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I’ve been travelling through space and time a lot this week.  I’ve been to the desert planet of Arrakis, 8000 years into the future.  I’ve been to late 19th century England and Narnia (again) to watch the world’s beginning and the entrance of evil before it was even 5 hours old.  And now, I’ve just returned from a frightening not-to-distant future United States.  Oddly enough, they have more in common than just time.

In all three books, Dune, The Magician’s Nephew, and Fahrenheit 451, there is oppressive rulers and the reaching into the minds of people to control their very thoughts.  With Dune, the Bene Gesserit wish to control who gets knowledge and sight, who marries whom, and even what sex a child will be.  The Harkonnens and Sardukars viciously hunt and kill the Fremen in a pogrom, because the Fremen are independent and refuse to kiss the perverse butts of the disgusting Harkonnen “rulers.”

With The Magician’s Nephew, the Witch destroyed her own world in a bid to control it and take the throne from her sister, using the deplorable word to kill all life except the one who speaks it.  Then she tries to take over England, but without her magic, she’s just a violent nutter on a thieving rampage.  Once in Narnia, however, she’ll hide and bide her time… then make the move to enslave and opress the land for her own pleasure.

Fahrenheit 451, though, is the one I’ve most recently finished, so the thoughts about it are still tumbling around.

The fun thing with Fahrenheit 451 is that it’s been on Mt. TBR since before there was a Mt. TBR, way back when it was just an “I’m gonna read that soon” pile, when there were maybe 20 books on that pile.  I have NO idea how many books are on Mt. TBR now. Library Thing says I have catalogued almost 1000 books, but some of those are books I’ve read, or books I’ve mooched away and NOT read.  I have tagged 493 books either unread or TBR, but I’ve gotten lazy and haven’t been tagging any of the books I add, so I’d say Mt. TBR is well over 300 books (simply “unread” don’t count as TBR books).

So, some of my thoughts on Fahrenheit 451… 

One of the things that Guy Montag has to do is to decide which book he’ll sacrifice.  Captain Beatty knows he took a book and tells him if he turns it in within 24 hours, it’ll be forgiven.  Montag’s not sure if Beatty knows he has one book, a hundred books or which title, so he figures if he brings him one book, any book, he’ll pass without suspicion.  But how can he choose?  He decides not to turn over the last known surviving copy of The Bible, which was a funny moment with his wife, who asked him:  Which is more important, me or that book?  Der, easy answer… 

*SORTA SPOILER ALERT*  After running from the police, Montag finds a group of men hobo’ing who have memorized a chapter of a book, or even entire books, and burned the hard copies, and now wait for a time when society will return to it’s senses and want literature again.  They half-jokingly introduce themselves as the particular book title, i.e. “Hi!  I am Plato’s Republic, and Simmons is Marcus Aurelius.”  Knowing how the statement “I am” is an affirmation, and also that the more you say it, the more it takes hold and becomes a truth about you,  I wonder who they’ll be in 20 years.  Their personalities, and such.

In Fahrenheit 451, Mildred, Montag’s wife, is very attached to her “family,” the people on the television.  These “relatives” yell at each other, call each other names, act the fool, and are otherwise “entertaining”.  They have a device that allows the owner to hear their own name in messages and shows, and the picture is even adjusted to make the actor’s lips appear to say the name.  So that for her, the announcer says, “Mrs. Montag, wouldn’t you love to try Denham’s Dentifrice?”  And their living room, or parlor room, has wall-sized screens (remember, this was written in the late 40′s – early 50s), and when you had all 4 of your wall-screens installed, it would be just like being in the show… surrounded by your “family”.  Creepy!  and sad…

Clarisse McClellen is the oddball neighbor that sets Montag’s feet on the road of awakening.  She tells him of how kids her age frighten her.  They enjoy killing each other and themselves and destroying things.  They go to the “amusement park” and break windows in “Vandalism Town” or drag race legally, as long as they have enough insurance they can destroy whatever they want. 

One of Mrs. Montag’s friends tells how she thinks it was nice having kids, and she does her best to accommodate them the 3 days out of a month she has them (the rest of the time they’re away at school… grade schoolers, btw).  She just plopped them down in the parlor with the “relatives” as soon as they got home from the hospital.   But, she doesn’t know why they hate her.  Hmm…

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And now for something completely random and different  (because the vid clip I wanted to post is embedding disabled).

