Wisdom Teeth

by Simon Cropp

In Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, we are told stories of the histories of people under the terminology of root canals. The important formation of who characters are in this novel, such as Archie and Samad, Irie, and Clara, is linked to the metaphor of teeth and how possibly the procedure of removing decay from the roots of their heritage.

Allow me a digression:

And this reminds me of my own uprooting, when my wisdom teeth had to be removed. Wisdom teeth are the last sets of teeth to grow in, and they’re often impacted, so later in life, almost all of us have to have the dreaded procedure.

I was 22 years old and didn’t have insurance that covered procedures;, so for me, the removal of wisdom teeth had to be a budgetary affair. My dentist said he knew a guy. Oral surgeon in training. Had to get a number of contact hours in to meet the requirements of his program, and removing wisdom teeth was considered something he could do unsupervised. I remember there was a rule he had to follow: no an anesthesia. I had to be awake for the procedure. But people do it this way I was told. He’d give me a Valium, I’d feel like I was asleep, all would be right in the world.

I showed up for the day of the procedure with my friend Mike–as the Valium would render me likely incapable of driving. I remember now, the receptionist at the dental office had captured my withered, blackened heart at that time. She would look at me with these big blue eyes, smile, and I never heard a thing she said. Well, when I checked in, she said something like: “The doctor is running late. Run and get something to eat. Blue eyes, beautiful smile, blue eyes,” or something like that.

Mike took me to McDonalds and we pounded down a couple of McDoubles, because, you know, I was 22 and could do that.

We returned to the office, met the surgeon in training, and he asked where we’d been. I said, “Oh, since you were running late, the receptionist said to run and get a bite to eat or something. So we ate some cheeseburgers.”

The surgeon in training didn’t take this well. Began rubbing his balding head. He said, “Oh no, no, no, this won’t do at all. Not at all. We must reschedule.”

“Sir,” I said. “I am a manager at Blockbuster video–to get this time off–today and three more days in a row for recover–that was a feat, I tell you! Why must we reschedule?”

“You ate! You can’t eat before this. The Valium won’t work. You can take it, but it won’t work. Your cheeseburgers might get tranquilized, but you, my friend, will not.”

“But she said…” my friend Mike said gesturing to the receptionist.

“I said something like bread,” she said from behind the counter. Blue eyes, smile, blue eyes. Anger too! Oh no.

My mind scrambled. “I’ll take the pill. It’ll work. You’ll see.”

Despite his hesitation, the oral surgeon agreed. And we were off. I took the pill, went back to the room, rested in the chair, and sure enough, I began to feel something. A stirring in my brain. A numbing in my body. I knew it would work.

The procedure began. And all that something I had felt before, that numbing? It fled. Ran away. As the surgeon jacked my mouth open with some device that wouldn’t allow me to clamp down–after he numbed me–he began digging in my gums. And wisdom teeth, it turns out, don’t just come out a tooth. They come out in pieces. They are cracked and broken and jackhammered, and pieces of teeth and blood sprayed on his mask. Sweat formed on his brow.

All effects of the Valium gone, I suppose he saw something reflecting in my eyes. Horror? He brought in a second assistant. She sat down in a chair beside me and just held my hand. He brought in a woman to hold my hand! I didn’t flinch, though. I let him work. For two hours he removed slivers and chunks of gigantic teeth, but it was the roots, he said, the roots were the biggest he’d ever seen. Like the roots of a horse tooth. He brought in the beautiful receptionist and my friend Mike to look at my impressive roots.

So much pain, black smoke pouring from my mouth, but I continued on, wondering what it would be like to have real insurance.

Finally, he stopped. He took off his tooth and blood-soaked mask and said, “There is one tooth left. Upper right. I cannot do this anymore. It is too much. That tooth is not impacted. So it will remain. I cannot subject you to this anymore.”

“I can handle it,” I said around the mouth apparatus.

