Escape from Elba
Exiles of the New York Times
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weezo
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« Reply #210 on: July 21, 2007, 03:16:59 PM »

Laurie asks:

"It is realistic to have five members of the same family view life differently, but is it realistic to have them express themselves, to have them use language, so differently? "

Actually, Laurie, one of the things that struck me about the book was how much it reminded me of my own family - my five sister and our mother. Each of us has out own perceptions, even on events that we could have all viewed the same way and yet did not. We have had a listserve among us for some eight or more years now, and if someone outside the family read it, they would see that each of us has our own way of expressing outselves, using language very different. One of us shows her total disapproval of the rest of us by refusing to participate in the listserve. Edith, the youngest, is dyslexic, and her writing is full of misspellings and "creative" sentence structures. Jacqi is always friendly, but very busy and unable to share more than a few lines at a time. Patty wears her feelings on her sleeve on certain issues, and sits on the pitty pot from time to time. Chris is always, like Leah, overburdened with her life, and has interesting memories of the past. When we first started the list, all we used it for was to argue. Now, we do sometimes share the events in our families, but not regularly. Sometimes, it is our children who chime in and let everyone know what is going on. It is always interesting when an argument breaks out, how our children break in to smooth it out.

In any event, that is what "made" the Poisonwood Bible so meaningful to me. It is the first time I have ever read a book that seemed to understand the dynamics in a large family of all females.
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Lhoffman
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« Reply #211 on: July 21, 2007, 03:33:41 PM »

Anne...I love the description of your family.  I understand those dynamics, having five sisters of my own....and of course a mother who has only recently felt the urge to let us all know how she really feels....

We all definitely have different perspectives on life.  When we are together, though, and expressing ourselves, our syntax is pretty much my mother's.  I've never really read any of their writing though.  We usually speak on the phone or in person and most of them don't have the internet and so don't e-mail.  And now I'm curious to know whether I would find a difference in their writing.
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madupont
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« Reply #212 on: July 21, 2007, 07:06:26 PM »

I don't think the prophet Nathan has anything to do with colonialism; it is the David whom he criticised who was guilty of this inequity. On those grounds, she would have named the kid, David.

However, in the reading  from biblegateway, again Rachel is mentioned by the reference back to that earlier lineage without which you would not have David, when Nathan says that David has taken the Hitite's "one little ewe lamb", who was of course Batsheba.
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weezo
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« Reply #213 on: July 21, 2007, 07:26:24 PM »

Laurie,

That is right, you come from the same kind of family that I did. Sadly, our mother never did come to the point where she let all of us know how she felt. She was still playing one against the other up until she was put in a nursing home with dementia, and it was all downhill from there. Just before she went in the nursing home, she forgot that she had been angry and hateful towards Terry for some five years. Each of us had had our turn as the "bad" daughter, but she never got to the point where we were all "good" daughters. Yet, it took a few years of her in the nursing home before we all came to realize that we didn't need Mom's approval to love each of our sisters, each of whom is a very different and unique person. One of mom's sisters was at the funeral, which we managed to pull off with elegance and aplop. Bebsie pulled me aside at the luncheon afterwards and told me, that Mom would have been proud of us. She said the same thing to others of my sisters, maybe all. We were all disappointed that the six of us couldn't be there all together, but Edith was ill and her doctors said absolutely no to her traveling across the country. When a soprano from the church (which none of us had ever been to before, but it was close to the cemetary), sang Ave Maria, which Edith, who has a strong, rich singing voice, was supposed to sing, we listened with tears in our eyes, missing Edith.

In some ways Edith was, as a young child, much like Ruth May. But after she got to school and endured the abuse from the nuns for her dyslexia mixed with playfulness, she became less secure, and lost that playfulness. If I get to making her laugh on the phone, I can still hear that little girl in her, but, sadly, not all of my sisters get that rare treat, since she spends so much time defending herself thinking all of her sisters believe they are "superior" to her.
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madupont
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« Reply #214 on: July 21, 2007, 08:37:49 PM »

I had a quarter dozen each, like donuts ordered at the bakery. The brothers came first and therefore that abundance of them was disgusting. Then the girls, one after the other. The first had been lost before the boys arrived.
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Lhoffman
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« Reply #215 on: July 21, 2007, 11:20:41 PM »

I don't think the prophet Nathan has anything to do with colonialism; it is the David whom he criticised who was guilty of this inequity. On those grounds, she would have named the kid, David.

However, in the reading  from biblegateway, again Rachel is mentioned by the reference back to that earlier lineage without which you would not have David, when Nathan says that David has taken the Hitite's "one little ewe lamb", who was of course Batsheba.

