I’m a bit biased – I have always been more prone to dwell on written word than visual image. However, written word supplies visual images to me. In many ways, words are my building blocks for an image. When I see an image – I see the words that make it visual. I see “how the butterfly’s wings momentarily kiss when it gracefully rests its body upon the tip of the flower.” When I describe images, I speak about them in a verbally explicit manner. I guess I am not much of a minimalist when it comes to words. I let them fall out of the sky like rain. It is hard for me to stop the flow.
When Calvino discusses visibility, he mentions that visibility can be seen in two ways: the words create an image, or the images creates words to describe it. When it comes to starting a story, an author can go about it either way. In Jodi Picoult’s case, she always comments that the “what if” question is what prompts her storyline. For her, the idea is the seed. And from there, she says the “characters pop up like mushrooms.” Therefore, the grounding force in her mind, is the idea behind everything, and from there, images start to form – characters take shape, and plot lines become more full-fleshed.
Something that draws me to Jodi Picoult’s works is her ability to make her characters seem so realistic, I can see them in my mind. Picoult’s attention to detail enables her to create a psychologically complex world, filled with a multitude of desires. This desire feels almost tangible. It is like, if I just reached out, I could touch it. I can feel it. It is there.
Not only is the book written in a way that promotes visualization, but the themes of this book have to do with speaking and visibility. Here are a few quotes from the book that illustrate this idea:
“Anna gives us a backbeat, and seeing her sitting there unresponsive makes me realize that silence has a sound” (39).
“This is when I realize that Anna has already left the table, and more importantly, that nobody noticed” (40).
Here is the idea that speaking and not speaking can affect an image. Silence can be just as much of a physical space as noise. The absence of noise is felt just as much as the presence of it – maybe even more, because it is unexpected. Speaking can create more space, it can disrupt a space, it can destroy a space. When Anna opens her mouth to assert her independence, she creates a gulf in her family. Through her verbal actions, she physically alters the image of her family. In the second quote included above, there is this idea of invisibility, and how not being present creates an image, as well. The absence of something disrupts the family image just as much as the presence. Giving birth to Anna – bringing her into the picture, was a means of keeping Kate within the family image. Anna is a means of upholding this picture. However, when Anna goes to the lawyer, she is taking steps toward altering this image in the hopes of creating a new one that includes her more, that makes her feel more visible and important. She wants to physically create a space for herself. The idea of visibility, is creating spaces, images. It is about mapping out a world and giving it life.
The idea of visibility is that images are constantly changing. The stability of an image, much like the stability of words, is an illusion. Words and images will inevitably change. To really emphasize how collapsible the novel’s world seems, the mother, at one point, says: “Driving home, I am struck by the sudden thought that the world is inflatable – trees and grass and houses ready to collapse with the single prick of a pin” (Picoult 34). Here in these words, the reader gets a sense that the visible images in this story are blurred and muddied and prone to collapse. What seems more salient in this novel, are the spoken words. The impact of words last longer than the image. The image is subject to change. While the words do, too, the implications of them are felt deeper and stronger. The words create changing images, that help the reader gain a sense of how communication is affecting the image of this world, the self-concepts felt by the characters. Not only is Jodi Picoult opening her mouth to speak and create a controversial image, but she is having her characters do so, as well as challenging readers to follow suit.
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.