My Commonplace Volume 1

For the ten weeks of my Spring Quarter of my Second Year at Cal Poly, I kept a log of my weekly entries about different literary pieces. This is my collection, and how I began to see the written word in a new perspective. 
April 9, 2014  Hit That Replay

 There are so many songs out there, and they are all beautiful. But sometimes I wonder, if a song has a same name, is it basically the same song? I recently started exploring more variety in my music interests, particularly EDM and Alternative. Upon my finding, I found an album by Chelsea Lankes, Ringing Bell, which came out in 2012. The song that stood out to me—the first song I heard, and was recommended as a popular song by Spotify, was Wrecking Ball. Another one right? In my playlist, I already had two Wrecking Balls, the Popular version by Miley Cyrus, and another, by Frankmusik. Both, in my opinion, are very good songs, but both posses the same imagery—a wrecking ball. Basically, this icon represents a broken relationship, or some broken person, who is in pieces and feels they can never be put back together. So, when I heard this song, I discovered something. Though this song, and the other two, are basically the same story—a broken love, the perspective, if you will, is different. Yes, the lyrics in all three songs differ, and the keys and tempo differ as well. But underneath the surface, I still thought the story was the same. At this point, I’m not surprised that there are many variations of songs that tell the (exact) same story. However, whether it’s the song, the instrumental part, or the artist, somehow, the experience differs. 

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Here is Lankes’ version below.  

“You chased me down til I came around, you fed me all your lines

Laid out every word just right but they were the empty kind

I went along strung out, I finally saw the signs

Took a while to see what you do to me, you played me all this time

All this time

 

You built it all up and dropped a wrecking ball

You lost it all, you lost it all

Gave me just enough and then you let me fall

You lost it all, ya you lost it all

 

I’m left alone with these stones to throw trying to break the past

I should have known I would give you my love and you’d turn it into ash

You were the one with the smoking gun, you tied the noose

You can blame it on self sabotage I had to cut you loose

Cut you loose

 

You built it all up and dropped a wrecking ball

You lost it all, you lost it all

Gave me just enough and then you let me fall

You lost it all, ya you lost it all

 

Dress it all up, make it look like love

Dress it all up, make it look like love

Dress it all up, make it look like love

Make it look like love

Dress it all up-p-p-p-p

 

You built it all up and dropped a wrecking ball

You lost it all, you lost it all

Gave me just enough and then you let me fall

You lost it all, ya you lost it all

You built it all up and dropped a wrecking ball

You lost it all, you lost it all

Gave me just enough and then you let me fall

You lost it all, ya you lost it

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This is why I like to analyze literature, especially with a musical background. At first glance, the song appears different, and is entirely it’s own (save for the title). The beauty is that, when you look deeper, the story is still the same, just told differently. That is what I love about writing. There are, literally, many possibilities to expressing one single thought. It’s always amazing that writing can do this. You would think that, at this point, we would be bored with this notion. We, as writers, try to be original, try to be trend setters, like J.K. Rowling, or Suzanne Collins. Some would argue that this should be plagiarism, or that it’s tacky to express an idea that is already expressed. And yet, that isn’t the case. To me, it’s more interesting to see who can tell the story better, to see who does a better job writing down and performing an experience that is universal. Sometimes, some songs that share the same story line are clearer to others than other songs. This, I fell, would also apply to stories as well. I am beginning to see that in literature.

 You can listen to this version here:

April 16, 2014 Robert Browning’s “Porphyria’s Lover”

I personally love Romantic poems, because of how the writer writes their love, obsession, as well as their love interest in such vivid detail! But if you know Browning’s poem, the ending is not so romantic… Still, Porphyria’s Lover is an excellent example of such human character. In this case, Browning is able to convey the confusion of True Love/Devotion with Obsession and Control. The selection I chose demonstrates how he, in the perspective of the lover, is able to capture such quality of this scenario, how he is able to describe someone so detailed, while holding a personal perspective.

 

Lines 15-20

…When no voice replied

She put my arm about her waist,

And made her smooth white shoulder bare,

And all her yellow hair displaced,

And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,

And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair,

Murmuring how she loved me…

Lines 26-30

But passion sometimes would prevail,

Nor could tonight’s gay feast restrain

A sudden thought of one so pale

For love of her, and all in vain:

So, she was come through wind and rain.

