Thursday, May 14, 2009

POV in Miss Brill

Point of View in Miss Brill
In Miss Brill, Mansfield, by using limited omniscience, slowly exposes the loneliness that Miss Brill is feeling by revealing a little at a time, sometimes through thoughts, and other times by actions, whilst always leaving the reader with more than one possible understanding. It is used to slowly inform the reader of the situation at hand, which makes the reader want to know more, while at the same time let’s them form their own opinion. It creates a new meaning with each read.
Limited omniscience, which means that the narrator does not take part in the story, yet can enter the mind of a character, was used to create a different gist with every read.The narrator does not offer an explanation for what is happening, but instead leaves it to the reader to figure out. For instance, in the beginning of the novella, the narrator says “And when she breathed, something light and sad – no, not sad, exactly – something gentle seemed to move in her bosom.” (33) The narrator follows solely what Miss Brill is feeling, or perhaps what she wants to feel. It is not made known whether the feeling was indeed a sadness pushed aside, or if it truly was a gentle feeling, not a sad one at all. The limited omniscience is further used to enhance the story. It switches from reality to Miss Brill’s thoughts seamlessly. Mansfield writes “They were all on stage… Even she had a part and came every Sunday. No doubt somebody would have noticed if she hadn’t been there; she was part of the performance after all.” (35) The narrator isn’t telling if anyone really would notice her absence, but simply repeating what Miss Brill thinks, or rather wishes. Perhaps life really is like a play, but the reality is that her absence would not cause a stir, or a mix-up. It is left to be presumed that it is all in her head. Another example of the narrator telling the reader how Miss Brill sees things, but giving no input himself happens after Miss Brill’s rejection at the park. The narrator says “On her way home she usually bought a slice of honeycake at the baker’s. It was her Sunday treat…. But to-day she passed the baker’s boy, climbed the stairs, went into the little dark room —her room like a cupboard… She unclasped the necklet quickly; without looking, laid it inside. But when she put the lid on she thought she heard something crying.” (36) Yet again, the idea that Mansfield wishes to communicate is left up to the reader to decide. Perhaps she did hear something crying. More likely than not, it was her imagination. But either way is an arguable point. By not using an editorial omniscience Mansfield was able to leave everything up for interpretation because there was no influence in ideas from the narrator. In this way, she was able to achieve her meaning.
Limited omniscience is used to let the reader take away their own understanding from the story. The meaning of the story is very general, yet the purpose would be for the reader to be able to interpret it in their own way. Mansfield writes
“Miss Brill was glad she had decided on her fur. The air was motionless, but when you opened your mouth there was just a faint chill, like a chill from a glass of iced water before you sip, and now and again a leaf came drifting down – from nowhere, from the sky. Miss Brill put up her hand and touched the fur. Dear little thing! It was nice to feel it again. She had taken it out of its box that afternoon, shaken out the moth-powder, given it a good brush, and rubbed the life back into the dim little eyes.” (33)”
In this piece, one can see how the narrator can tell what Miss Brill is thinking, yet holds some things back, such as where she was going or what time period it is. The reader is even in the dark as to who Miss Brill truly is. Nothing is known about her life except that she is walking, wearing her fur, and there is a slight chill in the air. That hardly gives the reader something to work with, yet this technique draws the reader in. Fur is often associated with wealth, so one can assume Miss Brill is wealthy, or merely putting on airs. The narrator hasn’t talked about her status though, so it is only something one can presume. As the story continues, Miss Brill wanders into a park. She sits down in what she calls her “special seat” in front of a bandstand, and realizes that it is only she and an older couple who share such a seat. The narrator discloses that “[The elderly couple] did not speak. This was disappointing, for Miss Brill always looked forward to the conversation. She had become really quite expert, she thought, at listening as though she didn’t listen, at sitting in other people’s lives for just a minute…”(34) Slowly letting us deeper into Miss Brill’s life, it seems that Miss Brill is perhaps lonely. She listens in on conversations, but it is not made known as to why. She could be lonely, or she could just be interested. The narrator does not go so deeply into Miss Brill’s thoughts that it is said why Miss Brill listens in. The depth of her unwanted solitude soon surfaces. To some it seems she became slightly delusional in her quest for company, dreaming of how life is just like a play in which she is part. To others it may just be a sad woman with a longing for companionship. Mansfield leaves it up to the reader to decide. Miss Brill, happy in her dreams, blathers on, saying “Yes, we understand, we understand, she thought – though what they understood she didn’t know.” (36) It seems as if she is looking to become a part of something. She wants to feel wholeness with her community, and is searching for it in any aspect of life. By using limited omniscience, the reader slowly begins to understand how lonely Miss Brill truly is. It is achieved by slowly leaking the sadness she feels, and how she had tried to push it aside, but how it really is an underlying factor in every part of her life.
Of course, limited omniscience has a clear effect on the story. This point of view leaves the true meaning to be deciphered by the reader alone. Mansfield set up all the pieces of the story, but in the end, it is the reader who must decide. The effect is one of mystery, leaving the reader asking “Is this really what happened?” The narrator gives us only what Miss Brill thinks, never his own thoughts, leaving the reader to wonder. As Miss Brill sits by the bandstand, she observes a few things happening, and with each one, the band reacts by playing their music accordingly. If something was exciting or happy it would seem that the pace would increase “And the band sounded louder and gayer.”(34) If it was a sad moment, the opposite would occur. One is left to speculate if this was not just in Miss Brill’s mind. Without limited omniscience, the reader would not have the option to guess and formulate their own ideas, making Miss Brill a very unique novella.
Using limited omniscience, Mansfield was able to create a distinctive feel to her story, which manipulated the meaning and idea. It was used to let the reader decide what the real meaning was, and it was also used to reveal small amounts to the reader at a time, which was captivating. All in all, Mansfield’s point was communicated soundly by her choice to use limited omniscience.

