smothering the landscape, and indulge in a never-ending powder ski run complete with pillow drops, straight lines, and tree taps.  Or a never-ending serene mountain bike ride alternating between aggressive, technical terrain and sexy swerving single track.  Then make it back to town, probably via portal again, for Dr. Sexson's mind altering class.  


Three, do a headstand, sit up, pull up, and jumping jack at the same time.

Four, recite my entire life story in a single burp. BEEEELLLLCCCCCHHHH.

Five, you know when you crave a drink of water so bad it aches, drink the whole ocean.  


 And for number six, check back it's under construction.   


Posted by bmcycleski at 5:54 PM EST
My daemon


I can't remember what website I used but it said my daemon would be a raccoon.  

'RACCOON - your daemon may be a raccoon. You are a trickster. Your daemon's nimble hand-like paws can help in the creation of pranks. You may prefer the cover of darkness to pull off your stunts. You may be fascinated by gadgets, and are probably good at figuring out how things work. Independent and fun loving, you love to get the best of someone. You have no pretensions about yourself. Crafty and clever, you can adapt to any situation and find a way to make it work in your favor.'

Initially I was surprised my daemon might be a raccoon, but as I think more about this it seems fitting.  I certainly enjoy a good trick - after a few drinks at the bar I have a tendency to snatch friends drinks and chug them before they notice.  If I can place the empty cup down in front of them without noticing it makes it all the better.  Don't worry I never execute this on strangers, strictly good friends, and I always offer to buy them another drink, but they seldom let me and instead usually get a round of shots, and then I get even drunker err more drunk.  In a way this trick, if sparked by my daemon is also somewhat of a trick on me.  I have also always felt I get along well with everybody and manage to fit in in most situations.


 With a quick wiki search I learned that raccoons are fairly intelligent animals with extremely sensitive front paws that have five fingers.  The raccoon is common in folk tales and in other stories as the trickster who outsmarts other animals like the coyote and wolf.  Among native american cultures the raccoon is believed to have spiritual powers which are linked to and stem from its black mask across its eyes.  The Aztecs especially thought female raccoons - which my daemon would be - had supernatural abilities.

  I'm not sure exactly what I would name my daemon.  Some possibilities for her might include : Willa, Tricksy, or how about Coonthia.

 No matter what her name, the idea of a little coon running along side my bike or sliding next to my skis is great.  I would thoroughly enjoy having a partner in tricks, oh wait, perhaps I do....  


Posted by bmcycleski at 4:53 PM EST
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
A poem and Pullman thoughts



 If you take

The word, words –

The plural noun

Of word,


Add the letter L

You letterally create

Your own





  I finally finished flipping through Pullman’s 935-page epic last weekend.  Whew.



            I need a break after that one.   I enjoyed it, kind of thought it dragged at the end but if you’ve already wrote 830 pages why not a hundred more?  Sarcasm aside, it is a stunning book.  To be able to think of all that, organize it, hand write it, and finally type and print the final product;… it would take a long time, and one smart mind.  Props to Pullman. 

While reading I was jotting down page numbers where I found something interesting or enjoyed.  By the time I was halfway through the third book I was practically writing down every page.  Pullman is a genius.

Since innocence to experience is a major theme I marked a number of passages where the reader and Lyra can feel her changing.

-487- Pan and Lyra are talking about Will and the alethiometer.  Pan says they could use it even if Will didn’t ask and that they could “find out all kinds of things for him.”  Lyra is then the one to refuse saying, “don’t be stupid, it would be us we’d be doing it for, ‘cause he’d never ask.  You’re just greedy and nosy, Pan.”  And Pan responds, “That makes a change.  It’s normally you who’s greedy and nosy, and me who has to warn you not to do things.”  This is an interesting change that marks a turning point in Lyra where she starts thinking about her actions and their results before she rushes into them.  And a little farther down the page Lyra directly states, “I might have done that once, but I’m changing, I think, Pan.”

