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[personal] Updatery, department of books, movies and food - Lakeshore — LiveJournal
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Jay Lake
Date: 2010-12-18 06:20
Subject: [personal] Updatery, department of books, movies and food
Security: Public
Tags:books, child, family, food, movies, personal
Last night I watched Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Which, frankly, was not nearly as dreadful as the reviews had led me to believe. I know, I know, damning with faint praise, but still... All it lacked was a tornado and some ruby slippers.

Also finished reading Russell Hoban's The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, his 1973 debut adult trade novel. The writing was exquisite at the prose/line level, but the story couldn't decide what it wanted to be. What began as a sort of gentle fabulism eventually slid into arrant surrealism. Now, I happen to like (and sometimes write in) both those modes, and a story that is served by that kind of transition might do well under such a structure — perhaps a descent-into-madness tale, for example. But in the case of Lion, it felt disjointed to me, like a wandering away from the original intent of the book as telegraphed to the reader at the outset. Still, Hoban writes way prettier than me.

Making momos today for my family for Christmas, over at mom and dad's condo. Then we'll watch the ship parade after dusk with the kids (the_child and the Niece). The holidays are nigh.

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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-12-18 14:27 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you. You, too.
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russ
User: goulo
Date: 2010-12-18 15:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
If you're interested in Russell Hoban, you should certainly read his Riddley Walker if you've not already.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-12-18 15:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Which I am having a copy on the shelf downstairs, so, yes, that is probably next. Thank you.
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barry_king: 8.5
User: barry_king
Date: 2010-12-18 22:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:8.5
And for fun, there's always Kleinzeit. Love both of those. Death as a baboon with dirty fingernails!
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barry_king: Awww
User: barry_king
Date: 2010-12-18 15:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Awww
I think it's more a fairy tale than a modern novel. Take it with however many grains of salt you like--For me, Lion's denouement represented a subtle transformation, wherein the father's midlife crisis and his son's coming of age are an exchange both in identity and in the ephemeral energy that somehow sublimes out of one's perception of one's own life in the process of growing up. Hence the erection.

The father's map is more the father's map than the son's, but it's also the only legacy the father can give his son. Stealing it back from the father is the beginning of the quest, in the same way the golden ball is the beginning of the frog-princess story, but it's not about the map. It's about the wheel.

Both transformations are an admission of mortality (necessary to grow beyond adolescence and middle age), and it's the hunger for life, for the seizing of the inexorable wheel of existence that the lion chooses to bite, despite the spear of the king of that existence.

In any case, I read it when I was eighteen, when I thought it was about the map. Now I'm sure it's about the wheel. What I don't know yet, is why the lion doesn't bite the king. But I think I'm learning that one. It might just be about the spear.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-12-18 15:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
In any case, I read it when I was eighteen, when I thought it was about the map. Now I'm sure it's about the wheel. What I don't know yet, is why the lion doesn't bite the king. But I think I'm learning that one. It might just be about the spear.

Speaking at that deep thematic level, I think it's about the relationship transition. (Of course, at the moment I'm in a pretty profound relationship transition myself, so the Law of the Tool does apply here.)

(Also, I have more to say in response to your very thoughtful comment, but will have to touch back later.)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-12-18 18:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
(And back, to respond further.)

I'll accept the fairy tale interpretation, though I'm not sure it would have occurred to me. My struggle with the ending, though wasn't so much the action or meta-action as the presentation. I guess it's a technical quibble, not a philosophical or thematic quibble.

I did see the book as more about the journey than the wheel. Hoban kept returning to the wheel through the course of the story, but a wheel itself is an instrument of the journey, a measuring out of the miles and years of life. The father's journey is compressed to single incident, while the son's journey occupies much of his narrative thread. To me, this says the entire book is, in a sense, about the son's perspective. Given that time flows only one way (at least for us who are bounded by human experience), this does not much trouble me.

As to the question as to why the lion does not bite the king, could it not be that they are one and the same? In the sense that the father and son are one and the same?
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barry_king: 8.5
User: barry_king
Date: 2010-12-18 22:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:8.5
Perhaps I read more significance in the mirror-like event that occurs when they meet again at the end, and that their names are mirror images of each other. In that way, I see more of an equality between them. There are other mirror/subatomic themes in Hoban's other books, so he does seem to carry some of that baggage into his narrative.

And in the confrontation between the son and the girl's father, there is some recognition of the perpetual problem of the wheel and the king. So I'm a little loath to map the identity of the father or the son onto the king and the lion, but to have the struggle of the lion and the king as the theme that unifies their personal journeys.

But it has been a long time since I've read it. I should try to get hold of another copy.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-12-18 20:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh, one more thought. I think there's a deep connection between Hoban's The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz and John Crowley's Beasts, but I'd have to go re-read the Crowley to develop a meaningful thesis about that.

(This is similar to my view that Gene Wolfe's Fifth Head of Cerberus and Chip Delany's The Einstein Intersection are deeply connected.)
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Matthew S. Rotundo: Me with bird
User: matthewsrotundo
Date: 2010-12-18 17:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Me with bird
Mmm . . . momos . . .
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