“You are stitched and sewn, here are two subscriptions for Vicodin. You will need them. Don’t talk or the stitching will break. Keep gauze in your mouth so clots can form. I will be here the rest of the day before returning to Denver. Call if you need anything.”

So Mike and I left. I felt particularly strong that day. Like I had done something most people hadn’t done. So I continued to play that role. I acted as if there were no pain. Of course, I filled the prescriptions. I b.s.’d with Mike, told him that’s how a man does an operation. Mike told me to stop talking. At the time I thought he was concerned I would break my stitching, in retrospect, I think he didn’t want to hear what I was saying.

I did break my stitching from talking too much. We had to go back to the oral surgeon in training that Friday afternoon. We caught him in the parking lot as he was loading up his car to head back to Denver.

“You may have to go the emergency room,” he said. “I can’t numb you. All my equipment is loaded…”

I looked at him, looked at Mike, imagine blue eyes looking at me from somewhere, and I said, “Just do it. Just stitch it. No numbing.”

He did it. And it hurt. But whatever.

I learned something that day–a fundamental lesson to my own self, to my own sense of being and history. I learned to never eat McDonalds again.

But then, these painful extractions, these lessons and formations of who we are in distinct moments, is this not what Smith meant with her epigraph: “What is past is prologue.”

What I did not know that day cost me.

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Subculture in America pt. 2

When taking the time to consider the film Absolute Beginners and its depiction of the Notting Hill riots as a kind of rock opera compared to the novel’s depiction of a darker, more somber toned version of events, we see the conflict of image vs. word. Consider MacInnes’ descriptions: “Quite decent, respectable people they seemed, too: white-collar workers and their wives, I expect, who’d probably been out to do their shopping. Well, they saw the lads get in the Spades’ car, and drive it against a concrete lamp-standard, and climb back in their handy little delivery vans, and drive away” (246). The crowds of white collar workers, quite civilized, escalating racial violence. “Then came another incident–and soon, as you’ll understand, I began to lose count a little, and, as time went on, lose count a bit of what time was, as well” (247). The narrator’s loss of time seems to be a loss of existential identity in the temporal landscape–but it is not silly. The crowd is searching for violence. For a subject to exact violence upon.

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“Well they weren’t disappointed long. Because out of the Metropolitan Railway station–the dear old London Transport, we all think so safe and reliable–came a bunch of passengers, and among them was a Spade” (247). The subject to be brutalized. “A boy of my own age, I’d say, carrying a holdall and a brown paper parcel–a serious-looking kiddy with a pair of glasses, and one of those rather sad, drab suits that some Spades wear, particularly students, in order to show the English people that we musn’t think they’re savages in grass skirts and bones stuck in their hair” (247). What is to be made of the image of this poor victim, so much in contrast to the vibrant silliness of the film’s West Side Story-ish portrayal of the Notting Hill riots?

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I remember an American movie from 1979–The Warriors–a film based on Sol Yurik’s dark novel about gang warfare. The film became a greatly exaggerated version of the book, a musical or fantasy, if you will, as the director felt no one would allow him to make a direct adapation. Hollywood lore posits violence and rioting broke out in response to the film despite its fantastic tone. Fear of glorifying gang violence on the bigscreen became a talking point in the media even though the Warriors depicted gangs of mimes on roller skates, rednecks in overalls, and a weirdo who wore beer bottles on his fingers. This fantastical version of gang warfare in New York sparked fear and debate about how violence should be depicted on screen.

Whether or not this ultimately affected the 1986 adapation of MacInnes’ Absolute Beginners is certainly worth debating, but the spectacle of seeing rioting, the imagery of gang warfare displayed as an actual dance number, allows us to wonder.

America’s subcultures in the late 70s and 80s were marked by fear and violence. Gangs prowling the urban America. To show the reality of this on the bigscreen would be to glorify it–or so people believed.

 

Works Cited

MacInnes, Colin. Absolute Beginners. Allison and Busby, 1980.

