Similar to the way Cornell liked to jot down notes and ideas, creating dossiers – I, too, found myself writing down things as I read. Whether this was in the margins of the book, on a sticky note, in a word document, I found myself trying hard to hold on to an image, a thought, an idea. I knew that if I didn’t record it, this vision would be gone. The quickness of a thought bubble, is that unless you ground it, it will not last.
Cornell was fascinated with the idea of the glimpse – of capturing the glimpse. He pursued the glimpse in a voyeuristic manner. The thing about a glimpse, though, is that it is quick. It is not a gaze. It is not a stare. It is but a momentary connection between your eye and something else. And then it is gone. However, the power of a glimpse lies in the way that it can still stay ingrained in your mind, long after it has faded from real life. This is what I tried to capture in my blox. I wanted to provide glimpses into the lives of the characters in the book. But the thing about a blox, is that the images will stay as they are. However, I wanted my blox to imply a sort of movement, despite how fixed it is. I wanted to give people that glimpse, but to allow that glimpse to change. The more people glimpse, the more they see.
Another aspect that Cornell focused on with regards to the blox, is the idea of capturing a sense of nostalgia. He was focused on childhood, on remembering it, reflecting on it, gaining a sense of it back. Many of his works focused on the loss of home. This is highly relevant in My Sister’s Keeper, where it is about the loss of childhood at an early age, and the collapse of a family, a home.
I wanted my blox to start with the all-consuming fire. The fire is the catalyst in the book – it is what starts off each storyline. Therefore, I wanted it to start off my blox. As I took my notes, I realized that I glimpsed fire throughout the book – both physically and symbolically. And then I started to think about what the fire meant, what it implied – how quickly it can start, how quickly it can damage. I thought about the things that a fire destroyed in the book – relationships, homes, innocence, hope, time. I wanted to capture these ideas in my blox. And so I added the touching of the hands to symbolize how quick someone can enter and leave your life, but how their touch can be long-lasting. The hands also symbolize how a quick touch on the check, pat on the shoulder, can mean so much to someone. It quickly says – you are not alone.
I added the eye to show how life can change in the blink of an eye. Also, how the eye is quick to judge, quick to only see what is on the surface. But if you look deeper, you see much more movement. Life is not so fixed and black and white. The sunrise and sunset symbolize the hope that comes with a new day – how fast that hope can surface, how quickly it can disappear. Also, the sunrise and sunset emphasize the passage of time and make one aware that time is passing quickly, and, therefore, one must use one’s time wisely.
There is the calendar that mirrors the way the book is formatted by days. It also lends to the quickness of time in a more literal sense. The house collapsing in the fire epitomizes the family in this book, whose walls quickly fall down, but whose foundations had been rotting for years. Sometimes security is only an illusion. We spend so much time building it, but it can disintegrate in a moment.
The bear symbolizes how quickly innocence can be lost. There is movement behind the bear, that seems to be propelling it forward faster than the bear would like. The stars show how quickly things can exist and then be gone. Stars flick in and out of our vision. Anna is named after a star. Her reasoning for starting the lawsuit is feeling like she doesn’t exist. Also, the idea of feeling invisible is felt by Jesse – the brother – as well. The idea that life is moving so quick, we don’t matter – that is scary.
The popping of the bubble is one of the most integral photos in my mind. Here is the popping of the world that has been carefully constructed. Here is the popping of innocence. Here is the popping of what was expected. And instead, there is a bursting of unexpected. There is reality. And it all happens so fast. It all starts to blur together.
I tried to layer all the pictures in a way, that they moved right into the other. The movement is so fast, it is hard to tell one photo from the next – one idea from the other. Here is the notion that if you don’t stop to breathe and think things through, life will just pass you by. You will catch a glimpse, and nothing else.
That is why I included the final image – the flower. This represents the moments in the book where someone smiles or laughs, where someone just lets him or herself live in the moment and enjoy it. Here is the idea that these moments are fleeting – they are but one amongst many darker and gloomier days – but they still exist, and if we are quick, too quick, we will miss out on them.
