I still read more than he does
. . . but I’m on a 9-month contract and it’s summertime.
I might try and get him to read Jonathan Carroll’s Glass Soup next. Although not nearly as laugh-your-pants-off funny as Lamb, it is a clever little novel that deals with life and death, God, the mysteries of the universe, the nature of evil–you know, all the good stuff.
I’ll get my few niggling complaints about the book out of the way at the beginning. Carroll sets the story in Vienna, Austria. All I can say is he must like the place a whole lot better than me. There appears to be no compelling reason for the action to happen in Europe in general, or Austria in particular. The characters are an international mix and none of them appear to need to earn a livelihood in Vienna and can live in a ridiculously expensive town on their charm and good looks. Carroll peppers the narrative with references to the Wienerwald/Vienna Wood (and can’t decide whether to refer to it in German or English, or, if in German, whether or not to italicize it as a foreign word) and various places, such as the Naschmarkt, in Vienna proper. Occasional bits of dialog also include German words and this is where the pedant/German teacher/editor in me must rear its ugly head. If you are going to use foreign words and phrases, please make sure they are spelled correctly. If you know German well enough to know that all nouns are capitalized, why occasionally insert a lower-case one? If you know how to type diacritics–use them! Sheesh. Failing your own knowledge and abilities–have someone who knows German read the freaking words and prevent you from looking like some sort of Euro-loving poser.
Back to das Buch. Much of the plot twists and turns are things that, as a reader, you must read to discover. Your process of discovery as a reader parallels the discovery process of many of the characters in the book and, as those characters are forever being told: it will be so much better if you figure it out for yourself than if I tell you what’s going on. The characters are, as in all good novels, trying to save the world. But saving the world is also intimately tied up with the connection between life and death, between God and Chaos.
Carroll sets up his tale expertly. For example:
“Because it is all gone now, Isabelle. In all of the countries their magic has disappeared and will never return. The stories of the magic are still there, yes, but the truth of them is gone forever. If you go out into the country now anywhere, the people have no new stories like these because all of the magic has been stopped. Taken away forever. There is nothing mythical or magical on the earth anymore. Only the old stories have survived but without their beating hearts.”
Our eyes are opened to the magical narrative in the book. We are invited to see truth in the magic. Which, in the terms of the novel, invites us to see truth in the notions of heaven and even hell–both as places we create for ourselves but real nevertheless. We are also invited to see the truth in our dreams; to see dreams as the place we build for ourselves, where we will go to live when we die.
But it’s not all serious. Honestly. Read this:
“Not much embarrassed Haden anymore; especially now that he was dead. But when he looked down at the front of his pants and saw what was there, he was not only embarrassed but amazed. His penis, or someone’s penis (because it sure as hell wasn’t his–the thing was longer than any dick he had ever seen before), stuck straight out of his fly like a wooden stick. It must have been thirteen inches long. It looked like Pinocchio’s nose. Pinocchio porn. And sitting on this thing, this dick-stick, was a large parrot.”
And along with funny, we get a nice dose of evil. You know how I likes me some evil. Evil here does the bidding of Chaos, who is at odds–as luck would have it–with God (who in this tale takes on the aspect of a large polar bear). Whereas God, when not looking like a large white bear, is glass soup–the mosaic of life–, Chaos is bent on destroying the ever-changing mosaic by permanently deleting elements of it, never allowing it to become complete. The trick is in stopping him.
Glass Soup has some beautiful mental images to hold on to and ponder. The nature of God, the importance of each human life, what kind of world we would create for ourselves if we could. Go read it. It gives you wickedly odd dreams.