Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Jellicoe Road, Catcher in the Rye and meta-story

I never understood the attraction to Catcher in the Rye until now. Or rather, I never understood those who related to the book. Holden’s idea is one that sticks though, the person who keeps those younger than themselves from danger.

In reading Jellicoe Roadby Malina Marchetta, a book about a girl named Taylor whose Father died on Jellicoe Road, things became clearer about both the Catcher in the Rye and myself.
Jellicoe Road is a mish-mash, almost a dream state book until a quarter of the way in when it finally becomes clear that Taylor is a girl, and is at a boarding school, and belongs to a ‘House’ where 50 girls stay. And now that summer has come the war of the school versus the townies versus the Cadets (who come to camp in the woods) begins. Taylor has been chosen leader, both of her house and the school. She does not understand it, as her mother left her at a 7/11 one day ten years before. Indeed, she has no adult interaction except for Hannah, who has disappeared. Taylor ran away five years ago to find her mother, teaming up with a Cadet, Jonah, only to have him call the school when she was only a few kilometers from her mother. Jonah is now in charge of the Cadets and the summer war is on, but also in the background are romances, the history of Hannah, the Brigadier (who brought her home before), legends of a dead Cadet, and a long term serial kidnapper and killer who randomly had struck in the towns around where she lives over the past several years.

After wading through all this, the odd and inherited rules of pre-adult state appears: those traditions followed without understanding and the questioning of what these rules are about. Taylor, as head of House learns that she is, want it or not, the ‘adult’ the other girls look to, even the arsonists that the state dumps on them (boarding school with some juvie offenders in it). With a dead father, and pointed out as the girl who a local hermit whispered something to before blowing out his brains, Taylor wants to be just alone, but she starts to understand that her actions can bring calm or agitation and fear. And it is that fear and uncertainty which she has herself known, growing up with a junkie mother.

There is much to recommend Jellicoe Road, from the use of all the senses, when she stays overnight at a friend’s whose mother has her wear an old fashioned nightie with starch and bows. She wears it because it smells like comfort, like a mother should smell. Off to find her mother again she meets Sam, whose mother watched the kids when her mother ‘worked’ (the streets). Why is Sam so mad, and what has this to do with the memory she told her friend Raf long ago, the one that Raf won’t tell her back. Raf says there are some memories that shouldn’t be kept. And Jonah, who is helping her find her mother grows more and more appalled at this woman, as they follow the trail of her self destruction. Taylor sums it up simply by turning to him surprised and saying, “I said I wanted to find her, I didn’t say I loved her.”

So, watching the 7th year girls and younger, the 8 year old to 13 year olds singing and gossiping, she wants to give the security and stability that she never had. She knows where the emotional cliffs are because she has fallen down them, or been thrown down them many times. And so she, like so many empathetic individuals whose lives have ‘fucked up’ written across them in bold letters, stands guard so that others will not know the solitude and ache she has inside. The other girls have family but more than that, they know that someone cares about them, and cares every minute of every day. Taylor learns more than to ‘fake it’ but to be part of that circle of stability in their lives. To simply 'be there' in all time, the one for whom it can be said, "I knew you would come for me."
And while I did not have a summer like Taylor, not since the age of 8 or 9, due to a childhood lost, having more in common with homeless and settlers who scrounge for living, than I did with any classmate, I understood the importance of what I didn’t have. I wanted to be there for others, to be the one who wrapped them in love and caring even when they did not love themselves.
For me, in a state of post exercise from the Y, I am recovering, watching the anime, Heroic Age: The Complete Series. It is a space opera, but based on the 12 labors of Hercules, as well as other aspects of the Greek Gods, demi-god and men. Plus there is ideals of Buddhism, mixed in with Shinto and historical Japanese ideas. It also includes the debates of the 17th/18th century rationalists. But it comes together, thanks to some in depth research on the meta-story, as Jung would describe it, and good writing. Much as the joy at finding Hamlet in Season 1 of Sons of Anarchy, I was happy to watch this intellectually engaging meta-story. The Heroic Age is set in space where Humans, losing a universe wide war which they only were aware of once earth was invaded and locked away from them for now over 120 years.

It was a much appreciate birthday present, as I often, like today, only have the range of my oxygen cord to move. It was to me what I wanted the Postcard and gift projects to be to others, the tangible expression of the idea: “You matter, how you feel matters, I care about you and please, don’t give up.” I think that desire to have someone there to wrap the arms around you and say they will always love you is universal....even convicts love their mother and vice versa.

Some times, some days, I just need to rest and be cared for. The pain is high, the body is weak, and what can be endured has been beyond limits. I live while most at this stage have died; I go out, while the experience of carers and families is that this is a time lived out of my bed. I fight, I hold, but some days, I have to be carried. I am not phsycially stronger than those who die, I just seem to want 'it’ more.

Perhaps that is why I identify with Taylor, who moves with purpose. I have not the energy to chase a dream and let it slip away as Holden does. Whether the dreams are folly or not, I pursue them with singular intent. I am lonely in a way that will likely never be full. But that doesn't stop me from trying. I send emails, postcards, gifts, blog posts and I keep postcards, and polished rocks, mementos and gifts all littered from bed to bathroom to study. For they, like the ripples of the wind upon the water are the proof that I am not alone.


Linda McClung said...

Jellicoe Road sounds like an interesting story. I can understand why it appeals to you. I have often heard you say you wanted to protect me from bad things - you do what the heroine in the story did.

I loved your selection of pictures. They are all beautiful, but my favourites are the 2 girls under the tree with the kitty and the other is of the 2 girls watching.

I am glad you have gifts, letters, etc from people to remind you that someone cares about you.

Neil said...

