Sunday, March 30, 2008

I always have to start with stories...

When I was younger I went hog wild with my hair, I've done so many things to it I couldn't begin to name them all, but I've done cute little pixie cuts and I've had 3 and 4 different non-natural hued colors in it at a time. The summer before my brother went into the military he dyed his hair bright pink. My mom never cared. She always said it was just hair, and it would grow out or grow back.
I also played soccer growing up. I'm sure you can imagine how much of a hassle long hair can be while playing. It keeps the heat in and it can get in your face. One season, I stopped to admire a player who had a buzz cut. My mom also noticed the player but had different feelings about it. I was so impressed at how brave this girl was to shave off all her hair. She must really not care what people thought. I wished I were so bold. My mom made a comment on how ashamed this girls mother must be and how horrible a thing that would be to do. When I started to question her and point out the benefits, she forbade me from ever doing that to myself. This, comming from the woman who said it was just hair and let my show up for school pictures with a blue and purple hair.
I never quite understood that. I never thought of hair as a symbol of much. I thought it looked cool in certain styles or colors, but more than anything, it was a burden.

I don't know if I think homosexuality is genetic or a choice. If it is genetic, then homophobia is kinda like racism, which I never understood either. Why get mad at someone for something that is out of their control? It's not like they can change because you don't like it.
I don't go around always being conscious of the fact that I am white or that I am straight. I am made up of so many other things that those two just kinda fall in the background.

I was playing soccer today and commented to my husband while on the side line how much I wish I could just shave my head like he does. He doesn't like girls to have short hair because then they look gay. This always reminds me of my previously told story. I don't know if that girl was gay or not. I don't care. I don't know what her hair has to do with it. I don't know why something as stupid as hair should be a symbol of some other part of us. People are always looking for a way to read or understand people. I think you should just get to know then, and if you have no interest in doing that, just ask then outright whatever it is you are questioning. Are you gay? Are you a hard worker? Are you a Christian? Are you a parent? You can't look at me and know any of that stuff. My hair doesn't tell you that I'm straight and my clothes don't tell you that I'm lazy.

Well, to bring this back to Querelle... (and I know I've strayed a bit, but I tend to rant and rave)
some things are just out of our control. Some things can't be determined by looking at someone or judging their mannerisms.
I keep being struck, while reading Querelle, by how it seems that his way of standing and dressing symbolize his criminal qualities. Also, he seems to be able to just look at someone and know if they are gay (which is always the case). I think I really hate this about the book. It is not real at all. I can't look at someone and know if they are gay. I can make a guess, and in my experience I'm not too far off in most cases, but there have been times when someone has seemed soooo gay, and they aren't. Or, the other way around where no one can tell, and it's not because they are hiding it, they just don't act "gay". And as far as looking at the way someone wears their clothes and knowing them in depth, that's just crap. So Querelle wears his berret to the back of his head and so what if he props up his collor. Oh, that must mean he is a murderer and a drug dealer. Or, he could just be more comfortable that way.

I guess when you are struggling with some of these things in yourself, like your sexuality or you desires to kill, yeah, it will be on the forefront of your brain, but is that normal for most people? I'm not always walking around thinking about how straight everyone around me is. I don't understand this about the book. Aside from my issues with "judging a book by it's cover" (which I actually do for my reading material) I find this constant thought and actions dealing with sexuality to be over done and unbelievable.

Well, that is my rant for the night. Sorry to go on so long, but there are just some things I don't understand and it helps to get them out.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Faggot, what's a faggot?

Querelle ponders over the meaning of the word "faggot" after he calls the lieutenant one in his mind. "Faggot, what's a faggot? One who lets other guys screw him in the ass?" (88). He arrives at the conclusion that he is one himself. The word pops up more and more in these pages. We give the label of "homosexual" to all the characters who populate this fictive rendering of Brest, which is only natural for us because of how our particular culture chooses to define sexuality... the biological sex of the object(s) of our desire (or of the act itself, if you like). All these (mostly violent) masculine power struggles are overtly eroticized and then we have the men who participate in these struggles who are openly talking about s*cking and f*cking each other all the time. Yet at the same time they are all worried of being labeled a "faggot" or a "fairy" and sodomy even appears to be a punishable offense (another crime to add to our growing list: prostitution, drug trafficking, theft & murder). I admit I don't know if France still had sodomy laws at the time, or if they would apply in this fictive world even if she did... but given the lieutenant's fear of being discovered by Mario when he is being questioned about Vic's murder, and Robert's reaction to hearing his brother gave himself willingly to Nono or Momo or whatever his name is... I have a hard time believing some of the very frank, sexy stuff going on here... like Gil presenting his anus to the masons and then screaming at them to f*ck him even though he's got hemorrhoids. Crazy. I really have to give it to Genet. The image he puts in my head right there is one that probably won't quit me for a while.

I like how the woman, Paulette, enters into the story only in a fantasy of Gils... and then only because he is terrified of being penetrated by Theo. In revenge he shouts: "Me, I'm a man... ... I shove it up other guys! I'll screw you too!" (109). Theo then turns into Robert. I don't know what thats about... but what's interesting to me is that masculinity here is linked directly to sex with other men (as long as one is the giver and not the receiver). There is another good part on the bottom of page 116 where it talks about passive/active roles in sex, this time talking about fellatio (where the passive/active roles are reversed).

One last thing I will point out this morning: the text specifically says that the fight between Querelle and his brother is a "lovers' quarrel" and that "rather than trying to destroy one another they seemed to want to become united, to fuse into what would surely be, given these two specimens, an even rarer animal" (123). Aside from the suggestion of incest, we return here to this eroticization of male power struggles, but perhaps laced a bit with sadness, because the fusion of these two men can (probably) never be complete. Is that all men really need, to feel connected to other men? Les pauvres. *sniff*

yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi

Hehe. I have to admit I'm finding all the exclamations of how gay this book is a little surprising. I realized some of my lack of surprise may have come because I was expecting something of this nature since when I was researching books for the final essay, I came across another by this author that sounded just as...interesting. If not...more so. ^_^ (Actually I found the description rather amusing and was thinking about doing it till I realized we were already reading a book by this author and that might get a little tiring.) Still, even accounting for that, I still find myself a little...unsettled somehow? Certainly the book is more up front and...excessive in the area of anything relating to sex than we are used to in books we read in lit class (and for most of us anything we read out of class as well? ^_^). Surely that warrants a few utterances of surprise...


