Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Thoughts on Under the Jag Sun

(Is it inappropriate to say Under the Jag Sun? Listen, I have feelings to get out, I can't have proper names holding me back.)

I think what struck me about Jag Sun (see, getting shorter) is that the stories felt a bit disjointed, making for an loosely unified, unfinished sort of collection. Of course, poor Italo actually died in the middle of writing it, so that's something to be taken into account.

I liked the first story the best, like everyone else, because it did strike me as the most sensual -- or the one story that expressed actual sensual fulfillment. (Maybe I share your taste/sex associations, Garen.) The two lately celibate lovers masticate their way through Oaxaca and rediscover their sexuality and ... innate cannibalism. That's a theme I can get behind. Really! There's something convincingly primordial and natural about the idea. Think (though I know you don't want to) about all the animals/beings that kill their mates after copulation in nature -- you know, praying mantises and black widow spiders and other insects and vermin. Maybe Italo could have taken a page from Kafka and Jeff Goldblum and had his lovers turn into giant bugs. (That probably would have been a bad idea for the story, but how often do I get the chance to link Jeff Goldblum and Kafka and Italo Calvino?)

I'm not sure I know exactly what Italo was saying, ultimately, with his titular story. First, our narrator has the uncomfortable, then scintillating feeling that his lover Olivia is consuming him as she eats. Then he realizes she finds him bland, tasteless. Then.. he realizes that he has to eat her while she eats him, somehow? What are your thoughts about this? You are what you eat because what you're eating is eating you?

The other stories were comparatively weak up against the intrinsic sex and violence of the first; but, I don't totally share Garen's view on this because I don't think that these last two pieces tried that hard to connect sexual energy with the senses. In fact, I find very little to connect them with Jag Sun in the first place. With these, the point seemed to be that each sense in question was subverted by circumstance, portraying the limited range and utility every sense has when it must work on its own. The immobile, paranoid King (who I couldn't help but imagine as Jabba the Hutt) could not identify the sounds he heard, making their existence essentially a moot point, and the drunk/incapacitated/thwarted musician could not locate the particular scent he smelled until it was too late to matter. But that may be just me, always finding the futility. Who's a Debbie Downer with me?

No comments: