24 November 2006

Intellectus Archetypus

Filed under: First Lines — ktismatics @ 11:23 am


Bottom half of the seventh, Brock’s boy had made it through another inning unscratched, one! two! three!

– Robert Coover, The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., 1968

Brock Rutherford’s boy Damon is six outs away from perfection. He doesn’t know it yet, but it’s already in the cards – or the dice, rather. Even Henry Waugh doesn’t know it yet, and he’s the guy who’s rolling.

Baseball is allegorical for just about anything heroic in America; it’s our national kitschmyth. We can get caught up in the numbers game, the statistics of greatness, the rigid economics that guarantee a continual supply of winners and losers. In kitschmyth there are no numbers. Never lose sight of the humanity, the tragedy of being a god with feet of clay, the redemption in love and self-sacrifice, the inspirational ballad that stays with us even after the credits have all been rolled up.

There was a time – before baseball, before America, before time itself – when the numbers were mythic. Eternity begat time, pure number begat instantiation, God begat man. The heroes – the daimons – occupied an intermediate realm between form and matter, between God and man.

“Emma Bovary, c’est moi!” Flaubert famously declared. He died in the nineteenth century, once and for all, but Madame Bovary? She dies but she comes back, over and over again. What elixir is this, what sorcerer’s stone – how did this mortal scribe gain access to the hermetic secrets of immortality? Did Flaubert imbue Emma Bovary with a vestigial memory of her creator? Perhaps there was never a Flaubert other than Emma.

What sort of middle realm must Cervantes have occupied to conjure such a demiurge as Quixote? Sometimes the worlds start slipping apart, or perhaps they multiply themselves, and parallel Quixotes start showing up inside the text. Did Cervantes himself show up inside the story? I forget now.

The elohim created a universe out of nothing and on the seventh day they rested. Plotinus, Porphyry, Iamblichos – they taught that Yahweh pulled a universe out of himself, in stages. Even Augustine, Calvin’s patron saint, was Greek. The printing press made the novel a quintessentially Protestant art form, but the Catholics got the ball rolling. The Romancers held onto Plato long enough to beget Cervantes, who begat Flaubert. There were Englishmen too striving for enlightenment: Newton the alchemist, who begat Lawrence Sterne, who tried to protect his progeny with the eternal name of Trismagistus when the secret was right under his nose.

J. Henry Waugh. JHWaugH.

…who begat Coover…

All fiction is metatheology.




  1. The creator of fiction is not unlike the creator of the world…in fact, they are one in the same. So when I read and find myself incredulous of the world in the words, am I doubting the god of the pen? Is it my doubt or the god’s inperfection at making the world a better, a believable place?

    It is an age old question…


    Comment by blueVicar — 28 November 2006 @ 11:39 pm

  2. It’s a good question: what makes a fictional world “good”? Is it its similarity to the ordinary world, or its difference from it? Does the writer do the reader a service by making it easy to plunge into the fictive reality, or should the reader have to pass through trials in order to reach the alien shore?


    Comment by ktismatics — 29 November 2006 @ 9:54 am

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