To some extent surely I'm just desensitized. (I read manga, so sometimes I trade manga with a friend of mine, but unfortunately most of what she has is yaoi and shoujo, which I, depending on my mood, am either taking just to read the same things as her so we have similar reading experiences to talk about, or, just to be polite. ^^ ...Currently I'm in possession of one apparently about a goldfish that turns into an effeminate man and then has sex with its male owner. *sigh* I just...haven't been able to bring myself to read it.) But I dunno. If this were a book about lesbians constantly having sex I'm sure I'd be more uncomfortable, but...


Glancing through posts again, I guess the main thing is the excessiveness and the unrealistic, er, ratio of gay men? (The connection to immorality, too, of course, but it seems like comments related to that have been...separate from the general, “Wow, this is gay!” remarks. Even if there was no murder in the book, you guys would still be saying that, right?) ...I think MAAAAYBE (I really, really don't know. Shot kind of in the dark here.) I'm getting a vibe that these exclamations of how gay it is and how many phallic symbols there are etc are being stated like the very fact they are there has some sort of inherent meaning. Like...for a random and not exactly equivalent example from another class...I read a transcript of an interview a professor did with a girl about 'dealing' with non native English speakers. The girl started one of her stories with something like, “My friend works at this hospital. It's like...the poor hospital in town.” And then just went on with her story not staying what she meant by that. Because what she meant, of course, is that 'the poor hospital is where the non-native English speakers go.' But she said 'poor hospital' unconsciously assuming people would make the connection. If you asked her she might have told you she was just giving background, but it was pretty clear. Saying 'this novel is really gay' ... I don't think it's anywhere near as extreme as the example, but I still get that feeling of 'poor hospital = non-native English speakers,' like 'really gay novel = ..???' I don't know what the “???” is, but I think it's something kind of negative. It seems...belittling?


I may be getting a little defensive since I read fantasy novels, and while I'll agree that most I've read are...sadly less than engaging/intellectually stimulating, being a fantasy novel does not make a novel inherently insubstantial. And a book being full of sex and sexual descriptions of men and buildings does not make it inherently insubstantial either. All of you acknowledge that in your posts I think (and the kind of person who would take this class would probably anyway, right? ^_^), but I also wanted to say that if a book that is in either of these categories IS 'literary'/substantial, it is also not necessarily 'substantial DESPITE being Xunrespectable thingX,' either. A book having lots of gay sex in it is a book with lots of gay sex in it. (By the way, how do you think everyone would react if it was straight sex?) While that might often come with empty/bad writing, that's just a correlation, and not something inherent in writing about gay sex as talking about it in that way might imply.


And maybe I'm just misunderstanding the cause of my uneasiness, or understanding your statements wrong. Seeing what is easiest for me to see, etc. ...But we DO do some interesting accidental things with our carefree, late night, spring-break-has-almost-started-and-I'm-not-in-the-mood-for-this-now language use. ^_^


To a certain extent, I really believe that the excessive sexual stuff is just for the author's own fun, but I think they're also doing something with it in a literary/meaningful way, helpless as I feel to figure out what that is at this point or possibly ever. ^_^ I mean, my friends and I for a time would pick up trashy romance novels from library giveaways or other such things and leave them in the cars so on long drives we could read them aloud to one another. (Count the times the word 'ivory' was used.) I know the writing style of the time period factors in, but... Pure trashy porn really, really doesn't sound like this, does it? Plus, hasn't this section we read for today been little more...uh...normal? ^_^;


And I suppose a quick bit on today's reading since I haven't mentioned that at all, but I'll keep it simple since I read it half asleep and had to rush through so Brother could start:


Opinions of Gil? I'd certainly be wary of making friends with the guy, but I find him a sympathetic character. So we've got two gay murderers (but of course, everyone is gay ^_^), but Gil is portrayed differently than Querelle. Has it effected anyone's opinion of how they feel the book is portraying homosexuality?


Mario and the lieutenant feel rather...impotent people? ^_^; Mario's a cop, and the police force in general kind of seems to feel that way as well... and the Lt... at first I was thinking the more morally tied down people were the more 'impotent' ones, but... none of them are HORRIBLY moral. But...maybe by comparison to others, heheh?


Reading quickly was possibly part of the problem (Normally I read slower than.....I'm just too sleepy to be thinking of creative ends to sentences right now.) but there were some whole sections I just didn't get. The looong paragraph about the prisoners? Page 118 with the...I don't even know how to describe that. And while I get what literally happened with Querelle and his brother, obviously the author is trying to say something with all this talk of joining or whatever it was. Bah, I wish I wasn't reading this for school. Trying to understand that guy's sections is just cognitively overwhelming, and you still barely get anywhere. I kind of wish it was more predominantly the other characters, even if I do have difficulty understanding their motivations as well sometimes.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Not being in class...

I have gone through and read what people have posted so far and I find it so interesting how there might be a slight reference to whatever post came previous to yours, they are all focused on different things. In class, one person starts the conversation and it can gradually change, but it isn't really like these very separate speaches. I think that is good in some ways because it can allow us to express our opinions without softening them for people who are looking right at us or to have to stay on a topic when we would much rather talk about something else. On the other hand, I can read Mike's post about how gay the book is and want to know other people's opinions, but no one else really brought it out into the open like that. It does give everyone the oportunity to tal about what interests tham and it is great that we can all notice different things and point them out to each other, but I also like the immediate response given in a class toward someone's opinion.

That said, I'm going to use my post to talk about what some of my classmates already said. Yes, holy cow, this is a gay book. I would be very interested to know how it was recieved durring the time. It is so blunt and really just puts everything out there. It is almost shocking. I don't even know that I would call it literature, more like verbal porn for people who have a murder fettish. BUT what we are studying in this class has some focus on French gay writing durring the time period it was written.
I find it very interesting that there are so many gay people. It seems like just about every main character is gay. I'm not sure if that is because of the area this takes place, because it works for the plotline or just because that's what the author wanted, but it seems almost unbelievable to me. Everywhere you turn, there is someone who is gay and most likely hiding it. I don't know the ratio of gay to straight in real life, but this seems far fetched.

