Diagramming Babel (Part 3)

(Originally Posted Monday, August 27, 2007)


I’m still in China, but I’ll be coming home tomorrow. This entry was written while I was still back in the States, but I know I’m going to have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand I hate to leave. On the other, I’ll be home again – and with Marianne!

So why didn’t I just bring Marianne along? The flip answer is that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania couldn’t do without her. The serious answer is that she’s involved in a string of workshops over the summer, and really-o truly-o couldn’t be spared. So long as you guys insist on having diseases, somebody’s got to make sure the system is ready to handle the consequences. You think FEMA’s gonna take care of that? Hah!

Diagram 3. Now I’m actively involved in writing the novel, and trying to glimpse ahead to see where it’s ultimately going. Will’s line goes straight down the middle of the page because, as the protagonist, he’s always there. The Dragon, Esme, and Nat enter from one side or the other, travel alongside Will and then depart from the text, perhaps forever, perhaps to return later in the novel. You’ll note that Esme’s line wanders in a carefree manner, where everybody else’s is firm and decisive. That’s so typical of Esme!
Uncharacteristically for me, this diagram reads from top to bottom. As follows:

WILL
VILLAGE VILLAGE
Dragon
Refugee
CAMP CAMP
Nat
(“Old Son”) (“Little Mom-Mom”)

They didn’t mean to be cruel Empire of the Sun?
(it never occurred to them…) (To see what it’s like?)
There was so little [something] What else?
to be had and [something]
that Will did not feel that Esme Esme could wander through the
had deprived her of [something] camp and come ack with an orange
Somebody had given her

Blood. There must be blood in
every chapter!!!

What is a “camp” that a refugee, an
extermination, & a boy scout should
all belong to the category?

Annotations:
Empire of the Sun is, of course, J. G. Ballard’s prison camp novel; Steven Spielberg made of it a movie that was nowhere near so good. I was casting about for information on what life in a refugee camp would be like.

I don’t know if I put blood in every chapter, though I tend to doubt it. As I’m working, I tend to come up with thematic enthusiasms that a few years later I find hard to understand.

And I really must apologize for the “something”s. My handwriting is execrable. Even I can’t always read it.

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