Blair writes: “To understand Cornell’s aims and working method we must examine two essential stages in his artistic process: the ‘voyaging’ stage – his search for materials as recorded in the diaries, correspondence and dossiers – and the business of ordering, classifying and constructing the fruits of these voyages” (23-24). I decided to try this as well. There I was, sitting on the couch, writing down my thoughts and ideas on a scrap of paper that looked weathered and old and ready to fall apart at any moment. I thought about the irony of such a paper and how reflective it is of the storyline and mood of this book. Here, though, is what I wrote:
I love and hate Jodi Picoult for how much she forces me to question myself and my own life. She makes me think. And sometimes, I’ll admit it, I don’t like what I think about or what I see. She knows precisely how to push my buttons. However, it isn’t about control or manipulation for her. It is just about making people think. I can’t blame her.
She asks too many questions in this book. And how am I to answer them?! It is hard to put myself in that gray world, knowing that by doing so, I’m weakening my own security. By asking myself these questions, I am, inevitably, firing bullets at myself. Yes, I know Jodi Picoult is only doing this to make me come out stronger. Still, though, I sit here and think about how much easier it is so convince myself that my world is stable and full, and all I want to do is stay in this illusion of security. Even if it is only an illusion, there is comfort in a dream.
What are the exact things, though, that bother me so much about what Jodi Picoult is asking? Is it that it makes me feel guilty for feeling like my life sometimes sucks, when, really, compared to these characters, I have nothing to complain about? Does it make me feel immature and unworthy of attention, because, really, I am okay, and don’t need people to focus their efforts on me. Or is it that, even though my life is so significantly different from these characters, I have felt how they feel at one point in my life. Maybe, I am not all that different. And, maybe, that is really what scares me.
Sometimes I have this dream where I am running, just running. And this is ironic, because I never run in real life. I have flat feet. I guess I write that like it is supposed to explain something, when, really it only means that medically and physically it is harder for me to run – not impossible, just more difficult. However, when I am running in this dream, I never know what I am running from. I am just running, running, not grounded, moving chaotically. I wake up in a sweat, as if I have actually been running. My sheets are all rumpled and are usually in a messy pile on the floor. Nothing is intact.
This is very much how I feel when reading this book. I am running with the characters, gasping for breath, confused, living in a world that has been turned upside down and is all over the place. And I don’t like being there. However, Jodi Picoult makes me go there. She creates this exact world and challenges readers to feel it, taste it, smell it, engage with it, question it. She forces us to do what we might not do on our own.
Blair writes: “The search for the self required more…Cornell needed the reflection of others in order to more fully realize his own image” (20-21). When I read this section, I was completely struck. This is exactly how I felt when reading My Sister’s Keeper. I needed to see these exact characters, experience this exact world created by Picoult, to realize where I stood on the issue, to help create and understand my own image. And I wanted to create this sensation in my blox. I wanted viewers to experience these questions and ask themselves where they stand. My main goal was to create an exact image of this gray world, and to challenge viewers to engage with it.
Cornell was highly concerned with classification. The idea of classification implies a sort of exactness – of being able to label or define something into a category. Classification has to do with being able to pinpoint a mood, or theme, or idea. This is what I had to do – I had to classify exactly what I wanted to put into my blox, and how, exactly, each of these images would fit together. How, exactly, would I justify this classifcation?
Well, to start off with, I have the image of the hands holding the box of images. Here is the notion of trying to contain a precise image, of literally trying to classify it and hold it within your hands. Even if this image implies a sort of entropy, it is still a tangible image in the sense that this entropy is an exact mood. However, I purposely made the edges of the box undefined – jagged and faded – to illustrate that the grasp on this box, though contained for the moment, is one that is difficult to hold for a long time. To put oneself in this gray world, and embrace it, is no easy feat.
Within the box itself, I purposely made most of the images gray and faded to illustrate the confusion and difficulty characters experience when it comes to classifying their mood and purpose and ideas. I also did this to make it difficult for the viewer to make sense of the world. This is how I felt when reading the book, and I wanted to convey this sense of confusion – this notion that to really form a viewpoint, one must immerse oneself in this world. In order to really make sense of the images in the blox, viewer really has to delve in and look closely.
I included the collapsing home in the left corner to illustrate how broken the family feels. There are images of cracked windows and glass throughout the blox to illustrate how unstable and shattered this world is. On the left side of the blox is a cracked lens. Here is the idea that the characters have trouble seeing straight. I tried to capture this in the blox, as a whole, by making the image a bit disorienting and cracked.
In the bottom left corner is a symbol for the scale of justice. This image is particularly faded, and the scale is off balance. Since the legal battle for medical emancipation is such an exact storyline in this novel, I thought it fitting to include this image in the muddied mess of images in my blog. I also thought it indicated the sense that morality – what is right and what is wrong – is not always clear cut. It cannot always be so easily classified and defined by law.
I have images of flames engulfing the background, as well as rope that is being ripped, with only a single thread holding the two pieces together. I was really trying to convey this sense that the balance is off – that stable ground is no longer there. That is why I have the image of the person holding onto the rope and about to tight walk across it. This is what I think about when I imagine the characters in this novel – I see characters walking across a thin rope, about to fall at any moment. This is how I feel when reading the book, as well – that I, too, might get sucked into this confusing world at any moment. My safety is at stake, as well.
And, finally, I have the broken heart in the bottom right corner. The shattered heart is indicative of the broken relationships in the novel. However, this heart is a locket, which holds particular importance to Anna, who sells her priceless locket in order to get money to pay the lawyer. Giving up this locket is a huge sacrifice for Anna. I colored the heart in red, to stick out against the gray background. I wanted the eye to focus on the heart – because at its core, this book is about following one’s heart. Morality is not something that is black and white and can be decided easily. In the end, one has to listen to one’s own thoughts and desires and be true to oneself.