Distance

Because we are reading Foreign Correspondent so soon after The Flamethrowers, I spent most of my time reading comparing the two novels, searching for the similarities and relationships between them.  There are a few discussions of art, passing mentions of speed, and a rather androgynous narrator that brought me back to moments within The Flamethrowers, however none quite as much as Johnnie’s relationship to Scooter.  I found this to be starkly similar to Reno’s infatuation with Flip Farmer (although Reno’s is not nearly as prolonged or consuming).  Kushner situates Reno in a setting with real artists, media, and events, but assigns her an imagined idol.  Similarly, Joanna Howard gives Johnnie face-to-face interaction with the real philosopher Alphonso Lingis, but she never gives her a meeting with the fictional fighter Scooter.  I could not help but think of the discussion in The Flamethrowers where Reno talks about how faraway crushes/longings are safe.  Johnnie remains distant from Scooter despite her efforts, and this protects the safety of her infatuation and admiration of him – certainly he could never live up to her expectations.  There is not only physical distance between the characters, but also distance between Johnnie and reality.  Scooter is a real character in the novel but does not exist outside of it.  In a novel directly communicating with reality outside of the novel, her obsession with a fictional person is surely significant.

 

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