Language in Luna and Boy Meets Boy

The most noticeable difference between Luna and Boy Meets Boy is the writing style and language the authors use, both from a narrative stand point and when referring to LGBTQ themes. In Boy Meets Boy, David Levithan seems to go out of his way to use that reflects the age of the narrator, a high school sophomore named Paul. Paul’s internal monologue is young; the sentences are short and concise, the language itself is simple. On his first date with Noah, Paul describes the surface of the pond where they ride in a paddleboat as being “like a wrinkled blue shirt, with small buoy-buttons, marking the distance of the water” (Levithan, 66). There’s no flowery language about the reflection of the sun like you might find in other YA novels, no use of excessive details, just a simple metaphor. In Luna, Julie Anne Peter’s narrator Regan seems to be telling the story of her sophomore year in hindsight, perhaps as an adult. Her language is more adult and any insertion of ‘teenage slang’ sounds forced and out of place. In a conversation with her father about her transgendered sibling, Regan is asked if Liam steals computers and sells them. After reassuring her father that he does not, Regan thinks to herself “what did Dad think Liam was? A stoner? A dealer? He was so not what Dad imagined” (Peters, 121). The use of the emphasized ‘so’ here serves to remind us that Regan is a teenager; the reader can immediately hear Regan’s exasperated tone. But such slang feels out of place in a book where three lines down, the narrator’s hand is described as being ‘melded to the doorknob’ (Peters, 121). Luna does an excellent job of describing the life of a sister watching her sibling transition, but the language sometimes removes the reader from the narrator. We forget how young she is and grow angry at how irrational Regan behaves.
But one thing that Levithan and Peters both do with ease is capture the complicated feelings of being young and LGBTQ, especially with their trans characters. Both Luna and Boy Meets Boy feature transwomen on opposite ends of their transitions. Liam is just beginning her transition into Luna and Peters captures the excitement and fear that she feels. Most of Liam’s character arc is defined by self-loathing and doubt; he won’t even keep a mirror in his room because he’s afraid of accidentally seeing himself. But as he transitions, his confidence begins to grow. After a trip to the mall, Regan describes Luna as ‘yammering away a hundred miles a minute’ and not noticing any stares directed at her. This reminds me of Infinite Darlene, who has more or less completed her transition. She exudes confidence, practically radiates it. In her spin off story The Quarterback and the Cheerleader, we begin to see some of the cracks in Darlene’s armor. She wonders that if by creating the person she wanted to be, ‘she missed out on creating a person that someone would want to fall in love with’. Both Luna and Infinite Darlene show the complicated feelings of being young and trying to figure out who they are and are written in a way that seems natural.

Roy Cohn’s Camp Aversion

Camp is a form of expression often defined as overdramatic, excessively theatrical to the point of bordering on parody. Camp exists, in many ways, to mock common ideology of the mainstream while providing a space for the counterculture. A certain degree of allusion to camp is expected in most modern queer works. What sets apart Angels in America is the degree to which camp and campiness is employed, given the subject matter. It is common for stories about the AIDs crisis to narrow the lens and focus purely on the tragedy of the epidemic, on the wrongs done to queer individuals by their peers, their families and their governments. Angels in America turns this idea on its head with the extensive use of camp, as seen with Prior’s angel, Harper’s visions and the character of Belize.

But what’s worth noting more than where camp is used is where and when camp is not used in Kushner’s play. Most characters encounter camp early on in thee show. Belize and Prior are both former drag queens and often use “girl-talk” (a mixture of French and English) when talking to one another. Prior and Harper see visions. Harper’s visions are often more doom-and-gloom: she sees herself alone in the Arctic or imagines her husband Joe as a dummy in the Mormon Visitor’s Center. Prior, on the other hand, has visions of the Angel of America: a creature who trys to be terrifying, but only comes off as ridiculous. Even Louis encounters camp through his exaggerated “Jewish guilt”. The only character who does not encounter any form of camp is Roy Cohn, the closeted lawyer dying of AIDs. Roy has plenty of opportunities to encounter camp; like Prior and Harper, he sees visions and with Belize as his nurse, he has direct contact to drag culture.

