First, THANKS again for the rich and insightful discussion… can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying these conversations as a wind-down to every week.
We ended the hour talking about Eva. Afterwards, I wondered: Could we read the title as a way that makes the story about Eva? (Is Eva a ‘simple girl’ too?)
What do you think about the fact that we never find out the narrator’s name? Or the cat’s name? (or even whether the family has just one cat or several different cats, thanks to the article deletion… sub-tweeting LING-214 students here)
We talked a lot about form. It was lovely to read this story back-to-back with Flowers for Algernon, another diary – and by happenstance, I also read Dracula recently for the first time, another epistolary work.
In all three of these stories, the narrator/author complains or at least comments about how time-consuming and inconvenient it is to keep their diary/records (e.g. ‘was tired and had to come in and write in this stupid book.’ SGD 9/6). But hilariously, only in the two older stories – Dracula from 1897 and Flowers from Algernon from 1959 – do the writers try to actually solve this problem with technology: shorthand, voice recordings, typewriters. The Semplica-Girl diarist, who lives in the most technologically advanced world, insists on writing longhand on paper; in fact the whole inspiration for the diary is the purchase of this black book at OfficeMax. Ugh! More fake simplicity, commodified and sold.
I really enjoyed your observations about the diarist’s use of (!) vs. !. As I said to you, I think this narrator is performing, writing down thoughts and feelings that he thinks he’s supposed to have and stifling his true feelings of bitterness and despair. The ! shows up in places where I think his enthusiasm seems especially forced:
Have a feeling and have always had a feeling that this and other good things will happen for us! (9/5) Still, must fight good fight! (9/14) Ha-ha! Must keep spirits up (9/15)
The (!), on the other hand, may be where a more genuine voice is trying to come out, expressing authentic surprise or even disgust:
…who appeared disappointed by the lock of mummy hair, and said so, because she already had one (!)…the next gift was a ticket to the Preakness (!)
I ended up thinking that this is a very scary story, as well as a very funny and very sad one. This guy is really afraid of saying anything critical of the rich. And the ending now feels ominous and terrifying to me, rather than just confusing.
This is why I love re-reading things. What are y’all’s favorite things to re-read?
Have you read Dracula? (I was kinda disappointed. I think I had an unreasonable expectation that it would be more like Frankenstein.)
This is Banned Book Week. What are your thoughts about banned books?
And what else would you like to say about “The Semplica-Girl Diaries”?