Page 8 - Boca ViewPointe - October '21
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Page 8, Viewpointe                                                  October 2021
      Book Review

      Fantasy Tales from a Topsy                                                                           to deal with historical characters, as in previous novels
                                                                                                           about a Gestapo commandant and the French semioticist
      Turvy World                                                                                          Roland Barthes. Here he has perhaps been inspired by
                                                                                                           the noted Titian portrait of Pizarro attaining the conquest
      Richard Gessner. The Conduit and Other Visionary Tales of                                            over the Inca Emperor Atahualpa and reverse engineered
      Morphing Whimsy. New York: Rain Mountain Press, 2017.                                                sixteenth century history. The prologues tell a fantasy of
      Laurent Binet. Civilisations, trans. from the French by Sam                                          the putative daughter of Erik the Red coming to Latin
      Taylor. London: Harvill Secker, 2021.                                                                America in the eleventh century and integrating the
         “Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,                                                     conquistador blood and signature red hair into the new
      And many goodly states and kingdom seen;                                                             world. And an imprisoned Columbus writes letters to his
      Round many western islands have I been,                                                              benefactors King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella regarding
      Which Bards in fealty to Apollo hold.” John Keats                                                    his fanciful mission to convert the savages to the superior
         “And I have known the eyes already, known them all--                                              life Christianity and his own fascination with the Cuban
      The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,                                                        queen, Higuenenamota.
      And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,                                                           The main tale relates The Chronicles of Atahualpa.
      When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,           The two authors I am writing about share the desire   After historically claiming the domination of the Inca
      Then how should I begin                            to remake a world altered in the density of their own   empire, the Fourth Quarter from his half brother, Atahualpa
      To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?  fantasies. Richard Gessner, a poet, short story author and   sets out on Columbus’s restored Pinto with 200 sailors to
         And how should I presume?” T.S. Eliot’s J Alfred   artist, writes in the tradition of Poe and Kafka exploring   conquer his new world, the Fifth Quarter. He enters upon a
      Prufrock                                           the macabre of his imagination, probing the subterranean   fascinating period of European history, the great dynastic
                                                         depths in a series of stories and sketches of imagination;   struggles between European monarchs, as well as the
      By Dr. Ronald J. Meyers                            continents colliding, whimsy of “caviar floating like an   Renaissance and the Reformation, and Binet playfully
                                                         atom between a man’s pompadour and a woman’s bouffant   though with clear satiric intent, explores the roles of
         The masks of fantasy are                        hairdo,” and “the rumblings of an epic poem based on the   characters ranging from the Luther, Machiavelli, Lorenzo
      varied and yet distinct. Born                      theme of ink congealing inside a hot water bottle.” Tales   de Medici--with the inference that the Colonialists from
      perhaps of disillusionment,                        of writers, from successful authors to research scholars   the Fourth are no different than the Conquistadores of the
      fantasy authors like                               and failed attempters, to gossip purveyors, maintained   Fifth. Titian is called upon to repaint Atahualpa’s triumph,
      their readers, are prone                           among the stacks of a Zoo-brary, bred by their keeper into   and Michelangelo to constructs the Temple of the Sun in
      to delve or escape into                            the brave new world of Darwinian excellence.      Spain. There are whimsical letters between Erasmus and
      myriad worlds of illusion.                            There are some moral tales, such as the fugitive   Sir Thomas More over the fissure in Europe over Henry’s
      The causes of disillusion                          embezzler impaled inside a couch with a spring stuck   apostasy. This will end with King Henry VIII willfully
      also are varied--ranging                           through  his  body,  the  hermit,  guilty  of  war  crimes,   adopting in the religion of the Sun, and identifying himself
      from dissatisfaction with                          escaping into a tree, confronting his doppelgangers. And   as the son of the sun.
      political,  religious,  economic  systems,  to  personal,   then the playful absurdities, the psychiatrist seeking to      There  is  the  fictionalized  relationship  between
      deriving from emotional reversals, disruptions, or Oedipal   recover his framed degree from the tonsils of the pelican,   Atahualpa and Columbus’s Cuban Queen Higuenenamota,
      dissatisfactions. From Dante to Edgar Allan Poe, both   or the desperation of the bald to alleviate their condition   who joins him on his mission, and charms European
      the Italian medieval author and the nineteenth century   by harvesting mice on their craniums, and the plight of   monarchs with her naked beauty accented by her
      American were known to be beset by deep personal issues   the dyslexic nose.                         bedecked jewelry. She is his wise counselor to reform
      ranging from the civil wars in Dante’s Florence which set      Also a collector disillusioned by love, organizing love   the exploitation of capitalism by the merchant class and
      family against family, and Dante’s own exile from his city   letters and rechanneling the ink through a complicated   the  religion  controlled  by  the  established  priesthood.
      of birth; as well as Poe’s estrangements from his adopted   tunnel system back to their authors. And cakes that devour   The nail on the cross is seen as a remnant of savagery by
      family and his failed military career. Dante’s The Divine   the guests at an inverse wedding celebration, the Fool   Atahualpa and his generals. He imposes his own Agrarian
      Comedy recounts a journey through the physical horrors   turning into a bowling ball, and Vanity in his marble coffin   reform and communal standards of equality, the Seville
      of hell, and Poe’s through the interior of his woebegone   confronting his life of sensual abuses, the universe patented   edict, and yes, refines and imposes his own 95 thesis on
      imagination.                                       by pragmatic visionary, and perhaps appropriately the   the church door at Wittenberg. And finally the quixotic
                                                         Neanderthal dilettante commenting upon it all.    Man of la Mancha is seen to be engaged with the other
                                                                                                           Renaissance literary luminary, Michel de Montaigne.
                                                           Perhaps the common denominator is the pressure on the

        Condolences                                      nonconformist subjected to the power of those who disdain   Though undoubtedly brilliant and clever, the work finally
                                                         his eccentricities. Not original sin as ascribed to Kafka but
                                                                                                           is labored, as was said of Paradise Lost, “few would wish
                                                         refusal to toe the line while his tormentors seek to debase   it longer than it is,” and the challenge for the common
           We regret to inform you that Reva Tucker a Boca   him, and he seeks to assert his own frail humanity.   reader is to be able to keep up with the whimsy of these
        Pointe resident of Montego Bay, passed away on August      Laurent Binet, a French educator and intellectual, seeks   fanciful, fantasy writers.
        21, 2021. She and her late husband Kenneth Tucker were   to indulge in political fantasy, in the free thinking tradition
        former members of the Club at Boca Pointe.      of Voltaire, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean      Dr. Ronald J. Meyers, a resident of La Paz, is an
                                                         Genet. Highly regarded in Europe, he has a propensity   Emeritus Professor of English. 

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