Meta for Hemmingway's Box

When I sat down to write this paper, I was at a loss as to what to do. I started trying to write a dialogue, but soon realized it wasn’t coming out as I envisioned. So, I thought about what I liked doing, and decided that telling stories was something I liked doing. Having narrowed my options down, I then decided that since I was so in love with the story of Pandora’s Box, I better get to work on writing it. Hemmingway seemed like a fun writer, since my sentences are usually longer, and his use of dialogue was interesting. Initially, I was just going to write a paper full of short sentences. Then I thought to myself “Why not take it a step further?” I went to his story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” and began to match my story’s structure to his. I decided that it would be a better paper, and would give me a better idea of how he writes. Taking it even further, I began to match up my sentences syllable for syllable. After awhile, that became too difficult, and I felt it wasn’t adding to my story. So I stopped doing that, changed a few things back to the way they were before, and kept writing, while still keeping with the structure. The girls in my workshop group both liked the story I had written, which made me proud. They gave me a few ideas of where to end my sentences to make them sound more Hemmingway- like, and they also suggested I might throw in another paragraph about setting, just to break up some of the dialogue. At first I was a bit conflicted, because to do that would mean I would disrupt my structure, which I had worked so hard on. But then I realized that it wouldn’t really hurt the paper, but would instead add to it. It would keep the style, but at the same time, sound more fluid. I think my strong points were the dialogues, and my weakest point was the pace of the story. I had trouble keeping things moving, and had to constantly remind myself to do so. Though Hemmingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” doesn’t span over too much time, it does move, and I was lacking that. I thought the dialogues were the most fun, so that is probably why they came most easily. I hope that in the future I will be able to write more fluidly, and I will be able to show the span of time with more ease. All in all, I feel as if I have a lot of progress to make, but at the same time I’m content with my writing. I know I will progress this year, and I look forward to that.


In “IND AFF”, Fay Weldon uses her carefully chosen setting to unravel the conflicts in the mind of an unnamed girl who, in the beginning of the story, believes herself to be in love, but slowly comes to the realization, with the help of the actions of Gavrilo Princip, that it is not love she is feeling, but “a mere academic ambition”(207). This short story, which takes place in Sarajevo, the same place Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot, is not only about questioning love, but also about cause and effect. The unnamed woman, who is at first sure of her love for Peter, eventually finds the supposed “love” waning. Also, she worries about the effect her relationship is really having on the marriage of the Pipers. Though she has been assured a catch is a catch even if it is already taken by someone else, the setting, which holds many threads of cause and effect itself, leads to her questions about the effect she will truly have. By using the place where a man who was looked upon, first as villain, but then as hero, Weldon is able to show the conflict going on in the young woman’s mind.
Oftentimes the events during a trip are dependent on the weather. This was the case in Weldon’s story. From the beginning the young woman was saying “This is a sad story. It has to be. It rained in Sarajevo, and we had expected fine weather.”(201) Sarajevo is often associated with the death of the Archduke of Austria. Weldon chose this dark and dreary place, a place where love withers rather than blooms, to send her characters on vacation. They were looking forward to fine weather, but were instead welcomed with plenty of rain. Their plans were ruined, as the nameless girl says “We planned to go on to Montenegro, on the coast, where the fish and the artists come from, to swim and lie in the sun, and recover from the exhaustion caused by the sexual and moral torments of the last year.” (202) The question of love, which is a prominent theme of this essay, was put on the line with this change of events. The plans of the lovers had gone awry, and in turn, they were forced to do something besides lying on the beach or swimming their cares away. This question of love, which may not have been questioned at all, had it been for a different setting, was looked at much more closely when they couple was forced to do everyday things, such as eating at a restaurant, or walking along the streets. By placing them in a bleak and dismal setting, they were forced to look at their relationship without the love making to help. After all, their favorite thing was to “buy bread, cheese, sausage, wine, and go off somewhere in [their] hired car, into the woods or the hills, and picnic and make love.”(203) Their downtime also gave Peter, the unknown woman’s lover, a chance to complain. Looking at the footprints where Princip stood to shoot the bullet that would be the death of the Archduke, Peter complained that he had come such a long way and one “can’t even see the footprints properly, just two undistinguished puddles.”(202) The setting, which yet again played a part right next to the supposed love, was what gave Peter a chance to complain. Granted, he probably would have found something to complain about no matter where he was, but in this case, he found something to complain about that was weighing heavily on the mind of the young woman. He was grumbling about something she was so enamored with. Once again, by taking the characters out of a typical setting where love can grow, they were instead put in a setting where the truth of their love would be challenged. With these tests of love, Weldon was able to show what an environment could do to a relationship.
Princip, the man who killed the Archduke, was at first looked at as a criminal, one who deserved to be locked away for life. Later, he was viewed as a hero; he was seen as the one who freed Austria. The young woman has a thirst for knowledge about this man, asking Peter all about Princip, and about the war. She kept rolling her thoughts on his actions through her mind, saying “‘I suppose Princip’s action couldn’t really have started World War I.’”(203) Her worries about what can cause something else shows another theme of the book: cause and effect. Her wonder, almost more of a hunger, for information about Princip’s actions shows that she is worried about how much of an effect she is going to have on the Piper’s marriage. She also toys with the idea of fate, and what effect that had and will have in both Princip’s and her own situation. After Princip missed the first shot aimed at the Archduke, he went off and got a cup of coffee, only to stand right back up and try again. The woman wonders “Should he have taken his cue from fate, and just sat and finished his coffee, and gone home to his mother?”(205) What about her own fate? When she left, it was “fate—or was it Bosnian willfulness?”(206) Was her fate possibly tied with that of Princip? Perhaps, in the way that he was originally the villain for killing the Archduke, but later became the hero for freeing a country, she too experienced the same thing. She was the villain for pulling a man away from his wife, but in the end she was the hero for letting him go. She realized everything she had with him was really a lie, saying she was “finally aware of how much [she] lied.”(206) Though it was indeed a sad story, as she had originally stated, she was able to leave as the hero.
Weldon incorporated a setting in which an important event happened, which led to the realization of a young woman that what she was doing wasn’t right. Without such a setting, perhaps she never would have realized. By using the setting, Weldon was able to set up a believable situation in which a young woman can finally escape the relationship with the man she thought she loved.

