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Looking Forward, Looking Backward

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message 1: by Cynthia (last edited Mar 21, 2013 09:59AM) (new)

Cynthia B | 18 comments Kate Thomas, the author of "What Time We Kiss: Michael Field's Queer Temporalities" offers this question: "Should looking forward be synonymous with anticipation, and looking backward with regret?" (22). In Guess Again, Bernard Cooper often allows the characters of the short stories to reflect on some portion of the past. How does Cooper support or oppose this idea when mentioning the past or future? What are your personal reflections on this question, do you agree?

For the article - which highlights the treatment of homosexuality in poems and how queer theory has changed - click here.


message 2: by Kelsey (last edited Mar 21, 2013 09:55AM) (new)

Kelsey Hatch | 19 comments In his short story "Bit-O-Honey," Bernard Cooper seems to support the idea of "looking backward with regret" as phrased in Michael Field's question. When Ross is inside of his father's house and thinks he hears the voice of his father's lover, he considers how Mr. Gold's lover could have influenced his father's decision to "cut off contact with Ross" (87). Ross proceeds to shift the blame on himself and considers his regrets, "Maybe if I hadn't raised my voice, had visited him more often, had been another kind of son" (87). This moment propels Ross forward; he is determined to confirm that it is his father's lover whom is responsible for the silence and separation between he and his father, not his past actions. However, he then discovers that there is no lover in his father's bedroom, only the female voice on the radio.

I agree that looking forward should be synonymous with anticipation. This is probably because I get anxious about everything in the future, both significant and insignificant. As for the second part of the question, regret is a concept I struggle with and can’t quite come to a solid understanding of it.


message 3: by Jennifer (last edited Mar 20, 2013 02:55PM) (new)

Jennifer | 18 comments I believe Bernard Cooper supports the idea in someways. I don't think he is completely oppose to it. In Guess Again: Short Stories, the characters within these short stories have experienced rejection or loss in a variety of different ways. For instance in "x" and "Bit-O-Honey," both, Nelson and Ross have encountered loss and rejection from a family member(s). In "Bit-O-Honey," Ross's reason of going back to the home he was kicked out of by his father was one the stood out to me. It seem to have this supernatural feel as if he is looking from the inside- out. He explains “how the dead, before they transcend to another plane, peer down from the heights of the life they once lived and view it with new detachment”(Cooper,86). This line is significant considering that Ross sneaks into his estranged father’s house, desperate to connect with him. Though there is loss, Ross continues to feel this unconditional love towards his father.

In "X," Nelson is currently on the drug called ecstasy. He is taken into a memory of when he was a child and he went in to kiss Tiko in the mouth to make his so-called pain better; In return, Tiko punched Nelson in the face and since then, hasn't heard from his sister or Tiko again(Cooper,76). The narrator says, "He suspected his kiss had driven them away, and so he believed, for years and years, the he deserved exactly what he got" (Cooper,77). The quote clearly shows the blame that Nelson has put forth in himself and the fact that drugs are in place in the story gives him to feeling of experience love in fantasy, rather than in reality.


message 4: by Shannon (last edited Mar 21, 2013 09:57AM) (new)

Shannon Kandola | 18 comments In his short story "X," Bernard Cooper supports the idea of "looking backward with regret" as the main character of the story, Nelson, reflects on a past experience with his sister's boyfriend: Nelson unexpectedly finds himself aroused by his sister's boyfriend, Tiko, and kisses him after accidentally closing a door on his face with the intention "to make it better" (76). Nelson expresses regret when he states, "He suspected the kiss had driven them away, and so he believed, for years and years, that he deserved exactly what he got" (77). Ultimately, Cooper turns the story in a different direction with Nelson, by showing him at a club, overcome by the pounding music and high of drugs, with no regrets and nothing holding him back.

Personally, I agree with the first statement, that looking forward is synonymous with anticipation:anticipation is a driving factor, which pushes people to work harder, and excites them with the possibilities that their life presents. The second statement, however, I completely disagree with: looking backward should not be synonymous with regret, in my opinion at least. Our past, however good or bad, defines us, and regretting the moments that didn't go exactly as planned is not only a waste of time, but it is a waste of mental energy and leads to unnecessary stress. We should accept the past as it is, and only look forward with anticipation.


message 5: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Eldon | 18 comments In Bernard Cooper's short story, "Bit-O-Honey," the narrator is obviously emotionally broken, in some ways, by the failed relationship between him and his father. However, I don't think it has so much to do with regret, rather than contemplating how the circumstance might be different if those various factors had been altered in some way. Kelsey used the example that I was going to use, but it's pretty clear at the end of the story that the narrator feels something for his father, but his recent visit (and souvenir) almost frees him from his uncontrollable reactions/ need to see his father. On a side note, I could not get over home similar "Bit-O-Honey" and "The Bill From My Father" are to each other.

