Thursday, November 26, 2009

Welcome Back, Welcome Back

One of the things we discussed in class about Fire Sale is V.I.'s implacable rationality. We agreed that Peretsky paints an exceedingly practical character who seems unruffled and capable in most situations, and we mused that this may be her feminist response to the stereotypically "hysterical" female character. Nevertheless what stood out to me in reading this novel were the rare instances when V.I.'s emotions take over; perhaps because of the purview of this course, but these instances seemed often to be associated with her relationship to the South Side of Chicago. For example, early in the book, she admits that she cried when she drove by her boarded up former family home. This sadness for the depressed condition of the old neighborhood, its schools, its homes, its abandoned industries seems to manifest itself in a certain form of guilt.

V.I.'s guilty associations with the old neighborhood are critical to the trajectory of the novel. It is her guilt that brings her to the South Side in the first place-- her former coach pushes all the right buttons when she mentions V.I.'s new neighborhood: Lakeview. It is this guilt that keeps V.I. working hard for the girls she coaches-- bring her to Buy Smart to ask for assistance etc. It was this return to "old the sod" aspect of the novel that most intrigued me and seemed to resonate strongly as an aspect of its Chicago-ness. V.I. hasn't moved away-- her whole career has been based in the city of her birth-- yet this novel has a strong sense of nostalgia and feeling of debts owed and repayments made. She is in her old high school-- named, which interestingly recalls another "old Chicago" as its named after the old baron Palmer Potter's wife--walking the beat so to speak on her old streets. It is this pull home--this collision between all that has changed since she left and all that still contains her memories and her heart-- that created a most palpable energy in the novel. And also lodged an old TV theme song in my head:

Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Back....

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