“Learn To Appreciate the Void”

There are some very interesting qualities to Johnnie’s personality in Foreign Correspondent that are revealed through her description of her job as a correspondent on the second page of this story. Johnnie tells the reader that part of her job is to “find the things that fill the voids, and then find their variations” (Howard 2). Throughout the story, the reader reads correspondence between Johnnie and cage-fighter Scooter Macintosh, correspondence between Johnnie and her friend-of-the-name(ish) Johni, as well as correspondence between Johnnie and the reader themselves – in which Johnnie tells of her time spent with philosopher Alphonso Lingus, along with snippets of her own personal life. I find it interesting that the word correspondence has two main definitions: “a close similarity, connection, or equivalence”; and “communication by exchanging letters with someone.” It is curious that this book is obviously written in the form of the latter definition, but that the reader gets a sense of Johnnie’s connection to those whom she writes to.

Johnnie is noticeably closer (in emotion) to Scooter Macintosh, someone she has never met, than to anyone else we are shown in the book. Johnnie’s relationship with Scooter through her correspondence to him makes it often uncomfortable to even read. This relationship with Scooter gives new meaning to the title of the book: Foreign Correspondent. Foreign obviously means something from far away, something strange, yet, with Scooter, Johnnie clearly feels some sort of connection, and this connection stems from their being from the same city – a city that Johnnie has been unable to go back to.

But Scooter, I am feeling melancholy for my hometown, it has been the site of pain and love for me for a long time, and suddenly I know that you are there, and have been there for some time, with all your over-powering awesomeness, and I am feeling hopeful for our town.

Howard 21

For Johnnie, her hometown has become a place so full of “things” that she cannot return. Later in the book, the reader gets the sense that she enjoys being in the void(s), not just reporting on it, but actually filling a void until it gets too full and she must leave.

Some days I feel like I’m at war with things. They pile up, and there have been many occasions where I look around my life space and I am totally overwhelmed by the disarray of things. Then I lock up my things and go out and get some more things, with fresher surfaces, not yet in need of tending, and layer them on top of the extant disarray.

Howard 38

The stacking of these “things” then leads us into Johnnie’s dreams of spirals (the “lopsided” spiral tower in Russia [Howard 45]) along with her relationship with her hometown and how that is tied together with Scooter – and Alphonso’s mention of “foreign bod[ies]” helping us cross a “gulf of time of space” (Howard 40) – and this will obviously impact the second half of this story.

To be continued…


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