#fbf to a college paper | just a couple of days by tony vigorito

Mellie: Alright. I read the book. We’ve got to talk about it. There are lots of things I want to talk about. Why did you say that I would absolutely love this book? I see what I got out of it but I know that my view is very different from yours. That’s why I can’t understand your recommendation to me.

Guy: I enjoyed it because it was written based on my college town, my college. “You’ll love the book.” That’s how you sell it. I had no idea if you’d love the book or not. Well, did you?

Mellie: Yes…and no. It was entertaining, enlightening, frustrating, and I found it offensive at times. Overall, though, it was pretty good.

Guy: Wow. Could you be any more vague?

Mellie: *sigh* Well, let’s start with the basics. I want to make sure I have the foundational stuff down before I get into what I really want to say. Also, I wanna make sure I’m on the right track. I have an assignment due soon based on this novel, the one novel you chose over all others. Even though my professor has probably never read this and probably never will, I want to make sure I get the message across. He said to read in groups and I’m pretty confident in that no one else has read this book, especially at Jesus University. I doubt anyone at Jesus University would be okay with this book after finishing it. You’re the only person I have to talk to as far as this assignment goes.

So we have all of these strange characters. There’s Blip, Down, Flake, Tynee, Malarky, Kiljoy, Volt, Sophia Carthorse, Mary (Sophia), Dandy, Applebee, Orange, and Red. I’m sure there are more but this is all I can remember right now. All the men have these names that have negative connotations, right? They have unreliable, fleeting, and overall horrible names. I don’t get why Miss Mary’s name is Sophia too. The minor characters all have fruit names with Red referencing the apple mentioned in the book by Dandy. I think Dandy is the key to the whole story, right? I’m sure all these characters have specific literary terms as far as descriptions go (narrator, protagonist, etc.) that I’m unaware of. If I knew what half of the terms used meant, I’m sure I could give a half-way intelligent-sounding presentation but I don’t really know what I’m talking about. You, Mr. Lit, figure all of this stuff out right away.

Guy: Yes, and no. So I can identify different character roles. We don’t need to get technical. Don’t read so much into everything, you know? You have the characters in mind and you know how you feel about them, right? You see how they all interact and affect one another. The book isn’t about getting every single point about the different characters. Rather than dissecting the story, read it, absorb it, and then relate it. I get what you’re trying to do…but you’re destroying the point by doing so. See what I mean?

Mellie: I just want to understand what’s going on. I’d hate to write a paper on a story speaking with authority that I do not have. I’d never want Tony to read my work one day and think, “This girl is an idiot. She obviously missed the point. Why did she even bother making an effort when her efforts yielded such pathetic results?” Well, he is a writer so I’m sure he’d say this using descriptive language to really paint an even worse picture than what I just did.

Guy: We can sit here and dwell on your feelings of inadequacy or we can discuss the book. I mean, it’s up to you.

Mellie: Fine. Let’s continue on with the story. It starts off with the “logos libido”, which I’m assuming defines the individualistic, creative base of the story. He does use a lot of sexual terms as far as descriptions go, so I’m sure “libido” goes both ways. While we’re on the subject, I didn’t feel comfortable with all the sexual references used to describe a lot of things. I found it unnecessary and kind of ridiculous. I felt excluded because I didn’t understand. Again, I can’t see why you’d recommend a book written by such a liberal guy to such a conservative Christian girl. I had to share this before moving on. The “logos libido” of, “Why aren’t apples called reds?” is the first printed line. It goes on for a couple pages and then jumps into the story, which seems completely unrelated. You do remember the story, right?

Guy: Vividly. I read it in college, so I don’t remember every detail but I do remember the story. How could one not remember a story of complete destruction of one’s symbolic capacity? The idea of complete destruction only yielding positive results, the end of the world being the beginning; something that was supposed to bring destruction only brought hope and new life.

