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December 15, 2004

Resurrection Man

Sean Stewart, who I've talked about before, is easily one of my favorite authors. Between Mark Lanegan's, "Resurrection Song," and Stewart's book, "Resurrection Man," you could find why I stole the name for this site.

A friend once asked if it bothered me that the site had a name that conjured up religious imagery and that it might actually work against me. His point was that it might be seen as another religious site, and that perhaps blog readers would be put off by that connection.

The answer, of course, was no. I don't mind the religious connection; although it's an irregular topic, it is central to my life. The song and the book both only touch on religion, being far more interested in exploring both family and self.

Lanegan sings in a quiet moan about the loss of direction in a song that feels as untethered and floating as it's subject, he sings about not being able to go home and being lost. It's more a cautionary tale, and a glance at the ghosts in the past, with one spiny moment of clarity: "better keep your heart strong, little friend."

Stewart's book, beginning with a man named Dante finding his own corpse, is a great book to read to that soundtrack. Unfortunately, I've lost my copy of the book so this desire I have to read it will go unfilled until I take possession of the used copy I just ordered on Amazon.

What do I find so compelling about him? It would be hard to read most of his work without having some strong response. The response isn't always positive, but with such striking imagery and jolting, blunt statements, my responses have always been strong.

Dr. Ratkay was a man of precise and definite tastes. He read only Classical philosophers, drank only French wine, and listened only to German composers, except in certain frivolous moods when he might condescend to play a Hungarian, Liszt or Kodaly.

Dr. Ratkay brought his children up as atheists, on moral grounds. "You know what they used to call the graverobbers who sold bits of dead bodies for research?" he would ask. "Resurrection Men, that's what. There's your Christ for you, my children. A Resurrection Man, making pennies off a bag of old bones. —'Neither fear your death's day, nor long for it,' as Martial says. If there is a God, don't give him the satisfaction. If there is a God, He is more than harps and grace and candlelight.

"—God hissed through the vents at Auschwitz," Dante's father used to say.

God creeps on eight thin legs.

Like it or not, how can you find that anything but intriguing? It may be maddening, and it may make you want to respond to the accusation, but it doesn't leave you feeling passive.

So, hopefully before Christmas I'll be able to read the book again. Or maybe I'll just start off by reading Mockingbird again. These are the first paragraphs of the book:

When you get down to the bottom of the bottle, as Momma used to say, this is a story about being pregnant. I want that clear right from the start. There are no car chases and no gun battles. Now, it's true that mine was not a completely ordinary pregnancy. There was some magic mixed up in there, and a few hundred million dollars in oilfield speculation, and a natural disaster, and some people who died, and some others who wouldn't stay quite dead. It would be lying to pretend there wasn't prophecy involved, and an exorcism, and a hurricane, and I refuse to lie. But at its heart, this is a story about how I became a mother.

It starts the day we buried Momma.

I'll say this for Mr. Stewart: the man knows how to drag me into a story and keep me reading right up 'til the end. While I didn't enjoy two of his books (Clouds End, and The Night Watch) I can heartily recommend the rest of his catalog. Resurrection Song is well worth tracking down, A Perfect Circle may be his best, Nobody's Son is brilliant, Galveston is exceptional, and Mockingbird certainly deserved its good reviews.

The problem with Sean Stewart's work, as much as it is a problem, is that it still occupies genre territory (fantasy and science fiction, to be specific), but it's written in as contemporary literature. The market for this kind of work is unfortunately limited.

In the hopes of encouraging him to write more books, I would also encourage any of you who enjoy speculative fiction in all it's forms to go out and give one of his books a chance. After I finished A Perfect Circle, I loaned it to the g-phrase. When she was done with it, I loaned it to a close friend at work. She, in turn, has loaned it in succession to her boyfriend, her best friend, a former co-worker, and it has somehow landed in the hands of her best friend's ex-husband.

The book has an impressive power to transcend genre lines and be read by people who wouldn't be caught dead with a Heinlein novel, for instance. And if I might be so bold, the book is even better when accompanied by Mark Lanegan's Field Songs.

I'm just sayin'...

Posted by zombyboy at December 15, 2004 01:32 PM

I thought you named the blog after the Bob Marley song.

"These songs of freedom are all I ever had."

Or the Bob Shacochis short story from "Easy in the Islands."

Posted by: IB Bill at December 16, 2004 02:58 AM

If there is a God, He is more than harps and grace and candlelight.

Hmmmm...Maybe this is what I should be reading. A very "intriguing" statement. The sort of thing that might not challenge your faith, but challenge how you perceive it. Right now I'm reading some stuff by Aristotle because I'm trying to sound intelligent when I engage Andy.

Posted by: Patrick at December 16, 2004 09:47 AM

Heheh. The best thing to do with Andy, from my Andy-friendly point of view, is to ignore him on certain topics. That is, the guy isn't going to change his mind, I'm not going to change mine, and I like him either way. So I ignore his Christian-baiting and he, mostly, ignores my references to religion.

I find it works better than arguing on a subject where the simply can't be any agreement without one side capitulating.

Posted by: zombyboy at December 16, 2004 09:51 AM

I'm actually not trying to convert him. It's exciting to excerise my mind a bit. My college years were largely about philosophy and thelogy and I hadn't realized how much I missed it. Andy has convinced me he's a "nice guy" and we even agree on some things. I look at it like Elaine's boyfriend on Seinfeld who, when asked if it mattered that she wasn't a Christian, replied that it didn't matter to him. She was the one going to hell. :-)

Posted by: Patrick at December 16, 2004 10:13 AM

That guy was great--one of the funniest regular guests on the show aside from Jackie Chiles.

Posted by: zombyboy at December 16, 2004 10:20 AM
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