Before we get started on this week’s discussion, a few housekeeping items.
- First off, remember that on Monday we’ll be joined by Margaret Jull Costa, translator of Your Face Tomorrow. She’s graciously agreed to answer questions in the comments, so think up some good questions over the weekend and be ready with them on Monday.
- This week we read pp. 234 – 316, and next week we’re going to be finishing Vol 1. Congrats to everyone who has made it this far! I hope everyone is enjoying the book. I am. Remember, you can see the full schedule right here.
- Big thanks to Andrew Seal for filling in last week with an excellent post while I was traveling. If anyone else wants to take a shot at doing a post, be in touch with me.
So, some thoughts on this week’s reading:
- First off, how do people feel about the pace? I generally don’t read a book this slowly, but I’m kind of liking the ability to truly savor YFT, and the necessary re-reading created by such a slow path through the book. How do other people feel? is this enhancing the experience for you?
- On page 236 Wheeler muses, “Who knows, maybe that’s partly why we die: because everything we’ve experienced is reduced to nothing, and then even our memories languish and fade. First it’s our personal experiences, then its our memories.” This, to me, is a huge argument in favor of books, and even in favor of photos and videos. Essentially, other than oral traditions these are the only ways to pass down human memory through the generation, and so they seem hugely important, and to strike a huge argument for communication, contra Deza in the book’s opening pages.
- If anyone out there is a native speaker of Spanish, I wonder what you make of Deza claiming that he “mentally uses” usted when addressing Wheeler in English.  Is this something bilingual Spanish-speakers do when conversing in a language that doesn’t distinguish between intimate and formal forms of you? I bring it up since Deza’s remarks imply that language has a substantial capacity to influence how we think, something that’s crucial to this story, as well as a particular theme of George Orwell, whom we’ve seen in these pages already, and who seems to hover over YFT in certain ways. I also think that this business is interesting in conjunction with another thing Deza says: “in other languages one always remembers erms that are no longer in use or are unknown to native speakers.” 
- What did people make of Wheeler’s long speech [240-5] about the necios, that is, the people who purposely know nothing, as well as his whole business about contemporary Western humanity’s fury over not being able to manipulate the past and it’s disbelief that anything could have been better in a prior era? (And his whole thing about the futility of reparations.) I admit being a little conflicted about it. Some of this strikes me as very true, but other parts strike me as interesting–and perhaps even accurate to Wheeler’s character–but ultimately not things I can agree are accurate.
- I’m going to point out Deza’s remark: “I am myself my own fever and pain. . . . I must be.”  This seems like a rather crucial remark to keep in mind.
- In the second half of this section, we get a very lengthy set of scenes that disclose the nature of Deza’s work, which I view as very much the same as a fiction writer. I base this mostly in Deza’s remark that “there comes a point when it doesn’t much matter whether you get things right, especially since in my work this was rarely verifiable.”  Essentially, Deza and his coworkers are inventing reality and using it as the basis for very serious decisions in the world. This strikes me as incredible hubris, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t eventually catch up with them. Though I also think there is a certain implication that most of us try to create these realities as well, albeit on a smaller scale; nonetheless, this would imply that we’re exhibiting a certain amount of hubris in thinking we can define reality in our own small ways.
- Lets talk for a second about dog toes. Was I the only one who was sure that Marias had his math wrong when he claimed that dogs have 18 toes, but that the three-legged dog would have lost 4 toes? Wouldn’t that by 16 toes total (4 toes x 4 legs = 16). Well, I looked it up, an dogs have 5 toes on their hing paws, and 4 on their fore paws.
- Did anyone else notice how toward the end of this section, as Deza maps back to his encounter with Wheeler after the party, Wheeler’s voice starts to get swallowed up by Deza’s consciousness? That is, Deza starts to report Wheeler’s speech again toward the end of this section, but he does it without quotation marks or much other sign that this is what he’s doing. This is incredibly Bernhardian.
- What did I miss? What other quotes should I be looking at here?
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