Vivat Hispania! Domino Gloria! Don John of Austria has set his people free. (G. K. Chesterton, Lepanto).
1: In which Gloria shows rationality at the service of non-being.
This first chapter is all about Gloria, and her self-destructive behaviour in which she tries to make as many others complicit as possible. She is made to seem like the un-man in Perelandra: a husk with nothing inside, trying to negate the people around her as she goes down. I find it very difficult to read which is why I have only managed to read this book twice; normally I start re-reading but only get a very little way, giving up on this chapter.
Chesterton: “Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world. His act is worse (symbolically considered) than any rape or dynamite outrage. For it destroys all buildings; it insults all women. The thief is satisfied with diamonds; but the suicide is not: that is his crime. He canot be bribed, even by the blazing stones of the Celestial City. The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer.”
The opening two words of the novel are ‘Horselover Fat’, which I have realised – I mean, which Those Guys Who Carry the Oil-Smeared One have realised is meant as a hint that we should find out the meaning of the names of all the characters appearing in the novel. Gloria is dead easy, since it is obviousl just ‘glory’. ‘Knudson’, her last name, means ‘son of the knot’. The other characters appearing here are Gloria’s husband, Bob Langley, which has to be Robert, hrod beraht, ‘bright fame’, ‘long glade’. And her mother is Carmina, which seems to come from Carmen, which has something to do with ‘song’ but is ultimately a corruption of the Hebrew Carmel, כרמל ‘plantation or orchard’. I thought the Timothy – Τιμοθεος, ‘honouring God’ - in this chapter was the same as the David who appears later (since I recall reading that IRL David was Tim Powers, author of the Anubis Gates), but he is introduced as someone Fat doesn’t know. These all seem to hang together to me to recall the Garden of Eden, with the glades and orchards and the Angel with the burning sword guarding the way in.
Glory is the sephirot hod, הוד, one of the secondary conscious emotions in the Kabbalah of Moshe Cordovero. She is described as having been at Mt Zion (Hospital), but has left it as the story begins, so eschatologically this chapter may be all about the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. Which is interpreted eschatologically as a suicide: the Temple, in this vision, willed its own destruction.
Oh, and there is one more name, the cat, Chairman Mao. 毛 is the character in Mao Zedong’s name, which also means ‘hair’; the ‘mao’ that means ‘cat’ is the character 猫.