While reading this text, I sometimes felt like it was hard to breathe, that time was just moving too fast and while the character’s world was spiraling out of control, it was hard for me not to feel some of this disorientation. I literally felt like I was constantly catching glimpses of one thing or another, then having to quickly put them together into something meaningful. This is what I hope to convey in this blox. I want viewers to realize that life is quick, and it is easy to get lost in the detail, if one isn’t careful.
I wrote this recently on my other blog: I think the key to words and the formation of them – the stringing together of letters and words to form thoughts and sentences – is awareness. It is about awareness of what it means to speaker and what it might mean to audience. It is awareness of multiple meanings and implied meaning and intended meaning. Words are gray. They are foggy and sometimes you have to blink a couple times to even maybe catch a glimpse of meaning. Words don’t always make sense. And that is kind of the beauty of words. It is also the frustration. Sometimes I just want to throw books against walls and listen to the sounds they make as they fall to the ground, as gravity takes control of them. I want, for a moment, to take away the heaviness of the words – for one second to make them light. But nothing lasts – and so the words must fall and collapse and become as confusing as ever. And I just have to smile.
Calvino describes lightness in a couple different ways. He mentions a lightness of language. In this case, the words themselves are light in meaning, texture, in the context they are used. Therefore, a lightness of language implies a sort of lightness of thought. The words you use don’t hold much weight, they are subject to change, they do not last long enough to have much impact. The second idea of lightness has to do with the idea that a train of thought might be heavy, but the parts of it – the smaller ideas or words that make it up, are lighter. Letters, themselves, are light, but you can string them together in a way to create weight. Words and sentences can create tangible thoughts. A train of thought is comprised of subtle elements at work, light elements – and it is only through the process of tying these elements together, that a sort of weight is formed. Calvino reflects upon a third aspect: a visual image that acquires emblematic value. This image epitomizes the idea of lightness, or in other words, the absence of weight. There is this idea that we feel the absence or presence of lightness based off of the absence or presence of weight. We can only really experience lightness when we have disregarded the heaviness. If we can dissect the weight long enough, then maybe we can shed some “light” on a subject.
Looking back at some books I have read, I have definitely noticed the idea of lightness present in them. It is so interesting now to see how many of my favorite books illustrate this idea. Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite writers, so I will probably mention her a couple times in this blog. Right now I am thinking about one of her newer books entitled Handle with Care. The first chapter opens with the following:
Things break all the time. Glass, dishes, and fingernails. Cars and contracts and potato chips. You can break a record, a horse, a dollar. You can break the ice. There are coffee breaks and lunch breaks and prison breaks. Day breaks, waves break, voices break. Chains can be broken. So can silence, and fever.
For the last two months of my pregnancy, I made lists of these things, in the hopes that it would make your birth easier.
On the night before you were born, I sat up in bed with something to add to my list. I rummaged in my nightstand for a pencil and paper, but Sean put his warm hand on my leg. Charlette? he asked. Is everything okay?
Before I could answer, he pulled me into his arms, flush against him, and I fell asleep feeling safe, forgetting to write down what I had dreamed.
It wasn’t until weeks later, when you were here, that I remembered what had awakened me that night: fault lines. These are the places where the earth breaks apart. These are the spots where earthquakes originate, where volcanoes are born. Or in other words: the world is crumbling under us; it’s the solid ground beneath our feet that’s an illusion.
From this opener, we already get this sense that things are fallible; they are not always as strong or heavy as we think they are. They hold weight, yes, but this weight can break.Often times, there is only this illusion that our weight can be upheld. There is a lightness at heart in knowing we are safe, or at least thinking we are. However, there is also this idea that things are destined to break overtime, that the weight of the world will get to them.
The main storyline in this novel has to do with a young girl who is born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that makes her bones brittle and very easy to break. She is subjected to suffering hundreds of broken bones and a lifetime of pain. She is so light, so fragile – it is hard for her not to get hurt. Often times she is in a a wheelchair, because she is too light to even support her own weight. However, she has this lightness of mind, this optimism of spirit. She is light at heart, despite the heaviness and severity of her condition.
On my other blog, I have a page where I analyze a picture in terms of its “lightness.” However, an interesting twist is that the photo has only achieved lightness because it has been manipulated. This idea of manipulation, in a way, can take away from the lightness. But try not to think about that. Instead, focus on the ways in which the manipulation gives life to the photo. Young at Heart.