Cornell was obsessed with making light of things – he was obsessed with figuring out why things are as they are, how something is defined in relation to something else. It was about the quest for self-identity, to try and figure out his childhood, to capture this childhood and the nostalgia that goes along with it. Cornell was also concerned with the source of inspiration. He worked hard to make “light” of where inspiration comes from. This lead him to try multiple different methods when it came to organizing his boxes. He was always experimenting. However, part of the process of creating the dossiers, was to allow Cornell a chance to make “light” of his own thoughts. His working method included classifying ideas. Here he was with all these different thoughts, and he had the burden of peeling away some of the weight that accompanied them. Creating a box, in many ways, is about the quest for lightness or understanding. It is about having an idea, some idea, and trying to capture it in a way that portrays it to the best of its ability.
I tried to do just that when it came to creating my blox for lightness. However, it was very hard for me to make “light” of my thoughts, to sort them out according. It was hard to visually embody the simultaneous lightness and heaviness I experienced with this text, because my own thoughts weren’t even entirely clear. In many ways, going through the process of finding images, taking notes, creating my own dossier of sorts, allowed me to understand my own thoughts, to break them down into smaller and more manageable chunks.
While I was trying to map out my own thoughts, I was struck by this sudden idea, that lightness is, in many ways, about mapping out the world around you. It is about making “light” of yourself, the people and events around you. I knew that I wanted the image of a map, or the world, to be a central part of my blox. Not only is it about creating a space for understanding, but the obvious saying “carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders,” implies that you have not yet come to a state of lightness or freedom from burden.
Therefore, the central image, when looking at my blox, is one of a globe. Within this globe are the two opposing ideas of lightness and darkness. This geographically makes sense, because when part of the world is in darkness, the other half of the world is witnessing the sun and daylight. Metaphorically, though, this illustrates that within every body, we hold both the lightness and darkness. They coexist in the same world.
On the top half of the globe, there is the night. There is the world guilt, epitomizing the weight of actions, namely the guilt Anna experiences after starting the trial. Every action has a consequence. The burden of consequence is a heavy one. There is also the clock housed in this portion of the globe. Here is the reminder of time, of the fact that time is limited. The ultimate threat of time is death. In this novel, death is a highly relevant topic. It is what causes much of the heaviness or weight throughout the text. Up on this part of the sphere is also a locket. Anna sacrifices her locket to be able to afford the cost of a lawyer. Sacrifice is a burden, but it can also result in lightness, if the sacrifice ends up being worth it.
The bottom half of the globe illustrates more of the lightness. There is sunlight shining and a kid running around free flying a kite that is light enough to defy the burden of gravity. There is someone smiling. A sunflower is planted in this part of the globe. A little girl is swinging off the bottom of the globe. There is a freedom and lightness felt in this sphere. It is the light at the end of the tunnel.
In the middle of the globe, kind of bridging the two spheres is an actual image of the light at the end of the tunnel. There is the shadow of a figure walking towards the light, embodying the hope that lightness, or the quest for lightness, can bring.
On the bottom of the blox, is a scale with books on either side of it. Here is a literal depiction of the weight of words. In this novel, much of the heaviness comes from things that are spoken aloud. Anna opening her mouth about how she feels is the impetus for much of the heaviness and drama throughout the text. I put images of people holding the weight of the world in their hands on top of each of these books. To the right is a child holding up this weight, a weight that a child shouldn’t have to hold. This is symbolic of the children in this book losing their innocence too fast and dealing with weights they shouldn’t have to. On the left is the image of someone holding the world in his or her hands. These images of weight ground the image.
The scale is in balance, though, because it is not just holding up darkness, but also lightness. There is both in this blox, because there is both in the novel. The dichotomy of the two characteristics is what keeps the image balanced. Both aspects are needed for survival.
And, finally, at the top of the image is a starry night. In the novel Anna is named after a star. Her father is obsessed with stars and there are many stories about stars throughout the text. The interesting thing about a star is that it is light despite the darkness around it. It can shine, despite the constricting heaviness around it. The fact that Anna is named after a star, provides hope that she will recover her lightness once more – it is who she is, in essence. The starry night also serves to further illustrate the simultaneous coexistence of light and dark.
Part of the adaptation process is determining which parts of the work of literature hold weight, or importance, and which are insignificant light details. However, light aspects still must be included to counter the weight – the only way to recognize that certain parts do hold weight, is to be aware of how they differ in relation to the light. Adaptation is a process of including some plot points, and dismissing others. It is about focusing in on what points of view should be included, and which can be left out of the adaptation. Which characters are integral to the adaptation, and which are not? When it comes to adaptation, it is about selection.
When it came to figuring out how to adapt My Sister’s Keeper, I looked for what aspects of the text stuck out to me, which ones held weight in my mind. Also, which parts did I find myself drawn to over and over again, dissecting them, questioning them, trying to make “light” of them? Which aspects of the novel emphasized the dichotomy between lightness and heaviness?
I thought about the catalyst. This, to me, was highly important. The catalyst holds a lot of weight. In this novel, the catalyst was Anna trying to rid herself of the burden of holding her sister’s life in her hands. The journey then, in a sense, is Anna’s quest for lightness. She wants freedom of choice. Looking at this story as a journey for lightness seemed like a good story line to follow for the adaptation process. The family works hard to fight Kate’s impeding death, to try to keep her young and alive and light. The goal of the book is to obtain this lightness and make the world a bit less heavy. Seger mentions that the easiest story lines are about a mission or achieving some goal. Seger mentions that one can usually find a beginning, middle, and end of a story by asking 3 questions:
- What does the character want?