Mellie: Well, thanks for summarizing the story in one line. There’s a lot more to it than that. The dean, Tynee, ropes in the unassuming biology professor, Dr. Flake Fountain, to be a vital team player in solving a cure for the Pied Piper virus, a virus created that wipes out a person’s ability to identify symbols or communicate using language of any kind. This is supposed to be a revolutionary discovery of humane warfare and weaponry. Since Tynee is weak and insecure, he exercises his position of power to make people under him do as he says, only feeding his corrupted control issues. Tynee is taking orders from Dr. Kiljoy, the main head behind the operation. It was interesting to see Kiljoy put Tynee in his place time after time, though it’s saddening to see the pathetic little man struggle for self-validation through power. Flake seems to be down-to-earth, a guy who’s comfortable with his life, focused on biology and nothing more. He has no wife or family; nothing going on but science. I see how he was an easily persuaded individual in the virus scheme. Blip Korterly is his one friend, along with Blip’s wife, the lovely Sophia, who is Flake’s secret crush (though he really desires what Blip and Sophia have, and not necessarily Sophia). Blip becomes paranoid with a whole Big Brother-like concept controlling his every move. He’s always on the lookout for someone watching. It turns out his paranoia is not completely uncalled for. He’s taken in and is used as a test subject for the Pied Piper virus. Since Blip is Flake’s only friend, this is supposed to give him incentive to figure out a cure for the created virus.

Before Flake can find a cure, the virus is released onto the campus and into the world, while Flake, Kiljoy, Tynee, and a couple others are in the sealed lab, unaffected by the virus.

Those saved from the virus know it’s only a matter of time before they too will be infected. The group is able to see what’s going on in the world outside through live camera feed. I believe the back cover of the book reads, “A bit of a leak turns into a merry-hearted, babble-inducing apocalypse that will either destroy humankind or take it to the next step in evolution.”What is supposed to be acting as a weapon of destruction and ruin seems to perform as a unifier, a tool of harmony and peace. Kiljoy isn’t too happy about this. I was surprised to see that Kiljoy intentionally released the virus so he could see its effects before his death, as he has cancer. In the end, everyone is either killed or is enjoying the new beginning.

Guy: That seems like a decent summary. You left out a lot of details, but for a surface-level summary, I’d say that sounds pretty accurate. You have to remember that in any story, there are many more underlying things going on. For instance, I remember Kiljoy killing Flake’s and Miss Mary’s dogs, just for the hell of it. He killed at least two people during the course of the story as well. He released the virus on the campus knowing that it would spread around the world. Kiljoy is a sick man, needing to feel like a god, like he is in control of everything. While he seems to be in complete control, his evil ways bring goodness. Didn’t it say he was dying of cancer or something along those lines? So then, this would be a physical representation of his sick psychological condition which results in the death of the self. He becomes eternal through his “mark” in history. This is how you need to go about breaking down the story. See what I mean? You’re on the right track. Just try to go deeper now. Get to the heart of the story.

Mellie: You said, “Don’t read so much into everything, you know?” Now you’re asking me to go far deeper than I’m capable?

Guy: You’re the one who called me and said, “I can’t wait to discuss this book with you.” Now we’re here to talk. So, what did you want to talk about? You clearly aren’t interested in character analysis…

Mellie: I am! Well, I’m interested in meeting my assignment objectives.

Guy: So what are your assignment objectives?

Mellie: I don’t know. I’m conferencing the course so I don’t do a lot of the group activity stuff. My professor has some guidelines in the syllabus but the syllabus alone is a novel and by the time I get through reading, I still have very little direction. All I know is that I was told to pick a novel. You suggested this one. I’m sure if I had read “Of Mice and Men” or “The Grapes of Wrath” I’d be looking at characters, plot, themes, motifs, symbols, and whatever else you’re supposed to look at. I could then confirm my interpretations with something like Cliff’s Notes online or Wikipedia. I can’t do that with “Just a Couple of Days”. At least with other novels, I have the right answers. I have to come up with the answers for this novel all on my own. I need to present my work, probably in paper form. I’m not creative enough to think of anything else. All the answers I’m supposed to give could be totally off, incomplete, and dumb. I don’t want to sound stupid. I guess my professor wouldn’t really know but I would know. I just don’t want to do the assignment wrong.