-523- This is in Chapter 15 in the Subtle Knife where Will meets his father.  Will is yearning for family and his father, someone to be proud of him, but he doesn’t want to tell Lyra.  But Lyra can sense it.  “… she could see it in his eyes, and that was new for her too, to be quite so perceptive.  The fact was that where Will was concerned, she was developing a new kind of sense, as if he were simply more in focus than anyone she’d known before.”  Us boys need to watch out.  It seems that as women become experienced they can perceive, read, and understand our emotions, thoughts, and mind.

-693- This change happen after Iorek leaves Lyra once he’s mended the subtle knife.  Lyra wails, “I love him so much, Will!  And he looked old! … Is it all coming onto us now, Will?  We can’t rely on anyone else now, can we … It’s just us.  But we en’t old enough yet.  We’re only young … It’s al coming onto us, what’s got to be done.”  Here Lyra really understands her change, but she doesn’t want to, she’s afraid of what she has to do. 

-771-  At the top of this page Lyra whispers to Will her idea of setting all the ghost free, out of the land of the dead.  After she whispers to him, he gives her a smile she’ll never forget.  “He turned and gave her a true smile, so warm and happy she felt something stumble and falter inside her; at least it felt like that, …It might have been a new way for her heart to beat.”  L.O.V.E.

-833- Lyra and the Specters.  “She thought she could see the specters from time to time, in an oily glistening of the air; and it was Lyra who felt the first shiver of danger.”  A little farther down the page, “And it was about then that Lyra felt the first distant lurch of nausea, pain, and fear that was the unmistakable touch of the Specters.”  This is a major indicator that Lyra is nearly done changing, growing out of her innocence towards experience; experience that , yes includes love and sex, but knowledge and perception too, that life doesn’t last forever, there are people out to get you, and that it’s her own responsibility to watch after herself. 

            I’m sure there are more references to Lyra’s ongoing change to experience but those are the ones I jotted down.  I think Pullman did an awesome job exposing Lyra’s growth slowly, she realizations that she isn’t the same little girl who once ran wild around Jordan College.  One quick question, if kids are so good at pretending to be grownups, animals, or whatever shouldn’t adults be able to pretend to be kids again?  Oh wait, they do … in literature.   

Posted by bmcycleski at 6:13 PM EST
Saturday, 29 November 2008
Cannibalism and Children's Lit. Paper

Does Cannibalism Belong in Children’s Literature? -Ben Miller

            In The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, edited by Maria Tatar, there are nine stories, for children, which incorporate cannibalism in one way or another.  In no particular order, cannibalistic fairy tales include Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Perrault’s version of Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Juniper Tree, Jack and the Bean Stock, Tom Thumb, Vasilisa the Fair, and The Three Little Pigs.  I repeat, these tales told to children contain cannibalistic elements and themes.  Is this type of material suitable for children?  Should kids be exposed to the idea of humans eating other humans at such a young age?  With the help of two scholarly articles by Margret van Dijk and Tracy Willard, this paper will trace and investigate cannibalistic violence in classic fairy tales along with a human-eating passage in Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials.  With so much cannibalism prevalent throughout fairy tales, and literature in general, it’s not surprising there have been cases of murderers imitating cannibalistic rituals and actions they read about.  Yet the majority of youths who grew up reading, or had read to them, children’s literature that contained cannibalism turn out fine, with no inclinations to murder and eat other people.  But we’re still left with the question of whether or not this stuff is for children?  What kind of values, fear, and anxieties does such literature instill?  And is there really such a thing as children’s literature?  As of right now I would say yes, this stuff, cannibalism, is for children, and there is such a thing as children’s literature – to an extent. 

