Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

The Lost Book Club: Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories is the book Desmond was reading on the plane in the Season 6 opener “LA X.” The scene occurred in the alternate reality timeline, and the book provides some insight into what is going on.

Haroun’s father Rashid Khalifa, The Shah of Blah, is a master storyteller, but when Rashid’s wife leaves him for another man, he loses his ability and desire to tell stories, especially after Haroun disparagingly asks, “What’s the use in stories that aren’t true.” One night, the water genie Iff comes to disconnect Rashid from the Source of the Stream of Stories by a P2C2E (Process Too Complicated To Explain) but before Iff succeeds, Haroun steals the genie’s disconnection tool and demands that his father be allowed to continue telling stories.

Haroun joins Iff on a journey to Katani, Earth’s hidden moon, where the Ocean of Stories (from which the streams flow) has been contaminated by the cult master Kattam-Shud who leads the silent Chupwalas and their shadow warriors against the good story-loving Guppees. Haroun, Rashid, Iff, Blabbermouth and Butt the Hoopoe must stop the cult master, rescue an annoying princess and purify the Streams of Story so that Rashid can have his gift back.

The book, which was a thoroughly enjoyable work of magical realism aimed at young readers (Rushdie wrote it for his son), provided some interesting insights into Season 6 of Lost, though it would have been more helpful to have read it sooner.

The main thing I keep thinking about is the idea of pollution in a stream of stories. The flash-sideways reality we’ve been seeing on Lost all season is a version of reality that isn’t quite what it should be, a situation similar to what Haroun finds in the various polluted stories he encounters. Ultimately, his adventures take him to the source of the Streams of Story from which all stories originate. If he can prevent Kattam-Shud from plugging this source, the stories will cleanse themselves and all will be right again.

This is a notion strikingly similar to the idea of the universe course-correcting, a notion Lost has been playing with since Desmond slipped out of time in Season 3. At this point, I’m thinking that the flash-sideways reality is a stream of story that will probably correct itself when Locke, Lost‘s own Kattam-Shud, cult master and lord of shadows is defeated. Perhaps the island is some kind of spacetime source for various realities and existences. Or something.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories is at heart about the balancing of opposing forces—speech and silence, light and darkness—and how that balance is necessary to life. Lost has played with these ideas since its very first season and while Anti-Jacob/Locke has thrown the Island and possibly the world out of balance, it seems likely the rest of the series will focus not so much on destroying Locke but on balancing out his penchant for destruction in much the way that Jacob maintained the balance prior to his death at the end of Season 5.

The only other thing that leapt out at me was Haroun’s question to his father about the use in stories that aren’t true. That’s one that many of us viewers, confused by the role of the flash-sideways storytelling, have asked this season. It’s a fair question to which I think Brian at Lost…and Gone Forever has presented the best answer thus far in his excellent analysis of last week’s “Dr. Linus”:

Seeing Flash Sideways Ben choosing Alex’s well-being over gaining power for himself reminds us that he did the exact opposite the first time we saw him faced with the same situation. Seeing him making friends with Arzt and having a – well let’s call it “decent” – relationship with his father makes us realize just how alone he is on the Island right now… which made his breakdown scene with Ilana all the more powerful. He gave up everyone and everything for the Island – and look where it left him. Alone and lost in life (pun somewhat intended).

In short, the Flash Sideways actually served to make the On-Island storyline better, just like the original Season One Flashbacks did. By learning about our Survivors’ pasts, we understood their presents much better. Likewise, by seeing “what could have been” with Benjamin Linus this week, understand his present condition much better.

Which is, I think, the “use of stories that aren’t even true.” Perhaps that’s why “Dr. Linus” is my favorite episode (so far) of this season and one of my favorites from the series.

Next up: Deep River by Shusaku Endo.

Be sure to check out the rest of my Lost Book Club posts.

1 Comment

  1. Janett Schmollinger

    March 21, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    I dont normally post to blogs but I enjoyed this post so keep up the good work. -cheers-

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