Guy: This is a literature course, right? So much in writing is interpretational. You’re speaking of absolutes in areas of subjectivity. Do what you want to do. If your professor isn’t impressed, screw him. The point is to learn. It’s not about getting all the “right” answers. If he’s worried about the “right” answers in order to give good grades, he’s probably a horrible teacher anyway. I’m sure this isn’t the case. So, stop focusing on all the “supposed to”s and enjoy the book. Enjoy the assignment. Now tell me what you got out of your reading.

Mellie: “Why aren’t apples called reds?” is the question Blip and Sophia’s daughter, Dandy, asks. After a lot of creative rambling, which Vigorito is extremely good at, the question she is really asking surfaces: “Why don’t we call things what they are?” Now, since the book opened with the question about apples, it seems clear that it is fairly significant. About two-thirds through the book, when Flake is reminiscing, he brings us back to when Dandy asks the crucial question. Through prodding from her parents, she arrives at her true question, “Why don’t we call things what they are?” Now, this does not seem relevant to any part of the entire story. I’m so confused! If I’m asking myself this question about the book, I’d ask why Vigorito goes on and on for pages and pages only to make his point at the very end of the book. His point doesn’t seem to relate to the main question initially presented. Call things what they are. State what you have to say, which would take about 3 pages, and go on with life. Is it really necessary to carry on like this?

Guy: Wow. You aren’t a writer. Sometimes it’s not what is said but the way it’s said. The story has made quite an impact on you. Do you really believe that you would remember so much about those last few pages, the only pages you find necessary, the pages I can’t seem to remember, the pages you’ve yet to share with me about, without having been so involved with the story? You’re a musician. When you play a piece, do you only play the melody? Isn’t it the rhythmic, harmonic movement supporting the melodic line that takes you from hearing a simple song to experiencing a masterpiece? Likewise, the message in any story isn’t the only significant part. There are things constantly going on, whether you’re aware of them or not as the reader that hold your interest, stirring up thoughts and feelings on both the conscious and subconscious levels. Now, I want you to think about this: do you really wish he would have written a three-page novel?

Mellie: *sigh*

Mellie: I can’t help but not believe you when you say “the pages I can’t seem to remember…” in reference to the only pages I really remember. When you recommended me this book, I remember you saying, “Read it. It changed my life.” It seems to me like your complete way of life is spelled out for me in the book.

Guy: Interesting. How so?

Mellie: It’s hard to say what I think without wanting to justify and clarify my points so I don’t offend or insult anyone. Please listen through my entire thought before reacting. I know you have complete control over your thoughts and feelings, never judging, so I’m sure this will be no problem for you. Vigorito is this “love all, one with creation,” hippie guy who’s basically saying that life is yours, each person is his own highest authority. Please excuse my tone but it is so hard to say that without sounding a little judgmental and critical. Though it may be unclear and not visible, my criticisms only come from a much deeper concern for the human soul, for his soul, for yours. Such a foreign concept is stressful to even imagine. Living is connection on this level that cannot be expressed in language. Language, the very tool we believe enables such deep knowledge of the self and others, is actually a barrier between the realness and trueness of relationship. I get this and I can agree. The idea of cleansing, a new beginning, the end being only the beginning, is beautiful. I’m glad your friend Tony sees this, but where he goes from there is depressing. I can’t seem to understand how anyone can be okay with his definition of truth, of God. God is so real. He’s beyond understanding, beyond our mental capacity. There are no words to fully summarize or begin to describe Him. To diminish Him into something so simple, to my own self, is such a painful thought. I can’t even begin to be okay with that.