I think that the reason the character of Roy avoids camp and instead carries the mantle of the ‘traditional AIDs story’ is because of his refusal to admit that he’s a homosexual. When Roy first receive his diagnosis, he tells his doctor that “Roy Cohn is a heterosexual man, Henry, who fucks around with guys” (Kushner, act one scene nine). Roy remains in denial of who he is, refusing the align himself with the rest of the queer community. Roy is not the only closeted character in the story. Joe, a Mormon clerk starts the play deep in the closet, but comes to terms with his identity and comes out. After his coming out and affair with Louis, Joe finds himself confronted by camp through Harper’s visions and an interaction between Belize and Prior, where both men speak using their drag queen slang. It is because of his denial of self that keeps Roy from being able to be embraced by camp and confines him to the traditional, tragic narrative of the AIDs crisis.

Perfection and Separation

“That was a bad example but I knew what she meant. It meant that to create was a fundament, to appreciate, a supplement. Once created, the creature was separate from the creator, and needed no seconding to fully exist. “(Winterson, p.46).
“I don’t know if it’s up your street, it tells you how to build a perfect person, it’s all about this man who does it, but it’s not food if you ain’t got the equipment” (Winterson, 67).”

The ideas of perfection and separation are major themes in Jeanette Winnterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. In the chapter entitled Exodus, Elsie tells Jeanette that “once created, the creature was separate from the creator, and needed no seconding to fully exist.” This line strikes me as a perfect description of Jeanette’s character. Jeanette is separate from almost everything in her life. She’s adopted, making her physically separated her biological mother. She also expresses doubts about her mother during several point in the novel, saying that “people didn’t understand the way she thought; neither did I, but I loved her because she always knew exactly why things happened” (43). She’s isolated at school, seen as something of a ‘religious fanatic’ which leads to abuse from both the students and the teachers, but after her temporary hearing loss, realizes that her church sometimes gets things wrong. In short, Jeanette has been shaped by all these factors in her life, but is completely separate from all of them and does not need their validation to continue to exist.
When I was reading the chapter Leviticus, I was struck by the line towards the end of the story about the prince searching for the perfect woman to marry: “I don’t know if it’s up your street, it tells you how to build a perfect person, it’s all about this man who does it, but it’s not food if you ain’t got the equipment” (Winterson, 67). In the same chapter, Jeanette talks about how she was enraptured by a sermon about being perfect. The story referenced in the quote is the story of Frankenstein and his monster. This implies that a person created solely to be perfect is predisposed to become a monster. I think this is included as a warning to Jeanette. Frankenstein’s monster was created to be a perfect human, but once released from his creator, he becomes a murderous monster, disgusted with his creator and with his situation. Jeanette is becoming separated from her creators and she may soon find herself changing from perfect to ‘monstrous’.

The Language of “Twenty One Love Poems: VII”

“am I simply using us, like a river or a war?

And how have I used rivers, how have I used wars

to escape writing of the worst thing of all-

not the crimes of others, not even our own death,

but the failure to want our freedom passionately enough.”

What I loved initially about this poem was the way Rich addresses a quintessential truth of being a writer: that we use our love and lovers as metaphor and simile and in doing so, we strip away part of the emotion, the connection. We use them as tools to advance ourselves. The use of the comparison to a river and the war as examples is worth noting. Not only does it further a theme that Rich uses throughout the poem of water and violence, but it brings the reader’s attention to the fact that both a river and war can yield similar results. They can both create and take away. By comparing her love as a metaphor similar to them, Rich almost seems to say look, we are both beautiful and destructive. Our love can create and it can take away.

As the poem progresses, Rich worries that she is using these images of love, rivers and war not as an inadequate or inappropriate turn of phrase, but as a way to avoid what she’s really worried about: “the failure to want out freedom passionately enough” (147). Throughout all her works, Rich focuses on the idea of the suffering and survival of women. In this poem, she’s saying that  our love  does not free us, as we are so often lead to believe, but instead distracts us and keeps us from addressing how passionately we want our freedom.