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Where is Bernard?

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message 1: by Kelsey (last edited Mar 18, 2013 01:07PM) (new)

Kelsey Hatch | 19 comments We have learned quite a bit about Bernard Cooper’s childhood, family, relationships, and sexuality after reading two of his memoirs earlier this semester. Two of the three stories ("Intro to Acting" and "What to Name the Baby") we read from Guess Again: Short Stories—a work labeled as fiction—are written in the third-person omniscient. Through the use of this narrative voice, Cooper gives us access to the thoughts and feelings of each main character.

Given what you know about Cooper’s portrayal of himself as Bernard in Maps to Anywhere and The Bill From My Father, where do you see him in any of the stories we read from Guess Again, including "Night Sky" written in first-person?

message 2: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Murphy | 17 comments I have missed Cooper. I really enjoy reading his fiction. In his short story " Intro to Acting," I find Cooper everywhere. From the character of Walter who is shy and yet at the same time is needing and wanting this sexual experience. The line in this story that I believe portrays Bernard is found on page 44 of Guess Again. Cooper writes, " This morning the stories would arrive as always, and no matter how fine or mundane or far-fetched, none would capture a dawn such as this or and act like the one Walter's longing had prompted" (44). To me this line speaks to both Bernard's longing and his prowess as a writer. When writing one takes from ones life, one will write stories that will try and capture a feeling or an event, but many times even the best stories fall short of capturing it all. To me that is what Bernard is saying here, thats what the writer in him is saying. The longing has to do with his sexuality his wanting and needing, a theme that we saw in Maps to Anywhere (Even if it was a lie..). Bernard is a writer, so everything he writes is going to have a part of him, to me that line shows that part perfectly.

message 3: by Alex (new)

Alex Gladwin (agladwin) | 17 comments I mostly felt Bernard's presence in "Intro to Acting," wherein the narrator is comfortable yet not in his own skin. Bernard always comes across as very introspective and contemplative, but also as someone that wants to be accepted by society on some level. Now, while Walter doesn't have to worry about his homosexuality in this story, he does worry that he's not fitting in. Here I think namely of Lou telling Walter how to change his look up, which makes Walter paranoid that he's sticking out or is too obvious (31). This reminded me of Bernard dating a a girl–who was also homosexual–and them acting as each other's "beards." They were trying to fit into the society they're in. In "Intro to Acting," that society is that of the Hammer.

I also felt like Walter had some of Bernard's insecurities, which is in a similar vein to my previous observation. There was a sense of, "I want to do this, but I don't want to come across as this, or give a wrong impression, or...." That is Bernard's questioning and contemplative persona. When he considers Bob's problems in the midst of an attempted sexual fantasy–"Bob was right; as long as he couldn't trust his instincts, he'd be among a throng of mediocre actors (41)–, I thought of all the times Bernard would go on a side tangent in the midst of something important. I felt Bernard's personality very strongly via Walter.

message 4: by Shannon (new)

Shannon Kandola | 18 comments While I agree with both Alex and Caroline that "Intro to Acting" offers the most familiarities between Bernard Cooper and his fiction, there were many smaller moments that struck me as being very personally Bernard's in both "Night Sky" and "What to name the Baby".

The moment that stuck with me the most after completing the reading is a very brief moment of thought from "Night Sky" where one of the main characters from the story, Sam, reflects on the times when he and Kay were married: "Those were the days before protease inhibitors, when I thought the virus was going to destroy me sooner rather than later, and sleep was the only antidote to my fearful, finite, point of view: last visit with Kay; last windy night; last glance through a telescope--the litany would begin the instant I opened my eyes" (18). This moment seemed so deeply rooted within emotions I have felt from reading Cooper (because he has a wonderful way of transferring his emotion through the pages). In particular, it resembled the emotions from the end of "Truth Serum" (I know we didn't read this memoir in this class, but I couldn't help but think of it!) when Bernard was loosing Brian to AIDS. The state of constant anxiety and fear, not knowing what is going to happen next, is eminent within his stories.

This article gives the essence of what I'm getting at:

message 5: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 18 comments While reading Bernard Cooper's "Guess Again: Short Stories", Cooper continues to provide us with his humor and honesty. This is seen throughout his previous works in "Maps to anywhere" and "The Bill from My Father". I agree with Alex on Cooper's portrayal on sexuality and acceptance in society embedded within the characters in these short stories. Many of the short stories presented in "Guess Again" have reoccurring themes of sexuality and acceptance- I do believe that Cooper is a representation of some of the characters that we've read during the week. One of the stories that stood out to me in particular was "What to Name the Baby?” The relationship between Frank and Booth was something that intrigued me being that Frank was once married and has a daughter, Laura who is still coping with her father's sexuality. Booth, Frank's partner is openly gay and we see this throughout the story by the way he presents himself around Frank and Laura. Here, Laura has given birth to a baby girl, Pearl and Frank arrives to meet them both (68). Cooper writes, "Instead of feeling that he'd finally found her, Frank felt as if it were he who'd been found-by Laura, her child, the luminous room" (Cooper 68). This reminded me of the relationship between Bernard Cooper and his father in "The Bill from My Father". Cooper, though he does not see eye-to-eye with his father continues to be there from him even in his last moments of life. In "What to Name the Baby", Cooper says, "Frank was reminded that parents aren't much different from their infants-just as needy, as subject to hunger, as intent on the loved and hovering faces" (Cooper 69). Similar to Cooper’s relationship with his father, his father needed him and he needed his father.

