Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Giles Goat Boy!

Oh! Giles Goat Boy is totally another example of wonderful OTT narrative! I mean, this is the novel that I like to summarize by explaining that it's about a young American man who decides that he is going to finally achieve the goal of so many philosophers and spiritual leaders and start a new religion that can bring salvation to, at the very least, all of America, if not the entire world. Except that America is a college, the world is a university, and salvation involves passing your exams and graduating. Then my ideal interlocutor asks me if I mean that literally or figuratively, and I get to respond, "Both!" Plus there is the beat poetry version of Oedipus Rex.

Of course, the problem here is that Giles Goat Boy qualifies as exactly the right sort of OTT in my mind, but, unlike Angel Sanctuary or Gardens of the Moon, it is quite obviously intended by its author as a joke. OTOH, "Rautavaara's Case", for which the brief summary is "Jesus eats people" and which is clearly not meant as a joke, is not OTT at all, much as I adore it. I think the difference is that the basic premise of "Rautavaara's Case" is less "Jesus eats people" and more "Wouldn't it in fact be rather odd if Jesus ate people?" In other words, the oddness of the premise is intrinsic to the story; the story's plot and themes are entirely dependent on the fact that it's a really odd premise. Though PKD might well have written the story because he thought the idea of Jesus eating people was really cool, he goes to a lot of trouble to justify it in the story itself, and to explain why Jesus eating people is not only fascinating as a ridiculous idea but also genuinely fascinating on a theological level. On the other hand, though Giles Goat Boy is clearly a joke, it's told with a completely straight face - there's no attempt made to justify why the world should be a university, America a college, or salvation passing one's exams and graduating. This is just taken as a given, just as Yuki Kaori clearly thinks giant flying aborted angelic fetuses with lots of eyeballs that possess their twin brothers and try to rape people don't particularly need any justification, or Steven Erikson apparently believes that good houses versus evil trees are totally par for the course. So Giles Goat Boy may be a joke, but this is extrinsic to the story - although there is no way to miss the fact that it's a joke, the narrative does not depend on explaining or justifying the joke. The depth of the worldbuilding, I think, is what makes me feel inclined to take it very seriously despite being such a ridiculous joke. In a way, it reminds me of Gulliver's Travels - which, again, is obviously satire, but I tend to have the feeling that while Swift was writing it he sometimes just got so caught up in the worldbuilding that he forgot to focus on satire ;-). In fact, if it weren't for the fact that I've known the basic premise of Gulliver's Travels for as long as I remember, such that I'm entirely inured to it, maybe that would count.

Actually, you know what probably does count? Manfred! And that's even relevant to the original instigator of this whole train of thought, given that I strongly suspect Yuki Kaori of having an interest in Byron. I mean, her two most famous manga are both full of incest and homoeroticism, one of the bizarre brother/sister pairs in Angel Sanctuary involves a sister named Astarte who winds up dying before her brother, and her other famous manga (which I admittedly haven't read) takes place in 19th century Britain (or. . . umm. . . perhaps I should say Yuki Kaori's version of 19th century Britain)and has a hero named Cain who is only interested in heterosexual relationships with girls to whom he's related and is himself the product of incest between a woman named Augusta and her brother. So yeah.

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