Black Boy by Richard Wright IDRJ

This section appears right after Richard recounts having to beg his father (who had divorced from his mother) for a quarter, and how detached it made him feel from him.

“A quarter of a century was to elapse between the time when I saw my father sitting with the strange woman and the time when I was to see him again, standing alone upon the red clay of a Mississippi plantation, a sharecropper, clad in ragged overalls, holding a muddy hoe in his gnarled, veined hands—a quarter of a century during which my mind and consciousness had become so greatly and violently altered that when I tried to talk to him I realized that, though ties of blood made us kin, though I could see a shadow of my face in his face, though there was an echo of my voice in his voice, we were forever strangers, speaking a different language, living on vastly distant planes of reality.” (page 34)

I chose this quotation in particular because I felt it summed up what I’ve enjoyed about the book so far, for two reasons.

For one, I really like the breadth of the book’s content (which I guess only makes sense, since its basically an autobiography). It’s very “epic” how Richard Wright describes events like distancing from his father and meeting him 25 years later, how it shaped him into the person who he was, and how since he was a child, he took a complete shift in personality and mindset.

Another thing I like about this book is how it doesn’t have one central conflict like most novels (this isn’t really a novel although its written in a very “novel way”). More so, it seems to construct Richard’s world around the reader, so that it can make subtle references to previous moments and the reader will immediately understand because the reader is so immersed in Wright’s environment. Things like the passage above make you empathize with the writer who you already empathize with so much, and the story often feels like you’re trying to muster through his conflicts with him.


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IRJ February 15

Recently I have been reading Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Olympia Binewski has noticed that her brother Arty is gaining many fans. The twins are quite jealous of Arty’s newfound fame.

“In his dire heart he felt the difference. HE wasn’t working for himself anymore. He was working for Arty. Everything revolved around Arty, from our routes and sites to the syrup flavors in the soda fountain.
We were all nervy with an unspoken anticipation. We were accelerating toward something and we didn’t know what.”

I predict that the doctor, as previously mentioned in my last reading journal, isn’t quite who she claims to be. I think that her and Arty are going to train the youngest Binewski to hurt someone. Something is going to go terribly wrong with Arty’s new followers, or with the family. I have a bad feeling.

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Outcasts United

the book “Outcasts United” is about a group of refugee kids who live in a really bad part of town but try to escape all of the hate and violence by joining a soccer team called the “Fugees.” I really enjoyed this book and I feel like if you enjoy feel good books with happy endings then you would like it. I feel people who wouldn’t like it would be if you hate soccer that is what the book is not all about, but has a big part in it. My favorite quote in the book would have to be, “Beatrice ran through the darkened streets of Monrovia, past checkpoints manned by menacing teenage boys and young men burdened by the weight of guns too big for their small frames. I really liked this quote because, it showed how these young refugee kids only want to have fun and play on a soccer team but are constantly harassed and threatened by gangs who are also kids carrying around guns that way to big for them. They try to scare the refugees, and they only do this because they are different from themselves and come from a different ethnic group. But I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend this book especially because the Author of the book just came to Salem on February 6th and I listened to him speak about it for a little while and I found it very entertaining

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Curse of the Bane by, Joseph Delaney (Feb 15)

The Curse of the Bane by, Joseph Delaney, is about an apprentice, Tom and his master, John Gregory going on a mission to kill The Bane in a quiet town called Priestown. The Bane is a powerful demon cursed to be stuck behind the catacombs underneath the town and can only be freed if someone opens the silver doors at the entrance. Not only must they worry about The Bane but they must now hide from The Quisitor who hunts and puts on trial those who he suspects are witches and warlocks. However, as witches can sense trouble from far away all he catches are normal innocent people. All confession he gets from the accused are forced through methods of torture. I would recommend this book to people who are interested in works of fiction, and books like The Lord of the Rings and Eragon. I would rate this book a 10/10.

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IRJ Feb 15

Recently when picking out a new prose piece to perform for Speech and Debate, I read sections of The Best American Short Stories 2009. In the short story Sagittarius by Greg Hrbek, a toddler runs out into the woods to explore, leaving his terrified parents, Martin and Isabel, to search for him. This quotation from it is from Martin’s point of view, at the beginning of the search for his son.

