Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Category: LOST (page 2 of 6)

Mostly these posts were my attempt to read and analyze every book that appeared on ABC’s LOST. A complete list of the 43 books I read can be found here.

The Lost Book Club: Everything that Rises Must Converge

It’s hard to believe that Lost will begin its final season with tonight’s premiere. Even harder to believe I’ve stuck with the commitment I made at the end of Season 2—way back in May 2006—to read and blog about every book that appears or is referenced on the show.

Now that I’ve finished reading Flannery O’Connor’s short story collection Everything that Rises Must Converge, I am caught up. That’s 38 books I’ve read to better understand this show, but it’s also 38 (mostly) really good books I’m glad I was encouraged to read. The full list along with links to my individual posts is here.

O’Connor’s stories are exquisitely crafted slices of southern life in the 1960s. Her characters struggle to understand and make sense of a rapidly changing world full of astronauts and civil rights, but change never comes easy. Many of the stories center on generational conflicts wherein strong-willed characters attempt to bend others—usually loved ones—to a “better” or “more enlightened” way of thinking. Sometimes it works, but the cost is steep and many of the stories end with unintended consequences for the protagonist: often violence or the death of a loved one. Often those who would teach a lesson are forced to learn the most painful lessons of all.

The book made its appearance in “The Incident,” the Season 5 finale. The mysterious Jacob was reading it in a flashback scene just moment’s before Locke was thrown out of the window by his father where he would break his back and eventually become lame and the first to enter Jacob’s home many years later, which was what was playing through the back of my mind when I read “The Lame Shall Enter First,” a particularly devastating story of the terrible toll on a father and his estranged nine-year-old son when the father takes in and attempts to save a juvenile delinquent.

The manipulation of Locke’s good intentions and pure faith by evil men is one of the central tragedies on Lost, and “The Lame Shall Enter First,” reminded me of how often he has tried to do right and how his core goodness has always blown up in his face. If Lost follows the trajectory of this or any of these stories, a happy ending isn’t likely.

With its focus of family conflict, many of the stories mirror the arcs of so many characters on Lost, particularly in the relationship between Jack and his father, Christian. Jack taught Christian a hell of a lesson back in Season 1, and it ultimately led to Christian’s death and copious guilt for Jack. That is, in essence, the plot of the title story “Everything that Rises Must Converge,” in which an earnest young man attempts to teach his mildly bigoted mother a thing or two about racism.

Considering the role that the dead Christian Shephard has had on Lost, I can’t help but wonder how much of Season 6 will be driven by a convergence and reckoning between Jack and whatever it is that has been animating his dead father all these years.

We also see a parallel in that O’Connor’s protagonists, especially Mrs. Turpin in “Revelation,” are so convinced of their moral superiority and their role as “good guys” that it genuinely shocks them when they are forced to confront their misdeeds. As I read, all I could think about was the number of times we’ve heard various caharcters on Lost, most recently Ilyana claim to be “the good guys.”

The final story, “Judgement Day,” features a protagonist who imagines himself shipped from New York City back to Georgia in his coffin only to jump out and surprise his friends with the fact that he still lives. Again, his fantasy sounds like the one that anti-Jacob has pulled off.

Finally, there’s the title itself. According to Lostpedia (take it for what it’s worth):

The book’s title is a reference to a work by the French philosopher Pierre Teilhard De Chardin titled the “Omega Point”: “Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.”

This convergence could mean many things, but I think the writers are hinting toward the convergence of the time-traveling survivors of Oceanic 815 and the survivors of Ajira 316. They will come together, and I think the mechanism for that will be Jacob’s touch as revealed in the flashbacks in “The Incident.” I think that’s what he meant when he said, “They’re coming.”

Juliet will not converge since Jacob never came to her.

Then will come judgement day and the last battle (to take it back to all the Narnia references).

That’s about all I’ve got.

Be sure to check out Lost… and Gone Forever and EYE M SICK for more serious Lost theorizing, and don’t forget to check out my Lost Book Club Index for all the books on the show and my posts about them.

The Lost Book Club: A Separate Reality

Carlos Castaneda’s A Separate Reality appeared in the Season 5 episode of Lost: “He’s Our You.” It’s the second book in Castaneda’s allegedly nonfiction series that begins with The Teachings of Don Juan. I actually own this book, though I had never read it. I picked it up at a garage sale in a volume that also contains the first book and the fourth, Tales of Power. Why the 3rd isn’t included, I don’t know.

