The Sublime and Mundane
by Janet Glasspool
The Sublime and Mundane:
· The back cover announces that the novel includes “…the interpenetration of the sublime with the mundane, and the origin of the bagel…” The whole novel is the interpenetration of the sublime with the mundane!
· I love the opening pages that set a visionary context for the novel. There are wonderful quotations about Kashi, flood waters, drawing, and the importance of buildings—with the images of waterways snaking over the landscape.
· I laughed hard at the introductory speeches and personalities of the program leaders and Bag’s fellow students in the architecture department. I recognize the environment completely from my time in education! The very complex project task set out on p. 34, to be completed in 72 hours, is priceless.
· On page 43 Bag’s description of his planned project—“dynamic tension between the program’s celebratory and mourning aspects...” is really funny. After all, the students are asked to design an “interim world” after a “catastrophic flood”!
· I love the hilarious projects that the students design (pages 48-52) and the critical responses of the program leaders.
· I enjoyed the thoughtful points Bag makes about the importance of observation on pages 55-56, with the addition of scholarly quotations.
· The images on page 86—the mandala, map of Benares organized as a mandala, and image of Kashi on Shiva’s trident—pull together the complex ideas in Bag’s project for centrifugal design (in the sense of moving from the centre or heart to meet community needs). And then, all this lovely visioning is undercut by the “rough crit”—“too much symmetry, too much order…too rational”! Happily, there is eventual success when Bag “follows his heart” and Mr. King pronounces the project “perfect”. (p. 96)
The novel is filled with wonderful drawings. Here are a few favourites:
· The p. 4 drawing is gorgeous, with the triangle of light focussed on Bagel drawing.
· The p. 7 drawing of Bismillah’s hands on Bagel’s shoulders and the sad slump of both figures against the open-armed rage of Stallion is really poignant.
· Great idea on p. 10—the shock of the empty page when Bagel leaves home.
· The images on p. 14 really speak to me—boarding the boat, a skeleton and debris left behind—and especially, Bag’s backward glance.
· There are interesting divisions of the page on p. 16 and amazing drawings of Bag falling asleep.
· The parking garage tower is great on pages 19 & 20—and makes connections to the tower that is the culmination of the project. Love the strange vehicles parked there and the immense structure on p. 20 superimposed on the dark branches of the river.
· The parking kiosk lunch scenes are great fun.
· On p. 33 I like the way cigarette smoke cuts through the text.
· The perspective on the room in the architecture department is great. p. 35
· The puzzled faces on p. 38 when Bag describes his process—“by hand”—are delightful.
· Bag working away diligently (pages 39-41) amid many interruptions.
· Bag’s multi-handed project as opposed to the “info scrolls” of other students on pages 45-46.
· The tower aka the parking garage on p. 54 is very striking.
· The full-page drawings on pages 73-81 are wonderful.
· The Nolli map on page 82 is a most interesting way to diagram built space and public circulation space.
Sly Humour/ Word Play
· Sly, wry humour is evident throughout—p. 9 “From this day on, you are not Bagel. You are merely Bag.”
· P. 12 I’m not sure why I love “I ply the waters” so much! Perhaps because “ply” is so poetic for a physical task like rowing.
· On p. 24 I like the “urban renewal schemes” in the mud.
· Love the acronym AOFUSCI and the convoluted title of the architecture school. p. 25
· On p. 31, there are amusing references to “the quaint River Folk with their esoteric weaving customs”…and all the tangled yarn-related comments that follow!
· I really enjoyed the obscure language used by students when describing their past projects—e.g., “sexiest slash most technologically conspicuous Storage Hut…” “…critical fenestration and over-reactive material systems”. pages 36-37
· Bag’s description of his project on p. 46 is great fun “…typologies of our world colliding into a gravitational center, which creates a kind of centrifugal juxtaposed inheritance…”
· The birth of the bagel with its “untouched sacred middle” on pages 64-65 is hilarious.