ON MYTHS AND MEANING
Books lead to other books. Read one and you’re reminded of another. New publications refer to past ones, famous and obscure. Genres cross over, involving similar concepts, tropes, devices. Writers lift, pay tribute, re-imagine, claim as their own and take it a step further in their effort to tell gripping, original stories. Pick up the trail and we end up making extraordinary connections.
Welcome to Connection Degree Three …
The Freedom Artist by Ben Okri; Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor; Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk: three mesmerizing tales on the spells and myths and faith mechanisms that underwrite human nature.
In The Freedom Artist the world has fallen under the spell of a leadership that has banished books and all kinds of questions in an effort to stop people from thinking too much. The old myths have been rewritten in a way that makes people eager to be the same as one another. To be different is dangerous, ignorance is an asset, and education is a bane. People are told that they are born with all the knowledge they need, and that they should obey instructions, serve the state, and not go looking for answers or insight, a premise that brings us to
Wise Blood, a novel about Hazel Motes, a man whose intense loathing of religion results in him founding an anti-faith gospel that draws him into an ironically fervent, almost religious mode of thinking. In his travels he meets a young man named Enoch who claims he possesses ‘wise blood’ i.e. all the knowledge a person requires to live a fulfilled life. Motes encounters a few more colorful characters along the way and goes through a number of trials before eventually repenting his choices and punishing himself by wrapping his torso in barbed wire and walking with sharp stones in his shoes, which is reminiscent of
Lullaby, a story about Carl Streator, a man suffering the loss of his wife and child to a culling song he unwittingly sung to them. Torn by guilt, Streator now orders model miniature houses by mail, assembles them at night at home, then smashes them with his bare feet as punishment for what he did. Streator eventually goes on a search for the book that contains the culling song, and in the process realizes that the song is part of a grimoire, a text of many spells, all of them capable of affecting a person’s life, which he intends to destroy before they fall in the wrong hands, which brings us back to
The Freedom Artist and the myths that shape humanity’s nature, and the lengths to which people will go to invent, destroy, or reinvent myths in order to give life meaning and save/control others.
And there we have it. The Freedom Artist, Wise Blood, Lullaby: three haunting cautionary tales on the power of stories, myths, faith, and love.
By Nicolas D. Sampson
Check out our interview with author Nicolas D. Sampson here