            In Little Red Riding Hood the wolf eats granny and Little Red only to be killed, and probably eaten too, by the huntsman.  The witch in Hansel and Gretel nearly cooks Hansel, for her reputation was that if “a child fell into her hands, she killed it, cooked it, and ate it.  That meant a day of real feasting for her” (Tatar 54).  Snow White’s evil stepmother hungrily devours what she thinks are the lungs and liver of Snow White with the expectation that Snow White’s beauty will seep into the stepmother with each bit of the organ.  The giant Jack kills drools over the thought of the little boy broiled on toast and even has a chant to go along with his breakfast.  Another evil stepmother in The Juniper Tree decapitates her husband’s son, tricks her own daughter into thinking she did it, lies about the boy’s death to his father, cooks the boy in a stew and feeds him to his dad who eats it all saying, “No one else can have any of it.  Somehow I feel as if it’s all for me” (Tartar 165).  Vasilisa the Fair is forced by her evil stepmother and sisters to go to Baba Yaba’s house, surrounded by human bones, for fire.  In The Three Little Pigs we meet another wolf that eats two little pigs, after destroying their houses, and eventually is consumed by the third little pig, completing the circle.  And in Tom Thumb another giant can ‘smell fresh meat’ and eats little children as ‘dainty morsels’ in ‘a tasty sauce.’

            At first this seems a little disturbing: there is a lot of cannibalism going on here.  As we begin to analyze and feast our minds on all this cannibalism, it’s obvious that the evil characters are the ones who execute the cannibalistic acts.  And the children always outsmart or trick the predatory adult in pursuit.  The cannibal’s role is to ‘signify danger and impending death’ as Willard summarizes in her criticism “Tales at the Border: Fairy Tales and Maternal Cannibalism.”  Willard also points out the prominent pattern of feminine evil and female cannibalistic characters.  Quoting Marina Warner, Willard reiterates, “In the most famous stories, monsters in female shape outnumber the giants and hobgoblins.”  Willard herself is especially interested in maternal types of cannibalism such as Snow White’s evil stepmother and the witch who invites in Hansel and Gretel.

            In her article “Horrid Warnings: Violence in Fairy Tales,” Margret van Dijk clearly analyzes the archetypes of good girls and bad girls and how fairy tales “reflect a social order where it is important to obey authority, to respect your elders, and to make an effort to survive.”  The good girls are always the nice, pretty, and well-behaved children while the bag girls are usually ugly, mean, clever, and strong-willed (34).  Bad girls relish money, pride, status, and reputation while good girls rely on family, love, equality, and respect.  As expected the good girls are rewarded and the bad girls punished (34).  One theme Dijk discusses that’s prevalent in cannibalistic stories is the series of tests or challenges a character must endure to succeed in not being eaten.  Jack steals from the giant three times; Tom Thumb first talks his way out of death and then tricks the giant; and Vasilisa performs numerous chores and tests for Baba Yaba in order to maintain her status off the plate and receive her freedom.  This goes to show that violence and cannibalism in fairy tales warns children, as Dijk quotes Bruno Bettelheim from his book The Uses of Enchantment, “That a struggle against severe difficulties in life is unavoidable, is an intrinsic part of human existence”.

            Now that we have summarized cannibalism throughout fairy tales I want to focus on one tale, The Juniper Tree, and Pullman’s His Dark Materials.  Towards the end of “The Subtle Knife” the faithful scout Lee Scoresby dies though not before he and his daemon fend off the Guard.  In “The Amber Spyglass” the armored bear-king Iorek Byrnison reappears.  After the witch Serafina fills him in on the worldly events in progress, Iorek yearns to see his dead friend.  And once Iorek found Lee’s body he “began to feast on the flesh and blood of his old friend.  It was his first meal for days and he was hungry” (577).  While Iorek is eating Lee, “a complex web of thoughts was weaving itself into the bear-king’s mind, with more strands in it than hunger and satisfaction… Lyra… Silvertongue… agitation among the witches… alliances and war… new world… melting of the ice… vengeance “(577-578).  This scene of cannibalism isn’t as evil; it involves friends, respect, nourishment, and life and death. 