Now, as for gays in the Navy. Um, a tiny bit overdone nowadays (think The Village People), but I'm sure at the time it wasn't quite such a stereotype. I think there is something to be said just for the fact that these men are on a boat in the middle of the ocean with no women around. I wouldn't say that maeks them turn gay, I wouldn't say that doesn't cause people to experiment, but it does seem like a likely time for something like that to come out in the open.
Now what happens on shore is a completely different story. I think that if I wre in that position I would avoid my boat mates while I was on shore. I'm sure you've all bonded while out together, but I'd need a break from the other guys I've seen 24/7. I am amazed that these sailors don' really seem to have lives outside of each other.
The barret I will wait to comment on until I have read more about it. RIght now I am just so confused that I couldn't even venture a guess. I get mixed and faint signals and can't seem to make sense of them.

WOW! Falic symbols! Um, I looked online and saw a poster fromt he 1980-something movie and there is a guy leaning up against a tower that is clearly shaped like a penis with balls and a head and everything! I wouldn't think they'd have been able to put a poster like that up in public. Um, wow, there are some words I never thought I was going to say in a literature class, but my God I think all of them will be said by the time we are done with this book.
Stiff collar, I didn't see as a symbal of anything sexual or man-part oriented, but now that it has been pointed out, um, well.... There is a real sense of power and manipulation in this book, which in some circles can hint at sex as well.

There has been so much to take in and sort through in that last 140-odd pages that I'm worried when we get to meet in class and actually talk about it we wont have enough time! I think even the quiet ones will have something to say about this!

a kiss is just a kiss

The role of intimacy in Querelle


In Pretty Woman. Julia Roberts talks of the credo "No kissing" This is explained in the movie, that kissing equals intimacy. Sex is allowed but its not linked to intimacy.

I found the same strains of discorded intimacy in Querelle. "No kissing thats for sure" p 70. and later " Nor would it ever entered his head that a man could kiss another"
Kissing is intimate, its affection. At the heart of the sexual interaction in Querelle is a power struggle. The sex is a manifestation of a power struggle, not a symbol of intimacy.
So does Genet help perpetrate the stereotype that sex between men is about power, not intimacy, or by highlighitng this detial is he mocking the idea?

Another point I wanted to bring up was the idea of the amount of gay men in the book. While is disproportionate,.(I am deriving my information form the 1948 Kinsey report, which states 10% of the population is gay) think about your life for a moment. Who surrounds you? More than likely people of the same race, sexual orientation,and political leanings.
Genet could have been reflecting his world on to the pages of Querelle. I know if I were to write down the cast of characters in my life, they would not reflect the US Census Bureau, or the Kinsey Report.
The first section of the book seemed to read better than the second section. I am still enjoying it but it seems to have sunk into an even darker state of being. I really feel like this book is condemning a man for being gay and correlating its negativity with that of murder. It seems like this book has more political commentary that I am aware of than past books we have read, then again, I could just be reading things into it.

I am not really sure what to say about this section…

I guess to start off, I will expand on what DJ said. I think it is important to note that Querelle wore his beret differently than you were supposed to and when he found another sailor wearing his beret in the same fashion, Querelle got really angry. Despite that fact that he is dressed the same as every other man, Querelle seems to have a sense of identity, and identity that is not meant to be copied in any way shape or form. I think from the beginning of the book, even before you get a physical description, a reader realizes that there is something about Querelle that sets him apart from everybody else. It is a sense you get that you realize more from his actions and demeanor than you do any descriptions of him.
What is most interesting to me is that despite Querelle’s supposed confidence, underneath his clothes he seems to be a very insecure man. Does he kill in order to define himself or does he kill as a way of making himself more confident?

One more thing, does the attention paid to clothes, like the stiff collar, correspond with the attention Querelle gives to killing someone. For Querelle, killing is a science that he puts a lot of thought into, and though he wears the same clothes every day, he places the same kind of attention into the position of his beret , and the placement of his collar.
I think the parts of the book I like the most are the incomplete thoughts—the shorter paragraphs that seem to have no connection to one another and yet they do.

“In French, the sinking of a ship is somberer. Somberly” (142).

“The Sailor is the one love of my life” (142).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Okay, so when I started this book, I was really excited that it was set in the Navy. I was thinking "gays in the Navy...I know about that." But there is so much gay man sex, it is disturbing. Initially, I was thinking that Querelle was a sort of a Billy Budd character with all of his beauty and the LT being in obsessed with him. All of his talk about relieving his wad or whatever (excuse me while I vomit) along with the killing and the constant obsession with his penis pretty much takes that away.
The idea of Querelle "feeling safe in his uniform" (33) was really interesting to me. I was thinking back to my time in the Navy and I think I felt just the opposite. Whenever you are in uniform, you have to really watch what you are doing because of what you are representing. I take joy in things like walking on the wrong side of the street and cutting through grass because I wasn't allowed to for so long. The scene on page 34 with the other sailor wearing his hat like Querelle and Querelle telling him to "put it on straight" because it was his signature style was really interesting to me. The whole idea of a uniform is to unify people. The fact that Querelle has a lot of serious things he is trying to hide (murder, drugs, his sexuality) makes it even more ironic that he feels the need to separate himself by any means possible. I would expect him to not try to stand out so much. Genet even says that the sailor's outfit is a disguise. Maybe that's the whole point. By making an effort to seem almost rebellious or dangerous, perhaps is Querelle's way of seeming as if he has nothing to hide.
The whole relationship between Querelle and the Navy uniform is very interesting. Things like "the stiff collar of the pea coat, which he felt protected his neck like armor" (31) and the way "Vic had the collar of his pea coat turned up, the blood, instead of spurting over Querelle, rand down the inside of his coat and over his jersey"(61). The uniform is its own character, protecting Querelle, keeping his secrets.
The "couples" on the ship amused me. The older higher ranking men paired with young, new sailors. The way that Querelle and Lt. Seblon interact rang true to me that constant fogging of boundaries: the way an officer will sexually harass the hell out of you one minute and then check to make sure you maintain absolute respect for him the next.
There were a couple of things that struck me as probably significant but I didn't figure out yet why it is they might be: mouths and doors. The status of Querelle's mouth being half way open is mentioned a lot as well as opening and closing of doors. I am pretty sure this is eluding to more man sex stuff and well...yes I'm sure that it is. On that note, I found it interesting that each time Querelle witnesses his shipmates being flirtatious with each other (namely when he sees Gil and Roger together on page 13 and the un-named couple on page 15), he gets "an air of amused sarcasm." With the amount of obvious sexual tension among these men, I am surprised Querelle denies his homosexuality to the extent that he does.

