I’m willing to cut J.M. Coetzee a break on this one. The author of Waiting for the Barbarians and Disgrace has much to live up to, and doesn’t in The Childhood of Jesus. While the idea seems solid – Jesus as a metaphorical refugee in a nameless land – the realization is not.
“There is no such thing as one’s own language.”
“There is! La la fa fa yam ying tu tu.”
“That’s just gibberish. It doesn’t mean anything.The book reads like an outline, a hodgepodge of dialogue glued together without description or development.
“Toilets are just toilets, but poo is not just poo,” he says. “There are certain things that are not just themselves, not all of the time. Poo is one of them.”
The boy shakes his head. “It’s my poo. I want to stay!”
“It was your poo. But you evacuated it. You got rid of it. It’s not yours anymore. You no longer have a right to it.”
Enough said about that.
“To reach flow,” explains psychiatrist Ned Hallowell, “one must be willing to take risks. The lover must be willing to risk rejection to enter this state. The athlete must be willing to risk physical harm, even loss of life, to enter this state. “The artist must be willing to be scorned and despised by critics and the public and still push on. And the average person must be willing to fail, look foolish should we wish to enter this state.”*
(*From Peter Diamandis & Steven Kotler’s Bold.)
The Ark: A speculative fiction trilogy, chronicling a transgenerational journey to a galaxy lights years from Earth. Stark and startling, the story conveys an essentially tragic aspect of humanity, impossibly aspiring to escape its barbarous nature. Part One: Anori The opening of the trilogy follows Dee Sinclair, an animal psychologist, as she learns of Anori (Greenlandic for ‘wind’), a highly advanced space venture, privately funded by a technological empire. After visiting the expedition base in Greenland, she joins a scientific team to collect animal specimens from across the world. Dee eventually returns to New York where she learns of the program’s experiments in cloning and meets the very replica of herself. As world powers attempt to gain control of the Anori, Dee escapes back to Greenland, where she is soon joined by her clone, Em, on the final liftoff to leave Earth. Part Two: Aqaara The Aqaara (meaning both ‘close’ and ‘far’ in Greenlandic) waits in lunar orbit as they attempt to placate the authorities on Earth and finally depart on their interstellar migration. Mourning the loss of families and friends, Dee and the 3,000 other Aqaarians adapt to life on the vessel, constructing a society dependent on technology, including The Bearing, an information and gaming implant, and create new social norms, such as The Hive, a zone for hedonistic behaviors. Murder and betrayal challenge the community’s standards, and an essential law is introduced to maintain order – F1 is the law. There is no force other than the ship. A previously undiscovered planet appears as an opportunity for colonization, resulting in a near mutiny. The Aqaara stays its course and, at last, enters Mina’s orbit, a planet that truly is much like Earth. Part Three: Mina Mina (meaning ‘taking home’) appears much like Earth, offering a wide range of climates, vegetation and species, as well as an oxygen-rich atmosphere. A Greater Sun dominates the planet, with a Lesser Sun in a parallel orbit, meaning the planet is rarely in darkness. The initial exploratory mission encounters many species – both predatory and intelligent – while they cope with their internal struggles, having spent 30 years on board The Aqaara. Other missions arrive and the community begins. Many people remain aboard the ship, mining nearby moons, as well as considering continuing the mission. The two groups become polarized, verging at times on violent conflict when further explorations of Mina yield an astonishing result – they are being observed.
It’s time to go.
“I went in to get a replacement a few years back. They had me sitting on the edge of that plastic mattress in a green paper dress and the surgeon drew a pair of red x’s on my knee. A nurse showed up with a clipboard of forms, the anesthesiologist with more. I decided that I wasn’t going to surrender. I wouldn’t sign. The surgeon had to come back. He stood in the doorway with his arms crossed. He explained everything to me like I was a child. I wouldn’t do it. And so he left. No one came for a while after that.”
“You chickened out?”
“I don’t know about that. I don’t know. I remember the feeling as a kid, when I had the first surgery. I was cold. And then nothing. I didn’t want to surrender just because they said I should.”
“I broke my hand. They put me out before I knew it.”
“You have to sign.”
While travelling, I can endure nearly anything in my reading. Michael Chabon does not make this grade. Wonder Boys, as a film, is distracting, entertaining at moments, while the book is the drivel of a writer – the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author?!? – who does nothing but show off. His painful example of this is in his description of Sara Gaskell, who apparently likes to read: When (her books) ran out, she would reach for insurance brochures, hotel prospectuses and product warranties, advertising circulars, sheet of coupons.
In other words, Chabon avoids developing thoughts and instead wants to demonstrate what a clever little fellow he can be.
In my youth, I had an odd habit of reading books based upon films – Rollerball, Earthquake – perhaps to relive the cinematic experience.
It’s why I started Wonder Boys, and yet Chabon fails even with these low expectations.