Friday, March 20, 2009

Jack High and the Joker.

Book One's title, happily enough, was The People in Doom Town. I suppose that the primary inhabitants of "Doom Town" are Crane, swallowed up in a stupor of despair, and Mavranos, chasing away his cancer with each long swallow of Coors Light. Book One culminates with the two discovering some sort of accidental purpose and submitting themselves to the guidance of a Wise Man, Ozzie, who does what he can to buy them luck and read the times.

Book Two's title is, simply, Mistigris, and Powers provides us with the encyclopedia entry. Poker with the Joker added. The joker, you all know, is a wild card, and, certainly, in Book Two, things get even crazier, spiraling further out of control. Powers never loses control. Even when the plot becomes dense with new threads that weave near each other, sometimes joining, sometimes overlapping, and sometimes dangling apart. Everything is tightly constructed, especially when it appears to be a jumbled mess.

For good ye are and bad, and like to coins,
Some true, some light, but every one of you
Stamp'd with the image of the King....
-Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King

While not quite knights of the round table, what we're dealing with here in book two are those who are "stamp'd with the image of the King." The current king is no Arthur, but he is still the king. It's understandable that those surrounding the throne are either ignorant, crazed, or downright evil.

Is everyone caught up through Chapter 21 by this point? Leave a comment here letting me know if you're reading faster, slower, or not at all.

Here's the current cast of misfits:

Georges Leon: the King, has a host of bodies, male and female
Vaughan Trumbill: chief servant to the king

Scott Crane: our hero?
Archimedes Mavranos: out to save himself
Oliver "Ozzie" Crane: the Wise Man
Diana Ryan: Scott's sister/bride
Scat and Oliver (Bitin Dog): Diana's children

Dondi Snayheever: Mr. Terminal Response

Al Funo: a contract killer without a contract (and quite the ladies man)

Ray-Joe Pogue: a wannabe contender
Nardie Dinh: a second moon, Pogue's sister

By the end of Chapter 21, most of these characters and their individual stories have finally come together, with some dramatic consequences, but I won't write anymore in case there are a few of you still way behind.


sarah said...

I am up...but wondering. In a deck, there are four kings. Why in this book is there only one? Or did I miss it? There are multiple Jacks, so why not kings?


trawlerman said...

I think that you're thinking about things a bit skewed.

There isn't a 1:1 correspondence between a deck of cards and the situation with the Fisher King. Otherwise, I don't know, there'd only be 52 people in the world.

Reading a deck of playing cards during a poker game is only one way of divining knowledge related to the situation, based on poker being a weak but true derivative of Tarot, which is a pretty powerful system of magic (at least in the book) that Leon specifically has harnessed in this regard.

The others share in this, more or less, especially with Las Vegas being a center of 'randomness' in the West, with cards playing a pretty important role.

Does that answer make sense to you?

Also, we're dealing with one specific king here, which doesn't prevent there from being other kings elsewhere, both 'real' and mythical.

Mike & Mary said...

Isn't he fairly definitely the king of hearts? First of all Crane and Diana are the Jack and Queen of hearts. Secondly, he seems to be able to "assume" the hearts of others. Also, the hearts seem to speak of love and fertility to be enabled to beget children.

Interestingly, Leon clearly wants to simply annihilate Diana and Crane. I forgot what page this is on, but he simply says "we can't have any queens of hearts running around...” when he is in Betsy Reculver. It is like he is seeking the “fountain of youth” so that he can continue to live in other bodies. Does anybody remember that it was Explorer Ponce De Leon that was seeking the fountain of youth?

I have a slightly deeper characterization of Archimedes Mavranos. Above, it is said: Archimedes Mavranos: out to save himself.

With him, he can occasionally seem very selfish, but on the other hand he seems to have a real concern for others in a very long patience to bear with them and help them in their endeavors. I was reminded of:

2Ki 7:3 And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?
2Ki 7:4 If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.

He's got nothing to lose. And he senses somehow that Crane's cause is a good cause. He seems to like Crane as a next-door neighbor for all those years with Susan. Death is likely to come to him in any case. This helps him to be relaxed when others are tense and to stay awake when others are falling asleep. He doesn't take himself too seriously, which is a really good quality for anyone going into a battle situation where they may very well be killed. I really like him so far, but then his character may change in a way that shatters my dream here.


trawlerman said...

As to the hearts thing, you may be right, but I also remember that, at the end of Book 1, Ozzie interprets the suit of hearts, in general, as being about family and domestic things (in this instance it was disturbing that the hearts were so often showing up with spades- danger and death). So, I think the highlighting of Hearts is just a highlighting that this is all a big family dispute.

As far as your characterization of Arky, you're totally right. My one-liner was a gross oversimplification and I felt uncomfortable even as I was writing it. I should have went back and fleshed it out.

sarah said...

I don't know that it answers my question, but I'll take it.

And I thought that it was interesting that Mavranos could see Susan...because he is dying, hmmm?


Mike & Mary said...

When could he see Susan? What page #?

abigail said...

Right at the end of chapter eight, he senses "her" presence and speaks with her. This is before he knows that Susan has died.

(Maybe this comment will fill in for my still-truant blog post.)

trawlerman said...

To be clear, Mavranos does not SEE Susan at all. He does, however, HEAR her. As to why this is so, I can think of a few reasons, but none that I'd throw out here with any authority.

Mike & Mary said...

Okay, you guys are calling attention to something I missed before. I thought of Susan's ghost as just being Crane’s mind and heart playing tricks on him. But the detail that the ghost gets the wrong man at first (Arky) shows that this phantom is actually not the genuine ghost of Susan, or it would seem not. It seems that the real Susan was faithful and kept him out of psychic trouble. But this ghost almost seems like an electronic apparition which is controlled by somebody evil trying to draw him away. This phantom wants to go to bed with him, but Crane seems to know in his better moments that he should run from it.