Just since they’ve been out here (can’t be more than four or five minutes), the sky has blackened enough to begin showing stars. The buds on the trees haven’t opened yet, so the view to the firmament is clear. Martin only glances up, but that one glance is enough to remind him just how much space there is, in heaven and on earth, to get lost in. Again he calls out. Hears only the clicking of crickets and the wind-chime reverberations of traveling starlight.


I chose this quotation to highlight because I thought it served as a good example of much that I like about Sagittarius. The borderline purple prose defines the scene with crisp clarity in one’s mind. The impact of this is especially profound because Hrbek shows, rather than tells, the hopelessness and gravity of the situation. The coming darkness is a reminder of the passage of time, and the more time the farther the toddler gets into all that space.

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The Color Purple

Celie who is the main character of this book informs us in this new entry (new chapter) that her. Pa marries a girl who is the same she is. Pa is on top of the poor girl all the time.  And not just that Nettie who is Celie’s sister now has a boyfriend, an older man with three children whose wife was murdered by her jealous boyfriend. celie thinks that Nettie should focus on her schoolwork instead of getting stuck marrying a man who already has children.

“He come home with a girl from round Gray. She be my age but they married. He be on her all the time. She walk round like she don’t know what hit her. I think she thought she love him. But he got so many of us. All needing something.”

In this chapter I feel so bad for Celie because her sister is thought of as ” more beautiful ” then her so the men love her but seanse shes different she is ught of as ugly and no cares for her. this such a great book I recommend the Color Purple to people that like reading about the representation of the south, and how young girls where treated back then. I Also highly recommend thus to people that like to read tearjerker books this will definitely set off the water works.


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Independent Reading Journal Feb.15.2018 (by LuLu)

I finished reading the motivating story written by Bethany Hamilton called “Soul Surfer”. This autobiography reviews the events leading up to and after a tragic shark attack that leaves Bethany with only one arm. The book entails all of her ups and downs that follow the shark attack. And her many emotions that went along with the whole process of being able to get back into the water and surf again. Her determination and optimism make you as the reader want to be more like her. After, reading this book, I have realized not to take simple things for granite, and to always know things will get better. I loved this tale of heartbreak and redemption. Bethany thought “for a while I doubted I would ever be able to surf again (175).” But later she talks about how everyone (at the time she had written the book) in her family, and best friend’s family were working through the tough time together (197). I encourage anyone who enjoys inspiring people and stories, to read this book. However, if you don’t like books that have the author as the narrator, than this book is not for you!  

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Saya no Uta, the greatest work of 21st century horror fiction[IRJ]

Saya no Uta, or in the English translation, Song of Saya, is a work of Japanese horror fiction which excellently executes the difficult tactic of Reality Degradation. That is to say, it takes everything good, natural, and normal in the world, and makes it disgusting and grotesque by means of description and circumstance. This is an exceedingly difficult task, which, done poorly, makes a story look edgy and stupid. Done right, it makes for a truly disgusting and sorrow filled work. This method is performed perfectly here, where we see the world from the perspective of the lead character, Fuminori, as well as from the perspective of his old friends. While they see Fuminori descending into madness and hatred, Fuminori sees his entire world warped and perverted, this difference in perspective leads to sorrow for Fuminori and generates moral grey areas when Fuminori does things which, for a normal person, would be heinous and disgusting. This is a must-read for those that enjoy authors such as H.P. Lovecraft, as well as anyone who has a terror at reality in general. However, it would be unwise to read this piece of you are uncomfortable with excessively graphic scenes of sexuality, cannibalism, violence and murder, and alien horror. This is a work with no restraint for taste, designed specifically to target the emotionally charged parts of life and to make them into something grotesque. At this, it is highly effective and thus tends to stimulate nightmares and a doubt of one’s own morality. As such, this work is highly unsuitable for young children, as well as the weak-minded, as such a dark masterpiece is without a doubt capable of causing real psychological harm to a weak mind. To say that I enjoyed Saya no Uta is an understatement, it made me seriously consider my morality, and to ask if good and evil even exist. It made me fall in love with the central horror of the story, and then at the reveal, I was not so horrified at what she is, as at myself for loving her. It made me question concepts of trust, and over the remaining course of the narrative, it destroyed what was left of my Anthropocentric perspective so that by the end I realised that humanity is not so special in the universe, as the story brilliantly made me feel love and sorrow for a character as far removed from humanity as anything written by Lovecraft. This is a must-read for any Lovecraftian, and in fact, I would strongly recommend it be read at some point in everyone’s life.