Guy: Sure you can’t. I mean, it makes sense. Lil Mellie, you’ve been told your whole life about God, what not to do, how to think. Now, you’ve been challenged and see something other than what you know and you want to resist it. You’re a curious cat but you’re too afraid to do anything, to experience everything you’ve been told not to do. Do what you want to do. I don’t see there being a big, all-powerful force controlling and guiding life, a force making sure everything’s in place, moving people wherever they need to go to be kept in line. When I was little, it was always, “Look at the cross. See Jesus on there? That’s God’s Son. That man died for you so you better not screw up.” Fuck that. Like anyone can be perfect. Jesus did a good job in his day. Trying to live up to the Bible’s standards is…it’s ridiculous in this time. People were worried about things like where to get food and water. Now, we have food and water. Don’t get me wrong here, Jesus was a righteous dude, but religion evolves. He is outdated, in the past. His teachings are irrelevant to life now. For example, when we were at the bowling alley, the guys next to us kept coming over into our lane. What would Jesus do about that? Jesus wouldn’t know because Jesus never fucking went bowling.

Mellie: That has to be the most hilarious and depressing thing I’ve ever heard. Towards the end of the story, Sophia says religion evolves. “Evolution is the process of Creation…Create. Evolve. Crevolve.” Is that not what you just said? You say and believe so many little statements like this. It’s all in the book. Vigorito says,”You are God, for Chrissakes!” Again, I find myself in a place where I cannot figure out how you think I’d be okay with reading something like this. It goes on about truth and how you are the purpose of existence. Now, if I wasn’t a Christian, I would be a secular humanist. The idea of me being my ultimate authority, the only one I’d have to be accountable to (with accountability not really being significant because there is no definite right or wrong) sounds pretty freeing. The more I think about it, though, the more I see that God is too real to me. Also, these rules that you see as suppressing are what keep order. Restraint is freedom. I can’t just throw the very thing that’s kept me happy and safe for so long out the window! Rules are great. They aren’t in place to keep you from experiencing life but to protect and make sure you experience life in the healthiest, most rewarding way.

Guy: Everything in moderation. The good Lord has given us everything. Excess is bad, which has been seen time and time again throughout history.

Mellie: Your definition of moderate is far different than my definition. There’s no consistency there. It seems like you seem to indulge yourself, doing whatever you want to do, so what is “moderate”?

Guy: Do as I say, not as I do. I’m not claiming to be great at restraint at all. God, no! There does need to be balance.

Mellie: How do you define balance? How can you see the line and know not to cross it? How can you decide what you want and don’t want to do, what is and is not good for you? What is right and wrong? Is there a right or wrong?

Guy: When I do something, it affects others. If I carry out that act and it affects someone else in a negative way, in a way that hurts them, I’ve done wrong. Then again, if I had no way of responding in another way in order to do what has to be done, it can’t be wrong. You just gotta do what you gotta do to live life.

Mellie: My professor is so right and I’m just beginning to clearly see what he was saying. Excuse my random interjection. It does relate, I promise.

Guy: Okay.

Mellie: Well, I showed him our conversation about the book and he seemed to find a lot of connections between our conversation in itself as a direct correlation to what’s going on in the story.

Guy: God, kids and professors at Jesus University reading Just A Couple of Days…nice. Good for him. Good for Tony! I’m glad to see collegial folk are still reading his work. He’d be happy to hear that. He’s on MySpace. You should send him your paper. If anything, send him an e-mail saying, “Hey, I enjoyed your book”. What did your professor have to say?

Mellie: He enjoyed the book. I’m sure he got a lot more out of it than me, at least on some levels. The one thing that really stood out to me that he said was his point on the “logos libido”. Logos is reason, logic and libido is desire, pleasure. Based on our conversations, he sees that I am logos and you are libido. I found this to be funny, not in the humorous, laughing sort of sense but in that we’ve had that conversation before. It’s been the struggle between the two of us, mostly troublesome for me because I think about everything way too much. All I wanted to do was think more with my heart and not my head, to do whatever I felt like doing. Obviously, though, my head always had the final word. You had no problem doing what you wanted to do but completely respected my rational approach to everything, even though this came secondary for you. He also said that people have it in their minds that logos and libido are separate when they are, in fact, working together, and are one. Well, I think that’s what he said. On one hand, I see how both the logos and libido in a person does need to have balance.