The F Word – Naomi

For much of my adult life, I have been very independent. After graduating from high school in Hawaii, I moved to Kentucky for my undergraduate work (yes, I know this sounds crazy on many levels). After I got my degree I moved to Colorado, because, why not? I made these choices on my own and I paid for it on my own. I have worked continuously from the time I was 16 until I turned 34 when I quit the career I obtained a Masters Degree for, the career I worked in for 12 years and was objectively good at. I quit this career which I had dedicated almost half of my life in pursuit of to be a housewife and stay at home mom. And when I made this announcement to my friends and family I heard a resounding intake of breath followed by the somewhat insulting question, “But I thought you were a feminist?”

Yes. I thought so too. And I am. But it depends on who you ask, I guess. In her essay “Feminism with a Small f”, Buchi Emecheta discusses some of her philosophy surrounding the concepts of feminism and what they mean to her. She writes, “Being a woman, and African born, I see things through an African woman’s eyes. I chronicle the little happenings in the lives of the African women I know. I did not know that by doing so I was going to be called a feminist. But if I am now a feminist then I am an African feminist with a small f” (175). So, maybe I am a white middle-class feminist with a medium f? Can feminism really be only one thing and does it matter who provides the definition?

This essay resonated with me, particularly the passage where she states, “We need more Golda Meirs, we need more Indira Gandhis, we even need more Margaret Thatchers. But those who wish to control and influence the future by giving birth and nurturing the young should not be looked down upon. It is not a degrading job” (180). Making the choice to stay home with my children was an incredible privilege and I recognize that. And that does not make my contribution to society any less than if I had stayed in the workforce and put my children in daycare. I have struggled with feeling like I’m doing a great thing for my kids while at the same time feeling like I’ve been subordinating myself and degrading the work women have done for years to create equality with men.

I could continue rambling on about my fears surrounding what I’m doing to and for my three daughters. But I will end by saying that Emecheta confirmed in me that I am neither doing something extraordinary, nor am I doing something derogatory by choosing to nurture my children at home.

Emecheta, Buchi. “Feminism With A Small ‘f’!.” African Literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory. 173-185. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

International Youth: Absolute Beginners–Meghan

At the beginning of Absolute Beginners, a concept of universal youth is introduced when the narrator is having a conversation with Mr. Pondoroso about “the bomb” on pages 30-31. The conversation goes like this:

Mr. P. grew a bit vexed

“But you haven’t been to America, have you!” he exclaimed. “Or to Russia, and talked to these young people!”

“Why do I have to go, mister? You don’t have to travel to know what it’s like to be young, any time, anywhere. Believe me, Mr. Pondoroso, youth is international, just like old age is. We’re both very fond of life.” (31)

Considering “youth” is an important concept to this novel, I think this conversation is important to the rest of the novel. It appears to be a pretty bold statement to claim how all of the world’s youth acts and feels, especially not having been anywhere. However, his last sentence is very interesting: “We’re both very fond of life.” This is a pretty vague statement and equates the feelings of old and young people, which is something that he clearly differentiates in the rest of the novel. I’m not sure where to go with that idea, so I’m going to leave it floating around if anyone else wants to jump on it.

Anyway, I think the idea “youth is international” is a fascinating concept. In my own childhood/early teens, I always wondered what is was like growing up in other countries. I have always had a desire to travel, though, unfortunately, I have never had the opportunity to venture outside the U.S. So, having never been anywhere “cool” or “exotic,” I have always  wondered what life is like around the world. Particularly, when I was much younger, I wondered if other parents were as, let’s say, involved as my own. I knew what my friend’s parents were like–mostly similar to mine with the exception of a few “cool” parents. However, I was always curious of the parent-kid dynamics abroad. The media often portrayed free lifestyles of the youth around the globe–of course, particularly with young celebrities. Though I haven’t thought of these particular ideas in awhile, I was reminded of them while reading this novel…

I think the narrator’s perspective is really interesting. At times, I found his commentary on everything a bit know-it-all-ish and slightly pompous, which bothered me. However, after thinking about it more, I realized his attitude towards everything, especially older people, was so perfectly representative of the attitudes that kids have even nowadays. With that in mind, not only is youth international, it is also timeless. Not to make any generalizations or assumptions, but I think it is fair to say that there is always a chasm between generations that can cause a disconnect between older and younger people. For example, my parents may be frustrated by some of the choices I have made in life, but their parents were likely also frustrated by the choices they made. I think we kind of mentioned this in class on Thursday–there will always be a disagreement between generations about how to live life.