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As singer Selena Gomez once sang,

“It’s been said and done

Every beautiful thought’s been already sung

And I guess right now here’s another one

So your melody will play on and on, with the best of ’em”

This is certainly true. There are many love poems and dedication pieces out there, perhaps when writing first began. So begs the question, what makes this dramatic monologue different? In my opinion, every author has a different perspective on a universal subject. It is interesting to analyze and indulge in such a unique concept, that even though I could read twenty, maybe a thousand, love poems and stories, I would still be able to enjoy them, each and every one. Why? Because the individual, the writer, is unique, and their thoughts and emotions are their own. Browning’s detail to such a case, his description of Porphyria is well detailed, he is painting a picture with just words. I’ve never met, nor will I get to meet her, and yet I can see her. I admit, I am a sucker for love and the emotions and complications that come along with it. Browning’s writing just jumps out of the page, screaming with the frustration and passion of the love he writes about. It’s as if he’s telling the story in my ear, seducing me with his story of love and obsession. For a writer to be able to be close to their audience, to capture the engagement of any reader, enables an experience that is pleasurable, and full of sensation. It’s like this. When he writes about the seductive touch of the lover unto Porphyria, or when he lays her cheek upon him, it’s as if I can feel we soft, warm skin on my shoulder as well, that I can hear her sigh of care and devotion. There are writers who can do that besides Browning, but as I stated before, his experience and literary collaboration is a unique piece, and engages my senses in a different way than other writers.

April 23, 2014  Love Unrequited 

Selection: Unrequited Love, Victor Hugo to Adele Foucher (page 25)

 I bought this book, The World’s Greatest Love Letters, compiled by Michael Kelahan, because I was in a bit of a rut. As the title of the book suggests, it is a book about Love. All kinds of love. For most of my life, whenever I had a problem, and I felt I couldn’t turn to my family or friends, not even to myself, I always knew this. I could find any answer, or any escape from my troubles, in the soft, caressing pages of a book. I would go to the closest library or bookstore (I prefer the independent, or family owned one, but Borders was and Barnes and Noble is a good alternative), and get lost in the possibility of searching for someone who understood me, someone who knew what I was feeling, especially in a turmoil of emotion. I was feeling confused and down on love. I almost gave up on it. It happened that I was searching for a book for class at Barnes and Nobel. After coming for what I needed, I made my way to the bargain section—there is always something interesting there. The book, red and gold, stood out, the only one there. I picked it up, and without knowing it, I had found my answer to my problems with love. In this book are the feelings expressed by authors, political figures, romantics.

 As you can guess, I chose the section of Unrequited Love, because I too was feeling unrequited in my life. The letter that stood out was one Victor Hugo wrote. I love his work, especially Les Miserable. He writes with fervor, truth, as well as comfort. He is one of my guilty pleasures when I am feeling full of sorrow and despair. And here is why, from Victor Hugo to his love, Adele, an exert.

 

“This letter is quite important, Adele. The impression it makes on you will determine our future. If I can only think calmly, and give you my ideas sanely, I shall have no difficulty in fighting against sleep to-night. I wish I could repeat to you, face to face, this serious and intimate talk I have prepared, for then I could get your answer at once,–I shall await it with the utmost impatience,–and I should be able to tell from your expression the effect of my words—the effect that is to settle the question of our happiness. Until now Adele, there seems to have been one word which we have shrunk from pronouncing—the word love. Yet the feeling I have for you is surely love. And so it is of importance for us to know whether the sentiment which you feel is the same.”

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Victor Hugo may be regarded as the Author who captures Human Misery on the page. In his personal life, he has faced loss, despair, and frustration. This letter not only spoke to me because of his clear and passionate writing tone, but also because he is so exposed, his feelings revealed that it is easy to sympathize—in my case empathize—with him. This is a different style of writing. This is a real account of his feelings, rather than the fiction he is renowned for. In just this small part of his letter, he already demonstrates the human condition of misery and confusion. It can be assumed that his personal life and emotion is what fuels the beauty and power of his fiction. That, of course, can be said of any author. However, when I read both The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Le Miserables, I recall that the misery Hugo writes about seems more forward, direct. He does offer both tragic loves, as well as successful ones, in his works. Yet, rather than seeming pitiful and devastating, he makes them beautiful and poetic. That’s why I was able to fall in love with his writing, and the emotion of misery he portrayed. It was as palpable to me as though he has a power to push his emotion directly to my heart. Admittedly, I read this letter first, because I knew Victor Hugo is an amazing writer. But to see a piece of fact, a writing style that has history to it, was not only refreshing, but it also offers a unique perspective to learning about writing styles, and if fact and fiction bear any similar qualities, when it comes to analyzing writing.