            The cannibalism in The Juniper Tree isn’t good by any means, but what the boy’s sister does after dad finishes his meal is.  The bones she takes to the tree disappear and the tree seems to give birth to a beautiful bird.  This bird brings relief to little Marlene “because it seemed as if her brother were still alive” (Tatar 165).  Marlene from The Juniper Tree and Iorek from His Dark Materials are characters that seem to resurrect the spirit of the dead character after cannibalistic acts take place.  The boy’s bones disappear but a bird, a metaphor for his spirit or maybe daemon, is given life through his death.  After Iorek eats his friend’s body he becomes even more involved in the spirit war and protecting Lyra, something that was especially important to Mr. Scoresby.  Iorek appears to inherit attributes of Lee Scoresby and so in a metaphorical sense keeps Lee’s dust alive.  Children’s literature with such scenes may suggest more optimistic resolutions from cannibalistic acts.  Perhaps by devouring the body the spirit, or daemon, can be released or even consumed too.  These types of cannibalistic scenarios elicit less horrific experiences of cannibalism; in fact they almost make cannibalism divine or another way to perceive supernatural spirits. 

            Back to fairy tales and a couple more connections.  In both Jack and the Bean Stalk and Tom Thumb, Jack and Tom willingly offer themselves to be eaten.  Jack says he “may as well be eaten as die of hunger” (136); and Tom Thumb offers himself and his siblings to the giantess, “we might as well be eaten by your husband” (261).  These comments practically encourage kids to give into cannibalism because there may not be another alternative, or even a better one.  Yet the children always use a good trick to evade their predator, which may unconsciously encourage kids to remember that trickery is always a good option to use to get out of danger.  Another common archetype throughout cannibalistic literature is the apple.  The apple is significant in The Juniper Tree and Snow White where it is used as a weapon.  In The Juniper Tree the evil stepmother uses the apple as a distraction to behead her stepson.  The poisonous apple made by the other evil stepmother in Snow White is actually eaten and results in near death.  The use of the apple, a piece of food to eat, leading to danger has a popular history from the Garden of Eden and doesn’t need much explanation.  But it’s interesting that the apple has passed into children’s literature also as a danger to avoid.  In literature an apple signals danger, yet doesn’t an apple a day keep the doctor away.

            Cannibalism will remain prevalent and influential in literature, as it has, because people love to eat.  Eating is a basic instinct for any animal.  Humans may be the only species among carnivores and omnivores that don’t eat their own kind – that and the only species that thinks it’s disgusting to poop publically.  But I digress; as long as people eat there will be cannibalism in literature, the hypothetical, and reality.  As far as cannibalism’s role in children’s literature, it’s here to stay for important reasons.  If kids read about it they will be better prepared to confront it in the real world.  As in some fairy tales the cannibal is the deceivingly nice, friendly stranger who preys on little children.  By exposing kids to such grotesque literature they will know what to look out for and not to do.  Though a child may not perceive these scenarios on a conscious level, the unconscious is powerful and learns from stories, especially cannibalistic ones, that eating people is evil.   Who’s hungry?


Works Cited

 Dijk, Margret van. “Horrid Warnings: Violence in Fairy Tales.”  Canadian Woman Studies.  Vol. 4.4. Summer, 1983.

Pullman, Phillip. His Dark Materials.

Tatar, Maria. The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002.

Willard, Tracy. “Tales at the Borders: Fairy Tales and Maternal Cannibalism.” 25 November 2008.

Posted by bmcycleski at 12:47 PM EST
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Paper and Presentation

Though I had initially thought about writing my kid lit paper on portals, I also blogged about writing it on cannibalism which is where I've settled.  Cannibalism in children's literature, is this really for kids?  As I've discovered, it certainly is.  

Since I haven't been able to devote as much time as I'd like to gathering research on what other people have said about cannibalism, and I was surprised to find there isn't a lot specifically about cannibalism, I picked up some articles on violence in kid lit to use as references.  In my paper I also discuss a few fairy tales and the role of cannibalism, and I write about a scene in His Dark Materials which involves cannibalism.  I tried to discuss how these violent, grotesque scenes influence the literature and the children exposed to it.  Why is it good for children to read about cannibalism in fairy tales?  What kind of values does this type of lit instill in children?  