Anyway, back to youth. The assertion that “youth is international” is kind of cool to think about. If we go along with the narrator’s idea, it means that every kid around the world is facing some kind of disconnect with their parents, some kind of love tragedy, some kind of social issue, some kind of rebellion, some kind of struggle to “fit in,” or acne (Haha. But, really though). I think this idea continues into adulthood, too. Everywhere in the world people are struggling with jobs, money, family, politics, love, health, etc. But, people are not only universally struggling, they are also universally enjoying being “fond of life”: spending time with friends and family, going on adventures, making new memories, eating ice cream, or whatever. I think people too often get caught up in their own problems and don’t appreciate the positive aspects of their lives or realize that their problems really aren’t as big as they seem.

That was a bit of a random tangent, sorry. But, I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on these ideas. 🙂

 

Also, here’s something silly. I typed “youth” into Google, unaware that it is the title of a song, and the first thing that popped up was this music video. It’s definitely not the kind of music I listen to (so don’t judge me) and it is very teenybopper-ish (if that can be a word), but I found it to be strangely applicable to Absolute Beginners. It kind of gives the idea of “youth” being a universal concept among young folk–specifically because of the line “my youth is yours,” which I interpreted as youth (potentially experimental youth? or something) is an experience that everyone goes through. Anyway, if you can bear it, take a gander.

Raver Culture

I loved reading Hebdige because conversations about society and culture always fascinate me. I think it was so interesting that we could not really pin point a subculture in today’s society that we can see based on their style. As I was mulling over this I began to wonder if we can consider ravers a subculture. Just in case there are any different definitions of raves, I mean concerts where people listen to dance/electronic music, dress in neon colors, and are usually characterized by drug use.

When I first started hearing about raves in high school it seemed really isolated. It was not something that many people seemed to be doing. There were a few kids interested in raves, but interestingly enough, for the most part, I could not identify them as ravers directly from their appearance at school. Instead, the internet became the platform where I found out about people who were ravers. Online it was easy to distinguish ravers from their crazy outfits. There were people in neon shirts, tutus, bright colored pants and shorts, and a lot of bright makeup. Ravers were definitely the “other,” during most of my time in high school, and they were frequently demonized. I was warned against going to raves because I was told that all anyone did at raves was take drugs and have sex. Then, it seems as if one day that all just changed.

All of a sudden the rave culture wasn’t a subculture in the shadows anymore. Everyone was a raver. Big name venues like Red Rocks started holding raves, artists like Deadmau5 and Skrillex were becoming more mainstream, and raver clothing was becoming more prominent in clothing stores. Tickets to some of the big concerts happening in Colorado,  like Decadence and Global, for instance, can cost up to $200. Suddenly this exclusive subculture wasn’t so exclusive anymore. This was addressed in the novel when Hebdige discussed the commodification of subculture; “The conversion of subcultural signs (dress, music, etc.) into mass produced objects (i.e. the commodity form) [. . .] Each new subculture establishes new trends, generates new looks and sounds which feedback into the appropriate industries” (94-95). Anyone could be a raver now as long as they could pay for it, and this is a trend that I have seen continuing in the past few years.

I don’t have an answer as to whether I think that mass culture subsuming subcultures is malevolent or coincidental, but I do think that exploring this subject is fascinating and worthwhile for scholars.

Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. TJ International Ltd., 1979.

Samantha Hudspeth

 

 

(Sub)Cultural Appropriation – Naomi

I had a really hard time thinking of something specific to write about for this week’s post, because Subculture: The Meaning of Style is so full of sociological information, my head was spinning. Thankfully, I read Simon’s paper and decided to consider the concept of appropriation of subcultures.

