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Catfish and Mandala Notes - Catfish and Mandala Andrew X...

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Catfish and Mandala Andrew X. Pham First Lecture Andrew Pham wants to initially get back to the place that he comes from—although living in America for 17 years, he thinks he needs to reconnect; to go back to his roots because he feels dislocated in America. This is the initial narrative of Catfish—he goes back and finds that he couldn’t reconnect…you can’t go back home. When he goes back to Viet Nam he finds that it had been rather exploited—many countries would invade and then leave it a little less than it had been before. He thinks he’s going to go back and find this ideal place—he brings a Western narrative with him to Viet Nam—he quits his job and goes to “find himself” – this goes against the Viet Namiese culture because work is very important to the culture and his family does not understand when he quits a perfectly good job to ride his bicycle. Pham combines aspects of the travel log with his autobiography. Not really non-fiction, not really fiction. Postmodern notion—takes the travel log genre and violates it. It moves back and forward through space and time—three movements simultaneously. He’s moving in the present and then he moves to the past and the past begins to move to the present at the same time that we get the account. We get his history and the family history story and he exposes this whole thing about the source of the information—how much is imagination, how much is fiction. Most of the information comes from the father, but we know the imagination is at work as well—memoir, creative prose fiction. - “In the years of telling, they became almost as much my stories as his. And this was strange, since my father and I have never shared much, never done father and son things, no camping trips, no fishing excursions; no ball games, no hot doges in the park; no beers and Super Bowl on the tube. Still the stories passed back and forth between us even when I had grown and moved away. My father, Pham Van Thong, was bequeathing his rarest pearls of wisdom, imparting a sense of value for life.” (page 12) This is still a text and still in any text you can’t find the entire truth. Even in History Books you can find some of the imagination. It is a modern notion that one should be unified. This is the situation that the narrator finds himself in. We have a need to have a mirror to know who he is—when he looks in the mirror no matter where he is, he never gets his reflection back, or when he does it’s a stereotype—it becomes an alienation. There develops a goal for unification.
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