Hemmingway's Box

Hemingway’s Box
It was early and no one had been created for a long time because in the heavens there was much fighting. In the day all was quiet, but at night the gods came together and they liked to sit late because they hardly talked anymore and now at night it was calm and they felt it was time. The lower gods knew that the highest of the gods was a little pensive that day, and while he was a kind king, they knew that if he thought too much he would come up with awful ideas, so they feared the meeting about to take place."You must create a woman from clay," the highest of gods said."Why?""She will be our revenge.""What do you mean?""Nothing.""How can you mean nothing?""She will be beautiful." They sat together in the heavens that were full of tension and jealousy and they looked at one another where they could see the world in each other's eyes where all the humans were fighting, so flawed and ugly. The gods looked at one another and frowned. Their king had left the room and they were alone."I guess we should get a move on," one lower god said."What does it matter when we start? We have all of forever.""We'd better do it soon. He'll be angry if we wait much longer. Out of clay he said?" They looked down below to the earth where the darkness seemed to rustle as if it were anticipating something. The most beautiful goddess in the room stood up."What will I do?"The gods all turned to her. "You can be the model," one said."You'll have to be fast," the goddess said. The gods looked at her. She sighed and sat down."We'll be fast" said a young god to his partner. "We'll do it tomorrow. I never want to do things at night. Why'd he pick tonight to tell us this?"
The king came back in and sat down with the other, and pulled one god aside. "We're going to make her tonight," he said to the crafty god. This god motioned to the goddess. "Come sit" he said. She sat next to him and he began to scoop up earth from beneath him and created a woman like the one before him. "Now the winds can come" he said. The king took the form in his arms. The winds came and blew breath into her at that moment."She's alive now" he said"She is our creation.""Will she be evil?""She shouldn't be. Just mislead.""How will it be done?""We'll each give her a gift.""That will make her mislead?""It will make her desirable.""What's the point?""Destroying those who betrayed us.""Will we send her to earth?""We will. She will marry the brother of our enemy. Let's show her to everyone so they can all give her their gifts."“How will they do that?” “We’ll hold a party. Go invite everyone in the heavens.”“I’ll do it now.”“Get going then.”“I said I was.”“I wasn’t sure. You were taking a long time.”“I wasn’t. I was just about to leave. Then you stopped me. But now I am going. And I’ll tell everyone.”The girl stirred for the first time. The king looked at her, still without any emotion. “Let’s go” he said, speaking with a dull tone as if he were the one who had no emotion. “We have a party to take you to. It’s time to leave.”“Errr…” she mumbled. “Go.” The king stood her up, and pushed her to the gathering hall. By that time, most of the gods had already gotten word of the party, and were gathered in the hall. “Why did you bring us here?” the gods all began to ask. They were sitting in front of a table piled with food. “It’s been so long.”“We have made a woman.”“What is so special about that?”“More to me than you I suppose.”“They are all the same.”“You don’t understand. She will be the downfall of our enemies.”“I don’t understand.”“You don’t,” agreed the king. He did not wish to hurt his citizens, but his plan was forming faster than they could understand.“And you? You have no fear this plan will fail?”“Are you trying to belittle your king?”“No, only to point out its flaws.”“No,” the king said. “Now give this girl what you will.”“She will have beauty, grace and will always be desired”“What will she lack?”“Nothing. She will be cunning and bold. But she will be foolish, mischievous and idle.”“She has everything we have”“No. She will never live forever, and her life will be hard.”“Come on. Send her to earth.”“I am one of those who cannot send someone without a parting gift,” one of the gods said. “Here, take this box. But never open it, no matter how curious you may be.”With that, they sent her off, watching and waiting for what would soon happen on earth.