The irony related to Nathan (who is the girls' father, by the way), is that if Kingsolver was meaning to name him after the Biblical prophet, and if she meant for him to represent colonialism, Nathan has become the sin his namesake counselled against. 

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Lhoffman
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« Reply #216 on: July 21, 2007, 11:33:12 PM »

Anne...is Bebsie the oldest sister?  and Edith the youngest?

My oldest sister, Alice...who is also the oldest sibling, always takes it onto herself to pass on necessary information....medical information, what mom thinks, etc.. Alice has always seen herself as mom's spokesperson and stand-in.  The next sister, Bonnie, clearly always preferred my father.  The third sister, Virginia, had no time for either of them.   The youngest sister, Susan, (seventeen years younger than I am) played up to both parents, but it was clear from day one that mother would always be in her court.  The parents had many disagreements about her upbringing, which my mother won.  The end of it all was that Susan was given far more freedom than was good for her.  As a teenager, she couldn't wait to leave home.  Now in her 30's, she is still living at home, with my mother, her (Susan's)husband and their four children....who also enjoy far too much freedom.  The situation does work well for my mother, though, because she hates living alone.  My mother and father were married 49 years (he died five months before their fiftieth anniversary) and they NEVER lived by themselves. 
« Last Edit: July 21, 2007, 11:39:16 PM by Lhoffman » Logged
weezo
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« Reply #217 on: July 22, 2007, 09:14:35 AM »

Laurie,

Bebsie is my mother's younger sister, the only sister who remained in the Reading area, althought I think she has since moved to California with her son. My mother has one brother still alive, and two older sisters who live in Ohio and could not travel to the funeral.

I am the oldest of my siblings, and took the lead as far as starting and managing the email listserve. Edith, as you guessed is the youngest. Patty, the second born, and Christy, the second to last born, are the most educated. Patty has had her masters for years, and Christy is getting her now and looking towards getting a PHD. I finally got my bachelors when I was 36. Terry, the fourth-born, doesn't have a degree, but has had four years of college in two areas. Jacqi, is the third born, never got her degree although she has enough course work to take a general degree. She has been the entrepreneur of the family. Edith could not go past the first year of college, but she did a strint in the Navy where she met her husband.

I am sixteen years older than Edith, so we have quite a span, but it seems your span is even greater. My father used to refer to us as "two platoons", the first three of us were born rather close together, then a six year span, then the last three were born not as close as the first three, but close enough.

I was married young, and had my first child when Edith was in Kindergarten. She went to school proclaiming that now she was an "ant, and not the kind that crawls on the ground". Like many of her sayings and doings, it has become a family legend. Edith was initially called Babum, a corruption of baby, a name put on her by Christy who was trying to say baby, and the name stuck until in about third grade when she began slugging anyone who called her Babum until we all got to calling her Edy or Edith.

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madupont
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« Reply #218 on: July 22, 2007, 09:51:00 AM »

Of course, what I think is that we have a case here of a clever strategy on the part of a writer, who has a background in journalism, has written some fiction and when she gets this idea Huh? "
I've got it, I can put one schemata over the other so you can just make out the tracery of the biblical analogy for the character of each person in the family. I'll try it out and see how it works." *

It takes meticulous lots of planning to write a clever novel, as you discover in process, or a play, or a screen-play, so you keep your notebooks if you've survived an experience or if you haven't. Next attempt of course is already patterned  in your head, because of having experienced the practice.

asterisk above: take a look at the paragraphs you posted about your families and notice the story-line that you chose to describe your individual family's experience.   It isn't quite what Tolstoy meant by each family is different (in fact, his oft quoted saying sounds more cynical); but it is worth examing as a piece of your own natural writing, to determine why you picked out particular details, what they mean, then think of them as entirely fictional people who you don't know. Yet, since you really do know them, you have two layers of schemata. 1)a story with several interacting characters. On which you can place a layer rather like tracing paper as the next schemata where you let your memory flow and just surprise yourself at what you recall; either that or dig deep as if looking down into that divination pool of water mentioned earlier and notice what rises to the surface. That will be added to the tissue layer of schemata on your original basis and you can improvise the creation of characters.

From then on, you notice how they interact.     For some writers, it helps to have a feedback group in a setting,academic or otherwise, where you read your story and receive criticism on it. Other artists do this all the time; those who become painters for instance. Actors do it to join a company, they audition in the beginning from what they bring in.

