Friday, February 29, 2008

The "Artsyness" in VAS

I want to try to address the point I was attempting to make in class about VAS being overly artsy. At the same time, I want to justify it so I could at least look like I'm being somewhat objective in my criticism. The truth is I think that Tomasula is in some sense a frustrated artist. He is writing this story about square and circle and their marital issues with the the vasectomy but he's making social commentary throughout the entire text and trying to convey it in a way that maybe he feels might stick more.

He dedicated a good portion of the book to languages. Some languages communicate certain information more efficiently than others and some of them are naturally selected over others (per say) since about 95% of languages have expired throughout history. I think that his book is so random and strange because he's precisely lacking a particular language that will help him communicate all of his thoughts coherently. We mentioned in class that he used music, machine language, English, Spanish, Latin, Greek and a lot of different languages throughout the text. Why is that? The only reason I can think of is precisely to convey as much as possible. His entire approach to the way the story is written is a language in a sense. It's written in English (mostly) but it's a style of communicating that is different from what we would consider the English language - I don't think anyone in this class thinks this is the typical English Literature text. That's definitely interesting to me, because I think it kind of works. Even though it is hard to connect all of his thoughts to the main story line, trying to connect all of these concepts helps us remember them better, (at least me) and in the end I think that's what Tomasula wanted. I think this was his way of writing information about social commentary that he believes in and getting it to stick in the reader's heads in an interesting way. It also gives you a new perspective on things when you have Hitler, genetic engineering and beauty pageants and you're trying to find the connection between the three. I personally think of Hitler in a bikini answering why genetic engineering is the answer to world peace, but I'm sure there are better ways to interpret this information.


Ellen M said...

I agree with you. I think there are a lot of relevant points that Tomasula makes about society, but sometimes I feel that the "stream of consciousness" approach and over-abundance of images are distracting which makes the text less meaningful to me.

Lucia said...

So, seeing as we are friends with Nestor, and we all like to talk about how messed up the world is, the issue of world peace comes up quite often in conversation. Now, I am going to know that while we are talking, you are thinking about Hitler in a bathing suit. This isn't normal, Ana. Can you think about kittens playing with a ball of yarn or something?

Alyssa said...

I agree that a lot of what is expected from Literature is missing in VAS. But I don't think that detracts from its qualification as Literature (big L).

Granted, VAS is convoluted and it's unlikely any readers will grasp the full intent of the authors. But I can think of plenty of musicians and authors who refuse to comment on their work; I do not think it detracts from the overall product. I would have liked to have seen a little more dialogue, but only because it would have been easier for me to digest. I'm used to decoding indirect allusions, not a sequence of excerpts.

I generally walked away with an impression of inhabiting someone else's psyche. Although the art and drama of the novel was at times overwhelming to 'read' through, I think the page-to-page contents of the novel is far less important than the impression it leaves.

My favorite author is Thomas Hardy, but I know that my understanding of his novels and his intent is limited by my knowledge of the Bible (which is next to nothing, save a couple weeks of AP English). However this does not detract from my enjoyment of what I can ascertain from his texts.

[side-note]: I went to a party last weekend where a guy was (for no apparent reason) dressed as Charlie Chaplin; he must have been too tall, because he just looked like a bizarre Hitler.

Blackout said...

Looking back, I kind of miss VAS. The other works we discussed in class were great, but I think analyzing VAS could've lasted the entire semester.