Everyday Use

Everyday Use
Walker, contrasting the reality of one true culture to that of the stereotyped culture Mama’s daughter Dee has begun to live, develops her characterization by revealing the different parts of each character slowly, so the contrast grows more with each new piece of knowledge. Mama and Maggie both accept their culture, but they see that it isn’t just what stories tell, and know that it is more about how they live every day. They work hard and take joy in simple things such as each other and sitting in their yard. Dee, meanwhile, is trying to live out a stereotype of an African woman. She wears dresses in bright colors, and lots of dangling jewelry. As the story begins, little is known about Dee, Maggie, or Mama. Mama slowly introduces herself as a hard working woman. Later, Maggie’s character is slowly revealed as a shy worker. Dee seems questionable at first, but soon becomes a character that is disliked. By revealing her character’s personalities so slowly, Walker’s view of a true views a stereotyped culture was formed.
In the beginning of Walker’s story, little is known of Mama and Maggie. Slowly Walker develops their characters. She has Mama reveal how hard of a worker she is. Mama sums up her personality in one monologue. She says she is a “large, big-boned woman with rough man-working hands.” (91) Mama’s character is one that is clearly a hard worker, who has probably done hard labor her whole life. She is very simple in her ways also, saying “Who ever knew a Johnson with a quick tongue?” (91) Her character was developed quickly. Walker did this intentionally to show the genuineness of Mama’s character. Maggie on the other hand, was developed throughout the story more slowly. In the beginning, she was painfully shy. Mama said how “Maggie will be nervous until after her sister goes…” (91) This development of her character is used to show the conflict between the sisters, which is most visible in the beginning of the story. Mama said “I used to think [Dee] hated Maggie too.” (92) Here, there is a development of Dee’s character. It is thrown out casually, almost as if the reader should pass by it without much thought. Yet, in the next breath Mama took back what she said about Dee hating Maggie, saying that it was only before they raised the money for Dee to go to school that she ever thought Dee hated Maggie. Walker develops a indecisive view of Dee. She does this to puzzle the reader in a way, because she wants the reader to be unsure of Dee’s character. She seems quite different from Maggie and Mama, yet Mama seems to be quite taken by her. In the beginning, Walker keeps Maggie and Dee’s characters muddy, making it unclear where they stand and who they are. Mama, on the other hand, has been laid out very neatly. By knowing who Mama is and where she stands, the reader can understand the conflict that follows, and they can understand why she acts the way she does. Walker developed her so well for this reason. On the other hand, she left the characters of Dee and Maggie underdeveloped so that she could add intensity later on.
When Dee arrives in Mama’s home, she comes like tornado. Her true character is developed during this part of the story. Maggie and Mama both stay very similar to the beginning of the story with Mama just wanting to make Dee happy and proud, while Maggie stays off to the side. Dee comes driving up in a car, and gets out wearing a “dress so loud it hurts [Mama’s] eyes,” (93) along with earrings that hang to her shoulders, and bracelets that jingle. Her character, which was before only known as a girl who liked to dress with style, has now been shown as a woman who is dressing in stereotypical African clothing, but more over the top. Walker took Dee from a girl with her own style, and almost instantly developed her into this woman who was shouting in Swahili, and running through the house taking Mama’s possessions. This development was used to show the true nature of Dee, and how her wants were all spur of the moment, another trend. Her excitement over everything handmade was seen as fake, as she even said herself “‘I never knew how lovely these benches are.’”(95) She had paid no attention to them before, but was suddenly intent on everything old and handmade. This development was made by showing how eager she was over everything, yet how she knew nothing of where it truly came from. It was Maggie who filled in all the details. Maggie didn’t flaunt her heritage, yet she knew where things came from, and why they were made. Mama stays standoffish, not wanting to displease Dee. At first, she gave her what she wanted, whatever it was. Dee asked for the butter churn, even though it was clearly being used, “the milk in it clabber…”(95) Mama, still wanting to please her daughter, agreed to give it to her. Walker developed Dee during this part of the story, while leaving the others in a state of sameness so she could show the difference in the family, as the rift between Mama and Dee slowly began to form.
Towards the end of the book, Walker develops each of the characters drastically. Dee loses her façade of a calm and happy woman, and becomes angry when Mama finally stands up to her. The conversation that took place with Dee and Mama over the quilts was where the development really took place. Walker gives Mama firmness to her tone, while at the same time; she keeps some of her love for Dee. She is still clearly simple, and kind, yet knows what she wants, saying “‘Why don’t you take one or two of the [other quilts.]… These old things were just done by me and Big Dee from some tops your grandma pieced before she died.’”(96) Dee quickly breaks down, yelling about how she doesn’t want just any old quilt, but instead prefers the ones that were handmade. Maggie pops out, saying that Dee can have the quilts, which shows that her development has yet to take place. Yet Mama becomes insistent, sticking up for Maggie for the first time. Walker saved this relationship between Mama and Maggie for the very last part of the story, making the contrast between her and Dee sharper. Dee, who can’t accept her family because of her belief that they don’t accept or understand their heritage, was turned down by the mother who had never told her no. Maggie, who was inspired by her Mama sticking up for her, was finally developed into a less frightened being. When Dee left “Maggie smiled… But a real smile, not scared.”(97) She was finally able to break out of her shell. The stereotype Dee was living was pushed away by Mama and Maggie, and they were able to hold onto the true meaning of their heritage.
Walker slowly developed each character in a way that would make the conflict between each character grow with every new piece of knowledge. Maggie, rejected before, was finally able to see that her mother loved her, while Dee came parading in with her outlandish ideas about her culture, and was sent right back out the door in the same fashion. Though in the beginning, little was known about the characters, by the end, Walker gave enough information so that the reader can understand the relationship between them all a little better.