For others, a private place with lots of quiet, lack of distraction or disruption, is the answer until they take it to an agent or submit shorter work "over the transom".
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Lhoffman
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« Reply #219 on: July 22, 2007, 11:36:46 AM »

Mad....Of course she kept notebooks.  Of course the book was meticulously planned.  But she didn't choose to name the characters Dick, Jane, Mary, Anne, Sue and Betty....and she didn't choose to call the book "Clueless White Folk in the Jungle." 

Perhaps you could share with us your own ideas about the characters why Kingsolver chose to call this book "The Poisonwood Bible."
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madupont
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« Reply #220 on: July 22, 2007, 11:52:39 AM »

I believe that was discussed that Jesus was "balanga" since their local Congolese language is a tonal language. Congo resides in that area of Africa where the language was and is Asiatic-African(in other words has pitched tones, like Chinese).

If you got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning, don't take it out in the posts because I doubt that is the problem.  My purpose was to demonstrate the format of her writing from what the example was at hand and you know that.
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Lhoffman
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« Reply #221 on: July 22, 2007, 03:30:34 PM »

"The principles of ntu are asleep , until they are touched by nommo.  Nommo is the force that makes things live as what they are: man or tree or animal. Nommo means word.  The rabbit has the life it has---not a rat life or mongoose life---because it is named rabbit, mvundla.  A child is not alive, claims Nelson, until it is named.  I told him this helped explain a mystery for me.  My sister and I are identical twins, so how is it that from one single seed we have two such different lives?  Now I know.  Because I am named Adah and she is named Leah."

Nelson brings Ruth May an amulet to store her name:  "Put your spirit inside here, he said, here quick, blow in this hole.  He opened up the peg and I blew in the little hole and quick he said my name Nommo Bandu Nommo Bandu! and shut up the hole with the little peg and Now you are safe.  He said now if anything happens to me, if I start fixing to die or something, hold on to this tight and bambula! Ruth May will disappear."

Jesus is bengala...beloved or poisonwood.
Leah is La Dragueuse, Beene Beene
Adah is benduka...the one who walks crooked or a sleek bird.

In the Congo, it is dangerous "to assign the wrong names to things, you could make a chicken speak like a man.  Make a machete rise up and dance."

Kingsolver tells us, "Congo was a woman in the shadows, dark-hearted, moving to a drumbeat.  Zaire is a tall young man tossing salt over his shoulder.  All the old injuries have been renamed."

Kingsolver goes to great lengths to show her reader the power of the name.  One's name isn't a label, it is essence.  Clearly there was some importance in her choice of Biblical names for her characters.  Why give the daughters Biblical names unless she meant "Nathan" to refer back to the Bible?  She could have chosen another name, "Orleanna" seems to have no significance.  It seems that Kingsolver wanted us to relate Nathan to the  Biblical prophet who counselled King David.  Kingsolver here has created an irony by turning the king/prophet relationship on its head.  Instead of Nathan warning the powerful David on the folly of oppression, Kingsolver gives us Nathan, the oppressor working to save the powerless (and guiltless) Ndu.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2007, 03:40:31 PM by Lhoffman » Logged
Donotremove
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« Reply #222 on: July 23, 2007, 09:01:38 AM »

Hoffman #316.

Exactly.
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Lhoffman
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« Reply #223 on: July 23, 2007, 10:22:37 PM »

Reader, are you reading through character by character now? 

We may not like her best, but I felt that Rachel grew as much as anyone.  Consider how Rachel's survival mechanisms developed from the time she stepped off the plane to the end of the book.

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Lhoffman
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« Reply #224 on: July 24, 2007, 08:29:58 PM »

Something about Nelson reminded me of Methuselah the parrot.  Both were sort of "inherited" by the Price family.  Methuselah left by Brother Fawkes, Nelson sent by Anatole.  Both are associated with language in the novel.  Methuselah represents the passing Congo, a Congo that has been oppressed for so long that it doesn't know what to do with freedom.  (Thus, Kingsolver kills Methuselah on the day the Congo claims independence.)  Nelson seems to represent some mix of past and present...educated but still clinging to the old superstitions.   

Nelson also serves as a communicator between colonized (Tata Ndu) and colonizer (the Prices).  He explains the the Prices that Ndu wants to take Rachel to wife, and later proves that Leah killed the antelope, rather than Ndu's son.  He also warns the Price's of the evil he has found in their chicken coop.

As to the "negative reciprocal"...Nelson's warning about the chicken coop would have prevented death; had Nathan allowed Nelson to spend the night in their home, Ruth May would have been saved.


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