As far as "looking ahead," I absolutely agree that anticipation would be synonymous with the future. There are clear examples, such as studying for an exam, going to workout, receiving a package/letter in the mail, or even anticipating what's going to happen next in Cooper's stories. These are all examples that I'm sure everyone can relate to in our every day lives, which include both negative and positive anticipation.


message 6: by Alex (new)

Alex Gladwin (agladwin) | 17 comments I think that Bernard Cooper's story "X" seemingly bolsters the statement you quoted, but I do not know that the narrator Nelson is truly looking back with regret. He has the memory and is embarrassed, and this is contrasted with his present state of not caring. But at the same time, the present story is so fleeting and abstract, while the memory is clear. Is Nelson remembering clearly because it's, although somewhat traumatic, also pleasant? Is the present story an example of him trying to escape his life, and thus he's not looking back with regret in the sense that he had shortcomings, but rather in the sense that he's unable to live in the present?

In terms of looking forward, this is not with anticipation. Nelson cannot look forward at all; he is stuck in the present. He cannot anticipate because his brain cannot think forward in its present state. So the looking forward argument is much clearer than the looking back argument in regards to "X."


message 7: by Caroline (last edited Mar 20, 2013 06:04PM) (new)

Caroline Murphy | 17 comments I agree with Alex. I believe that to say that Bernard Cooper's short story "X" deals with looking into the past with regret. I believe that if Cooper as an author believed Michael Field's ideal to be true, that he wouldn't end the short story t as he does: " Nelson and his partner embrace, in love for as long and bright as lighting before they drift toward someone else" (77). This last line to me does not hint at regret or of the past, but of hope. While yes there is some regret of the past dealing with Tiko, it does not have a hold over Nelson in the future. I believe that to be the important thought in Cooper's short story, "X."



My personal reflection on this question is honestly, anxiety. I have a thing about looking to the past and to the future, and by that I mean I try not to do it. The past is full of regret and the future filled with anticipation. I try to stay in the present, but sometimes both catch up with me.


message 8: by Mackenzie (last edited Mar 21, 2013 09:57AM) (new)

Mackenzie Kurtzner | 18 comments Similar to what others have mentioned about Bernard Cooper's story "X," I think that Nelson may be look back with upon his naive and impulsive action with regret and embarrassment. At the same time, Nelson admits that in the present "Tiko's blow couldn't be further from his thoughts," and instead of of dreading the past, Nelson "dances the dance of pleasure and forgetting" (77). Although this does not mean that Nelson is "looking forward" into the far future, it does show the characters ability to let go of regret and embarrassment in order to make room for new experiences in his life.

Another interesting example I found was in the story "Hunters and Gatherers." Cooper's characters Meg and Jerry struggle with Jerry's past revolution that he believes he is gay, but the couple is still looking toward the future with anticipation and hope to keep their family together. Meg and Jerry try to ignore that they may regret the false life they had created together by throwing the party with Jerry's gay friends: "Meg and Jerry meant to impress each other more than their visitors: See what we have. See what we've done. Our life together is no illusion, no mistake" (Cooper, 104). Although Meg "agreed to this party because, after consulting the elders, [she] was ready to do whatever it took to live up to [their] vows," in the end, it is obvious that Meg did regret throwing the party, and she also regretted trying "fix" a problem in her marriage that she was not capable of changing (119).


message 9: by Skdank09 (new)

Skdank09 | 16 comments Kate Thomas's question infers that people can only look forward in anticipation and only look backwards with regret: this is too simple of a conclusion. The future is primarily unfathomable and often the best assumptions are completely wrong, and the past is so much more than regret. Unless a person literally feels remorse about everything they have ever done, it is illogical.

Bernard Cooper's story, "Hunters and Gatherers," in his collection, Guess Again: Short Stories, demonstrates these nuances. When Rick looks back on his life with Eric he seems to have very few regrets. They loved each other as much as they could until Eric wasted away. There are certainly moments of regret in this story but they do not encompass every memory and everything that every happened. As for the future, Earl's appearance in the stories was not anticipated by any of the characters, especially Rick: "The more they kissed, the more Rick realized how alone he'd been" (113). Rick was not looking for love or even a sexual partner, Earl was the unexpected.


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