Holy Homosexuality

Geez, this book couldn't get any more gay could it? I mean just the imagery alone forces me to consider it in a homosexuality slant. We get so many phallic symbols. The knife, the boat, the opium. We get so many power trips too. The Captain, The Sailor, The cop. Through out this entire reading we are inundated with images that deal with dominate and submissive men and who put them on edge and who shames who. And that doesn't even count the pages dedicated to the description of COCK!

"He was free to leave his body, that audacious scaffolding for his balls. Their weight and beauty he knew" (P. 59) He we are getting literal description of someone's testicles in a fashion that is meant to turn them into a metaphor, and a naughty one at that. It makes me blush it does, and I can not lie. "WIth a light and calm touch he liberated his prick from hsi underpants and helf it for a moment, heavy and extended in his hand... ... resting his hand on his prick." (p73) I am disappointed on some level that I Am confined to only talking about the first 78 pages, and that leaves me unable to discuss the more erotic elements of this piece. But oh well, I will make due with this quote that gives us a rather vivid image of his cock and him man handling it. Very homo erotic imagery it would seem, and imagery of power as well. It goes to show that homosexuals view the cock as a symbol of power.

"He pushed in further, very carefully, the better to savor his pleasure and his strength" (P. 74) Here we get a clear notion that being on top and penetrating a bottom is a position of pleasure and of power. It gives the top control it seems, but for the bottom it seems to give a sense of shame. "At the first thrust, so strong it almost killed him, Querelle whimpered quietly, then more loudly, until he was moaning without restraint or shame" (P. 75) So we have this powerful character that murders, and when he murders he feels this sense of shame, he puts himself through trial in his mind. This act, as he mentions is his final judgement, a means of atoning. Isn't it odd that he needs to have sex to free himself from shame and restraint and to set him free from guilt as well. Odd, that is.

I get the feeling that the Lieutenant is kind of a dandy in this book. We get the notion that he has a rather romantic obsession with Querelle and writes about it in his journal. Through out his journal he is writing a literary sketch of Querelle, as it to draw a picture of someone he doesn't know, someone he can't know due to his situation. Even once he mentions how he envies the admiral who has a 20 year old marine following him around as a body guard. I don't remember the page exactly, but I remember that the lieutenant was mildly aroused at the notion of having such a strapping young around who would willingly go down on knees for you and perform fellatio. This man, while very prim and proper, seems to be very horny and repressed.

If one considers it carefully we are getting the sense that every character in this book is gay. I mean call me silly, but The Cop has Dede, The Hotel Keeper has Querelle, Gib and Theo are together, but Gib also loves someone else because he felt like he was bought off by Theo. Gasp, drama. We have the lieutenant who is obsessed with Querelle, and Querelle seems to know this is and is amused by this on some level. He remembers leaving his hankerchief in the lieutenants office and it disappeared. If he has searched further he would have found it encrusted with other bodily fluids. But thankfully the Lieutenant is a good man! He gave Querelle one of his monogrammed one. Nice!

Overall I find this book to be a great read, if overtly homo erotic. Definetely much more open and in the clear about this rather than having it as a subtle under tone as we are use to. It makes me wonder what the novels to come will be like, and if it gets even raunchier than that. I guess time will tell, but until then, I Shall return to my strapping seamen and sailors, pimps and cops who all love cock!

Wars, inverts, and a giant stone phallus...

I think it's worth pointing out that the historic port city of Brest where Genet's novel is (possibly, maybe) set was pretty thoroughly wiped off the face of the planet during the Battle of Normandy (a mere three years before Querelle de Brest would be published). Of course many other French cities suffered a similar fate during WWII, but I think Brest is at least fairly unique in the awesome and total destruction it suffered. What I have a hard time deciphering is when the action of the story takes place. Perhaps I am missing some obvious clue, some revealing statement from the text like: "It was the summer of 1910, most definitely before the Battle of Normandy," but I just have no idea. The Brest in the novel came across to me as fairly detached somehow from history and the physical world. It might as well be sitting in the middle of an ocean of seamen.

(Maybe it isn't the town, but the characters that are giving me this impression?)

Still, it's interesting that Genet chose a city that was so heavily affected by the war. Somewhere around the time of the Franco-Prussian war saw the emergence in France and elsewhere the concept of sexual inversion, which became important to France in the wake of their humiliating defeat. Virility became a national obsession and this relates to male inverts as they were generally seen as not being very virile. Here we have a book written more than a half-century later, and the word pops up fairly often. These men do not appear to me to be your run-of-the-mill sexual inverts. If I'm remembering right from a class I took a long, long time ago, it was scandals that erupted after WWI that infused in our public consciousness what we think happens whenever you stick a bunch of men in close quarters for too long. Ironically, in trying to re-establish its virility as a nation, France helped introduce the possibility that all men, even the virile ones, could potentially be capable of the same actions as the non-virile, isolated inverts. Oh, and then there was WWII. Not exactly a high point for that country. I'm not sure where I'm going with this anymore, so let's come back to our sheep.

Lieutenant Seblon writes in his journal about "having been so overwhelmed by the loneliness to which [his] inversion condemns [him]" (8). He is, I believe, the only character to identify himself as an invert and I think the journal entries that break up the text highlight his loneliness and his separation from the other men. Seblon is the "pederast" of ancient greek tradition who wishes to posses the men he loves. Here we have Querelle going pee:

"It was a feeling of both power and the lack of it: of pride, in the first place, to know that such a tall tower could be the symbol of his own virility, to the extent that when he stood at the base of it, legs apart, taking a piss, he could think of it as his own prick... ...But when he was by himself, at night or during the day, opening or buttoning his fly, his fingers felt they were capturing, with the greatest care, the treasure- the very soul – of this giant prick; he imagined that his own virility emanated from the stone phallus, while feeling quietly humble in the presence of the unruffled and incomparable power of that unimaginably huge male" (40).

