Monday, June 18, 2007


I think I am getting suckered by this whole quest to read all the books from LOST, because, well, I've enjoyed every book so far (with the exception of Rainbow 6, in progress)... Lancelot ,by Walker Percy, in particular. Sawyer is seen perusing this book in 2X15 Maternity Leave. I'm still puzzling over it being in this particular episode.

has some superficial connections to Lost. So here's the plot, where the superificial connections are. There's a guy in the looney bin (like Hurley) named Lancelot, who was once a sort of twisted sort of Southern gentleman (like Sawyer) and at the same time an emasculated overly-educated middle-aged loser who loves his Bowie knife above all (oh, Locke, I love you). The book revolves around his discovery that his wife was cheating on him and had a child with another man (Sun+Jin-esque), a fact he didn't figure out until his daughter was about 6. When he figures it out, he plots revenge on the culprit, which ultimately results in the explosion of his home. He narrates the story to a friend of his from his youth who in the intervening years became a doctor and then a priest (Jack/Eko?...I'm pushing it). He talks about how he's (creepily) into the girl in the room next to his in the asylum (Libby-like)...

There are also an important Kate connections, I think...
Sawyer's Kate predicament echoes Lancelot's, since Lancelot's wife is at once his and not his. Lancelot notes a couple of things in particular: that he could "gauge her sexual desire by her freckles," and spookily that his "jealousy is an alteration in the very shape of time itself. Time
loses its structure. Time stretches out."'s also worth noting that Kate blew up her father, sort of the reverse of Lancelot..although Lancelot manages to get his daughter out of the house first. I'm not sure what to do with that.

Then there's the way the house getting blown up occurs. Lancelot goes to punish Jacoby, who is sleeping with his wife. He ends up cutting his throat in the glow of a kerosene light in the middle of a hurricane. The whole scene seemed sort of eerie in a Man Behind the Curtain sort of way.
After Jacoby is dead and Lancelot's wife is pleading with him, he relights the lamp which somehow blew out. This spark ignites a methane leak which destroys the house and blows him out of it, "wheeling slowly up into the night like Lucifer blown out of hell, great wings spread against the starlight." Could another shadowy exchange with LOST's Jacob end this way? Um, I hope not.

There are broader literary connections too--The narrative style is retrospective, flashing back to the main events of the story. The narrator is constantly concerned with the past, present and future, especially when it comes to morality and restoring it: "I will not tolerate this age. Millions agree with me and know that this age is not tolerable, but no one will act except the crazies and they are a part of this age." Finally, and I don't think I'm pushing here, he's effectively trapped in a Purgatory of his own making, mixing delusion with the truth and morality with perversity at every turn. In particular, the final pages of the book turn into a cryptic dialogue with what may be the listening friend (who is hazily defined) or may simply be his own troubled conscience (a device also used in The Third Policeman)...he states that he's getting out of the asylum but the final feeling is one of extreme, inescapable claustrophobia: he's never really getting out.

My strongest feeling about this book didn't have much to do with Lost, however. Lancelot, when all was said and done, seemed not unlike Humbert Humbert of Lolita (whose progenitor, Laughter in the Dark, is on our reading list)--He's a major creep who forces you to be in his head alone. Lancelot says pretty crude things about the people around him, particularly women and black people, while at the same time insulting the morality of others, and assuming that people think he's enlightened (he's a sometimes-civil-rights-lawyer and a historic home repairer)...when he knows, and we know, that he's not. He reflects nostalgically many times on his first wife (who sounds like H.H.'s childhood sweetheart Annabel) and his final confrontation is with a portly naked man (like Quilty in Lolita) there a Humbert Humbert in the LOST world?

If I had to add it up, I'd say this book was Lolita+Kurt Vonnegut+Lost.
As with most of these books, I don't think it has a ton to say about the big questions themselves, but it does say well that personal morality is a tricky thing...the choices we make and the way we execute them are often quite hard to understand outside of our little heads. Also, to crib from Aurora's words, I'm realizing that LOST uses a lot of standard literary tropes, which is why we are seeing so many connections--and that's a good thing. Its skill is really in the way it weaves them together. Good Job, LOST.

P.S. Check out near the end of Chapter 5 starting with "Lock, I need a favor..". I think it describes Locke pretty darn well. adios.

Coming up: The 3rd Policeman, addenda to TOTS and Of Mice and Men...

No comments: