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Rachel-K
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Bootie

With his high-flown ambitions, his indolence, and his appalling sense of hygiene, Bootie initially seems like a comic character. But in the course of the novel Messud’s portrait of him darkens until he comes to seem either sinister or tragic—perhaps both. How does she accomplish this? Which other characters does she gradually reveal in a different light? Compare Messud’s shifting portrayal of Bootie to her handling of Julius and Danielle. In what ways do they too evade or defy the reader’s initial expectations about them?
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Walrus
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Re: Bootie

SPOILER ALERT DON'T READ YET Just found will be busy end of month.. What is Bootie's function. Is he the voice of reason, the only one with morals and honest ideals? Or is he schizophrenic? Many students are put off in college by partying, drugs,frat boys etc. so I don't hold that against him for leaving, but what did he have against his mother to treat her that way? He could easily have left her a note and disappeared without using 9/11 the way he did. He could have assumed a new identity the same way he did and move from place to place. He did bite the hand that fed him and ruined any relation with family by writing the expose' even if it was true so unless he was a little crazy what did he expect. Sorry this is rushed and not well written as some responses but I was not an English major but wanted to give my thoughts..This bookclub in a way reminds me of a gym I once joined- no one was out of shape like me or looked like they needed a gym. In this club, the ordinary reader which I am can feel out of shape by the quality of response. Will try to stay the course.
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Rachel-K
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Re: Bootie

Walrus,

You're asking excellent questions about Bootie's character. Please do stay. Participating in an online discussion can be awkward and intimidating, but you'll get the swing of it quickly.

And is there any chance Bootie could be more than one of these things? Are they mutually exclusive?
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bobzyeruncle
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Re: Bootie



Walrus wrote:
SPOILER ALERT DON'T READ YET Just found will be busy end of month.. What is Bootie's function. Is he the voice of reason, the only one with morals and honest ideals? Or is he schizophrenic? Many students are put off in college by partying, drugs,frat boys etc. so I don't hold that against him for leaving, but what did he have against his mother to treat her that way? He could easily have left her a note and disappeared without using 9/11 the way he did. He could have assumed a new identity the same way he did and move from place to place. He did bite the hand that fed him and ruined any relation with family by writing the expose' even if it was true so unless he was a little crazy what did he expect. Sorry this is rushed and not well written as some responses but I was not an English major but wanted to give my thoughts..This bookclub in a way reminds me of a gym I once joined- no one was out of shape like me or looked like they needed a gym. In this club, the ordinary reader which I am can feel out of shape by the quality of response. Will try to stay the course.




CONTINUING THE SPOILER ...

Do you think Bootie has morals? I don't. I think he's proclaimed himself judge and jury and doesn't care who he hurts in the process (but he does it out of love ... for his uncle, so he says, and himself). I think he's a bit of a sociopath. I also think he's the storyteller.

I agree, he totally could have up and moved without using 9/11.

Oh, and those people at the gym who didn't look like they needed to be there ... that's cause they'd been there awhile. They didn't always look like that. I hate them too, but I keep going back and wishing I hadn't left.

I think you've got great insights, Walrus ... having an English major got nothing to do with it. We're all just readers.

Stick around and keep flexing your muscles!
:: :: ::

Bob
www.bobzyeruncle.com
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Katelyn
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Re: Bootie

[ Edited ]
I am divided about Bootie. He is an person that wants to remain an individual and not be defined by the crowd. He defines his own highly ambitious and individualized plan of study and in fact makes some progress toward his goals. He has a somewhat immature (understandable because he is quite young) conception of having a "special destiny". He relates less to his peers and contemporaries than people in books from other centuries. As well as ambitious, he is in some respects somewhat lazy -- especially about practical matters that don't pertain to advancing his master plan. He is self indulgent and quick to take offense. Rather than considering the rather reasonable request of a friend to chip in for rent, he seethes inside at the suggestion, takes the conversation as an indignity, and takes off for NYC. He turns on those that try to help him (Murray) because they are human and less than ideal.

Yet I give him points for wanting to be an individual -- many people never do. He isn't always kind however. He displayed some thoughtfulness toward his mother by not wanting her to go into debt by helping finance a Harvard education, but he also is full of resentment. His idealism is of a variety that is quick to see when others don't measure up, but he doesn't have a good handle on his own short comings and his blind spots are huge.

Such people can when they mature grow into their own and make unique contributions to society. His insensitivity to others may be grounded in his immature perception and he may really have not meant to be mean, or it may be a deeper character flaw. Maybe Bootie will "take the world by surprise", but the question will be whether will be for good or evil.