The statement "it was a feeling of both power and the lack of it" sums up perfectly, for me, masculine identity in our culture as it exists today, which is basically: realizing, and being proud of the fact that one belongs to a privileged group, being in awe of this masculine ideal, yet in constant struggle with other men to embody that ideal (which can only be obtained by conquering other men). There's also, and possibly most importantly, the constant threat of being conquered oneself, emasculated, and turned into a "fairy". Querelle comes across in this first part of the book as an extreme example of this struggle. On the one hand he worships this giant, erect penis (that he wishes were his), and on the other he murders a fellow sailor. A struggle that for most men eventually becomes a source of pain and isolation appears to be a real rush for Querelle. He seems to revel in his own manhood.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I win.

(Look, I wrote my own novel!!! Probably not as fun to read as this book, though. Sorry. Also, crap, it looks like Mel posted while I was writing this and we say the same thing. ^__^ But....I WIN CAUSE I SAY IT A LOT WORDIER!!!! I almost wrote “What the hell!?” too, actually.)


With such interesting material in plot and characters I feel a little lame talking about pronouns, but why fight yourself? ^_^ So... The narrator's use of “we” confused me at first. I wasn't sure if this was the “I, the narrator and you, the reader/society” “we” or what, especially when he uses “you” as well, but looking back through it must be a reader-not-included “we” since it talks about “when we decided to write this story” on page 17. ...Only, wait, then later that paragraph I could swear the usage changes. No perceptible point, but “we want him to become the Hero” sounds to me like it's including the reader. Ah, and “we shall see how he lends himself to this.” The narrator/writer “we” can't be the one there, the writer can't “shall” see, they already know the story. (Haha, I wonder if there are writing teachers who would slash those pronouns to bits if they saw such a mobile “we” in just a single page, but a single paragraph ^_^)


Who the heck is this “we,” anyway? Maybe they'll be revealed later, maybe we'll never find out... They certainly have a voice... I wonder do they have a personality? I've actually been wondering similar things about Querelle as well (I'll get to that later, but to me some of the things that make a Character-with-a-capital-C are...MIGHT be absent in him). And then it talks in that paragraph about him being “already contained in our flesh,” “beginning to grow in our soul,” and about “our despair at not being in any way inside him, while having him inside of ourselves.” And then about “the event which revealed Querelle to us” on 18. I toyed for a moment (jokingly, jokingly! ^_^) with the idea that “we” was a person with multiple personalities, with this Querelle being one that surfaced after the others, heheh.


As for Querelle seeming un-character-esque to me... It may be just because I find such a ...being...so un-human that I can't see him as a, er...true character? (Mind, if you're wondering, I'm not even sure myself what I mean by “true character.” But...well, you (we? Heheh) might understand more what I mean from the rest of this...) Still, I think it's more than him being too inhuman/unfeeling to be human. He barely seems to have personality beyond the awful things he does and his sexual desires. Things like the imaginary trial...at first I think, “Well, that's...eccentric. If he can be eccentric...that must be personality, right?” But this trial he creates...has no, er, personality whatsoever. It's full of the obligatory steps of the courtroom drama, complete with a courtroom 'incident.' It's extremely trite. And I think it mentions him going through an imaginary cemetery after the first murder as well, right? There it explicitly called the thing 'trite.' Quirky though the activity of these...hallucinations of a sort may seem, they've got no quirk to them at all.


My thought was that thinking about the consequences is of murder is rather a...necessary/unavoidable step after the act. This trial is a way of him doing that while at the same time leaving character/personal stuff out of it. I mean a trial? If you murdered someone, you might think about the trial, but you'd also think about...I don't know, the family/friends/people's reactions (even if you were evil and didn't feel guilty about it, you'd probably still THINK about it more), getting arrested, jail? But Querelle does the trial, the part of the whole process that to me seems the most disconnected from personal character. It might come into play in them sometimes, but mostly they're about motivation (of which he has none) and facts, right?


It's a shame the multiple personality thing doesn't work (or is it? Wow, that would be a horrible ending ^_^), because Querelle could be the....personification (...if that's an appropriate use of that verb? ) of....immorality of man? Baseness? Not that he has to be a multiple personality to be such a thing, of course. Anyway, it makes sense kind of, because he is therefore in us but us not in him, he has no character because while you may or may not agree it's probably arguable that baseness has no character, while at the same time consequences is an un-detachable part of doing immoral things, so they must be dealt with (as in the trial), but our immorality isn't the part of us that feels shame or adds...our own personal quirks to the dealing with of these consequences. If Immorality-the-Person had to deal with it...It probably couldn't give a crap. ...And actually I'd forgotten this but looking at the “we” stuff again I saw this on page 18: “To become visible to you, to become a character in a novel, Querelle must be shown apart form ourselves.” I think the first time I saw that I read it as the narrator talking about Querelle as a real person (as he is in the narrator's world) and was talking about the process of taking a real person and turning them into a character in a novel.....The last part I just plum didn't understand, in that kind of reading. Makes sense this way, though....


....Much as it sounds like I'm building a case for some big theory I'm fixed on or something, though, really it's just been stuff I'm considering as I read... I wouldn't be horribly surprised if Querelle just needed more time to become a character to me than 70 pages (...This novel of course brings to mind Dostoevsky, which brings to mind The Brothers Karamazov, another novel you should probably not judge too much by its first 80 pages. Blech. ^_^; Gets better, honest). Then everything you just read goes out the window. Haha, what a waste of time you just spent reading that. I bet you're almost as annoyed as we will be when we get to the end and find out Querelle is a multiple personality of The Floating We.