Less Condensed College Essay

Can You Hear Me Now?
“Happy Birthday!” Screams of campers wishing me well pierced the woods. Yet, somehow, they failed to reach my ears. “Kayla. They’re talking to you,” a friend would gently tell me. “Oh! What’d they say?” By the time their greetings had been relayed to me though, it was too late, and my thanks were met instead with a cold smile, or an even colder shoulder. “She’s so stuck up.” Ouch. I heard that one.
What those I don’t know well don’t know is that I don’t hear well. My hearing is not completely lost, but there is a dramatic difference in what I hear, compared to what most others can hear. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I learned monthly trips to the ear doctor were not something everyone did. Simple things, such as alarm clocks, and bird chirps escape me. I’ve learned how to compensate with reading lips, but when I don’t realize someone is talking to me, I can’t pay attention.
So, why won’t I get a hearing aid? Or, more importantly, how has not getting one made me stronger? Firstly, I won’t get a hearing aid for the sole fact that they bother me. Every six months I’m stuck in a booth so small that it makes my heart race with headphones on my ears and a doctor, frowning, while she looks in on me. “Raise your hand when you hear the beep.” After the first few beeps, my face becomes twisted in frustration because I just don’t hear it. But a few years ago, she took me out of the booth, and told me she’d like me to look at hearing aids. I burst into tears. The same happened, of course, when my mom happily informed me she had scheduled an appointment for a fitting. Needless to say, that appointment didn’t end in much more than an angry Kayla, and an even angrier Mom. But, on the flip side, losing my hearing has shown me a few things. When I was put into French class, I panicked. “How will I understand French if I can hardly understand some words in English?” I asked myself. I decided right then and there that I would suck up my fear of embarrassment and tell the teacher my predicament. Of course when I told her, the world didn’t spin off its axis, nor did every one come running into the room to point and laugh. She was very understanding, and made sure to help with anything she could. By deciding to tell, I helped myself instead of hurting myself. Another thing I learned is that I can be anything or anyone I want to be, no matter how well I hear. Unless I wanted to be an astronaut (which I never desired to become) my dreams are still possible with my hearing loss.
The most important thing I learned is that I’m no weaker than anyone else. Figuring out ways to hear, and overcoming obstacles that I face day to day has challenged me, and made me realize my full capacity. Writing has been something that I’ve been able to turn to, no matter what the day was like. I can turn my sadness into a comedy, or face life through a poem, dripping with truths. I know that at the end of the day I will still be me, even if I missed a few words in the conversation. But no matter what I hear, and what I don’t, I’m still a strong, capable, and hard-working person. Really, that’s all that matters.

