July 18, 2013

Do you like this?

Some great novels employ a significant literary device that involves a fantastic coincidence leading to recognition. Melville’s Pierre, Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men, Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, and Flaubert’s Salammbo develop great intensity through such a device. In Crowley’s novel, the contemporary story and the Prague story are quite connected by a physical link. Good Omens develops a fantastic romantic connection.

An important difference between these novels involves levels of literary ambitions. Good Omens as a collaboration—a first collaboration—nails its targets, like institutional religion with an appetite for death and eccentric accuracy. For Crowley, this novel has connections to earlier significant works of his own and, likely, to later ones as well. His novel contains an intense erotic dimension alongside deeply fantastic passages that compare well to the best of fantastic precedents. Crowley also has his satirical turns. 

Significantly, both novels shown an inclusiveness of characters, ranging from children to supernatural beings, and this inclusiveness reflects a kind of integrated perspective of this world. The real value of reading these great writers has to do more with the level of insight that they can present. The mode of these novels concerning the end of the world functions as a vehicle for this kind of inclusiveness, for literary integration and perceptive insight.

Readers seeking more of this fare would do well to check out Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003). This satirical dystopic novel brings together a poetic style with mad science and with wild allusive play. By examining eugenics, Atwood shows how paradigms transform our world. When the best writers deploy to approach a similar theme, the world’s end, I do recall a phrase: “Everything that rises must converge,” attributed to Flannery O’Conner. Enjoy reading! 


July 18, 2013

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