- What does the character do to achieve that goal?
- When does the ‘want’ begin?
Using these three guiding questions, I encompassed my adaptation around the quest to obtain the lightness at the end of the tunnel However, because lightness is never independent of heaviness, but measured by the degree of heaviness, I wanted to also include road blocks. Life is not always light, but is often times dark and hard to overcome.
An analogy for the idea of multiplicity can be found in a game called Bananagrams. This game is somewhat similar to Scrabble, but different in the sense that the pieces on your imaginary board – there is no actual board, you just use a desk or table, or some sort of surface – can move. Each player starts out with a determined set of letters. Then one player shouts out “split,” and all the players flip there letters over to reveal what they have. Once their letters are determined, a player has to start forming words. The words must connect to one another. For example, if you used the word APPLE, you could use the “P” to form PEAR underneath. Once you use up your letters, you shout out “peel,” and everyone must pick up another letter and somehow make it fit on their board. The idea is that you have to constantly move the letters around on your board to accommodate the new ones you are adding. Therefore, while the words, or the meanings, are constantly changing, they are all interconnected in the sense that the letters are not changing, only more are being added. The amount is being “multiplied.” People keep shouting “peel,” until there are no more letters left. At that point, when someone has used all of his/her letters to form words that are interconnected, he/she would shout out, “banana.” The game would then be finished.
I know this is an odd analogy for the idea of multiplicity, but as I sat at my desk thinking of ideas, I noticed my Bananagram set next to my foot on the floor. And suddenly I remembered playing the game with my parents – feeling this rush of adrenaline as I shape-shifted the letters to form new words, that really weren’t all that new, only a variation of what I had already had.
Now that I am thinking about it, I think the most obvious example of multiplicity is the alphabet. I guess this is what I was trying to illustrate in my Bananagram example – this idea that we have only twenty six letters. We sculpt them, mix them up, manipulate them – we have a limited source, but endless possibilities. The English language, itself, gains no new letters. But from these letters, arises “multiple” meanings.
I wrote this in my other blog a couple weeks ago:
There are only twenty six letters in the alphabet. I read in a book the other day how Newton, or maybe it was Galileo – I can’t really remember – likened letters to atoms. He said they are the smallest unit of communication and spin in circles forming new combinations, new meanings. In a way, words create a body, an object, something tangible, in the same way that atoms give weight to the world.
But, since there are only twenty six letters, there are only so many ways in which we might sculpt them, use them, manipulate them to say something we think is important, or maybe not important, or only of semi-importance. We can decide these things, to an extent. The audience, though, will take out of the words and the letters and the passages, what he or she pleases. A writer only has so much control.
With twenty six letters, a sort of cycling will occur, much like the circular image of a clock. Imagine, instead of numbers on the clock, 26 letters. And then imagine several hands on the clock moving from one letter to the next – forming new combinations with each tick or tock. So, while words may be timeless, there is also the sense that they cycle over and over again and maybe it is this cycling that is timeless. Maybe history repeats itself not just because of our actions, but our words.
Like the “I” is the grounding factor in the ever-changing cube of this E-lit, the alphabet, or the limited possibility of letters one can use, is the grounding factor in Bananagrams. Despite a changing board, the letters don’t change, only the combinations do. The letters are interconnected on a sort of grid, must like the “I’s” and “You’s” and “We’s.”
Calvino talks about Gadda a lot when he mentions multiplicity. He said that Gadda, “superimposes various levels of language, high and low, and uses the most varied vocabulary” (106). This seems highly relevant in the E-lit piece I chose – “I, You, We” by Dan Waber and Jason Pimble. Since the entire text is represented within an infinite cube of possibilities, with different layers of language constantly morphing in and out of sight, this seems to visually represent Gadda’s idea of various levels of language. This E-lit piece actually portrays the different levels, giving some words more weight, or boldness, than others.
In this E-lit piece, we are presented with a cube of letters, with an “I” in the center of a screen and “you’s” and “we’s” scattered around this “I”. In between the “I’s” and “you’s” and “we’s” are various verbs. However, all these words exist on a sort of X, Y, Z, or I, you, we, plane. This contributes to the idea of multiplicity – that the text is all interconnected, that it is a system of words, a graphical representation on an axis that touches every point in some way at some time.
Gadda also talked about how multiplicity has to do with the idea that there are many elements that converge to determine every event. Once again we have this image of many ideas, or words connected by one main idea, in this particular E-lit case, the “I.” Calvino further talks about multiplicity as this idea of a web. He says that Gadda “demands that everything should be precisely named, described, and located in space and time” (107). This E-lit tries to mathematically locate where everything would be mapped out on a grid, where it would fall in space and time. However, the idea of multiplicity seems overwhelming, this idea that everything is interconnected and endless. It feels very heavy, the opposite of what Calvino would claim is light. However, while it is heavy, in many ways, there is a lightness in knowing that everything can be boiled down to a common center. While many of the words will fade in and out of sight in this E-lit, there is one constant, the “I.”
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.