I didn't want to hurt them, I only wanted to kill them

My first concern is with the narrator. Page 17 reads, “Little by little we saw how Querelle-already contained in our flesh-was beginning to grow in our soul to feed on what is best in us, above all in our despair of not being in any way inside him, while having him inside ourselves.” The narrator continues on in this dramatic fashion. I suppose I am wondering first off if it's the royal “we” being used. Secondly, I wonder if the narrator will exist later then as a character, or if he already is. Thirdly, I am trying to avoid simply typing “what the hell?” But seriously, what the hell?!? I'm trying to figure out all the relationships because, really, the writing is so personal and in these little asides to the reader, we no longer have that perfect omniscient narrator. The writing just feels strange to me.


I had some confusion with the characters that, upon a second look, I think I'm starting to sort out. In my defense, it does seem all the characters are living multiple lives. Querelle in particular is described almost as two separate beings, Querelle and The Murderer. “No longer was any part of Querelle present within his body. It was empty. Facing Vic, there was no one.” It seems logical that he would disconnect himself from this deed, yet at the same time he seems to really accept what he has done. There doesn't appear to be any shame even knowing he is both himself and the murderer that resides within. In addition, there is Mario who, though a cop, seems to prefer the company of criminals. In fact, I would say every character thus far mentioned has contradicting personalities especially where their sexuality is concerned.


I've read many serial killer manifestos and the like in my youth, and Querelle seems very typical in his detached demeanor. He reminded me a lot of Denis Nilsen (a serial killer in the early 1980's) who, being highly sexually confused, would pick up younger men, engage in sexual activity with them, and then flush their skin down his toilet. While there are some obvious differences, denying one's self can have disastrous effects including depression, isolation, and increased aggression and defensiveness. Yikes!

In summation, this book is highly disturbing and Querelle's not nearly as charming as Dexter.

Clothing as safety for Querelle and the Narrator

OK, I'm sure we've all noticed it... there is a lot of mention of clothing, and in quite detail as well.

The line that I thinks sums it all up goes something like, "He had on;y to give the slightest turn of the head, to the left or right, to feel his cheek rub against the stiff, upturned collar of his peacoat. This contact reassured him. By it, he knew himself to be clothed, marvelously clothed" (15).

I think this really gets at something about the clothes. They really sem to be a reasuring thing for both Querelle and the narrator. Querelle notices the clothes that people are wearing with great detail, and the narrator notices Querelle noticing and notices himslelf, atleast enough to comment onit.

Let's go on a quick trip... we wont go for the whole ride, just a short part of it to show you what I mean...

Pg 3- "the man who dons a sailor's outfit" (line 9)
"His disguise" (line 10)
Pg 4- "in the tight fit of his sweater, in the amplitude of his bell-bottoms." (lines 11-12)
Pg 7- "cotton clothes- open shirt and denims" (line 2)
"their wide collars, the pompoms on their hats" (lines 13-14)
Pg 12- "pair of gloves" (line 14 of section 2)
"the blue denim pants" (line 1 section 3)
"highly polished black shoes" (lines 3-4 section 3)
"turtleneck jersey of white" (line6 section 3)
Pg 13- "the other remaining in the pocket of his peacoat" (5th and 6th lines from the bottom)
Pg 14- "buttoning his peacoat, turning up the collar." (lines 11-12)
"train of a robe, adorned with lace, with crests" (lines23-24)
Pg 15- previously quoted end of first paragraph
"taking off his shoes" (line 14)
"his socks" (line 25)
"a slip, a bra, shoelaces, a hankerchief" (line 30)
Pg 16- "full-dress gaiters" (line 2)
"elegant but poorly tailored pants" (lines 3-4)
"a filthy handkerchief; socks with holes in them" (lines 4-5)
"his other sock" (line 16)

I'm going to say that is enough for now...
I hope you got the point. There hasn't been too much reference to clothing in the works we have read so far. There has been tiny bits here and there, but certainly not like this.

It is also stated clearly that Querelle feels safe knowing that his clothes are on, and not just any clothes, but good clothes that fit well, make him look nice and belonged to a sailor?
AND, I must point out that the momento he took after each murder was an item of clothing. It is listed that it was always something that the victim was wearing and could easily incriminate him.

Now, for my next topic (and you thought I was done, hah):
The narrator seems to switch back and forth the way he talks about Querelle. Sometimes he refers to him by his name, sometimes he says "the sailor" and sometimes he says the man.
What are we supposed to take from this change? I would like to have something insightful to insist this means, but I really have no idea. Maybe it is the translation and maybe it will become clear as we read further on, but if anyone has any ideas, please do share.


 

The seventy-four pages went by amazingly fast. I would read this book in a non-academic setting. However, since this a setting, I found a couple of themes in it.


 

The first section (pages 1-22) dealt with the sea and sailor imagery in a unique way. It is odd to look back and glimpse the creation of a gay archetype. In Querelle Genet shed some light as to why gay men flocked to the seas.

" …it allows him to assume dark continents where the sun sets and rises , where the moon sanctions murder under roofs of bamboo… it gives him the opportunity to act within the illusion of a mirage,,," p4


 

Genet is discussing when the criminal wears a sailor suit, allowing him to pass as a sailor.

The idea of passing as someone else reoccurs. That even if you are gay you can pass as straight by subjugating women. The coupling of these two ideas is found is the interaction between Roger and Gilbert

"She gives you the hots eh?

-a couple lines later

Gil turned to face the boy and forced him to retreat into the recess in the stone wall.


 

This idea is repeated on pages 59 and 60. This is where the game is introduced, later it is explained as a sexual dice game.

That if you win you can have sex with the Madam, if you lose you have to have sex with Nono first.


 

Another theme or question that came to mind.. Is the link between Querelles sexuality and deviant behavior. He is smuggler, a thief , a murder. Does an audience lump in his homosexual behavior in with these traits?

We, as modern readers in a Gay French Lit class can easily separate his sexuality from his behavior, we do not see the causation effect, but did readers in 1948? Did they link homosexuality with drugs, theft and murder?

The logic is

If gay sailors are criminals, and being a sailor is not criminal in nature, there for being gay is.


 


 

Zotero info

http://digitalhistory.concordia.ca/vertov/

this might help if you are using video/audio for your final!

Things that Stand Out

So far, I am really enjoying Querelle.

