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What is Storytelling and What Makes a Good Storyteller?: My Name is Red

20 Jun


There’s something so refreshing about perspective. It nods to the juxtaposition between one’s heart and mind: both the reader’s and the writer’s. This is one of the many reason why I find My Name is Red so beautifully fascinating – especially since in its original form it was not written in English.

My Name Is Red is a 1998 Turkish novel by Orhan Pamuk which was translated into English in 2001. You can borrow My Name is Red from BCCLS libraries in English or Korean translations.  It is also available as an unabridged audiobook on CD.  You can check it out as an ebook or a digital audiobook from eBCCLS.

Whilst the “main” layer of Pamuk’s novel leans toward a genre of mystery, it also seamlessly blends romance and philosophical puzzles, causing one to think twice about the true narration within each chapter. The main characters in the novel are miniaturists in the Ottoman Empire, one of whom is murdered in the first chapter. In order to figure out whom is the killer, each chapter of the novel has a different narrator, giving way a different perspective and truth that gets you closer to finding the murderer. Since each chapter leads the way to a deeper and more detailed truth, there are thematic and chronological connections between chapters and because of this, unexpected voices are used. It is these chapters told by different voices, character’s, and “things” that nod to such a question that goes deeper than mind and heart: “what is a storyteller?” We are immediately thrown into a new wave of storytelling when the table of contents reveals each narrator within this novel starting from the corpse of the murdered, to a coin, to then Satan, and curiously even the color red.

The figure of the storyteller and the art of storytelling in My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk opens up new ground to the reality that is a storyteller – which also sparks this question “can a color tell a story?” Allowing you to look at things through a more colorful light, it both challenges and excites the reader to experiment with the connection one would have with the narrator.

The book plays with this idea of voice, but every voice is invented. Referencing the title, we are introduced to Red as an actual chapter and narrator in the book as it brags “The truth is I can be found everywhere”. Suggesting a small truth in this story within a story within a story, as this color can be seen everywhere. It is this impossible voice that sparked quite a kindred reaction within me. Not only is red my favorite color, it also gave me this glimpse into the child’s wonder we are initially born with. A creativity that has no bounds – an impossible voice.

Even the thought of being narrated by a color and being introduced as “My Name Is Red” is mind boggling and makes me giggle from the pure genius of the writer. Why can’t colors be storytellers? Its hues are found everywhere and probably know more about what is the truth than any living organism.

So, even though the mystery is solved in the end, it’s the colorful words and creative ways of storytelling that made this one of the most memorable books I have ever read. I am personally not a huge fan of mystery novels, but this particular one is deserving of a chance even for nonmystery fans. The way it was written and how each chapter is broken down, beautifully expands your mind and allows you to think twice about your own opinions.

If you enjoy My Name is Red you can check out several of Pamuk’s other works from the Hoboken Public Library including The Red-Haired Woman, Silent House, and The Museum of Innocence.

Written By:
Sherissa Hernandez
Adult Programming Assistant

Limitations: Robert Frost’s“Neither Out Far Nor In Deep”

6 Jun

How can a poem centered on metaphors call to the reality of one’s physical and emotional bar? “Neither Out Far Nor In Deep” by Robert Frost is – in my opinion – a very underrated poem. The poem was first published in the Yale Review in 1934 and was included in 1936 in Frost’s collection, A Further Range. The poem plays on the idea of the external vs. the internal by using the metaphor of juxtaposing the sea and land. Frost’s four-line quatrain uses metaphors to expand on the difference of one’s point of view. Indicating this through the narrator and the narration, the voice of the poem alludes on a metaphor of narrowmindedness. Delving deeper into what serves symbolically as the internal, the sea, that being which is out far and in deep. We see the meaning overlap in the third stanza of the poem, “but wherever the truth may be.” Even though the poem speaks of tangible things such as the sea and the land, the word used is “wherever” not “whatever” which indicates that this is about location. Location of what is the real question.

Continuing with this idea of location, the question being posed here is what kind of location this explores. Is it more metaphorical in the sense that it’s allowing the reader to connect with something deeper? Or is it purely taken at face value and is more of a straightforward view on how others may be perceived or even how a place may be perceived through someone else’s view? Both are as equally important observations and go hand in hand with each other.

First, the title of the poem plays on this idea that it’s neither one nor the other, “Neither Out Far Nor In Deep”, which can be interpreted to it either being both or none. Appearing to be about watchers of the sea, the theme has a very literal meaning, if taken at face value, that those who look out into the horizon at the sea do not have much expectations to see beyond what the natural eye can see. But based on the tone of the poem, the narrator challenges the reader to think deeper about the poem, thus dehumanizing the words “one way,” “wherever,” and “bar.”

In the context of the poem and the tone, it can be seen how the narrator looks down or even pities those being spoken of. The question is to why. It is both internal and external pity, as those who choose to look out only into what seems as “never-ending unconsciousness” are betraying what their external bodies are capable of. Stuck in the “quicksand” of narrowmindedness and low expectations, one can never hope to get anywhere in life.

It’s in the beauty of the last two lines of the last stanza that we are illustrated a more complex vision to this poem.

“But when was that ever a bar / To any watch they keep?”

This is what alludes to the reality within the metaphors that the poem is made of. Frost may be portraying a very literal meaning of the juxtaposition of being at sea and land. Or, the way I see it, he may be calling to the very reality of one’s limitations. The ones we place on ourselves as well as the one’s being placed on us, physical, emotional and even spiritual. Frost is basically saying since when is there a bar to how far one can dream, think, envision, and imagine, which therefore lets them be.

Therefore, I love this poem by Robert Frost. The title alone calls attention to this place in one’s reality that states, it’s neither one nor the other, and who says you must choose. It can be both, or it can be none, or it can be one, but the beauty is that even if it is either or, in reality, it’s neither nor.

Want to enjoy more of Frost’s poems for yourself?  You can borrow the Collected Poems, Prose & Plays by Robert Frost from the Hoboken Public Library; this includes an impressive variety of his work including all his collected poems.  You can also check out several ecollections of his poems on Hoopla including The Road Not Taken And Other PoemsRobert Frost: Poetry for Kids features poems specially chosen for kids 8-14 by author and historian Jay Parini and accompanied by illustrations from Michael Paraskevason.  For a unique experience borrow Robert Frost: New England in Autumn, which features his autumn themed poems read throughout the farm country of Massachusetts and is available to stream from Kanopy.

Written by
Sherissa Hernandez
Adult Programming Assistant

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