I read The Teachings back when I got the book in the mid-’90s, and while it was interesting, I never intended to keep reading. The books are about Castaneda’s supposed apprenticeship with a Yaqui Indian sorcerer named Don Juan Matus. The Teachings of Don Juan was Castenada’s grad school thesis in anthropology, though many now believe he made up the whole thing.

A Separate Reality tells of Castaneda’s second apprenticeship in which he attempts to learn to “see” the world as “a man of knowledge” does. Seeing is more than looking. It is a heightened perception that allows the warrior or the sorcerer to truly know the world as well as perform seeming impossible acts. Being a rational and scientific-minded man, Castaneda finds this to be quite difficult, though he does make some progress on his journey.

Ultimately, it is about the need to shed a hyperrational world view in order to come to terms with the mystical/spiritual side of our nature.

This, of course, is the story of Lost.

The tension between the rational physician Jack Shepard and the spiritual seeker John Locke drives more of Lost‘s plotlines than any other conflict on the show. In Season 5, we see Jack beginning to shed some of his rationalism and begin to have faith in the island and his destiny. Jack is, like Castaneda, a long way from becoming a man of knowledge in the mystical sense, but with Locke seemingly dead/evil/possessed, I suspect Jack’s ability to reconcile the opposing forces of reason and faith will decide the fate of the island.

The book is passed to an imprisoned Sayid by a young Ben Linus in “He’s Our You.” It seems appropriate that a book that deals extensively with the shamanistic use of psychotropic plants should appear in the episode in which Sayid is made to “talk” by being fed psychedelics. It also calls to mind Locke’s use of island psychedelics in Season 1 and Season 3. Both times, he partakes in order to commune with the island.

Through most of Lost, we are meant to see Locke as a man on a quest to become that man of knowledge. This makes it particularly interesting that it is Ben Linus who is the book’s owner. I suspect Ben sees more than we think and may even be more of a man of knowledge than Locke or anyone else suspects.

I have no great theories at this point, but there is a quote worth noting from A Separate Reality:

The world is incomprehensible. We won’t ever understand it; we won’t ever unravel its secrets. Thus we must treat it as it is, a sheer mystery!

Toward the end of the book, don Juan goes on to emphasize that one must break free of the prison of reason to become a man of knowledge. Trying to understand only prevents true seeing.

I suspect we’ll never really understand everything we want to know about the island, and quite frankly, that’s okay with me.

This will be my last Lost Book Club post until January when the 6th and final season commences. I am caught up with the exception of Flannery O’Connor’s Everything that Rises Must Converge, which appeared in the season finale. I’ll read that and report back as I gear up for the Lost season premiere in January.

Check out the rest of my Lost Book Club posts. I’ve read all 37 of the books references or shown on the show with the exception of the O’Connor book. It’s an amazing list too.

And for the best theorizing around, check out these two excellent Lost blogs and their analyses of the end of Season 5:

Lost… and Gone Forever

EYE M SICK (which also has a cool 3 sentence theory challenge)

The Lost Book Club: Ulysses

For a while, I thought it odd that no books had been shown or mentioned in season 5 of Lost. Then, a doozy appeared when we saw Ben Linus reading James Joyce’s Ulysses in the episode “316.” I enjoyed A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and the stories I’d read in Dubliners so I gave it a read. Woof.

Ulysses is a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey set on a single day in Dublin in 1904. Leopold Bloom travels the streets, going about his business, all the while worrying about an affair that his estranged wife may be having at 4:00. Intersecting Bloom’s path is Stephen Dedalus, a young poet whose father is an acquaintance of Bloom’s.

The genius of Ulysses lies not in the story but in the telling. Joyce delves deeper into the consciousnesses of his characters than any other writer I’ve read. At times it seems as though his intent is to record every stray thought that passes through their heads, a technique that sometimes leads to tedium and sometimes the most powerful of insights.

Each chapter is presented in a different style, thus creating slightly different perspectives from which to view Leopold and Stephen. Additionally, each chapter is meant to suggest certain events in Odysseus’ journey back to Ithaca, which Joyce accomplishes at the symbolic level.

