Has Lexifab started to reread ‘Dune’ yet? There are few questions in today’s world that interest me more.
An essential part of the appeal of Dune- at least to me- is the appendices. There is nothing like a few appendices to give the sense that a book isn’t just a story sitting there by itself, but is a fragment of a world as vast and self-consistent as our ‘real’ one, if we could only reach out into the mind of God and grab hold of it. Sadly, none of the Dune sequels have appendices, so I very rarely reread them, though I reread Dune often.
I was also very taken with the epigrams. When I first read Dune I rushed out at once and wrote a dozen or so pages of a story with stuffy epigrams at the head of each chapter. It was something like ‘Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh’, but instead of rats they were chimpanzees, and instead of just hiding they were going to take over London. I wrote this on the weekend and on the Monday I rushed up to one of my English teachers excitedly and tried to show her what I had written, but she was busy- and she was a great believer in writing multiple drafts of things- and she told me to bring her the second draft and she would have a look at that. There was no second draft. Such is (or was, I should say, in a hopeful manner) my default response to criticism real or implied. I left the pages on the floor of my room and eventually they got thrown away. I couldn’t figure out how exactly the chimpanzees were going to conquer London, anyway. I remember that the weapons the superintelligent chimpanzees used were called ‘zizurangs’ and that the lost pages dealt with their escape from a research facility somewhere near Basildon.
I can’t say, ‘stop me if you’ve heard this’, because of the asynchronous way in which this blogging medium works. But if you have read something like the following anecdote before, feel free to wander off.
Once upon a time, I used to feel intimidated by the stream-of-consciousnessy mystical bits of the Dune books, since I couldn’t make head or tail of them. Then I read ‘The White Plague’. I read it on or about Australia Day, 1988. Marco and Sandor and I were visiting Ellen in Bochum, and the book belonged to the girl she was staying with there- who was away elsewhere while we were there so I never actually met her. But I still have her copy of The White Plague. I hadn’t finished it when we left Bochum so I left some of my own books behind in a swap that I think Ellen okayed for me. This probably wasn’t such a good deal as I’m making it sound, since I’m sure at least one of the books I left behind was one a Hare Krishna gave me at Miami airport.
Anyway, now for the relevant part of the anecdote.
The relevant part of the anecdote is that The White Plague has quite a few of these stream-of-consciousnessy bits, only they’re not mystical, but scientifical, when the mad biochemist is thinking through how he is going to make his virus to kill all the world’s women. They don’t make any sense. Anyone with a smidgen of biochemistry can tell that they are just meaningless jargon. They wouldn’t really be any use in designing a virus to kill all the world’s women. (Hmm, I guess if they were, it would be irresponsible to put them in a novel. I just thought of that.) Anyway, when I realized those stream-of-consciousnessy bits were meaningless waffle, I leapt to the conclusion that the mystical stream-of-consciousnessy bits in Dune were meaningless waffle, too, and I ceased to feel intimidated by them.