In the book, Hebdige details a variety of subcultures that emerged in England in the 1960-70s. In chapter 6, he discusses the idea of “the commodity form” which is “the conversion of subcultural signs (dress, music, etc.) into mass-produced objects” (94). This, combined with questions posed by Simon, got me thinking about cultural appropriation as it relates to these subgroups.

For the “punk” kids, style was described as safety pins, blue hair, spikes, etc. There was an “otherness” quality to this that made the members of the group stick out. All of this could have the effect of creating fear in those around; those not belonging to or understanding the subgroup. Enter Hot Topic. Now, every neighborhood kid (or adult) could cruise on down to the mall and buy a $35 ripped t-shirt or faux vintage Ramones hoodie. Are you dying to own a pentagram leg belt? They’ve got you covered! Just stroll past Sears and stop before you reach the Mrs. Fields cookie shop. All major credit cards accepted! No more do these people have to think about what it means to belong to a group or subculture. The appropriation of the style necessarily strips the shock factor, or “otherness” from the group. Because these subcultures emerged due to perceived problems with the capitalist nature of society, I think that the commodification of the signs of the subculture eliminate, or at best water down the message of the group.

And now, this:

Also, a funny comic:

Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. Routledge, 1979.

Audience Complicity

Simon Cropp

Apparatus theory is a film theory that gained popularity in the 1960s and 70s, and while it has many names attached to it–Althusser and Lacan for example–it is Jean-Louis Baudry’s “The Apparatus” that provides perhaps the strongest singular position on apparatus theory.

The theory itself is Marxist in nature–and it maintains an audience complicity with what is seen and absorbed from the film screen. For many of the theorists who explored cinema through apparatus theory, the audience would largely be made up of the proletariat, and the film would likely have been constructed through the institutional forces of the capitalist superstructure thus perpetuating the ideological foundations of those in power.

For Baudry, the film becomes much like Plato’s allegory of the cave. The viewers are transfixed in a dark place, haunted by images on a screen they cannot fully understand, but the viewers forget themselves in this moment. They become part of what they see on the screen. No longer is the viewer his or herself, but now he is transfixed on the screen–a piece of the ideology at play (Baudry 111).

Our discussion of The Third Man in class on Thursday led me back to Baudry’s view of film and apparatus theory. The spectator as a prisoner to ideology was a powerful concept to me when I first came across it, and I consider this theory to be at work in interesting ways when Martins meets Lime at the Prater amusement park, and they take their infamous Ferris wheel ride. I searched for this theory during class, but it had been too long since I had studied it. I needed to go back and read Baudry’s article again, but as I went over the text, the connections came back.

The director Carol Reed positions the camera at the base of the wheel early in the scene, so we, the viewer, are looking up at the massive structure. This framing is very much in line with Baudry’s apparatus theory–we don’t often realize how complicit we are–as viewers–with the film’s ideological functions. Reed positions us at the base of the wheel with all of Lime’s “dots.” We don’t realize this is happening, especially if we are the intended viewer of this film–the ones who saw it originally. Locked in a dark theater with a massive screen looming in front of us.

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It is not until Reed takes us to the top of the wheel, puts us into the position of power with Lime that he subverts the ideological function of the film industry’s hegemonic role in culture. Reed’s positioning of Lime’s monologue against the proletariat, but also positioning Lime in such a negative light–literally and figuratively–creates an inverted ideological structure of the powerless assuming a role of the all-seeing eye.

In the case of this scene, and with Baudry’s apparatus theory at our disposal, what becomes fascinating, is the viewer functions as the film’s third man. We are complicit now with Martins, and whatever ideology he takes from his time with Lime is the ideology we inherit as well.

 

Works Cited

Baudry, Jean-Louis. “The Apparatus.” Communications, no. 23, 1975, pp. 56-72. Duke University PressSummon, cameraobscura.dukejournals.org.unco.idm.oclc.org/search?author1=Baudry&fulltext=The%20Apparatus&pubdate_year=1976&volume=&firstpage=104&submit=yes. Date accessed 22 Oct. 2016.

