A Close Reading of “Dream Jungle” by Jessica Hagedorn
Some of the things that I noticed while reading "Dream Jungle" by Jessica Hagedorn.
The things I found interesting were:
(129-130) Sandy Watanabe the travel agent, who I’m assuming is Japanese based on the last name, who does coke, is a “purveyor of obscure, sexy, and somewhat sinister destinations”, and flashes this Moody guy with her “small perfect tits”. I don’t like how the female characters in this book are portrayed one bit. I don’t know why a woman writer would choose to write about women this way. Is she doing it just to gain male readers? Maybe her purpose will come out later in the book but right now I almost think this was written by a guy.
(138) The Japanese are again mentioned with “the horrors of the Japanese occupation” and talking about being “to hell and back”. I’m not sure if the two parts are linked but it’s the only Japanese mention I’ve noticed so far.
(139) There is mention of signs in English and Arabic. I had to look this up to see how Arabs influenced the Philippines.
(158) This part I just thought was hysterical. The Museum of Natural History is referred to as the “Mausoleum of Dead Animals And Looted Things”, Hysterical, and accurate.
(165-166) Jinx is cold, has a fever, just took some medicine, and this Moody dude just goes and fucks her unresponsive body. “She lay there limply, making no move to escape”. She’s just like, ‘ok sure, whatever’ with her “sigh of resignation”. I do not like his character at all. This scene is full of violent war-like descriptors: “brutal thrusts”, “terrible silence”, “escape”, “joyless frenzy”, and “surrender”.
(167) “Imelda” — Who is Imelda? Did I miss this name in previous chapters because I do not remember it.
(172) The mention of “nasty allegations” followed by the phrase, “your friend has turned into such an Amerikana”, seems to be just because Paz is being direct in her statements and questions. Maybe it is talking down about Filipino women saying that they are not direct. I’m not sure.
(175) The movie title “Napalm Sunset” translates to me as ‘beautiful violence’ or ‘beautiful destruction’. Napalm being explosive material and man-made and a sunset being a beautiful natural occurrence at the end of a day. Maybe it could also be a ‘violent end’ or a ‘destructive end’. I think the movie title could be significant to the end of the book.
(175) I’m a little bit confused by the quote “funny in a fatalistic, ironic, Filipino sort of way”.
(177) I’m not sure why Hagedorn uses the word “auteur” seeing as it is a French word and I don’t think any of the characters so far have French roots or speak French and I didn’t find any French influences in the Philippines history on a quick search like I did with the Arab influences. Do the countries histories connect?
It’s interesting to note that the only two French words that are used are “auteur” (author) and “poseur” (poser or phony) (224) it’s kind of like the French is foreshadowing through Pepito’s dreams of becoming a famous “postcolonial … artist” (224). What can a phony author possibly produce? I’ve seen “Heart of Darkness” (244) mentioned in a lot of postcolonial literature, as it is in this one. What do you think the significance is?
(227) This organization name, the “PIMPF,” is so blatant in it’s name that it’s amusing, yet it still gets funded. Let’s all fund the pimp foundation. Really?
“Zoltan Incorporated” (228) make me laugh because when you think back to (224) where Pepito mentions “Godard” and “Kurosawa” in the previous pages and then upon a quick search for “Zoltan Incorporated” I come up with this link. : http://www.amazon.com/Akira-Zoltan-Cynthia-Chin-Lee/dp/1570915806
(239-241) The whole deal about pawning off the bodies was just weird, especially the way it is just played off as “a Filipino misunderstanding” (240).
Pepito’s films “Dead on Arrival” and “Circumnavigation” (239) link to this as well. “Dead on Arrival” linking to the bodies which were dead on arrival to the set and “circumnavigation” linked to another literary/film reference to “Lord Jim” (244) about a British seaman who meets a captain by the name of Marlow. This laces this book into Dream Jungle (and it’s use of Paz Marlowe) as well as the use of Marlow in “Heart of Darkness” (244), both “Lord Jim” and “Heart of Darkness” being written by Joseph Conrad. There is also a “Tarzan” (244) mention as well and the word ‘mangani’ is in Tarzan and there is a word similar in the book if not the same word in the book. An e-book would be so helpful right now. Does anyone know the part I am referring to?