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Pip the Protagonist: Narrative and Structure in “Great Expectations”

The irony of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is that if it were not for his own titular expectations, everything might have turned out all right for Pip. Of course, there still would have been problems — Magwitch still would have escaped, and put him through a bit of grief in his childhood, and probably would still have attempted to repay him in adulthood — but without his obsession with Stella, his turbulent feelings about Joe, or his own pretensions, Pip’s story would have been considerably simpler. As Pip himself acknowledges, “As I had grown accustomed to my expectations, I had insensibly begun to notice their effect upon myself and those around me. Their influence on my own character, I disguised from my recognition as much as possible, but I knew very well that it was not all good” (483). He might never have felt the urge to impress Stella, or to leave a steady, if unglamorous lifestyle as a blacksmith for the hope of being a wealthy gentleman. He could have been satisfied with his life with Joe. But not after realizing how life could be: “I had believed in the forge as the glowing road to manhood and independence,” he laments. “Within a single year, all this was changed. Now, it was all coarse and common, and I would not have had Miss Havisham and Estella see it on any account. How much of my ungracious condition of mind may have been my own fault, how much Miss Havisham’s, how much my sister’s, is now of no moment to me or to any one” (188). Nevertheless, the deed was done; after being exposed to Stella and Miss Havisham’s way of life, Pip develops expectations. He wants to be a gentleman, one with whom people like Stella and Miss Havisham would be impressed, and he dedicates himself wholeheartedly to the pursuit of this dream. He feels disdain for his faithful friend and father figure, Joe, when in Miss Havisham’s company. He leaves his home as soon as the opportunity presents itself. And only after his patron (Magwitch) has been revealed, his fortune has vanished, and Pip himself has come close to death does he realize that perhaps the dreams of grandeur which lead him to reject his family were misguided.

Yet Pip’s expectations are neither malicious nor intentionally cruel. Dickens ensures that the reader remains sympathetic to Pip, even when he makes mistakes, by emphasizing how good Pip’s own intentions are. Although he grows dissatisfied with the smithy, this is only because he has seen the extravagance of the upper classes first hand, and has been made to feel shame for his own lifestyle: “What I wanted, who can say? How can I say, when I never knew? What I dreaded was, that in some unlucky hour I, being at my grimiest and commonest, should lift up my eyes and see Estella looking in at one of the wooden windows of the forge” (190). This key line — “What I wanted, who can say?” — is also critical to Pip’s arc. For a subject of so much contention and strife, Pip’s “expectations” are oddly ill-defined. We know that he wants to be well-regarded, and that he wants acclaim, but for the most part Pip’s ambitions are defined in the most general of terms. As such, most people with any kind of ambition can relate to his dissatisfaction. But this is not the only way that the reader can connect to Pip. 

Pip demands meaning and excellence in life in much the same way that readers demand meaning and excellence from a text. As Peter Brooks points out in Reading for the Plot, “The deviance and error of plot may necessarily result from the interplay of desire in its history with the narrative insistence on explanatory form: the desire to wrest beginnings and endings from the uninterrupted flow of middles, from temporality itself; the search for that significant closure that would illuminate the sense of an existence, the meaning of life” (140). Narrative fiction imposes order on the course of a life in a way that suggests all lives have similarly comprehensible structures. Pip’s ambitions of romance with Stella, for example, do not seem half so unreasonable when viewed through the lens of a narrative: why should the hero, a troubled but ultimately good-hearted and honest young man, not end up with the object of his affection? What has he done wrong that he should not deserve to be satisfied? And moreover, do we not expect Stella, by the end of her character arc, to learn how to love? Pip’s expectations appear irrational, but the reader shares those selfsame expectations for him. The difference between the reader and Pip is that Pip does not know he is in a story, and does not know he should expect things like plot and character to resolve themselves in satisfying ways.