For my presentation, which I also give on wednesday, I was thinking about reading a couple passages involving cannibalism from our texts this semester and then explaining how I analyzed such scenes in my paper.  I will try to incorporate some other insights people have mentioned, and then I'll present some of my own.  Hopefully no one gets hungry.

Till wednesday... read, read, read.   

Posted by bmcycleski at 1:21 PM EST
Thursday, 20 November 2008
Umaq's Prophecy

As I was thoroughly engrossed reading His Dark Materials the other day I didn’t blog on this as soon as I wanted; but a certain passage stood out to me. 



In chapter 6, Lighted Fliers, in The Subtle Knife Lee Scoresby takes it upon himself to find out whether Stanislaus Grumman is actually dead or not.  His head was the one Lord Asriel displayed for the scholars at Oxford.  Scoresy receives the assistance of an old Tartar named Umaq from the Ob region.  Umaq agrees to drive Scoresby, via dog sled to an observatory where Scoresby hopes to gather information about Grumman. 

 Umaq immediately stood out to me, he’s intriguing.  He doesn’t speak well but he gets his point across, which is that he and his people know what is going on in the world(s).  Umaq tells Scoresby the sky opened before “many thousand generation.’  He even goes so far as to tell Scoresby about the spirit world and a chance of a “big war. Spirit War.”  It turns out that Scoresby gathers as much info on Grumman from Umaq as he did at the observatory where the priest nearly killed him.  Umaq says about Grumman, “Maybe he not dead, maybe he is.  Maybe neither dead nor alive.  In spirit world.  Maybe he in spirit world.  Already I say too much.  Say no more now.”

 That’s about all we hear from Umaq, and it’s really all we need to hear as he has fulfilled his role in the story.  I would bet that if you did some research one could write a good paper about characters and patterns in literature such as Umaq: the driver or transporter who is also somewhat of a messenger and prophet and who know a lot more about what’s going on than he appears to.  Pullman does an excellent job incorporating Umaq into the story and he is one of my favorite side characters thus far in the story.    

One last pic: Go Iorek! 



Posted by bmcycleski at 3:58 PM EST
Sunday, 16 November 2008

Ok, this is going to be a somewhat random blog that goes along with my rather odd, yet fascinating weekend... Here goes.  

First, to all those students who can read pages per minute, I utterly envy you!  I made it my goal to read as much of Pullman's dark materials as I possible could this weekend.  Take in mind that I worked all weekend so I could have devoted more time but I devoted as much as I could.  So far, its about noon on sunday, I've read about 373 pages.  I'm in the second book, The Subtle Knife, and I'm trying to figure a way I can take it to work and read there too - I'll let you know how that turns out.  

This book is absolutely incredible.  I am usually not a huge fan of fantasy but then again this is a kid lit class: we've been reading fantasy the whole semester and I have enjoyed it thoroughly.  Therefore it didn't take me long to become entranced with His Dark Materials.  Off the top of my head, one of my favorite passages is when Lyra tricks Iofur Raknison into fighting Iorek Byrinson and they have an immense battle, a battle I vividly imagined while reading.

Some other notes I jotted down include:  

- When Lyra is assisted by the Costa egyptians, around pg 79, she is so innocent all she can worry about is when she stole their boat in Jordon and that the Costas might be angry still. The leaders of the egyptians get a good laugh out of this too.    

- I think I found an editing error on page 104: in the second paragraph the first P in pantalaimon is missing, it kind of through me for a loop on my first reading.  

- On page 122, Farder Coram tells the story about saving the witch by shooting the great red bird pursuing her.  This sounds awfully familiar to Coleridge's "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner," and the shooting of the albatross.  I think both men even second guess their actions.  

- On page 270 we get Roger's monologue about 'not wanting to know,' why Lyra's father/uncle gasped when the children were standing in his doorway.  I liked this passage because it really displays a child's need for innocence, how we yearn to stay innocent, why it may be bad to know.  

- Then on page 274 we get a direct reference about the change from innocence to experience.  And the bible story.

- On page 341, Lyra 'walked around in the fog for days just eating berries and stuff.'  Hmm, fog is blinding and berries sound familiar..... Rapunzel's prince wandered around blind and ate roots and berries.

