Memento Redux

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The film Memento by director Christopher Nolan depicts the great misfortune of a man, Leonard, who, due to an attack, cannot retain any new information and thus has short term memory loss. Distraught over the murder of his wife he sets out to find her killers but due to his condition he must leave permanent reminders, tattoos, for himself on his progress of his wife’s case. The film itself is set in an intriguing way that lets the audience find out information along with Leonard. The “black outs” or black ins that he has, the audience views them with him as the same time that he does. The film starts in reverse slow motion and thus continues to go in reverse from the end of the film to the beginning, which ends up being the end. There are various scenes where Leonard goes into a monologue and the scene is shot in black and white. Those scenes are where the audience obtains a wider understanding of Leonard’s back story, at least what he can remember. A greater interplay of the story is how much a person relies on what they remember, like Leonard, because memory can always be altered and thus isn’t always reliable. The way that the movies itself is shown to viewers emphasizes this idea due to Leonard’s inability to cope with his condition and thinking that he is coping and that his “system” helps him live; when in fact it is the unresolved murder of his wife that gives him a purpose to live.

-Juana Acha

Raw Shark Texts

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Information overload is a theme presented time after time in our technology driven age. Raw Shark Texts asks what is the balance between knowledge, power, identity, and insanity. Eric wakes up having no idea who he is, he tries to live this way, but finds that being nothing but a bag of skin and maybe some chemicals is not enough for him. Ward wants to transcend the bag of skin as well, and does so to an extreme. He is well on his way to acquiring an infinite amount of knowledge, but he loses his humanity along the way, and cripples everyone’s humanity who is a part of ‘the agreement’ as well. Hall places importance on human interaction. Ruth and the truck driver are given good portions of chapters, only because they represent humanity. Despite all of the coding and technology whirling around, Hall still takes the time to intimately describe the feeling of skin on skin interactions. The entire novel, Eric is trying to find his humanity. The book focuses on the human experience as the hero. It takes human connection and thought to an actual physical level, in order to accentuate it’s importance. If we thought of every word he read and said as a river, we would realize the power of each expression we created.

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Electronic Inspiration

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Brian Kim Stefans, “The Dreamlife of Letters” is a very modernist take on poetry, combining computer generated visual art and poetic verse that is broken into an alphabetic sequence, where each letter takes a stanza. This poem is comprised in a way that may leave readers, as viewers, questioning what they are seeing. Stefans somewhat random display of words and letters joining and disjoining, changing shape color and size, resembles something out of the mid-90s crime-drama Hackers, starring Angelina Jolie. His work gives a playful lifelike energy to letters, giving them what seems like their own freedom of expression in a two-dimensional space. This combination of technology and poesy, which was originally a response to another writer’s poem, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, in an online community called “roundtable,” unveils a new method of poetry; in which the reader is left as an observer to the a display of letters changing forms, granting entertainment that surpasses the capability of just words on a page.

-Dalton Holcombe, originally published here.

The Raw Shark Texts

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Steven Hall’s novel, The Raw Shark Texts tells a perplexing story that asks the reader to reevaluate how they perceive words, concepts, and ideas. I found the conceptual fish and Mycroft Ward’s stories to be the most interesting throughout the text. Hall’s portrayal of the conceptual fish throughout the novel as creatures made of words and phrases reflects a very unique ideology. To relate it to the real world its as if Hall’s message is that when information or ideas are shared or created, while they do not become real physical creatures, they do almost take on their own life form, much like a conceptual fish, traveling from person to person or place to place beyond anyone’s control. Furthermore, Mr. Nobody’s explanation of himself as, “a concept wrapped in skin and chemicals” presents an interesting way of thinking about what a human life really is (178). Although Scout refutes this idea, humans really can almost be thought of as complicated concepts wrapped in skin, based on how concepts are defined in the novel.

-Matt Le

The Raw Shark Texts — Part 3

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Throughout the novel, Hall places a large emphasis on the relationship between the mental and physical aspects of a human being. In our discussion during class, the question of “what makes a person?” was brought up and whether we truly are just a “singular concept wrapped in skin and chemicals.” Scout assures Eric that humans are much more than that. Hall makes it clear that both the physical and psychological components are equally as important. One of the themes in the book points to the uselessness of a human body without memory as Eric Sanderson is said to have died and been reborn as a different person because he has no mental history. However, Hall points to the possibility of physical memory. When Eric and Scout reconcile, he notes, “The taste of her then, the touch and the warmth and the movement, all of it perfect, like the sweetest, saddest remembered note coming back through years of silence” (388). His automatic and almost innate attraction to Scout exemplifies the possibility that though the mind can be wiped clean, the body retains a sort of memory that acts more on intuition than any signal from our mental memory. We see this when he makes his way through Fidorous’ hideaway without thinking, just doing. Furthermore, Eric experiences moments of complete consciousness, moments in which physical sensations are altered enough to trigger memories. Eric describes all the “ordinary things carefully kept in place because the last person to touch them would never put a cup down on the edge of the table again, or ever leave a book half-read” (411). These objects, including the underwater pictures, though useless after Clio has passed, still affect him, reminding him of small details about her that he thought he had forgotten. This suggests the immense power that physical sensations have over the mind and body. It also makes sense why Hall focuses not just on Eric’s psychological process, but also on the seemingly insignificant objects around him. The objects – things like water, the feel of pictures in his hands, the smell of the air, the rocking of the boat – make him feel as if he is not just the walking zombie that is the Second Eric Sanderson, but a living, breathing and feeling human being in his full five senses.