Many Levels of Brow – Naomi

There is a very humorous scene in The Third Man, where the protagonist, Rollo Martins, is speaking to a group of book lovers about his writing and his opinion of other authors. What is so funny about this scene is that Martins is speaking about authors and genres that would be considered “lowbrow”. When asked about his favorite author, Martins replies with the author of Westerns and another of the panelists tries to pivot to a more refined poet (92-3). This got me thinking about the literary canon and acceptance of (other than highbrow) literature.

As someone who has taught high school English for over a decade, I have to say that I appreciate the existence of the literary cannon. I think that it is helpful to have a list of works that are deemed valuable to read and be studied. And I think that (for the most part) these are the works that should be taught through high school. When people  have a common background of literature, it helps with allusion and understanding of many other things in society (history, politics, Saturday Night Live, etc). The canon makes modern satire much easier to understand, because a presumably large portion of the population are familiar with what/who is being satirized.

That being said, I don’t think that the canon is an exhaustive list of literature for people to read and I don’t think that all literature needs to be “highbrow”. I’m going to out myself as someone who read the entire Twilight series and liked it. These novels were not well written and lots of literary types like to make fun of Stephenie Meyer because of it. Meyer is probably okay with the criticism knowing that her franchise has sold over $6 billion worldwide. People wanted to read these novels; millions of people wanted to read these novels. It is unlikely that any of the Twilight series will ever be taught in any educational setting, but not all writing needs to be, and I think it’s wonderful that people are reading anything at all.

Getting back to the novel at hand, I enjoyed The Third Man and I appreciated its many levels of discussion and interpretation. I think that our class decided that this book would be “middlebrow” and firmly outside of the canon. All of that can be true, and I think that everyone in class got something out of studying this (somewhat forgotten) novel at the graduate level.

Greene, Graham. The Third Man. 1949. Penguin Books, 1977.

To Bed Without Shame

Simon Cropp

In Marghanita Laski’s To Bed With Grand Music, the reader is likely to ask significant questions about the moral quality of Deborah. Here resides a married woman that not only sleeps around, but she seemingly has no true interest in her child except as a tool to further her conquests.

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The issue with demonizing a character like Deborah comes from a very real place of shaming those who are not in line with society’s modern moral views. And morals, while often believed to be divinely inspired, are more often self-imposed, culturally created constructs used to control.

The woman who cheats on her deployed husband.. Women still have been assigned terrible labels and stereotypes if they play to this trope. Just scroll down and read some of the [warning: explicit] comments at the bottom of that linked post. The responses to the person who wrote that post aren’t, I can’t think, truly protecting a divinely inspired sense of morality.

But a culturally imparted morality used to keep certain segments of our population in control.

I wonder then if Friedrich Nietzsche, when he writes in Geneology of Morals, “Morality seems bound up with obligation, with codes and rules, and somehow I don’t see the ‘blond beasts of prey’ kowtowing to rules (any more than to a social contract),” speaks of how the blond beast of prey, is that next step is breaking free from moral contracts. How women like Deborah are treated in real life, in the novel, is cruel and sickening, and to say it comes from a place of morality is merely a perversion of morality. If Deborah sees herself as unfit to be a mother, a Wife, then she has that right to be who she is without the constructs of a puritanical society shaming her into a place of isolation. Isolation, namely, from all relationships except those of a sexual nature.thou_shalt_vs_i_will_by_shton-d853mhw

Morality is a cultural code. And I wonder, looking at Nietzsche’s quote again, if he believed in not morals (or better morals), but this evolution of the metaphor of the lion (the blond headed beast), and ultimately the child–which makes us better people. Not better moral constructs.