- Then an Alice reference on page 361:  The sleepy scholar asks Lyra, "Who are you?'  I'm beginning to think Pullman's trilogy is a superb displacement of Carroll's masterpiece: a sleepy scholar and a hookah smoking caterpillar, hmmm.

When Dr. Sexson said something to the effect that 'everything connects' I believed him but not to this extent.  

- And then Keats stops by to say hi too. Page 364, the scholar directly quotes Keats' theory of negative capability, 'man's ability of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.'  

I enjoy being an english major more and more with every page I read.

And then I watch the movie Zeitgeist. 


To those of you who have seen this movie I would love to hear your opinions.  To those of you who haven't, do; though I'll warn you now it's not for the faint of heart, and it may even leave you deeply troubled or incredibly moved and motivated.  A quick personal fact: even before I saw this movie I started using the phrase "money, $, for the wicked.'  After I saw this movie it made sense to me how, somehow unconsciously this phrase grew on me and became extremely relevant and pertinent to nearly everything around us, right down to the dollar in your wallet or purse.

Here is a link to the movie, which you can also buy online for about 7 dollars, Zeitgeist, The Movie - Remastered / Final Edition.

The movie is a documentary that touches on history, religion, 9-11, the federal reserve system, the education system, and the entire world.

It is kind of long, two hours or so, but if you find the time it's worth every minute.  Dr. Sexson, I would especially be interested as to what you think about it, whether parts of it are consistent and accurate.  As far as I can tell, it is but everything always deserves criticism.  That's all I'm going to say so far because I don't want to ruin it for anyone.

Go watch Zeitgeist.   

Posted by bmcycleski at 1:53 PM EST
Sunday, 9 November 2008
A story

The Roses on the Mantle

With all this reading going on at once I find myself getting lost between books.  The other night I swear Don Quixote marched into the Jordon College where he and Lyra discussed his next knightly errant.  First they were going to solve the gobblers gobbling problem, then go rescue Alice from Wonderland by way of the looking glass.  Meanwhile Sancho Panza, Northrop Frye, and Jack from the bean stock were chatting about the seasons and islands somewhere in La Mancha: Frye picking through the ashes of books in search of a title for his next essay and Sancho doing the same but without any understanding as to why. 

            And while all this is going on I’m at work starting a ferocious fire.  As I searched for kindling in the woodshed I found two small plastic roses, no bigger than a dime.  To find roses in the woodshed seemed odd, or maybe lucky, I wasn’t sure; but either way I choose to take the roses inside.  Once the fire was flickering and I cleaned off the ashes from the mantle I placed one rose on each end.  They didn’t stick out at all, in fact they looked like they belonged there and fit in with the surrounding decorations in the dining room.  I thought myself clever for this and wondered if anyone would notice the roses.  As it turned out I did quite a bit of pizza cooking that night; at one time there was seven hungry people feasting on pizza at the bar around me, everyone oblivious to the fairy tale they were submersed in – the eyes of the roses watching their every bite.  After the pizza rush I hopped back and forth between the kitchen and pizza bar, checking in on the new chef and simultaneously milking the customers for tips; I was a white-chef-rabbit, always late, checking the time, and wondering when the queen, err boss, would reprimand me, or worse: off with my head.

            The night spiraled down to only display the stars and darkness, little fragrant portals, dimly starred among a larger one.  I hadn’t eaten all night since I was too busy busting out pizza, lamb chops, halibut, fettuccini, deep fried calamari, salads, crème brulee, and spumoni for all the starving people; but that was no matter for a hatter, I still had a bike ride home where I could stop and find some roots and berries, beer and bread.  The treads teemed underneath me, humming louder and softer depending on the pedal stroke.  Coasting through Cooper park, a group of caterpillars were dancing around a picnic table performing a ‘pillar ritual which involved an elaborate blue and green hookah with three straws for sucking smoke.  A silver cord spiraled up the hookah continuing into the smoke that sailed away in the form of a nasty pirate ship.  The caterpillars didn’t notice me ride by and I heard one say, ‘but if it was only the spirits of the trees, that talked and taught, who showed us the way to immortality, it would have been heavy wind, the grunting weight of wind and leaves…’  The ‘pillar’s voice trailed off as I coasted out of the park and realized that nobody noticed the roses on the mantle.              