He is an interesting character however. I love all the details the author presents -- from the way he lolls around in bed reading (as opposed to sitting upright in a chair) or going outside to help his mother, the way he spends time taking long baths carelessly reading in the tub (not caring if he destroys books) and adjusting the water so he is comfortable. These are things people with different characters may do also, but in Booties' case this need for comfort is very illustrative. I wonder if his ambition are self-indulgence are compatible.

I think his challenge to others is a real and legitimate challenge however.

Message Edited by Katelyn on 10-09-2007 08:56 PM
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ClaireMessud
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Re: Bootie

It's really interesting for me to read everyone's responses to Bootie. For me, he's one of the most important characters in the novel, and he was the catalyst -- when I set out to write the book, I had a bunch of characters & knew many things about them, but I didn't have a story until Bootie came along. It's often been said that all stories are either Star Trek (somebody takes a trip) or Gilligan's Island (somebody comes to visit) -- & this book is obviously a Gilligan's Island story, in which Ludovic Seeley & Bootie are the main visitors, the people who change the landscape & everyone else's understanding of themselves.

As I may have said elsewhere (please forgive me if I'm repeating myself), I don't see it as my job to give a moral assessment of any of these characters. It's just my job to describe them as best I can. (Like Chekhov wrote to his brother - "It's not my job to tell you that horse thieves are bad people, it's my job to tell you what this horse thief is like.")

As for Bootie's extremity - when I was 18 or 19, I was very passionate & very idealistic & extremely judgemental, & saw the world in black & white. So did a lot of people I knew. As for Bootie's extreme actions - I distinctly recall the times, when I was that age, when I spent long periods completely alone, without any conversation or interactions beyond the most superficial, that I would feel increasingly unstable, & that many impossible actions would seem possible, even probable. Bootie is someone who has held onto the belief that belonging, even tangentially, will protect him (that's why he wants to live in Julius's apartment: the connection, however remote, to the Thwaite family, seems to him to make it 'safe'); but what occurs first to him, and then to the city around him, challenges and overturns that belief. Maybe, he thinks, it's safest to be completely unconnected. Maybe it's safest to be completely alone.


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IBIS
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Re: Bootie as the little boy in THE EMPEROR's NEW CLOTHES fairy tale

Bootie reminded me of the little kid in the fairy tale THE EMPEROR's NEW CLOTHES.

I'm not sure if everyone is familiar with the story; an emperor was fond of rich, fabulous finery. He spends hours dressing, and spends fortunes buying the most opulent clothing. Into this town come 2 con artists with a great scam. They claim to be very gifted and famous weavers and tailors.

The emperor falls for their salesmanship and orders new fabrics and outfits; and money is no object. The con artists pretend to weave and spin and tailor marvelous new clothes--except that they're invisible. They tell the emperor that only the most discerning people can see the clothes. Only those who are fit for their jobs.

So no one wants to be caught unfit for their positions, so they all pretend to see the wonderful clothes. Even the emperor.

On the final day, he throws a big festival when he parades through the kingdom in his fabulous new clothes. And everyone ooohs and aaaahs at the splendid colors, the fine workmanship, the great fit.

In the crowd is a little boy. In his clear-sightedness, he says the most obvious thing: "The emperor has no clothes."

I see Bootie in that role. He adulates Murray; however, when he finds Murray's autobiography, Bootie thinks that he sees through Murray's pretensions, and writes his scathing expose.

Murray, of course, is the emperor, and the characters are his children. I thought it was funny that Marina was writing a book about children's fashions.
IBIS

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Katelyn
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Re: Bootie

[ Edited ]
Claire,
Thanks for interacting with us. It is alway exciting to interact with an author. I find it interesting that Bootie was the key character that provided an anchor of sorts for the book. Your comments made me ponder the Bootie's character some more and take a second look. Everyone: does anyone else see redeeming qualities in Bootie?

I was thinking today about the role of Bootie and how he did not come from the same priviledged background as some of the other characters. Even though he appears self-indulgent, many of the other characters came from a background where the world itself endulged them every day-- Murray was given the respect of a cult figure, Marina given a privileged position by her beauty, wealth, and pedigree, Danielle was Ivy league educated and had a job in television, Annabel lived in a beautiful house and had a famous husband, Julius moved in privileged intellectual circles and had wealthy friends. In part, Bootie's so-called self-indulgence was really a form of self love, or care bestowed on himself in a world that did not provide it. In this sense, it is really a necessary thing and almost an efficiency.

