Quarter After Eight is an annual literary journal devoted to the exploration of experimental writing in all its permutations. We celebrate work that directly challenges the conventions of language, style, voice, or idea in literary form. This blog is a place to engage in conversations about the work we publish, as well as the work that inspires us.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Technological Rebellion in Okubo’s Citizen 13660

Quarter After Eight is sponsoring (along with the Ohio University Department of English) a conference, "Defining the New: Experiments and Innovations in English Studies" October 22-23 and we're sharing previews of conference presentations. Here's an excerpt from Chris Sims' critical discussion of Okubo's Citizen 13660 that draws on Bachelard's theories about technologically enabled actualization:

"...One of the reasons I chose Okubo’s Citizen 13660 is because the terse, journalistic prose seems more approachable than some denser material and I can use this clarity to establish the framework for the lens with which I will read these texts. Page eight features an illustration of Miné and her brother at home hearing the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This moment is particularly important because it displays an image of the home as they have constructed it. They are pictured wearing unique, well-fitting clothing, eating a home cooked breakfast, and listening to their radio next to a sink with running water. As members of the larger American community they have access to technology that provides information, running water, heat, and comfort. Inside the space of their home they are free to daydream and they “wondered what this [the attack] would mean to us and other people of Japanese descent in the United States” (Okubo 8). They are not at this moment afraid, but rather curious. Miné’s brother appears to almost lazily absorb the news. The patterns of their shirts match the patterns of the floor tiles and the curtains, underscoring their interconnectedness to their home. Miné and her brother are not wealthy, but the radio stands out as an Extravagant technological artifact. This picture of home emphasizes that the Okubo’s are perhaps on the rise and are able to make choices not based on Necessity, but Extravagant choices grounded in desire.

Miné even goes so far to say “I had a good home” (Okubo 7). This is noteworthy for two reasons. One, because she uses the first person pronoun “I,” which becomes absent from the narrative while Miné is in a camp. Because the Okubo’s have access to their own private home-space, Miné can form a singular identity and feels like a human being. And secondly, this is also important because it foreshadows Bachelard’s sentiments that a home is the first step in technologically enabled actualization. When humans do not have shelter, food, or water their internal drive shifts away from metaphysical inquires of self and turns to biological Necessities. Miné makes it known that the information technology of information telegrams “fixed everything” and allowed her to find a home. Her mother’s death disrupts her settling in, but she soon moves in “with a younger brother at Berkeley in the San Francisco Bay region” (Okubo 6-7). What is important for Miné as an immigrant is to have a stable location she can call home. Home-building is always the first step on the path of self-actualization and even early on Miné is concerned with the business of home..."

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