Response Paper #3
27 June 2011
Existing in Two Realms : The Dualistic Nature of the Author in Edgardo Vega Yunqué’s The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle
In literature, there is a standard structure of fictional narrative communication (Jahn N1.7).Communicative contact is possible between the author and reader on the level of nonfictional communication, the narrator and audience or addressee on the level of fictional mediation, and the characters on the level of action. The first level is an ‘extratextual level’; levels two and three are ‘intratextual’ (N1.7). In The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle by Edgardo Vega Yunqué, the author communicates with the reader on the level of nonfictional communication and communicates with the characters on the level of action. The author exists on both an exratextual and intratextual level.
Throughout the novel, the author Yunqué speaks to the reader without the medium of the story. He addresses the reader directly and sometimes even speaks of things unrelated to the action of the story. At one point in the novel, Yunqué explains to the reader that:
As a service to Americans, who, it often seems, can earn geography only by bombing places, here is a bit of information on the capital of the Ivory Coast. It was extracted from the Encyclopedia Britannica. I bought the CD and have had no other use for it, so here goes… (Yunqué 195)
Also, Yunqué often refers to himself by name to make sure the reader knows who is speaking. Yunqué tells the reader about himself throughout the story and throws in little pieces of information that seem to have nothing to do with the action of the story. For example, Yunqué feels the need to tell the reader that:
I started using Edgardo Vega Yunqué again because too many Ed Vega’s were turning up: a poet, an astronomer, a Hollywood designer, a choreographer who died and scared the hell out of my friends because they thought it was me. So I went back to my long Spanish name. (Yunqué 84)
Not only does Yunqué freely speak to the reader as the author of the story, he also communicates with the characters in the action of the story as if he were a character himself. At a certain climactic point in the story, one of the story’s characters, Maruquita Salsipuedes, feels frustrated with her co-character Omaha Bigelow and decides to call up the author and complain. “From beneath her loincloth she took out a cellular phone and, seething, dialed a number. She waited a while and then exploded. “Vega?” (Yunqué 89). Maruquita goes on to protest to Yunqué, who also goes by the name Vega, about her co-character Omaha Bigelow. Yunqué then speaks to Omaha Bigelow and reassures him that “it’s a book, a postmodernist rendering of metareality and all that crap” (90) and he should “do some breathing exercises, some performance warmups” (90). He also mentions clearly that, “it’s a book. I’m writing it, and don’t think it’s easy” (90). Although Yunqué communicates with both the reader on a nonfictional level and the characters on the level of action (Jahn N1.7), he remains the author of the book throughout the story and never changes his role in the novel. The reader identifies Yunqué as the author as do the characters in the story. Yunqué breaks the barrier and creates an overlap in the structure of fictional narrative communication (N1.7) and exists in the same novel on both an extratextual and intratextual level (N1.7).
Jahn, Manfred. “Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative.” Poems, Plays, and Prose: A Guide to the Theory of Literary Genres. Cologne: U of Cologne Press,2002. <http://www.uni-koeln.de/~ame02/pppn.htm>
Vega Yunqué, Edgardo. The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle. New York: The Overlook Press, 2004. Print.