I must say, Foreign Correspondent was impressive to me in a lot of ways. It had fairly extensive character portrayal, and quite a few metaphors for such a short narrative, many of which relate to those found in The Flamethrowers.
Not surprisingly, one of the most common themes in both novels was violence – how it is portrayed, and what that portrayal reveals about the characters involved. As far as Foreign Correspondent is concerned, however, there are very few scenes in which actual violence is portrayed, and even then, it’s more alluded to than anything. Johnnie herself is hardly violent; one can easily say that her biggest motivator for learning to box and grapple (although she doesn’t say this outright) is to have another way to feel connected to her idol, a “semi-retired” cage fighter named Scooter Macintosh.
Her relationship with Scooter is intriguing from the beginning, if only because readers don’t know how it came about. A devoted fan, Johnnie takes to sending Scooter extensive emails, though he typically only replies with a few lines, when he does so at all. It was not surprising to me that any relationship (or beginnings of one) that may have formed between them gradually disintegrates as Johnnie insists of flattering Scooter extensively – what was interesting to me, however, were the ways certain elements of her grappling lessons could be tied to their interactions.
“It will be easy to learn where to hold onto me, [my instructor] said, placing my palm on his hip…You want to press really hard there, he told me. Try to bruise it if you can; that’s going to give you more control.” (60)
The idea of holding on, of doing it so tightly as to cause one to bruise, is a metaphor for what I believe to be the biggest reason why Scooter stopped responding to Johnnie – he simply had no other way to get away from her, one of many starry-eyed fans with whom he would never be on the same level, and more than likely he feared hurting her feelings. During a separate lesson, she notes:
“…I find myself in the hands of someone whose intention is to indicate that he can injure me, but that he won’t do so unnecessarily. Such trust is twofold: he must also believe that I will actually communicate the point at which some part of me is ready to break.” (68)
To end their correspondence suddenly and without warning may be cruel, but the rules of interpersonal relationships aren’t the same as the one’s you find in the ring; there’s no tapping out when you can no longer handle the pressure placed upon you in an uncomfortable position – and, thus, the breakage is triggered, the silent splintering of Scooter’s ability to type out yet another short, if courteous, reply to someone with whom he could never truly communicate.