Francesca Lia Block Essay

Home is where the heart is, and in the case of Francesca Lia Block, that is especially true. Block’s writing is clearly influenced by her years spent in Los Angeles, from a star- struck childhood, onto feelings of inadequacy as a teen, and finally coming into terms with her own skin in adulthood. She shows the crazy L.A. lifestyle that she experienced through story-telling, imagery, and a lack of punctuation. In each poem, she tells a story. Sometimes the story is separate from everything before it, and it will eventually all weave together, but other times she uses her poems as if they were chapters in a book. Her use of imagery adds depth to her poems, and helps the reader see exactly how she saw Los Angeles throughout her life. Los Angeles to her is beautiful, free, and torn, all at once. The lack of punctuation in almost all of her poems is another technique that helps the reader better understand how she felt growing up: chaotic, inferior, and sometimes broken.
Francesca Lia Block was born January 3, 1962 in Los Angeles, which she lovingly refers to as “Shangri-L.A.”(Wikipedia) She lived there all her life, leaving only in her college years to attend UC Berkeley. She missed her home town so badly; that it was there she wrote her first book to be published. But before that, Block had written many other stories. In an interview, Block said “I wrote poetry when I was very little. I was encouraged because my mom wrote down a lot of what I said and made me feel that it was valuable.” (Alloy Media and Marketing) Her mom wasn’t the only one to encourage her to write though. Her father would often read her Greek mythology and other fairy tales. (Maughan, Shannon) Clearly, her mother and father played a big part in her writing career, yet there was another factor that helped her along the way. That was her beloved L.A. In her poems, the city shines through, both the good and the bad. Even today, she still loves it, claiming in an interview “I like downtown Culver City--the Culver Hotel, where the munchkins lived while filming Wizard of Oz, M Cafe, Tender Greens…” and her list goes on. (Asharya, Barker, Faulds). Her writing always has a touch of magic, just like her life. She lives with her children in a pink cottage in L.A. along with their dog, Vincent Van Go-go Boots. (Language Is A Virus)
In “Psyche in a Dress” Block works her mythological magic, showing what Los Angeles is like through the eyes of a teenager who feels average compared to all the beautiful starlets. Echo, who is the speaker in the poem, says that her father put her in the film Narcissus because he “saw that [she] was broken.”(Echo 19) Her father, the director, often refers to her as his muse, yet she feels unworthy after losing the man she loves. Block puts the reader right in Echo’s shoes, portraying the inadequacy she feels by saying “The ladies frowned at my skin/ turned my face this way and that/ in the harsh lights/ ‘What are you eating?’(19) they asked me” Echo is perceived as a regular girl, with a few facial flaws here and there, not ugly, yet not amazingly pretty. Block portrays her in this light to show what the average teenager goes through when they are surrounded by above average girls on a daily basis. She lived in city of stars, and consequently felt inadequate because of it. She creates the feelings of inadequacy with her characters, who are either very vulnerable, like Echo, or very self-assured, like Narcissus, an actor Echo works with. Though Echo has gone through her own special set of problems, she still is tied to the reader through her feelings of insufficiency and failure. Almost everyone has felt this way at some time, and Block taps into that, using her story-telling skills to build her characters. Echo felt as if she was not worthy of anything, and yet her father still found a place for her. Echo says “He saw that I was broken/ and he thought it might work well for his next project”(19). Depending on how this particular line is read, his finding a place for her could be a positive or negative situation. On one hand, it could mean that she is accepted no matter what she looks like, while on the other hand, it could show that her father is exploiting her for his own selfish wants to make a movie. This line mirrors the real Los Angeles that Block is trying to show in her poems. Though it is the city of angels, there is still always a possible dark side. Echo later mentions that she “had just inherited [her] father’s complexion”(19). Just like her father can be seen in two lights, so can Echo, as well as any other female. Block shows that teenagers can inflict the same hurt or extend the same comfort the same way any other adult can.
In the play Echo is taking place in, she is supposed to vanish into nothing but a voice. Here, Block depicts what a girl who sees herself as nothing more than average may feel like. Her name also foreshadows this event. She will become nothing but an echo. She is described as a regular person is described, yet her co-star, Narcissus, is described as if he were a building or an object. He has “gold ringlets/ chiseled features/ and a body like a temple”(21). Block shows that often the extremely pretty ones are the ones that have nothing inside, much like an unfinished building. Also, like stone “You will never find your reflection” in his eyes. (21) Echo feared having to spend time with Narcissus, yet she was forced to go to dinner with him. Echo described the place as having “a bar of red-veined marble/ with spigots spurting wine like blood.”(21) This imagery brings to mind monsters and vampires, and Block seems to have thought the same thing, for she next writes “A woman was covertly nibbling the petals [of the lilies]/ Beautiful people sat staring at themselves in the mirrors/ Their twins emerged out of glass pools/ to have sex with them on the tabletops”(22) Block is yet again showing that beautiful people do not always have beautiful souls. Echo and Narcissus dine in a place that resembles blood-filled veins, and they sit among the gorgeous ones, yet everyone is too busy making love to their reflections to notice that “the food had no scent”(22) In the beginning of the poem, Block writes with the fears of a teenager who feels insufficient. Yet, she makes a switch when Echo and Narcissus go to dinner, and suddenly begins writing as an adult who is comfortable in her own skin. Though Echo still feels the same, Block gives the reader enough information to know that there is no reason to feel uncomfortable around the people Echo is comparing herself against. Though L.A. and its people are beautiful, the inside may not always be so.
In “How to (Un) Cage A Girl” Block shows the influence Los Angeles has on teenagers. The speaker is telling a story of “two girls/ who were really bored” and went out to have a night of fun. (How to (Un) Cage A Girl 36) These girls wore their shortest shorts and highest heels in order to make themselves attractive. After living in L.A., they want to dress like stars, even if it means “their toes bleed”(36). Block describes L.A. as “the shiny city”(36). The city is no longer seen in the same light as it was for Echo, but instead it is something beautiful to be admired. Yet, while the girls are out, they meet a vampire. He was living in this bright and beautiful city, yet in order to survive, vampires need darkness. Block hints that the city must be darker than the girls realize at first. Though the begged for him to drink their blood, he wouldn’t. Here, Block imparts a good lesson to all girls who want to live forever. The vampire chides “Oh no oh no…/ it might look fun but it actually kind of sucks”(36) He points out that life would be even more boring than it already was, even though they are living in the city of lights. Block shows that even though she lives in a city swarming with stars and clubs, life is not always going to be interesting. We are not meant to live forever, because one day everything else will die, and we would be alone. After the girls had a drink, they went home on bleeding feet, the same on the outside as they had gone, yet more beautiful on the inside. They understood what it would be like to be alone, and they knew that no amount of fun in the world was worth it. The Los Angeles they knew would be gone , wiped away forever, and they would be the only ones left. Yet at the same time, they still wished the vampire would come back. Block captures the essence of teenage girls perfectly. Though they did what the vampire advised and turned out the lights to help the planet, they still secretly wished that the vampire would come back. Block added that they would only do this when they were alone in their beds, which is a detail that makes the most difference. She shows what teenage girls do and feel by creating this casual dialogue that takes no time to pause between thoughts. She writes as if she was a teen girl herself, talking to another friend. Through doing this, she is able to relate to the reader.
Though Block grew up in a different setting than most teenagers, she was still able to experience the same emotions almost everyone faces. She brings her poems to life with her ability to capture emotions, and make them relatable to everyone. Even though she lived in a crazy city, she made the best of it, and was able to turn her problems and fears into poetry for young adults.