Pyschology and the Body as Currency in To Bed with Grand Music (Spoilers!)–Meghan

I found To Bed with Grand Music to be a delightfully disturbing read. Deborah’s character frustrated the heck out of me, but I could not stop turning the pages. I kept thinking to myself “what shitty thing is she going to do next?” At the end of the novel, I literally cringed because I felt so bad for the young woman that Deborah sunk her slutty claws into  to turn her into another man-hunter. I love books that evoke this kind of emotion in the reader!

There are many rich ideas to discuss about To Bed with Grand Music. For this blog post, I would like to touch on psychology and the idea of body as currency.

When I first started reading To Bed with Grand Music, postpartum depression crossed my mind, since Deborah didn’t show much interest in or was always frustrated with Timmy and she felt like she was not cut-out for motherhood. Then I realized this probably wouldn’t be the case since Timmy was about two years old when the novel started and, as far as I know, postpartum depression doesn’t last that long and is usually right after birth (though I could be wrong, I am not very familiar with the topic). So, then, I pondered other things that could be wrong with Deborah psychologically. In the beginning of the novel, Deborah spends time justifying her sexual relationships in her head and coming up with moral reasons why it is acceptable for her to sleep with men other than her husband. She appears to know her actions are wrong, but she justifies them with the need to be happy and avoid being “nervy.” So, the next psychological disorder that popped into my mind was borderline personality disorder, which is characterized by a multitude of episodes of mood swings, anxiety, changing self-image, etc. Deborah certainly has a varying self-image of herself and she goes from being extremely upset with herself to extremely happy with her exciting life. However, I am no psychologist and I will stop trying to diagnose Deborah. I just thought this could offer some interesting fodder for conversation.

Anyway, what I would really like to focus on is Deborah’s transactions with men. It appears that Deborah’s body becomes a currency to pay for her lifestyle. Let me tell you how…

At first, Deborah’s exchanges with men seemed to be fulfilling a physical need and a “husband replacement,” for lack of a better term. However, as the novel progresses, it is quite clear that Deborah becomes addicted to her lifestyle and manipulating men. The more and more she gets involved as a mistress, the less and less she is worried about justifying her actions. She also thinks less and less of Graham and Timmy because they are boring and “second best” to her life in London. Thus, her “mistressness” becomes her job in order to afford her expensive lifestyle. Deborah completely reduces her body to currency in exchange for fancy accouterments, drinks, and meals.

My initial inclination was to discuss the commodification of Deborah’s body. For example, she seems to be no more than a body–or object–to the men, a mere distraction. On the surface it may appear that Deborah’s body is the commodity that the men desire; or, it may appear that Deborah makes herself a commodity through her appearance and desirability. However, upon closer examination, it is really Deborah who is objectifying herself (and even men–but I am not going to discuss that in this post) and creating a currency out of her body. Deborah could have easily stayed in her country home and remained a faithful, domestic housewife, but she decided to move to London and make herself available to men. This was her choice in which she had full agency. Not only does she simply make herself available to men, but she creates a business of it and uses her body to pay the men for extravagant things. The transaction is simple: men buy her fancy food/things and give her attention and she gives them her body in return. In other words, Deborah’s body is simply the means in which she uses to get what she wants. The reason I think her body is the currency instead of the items she receives is because she puts more value on the fancy things than she does on herself/her body. Her body becomes easily exchangeable for her appearance and social status. In addition, her body is the only thing she has to exchange for the lifestyle that she desires.

I think this can easily be seen at the end of the novel when Deborah is walking home with Graham’s friend, Ken Matthews, and she points out the crocodile purse that she absolutely must have. After they sleep together, Ken sends her the crocodile purse with a note that says, “I hope I interpreted yours hints correctly. I have no experience of proper payment for this sort of thing” (176). To the men in the novel, their currency is the items that they give to Deborah, and their desired commodity is her body. However, from Deborah’s perspective, her body is the currency for the items the men give her, which are her desired commodities. Both sides of the spectrum (the men and Deborah) are more then willing to give up a seemingly small price for their desires.

Laski, Marghanita. To Bed with Grand Music. Persephone Books Ltd., 2012.