Saturday, January 10, 2009

This is what happens when you read too many books.

You know, the thing with a book like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, is that it gets you thinking in a slightly magical realist fashion. The book is based on the legend of fukú, which, in my much uninformed opinion, has to do with the idea of a curse. The NFL playoffs are going on at the moment, and sure, a curse is something that is far worse than this, but each game seems to be going just the opposite of my prediction. Do you see the connection there? Sure, I have my sight, I have my well being, but I'm here linking something as small as a few football games to an established and terrible curse.

I do that sometimes. I mean the whole idea of curses and things like them, I think they are defense mechanisms, so that we can feel that we are in control. I'm sure that Jake Delhomme would love to have something to blame his five interceptions on; I don't think Chad Pennington would deny a reason for Ed Reed to be everywhere on the field. Obviously there are some things we can't explain, that we try to make up some sort of reason for. That's where mythology comes from.

I've been thinking about this new age myth as of late: the sporting event. Basically it's new age nationalism, that avoids war, and I support anything that avoids war. But really, it's just the new evolution of an old game. There's a story here that I want to write someday, basically playing off some sport as a new age mythology; I have bits and pieces of it worked out, young narrator, probably dealing with the recent divorce of parents, but that's about it.

Back on the subject of some sort of curse, used as an explanation for all that goes wrong. Besides being a leading support gatherer for countless revolutionaries, I see this as an interesting approach to a narrative form as well. It's interesting how close The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is to The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I'd like to hear Junot Díaz's reasoning for this, or, if we want to believe an adage of Kurt Vonnegut ("Is it possible that seemingly incredible geniuses like Bach and Shakespeare and Einstein were not in fact superhuman, but simply plagiarists, copying great stuff from the future?"), for that matter, I'd like to hear the reasons from Milan Kundera.

I'm not slandering here (I guess it would be libel), these are two very different books, and even if Díaz read Kundera's book, his is a very different story with minor connections. I only make this mention to illustrate a larger picture. Another example being that the day I started Philip Roth's "Goodbye, Columbus," the day before or the day that I finished Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. In the afternotes of Mysteries, Chabon makes direct mention of Roth's novella, and I found myself staring at the page in disbelief.

One of the arguments for some kind of reasoning being behind something, whether it be a curse on a small scale, or you know, something like intelligent design, seems to deal with the likelihood of coincidences. This is the kind of thing that people trash Dickens for, the sort of idea that (fitting that is coincidentally enough) Milan Kundera talks about at one point in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

The way I see it, no matter what you believe, coincidences are a part of nature, and that is what makes their expression so commonplace in novels. The idea I've probably written about the most, that we could all be characters in someone else's story (simple variation on brains in a vat, really), seems to hold water here. We reject the possibility of a novel full of the improbable, we call it unrealistic, but what we are perhaps really doing, is avoiding thinking about something that we're all afraid of.

I don't really know; this is all fluff really. I think a line like that showed up in my novel somewhere, spoken by a friend of the writer of the book. In the book, there was something manipulating the plot turns from behind the scenes, but I don't know if any of that was written well enough so that the reader could understand what happened.

But then again...

I don't really understand what's happening right now anyway, so maybe that book was more realistic than I thought.

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