-Jazmynn Vazquez

The Raw Shark Texts

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Information overload is a theme presented time after time in our technology driven age. Raw Shark Texts asks what is the balance between knowledge, power, identity, and insanity. Eric wakes up having no idea who he is, he tries to live this way, but finds that being nothing but a bag of skin and maybe some chemicals is not enough for him. Ward wants to transcend the bag of skin as well, and does so to an extreme. He is well on his way to acquiring an infinite amount of knowledge, but he loses his humanity along the way, and cripples everyone’s humanity who is a part of ‘the agreement’ as well. Hall places importance on human interaction. Ruth and the truck driver are given good portions of chapters, only because they represent humanity. Despite all of the coding and technology whirling around, Hall still takes the time to intimately describe the feeling of skin on skin interactions. The entire novel, Eric is trying to find his humanity. The book focuses on the human experience as the hero. It takes human connection and thought to an actual physical level, in order to accentuate it’s importance. If we thought of every word he read and said as a river, we would realize the power of each expression we created.

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The Raw Shark Texts

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The Raw Shark Texts, Steven Hall’s debut novel, is an unfolding plot line that is seems to be influenced by sci-fi and fantasy plots. Centered around the multiple lives of Eric Sanderson, Hall weaves alternate realities and secret societies together seamlessly to tell the story of how working with the Un-Space Exploration Committee after the death of the first Eric Sanderson’s girlfriend, Clio, led to a spiraling series of events. With clever plays on words – Mycroft Ward, an antagonist in the story, clearly playing with Microsoft Word; and the Ludovician shark which is reminiscent of a modern day computer virus; makes for an interesting fiction story with a surprising twist ending.

-Julia-Elise Childs

Mr. Nobody

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Mr. Nobody terrifies me. Not just because he seems creepy, but the whole concept of “Nobody” is unnerving: Mr. Nobody functions on drugs which carry out different aspects of his so-called personality, and without these drugs, he is nothing but an empty husk. Mr. Nobody is basically a bunch of chemical processes in a container. What really bothers me is how this perfectly describes a human being (and all living creatures as well). What is really “human”? Are our personalities defined by our experiences, or is it all just the manipulation of biological processes? For instance, a person’s response to various stimuli is dictated by the amygdala, which plays a large role in anxiety, fear, aggression, etc. Interestingly, the size of the amygdala could be an indicator in whether or not an individual has the potential to being (or becoming) psychopathic. Regardless, the fact remains that much of what makes a person who he or she is has to do with biology, much like how Mr. Nobody’s whole character is determined by the drugs that give him “reasoning”, “sense of humor”, “powers of persuasion”, and so on.

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Steven Hall’s Alternative Appeal

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With today’s youth consumed by video games and television, it seems unlikely that this generation might take up the habit of reading anything without being forced. The digital age has changed the way many people choose to spend their time. This is something Steven Hall had in mind when writing the bestselling novel, The Raw Shark Texts, published in 2007. The world he creates through the mind of a narrator suffering from psychotropic fugue is somewhere between frightening and comical; attaching a variety of references from modern day culture, ranging from films and television, to music and literature, making his characters and scenarios highly digestible to a vast audience. More so than paying homage to other literature in the past, the book becomes a sort of jambalaya of popular films with tastes of Jurassic Park, Jaws, The Terminator, The Matrix, Memento, Being John Malkovich and maybe even a little Donnie Darko. With that in mind, it seems Hall is onto something brilliant with his incorporation of so much relatable subject matter. Nothing really gives readers a kick more so than the feeling that they have made a connection and found some kind of hidden message or reference to something they were already familiar with.

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The Raw Shark Texts

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The second part of Steven Hall’s The Raw Shark Texts marks the point in which Eric Sanderson meets Scout and leads up to about the point where Dr. Fidourous finally starts to tell the Second Eric Sanderson about the First Eric Sanderson. We receive a much more detailed history of the Ludovician. What is interesting is the convergence of cultures used to define the Ludovician (i.e. Native American culture and Japanese culture). Throughout the book, I notice that there is a huge emphasis on being “zen” or completely in the moment both physically and mentally. For example, Sandersen needs to be free of a cluttered mind and atmosphere in order to stay safe of the Ludovician. This includes being fully involved in the moment and not messing with “live” materials that may trigger memories. The Dictaphone walls act as a place of meditation where he can focus on whatever he is doing without interruption, creating a barrier keeping out any outside streams of information. This could be Steven Hall’s commentary on all the information that is thrown at us on a daily basis, much of which has to be sorted and much of which is unfiltered(especially on the internet) and possibly meaningless. This point is also reinforced through the fact that many of the texts mentioned including Darwin’s The Origin of Species and the information about Ryan at the beginning are considered dispensable. As Eric and Scout travel through the tunnels built by Fidorous, he remarks that “What English I saw ran from complex to incomplete to meaningless.” It is just a jumble of information seemingly put together to mean something, but at the end, misused or misunderstood.

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