Daily Archives: April 22, 2011

Cornell

“a language as precise as possible both in choice of words and in expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination.”

– Italo Calvino
 
The quote above is Calvino’s third and final meaning for exactitude. This is the meaning that I found applicable to my selection for the Learning Screen, “Old School” by Tobias Wolff. The story is told by a narrator who just happens to be the main character of the story. The only perspective you get is that of the boy. This means that some of the thoughts were not full sentences. Thoughts and ideas usually come to mind in the simplest form. This is where Tobias Wolff is able to inject exactitude into”Old School”. The way in which the narrator conveys each event is in the most exact form of language, thought. It is the most basic form of communication. If the story was narrated by a third-party, the story wouldn’t be able to convey exactitude in the same sense because the speech of the narrator would be in full sentence and most likely not exact langauge.
 
My ‘blox’ for exactitude consists of a view through the eyes of the narrator. This aspect of the story is what embodies the quality into the work. Through the view of the narrator, the viewer of the ‘blox’ sees specific thoughts that the boy had throughout the story. These thoughts and simple language are the traits of the book that convey exactitude as explained by Calvino.
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Cornell

Calvino uses the story of Charlemagne, as told by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly in a book of unpublished notes, to exemplify the quality of quickness. He discusses that d’Aurevilly conveys a large portion of Charlemagne’s life in just his simple notes. d’Aurevilly concentrates on the most important aspects of Charlemagne’s, allowing the story to be quick. Tobias Wolff uses the boy as a narrator to explain the trials and tribulations in the boy’s life. The narrator only concentrates on situations that pertain to future situations in the story. Like Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, Tobias Wolff was able to convey the sense of quickness through his literature.

The ‘blox’ that I prepared to represent the quickness of “Old School” consists of photographs depicting major events that happened in the story. Some of the photographs are larger and seem to be on top of the others, as if they are layered. This ‘blox’ displays the way the story conveys quickness. The pictures represent the major events in the life of the boy. They are layered in order of importance. This gives the thought of quickness that Calvino discusses; the story must only tell of the important events in the life of a character, never discussing unimportant or useless information.

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Cornell

Modeling my collage after the boxes that Cornell made famous, I made a ‘blox’ that represents the lightness in the novel “Old School” by Tobias Wolff. The ‘blox’ depicts a book being held up in the air by some words with varying sizes. At the base of the words supporting the book is the smallest sized letters. These are simple words that are said by the young boy who narrates the novel. They are at the base because the lightness of these simple words are what hold up the meaning and theme behind the book. The light language of the boy is not only at the base of the meaning and theme, it is also at the base of the entire book as well as the base for value of the whole book. This ‘blox’, reflecting the work that Cornell did on his boxes, represents where the reader can find the value of the story. The narrator conveys a sense of truth in his words by expressing his most inner thoughts. The language of his thoughts is one of simple explanations but is able to convey the story in full.

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Experience

Calvino is very specific when defining the subject of his last written memo, multiplicity; “the contemporary novel as an encyclopedia, as a method of knowledge, and above all as a network of connections between the events, the people, and the things of the world”. Calvino discusses multiplicity through the writings of some of the greatest minds. He explains that the multiplicity of ideas is infinite. Some great minds try to write books that discussed literally everything in the world. These are some of the extreme cases of multiplicity. Tobias Wolff is able to convey a sense of multiplicity much simpler. The story is made up of specific events in the boy’s life that all connect to lead him to where he was in the end. Each section of the story was important in its own right. Wolff does not show the connection of one boy and all those who interacted with him, but Wolff does show the connection between a simple action in a boy’s life and the effects it can have on the rest of his life.

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Experience

“…you breathed it in with the smell of floor wax and wool and boys living close together in overheated rooms.”

– narrator in “Old School”

This is one of many quotes from Tobias Wolff’s “Old School” that convey the sense of visibility that Calvino thoroughly discusses in his book, “Six Memos for the Next Millennium”. Calvino conveys his concern that our generation is losing the ability to close our eyes and imagine an original image or feeling an original feeling. He fears we will lose our ability to turn black and white letters on a page into a captivating feeling. Wolff uses the boy narrator as a venue to describe the surroundings of the stories as well as the characters. The narrator expresses his thoughts on the physical appearance of each character. He also explains his opinions on their character as people. This allows Wolff to reveal images of the surroundings without distracting the reader.

On my ‘Calvino’s Visibility’ page, I discussed “A Land Remembered” as the book that I have read in the past and thought it exemplified visibility. The story does an incredible job at revealing the unexplored lands of early Florida visually. If I were to not have selected “Old School” as my literature piece for adaptation to film, I would have selected “A Land Remembered”. This story, like “Old School”, would do great justice  being put to film.

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Experience

“To my mind exactitude means three things above all:

1. a well-defined and well-calculated plan for the work in question;
2. an evocation of clear, incisive, memorable visual images; in Italian we have an adjective that doesn’t exist in English, “icastico,”…
3. a language as precise as possible both in choice of words and in expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination.”
– Italo Calvino
 
Calvino describes Exactitude in three ways. I believe that “Old School” falls in the category of the 3rd meaning; “a language as precise as possible both in choice of words and in expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination”.
 
‘Rhyme is bullshit. Rhyme says that everything works out in the end. All harmony and order. When I see a rhyme in a poem, I know I’m being lied to. Go ahead, laugh! It’s true – rhyme’s a completely bankrupt device. It’s just wishful thinking. Nostalgia.’
– narrator of “Old School”
 
This is a quote from “Old School” that I believe follows the criteria of Calvino’s 3rd meaning of exactitude. The boy expressed his personal thought on rhyme. He uses short, exact sentences as well as fragments. The author is able to use the fact that the narrator is speaking as if the reader is in his head and sometimes people do not think in sentence but rather fragment. Thought is the most exact language of all. It is the core of language. “Old School” is definitely a piece of work that Calvino would classify as exemplifying exactitude.

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Experience

“The secret of the story lies in its economy; the events, however long they last, become punctiform, connected by rectilinear segments, in a zigzag pattern that suggests incessant motion.”

– Italo Calvino

The quote above is the same one that I open with on my ‘Cornell’s Quickness’ page. I mention on there that Calvino uses the story of Charlemagne,  as told by Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly in a book of unpublished notes, to exemplify quickness. He discusses that d’Aurevilly was able to tell a story that covered a large and important portion of Charlemagne’s life. I believe that my selection for adaptation, “Old School”, is similar to that of Charlemagne in respect to quickness, but with a certain twist. “Old School” covers a large and important portion of a young boys life while in a New England prep school. The only difference between the story of Charlemagne and “Old School” is the narration in the latter. “Old School” is told from the perspective of the protagonist. Tobias Wolff, the author, is able to use the narrator to convey the quality of quick.

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