Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Crying of Lot 49 : Book Review

Oh, man. The Crying of Lot 49 was another fantastic book, but kind of like Herzog, one where I just accepted that I wasn't going to understand it all. I reread passages a lot. This is the first book where I marked out passages while reading, thinking about what I was going to write in my review.

So, the plot... Oedipa Maas is made the executor of the will of an ex-boyfriend.  Through these duties she gradually discovers what seems to be an underground postal service.  If I had to put it in a genre I guess I'd say it was a mystery... she's trying to learn more about this organization and the tension builds and builds. The ending, I don't want to spoil the ending, but it's the kind of book where you let out a huge breath at the end.

Here is a passage that I loved, loved, loved... It comes right at the end of the first chapter.

"In Mexico City they somehow wandered into an exhibition of paintings by the beautiful Spanish exile Remedios Varo: in the central painting of a triptych, titled "Bordando el Manto Terrestre," were a number of frail girls with heart-shaped faces, huge eyes, spun-gold hair, prisoners in the top room of a circular tower, embroidering a kind of tapestry which spilled out the slit windows and into a void, seeking hopelessly to fill the void: for all the other buildings and creatures, all the waves, ships and forests of the earth were contained in this tapestry, and the tapestry was the world. Oedipa, perverse, had stood in front of the painting and cried. No one had noticed; she wore dark green bubble shades. For a moment she'd wondered if the seal around her sockets were tight enough to allow the tears simply to go on and fill up the entire lens space and never dry. She could carry the sadness of the moment with her that way forever, see the world refracted through those tears, those specific tears, as if indices as yet unfound varied in important ways from cry to cry. She had looked down at her feet and known, then, because of a painting, that what she stood on had only been woven together a couple thousand miles away in her own tower, was only by accident known as Mexico, and so Pierce had taken her away from nothing, there'd been no escape. What did she so desire escape from? Such a captive maiden, having plenty of time to think, soon realizes that her tower, its height and architecture, are like her ego only incidental: that what really keeps her where she is is magic, anonymous and malignant, visited on her from outside and for no reason at all. Having no apparatus except gut fear and female cunning to examine this formless magic, to understand how it works, how to measure its field strength, count its lines of force, she may fall back on superstition, or take up a useful hobby like embroidery, or go mad, or marry a disk jockey. If the tower is everywhere and the knight of deliverance no proof against its magic, what else?"

I've read this passage a lot. It first grabbed me because of crying in front of a painting in a museum, which I've done. The idea of looking at the world through a certain set of tears is a fascinating idea. And the helplessness in the last part. Thinking about it today it reminded me of Lovecraft. There is definitely a feeling throughout the book of something much bigger than you, and especially near the end there's the threat of madness. I just made that connection today, but while I was reading it it kind of reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut in parts. It's weird in a similar sort of way. 

Anyway, a really great book.

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