Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Two Returns: Naming 2.0

Oh hi! Yeah, I do have a blog. It just got buried under masses of media and personal angst not worth blogging about. So I've returned and I have several blog post ideas in the works so I even might stick around for a while.

What brings me back to blogging? Well, an obsession with naming, books, and writing. Without further ado, my most recent encounter with the naming phenomenon:

I received another early review book. This one was a work of fiction by Janet Skeslien Charles entitled Moonlight in Odessa. After I reminisced about the Kansas City's version of the Arch (a St. Louis landmark) which is founded along I-70 at a little town called Odessa, I dove into this beautiful book about a practical, smart woman making a life for herself in Odessa, Ukraine (oh I get it), but who dreams of life in America particular achieved by the fiance visa. She finds this guy, a gentle teacher and boy scout troup leader, and visits Emerson, CA to see if they are compatible. Tristan's a woodsy guy and Daria's a city girl. It's not an eharmony match by any stretch of the imagination.

But there's this one scene where he takes her hiking like he promised to in every letter he wrote her. They're going down the trail and she asks the name of a flower. He replies, "Liza Jean," and she laughs. She asks the name of a tree and he replies, "Melissa." She goes to shake hands with the tree appreciating the joke. However, when the scene repeats later on after the relationship has deteriorated and she realizes the fraud and despises it. An Odessan man would cover up his lack of knowledge by studying up on plant names for the next time he is put on the spot. Tristan just langors in his ignorance. His disregard for names is continues when he criticizes Daria's accent. It's not Tree-stan; it's Tristan. Never once did he apologize for calling her Dora even once she corrected him.

Lack of knowledge, lack of knowing. Knowing someone or something's name is a key step on the road to knowing and understanding that person or thing. Naming helps give form and shape. The uniqueness of naming reminds us that we cannot simply imagine that all things are the same. Back in the day of AOL, email forwards, and junior high, I received a forward that dozens of boy's names and gave similar characteristics of all Aarons and Jeremys. No matter how fallacious that assumption is we catagorize people according to this specific label--a name. So Tristan's persistant mis-naming is really a symptom of his willful misunderstanding and shows a lack of attempt to even try to understand.

Anyway to salvage the book review, Moonlight in Odessa is a truly beautiful book. Sad, poignant, but worth it. I enjoyed it from the very beginning which while not rare, was an unexpected pleasure in an early review book. There are elements of humor though dark, which just serve to propel the reader further into Daria's Ukrainian mindset.

Oh yeah, you do almost get over the fact that Daria was the name of an MTV cartoon character in the 1990s (though Daria's tv show "Sick, Sad World" almost works for the book too).

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