message 6: by Mackenzie (new)

Mackenzie Kurtzner | 18 comments I would have to agree with Alex and Caroline’s post about “Cooper’s presence” in “Intro to Acting,” but I also think that Cooper intertwines personal thoughts and feelings in “What to Name the Baby” through the characters Frank and Laura. In “What to Name the Baby” I found a connection between Frank Russo and Cooper because they both were drawn towards the idea of a perfect family living within a beautiful home in Hollywood. For example, one of the reasons Frank was drawn toward architecture was because “as a boy, he’d love visiting model homes in the Hollywood Hills, comforted by the certain touches—school pennants, a table set for dinner, fanned magazines—that gave the illusion a family lived there” (Cooper 65). Similarly, Cooper could be reflected through Laura because “her adult life had been compounded by one abandonment after another” (Cooper 66). Cooper focuses on loss and how emotional pressure builds over time, but he also reflects on how families handle this. Through Laura and Frank’s relationship, Cooper conveys how family members try to move forward and while coping with the past and what was lost over time.

message 7: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Eldon | 18 comments Mindy Candy wrote this awesome article that reveals Cooper's presence throughout, "Guess Again: Short Stories," in which she say's, "There's no need to guess again with Cooper's new collection."(1) This is absolutely true because we are all familiar with Cooper's stories and the vulnerable position he puts himself in, in "Maps to Anywhere" and "The Bill From My Father." The biggest difference in the short stories we are reading now, Cooper seems to be more comfortable with his own secrets and problems surrounding his sexuality and is more focused on accepting his differences and making the best of the situations he is faced with - via his characters.

Two moments that stood out to me and reminded me of Copper are both in "Night Sky". The first, is the overall relationship between Kay and Sam - who are divorced from each other but still friends - which reminded me of the story Cooper shared about losing his virginity...with a girl. On the other hand, the way they interact with each other reminds me of how Bernard and his Father talked with one another:
"'All right,' she conceded. 'Maybe it was subconscious...'
'Don't correct me when I'm venting!'" (15)
The second example reflects Cooper's use of fluid language and the way he makes us stop. Re-read. Think. Re-read again. During the blackout when Kay leaves her house and Sam is stuck with a decision to answer the phone: "I didn't relish the idea of having to talk to Kay's probation officer; in previous conversations, she's been fat too canny to fall for a lie. Still, I ran to get it because I hate the ring of an unanswered phone--a sound close to hopeless." (20) Cooper writing just makes me melt sometimes and this is a perfect example of him taking something an intangible feeling and making it tangible-relatively speaking.

The link to the article is here:

message 8: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia B | 18 comments There were two key moments where I felt Bernard had revealed to the reader glimpses of himself in his collection "Guess Again". The line "Were these men behaving as they really were, or behaving the way they thought men were supposed to?" which was found in the section "Intro to Acting" reminded me of Bernard Cooper's other works which we have read this semester (35). Cooper wrote this line in regards to the character Walter's observations of the men interacting at the bar called The Hammer (35). In the works read for class, there was not a heavy focus on Cooper's sexuality, instead this reminded me of his interaction with the other male figures in his life, mainly his father. Cooper often compared himself with his father, in "The Bill From My Father", he even admitted that "I also had to face the fact that I felt competitive with my father..." in "D-L-R-O-W" (156). His father was his main source for knowing how to behave and how to act, but there was much Cooper did not know about his father based on what Edward Cooper decided to reveal and based on his actions. Thus, when questioning how one is versus how one presents themselves it reminded me of their dynamic. (This line also reminded me of Capote's works too, but that would be a digression from the question.)

The second line that reminded me of Cooper's other works was "Being in love, in fact, seemed incompatible with happines, since love carried with it the constant threat of separation" (63). This line, located in "What to Name the Baby" made me pause and consider what love and loss Cooper has had to face in his life time. Immediately, I thought of Brian, though his fate was not mentioned in the works we have read, we have discussed his role and significance in Cooper's writing. Then, I considered that last several chapters of "The Bill From My Father" revolved around the death of his father, while both works included the death of other family members.

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