When Calvino described visibility, he focused on where inspiration started – verbal word, or visual image. Blair writes: “Cornell’s ultimate quarry was the source of inspiration itself, and the dossiers were part of his idiosyncratic attempt to pursue and define the shaping force that lay behind his art” (26). Therefore, that is what I attempted to do in this blox. I reflected on what came first for me in this text – word or image? I wanted to convey both of these to viewers and then let them experience the ability to decide on their own which comes first for them.
Trying to grasp this image of the collapsing world
Unable to grasp it
Image is too fleeting
What caused world to collapse?
Anna finally speaks up, and this disrupts the whole image of the family
What is their image now?????
Silence versus sound
How can silence create space?
Does it deserve space?
What do I see when I think of silence?
What do I see when I think of noise?
How does a book create images?
How do these images then create further ideas?
The shattering of ideas
Shattering of images
Shattering of hearts
After writing down these thoughts, I looked for images that I thought embodied these ideas. My process made me reflect, once again, on how I often start with the word, and then arrive at the image. However, when relying on a book to create a blox, this seems like what would tend to happen.
I started my blox by making the background a book – a visual reminder of the written word, and how an image is often inspired by the written word. However, since viewer is being shown simultaneous reminders of both written word and visual image, it allows them to decide which is stronger – which one strikes them first and lasts with them longer. By making the book my background, I hoped to show that the words lend to the images, and the images can create the words. They coexist in the same space. I purposely chose a book that looked weathered and worn, to create the image of a story that is complex and can be tiring. It is not an easy read. I wanted to visually imply that.
In the center of the blox, and probably the most obvious image, is the giant open mouth. I wanted this to be the center of the novel, or the spine of the book, because it is the spine of the plot line. It is because Anna opens up her mouth, that the story’s conflict arises. Anna is what is holding the plot together, but also, in many ways, what is tearing the family apart.
Next to the mouth is a heart that is falling into pieces. I used this to visually portray the way in which the relationships in this novel are slowly dissolving. They are not as strong or intact as they once were.
Below the heart is a hand that is trying to grasp the inflated world. The inflated world looks like it is literally coming out of Anna’s mouth. Because she speaks, the world around the family collapses. Everyone tries to grasp the world, but it just sort of slips through their fingers. Because it is not whole, it is hard to hold onto.
Underneath the giant mouth, is the image of someone being silent, but who wants so badly to speak. Instead, she has written the word “speak” upon her lips, to illustrate her desire to say something, but her inability to do so. This is how Anna feels at the beginning of the novel.
The image of the finger to the lips to the right, is another portrayal of silence. In this case, it seems to imply that sometimes it is better to keep one’s mouth shut, keep it all contained. Once you open up your mouth, chaos will pursue.
At the bottom center of the blox is a girl reaching up towards a tear in the page. To me, this illustrates the notion that she wants a voice, she wants a say in the novel. She will literally rip the page, to assert her right to speak.
On the right side of the book are faded question marks in the background to illustrate the general confusion of the novel and the multitude of questions that arise. There is also the shattered thought bubble, illustrating that even the thoughts of the characters are not stable. Also this shows the duality of words – not all words are spoken. One’s thoughts or self-concepts, are also impacted.
At the bottom right of the book is the ever-present fire that threatens to consume their world. The fire also helps portray the notion that not everything is controllable. Actions can spiral out of control into an image that is hard to contain, even within the pages of a novel.
I tried to portray the different aspects of Anna in this blox – silent Anna, desperate Anna, verbal Anna, regretful Anna. I wanted to show that speech can lead to many different outcomes or images. And the impacts of speech can destroy an image or irrevocably alter it.
My main goal with this blox was to make the viewer constantly aware of both visual imagery and verbal content. It was hard to do this because a blox is, by nature, visual. However, for me, it was integral to portray both.
Okay, now to talk about how to make the visible MORE visible. But, also, how to translate the verbal elements, since this is a book, into s0mething completely visual. Here is where I turned back to the theme of this novel. Seger writes about how there is a certain amount of description needed to get images across in a book. These are chosen carefully to construct an overall image, or theme. This is often done by repeating the same image or idea, by adding details to the original image, or also by using contrasting images. I tried to implement these techniques when it came to my adaptation. I focused on the ideas of silence versus noise – of the implications of both, and how it can affect the overall image of a household. Seger talks about how movement is fluid in a novel. The narrator moves through the book in a way that helps readers understand the connection between details, ideas, and information that may appear again in different chapters. The author connects the past, present, and future. An interesting aspect of My Sister’s Keeper, is that the novel jumps around in time. The mother is often reflecting on the past, and many times whole chapters are flashbacks. This helps connect the imagery and themes of the novel, though. It illustrates how the past inevitably affects the present, which will also impact the future. These images are closely intertwined.
When considering my adaptation, I tried to fixate on repeated words, and the resultant images they formed. It was also interesting to note that sometimes the same words prompted totally different results, or images. Because of the ways in which the characters changed, the words took on new meanings, and formed completely different images. This contributed to the confusing mood of the novel and the inability of characters and readers to get a firm grasp on what is right and wrong. The words create images, however, which help form a general mood and theme for the book.
What I really wanted to capture in my visual adaptation, was the interconnectedness between verbal word and the formation of images. Whether these images are created by the character or the reader, they are a reaction to something said or not said. Image and word are tied together. And even though the relationship bonds in this novel are tested and torn and pulled to a stretching point, the bond between written word and visual image, remains constant. The words might change, the images might change, but the coexistence of the two, does not.
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.