(244-245) I find the character name choices within the film interesting. “Capt. Flint” — my first thought is Flint Michigan, where GM (General Motors) used to be but on a quick search you can see that this is yet another literary reference, Captain Flint being from Treasure Island ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captain_Flint ) . “Cowboy” seems to be yet another American reference as the cowboy is most commonly referenced in terms of America in films. “Monk” is interesting too because a monk is normally separated from regular society and lives in a sacred place. This is interesting because the character HAD to be played by a BLACK actor, possibly because of the separation of races in society. “Driver” could be with regards to British Army ranks which make Driver the lowest rank or an actual driver for someone which would still make this character lower in class and therefore seen as expendable as he is on (279) in the tiger scene. (Cassells = Driver, correct?). “Commander X” reminds me of many things but I’m going to go with death, “Commander” as the leader and the “X” symbolizing death, like the death of cartoons (things that are not real).
(245) It says that the Filipino extras had “masklike faces were painted white and streaked with red” which I thought was reminiscent of the American or British flag and its red and white stripes.
(259) Personal observation, the mayor is an ass. He tells a story of the “systematic killings” of “male[s] over the age of 10… slaughtered by American soldiers” right before he’s about to rape Lina. I feel like the story is about Americans literally killing their masculinity by killing off the younger generation and his act of raping makes him feel as if he is taking back and claiming his masculinity in order to counter balance what has happened in his story.
The reference I was going for was “Mabini” which is listed as a street name on p. 289.
(285) “A girl who only lived for a few days. She had your name. No one else mentions it, but I remember her”. —> This is when the mother is mentioning the first Paz. I think this is significant because it makes the character of Paz child number 5. On (289) there are 5 languages listed: “Latin, Tagalog, Bisayan, Ilocano, and English”. On (290) there is another list of 5: ” miniature virgins, angels, saints, kings, and queens are trapped in their lavish floats”. On (306) Zamora Sr. is “one of the five richest men in the Philippines”. Zamora Jr. is listed as a “champion swimmer, .. pelota [player] & polo player, a villain, and a do-gooder”.
Do you think there is a meaning behind the use of 5? If so, what do you think it is?
The most destructive tornadoes are F-5, there’s a law of 5’s, 5 is important in various religions, … and literary references as well. I think it might be a literary reference as a lot of her references seem to be to classic literature but this is what I found with the search for 5 in literature: ‘The Famous Five’ series ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Famous_Five_%28series%29 ). Can you think of another literary reference that might relate to the number five of the particular lists of five?
It could also be the religious reference as this is in the death of Zamora chapter where on (291) it says “Zamora begging for mercy” added with his 3 sisters (I also think the letter “M” could be examined closer) coming to visit him. The begging for mercy makes me think of religion as do the 3 sisters remind me of a religious order ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisters_of_Mercy ) or the 3 kings coming to visit the chosen one. Zamora is referred to as “beloved boy child” and his mothers name sake is the Virgin Mary and she’s by “the statue of the black, bloody Nazarene”.
(299) Zamora is in drag on this page and described as having an amazing amount of organized closets (which I am extremely jealous of), feminizing the the masculine identity of the strongest male character in the book. It’s interesting that this happens at the end of the book after his death and not before because he is no longer able to defend his masculinity. On (302) Zamora in the documentary is said to be “rehearsed” and “a performance” maybe with regards to his performing masculinity as well.
In my opinion (307) the best line of the book, “Never mind who’s in office now. It’s all just a ploy to make us think things have changed for the better. As always, when we least expect it, the crocodiles will return, hungrier than ever”. It’s like a warning about politics and life in general. Social commentary, love it.
(309) I thought the “swastikas” in the art were symbolic of swaying the masses. They are used a lot in many cultures and religions. Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism; the Navajo’s, the original Aryans (Iran, North India — not Germany), and many others all use/used this symbol to delineate different things but when the Nazi’s came around they stole the symbol and gave it the opposite meaning. In this way Nazi Germany swayed the masses into believing that this symbol was only a symbol for evil and they were able to sway the masses with it. The art in this chapter has the swastikas added as an “afterthought” to the violence on the canvas furthering the negativity felt by the association with what is happening on the canvas. The fact that “the artist is Filipino” (310) makes me think that they had no regard for the other religions or cultures on the Asian continent and elsewhere who use this symbol for the opposite effect of promoting happiness, luck, and good. Educate yourself. ( http://www.wisegeek.com/did-the-swastika-symbol-really-originate-in-some-eastern-religions.htm )
Jessica Hagedorn, Dream Jungle, New York NY: Penguin, 2004.