lunes, 30 de junio de 2014

Review: Joe by Larry Brown

In Larry Brown’s Joe, many characters, including Joe and Wade, have attributes and actions that readers might dislike. Other characters, particularly the women, seem to serve a function in the narrative: sex, domestic work, and guidance. This journal will start by looking at hierarchal roles. 

The first portrait readers get is “two girls and [a] woman” whose security is reduced to “paper sacks” that contain their “possessions” (Brown 1).

The women are not named until thirty-four pages later. The men, however, get names. The first male character readers meet is Wade, who is carrying nothing. Wade is the patriarch of the family, and he uses his voice and violence to keep this role.

Although Wade assumes this role, he does not do it too successfully because one daughter, Fay, becomes recalcitrant, stands up to him, and walks away from the family.

Wade’s son, Gary, does what he is told and does not stand up to his tyrannical father; however, as Gary becomes a member of society, he drifts away from Wade.

His wife, who I don’t think is ever given a name, refuses to embark out on her own, and she does all the traditionally female orientated work while her husband tries to provide food for the family.

The other male character, Joe, can be paralleled with Wade: both embody traditional gender hierarchies, both live outside the law, both like their alcohol, both are not hard workers.

Traditional gender structures, the male as dominate and the female as submissive, are apparent in this novel.

Readers first perceive Wade’s dominant role when he abuses his family members, supports the family with stolen money, refuses to engage in any type of work that would further the family.

 Wade’s exists as the lazy, drunken tyrant. Wade is not the only male character who is dominant in situations; Joe upholds this gender structure too. Readers perceive the gender structure when Joe is ordering Connie to get him drinks and do domestic work, trying to give Charlotte money, giving his daughter money.

 Even though Joe always has money, Joe is reluctant to do hard work in the field: “he lay down on the seat with his cap over his eyes and his feet out the door. Before many minutes had passed he was asleep” (Brown 23). This can be paralleled with Wade’s efficiency and work ethic: “it took one man working nearly full time just to keep this reluctant tree-killer watered,” (127) and when the boss is not around, he “stepped behind a bush and sat down” (Brown 128). Even though similarities exist, one substantial difference exits: Joe advocates capitalism.

Joe’s capitalist and hedonistic ways influence Gary. Gary starts the novel as a boy who rambles on edge of civilization with his family.

As the novel progresses, Gary becomes integrated into society: he secures a job, he establishes positive relations with people, he supports local businesses.

Gary’s main dilemma is that he can’t discern business from courtesy/ friendship. For Gary, everything is a business transaction; for example, when Gary is thirsty, he asks to buy a beer from Joe. Joe’s response, “Friends don’t buy things from one another” (Brown 259). Even though Joe utters this remark, he contradicts himself a couple sentences later because he still wants to sell the truck to Gary. 

At the end of this conversation, readers learn that Gary serves as Joe’s confidant. Joe exposes to Gary that he spent time in jail once before for assaulting police officers. The noteworthy point is that “it wasn’t the first time...Probably won’t be the last” (Brown 253). Joe can’t escape his past actions,  nor can he escape the mentality that he is recalcitrant in certain situations. Thus, when Joe takes the law into his own hands at the end of the novel, and Brown refuses to portray the consequences of his action, readers can assume Joe is affirming his statement that he’ll go back to jail.

Joe is not the only character that can’t escape his past; Gary is confronted with this problem too. The difference is that Gary’s last name is not favorable with some local people because his father tainted it. Gary finds this out when he is taking a break with a couple farmers who he is throwing hay for. The farmers learn that Gary is a Jones, and they don’t want to be associated with any Jones, so they pay Gary his money and take away his job. Even though Gary is a sovereign individual who is separate from his father, he can’t escape the past.

Finally, one thing is left to address in this journal: Brown likes to use participial phrases. The prolific use of these phrases draws attention to them, just as McCarthy’s minimal punctuation in Child of God and Joyce’s bizarre punctuation and spellings and anagrams in Finnegan’s Wake and Hemingway’s polysyndeton and parataxis in his novels. Brown’s participial phrases create a distinct voice for the narrator, but the most distinct voice in Brown’s fiction is the characters’ dialogue. No two characters sound the same. Whether Wade is lying to achieve his own ends,  Joe is acting as boss, or Fay is being rebellious, each character is distinct.
There is one question left that I can’t answer. Why does Brown make so many references to Coke?  Is he getting an endorsement from them?

Works Cited
Brown, Larry. Joe. New York: Warner Books, 1991.

jueves, 26 de junio de 2014

Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook Review


Let's review the Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook: Real Food for Real Life book.

The Paleolithic diet – or simply paleo – is widely popular for its very simple principle. It pays homage to our ancestors from the Stone Age by mimicking their food-hunting decisions: you eat what you find as they are. Meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are cooked as is, with minimal alterations on flavor and process to avoid extra calories and fat, which are among the causes of obesity nowadays. This means no grains, dairy and sugar, among others, as the focus of the paleo diet (and of our ancestors) is on proteins to get them through the day. No need to be frenzied with counting calories, either – what you eat is surely full of easy-to-burn bits and pieces for your body.