To that extent, Pip embodies the reader’s avatar in a literal sense. He expects great things of himself, just as the reader does, although the reader does so because he is the protagonist. We know that something wonderful, or terrible, at least interesting, must happen to him in order for the story to progress. But Pip also understands himself as a kind of protagonist, insofar as all people do. We see ourselves as the main character of our own stories, the focal point of our own narratives. All our expectations derive from that fundamental idea. So too do our arrogance, narcissism, or self-absorption — Pip’s faults, and the dangers of buying too deeply into the idea of our lives as stories, and ourselves as leads. We do not have a Charles Dickens of our own to structure our fates, or if we do, it is a postmodernist, and unlikely to do us any favors. As Pip’s mistakes demonstrate, there is enormous danger in supposing ourselves to be central or indispensable to some greater purpose, as it offers a kind of moral security that justifies any number of things. If I suppose myself vital to the thread of life in a way that others are not, it offers a reason to treat others as beneath me. Hierarchy is a natural source of conflict and mistreatment, and narrative structure naturally lends itself to hierarchy in the categorization of characters by plot relevance.

Brooks comes to the same conclusion, and argues, “In the absence or silence of divine masterplots, the organization and interpretation of human plots remains as necessary as it is problematic. Reading the signs of intention in life’s actions is the central act of existence . . .We are condemned to repetition, rereading, in the knowledge that what we discover will always be that there was nothing to be discovered” (141-142). In essence, he says, attempting to make our lives conform to the illusion of narrative structure allows us to find meaning in them, however illusory or harmful those structures are.

We are not, however, damned to chase shadow-plots, as Brooks suggests. I disagree with his supposition that there is “nothing to be discovered.” If this were true, it would give doubt to his claim that the organization of human plots is “necessary,” seeing as the idea that existential revelations are ultimately meaningless — or, to wit, the idea that all are fundamentally aware of this meaninglessness — moots the benefit of seeking meaning in the first place. The belief that people have purposes, and that the world has a hidden order which, through introspection and hard work, may be revealed, has kept humanity alive for thousands of years. Without the belief that human life has innate value, we might have killed each other in wars long ago. Without a consideration for each others’ welfare, medicine might be centuries behind where it is. The health and organization of society has improved immensely over the course of time; that itself is a narrative arc. Belief in that narrative has kept the whole of humanity moving forward. So what if we do intention in life’s actions? As long as that impulse to interpretation is tempered by basic kindness, it hardly seems a fruitless (much less harmful) delusion. The welfare of our species has always depended upon a shared belief in the importance of our own actions on a broader scale, and there is meaning in that.

To the point: if I am wrong, and these concepts are delusions, so be it. They are more valuable to me than Brooks’ truth — of living in a world without meaning — ever could be.

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IRJ Feb 1

On fridays, when we pick a book off the shelf, I’ve been working my way through Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. So far it’s been interesting and at times surreal. This scene in which the main character learns the secret of life is one of those times. Here he is talking with a bartender (in a bar) and another customer, whose name is Sandra.

“He said science was going to discover the basic secret of life someday,” the bartender put in. He scratched his head and frowned. “Didn’t I read in the paper the other day where they’d finally found out what it was?”

“I missed that,” I murmured.

“I saw that,” said Sandra. “About two days ago.”

“That’s right,” said the bartender.

“What is the secret of life?” I asked.

“I forget,” said Sandra.

“Protein,” the bartender declared. “They found something out about protein.”

“Yeah,” said Sandra, “that’s it.”


This is a scene that has a similar sort of feel to parts of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. After all, when asked about the secret of life, protein is just as ludicrous an answer as 42, and yet Sandra and the bartender accept it without question. This moment isn’t particularly important to the story as a plot event, instead it builds the feel of the novel: contemplative and surreal – almost detached- but also full of gentle tongue-in-cheek humor.

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