I will be looking - no, I took a moment or three out and HAVE looked for and found Jellicoe Road, and requested it from the local library; and it has two titles; the other is "On the Jellicoe Road," but it's the same story, despite the difference in summaries.

Oh dear, I"m sorry about the Bulwer-Lytton paragraph!

I can see you in the summary of the book, dear Beth. It sounds like you.

I've never read "Catcher in the Rye." It wasn't one of the reauired books at my school, thank the gods, and I haven't sought it out since. High schools seem to have such dreadful reading lists... Middle Son complained once about the literature in his class, and asked the teacher if they could have "just ONE book this semester with a happy ending, please??"

Beth, my dear, wonderful Internet niece, you ARE there for others. Maybe you're not able to protect everyone physically, but you are there behind the keyboard sending good thoughts, sending postcards and gifts, sending love. And I have long known through your blog that you also want to be there for Linda, protecting her from hurt and harm.

I am sorry that I haven't been able to be there for you, as much as I would like to. You need protection, too, you know! But I will be here behind my keyboard, beside you in spirit. And I'm staying with you.

Love and zen hugs,

Lorna, Bob and Liam said...

Wow, I am trying to think of something to say about your aloneness that isn't trite. 'Cause your articulate, emotional writing has made it clear that ultimately, no matter how much we want to help and be with you, this is your journey and your journey alone, to make. I know how frustrating and in fact infuriating it can be for someone to say "I know how that feels," or, "I feel your pain," when it is searingly clear that in spite of the empathetic intentions, no one else can possibly "know" what you are experiencing. It must be similarly frustrating when, however well-intentioned, people say "you're not alone, I'm/Linda/we're/whomever is with you." Pah.

Having said that, I think we are all trying to be more than objective observers, or passive onlookers. Is it enough that we try to be compassionate, loving witnesses? That we try to hold you in our hearts, our minds? It's especially hard for those of us trying to do this from a distance, where we cannot even touch you or be with you more tangibly. Having said that: I believe that those who love you will be with you on your journey as much and in as many ways as possible.

We see you. We learn from you. We support you, in the ways we each can. We respect and admire you. We are touched by you. We feel your love. And we love you.

Noisyworld said...

I'm not sure I've ever met/read a blog by/received a postcard from anybody who has wanted 'it' more. I am in awe of how much you put into life and I'm pleased when you find things that make it worth it :) The whole earth being caught up in something it didn't know about is very hitchhikers' guide-esque, sounds fun :)
Keep on fighting, protecting and generally giving life a kick up the **** ;)
-I hope that's within the mod's allowed language, if not, change it :)

SharonMV said...

dear Beth,
Your postcards, gifts and the remarkable gift of your friendship have often saved me from that aching, unrelenting loneliness. You have come for me, when no one else did, when I knew no one else would. I hope the small tokens of friendship I've sent have given you moments of knowing that someone cares - that warm, quiet joy that seeps in and infuses the heart, a heart now too full, even if only for an instant, to be lonely.

Thank you for the reviews. You know, I think I'm one of the few people in the USA who made through high school without reading Catcher in the Rye. Jellicoe Road sounds good. And I'd like to see Heroic Age - like to see how they portray the myths.

Love to you & Linda

Baba Yaga said...

Lorna, Bob and Liam - thank you for perfect expression.

Beth, that's both a compelling review, and a manifesto - and a description of profound truth, on top. You have a gift of encapsulation, comme ├ža:

And so she, like so many empathetic individuals whose lives have ‘fucked up’ written across them in bold letters, stands guard so that others will not know the solitude and ache she has inside.

Just yes. One sentence to capture something essentially true.

I've all but forgotten Catcher in the Rye - the sense of alienated and rather perplexed yoof remains (it neither sang in my deepest heart nor repelled me, which seem to be common reactions), but story and context are pretty much lost. Jellicoe Road sounds as though it might be rather more memorable.

I'm glad that your birthday produced something *right*: it matters greatly to be seen, and recognised.

Raccoon said...

Sharon, I've never read Catcher, either. Do I feel that I've missed something? Uhm...

I'm almost 30 years out, and I've never felt like I needed to read it.

You realize that the girl on the exercise ball is going to be real sore without a bra, right? Hopefully you aren't emulating her when you go to the gym...

I'm still here.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Raccoon: she does have a bra, she has a shoulder support athletic bra, just like the one I use, only it seems she doesn't get the compression she should for stability - maybe she has cups in hers as victoria secret does a sports bra with support and cups to maintain shape for A,B and C size.

It looks like the Silver Thread support althetic bra that Linda uses through actually.

Elizabeth McClung said...

But I agree she will be sore, if she tries to maintain balance atop the ball, her abdomin will be very sore - I do push ups on a half ball and it is so hard I pass out during the set.

Kate J said...

I absolutely hated 'Catcher in the Rye' - both when I first read it, many years ago, and when I recently thought I'd give it another chance. 'Jellicoe Road' I'll maybe look out for. Actually, 'Heroic Age' sounds more fun.

I'm currently chilling out for a couple of weeks while my son is home,- with his wide-screen TV so we've set up a temporary home-cinema in my sitting room... enjoying some of his DVD collection: the complete 'Columbo' and the TV series 'Castle' which is quite fun and has some great female characters!

Loved the pics in your latest post! Keep hanging in there, Beth, hope things have picked up a bit with the carers... but I guess you're alone a lot of the time now Linda is back at work. I'd like to think you have friends calling in, spending time with you... but it doesn't sound like it. Certainly no family giving you any loving support. Makes me angry, sad and so frustrated that I can't call in and see you myself, as I'm half a world away. Virtual hugs are all I can offer, I'm afraid.

Love & peace

kamagra said...

Whether you're a girl or a guy, you will treasure this novel and hold it near and dear to your heart for a long time to come.