Tuesday, October 12, 2010
TG&SS Part I Synopsis 40
The Great and Secret Show
Part I The Messenger
Part I Chapter 1
The dead letter office is a sanctuary for blue collar failures. Randolph Jaffe was a typical example. He is a loser in his late thirties, losing his hair and having never held a job for longer than eighteen months. Jaffe, as Barker makes clear, is a resentful man with a grandiose vision of his own future.
Right away, we feel Barker baiting our curiosity, teasing us with details of the plot. The obnoxious boss, Homer, wants any money or artifacts that are in the dead letters, to share with his co-workers and to keep for himself. Homer makes no effort to be likeable; he doesn't have to. He has the power to fire Jaffe. Knowing this from his unsuccessful working life, Jaffe doesn't resist. Instead Jaffe turns his resentment to something useful, to concentration to discover if there is a pattern to the missives and items that wind up as dead letters. “What it came to was this: the world was not as it seemed. Not remotely as it seemed... These people didn't trust Ma Bell, so they didn't use telephones. They didn't dare assemble in groups of more than two for fear of attracting attention to themselves. But they wrote. Sometimes it was as if they had to, as if the secrets they kept sealed up were too hot, and burned their way out.”
Jaffe surmises that the pattern is all about “the art.” Not art, “the” art. Yet there was no artist. Jaffe is too happy and too serene in the Dead Letter office. Homer is suspicious, as petty tyrants always are. But Jaffe remains cool. Having opened a letter and kept a medallion, Jaffe goes home with it to compare it with the drawings he has kept from the opened dead letters. The medallion, he discovers, has to be associated with a cult called “the Shoal,” a cult that will lead him to “the Art.” He returned to the Dead Letter Office to burn the remaining though useless letters. Homer is waiting for him. There is violence. Jaffe leaves the post office for good.
Jaffe and the reader are already on a curious and compulsive journey toward the Art and the sea. Jaffe has irrevocably initiated himself on a quest.
Part I Chapter 2
Jaffe wanders, has one night stands,has gay one night stands, miraculously has his needs and finances met, continues to wander, and is seized by a force that guides him out into the desert while drunk. He could die in the desert heat, but he continues and becomes exhausted, only to barely make it to the door of a hut. His adventures since leaving Omaha amount to a raunchy, amoral, middle aged walkabout.
Part I Chapter 3
Jaffe awakens in the hut to observe a wizened old man who farts compulsively. This elder, a shaman, holds a conversation with Jaffe and is surprised by how much Jaffe has learned. The two are unable to make a deal and almost come to blows. Jaffe leaves after being advised not to do so. The conversation between the two is intriguing and baffling to the reader. Quiddity is revealed as a sea of great energy which must not be polluted. In leaving rather than making a deal, Jaffe is setting himself completely alone as an absolute outsider and outlaw.
Barker makes a point which he doesn't emphasize. Quiddity is powerful but pure. It's a mistake to pollute it. The shaman warns Jaffe that he isn't “evolved” enough, that he's still too much an “ape.” This analytical approach of the shaman is entirely consistent with Greek mythology and the subordinate nature of mankind to the gods. Jaffe, on the other hand, grows a beard and promises himself that he will possess the Art. His face would again be unshaven only when he possessed it.
Part 1 Chapter 4
To assist him on the quest for the Art, Jaffe researches and finds Richard Wesley Fletcher, an innovative researcher of evolution. Fletcher had been brought low by an addiction to mescaline and its derivatives. Jaffe finds the nearly broken man in Maine, ingratiates himself with Fletcher by supplying him with drugs, and the addict admitted that he'd twice come close to isolating what he came to all the Nuncio, the messenger of evolution. Jaffe offered a research partnership to Fletcher; the dope fiend would have a place to work free from prying eyes. With the miracle in hand, Fletcher would overpower the villifiers who were glad to be rid of him in the scientific community.
But after eleven months, when Fletcher had perfected the Nuncio, he sought to destroy it rather than deliver it to Jaffe. It was too powerful and dangerous. It was a fluid that brought the humblest cell to its highest potential. Fletcher had tested this on a chimpanzee he called “Raul.” Raul had learned to talk and think. Fletcher's plan is to destroy Raul, burn the papers, eliminate the Nuncio fluid and then kill himself before Jaffe can get a hold of so much power. Raul, sensing death, ran away. He approached the laboratory bench and the vials of Nuncio. The fluid climbed the walls of the vials as he approached, anxious to become more than it was. But as Fletcher grasped one vial, it broke, cut him and entered his bloodstream.
Part 1 Chapter 5
Jaffe arrives and argues with Fletcher about the Nuncio and its use. Jaffe makes it clear that he himself wanted to take the fluid. Fletcher warns him that it will magnify and empower all of Jaffe's weaknesses and fears and resentments. Jaffe doesn't care. He spies the lab bench and the two remaining vials of Nuncio. He grabs one and it bursts and enters his skin. When Jaffe gets over the fit of adapting to the chemical, he speaks to Fletcher. Fletcher's response is, “Quiddity won't open to the likes of you.” They fight. The struggle becomes epic. Raul returns to the laboratory but is ordered to get out. He does and flings himself down a slope as the entire building explodes behind him. He looks into the explosion and sees the powers in the flame, reaching the sky. The building has become a hulk, but Raul returns to it as his only known refuge.
Part 1 Chapter 6
A strange war raged between Jaffe and Fletcher for a year thereafter. Fletcher created an army of hallucigenia, created from the fantasies of ordinary people. This force did battle with Jaffe's terata of primal fears. It was an even match. After many battles, they finally had a battle for it all which lasted five days. The fight so exhausted both of them that they were too tired to resist the wind, which carried them westward and downward into California, intoVentura County, to a place called Palomo Grove.