Though it may sound very easy, making the shift towards paleo dieting isn’t that convenient. You can't just cook meat in the microwave and need to use stainless steel, ceramic, or nonstick cookware or use a good pressure cooker.

The drastic change in a family member’s food preferences can greatly affect family mealtime dynamics, leaving a gnawing gap every day on the dinner table. Any caring household cooks their suppers in one go, with enough hearty servings to fill each of their plates. Imagine if one of them decides to follow the paleo diet. Not only will he be a sore thumb in the midst of the table, but it will also be an added burden for the one preparing their meals every day. Instead of one batch of cooking, extra effort has to be exerted to prepare a separate dish for one person. To add, it isn’t exactly encouraging to the dieting person to see himself eating a different meal as the rest of his family. The difference is so striking that it cannot be missed – a problem that Sarah Fragoso’s book addresses quite well.

The Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook: Real Food for Real Life features recipes adhering to the diet that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Fragoso goes the extra mile to make following the paleo lifestyle more inclusive and appetizing. Sharing sumptuous family meals daily is definitely important, as well as keeping everyone healthy. Through this book, she shows that the two can go together without compromising quality bonding time in the kitchen and dining room of every household.

Fragoso takes time to explain the concepts of the paleo diet, going straight to the point with an opening chapter for an introduction and food guide. This family cookbook is filled with more than 80 recipes patterned after the paleo diet guidelines, and comes with home cooking instructions for preparing these meals. The book ensures time and cost efficiency in meal planning and cooking, as it also offers tips on how to save time and money with every meal. It also gives the reader ideas as to where to buy ingredients, especially those that are not so common in grocery stores.

A special chapter designed to help kids understand the concepts of paleo dieting is something to rave about this book. It acknowledges the importance of children within the family, as they are often the picky ones in every meal. This cookbook assists home managers on how to explain the suddenly “plain” food choices from the more common pasta-and-pie dinners they used to have.

The Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook: Real Food for Real Life does a great job of making paleo diet appetizing and easy, as making the choice to shift dieting patterns appears simple and convenient. Its specific take on being a family cookbook makes it more special, as it acknowledges the importance of family bonding over shared meals. Healthy diet doesn’t always have to be a personal burden; instead, it can be a shared family quality.

The cookbook is as complete as it can be: it has recipes for sauces, soups and stews, meat, egg, and salads, to name a few. It even offers a one-week meal plan to serve as a guide for home managers applying the paleo diet for the whole family. The recipes aren’t limited to dinners too, as there are recipes for snacks and side meals for the entire day.  Some lunchbox ideas are also included here. This cookbook is a family’s best bet towards making the shift to paleo diet and maintaining it, keeping every member lean, agile and fit as our Stone Age ancestors.

martes, 3 de junio de 2014

Review of Mama Day

Relativity. Subjectivity. These two words seem to permeate Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day. In her novel, the narration provides readers with multiple viewpoints. These viewpoints include Ophelia/ Cocoa and George and an omniscient narrator.

Ophelia/Cocoa and George’s viewpoints are done in first person narration and seem apt because readers see the subjective nuances of each character.

The omniscient third person narrator who discloses the events that happen in Willow Springs seems apt too because that type of narration provides a certain amount of credibility for what happens in a place that is in “another world” (175). This narrator provides Miranda’s thoughts, but the narrator changes viewpoints to the subjective I when providing these thoughts.

This can throw a reader off guard as she or he tries to figure out who the pronoun is. Nevertheless, the multiple viewpoints are effective because they provide no absolute truth; the truth is distorted through each retelling, just as Cocoa and George’s fight in Willow Springs is distorted by Bernice: “[George] calls you filthy names, knocks you over a chair, and then hits you in the head with a vase” (144).


Willow Springs is a back-woodsy place that is populated with strange characters.

The strangest character is Miranda/Mama Day. Miranda’s name seems significant: it is based on the Latin verb miro or miror. Both have roughly the same definition: to wonder at, to marvel. Miranda creates a sort of mystery, something to marvel, to wonder, at by using mysterious medicine/herbs from the natural world and being a quasi-witch-like figure.

She is also mysterious because of her excessive age and the lightning storm, which we are suppose to believe she created.  Miranda’s actions bring to mind another Latin phrase: Post hoc ergo propter hoc, which translates after this therefore because of this. This means that because one thing happens after another, the first event was a cause of the second event. For example, it is not logical to say that Bernice’s “womb is good and strong–all my [Miranda’s] star grass and red raspberry tea–sized right, shaped right, moves about like it should” (76). The logic that follows is this: Because Bernice used Miranda’s “star grass” and tea, her womb, therefore, is in good shape. This logic is fallacious because the womb could have been strong to start with or it could have gradually gotten stronger through various causes or...       

Finally, Mama Day seems to have elements that are akin to Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, and I think Naylor drew upon Their Eyes when writing her novel. Too many similarities exist; I will list a couple: Tea Cake and George can both be seen as savior-type figures; one figure suffers hallucinations–in Their Eyes, the figure is Tea Cake and in Mama Day, the figure is Cocoa; a hurricane is in both novels; Tea Cake and Janie’s relationship is not based on male or female rule, just as Cocoa and George’s isn’t. Although these similarities exist, how and why does Naylor revise them?