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[and how long can it take to type out a single entry. this has been sitting on my hd for almost a week now in various stages of coherency. my brain cells must have evaporated in this heat...
speaking of which... :: does a rain dance :: the tiny shower a couple of hours ago wasn't nearly enough]

Finally finished re-reading C. Barker's 'Imajica'. I didn't like it all that much when I initially read it, but thought maybe that was due to circumstances, like me finding the 2nd volume only significantly later than the 1st... back in the pre-amazon & pre-credit card time of my life. Ah well. I kept thinking that with the novel being as long and complex as it is, maybe i was missing out on essential messages.

However, i have to admit it's still not my favourite novel of his. I concede that this may very well be partly or even entirely due to the fact that the christ mythology has only a very limited appeal to me (artistic or otherwise) and even today most artistic renderings simply fail to touch me. (This goes right back to primary school religious education where i preferred drawing pictures of the old testament stories, rather than the new testament ones.) With most christian - themed art i cannot see beyond the primary religious level to some broader humanitarian one. An image of christ to me simply doesn't transcend to some more generalised metaphor for human suffering, i'm either indifferent or irritated.

Barker's Christ figure, Gentle, is not a hero i can much sympathise or even connect with, which probably isn't the best starting point. (For me it's also an exception to the rule, because Barker generally treats his characters, however monstrous or just humanly blind, with a sort of warmth that makes it very hard not to establish some sort of connection or at least feel sympathy for them.) Most of the time his continuous shift between (unconscious) arrogance and humility subtly irritates me, and Judith's scepticism and occasional irritation with him are emotions i can very much relate to. On an intellectual level i can see what Barker tries to do with this figure, jerking him out of a life of sensual self-indulgence, mindless materialism and self-imposed blindness and sending him on a journey of revelations and self-(re)discovery, that will ultimately strip away every certainty and pre-conceived notion, but on an emotional level i just cannot connect. Although i keep thinking this just might be intentional, we're supposed to feel ambivalent about him as long as he's subject to his self imposed blindness, and (unconsciously or willingly) fulfilling his mission as his father's son.

But while my judgement may be biased by (anti-)religious prejudice, i still think it's possible that 'Imajica' might be a little overburdened by the abstract ideas and philosophical and religious constructs behind it. Now i usually enjoy a story that can be read on more than one level (in another medium entirely, 'The Cube' was such an elegantly simple, if also extremely bleak metaphor for life) and generally love about Barker's writing that for all the fantastic, colourful images his stories are always also part metaphor, but 'Imajica' despite the richness in detail strikes me as just a little too academically abstract, and (to me) never quite flows on the simple level of story telling.

There's the main story line, a somewhat disillusioned and certainly less than holy re-working of the Christ myth, only it doesn't end with the canonical sacrifice and promise of salvation that modifies, but ultimately only continues the prior system of belief. Rather he takes the story a little further, reflecting the dissatisfaction with christianity's (or maybe rather the church's) principles and the loss of faith the western world has experienced both on a collective and an individual level. The god finally revealed isn't the embodiment of perfection, rather he is cruel, destructive, stereotypically male and only all too human. He isn't, it turns out, the path to salvation, but rather blocks and obscures it.
Here the son doesn't die for the father, but in what in freudian terms would probably be called an oedipal conflict, but really might also be an act of emancipation kills him. (Or, to be precise, is content to stand by and watch God being destroyed by the consequence of his own action, failing as he did to understand the nature of the world he aspired to rule.) So man kills god, but the mere act of dispatching him, while necessary, doesn't bring happiness or salvation either. But the nihilism, over-rationalism and spiritual bleakness that might follow isn't a solution to be aspired in Barker's vision. He offers a gruesome visual rendering of Nietzsche's famous quote: god is dead and, quite literary, rotting in the first dominion, threatening to taint the whole of the imajica. Only at the very end of his journey of self-discovery, stripped of human arrogance and pretences and divine missions, as an agent of the female forces rather than one male god, Gentle is given the means to really complete the circle of the imajica and create a new beginning from the wreckage both for himself and the world.

Inextricably woven into this is the theme that is a main concern throughout all of Barker's novels, the need for self discovery and self-knowledge and the hurt we inflict on ourselves and others if we lack the means of will for it. Gentle's struggle to face the past he chose to hide from himself and all the existential question he was never forced to ask himself, as well as his darker side in the person of his unintended doppelganger Satori. This is reflected to a lesser extent in the stories of Judith and Quaisoir, Pie 'oh' Pah, Dowd and Celestine, who all in some way struggle (some succeeding, others failing) to define their identities in the face of social demands and expectations, gender stereotypes and supposedly pre-set fate.

Gender issues and gender stereotypes are another major concern, on the human as well as the supernatural level; Judith created as an immortal carbon copy to serve the Godolphin family, goddesses forced into hiding by Hapexamendios, their worshippers persecuted. Coming from a male writer, the novel takes a surprisingly feminist stance, not unreflectingly so - neither his women not his goddesses are perfect - but the message is pretty unequivocal. For humanity to move on spiritually, traditional hierarchies, here exemplified by organised, patriarchal religion or stereotypically male heterosexual behaviour must be overcome. The waters that symbolise the female powers modify or sweep away the hierarchical architectural structures both of Satori's Yzordderrex and, later, the remains of god's own city.

The recurring metaphor of the circle. Ambivalent parent-children relations enough to make any freudian-oriented psychologist probably very happy...

Fuck. I still can't get a grip, i still keep thinking i'm missing something essential. Several somethings.

:: sigh ::


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March 2013

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