Works Cited

Alloy Media and Marketing. "Spotlight." gURL. 8 November 2008 .
This interview with Block covers topics such as why Block enjoys writing, and what high school was like for her. There are also questions about what she enjoys doing besides writing, as well as what she likes and dislikes the most about writing. She also discusses how she goes about writing a novel.
Asharya, Kat, Liz Barker and Laura Faulds. "No Good For Me Interview." 8 December 2008. No Good For Me. 14 December 2008 .
This interview was especially interesting, as it stayed away from the typical questions interviewers ask. Some of the questions were what her spirit animal was, how music plays a part in her writing, and what she was currently working on. FLB was very open to all the questions, and she also showed her "Weetzie" side. (Weetzie is a character from the first book she wrote, who she has often been compared to.) She claimed to love the hotel where the Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz stayed while filming.
Block, Francesca Lia. "How To (Un) Cage A Girl." vampire in the city of lost. New York: Harper Collins, 2008. 36-38.
Block, Francesca Lia. "Psyche in a Dress.” Echo. New York: Harper Collins, 2006. 19-23.
Language Is A Virus. "Language is a Virus: Francesca Lia Block Shrine." 2008. Language is a Virus. November 2008 .
This website has a whole plethora of information. It has writings that FLB has done, but are not found in books, her biography, fan clubs, interviews, and other related topics. It's a good place to find other's opinions on her work, but it also has some real facts from FLB.
Maughan, Shannon. "Author Profile: Francesca Lia Block." 10 March 2000. Teen Reads. 8 November 2008 .
Another interview with FLB reveals that her love for Greek myths comes from her father. He read them to her often when she was little. She always knew she wanted to be a writer, and shares this fact, along with her worries when her books were first published. Since she deals with topics that were a bit risqué for her time, she got a lot of criticism. Yet her books won many dedicated fans.
"Francesca Lia Block." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. November 5, 2008. November 8, 2008. .
This is just the basics of FLB’s background, and where she is today. She lives with her two children, and two dogs.

Works Consulted
Block, Francesca Lia. Excerpt of “How To (Un) Cage A Girl” Perf. Francesca Lia Block. Book Soup, Los Angeles. 19 November 2008. 14 December 2008.
Block reading from her new book, “How to (Un)Cage A Girl”. The reading takes place in Los Angeles on November 15, 2008, at Book Soup. It is about 10 minutes long, and she reads and discusses a few of the poems, as well as the format of her book.
Harper Collins. "Harper Childrens: Francesca Lia Block." November 2008. Harper Children's Website. 8 November 2008 .
This site has an interview with FLB, which mentions that Block's love of Greek mythology stems from her childhood. It also explains that she was influenced by One Hundred Years of Solitude, and the half grounded reality it took place in. She was also influenced by her mother and father, the painter and poet.
Block, Francesca Lia, Elizabeth Matson and Christian Lassen. Francesca Lia Block's Official Website. November 2008. November 2008 .
This website has all of FLB's books listed, along with some books she is currently working on. It has her biography, and classes she is teaching. This site is good for general information about her.
Platzner, Rebecca. 1998. ALAN Review. 8 November 2008 .
This article is written by a woman who compared Block's stories to a collage. She says she can imagine Block beginning her stories with one character, and slowly developing the rest of the story, so that they are all connected in a few ways.
Block, Francesca Lia. "Myspace-Francesca Lia." 8 November 2008. Myspace . 8 November 2008 .
FLB's myspace is much like any other person's. She filled in all her interests, wrote some poetry she had been working on, and updates it constantly with books she is writing or will be writing. It shows how dedicated her fans are, and also shows that she is willing to talk to them. They seem to be having some conversations on her comment page.

