The Fall by Albert Camus, sort of got to me. I just recently finished his other book The Plague. That book was definitely a psychological and spiritual blow, but a cold hard headed ignorance got me through that.
Then I finished the Houdini biography by Graham, and I really enjoyed that, but upon reflection the loss of Houdini is sad too. He was sucker punched by an eager youth, then in gentlemanly fashion he offered a second shot to get the bit right. This set off an extreme and deadly case of appendicitis. In psycho mythological mastery he refused to cancel a sold out show in Detroit. He had to be propped up at different points, but ultimately gets the job done and dies.
The Fall is a quick read, told in a accessible memoir, stream of consciousness voice. There’s a lawyer speaking, analyzing his life, and the modes of thought that he’s used, interpreting his different behavior and relationships. And the world, and morality itself. Heaven and hell, and all that. And what’s the fucking point of all this? Fucking. The emphatic tells the truth. Procreation is the point, building, creating, smashing, forming. The old adage, you can’t make an omelette without cracking some eggs comes to mind. To put it it mildly the voice of The Fall is challenging. At one point it advocates the value of slavery. For the reason as I recall of mutual definition, without slaves there can’t be Masters. A seemingly abhorrent truth, until we change the lens and the verbiage. Parents are Masters, of sorts, of their children. And the “destruction of the family” has become passé, yet potent, political jargon, so there is some perceived threat in that arena, namely divorce right? Point being, however deranged some of these characters my seem in the fiction, they are a hell of a lot closer to “reality” then the average hello at the grocery store or bar displays.
Morality is an icky word in our culture, and overused one. A lot of energy and resource is spent in fueling and manifesting real and imagined moral outrage. And even in our entertainment and Art morality, often inverted, is the primary engine. Maybe that’s part of the tricky move of morality, this doubling, tripling of persons, and types. We like to project ourselves on to fictional characters, and external situations, but then absolve ourselves individually under whatever particular moral/ideological system we adhere too and manifest. Do whatever and baby Jesus in Heaven forgives all, is what I have encountered most often.
I’m a reader though, between the lines type reader. Sometimes even a one at time type reader. I know old Baby Jesus said in Matthew, “Don’t think I’m bringing peace to the earth. Forgot peace, I’m bringing the sword!” Not for you though, or me, not good people like us. You see that there, how the voice and mood are assimilated. This is the danger of reading. You think you control the words one by one as they pour in, and that you can set them down, dim them, and they go away, but they don’t.
They’re there, at the checkout line, later over roasted chicken and mixed vegetables, then with you as you lay in bed with your wife. They wait their turn patiently to offer their often gruesome two cents. Jean-Baptiste Clamence and Humpert Humpert take turns critiquing the television programming. Jesus sits in the backseat as you eye the beggar on corner. They can all be encouraged or silenced to your abilities, but lose not the fear of forgotten voices. Single words or phrases can echo for a lifetime. “Perfunctory” a word my first love pulled from a Nicholas Sparks novel, said to perfectly describe our current love life, “Phony and corny” mirrored psychopathology voiced by Holden Caulfield, “Man is born free, but everywhere in chains” an obscure quote from philosopher Rousseau that has been lodged in my mind since I was thirteen years old; you get the picture.