By the end of the book, Leopold returns from his wanderings and, though she has had an affair, reclaims his wife from “the suitors.” It’s nothing like Odysseus reclaiming Penelope from her suitors. It’s much more ambiguous and anticlimactic, but therein lies Joyce’s genius.

I admit that this is only the most cursory and superficial rundown of a truly deep book, but it’s not something I can thoroughly describe in a short post where the point is to figure out what it has to do with Lost.

Once again, Lost has led me to great literature and a book I might not otherwise have read. It’s a complicated book, but a joy to read. It’s one of those that throughout reading, I kept wondering, “This is genius. How does a person think to write a book like this?”

My wife suggested absinthe.

On to Lost.

Season 5 is mainly about the return of Ben Linus and the Oceanic Six to the island. It is a long journey full of twists and turns and as with Penelope in Ithaca, the island has many suitors. The question we should be asking about Lost is which of the suitors is the rightful heir to the island: Ben? Locke? The “Shadow of the Statue” people? Alpert? Jacob? Jack? Christian?

It’s easy to assume Ben is the bad guy, but Ulysses reminds us that it is our perspective on events that allows us to make that judgment, and we still do not have a full and detailed perspective on all of the characters. I am inclined to think that Ben is the true heir and though he has been humbled and ordered to obey Locke, this may only be a temporary state and possibly one that is necessary for him to return just as Odysseus had to disguise himself as a beggar and Leopold had to sneak into his house in the dark of night.

Other than that and the fact that Ulysses, like Lost, is full characters with father and fatherhood issues, I don’t have much. Lost has reached a point where the game of analysis has changed. There was a time when analyzing Lost meant trying to understand what was really going on. Now we pretty much know. It’s a time travel show, which I predicted a few seasons ago. The question, now that there aren’t really all that many more questions, is what is going to happen? How will this all play out?

Rather than trying to figure out the island, we are left with trying to predict the choices the characters will make. Lost is truly a story moving toward its climax, which will happen next year in its sixth and final season. The presence of Ulysses suggests that “Ulysses” will return to “Ithaca” and reclaim it by vanquishing the suitors. The question is, who is Ulysses? It’s probably Locke, but I won’t be surprised if it’s Ben. Perhaps the only time he ever told the truth was the moment in the season 2 finale when Michael asked who the Others were, and Ben responded, “We’re the good guys.”

Lostpedia had some good stuff about Ulysses and how it pertains to Lost. From Lostpedia:

A quote from page 316 of the novel is also hidden in the source code of the Ajira Airways website. The final chapter is named “Penelope”. Fionnula Flanagan who plays Mrs. Hawking is famous for the role of Molly Bloom (a character in the book) in stage and film, including “James Joyce’s Women” and “Joyce to the World.”

More pertinently, the reference to Ulysses fronts the father-son relationships in the episode and series. In the novel, Leopold Bloom longs to be a father-figure to a son, while Stephen Dedalus struggles with his own identity as son. The events recorded in Ulysses trace Bloom and Dedalus’ wanderings around Dublin as they miss each other, cross paths, cross thoughts, and finally meet before parting. In “Ithaca,” the seventeenth chapter, the narrating voice refers to the shift between the two characters’ thoughts and perspectives as a sort of parallax, an appropriate model for the differences between the perspectives of Lost‘s main characters (as well as a handy hint concerning the Island’s physics?).

Ben’s pithy comment (while browsing James Joyce’s Ulysses) regarding his mother teaching him to read is Ironic, as both he and the Joycean Ulysses character Stephen Dedalus have issues of guilt over the deaths of their respective mothers despite Ben’s mother having died in Childbirth & Dedalus’ much later in life.

Also, the fact that Ulysses is built upon Homer’s Odyssey should cue the viewer into certain observations. First, the events of ‘316’ are a re-telling, a re-enacting of earlier events. Second, the viewer is left to wonder whether the Oceanic Six are (finally) returning to the Island as Odysseus returns to Ithaca or just on another leg of their voyage.

I must admit, I doff my hat to whoever is going through and reading the code for the various Lost websites in order to find clues. I thought I was hard core just for reading the books.

Check out the rest of my Lost Book Club posts.

Next up, A Separate Reality by Carlos Castenada.

The Lost Book Club: The Survivors of the Chancellor

The last unread book from Season 4 of Lost was The Survivors of the Chancellor by Jules Verne. I had not previously read any of Verne’s work, and after reading this, I consider that my loss. I’ll have to investigate some of his more famous works like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or Around the World in 80 Days.

