The Search for an “Author”

From the start of the epilogue where Karen is in the midst of her wedding ceremony to Kim in Yankee Stadium, to her last scene in the novel where she ends up together with Scott, one thing can be said about Karen – she lacks as Mark Osteen would describe “a singular identity”. “Instead acting as what Mark Edmundson calls a “conductor, a relay point for currents of (penetrating) force”. (656) Although through such witty comments as “I just had enough money for the taxi and the tip and I wanted to arrive totally broke” (219), and the fact that she cried and admitted to missing Scott, we see a more vulnerable and open Karen, she is still the same woman she was before she came into Bill’s and Scott’s life.

Prior, to joining Scott and Bill, Karen was a person who looked into men such as Moon of the Unification Church for guidance. She was and is a person who relies on others to make decisions for her, and to give her life authorship. In the article Becoming Incorporated: Spectacular Authorship and DeLillo’s Mao II, Osteen writes that “But with Bill gone, she (Karen) is a character in search of an author, and so travels to New York City, stays in Brita’s apartment, and roams the streets around Tompkins Square Park, mingling with the homeless and disenfranchised”(656) .While it can be argued that Karen is capable of being an independent individual as she was able to live in Brita’s apartment alone, it is important to acknowledge that during the time that she stayed in New York, Karen relied on and was emotionally invested in Omar, although he is only fourteen years old. Karen even grew to love Omar as she felt jealously towards the woman that he was having a child with.

After Bill left, Karen transferred the responsibility of authoring her life from Bill to Omar, and then back to Scott. She had already given Scott this responsibility before when she chose to get in the car with him in Kansas. Throughout the novel, Karen develops an emotional and/or sexual relationship with each of the men including Kim, Bill, Scott, and Omar in an attempt to find the right author of her life. Karen, eventually, decides to come back to Scott because she knows that he is the one person that would not leave her unlike Bill, Kim, and Omar. She is so armament about remaining in the house because she is scared of the possibility of living alone, and subsequently without Scott. Scott and Bill’s house provide a safe haven for Karen where she is protected from the outside world, and where she can easily have someone author her life without feeling that sooner or later someone will come to “deprogram” her.

Above Scott is Bill, who she views his images and manuscript as sacred. To Karen, Bill is almost god like. She proclaims in the last scene while talking to Scott that Bill’s family “can own the house, but they should let us live here. And we keep the manuscript and we keep the pictures.”(223) For Karen the images and the creation that Bill created are more important than anything else because there is where Bill manifests himself. In holding on to the images and manuscript, Karen is able to hold on to the Bill that she knew, and to the person that she looked up for guidance and authorship in not only novels, but also her life. Being that Karen and Scott live in Bill’s household, they are consumed with his image, however, whereas Scott is able to distance himself from Bill, the same cannot be said about Karen as while she is New York she chases a man that resembles Bill and in the fact she “sort of kept seeing Bill.”(219) Bill is the ultimate author of Karen’s life, and part of the reason why she chooses to come back to Scott is because he is the closest person that she has to Bill.

DeLillo concludes Karen’s and Scott’s final scene by writing, “the nice thing about life is that it’s filled with second chances. Quoting Bill” (224). Now, Karen and Scott are able to start a new chapter in their lives where Scott does not have to worry about Karen having an intimate and sexual relationship with Bill. Instead, they can focus on being exclusive to each other. Also whereas in the epilogue, Karen marries Kim and he leaves her to work abroad, in her last chapter, Karen has the opportunity to start a new live with someone else – in this case, Scott. Even though, Kim and Scott were chosen at random, with Scott things are different as their relationship is more genuine, and has the potential to make it last. The relationship between Scott and Karen comes to a full circle when “they drove twenty-two miles to buy a light box and magnifier, and twenty-two miles back” (220) because it is similar to how they started their relationship, only with the exception that this is their second time at doing this – their second chance.

2 thoughts on “The Search for an “Author””

  1. I think it’s interesting that Karen wants to keep both of Bill’s books and photographs while Scott only wants to keep the books. I wonder if she’s upset that Scott chooses to show the public the photos or if she depends so much on Scott that she just accepts his decision.

  2. My guess is that she would accept that Scott showed the public the photos because of the dependency that she does have on him. I think though that she would deep down resent him for it because like I said before, she holds Bill’s images and manuscript as almost scared. She wants to keep that part of Bill to herself and Scott. Overall, Karen is a complicated character that I hope to explore more in class tomorrow.

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