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So, If you had to sacrifice one of your books to save the rest, which one would go into the fire?

I’d be tossing the Babysitter’s Club ones… maybe the stray Captain Underpants one I think’s somewhere around here. The Reader’s Digest condensed books could be chucked, too… if they’re still here.

If you were one of the books (which was the vid clip, btw… Montag meeting the Books), what book would you be and why?

It’s a book I’d re-read mentally and recite every day… it’d become a part of me and eventually I’d become that book to an extent…. I think I’d pick the book of Proverbs (Montag was the Book of Ecclesiastes) because it’s wisdom. Everything you need to know about dealing with people, living life, psychology… everything…. is in Proverbs.

Your turn! What book would you sacrifice? Which would you be? Why?

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Gargoyle cover art

Title: The Gargoyle
Author: Andrew Davindson
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 9780385524940
Release Date: 08/05/08

My rating: 5 stars, two thumbs way up, and all my toes wigglin’!

 

…Christmas Day had shown me that Marianne Engel’s love was not feeble.  It was strapping, it was muscular, it was massive.  I thought that it could fill only my room in the burn ward, but it filled the entire hospital.  More important, her love was not reserved only for me; it was shared generously with strangers…

Andrew Davidson’s first novel, The Gargoyle, is incredibly haunting and beautiful tale of a love that has lasted 700 years.  It is unfathomable that this is the author’s first book, because Davidson writes with such depth, detail, and flow many writers take years to accomplish.

Summary:

The Gargoyle is the story about a man whose life has been complete crap: His father split before he was born, his mother died giving birth to him, his grandma died pushing him in a playground swing, and at 6 years old he goes to live with his doped-out, only remaining relatives, the Graces.  When their trailer blows up with them in it cooking their meth, The Man is suddenly alone in the world, spending the rest of his “childhood” in a group home called “Second Chance House”.  The Man questions, however when he’d had his first chance. 

After aging out of the system, he sets about making a living doing the only thing he is skilled at, sex, and becomes a coked out, heroin shooting,  porn star.  But a near fatal car accident brings and end to all that.  So at 37, he is bankrupt, and without any possessions as the creditors took and sold it all.  He is covered on much of his body with burns that render him a bit of a monstrosity with assorted apendages having been amputated -including the one most important to a man.  It is at this point he decides he will commit suicide. 

THEN, into the burn ward walks Marianne Engel, who has known and loved him since she first met him almost 700 years ago.  She is quickly whisked back to the psych ward from which she has wandered, but something about her sticks.  When The Man is released from the hospital, Marianne takes him into her home and nurses him back to health, regaling him with the tale of their first life together, along with the lives of a few other fateful lovers: the Japanese maiden and her love, a Viking apprentice in love with his manly teacher, an Italian ironworker and his plague-victim wife, and society victorian lady and her farmer husband.

The unanswered question throughout the book is: Is Marianne schizophrenic (or some other mental illness), or is she telling the truth, that she has lived 700 years?  It is a mystical, epic tale, with the questions of the existence of God, Hell, and real love are left for the reader to decide.

How this book affected me:

The Gargoyle has all the angst and emotions of a Gothic love story, with the quest for spiritual understanding of Mystic writings, and the in-your-face reality and carnage of our modern life.  It draws you in, sings to you, challenges you, then ends justly, in the only way it can.  Magical, mystical, beautiful, horrific, heartbreaking, hopeful -all are descriptions of The Gargoyle.

There are humorous events, one particular one made me think of my dad.  My father had diabetes and had occasions to go into the hospital.  He also had cancer the last two years of his life, granting him many more chances to experience the wonders of hospital life.  In one passage where the narrator describes a test of his tactile senses, the man’s response reminded me so much of my dad:

Next, to guage sensation in various parts of my body, she jabbed at me with a goddamn stick and asked how it felt.  I told her it felt like she was jabbing me with a goddamn stick.  Oh, how she laughed; what a fine comedian I was.

There are so many things that I loved about this book, I could write a book about it.  The possibility of reincarnated loves finding one another in the next life.  The stories Marianne tells to prove to the man that everlasting and unconditional love exists and is possible.  The concept of Hell building off Dante’s, yet completely tailored specofic for The Man.

One of the biggest curiousities for me, besides the obvious ones, is:  Why does Davidson never name his main character?  That may be the hardest question of all to answer.

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