He also said that he was reading this as fiction, even though it couldn’t be more real, and looked at us as characters. He hit both of us dead on. I have no idea how that happened! I had no idea I could communicate so many unseen, intangible characteristics in my rambling, confused state of trying to figure out this book with you. I guess we’re back to the whole idea of communication, finding what’s really being said. Why aren’t apples called reds? Even now, knowing there is no consequences for saying what I really mean, calling this paper what it really is, I still can’t seem to be completely transparent and real. Now that I’ve gone off on some tangent, I wanted to get back to the idea of us being characters. My prof looked up our name meanings, mine being wise, noble, truthful one and yours being defender of man.

Guy: Defender of man? I like that. You say you don’t like your name but it does have a nice meaning. Mellie. Sure you still don’t like your name?

Logos: This all goes back to the idea of God…again. Yes, the world does revolve around him. You, Guy, not believing in God, defend man’s idea of what reality is. That stance is an acceptance of the sinful nature, giving in to fleshly desires. It’s hard to describe this without using Christianese but basically, you reject the idea of God completely and in doing so, you end up only harming yourself. Not that I claim to be wise or know much of anything, I do know that God is very real and present in life. This is such a hard point to express to someone who has no idea what it’s even like to know God. I’m doing my best here. Never have I questioned so much the existence of God until you came along. Thank you, by the way, for being the main reason I’ve questioned my faith so much. I can’t even begin to tell you how much easier you’ve made my life. I do know, now more than ever, that God is real and true. God is truth. God is.

Libido: That’s really beautiful. I’m glad you have that. Some people go their whole lives without knowing what they want or without having anything to bring them to a state of happiness. Your faith gives you great optimism and hope. Your idea of life is wonderful because you believe you have a good life. So many people don’t have that.

Mellie: I wish I could say I’m glad that you’ve figured everything out. I can’t even come up with some sarcastic, witty remark to such a statement to lighten the mood here, which is unfortunate because sometimes, that’s the only way we make it through these serious, intense conversations. You know, my professor was talking to me about Vigorito’s last pages on God, the I Am. I wish, with all that I am, that I could explain to you what he said. I think that’s my true struggle right now. God is beyond language, beyond comprehension. But, you see, even if I were to try and explain it to you, you would never understand. You’ve never experienced God. I have no idea how to communicate what I really want to say. It’s so hard being in this place. I could be the best salesman, well saleswoman, in the world and still not “sell” you on this idea of God. I’m really putting forth my best efforts here and I still feel like I’m failing.

Guy: You’re not selling me anything. Like I said, you have this faith and that’s really cool. You have this outlook on life that inspires you to move forward and enjoy life in the present, no matter where you are. You’re at a young age and already have that conquered so who knows what you’re capable of from here. It takes people years, their whole lives even, to find that. Let’s take my ex-girlfriend as an example. At first, it was the idea of being stuck living in her mom’s basement forever. So, she moved with me out to Cali and I thought that would make her happy. Once she was out here, she wasn’t satisfied with her job. I helped her find a job and thought that would make her happy. No matter how many times you move or change jobs or change life, unless you can learn to enjoy life as it is, you’ll never be happy. You’ve got that down. As far as selling your God to me goes, ya know, Tom says that one day, I’ll come around and believe in God, and who knows. Do I see it happening? No, of course not, but you never know. See, and that’s the thing. To be stubborn, close-minded, and say I’ll never consider it is just stupid because you never know. Maybe, maybe I will. I can’t see myself ever being there but, again, we’ll see. I don’t know. There’s still plenty of life to live and so many thoughts to explore. So you have what you believe and I have my, well, beliefs. I always enjoy talking things of the metaphysical, having intellectual discussions of morality, ethics, life, God. What I do know is that it’s 12:47 in the morning and…

Mellie: Yea, I’m leaving. God, I so don’t want to go to class tomorrow. I just…I…oh, I don’t know. I’m sure we’ll talk more later.

Guy: Yup.

Mellie: Thanks, Guy.

Guy: Of course. Still on for bowling Tuesday?

Mellie: Provided I’m not working on a paper or something, that sounds like a plan. Thanks for walking me out to my car. See you in just a couple of days.

Guy: G’night, Lil Mellie.

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