Thursday, October 29, 2009

ALLUSIONS & CULTURAL REFERENCES Don't Trust Your Computer, My Sister Sends Me a Letter, & Reindeer Games

Hi Allyson,

I've been noticing, too, how Alexie slips bits of wisdom into the story. Consider these, all from a previous chapter, "Slouching Towards Thanksgiving":

• "You have to read a book three times before you know it." (p. 94)
• "The world, even the smallest parts of it, is filled with things you don't know." (p. 97)
• "He made me realize that hard work--that the act of finishing, of completing, of accomplishing a task--is joyous." (p. 98)

Truths like these always startle me in a way I like, and make me feel that I'm getting extra value from the characters in the story.

The title of the next long chapter, "Reindeer Games," includes an allusion to contemporary culture that all of the readers would be familiar with. It sets readers up to expect that Junior, like Rudolf, wouldn't be allowed to play (on the team). But eventually, like Rudolf, Junior winds up leading the team--"Coach said I was the best shooter who ever played for him."

Then, when Junior is knocked out by Rowdy and hospitalized, Coach comes into his room after Junior wakes up and shares his wisdom, which is the wisdom of a legendary football coach. But it's not the Vince Lombardi quote Junior knows that Coach shares--it's a new one to Junior: "The quality of a man's life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field of endeavor." The quotation has the ring of authenticity because it was said by a real person, one who the reader, as well as Junior, is aware of, one who has won recognition in his field.

Story Sleuths tip #13: Literary and cultural allusions, and references to familiar and famous people, can give authenticity and depth to your characters and your story.

Over to you, Allyson.