Copies of Francesca Lia Block’s Poems


The film my father put me in was called Narcissus
He saw that I was broken
and he thought it might work well for his next project

I went to the set without any makeup
The ladies frowned at my skin
turned my face this way and that
in the harsh lights

“What are you eating?” they asked me
“Dairy? Sugar?”
“Do you get any sleep?”
“Supplements? Facials?”
“You’ve got to start taking care of yourself”

I shrugged
I said I was okay
I had just inherited my father’s complexion
And now of course
I didn’t have the benefit of sex with a god every night

At least in this film no one gets raped, mutilated
or murdered
Unless you count vanishing as murder
It’s what you assume in the world these days
when someone disappears
I was supposed to vanish
turn into a voice

Narcissus came to the first reading late
He didn’t apologize
My father didn’t say anything
Anyone else
he’d have fired on the spot
Instead he just scowled
at me
I turned away so he couldn’t see

Narcissus had long, gold ringlets
chiseled features
and a body like a temple
Don’t look too deeply into his eyes, though
You will never find your reflection

I’ll probably be fine if he doesn’t touch me
I told myself
But that was not my father’s plan

Narcissus and I went out for dinner
My father set it up
There was a bar of red-veined marble
with spigots spurting wine like blood
Stargazer lilies stained the white linen tablecloths
with their rusty powder
A woman was covertly nibbling the petals
The food had no scent
Beautiful people sat staring at themselves in the mirrors
Their twins emerged out of glass pools
to have sex with them on the tabletops
In the candlelight I wondered
if Narcissus might find me attractive
Not that I cared
Love had already left me

I had on makeup and a blue satin chinoiserie dress
my mother’s jewels—
a double strand of pearls and her sapphire ring
I imagined her teeth, her eyes

I asked Narcissus about himself
I didn’t expect him to say anything interesting
but when he started talking I fell
under his spell
Instead of touching parts of my mother
I watched Narcissus’s full lips move over his white teeth
His eyes were pools shattered by the sunlight
and his lashes brushed his cheekbones
If he was looking at his reflection
I couldn’t see

vampire in the city of lost

once there were these two girls
who were really bored
and they put on their shortest skirts
and highest heels
the ones that made their toes bleed
and they applied perfume to all their pulse points
and they went out into the shiny city
where they met this tall vampire with a shaved head
and a body tattooed with the stories of the centuries
and the face of a matinee idol
please please drink our blood they begged
tossing their hair away from their long swan necks
please make us into the immortal dead
and the vampire said
oh no oh no you silly girls
that is not really what you want
it might look fun but it actually kind of sucks
be we are bored, said the girls
we want to wear the fashions of the future
we want to have countless lovers
and most of all we want to stay young and beautiful
but the vampire gave the girls a lecture
about global warming
and the unfathomable hours of the walking dead
if you think you’re bored now! he said
he bought them kir royales and kissed them chastely
on the lips
so that their mouths went numb and tingly
for a moment
and then he left
the girls hobbled home on their bleeding feet
and they thought about that handsome vampire
sitting up in a tree
watching the deserts flame around him
or sailing on a melting ice floe
while the polar bears died
and the girls were glad to be alive
and they were glad they would eventually die
and after that they always turned off
all the lightbulbs in the house
when they went to bed
hoping they were helping the planet
and, secretly cloaked in the darkness,
that the vampire would come back

My (condensed) College Essay

“Happy Birthday!” Screams of campers wishing me well pierced the woods. Yet, somehow, they failed to reach my ears. “Kayla. They’re talking to you,” a friend would gently tell me. “Oh! What’d they say?” By the time their greetings had been relayed to me though, it was too late, and my thanks were met instead with a cold smile, or an even colder shoulder. “She’s so stuck up.” Ouch. I heard that one.
What those I don’t know well aren’t aware of is that I can’t hear well. My hearing is not completely lost, but there is a dramatic difference in what I hear, compared to what most others can hear. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I learned monthly trips to the ear doctor were not something everyone did. Simple things, such as alarm clocks, and bird chirps escape me. I’ve learned how to compensate with reading lips, but when I don’t realize someone is talking to me, I can’t pay attention.
Though I have not yet decided if a hearing aid is right for me, the most important thing I learned is that I’m no weaker than anyone else. Figuring out ways to hear, and overcoming obstacles that I face day to day has challenged me, and made me realize my full capacity. I’ve realized that I can be a strong leader, because I have had to speak up for myself all my life, and I now know how to lead others. I volunteer to help others, because I have some understanding of what it is like to feel as if no one could possibly understand how different they feel. Being able to help people takes the focus off myself, and makes me realize just how lucky I am. At least I can take comfort in knowing that at the end of the day I will still be me, even if I missed a few words in the conversation. No matter what I hear, and what I don’t, I’m still a strong, capable, and hard-working person. Really, that’s all that matters.