There are several things that stand out to me in this first section of Querelle. The first few sentences on the opening page, struck me as…

“The notion of murder often brings to mind the notion of sea and sailors. Sea and sailors do not, at first, appear as a definite image—it is rather that “murder” starts up a feeling of waves. If one considers that seaports are the scene of frequent crimes, the association seems self-explanatory; but there are numerous stories from which we learn that the murderer was a man of the sea—either a real one, or a fake one—and if the latter is the case, the crime will be even more closely connected to the sea.”

It is such a startling statement. Furthermore, when I think of murder I don’t associate them with the sea and sailors. I think of war, school shootings, gang related crime, The Game of Clue, etc. I even think of Cindy Sherman’s self-portrait of a dead girl. I like this technique for beginning a story because readers usually have expectations and to begin with a statement seems to imply that although a reader will have his or her own ideas, this is my idea, the writer’s idea is the one that matters. From the first page, I was hooked.

“It is astonishing that turning criminals into sailors used to be regarded as a form of punishment” (8). Is this supposed to be a generalized statement towards all sailors and the irony of giving them a freedom of sorts when they ought to be behind bars or is it specific to Querelle who is able to continue on with his serial killer tendencies?

“Vic most probably wasn’t used to being murdered” (60). Although perhaps a bit forced, this statement is hilarious to me. There is a lot of dry humor in this book which makes it more entertaining to read than past books we have read. (That is not to say that they weren’t good, but this one has something that the others did not.)

On page 62, after Querelle has killed Vic (which is an interesting scene in and of itself) Querelle
seems to try and justify the crime he has just committed. “That the criminal at the instant of committing his crime believes that he’ll never be caught is a mistaken assumption. He refuses, no doubt, to see the terrible consequences of his act at all clearly, and yet he knows that the act does condemn him to death. We find the word “analysis” a little embarrassing.” The fact that the criminal is aware that he can be condemned to death seems to ease the reader’s mind. Now that I think it more, I think that Querelle and Vic can be related to Bebert and Emile. However, I do not think that Bebert is as exacting as Querelle. Bebert commits crimes of passions, while Querelle’s are more thought out. To say that the word analysis is embarrassing seems to show weakness on the part of the serial killer. For a man who has planned a crime like this he needs to appear strong as killing is a part of his identity.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

peversity and identifying personal bias

In class we agreed that the stabbing of Emile by Berbet had homoerotic 0ver tones. The overtones come from the actual physical stabbing but also from the dialogue.

"
There!” he declared all of a sudden showing his knife... “You'll see. What is a paltry little stroke of the
blade? I don't want to kill, you idiot! I'm simply going to prick you... prick you... you won't feel it... I assure you that you'll feel nothing at all... hardly.”" and
“Are you ready?” he questioned. “It'll be done quickly. Don't move.”
Bebert declared: “If you make that row I'll finish you... hein? Do you understand... I'll...”
He collapsed on the floor, screamed louder, quivered with pain. Bebert bent over his victim. He did not sink the blade deeply, but as soon as it touched Emile withdrew it rapidly to stab again...


So why and how did we come to this conclusion?
I think I came to the conclusion because I didnt sense that the men were fight over Irma, but fighting among themselves for a hierarchy.

Is my personal bias clouding my judgement?

Is a link between my minds between masculine violence and sex? Do I have such a limited view on male homosexuals that I attribute violence to sexual acts, not love?

Or that I am still stuck in a heteronormative dialectic mind- that in order for two men to have a relationships one has to be strong and manly (Berbert) the other weak and feminine(Emile)?


Or that I believe that all men fight for their placement in the masculine hierarchy?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Firs Reactions

What to make of Perversity?

After finishing Andre Breton’s Manifestoes in Surrealism this could be considered light reading. I tried to find information about Francis Carco, but Wikipedia failed me. He was a poet that belonged to the fantaiste school of thought. (I’m sure some of you were more resourceful, and even persistent, in your searches.)
A couple of things strike me as odd.

I have noticed that Emile’s sister is referred to by different names. Sometimes she is Irma; most often she is called this by Emile. And sometimes she is called the Red One; most often by Bebert. And then sometimes she is referred to as La Rouque, the Red One, prior to translation; most often in narration of events. (Unless of course I have fallen asleep while reading.) Irma has three different identities to various people and situations whereas everyone else only has one identity. Irma seems to be able to shift in and out of her roles when everyone else is stuck, especially Emile.

Emile is stuck in his routine of going to the office and then coming home. He is a dull character that does not know how to take pleasure in the company of others nor does he know how to just let down. He is wound too tightly. His nervousness is irritating to me. Emile seems to be conscious of his actions towards others and the consequences that they will have on the events that have yet to come. He is a selfish, self-loathing character that wreaks havoc wherever he goes. Is Emile’s inability to love a direct consequence of his own self-loathing or is it the women that he chooses? Or are some people just incapable of intimacy? Does Emile provoke Bebert in such a way as to further the events of the novel or would Bebert prey on anyone in order to get what he wants?

Bebert. I am not sure how I feel about Bebert. Perhaps feel is the wrong word to use. I am not sure how to interpret him. “Bebert took money away from these feeble creatures, wasted it, hunted for a new victim” (29). He is so savage. Bebert is a predator preying on the women. The passage eludes me, but when Emile looks in on Bebert sleeping, Bebert loses his savageness and becomes human again. The scar is a pale rose color, very delicate. Bebert is asleep so the violent emotions that are present during waking hours are diminished. He is a tiger when awake and a kitten while asleep.

It seems to me that the downward slide of Emile, Irma, and Bebert is a conscious turn of events. Each character is aware of the role that they play and no one is willing to give up their own identity in order to compromise. Irma is stuck in between family and her means for survival and Bebert and Emile only look after themselves. The men are selfish; the women are property of the men. All are tied together.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Monday, March 3, 2008

Long live the revolution!

It seems to me that there is a connection between the ideas of automatism and proletariat art. In discussing automatic writing, Breton states, “groups of words which follow one another, manifest among themselves the greatest solidarity. It is not up to me to favor one group over another” (33). It seems to me that denial of classical notions of art and poetry might favor those with more radical ideas as they lack the formal educational conditioning which can inhibit artists. Granted, I know he stated that proletariat art up to that point had been generally lackluster, but I suspect more as a result of strict Soviet conformity more so than absence of previous education. Also, it seems to me that Surrealists (or at least Breton) didn't feel materialism (by that I mean solid thought as it relates to actual objects and things) to be as valid as symbols, subconscious thought, dreams and the like. I might be wrong, though, because it also seemed to me that he contradicted himself frequently. Which I guess in itself could be a form of dialectic thought.

