Monday, June 18, 2007

The Third Policeman: DeSelby, Desmond, and the Living Dead

Weird books merit weird entries.
This book is actually summarized pretty well on Lostpedia, and also on least as well as you can explain a Flann O'Brien book. I don't even know where to start on this one. Thinking about it is terrifying me. The book is seen on Desmond's shelf in 2x01 and he grabs it as he leaves for his exile in 2x03: Orientation.

The Third Policeman starts out like a regular old book. Our beloved narrator tells us of his sad childhood and his current situation, running a pub with a friend named Divney. Divney decides they need to kill a man named Mathers and steal his black box full of money. They do kill him, gruesomely, with shovels, our narrator (somewhat unwillingly) giving the final blows. Divney refuses to give him any of the money, instead hiding it, only telling him where it is after a year has passed. The box is hidden in the floorboards of the murdered man's home. As our narrator goes into the house to get it, the book moves into its second movement: the one where nothing makes sense and there is no real plot.

It's basically one long hallucination. Our guy finds himself in the house, unable to get the box, but in the company of two policeman whom, he eventually realizes, know that he killed Mathers, and are preparing to hang him. In the meantime though, he walks around his town, I guess, and describes ill-defined buildings which he is stuck in, has arguments with them about the nature of bicycles, and goes to sleep a few times. Ugh. And did I mention the extensive footnotes (written by the narrator) on the non-existent philosopher DeSelby which hoard page space in otherwise reasonably long chapters? It's fun at the exact moment that you are reading, but once you close the book, you have no idea what you just read and no idea what you'll be coming back to when you start reading again. It's pretty futile for much of the book, and all you need to know is that something went terribly wrong when he went into the house.

The LOST connections are pretty well outlined, the most interesting of them being a map on the ceiling of the police barracks which shows a map of the town... one policeman avers that "I did not [make it] and nobody else manufactured it either. It was always there and MacCruiskeen is certain that it was there even before that." The policeman also says that it shows the way to eternity. Does that bode well or ill for the Hatch map?

So they go to "eternity" by way of some sort of elevator. In Eternity, no-one ever need shave since their hair never grows (hmm...Jack?). Also, they come upon a cabinet/machine that produces objects which "lacked an essential property of all known objects"--it reminds me of the smoke monster...there is a certain unexplainable, or as Charlie points out in 1X02 "a certain gargantuan quality" about it.

The Third Policeman
also contains a suspicious story about an incident with a hot-air balloonist: when his balloon was pulled back to earth, he was nowhere to be found--but when the balloon was sent back up without him 2 weeks later and then brought back to earth, he was in it "without a feather out of him." What? I don't get it either.

Finally, there's the issue of the titular of the Third Policeman. HM! He apparently never comes into the police station, and no one sees him, and he's busy all the time...He's sort of Jacob character, hazy but important. So whats up? Wait for it...when the narrator finally meets the third policeman, he seems to be Mathers, the man he killed! It turns out that the narrator's been dead this whole time, and he's in a sort of hallucinogenic hell! The book ends with the narrator finally tracking down Divney, in a classic ghost story moment where he doesn't realize that he's the ghost. It's been 16 years, and Divney has a wife and kids, but the sight of our narrator gives him a heart attack and kills him. The end of the book starts the whole cycle over again, with Divney going through the same things alongside the narrator, and no one the wiser, including US, the readers.

So wow. What does this really have to do with our beloved show?
Well, first of all, it seems to give some (more) credence to the Purgatory theory, which, I know, I know, has been debunked, but nevertheless continues to serve as a guiding force for the way the show toddles along, passing judgment on its characters through the smoke monster. The blurry line between the living and the dead, and the punishment meted out to the narrator by his victim (like the visions of Eko's Brother or Ben's mother) also seem quite Lost-like.

Less positively, the inclusion of this book also suggests to me something about the dead ends, and things that just don't make sense on LOST..they might very well not get explained. To some extent, as with The Third Policeman, analysis is futile. I'd like to think that just some of our analysis is futile. To spin that another way, I think this could be some sort of indication of Desmond's psyche more than anyone else's--the inhabitant of the Hatch and "flash" sufferer that he is. I'm going to go out on a pretty shaky limb here and say that he isn't experiencing reality in quite the same way as everyone else, having more than the just the flashes to worry about... I don't think we need to doubt everything we're seeing on the island, but we may need to be more skeptical of some characters' perception of it. UM. yep.

As crazy as this book is, it hasn't stopped people from reading it. In fact, after being featured on LOST, it was bought by so many fans that an extra print run was warranted.
That's awesome. I just wonder what all those Lost Fans thought after they read it.

In other news, Desmond's one fine-looking crazy guy.

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