Published in 1875, The Survivors of the Chancellor recounts the ordeal of a group of people who survive the burning and slow sinking of their ship, a freighter called The Chancellor. They must endure almost 2 months aboard a raft as their food and water dwindle and the remnants of the crew begin to turn against the passengers and one another. Verne’s story takes the reader through many of the classic perils of life on the sea: fire, storms, mutiny, murder, suicide, doldrums, and even to the drawing of lots to determine which of the survivors must be sacrificed and eaten.

It’s a short, brisk read, and thoroughly entertaining.

As to Lost, it appears in the Season 4 episode “Ji Yeon.” It is the book Regina is reading (upside down) moments before she goes on deck and takes her own life. Had I read it or known the book last year, I might have been able to offer predictions about the future of the freighter: that it was doomed, that few would survive, and that there would be a mutiny.

A year later, The Survivors of the Chancellor sheds no new light on Lost. Still, it was a worthwhile read, and a perfect book for Regina to read considering the hopelessness that had begun to take root on board the Lost freighter.

There haven’t been many books in Season 5 yet, but I am working on Ulysses by James Joyce, which is, so far, the only identifiable book from this season. The book Sawyer was reading in “Namaste” remains in shadow as if we are not to know the book. Or perhaps, there was a production error, and he is reading something that had not yet been published in 1978.

Check out the rest of my Lost Book Club posts.

The Lost Book Club: The Little Prince

Season 5 of Lost has been light on literature. I haven’t seen any books featured in the episodes, and only one has been clearly referenced: The Little Prince by French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I must admit, I miss the heady days of Seasons 2 and 3 with the hatch library and the book club meetings over in New Otherton. I’ll take what I can get, though, and I like what I got.

A children’s book, Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince is a wonderfully created fable about love and friendship, and how once a thing or a person has been loved, it becomes unique in all the world to the one who loved it.

The story begins in the Sahara Desert where the narrator just survived a plane crash (an incident based on a real event in Saint-Exupéry’s life) and is approached by a young prince from the small asteroid B612. The narrator befriends the prince who tells him of his home and his travels.

Asteroid B612 is a small place with 3 volcanoes and a single rose that the prince loves dearly. The rose plays games with him, however, and he decides to leave and see the rest of the universe. His travels take him to other asteroids where he meets various adults who don’t understand or value what is important about life.

Eventually he finds his way to Earth where he meets a fox who teaches him about love and the way love makes the beloved unique in all the world. The fox tells him the great secret:

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

The prince meets other roses, but because he does not love them, they are just roses. Eventually, coming to understand how much he loves his rose for its unique and special nature, he desires to return home.

His wish to go home is what has brought him back to the Sahara and in search of a snake who tells him that one bite will take him home. The prince tells the narrator not to be sad, that it must be this way because his body is too heavy to go back to his asteroid and so he must allow the snake to bite him so he can leave it behind and travel home.

The snake bites the prince and the next day, the narrator awakens to find that the prince has gone.

Despite the prince’s apparent death, the narrator takes comfort in knowing that the prince is still out there and that he has returned home to protect his rose.

It’s a beautiful story with lots of interesting ambiguity. I will definitely be checking out more of Saint-Exupéry’s work.

It is also the story of John Locke.

Ever since the end of Season 4, we have known that Locke must die in order to save the island. He probably has to die to return, and while we don’t yet know the exact mechanism for this, I think it’s clear from the title of the episode “The Little Prince,” John Locke will be coming back to life, and that he had to die to return home to the island he has come to love.

In case the reference in the title isn’t enough, the name Canton Rainier on of the side of Ben’s van, which first appears in this episode, can be rearranged to spell reincarnation.

John Locke, the little prince of the island, is coming back to life.

The reincarnation angle gets extra play with this week’s episode title “316.” I suspect it refers to the coordinates to get back to the island, but it is also a reference to John (not John Locke, though) 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The Little Prince, then, is meant to hint at the reasons for Locke’s death, and while we don’t know the reason for its necessity, I believe it is another clear hint that Locke will be coming back in some form. I believe the island grants everlasting life. Just look at Richard Alpert. The question, then, is to whom is this gift granted. It doesn’t seem to have been granted to Ben Linus. And why does it seem to have been given to Christian Shepard?

All this everlasting life business ties into the theories I proposed last year after reading Adolfo Bioy Casares’ The Invention of Morel, in which I argued that the island projects the dead. This is in fact why Alpert does not age and I suspect Locke will not age anymore once he returns to the island.

There was another interesting reference to The Little Prince in the name of the French crew’s boat: Besixdouze. That’s French for B612, the name of the little prince’s asteroid.

On a lighter note, Annie from The Transplantable Rose sent me a link to this clip some former Austinite friends of hers made when they traveled to Oahu. They visit some of the Lost sets and even reenact a few scenes:

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

The Lost Book Club: The Chronicles of Narnia

I guess it was only a matter of time before The Chronicles of Narnia would get a reference on Lost. In fact I guessed this in my post on A Brief History of Time:

… we’re left with A Brief History of Time, yet another book suggesting that the island may exist outside the normal time stream of the rest of the world. The other books that suggest this are: A Wrinkle in Time, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” The Wizard of Oz, The Third Policeman, and Alice in Wonderland. When The Chronicles of Narnia appears I think the deal will be sealed.

For those who may not know, The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis is a seven-book series about the history of an alternate world called Narnia. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and The Silver Chair form the main cycle in the series and together recount the adventures of a group of children who come to Narnia to save it. They are called to return time and again throughout the series, and it is their faith in the other world and its mysteries that guides and protects them.

The Magician’s Nephew tells of Narnia’s origins, The Horse and His Boy is a story of faith in the face of travail, and The Last Battle takes the reader through Narnia’s end times.

Narnia itself is ruled by a benevolent godlike being named Aslan who takes the form of a lion. Faith in Aslan is what The Chronicles are all about.

The books are steeped in Christian thought and tradition, and some of them are direct allegories: Lion, Witch, Wardrobe is the Gospel, Magician’s Nephew is Genesis, and Last Battle is Revelation. For my money, The Magician’s Nephew is the best one.

How does all this connect with Lost? Only through a name. The books have not appeared, but Season 4 brought scientist Charlotte Staples Lewis (CS Lewis) to the island. I suppose we could consider this a reference to any of Lewis’s work, but Narnia seems like the best candidate.

The world of Narnia is like Lost island in many ways. Not the least of which is the fact that the island exists in a time stream apart from ours. I’m especially interested in the fact that Narnia’s time stream isn’t just out of phase with ours, it runs at different rates at different times. For instance 60 or so years go by in our world between Magician and Lion, Witch, Wardrobe, but untold thousands pass in Narnia. Then between Lion, Witch, Wardrobe and Caspian 2-3 years go by in our world, while thousands pass in Narnia. But between Caspian and Dawn Treader only a few years go by in both worlds.

Using the Narnia model for Lost island, we have a way for the outside world and the island to show no correlation between time streams. This gives the writers a lot of freedom as to how much time has gone by in the two places when the Oceanic 6 finally do return, as I suspect they must.

Other than the timestream issues, The Chronicles of Narnia make a nice reference because, as with Lost, a small group of believers find their faith tested and ultimately they will have to be the ones to return to the magical other place in order to save it. Will there be one who, like Susan in Narnia, refuses to believe in the things she has seen? If so, look for one of the Oceanic 6 to pass on returning, thus sealing his or her fate.

Narnia mainly serves as a potent reminder of the importance of faith in Lost. It can be lost, but the island will take a person back who regains his faith (John Locke blowing up the Hatch but coming to see the error of his ways), and sometimes one’s faith must lead to sacrifice (see Ben sacrificing his life on the island in order to save it when he moves the island at the end of Season 4). The question, then, is will Jack find sufficient faith to lead the Oceanic 6 back?

I suspect we’ll have a clearer picture of the Narnia connections in Season 5, which starts tonight. Something tells me The Chronicles of Narnia may join The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and Watership Down as a source of recurring references on Lost.

I hope you’ll check out the rest of my Lost Book Club posts.

The Lost Book Club: Slaughterhouse-Five

Listen. Desmond Hume has come unstuck in time.

The phrase “unstuck in time” is the how Kurt Vonnegut described Billy Pilgrim’s condition in his classic antiwar novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

In Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim a young American GI serving on the German front in World War II, is taken prisoner by the Nazis. He spends most of the war living and working in a slaughterhouse (numbered 5) in Dresden where he becomes a firsthand witness to the Allied bombing in 1945, an event Vonnegut considered to be unnecessary to say the least.

But that’s not the whole story. Slaughterhouse-Five follows Billy’s life through his postwar years and even to the planet Tralfamador where he is taken to live in a zoo and breed with porn star Montana Wildhack. It’s a weird book, but brilliant too.

The events that take place in that slaughterhouse in Dresden are largely autobiographical. The parts of the story involving the Tralfamadorians… not so much.

Slaughterhouse-Five tackles many of the fate vs. free will themes with which Lost wrestles, all the while suggesting a universe is which all things are always happening simultaneously, thus allowing someone’s consciousness to ping-pong about in time, remembering the future and experiencing death, but not necessarily as the last moment of life.

The connection to Lost is made in “The Constant”, one of Lost‘s best episodes, when Farraday explains Desmond’s condition as being “unstuck in time.” Like Billy Pilgrim, Desmond’s body does not travel through time, only his consciousness does with the apparent result that he is able to remember pieces of the future.

I’ve said for some time that Lost is a show about time travel, and in the case of Desmond’s time travel (which is different from what Ben appears to do in the Season 4 finale) Slaughterhouse-Five provides a way of understanding what is happening to Desmond, as well as being a reminder that in the world of Lost, as in that of Billy Pilgrim, you (probably) can’t fight destiny.

More than anything, though, I suspect it is a nod from the writers of Lost to Vonnegut who had mined ground similar to Lost years before.


Check out my other Lost book posts at The Lost Book Club.

The Lost Book Club: On the Road

With only 3 days left until the premeire of Lost Season 5, I guess it’s time to round up the remaining books in The Lost Book Club. Today, we’ll take a look at Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

On the Road is Kerouac’s most well-known book and probably the most widely read work of the beat movement. It is largely autobiographical and tells the story of a number of road trips that Keroauc made with his friend, and sometimes nemesis, Neal Cassady across the US in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Kerouac narrates as Sal Paradise and invents names for his friends: Cassady becomes Dean Moriarty, Allen Ginsburg becomes Carlo Marx and William S Burroughs appears as Old Bull Lee.

It’s a wonderfully rambling book about seeking a greater something that eludes easy description but that could potentially be found in jazz, sex, marijuana, eastern religion, poetry, beauty, Mexico, the West, and just generally getting lost in the great American landscape. By the end, Sal is no longer certain he believes in the things he sought or that they are even attainable. It’s ultimately a tale of pursuing unattainable dreams, youthful idealism defeated by age and the unceasing encroachments of the “real world.”

I realize as I’m writing this that there are echoes of On The Road throughout Lost. The book itself does not appear, but it is referenced in the alias used by Ben Linus in “The Shape of Things to Come” and shown on his fake passport in “The Economist.” The alias is Dean Moriarty, described in On the Road as “the holy con-man with the shining mind.” If that’s not Ben Linus, I don’t know what is.

Ben’s first alias was Henry Gale (a reference to the wizard in The Wizard of Oz), a name that seemed appropriate for the mastermind behind the mysterious Others. As of Season 4, however, Ben is no longer in charge. He has lost his island and his home. He is a wanderer in an unfriendly world, and much like Kerouac’s anti-hero, Dean Moriarty, he is seemingly forever on the road. It is worth noting here, that by the end of Season 4, it is the character named Jack to whom Ben turns when he needs to return to the island, to go on the road, as it were seeking those elusive things that the island provides. I suspect Season 5 will be something of an on the road season.

It must be mentioned, especially in the context of Ben Linus, that the name Moriarty also suggests a certain character from Sherlock Holmes (via Lostpedia):

Alternatively, “Moriarty” evokes Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis and widely considered fiction’s first “supervillain,” creating the archetype of the brilliant criminal mastermind.

Brilliant criminal mastermind? That sounds like Ben Linus. Unless Ben really is the “good guy” as he has claimed since Season 2.

As I think about this, I can’t help but wonder if another Kerouac novel might show up sometime. Wouldn’t The Dharma Bums be a perfect addition to The Lost Book Club. It’s a better book than On the Road as well.

