I was falling asleep while standing at the bar earlier this evening, but now, when it is most appropriate to slumber, I am awake. And so I have roused myself from bed, warmed up a mug of milk, and have decided to mull on potential future works, on influences that are currently of interest.
I was greatly struck by The Fountain‘s layering of different time periods over the same characters, the same souls. It struck me as similar in many ways to what Anubis Gates accomplished, but there was something more there that dealt with mortality, with the soul, with the futility of being human that appealed. Time is but a window, death is but a door, I’ll be back. Identity. Past lives. Highlander. Distinct time periods breaking down. Nature versus nurture. Fiction versus our perceived realities. Reality is perception.
I’m also intrigued by what it meant to be ‘human’ during different time periods, as illustrated by Saramago’s treatment of love in The Siege of Lisbon. How our sense of our own humanity, what it means to be humane, is affected by society. What is man when stripped of ideals, of civilization? Would a Phoenician shop keeper have much in common with a contemporary Parisian one?
Jungian archetypes, genetic memory, the movie Altered States. Love as some trump card, over ruling fate, death, limits, time. But what is love but a modern construct, ever elaborated since its courtly conception during the Middle Ages? What was there before this concept of love, if not lust, desire, practicality, solidarity against the world? Could such ‘baser’ emotions, needs, be allowed to trump death in similar fashion?
Nietzsche was enamored with Poe’s idea of Eternal Recurrence – that everything we do over the course of our lives will be repeated ad infinitum, an endless repetitive cycle that we are fated to relive for all eternity. What if these repetitive cycles were not the playing back of one life, but a pattern in history that we experience, are tested by, as we live through each one of our past lives?
Similarly, I love Moore’s deft handling of time in The Watchmen, and not only Dr. Manhattan’s ability to perceive the past, present, and future simultaneously, but to interact with the world around him even as he does so. At what point does physics become mysticism, prophesy, magic?
Tim Powers is really, really great. I love the trick he pulls in Anubis Gates wherein he solves the paradox of modifying the past by having the present actually be the unwitting product right from the beginning of all the modifications that happen throughout the course of the novel as the characters travel back in time.
In another vein, what I found fascinating about The Historian was not so much the actual action and plot of the novel, but rather its interaction with history. The unearthing of letters, maps, travelogues, reports from ancient times that pieced together a tale. Same with A.S. Byatt’s incredible Possessed. The past coming to life as you unearth it, a tale being told in real time due to one’s gradual revealing of ancient, forgotten events in sequential order.
There’s something here, something in all this, this knotted whorl of questions and musings. I’m not sure what, yet, but I’ll keep picking at it until something comes free.