Also, it seems the children of very wealthy are not always naive about the world, but that the environment in which they live tends to reinforce focusing their attention in a certain way. Bootie's environment reinforced focusing his attention in yet another way. From a more working class family, he was supposed to be industrious and practical in a convention way (as exemplified in particular by his mother). I think of what enormous energy it took to go his own way, to focus his attention in a way that was not supported by his environment and to make a plan to educate himself and think for himself. If he seemed lazy, in part we need to consider how much energy it took to swim upstream in an environment that so little understood him. He probably was plagued by continual self-doubt that undercut his plan to move forward. He moved forward in spastic burst of self direction alternating with low energy periods of loss of confidence and deflation. Booties's mother loved him for what he was, but he wanted to be loved for what he aspired to be, or rather that inspiration was more a part of him that any obvious superficial quality.

I don't think of Bootie as a hero in any convention sense, and he is a bit off-putting, but in our youth we all do very stupid things. I haven't read the part where Bootie writes the article critical of Murray (although I glanced ahead and know that part is coming), but I get the feeling in the perverse way of youth he didn't really know he was hurting people and was the type that rather innocently expected others to congratuate him on his perception rather than be wounded by his actions -- almost as if truth was impersonal. Although I may be wrong here and his rage may go much deeper. I wonder if his rage is ultimately really directed at himself however.

His name is interesting also. Bootie is somewhat comical (as in a baby's bootie). A bootie (bootee) could also be someone who is booted out (as in out of society). In a less passive sense, bootie could mean one who gives society the boot so to speak.

Kate

Message Edited by Katelyn on 10-10-2007 08:11 PM

Message Edited by Katelyn on 10-10-2007 08:14 PM
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Peppermill
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Re: Bootie


Katelyn wrote{ed}:

Claire,
Thanks for interacting with us. It is alway exciting to interact with an author. I find it interesting that Bootie was the key character that provided an anchor of sorts for the book. Your comments made me ponder the Bootie's character some more and take a second look. Everyone: does anyone else see redeeming qualities in Bootie?

I was thinking today about the role of Bootie and how he did not come from the same priviledged background as some of the other characters. Even though he appears self-indulgent, many of the other characters came from a background where the world itself indulged them every day-- Murray was given the respect of a cult figure, Marina given a privileged position by her beauty, wealth, and pedigree, Danielle was Ivy league educated and had a job in television, Annabel lived in a beautiful house and had a famous husband, Julius moved in privileged intellectual circles and had wealthy friends. In part, Bootie's so-called self-indulgence was really a form of self love, or care bestowed on himself in a world that did not provide it. In this sense, it is really a necessary thing and almost an efficiency.

Also, it seems the children of very wealthy are not always naive about the world, but that the environment in which they live tends to reinforce focusing their attention in a certain way. Bootie's environment reinforced focusing his attention in yet another way. From a more working class family, he was supposed to be industrious and practical in a convention way (as exemplified in particular by his mother). I think of what enormous energy it took to go his own way, to focus his attention in a way that was not supported by his environment and to make a plan to educate himself and think for himself. If he seemed lazy, in part we need to consider how much energy it took to swim upstream in an environment that so little understood him. He probably was plagued by continual self-doubt that undercut his plan to move forward. He moved forward in spastic burst of self direction alternating with low energy periods of loss of confidence and deflation. Booties's mother loved him for what he was, but he wanted to be loved for what he aspired to be, or rather that inspiration was more a part of him that any obvious superficial quality.

I don't think of Bootie as a hero in any conventional sense, and he is a bit off-putting, but in our youth we all do very stupid things. I haven't read the part where Bootie writes the article critical of Murray (although I glanced ahead and know that part is coming), but I get the feeling in the perverse way of youth he didn't really know he was hurting people and was the type that rather innocently expected others to congratulate him on his perception rather than be wounded by his actions -- almost as if truth was impersonal. Although I may be wrong here and his rage may go much deeper. I wonder if his rage is ultimately really directed at himself however.

His name is interesting also. Bootie is somewhat comical (as in a baby's bootie). A bootie (bootee) could also be someone who is booted out (as in out of society). In a less passive sense, bootie could mean one who gives society the boot so to speak.

Kate
Kate -- great post! Lots to consider from it. Thanks! (It's been too long for me to add anything I can defend.)
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Rachel-K
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Re: Bootie

Katelyn,

A lovely understanding of Bootie--and I can't imagine any bookworm could read your post without feeling a sense of recognition in how you describe him! I almost wish you'd been able to step into the novel to mentor him! (But then this would be more of a Vonneguty novel). The intimacy of this novel does allow us this sympathy--if he were in an office or a living room next to us, we'd likely be irritated by him.