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

The Lost Book Club: The Invention of Morel

Somehow, I forgot to post this after I wrote it 2 months ago…

I had to resort to interlibrary loan to get my hands on an English translation of Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares’ 1940 novella The Invention of Morel. The book I received also included six short stories from La Trama Celeste, a few of which I enjoyed more than the novella.

The Invention of Morel is about a man stranded on a bizarre island quarantined due to some mysterious disease. He has fled to this island to escape prosecution, and believes he has found the perfect hideout. There are strange machines on the island along with a chapel, museum and a swimming pool. There are also people who seem unaware of presence as if they occupy a reality all their own.

As the tale progresses, the narrator comes to understand that the people on the island are reproductions coming from a projector that one of them, a man named Morel has invented. His invention records every aspect of a person even, possibly, his soul and then replays that person over and over throughout eternity.

Morel had invited his closest friends and the woman he loved, Faustine, to spend a perfect week on the island. He recorded their perfect week so that it would run in an endless loop for all eternity. Since the machine also captures soul, it effectively made those who were recorded immortal.

The side effect, of course, is the problem. Once recorded, the subject suffers dissolution and death. Morel thought that this was a fair price for his immortality, and the strange deaths would create the illusion of disease that would keep people away from the island so his machines could run along happily forever.

It takes a while (and the appearance of two suns in the sky) for the narrator to understand that the people on the island are not really alive, but rather, that he is witnessing the superimposition of Morel’s recordings on his reality. In this time, though, he too has come to love Faustine.

By the end of the story, the narrator chooses to record himself so he can live forever with Faustine in the perfect eternity of Morel’s recording, knowing full well that he will die, but by recording himself he will also have everlasting life.

The other stories in the collection are equally interesting. They tend to involve elements of the supernatural, particularly temporal paradoxes, dreams and visions, and alternate realities, “The Idol” and “The Celestial Plot” being particularly good. I’ll definitely read more by Adolfo Bioy Casares.

On to Lost. Sawyer is seen reading The Invention of Morel in the Season 4 episode “Eggtown.”

“Eggtown” is a Kate-centric episode. Like the narrator in The Invention of Morel, Kate is a fugitive from justice trapped on a strange island. I didn’t notice much in this episode that directly relates to The Invention of Morel, but it does provide hints about the island.

After reading The Invention of Morel, I began to wonder if the visions of the dead (and from the past) that we see on (and now off) the island are really projections that, like those projected from Morel’s machines, appear real in every way and even appear to have souls. The island, of course, does not need to record the person while he or she is living as it can possibly extract things from people’s memories. Thus we have Christian, Charlie, Libby, Dave, Yemi, Kate’s horse, Sayid’s cat, Ben’s mother and the others (lowercase o).

These projections are not hallucinations; they can be seen by more than one person, and they can slap people upside the head as Charlie and Dave have both done to Hurley to verify their reality. This also explains why Richard Alpert doesn’t age. He’s not immortal. He’s dead. The island projects him for reasons yet unknown.

Since we know the island can project a Charlie that can be seen by others, it’s logical to assume that it can project Richard into the off-island world to recruit people like Juliet who would never have any reason to suspect that Richard died long ago. It also explains why Jack still sees his father in the Season 3 finale.

I also suspect that the voices occasionally heard in the jungle have to do with the superimposition of one reality (the projected one) over the real reality that our survivors experience.

The Invention of Morel leaves me wondering if the island’s strange properties are not so much supernatural as they are the result of some technology. Of course, sufficiently advanced technology would appear as magic to those who do not understand it.

* * *

Now that Season 4 has concluded with the excellent three-part finale “There’s No Place Like Home,” I am more convinced than ever that Alpert is dead. I think the appearances of Claire and Horace Goodspeed in “Cabin Fever” are further proof of the island’s ability to project the dead.

It was especially interesting watching Goodspeed repeatedly chop down the same tree. Even if it was only a dream, the repetition and circular nature of the scene was very much like The Invention of Morel as well as another Lost book from way back in Season 2: The Third Policeman, in which the characters are all dead and in Hell where everything repeats (“Hell goes round and round. In shape it is circular and by nature it is interminable, repetitive and very nearly unbearable.”)

Of course, what do I know? I was way the hell off on my analysis and theorizing after last year’s season finale. I suppose I was sort of right about the time travel thing, but not in the way I thought. Of course, being wrong makes it all the more fun because everything is more surprising than it would be if I had it all figured out.