May 30, 2014  Laura, My Laura 

 This is one of those weird entries. Normally, I choose exerts from fantastic pieces of literature, especially if they are Victorian. However, this monologue from the Glass Menagerie spoke to me. Spoiler Alert—it is Laura’s part. In other words, it’s spoken by a woman. For those of you who seek pleasure to make fun, go ahead. I’m pretty comfortable with my sexuality and gender to read this part. When I was looking for monologues to read for my Theatre class, I was fed up with the majority of male monologues. I couldn’t connect with them, and the way they were written annoyed the hell out of me. But when I stumbled upon this monologue, I was like, “This is the one.” Laura’s lines, her raw emotion, is exactly what I was feeling. I could relate to her, empathize with her. It wasn’t just the words that gave me a sense of clarity and relief, but also how they were read, and the flow of despair and anxiety seemed to jump from the pages and into my heart. (Note: I edited some parts, for gender purposes for my original theatre project) 

Laura:  Mom, please!  I have to say this.  I can’t go outside these walls.  There’s just too much pain!  I can feel everyone staring at me–staring at this.  The noise it makes, it’s just so loud!  That’s why I dropped out of high school!  I felt everyone’s eyes staring at me, heard all the giggles they tried to suppress as I clomped and limped down the hall.  Especially when I would enter the choir room!  Jenny would never want to be around me again.  Sure, we talked sometimes, but she wouldn’t want to be around me any more than those few occasions–not around the limping boy who makes such a racket!  Nobody would want to be near me.  So I tuned out from the rest of the world before it could cause me any more pain than I have already suffered.  And it seems that whatever crippled my leg–

–yes, Mom, you might as well admit that I’m crippled!–has crippled the rest of my being throughout time.  It seems I just got worse and worse at school.  And then at business college, in that confined typing room, that quick clacking of keyboards surrounded me as I stumbled and fat-fingered all the letters.  It felt as if the professor was breathing down my neck, silently mocking me as I continued to fail.  Until finally, all that pressure poured out of me–and into a toilet. 

Mom, secluded from the world in this home listening to phonograph records and dusting my glass collection–this is where I belong!  I fail everywhere else in the outside world.  Here, there’s nothing to fail at!  I’ll never succeed at being a husband or finding a job, so I might as well give up trying now and just be content in my bubble with at least having no additional failure for the rest of my life!  I can’t see Jenny!  It would only result in the ultimate failure–rejection from the only person I have ever loved!  Mom, I can’t!  Just have dinner without me.  Please, Mom. 

Here, Tennessee Williams, the author of the play, wrote this monologue in such detail of emotion, there is no way you can’t feel what he wants you to feel. From what I do know of the play’s origins, Laura was based on a person Williams knew very well. To be able to capture such a human experience, and retell it in such a powerful and successful way, is very difficult, he manages to do so. As a writer, I admire this skill level and commitment to writing. Yes, I understand this is a play, but all writing is meant to demonstrate some aspect of the world, to engage readers in the human experience or social issues in the world. Williams does just that, which to me, makes him an excellent writer. Though it is not detailed in the way one would expect in a literary piece, there is a detailed appearance that enables the reader to see the world through Laura’s eyes, to be able to relate to her character, even if you are not in her predicament. That kind of writing is special and is to be honored.

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2 thoughts on “My Commonplace Volume 1

  1. I have to ask, did you find this Laura monologue in the play or just online? I can’t find a copy of the play that has this monologue in it anywhere! Thank you!

    1. When I typed in Monologues from the glass menagerie, this was one of the results that came up. I confirmed this with my theatre professor for I class I was taking at the time. I believe it can be found in the scene of the dinner party and Laura and her mother are getting ready.

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