Posted by bmcycleski at 2:55 PM EST
Sunday, 2 November 2008
Originality... and more

Ok, I just got done blogging about originality for my 300 blog but it pertains just as much to this class too - especially since we are forbidden to use the word in 304.  


Everyone knows the Hey Diddle Diddle nursery rhyme, which brings me to what our creative writing professor Greg Keeler had published in "Outside Bozeman."

His poem goes:   'The cat, the fiddle, the cow, / the moon, the dog, the dish / and the spoon - they all made / some weird kind of sense when / I was a kid. So did the frog and / the princess - all that stuff.  But / when I neared adulthood, it all / went poof.  If I wanted to site a / cow doing the moon thing, I had / to lie on my back in the dirt at / the rodeo on a full-moon night, / and even in that posture, I had / to be whacked on Jack Daniels / and pretend the bull was a cow. / The rest always seemed to fall / into place.  Some cat played / fiddle on the p.a. while my little / gal laughed like a dog.  The cop / who cuffed me was fat as a / platter and dragged me away as / a looney tune.  It wasn't a stretch / to imagine myself as a spoon.'   -Greg Keeler, in Outside Bozeman

And there you have evidence why nothing is original, or is it?  Yes, Keeler definitely got his material from the nursery rhyme, but by variating it's presentation, in a way he has created something original through imitation.  As the author Northrop Frye writes in our text for 300, Anatomy of Criticism, on page 97, "But any serious study of literature soon shows that the real difference between the original and the imitative poet is simply that the former is profoundly imitative."  Also, by imitating or referencing something that's happened the audience is already more engaged, either by interest of knowledge or the subject.  With a larger audience a poet's reputation grows too, whether good or bad the poet is influential.  

But look again at Keeler's poem and you'll notice the even more important connection. And that is with the loss of innocence after childhood, "My Book and Heart Shall Never Part," and children's literature.  He writes, 'The cat, the fiddle, the cow, / the moon, the dog, the dish / and the spoon - they all made / some weird kind of sense when / I was a kid. So did the frog and / the princess - all that stuff.  But / when I neared adulthood, it all / went poof.'  When he was a kid, all this nonsense made sense: a dog laughing at a cat playing the fiddle while a cow jumps the moon and a dish and a spoon run off to elope for eternity; the frog and the princess;  all this diddle diddle makes sense to children.  It's fun, exciting, silly, and most of all entertaining.  

Yet when you 'near adulthood, it all goes poof.'  Why?  And why do kids, once they've tasted experience, yearn for it more.   Sure the reason, 'it feels good' works, but it's cliche, and so boring and useless now.  Besides, along with experience we get more hassles, stress, worry, and fear; all that for the periodic pleasure experience presents.  Why do kids want to loose their innocence a-sap?  Probably because being innocent means you don't know how good you have it and so you ruin it, because we get curiouser and curiouser.  As humans it seems we're doomed for troubles and hassles no matter what we do -  it must be that 'awful shadow of some unseen power, floating though unseen amongst us' (Percy Shelley).   

Posted by bmcycleski at 9:01 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 3 November 2008 3:53 PM EST
Friday, 31 October 2008
Paper Ideas
I was thoroughly impressed with some of the ideas for papers about children's lit.  In class I was thinking about writing on portals, their effects and how they're incorporated into a tale.  After class I did a bit more brainstorming and also realized that I don't think anyone thought of writing about cannibalism in children's lit.  The first fairy tale we encountered in class was about a stepmother killing her stepson, chopping him up and making a stew with his body which she then fed to the father.  Sounds like great material for a 5 year old!  So portals or cannibalism is what I'm thinking about writing on for my term paper.

Posted by bmcycleski at 12:25 AM EDT

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