Here’s a throwaway prediction based on Morel. Locke chooses to die so he can have the “immortality” of being resurrected by the island. Like they sang in Jesus Christ Superstar, “To conquer death you only have to die.”

For more, visit Heather for her thoughts on the Lost Season 4 finale. She was right about who was in the coffin.

Click here for my thoughts on the other Lost books.

The Lost Book Club: VALIS

“Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane.”
-Philip K Dick, VALIS

Sound like certain members of the Oceanic 6?

I can’t even begin to say how thrilled I was to see the book that Locke pulled off Ben’s shelf to serve with his breakfast in last week’s episode of Lost, “Eggtown.” That book, VALIS by Philip K Dick, is one of my favorite novels.

Truth be told, I’ve been wondering when Dick would make an appearance on Lost. I even speculated in my post on the Season 3 finale that come Season 4, we’d see Jack reading Dick. He had, after all, turned into a bearded drug-addled nut, a description often attached to Dick, the brilliant writer responsible for the books and stories that gave us Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, Total Recall, and Minority Report. A man who apparently had trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy. A man who was convinced that They (with a capital T) were watching him.

VALIS tells the tale of Horselover Fat and his attempts to understand a possibly spiritual experience he has had. Dick shifts between first and third person narration “to gain much needed objectivity” while Fat remains mostly unaware that he is, in fact, the narrator. They argue their way through Gnostic Christianity, paranoid conspiracy theories, philosophy and everything else Dick can think of in this novel that attempts to make sense of the notion of God. It is at once sad, troubling and hysterically funny. Dick’s answer is found in the title: Vast Active Living Intelligence System. A paranoid science fiction writer’s vision of God as revealed to him by a pink laser.

At the end of the book, there is an appendix containing Fat’s journal entries and his conlusions. I’ve included a few of the shorter ones that pertain to themes on Lost and make me think especially about Jacob:

1. One Mind there is; but under it two principles contend.

3. He causes things to look different so it would appear time has passed.

9. He lived long ago, but he is still alive.

Okay, enough about VALIS. It’s great. Brilliant. Read it. Not just because I say so either. The Lost writers have suggested we bone up on Dick’s VALIS trilogy (h/t Brian), which also includes The Divine Invasion (okay) and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (beautiful) as well as what is sort-of a first working out of the ideas in VALIS, a posthumous little book called Radio Free Albemuth, less heady, but somehow warmer than VALIS.

So why is VALIS on Lost?

Season 4 has delved deeper into themes of madness and the fluid nature of time and VALIS is certainly a book about these things. More importantly, though, VALIS is a “theological detective story, in which God is both a missing person and the perpetrator of the ultimate crime” (according to the cover copy). Considering the seeming omniscience of the island and its ability to reach out to the characters even after they’ve left the island, I can’t help but think that VALIS – Vast Active Living Intelligence System – is the perfect way to understand the island. I think it’s that simple. The writers are telling us what the island is.

And, as with Horselover Fat, perhaps madness is the price of knowing it. Madness is another of Dick’s great themes and when I think of madness and Lost, I always come back to Hurley and his tenuous grip on reality. Perhaps someone should point out to him that, as Dick wrote in “How to Build a Universe that Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” and (I think) reformulated in VALIS:

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.

In the Season 3 finale Jack talked about seeing his father. That led me onto the alternate futures theory track, but after the first few episodes of Season 4, I realize that’s not the case. As to Christian Shepard… Jack has been seeing his dead father just as Hurley has been seeing dead Charley. It’s driving him crazy, and I suspect when he realizes that it’s real, he’ll get his act together and find his way back to the island. Believing in the reality of the island is the key to salvation. Jack, Hurley, Kate, and Sayid never really believed. Never showed any faith in the island. Is that why they are 2/3s of the Oceanic 6? Is that why they are back in the “real world,” a place Dick describes in VALIS as “the black iron prison?”

Go here for a list of the rest of my Lost book posts.

I now realize I even posted a quick blurb about VALIS back in October 2005 in this blog’s first month.

And, finally, some other bloggers’ thoughts on “Eggtown”:

  • Kulturblog where you’ll find lots of interesting observations
  • BB’s Fantabulous Life where BB throughly explores “Eggtown”
  • For the Record where I am reminded that there was a second book in “Eggtown” – The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares
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