I tried to tell a young librarian (who's happily plowed through Infinite Jest and a load of philosophy) about Bootie Tubb but couldn't get anywhere for the hilarity of his name. Poor Bootie!
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ClaireMessud
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Re: Bootie

Katelyn,

I just wanted to check in to say, on Bootie's behalf, 'thank you'! What you wrote -- your generous reading of him, and his striving -- seems to me to see him as he would wish to be seen. And yes, I agree with you, there is a naivete about being privileged, and he doesn't have that. He's naive, but in a different way; and has had to will everything that happens in his life - the Ivy League is very far from a given, for him. It makes him more passionate, and more angry, too. And certainly my sense of what he feels about his article criticizing his uncle is just as you say: he somehow, like a school-kid writing an essay, thinks he's going to be congratulated for it, for the sensitivity of his observation. It's a certain kind of obtuseness, not restricted to the young, but more common, I think, among the young.

Anyway: I didn't mean to go on at such length, but really just to thank you, as I say, for Bootie. I know he'd be touched to be seen so clearly - but if he were real, I'm afraid he might now attach himself to you in a somewhat irritating way...

-Claire


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Re: Bootie as the little boy in THE EMPEROR's NEW CLOTHES fairy tale

IBIS, thanks so much for reminding me of how the story of The Emperor's New Clothes goes. I was going to look it up so that I could better understand the title of the book. Very clever title!
Laura

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Fozzie
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Re: Bootie

I thank everyone for their thoughts on Bootie. I have one thought to add --- Murray seemed to come to understand and appreciate Bootie as the story went on.

“And of course, how can I help it, there’s a tiny part of my brain wondering whether this kid is right. Whether he’s the only one brave enough and dumb enough to tell me the truth.” (pg. 344)

“Which meant that for [Bootie] to be crushed, he had to have gone closer, on purpose, drawn to the horror; he had to have been watching it at the epicenter itself, had to have gone, and stood, and stayed. Which was, in such a boy, its own perversity. He felt some grudging admiration, but that was a separate matter.” (pg. 455)

“… but everything was there, a time capsule, the same smells, the same wan light, the same choking sensation in the back of his throat, the same bitter taste. This was what Bootie had felt, too, Murray knew it, suddenly truly could feel it, the need to flee this hideous safety; they had been the same somehow.” (pg. 465)

I can’t help but wonder if in a different time and place, with a few things going right for him, if Bootie wouldn’t be just a successful as Murray. Maybe he will still be yet.
Laura

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Peppermill
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Re: Bootie


Fozzie wrote:
I thank everyone for their thoughts on Bootie. I have one thought to add --- Murray seemed to come to understand and appreciate Bootie as the story went on.

“And of course, how can I help it, there’s a tiny part of my brain wondering whether this kid is right. Whether he’s the only one brave enough and dumb enough to tell me the truth.” (pg. 344)

“Which meant that for [Bootie] to be crushed, he had to have gone closer, on purpose, drawn to the horror; he had to have been watching it at the epicenter itself, had to have gone, and stood, and stayed. Which was, in such a boy, its own perversity. He felt some grudging admiration, but that was a separate matter.” (pg. 455)

“… but everything was there, a time capsule, the same smells, the same wan light, the same choking sensation in the back of his throat, the same bitter taste. This was what Bootie had felt, too, Murray knew it, suddenly truly could feel it, the need to flee this hideous safety; they had been the same somehow.” (pg. 465)

I can’t help but wonder if in a different time and place, with a few things going right for him, if Bootie wouldn’t be just a successful as Murray. Maybe he will still be yet.
Isn't that what Walrus also posits for us?

(Bold italics added.)
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Fozzie
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Re: Bootie


Peppermill wrote:

Fozzie wrote:
I can’t help but wonder if in a different time and place, with a few things going right for him, if Bootie wouldn’t be just a successful as Murray. Maybe he will still be yet.
Isn't that what Walrus also posits for us?




Reeally? If so, then we agree.
Laura

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hassieko
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Re: Bootie



rkubie wrote:
With his high-flown ambitions, his indolence, and his appalling sense of hygiene, Bootie initially seems like a comic character. But in the course of the novel Messud’s portrait of him darkens until he comes to seem either sinister or tragic—perhaps both. How does she accomplish this? Which other characters does she gradually reveal in a different light? Compare Messud’s shifting portrayal of Bootie to her handling of Julius and Danielle. In what ways do they too evade or defy the reader’s initial expectations about them?




rkubie wrote:
With his high-flown ambitions, his indolence, and his appalling sense of hygiene, Bootie initially seems like a comic character. But in the course of the novel Messud’s portrait of him darkens until he comes to seem either sinister or tragic—perhaps both. How does she accomplish this? Which other characters does she gradually reveal in a different light? Compare Messud’s shifting portrayal of Bootie to her handling of Julius and Danielle. In what ways do they too evade or defy the reader’s initial expectations about them?


Bootie reminded me very much of the protagonist in "The Confederacy of Dunes." (Can't remember -- or more accurately, correctly spell -- his name.)
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