This leads me to wonder how Hegelian Dialectism relates to Surrealism. The idea of a theses and antitheses combining to create a new less reductionist theses seems very much like Surrealists use of juxtaposition. At this point I remembered why I should invest in a highlighter as I can't for the life of me recall where he mentioned Hegel or Dialectic reasoning. Any help or thoughts?


Also, in spite of Breton's denial, he and his contemporaries seem very guilty of “ivory tower” philosophizing (248). Which leads me to wonder, can art ever really belong to the proletariat? Some forms of art naturally fall well outside the reach of the worker. Film making, for instance requires raw materials too expensive for the working class. Even writing, which only should require a pencil and paper, requires a near impossible time investment for the countless individuals working 60+ weeks just to survive. Unfortunately, when something is created by a proletariat, generally, the canon is so ingrained that if it doesn't fit an already well-established definition of art, it will be ignored. (Although, our culture seems to love emphasizing a few token works that break the mold as proof to the contrary). Then again, can an artist even be a proletariat since by definition she would be controlling the means of production?

But as I like to say, I digress (as a hobby!) and I apologize for my tangent.

I wanna know what love is,, I want you to show me

Reading about L'Age D'Or one review said:

"L'AGE D'OR is not only an attack on bourgeois life but also a doctrine that directs humanity to live as the surrealists believed they should: that is, by placing love before everything else in life, such as the church, status, and family." http://www.jr.com/JRProductPage.process?Product_Id=4005877&JRSource=googlebase.datafeed.1000492_5



This lead to an investigation about the attitudes toward love in the readings.

Rereading Manifesto with an eye geared toward love I stumbled across the following quotes..

"The mind of the man who dreams is fully satisfied by what happens to him. The agonizing question of possibility is no longer pertinent. Kill, fly faster, love to your heart's content"


In Surrealism and its living works it states


.. "Surrealism has never been tempted to hide from itself the element of glittering fascination in man's love for woman.." pg300

And further on 301 it talks about "women is to be loved and honored as the great promise...."


Granted Im not fully immersed in all aspects of Surrealism nor love, but I couldn't find elements of this glittering fascination of love.

Andre Breton wrote Nadja in 1928, its quoted as " the best surreal romance novel."

Some quotes from Nadja

You are my master. I am only an atom respiring at the corner of your lips or expiring. I want to touch serenity with a finger wet with tears." Nadja 116


But I am judging a posteriori and I merely speculate when I say it could not be otherwise. Whatever desire or even illusion I may have had to the contrary,... Nadja 135

So this is the glittering fascination? This is the great promise?

An existence in which Nadja may or may not exist, where Paris may or may not exist, a place where Breton himself may or may not exist? Does glittering facination mean idolization?




Pat Dorman Women's Studies Scholarship

Hi all -- this year's scholarship amount is $800, so please think about applying. Also, the President's Writing Awards deadline is coming up -- please consider applying!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I feel relief after reading other people’s blog posts about Breton. I am not the only one that feels at a loss with this information.

As I strive to make sense of Andre Breton’s Manifestoes of Surrealism, I am beginning to realize how unaware of past events I truly am. Up to this point, I have been satisfied of my grade school knowledge of World War I and even World War II. The political movements of the early 1900s have no relevance in my realm of understanding today…or so I thought. If we were to shift the surrealist movement into events that I had experience with, I would readily find more meaning. However, I am not sure how to merge World War I with the ongoing war in Iraq. Nor do I know how to make September 11th fit into this schema either.

Just like my understanding of history is poor, so is my understanding of politics. I don’t understand United States politics let alone the politics surrounding the French and the Russians in the early 1900s. So, I will not even try to comment on the first few readings for Tuesday, March 4. Skipping ahead to On Surrealism in its Living Works, I will try to make sense out of something.

Breton makes surrealism sound as if it just came out of nowhere. “It is a matter of common knowledge today that Surrealism, as an organized movement, was born of a far-reaching operation having to do with language. […] What was it all about? Nothing less than the rediscovery of the secret of a language whose elements would then cease to float like jetsam on the surface of a dead sea” (297). Breton uses his theories regarding free writing to the best of his abilities. Can I assume that free writing would be not only conscious thought, but also writing done in metaphors?

Why is it that I am hung up on what I do not understand and what I can’t make sense out of?
“The world thereupon seems to be like a cryptogram which remains indecipherable only so long as one is not thoroughly familiar with the gymnastics that permit one to pass at will from one piece apparatus to another” (303). Is this how I should be thinking about surrealism?

And now for my final, rambling thought, I am interested in Breton’s leadership skills. It seems like many movements, although I cannot think of one off the top of my head, never take off, but surrealism was a big hit. The new way of modern thinking was adapted from writing to suit the needs of other medium. Was it strictly the events that happened prior to the surrealist movement and the branching off of the Dadaist group that made it so successful or were the people involved also beneficial in the progression of this movement?

In reference to poetic intuition: “This intuition, finally unleashed by Surrealism, seeks not only to assimilate all known forms but also boldly to create new forms—that is to say, to be in a position to embrace all the structures of the world, manifested or not” (304). I liked this final quote because it seemed to convey that surrealism was easier to understand than it appears. It makes surrealism sound so happy and light.

One more thing, I have noticed that in his writing Breton capitalizes the “s” on surrealism, whereas I have not been capitalizing it. Does this have to do with Breton’s ownership of the surrealist movement or have I been performing a faux pas?

At last I have completed this poor exercise in free writing.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

a little less than a blog should be

Are you kidding me? I just typed this whole thing up and then it said there was a error and now it is gone. Damn. Well, the point was I randomly came across a timeline that is way more detailed than necessary, so I thought I would post a link to it. It isn't really anything important, but it is here if you want/need it:
http://timelines.ws/countries/FRANCE1870_1920.HTML