People, Places and Things

Beginning with the exercise in class on Tuesday I started to consider the different ways in which people register places. The way I described my home was all the bold images I see along the way. The connections I’ve made after 20 years of the same home and what I really take note of on my way back to 120 Peach Orchard Road. My partner, however, is from a city where the surroundings and demographics are very different. She categorizes her home more by the people associated with it and the, smells and sounds they bring. There is a clear distinction between my thought process as I drive through miles of pasture and hills, and her drive home surrounded by faces, traffic and bustle. This thought carried through when I did the two readings, Wallace, and Shteyngart, for Thursday.

Shtenygart had a very specific style in describing the setting of his visit to Russian. He used culture and personal anecdotes in order to categorize the differences in areas he visited. For example he references the drinking tendencies in Russia (3 shots of vodka to cure a cold) as well as introduces a unique drink, gorilka, which has a “bright and chewy taste, the honey and pepper coating one’s tongue in thick sheets of sugar and spice” (283). This focus on a drink and the routine of the peoples of a place is a fresh way to describe a country. There are distinguishable facts of society for each place he visits leading the reader through an exploration but not just land, but also the people, architecture and rituals they’d encounter. To make the story more personal he then includes his anecdotes to put a different spin on his traveling experience. He talks about Yanna, a woman he encountered to describe the cold lands of Yakutia and their traditions in restoring his health.

Wallace takes a very different approach in describing his encounters on the variety of cruises he has been impressed by. He uses bright language with many praising adjectives as well as generalizations of the activities he became accustomed to create a typical day on a cruise ship for the reader to experience. Although I felt the introduction was a bit drawn out and painful to get through with full attention, he did portray (in great detail) the long range of different sensations a cruise may bring you. From the smell of sunscreen to the technical terms of a ship he has brought together a very intense pieces of the whole image, and then continues to fill it in with the specifics of his routine. This technique is one that definitely made it easy to visualize. His journey was shared as if you were reading his diary, with names, times and memories. He “zooms” in on different aspects you would normally consider, dedicating a full underlying theme to the bathroom of his room 1009. Although it is not a normal detail literature would focus on to illuminate his experience, it is a deciding factor of the judgement we make on a place in our experiences. Whether I recall upon it to share with others or not, I definitely  notice the cleanliness as well as the grandeur of a bathroom just as Wallace has done to set this bathroom at the top of the pyramid when it comes to design. He continues with this attention to detail with a description of a specific waiter, the entertainment and more in order to find all the major advantages he felt the ship carried.

Although these two essays used very different focuses on how to describe places, people and things they encountered, they both create an easy to follow map through their trip. The way you choose to describe a place is formed primarily by your subconscious in my opinion. I recall upon the details that I have had memories with in order to guide a reader to my house, the house I babysat at, the fields of my soccer game, the house that looks like that of Madam Zeroni’s from Holes. These are what stuck out to me, however if someone else took the same trip I did and visited the same place, they may be struck by the details in the land,  or the people that they see playing in their yards. Each person takes in a completely different aspect of a trip, one is not better than the other, they are just different. I think all this speaks to the fact that even in our deepest appreciation of a place there is still so much we can draw from it that another person would be initially most affected by.



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