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thereviewman

The Review Man

Formerly of Goodreads, now of both words, in the coming times only here?

Currently reading

Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature
Margaret Atwood
Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals
Robert M. Pirsig
Simulacra and Simulation (The Body, In Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism)
Jean Baudrillard, Sheila Faria Glaser
Leaven of Malice
Robertson Davies
The Salterton Trilogy
Robertson Davies
Effi Briest (Penguin Classics)
Theodor Fontane
Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World
Nicholas Ostler
Cases And Materials On The Law Of Torts
Robert M. Solomon
Public Law : Cases Materials and Commentary
Philip Bryden, Craik, Neil, Craig Forcese, Forcese, Craig
A Property Law Reader
Bruce H. Ziff
Carpenter's Gothic (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics) - William Gaddis A few spoilers ahead.

Carpenter's Gothic is about many things: Africa, the apocalypse, rabid fundamentalism, deceit and trickery and fraud. But it seems to me that Gothic primarily treats entropy. Gaddis himself said in a rare interview (the link to which I have regrettably lost) that Pynchon did not particularly influence him, but it seems nonetheless that they were on the same scientific wavelength. Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow uses Tyrone Slothrop as a kind of metonymy for World War II, and so as the war winds down and the insanity bubbles over, Slothrop's character becomes progressively more difficult to pin down. In Carpenter's Gothic, we experience a different sort of entropy; one not so much twinged with despair so much as drowned in a bucket of it. We watch as fundamentalists pillage America and then travel unto darkest Africa to repeat the entire process. This decay is cleverly characterized by Paul's increasingly insane behaviour, by the insinuation that McCandless was once confined to a mental institution, by the fact that even Elizabeth, arguably the most "normal" of the group, cannot escape this fate.

Gaddis' thesis seems to imply that thermodynamics trump theology, but the thematic richness doesn't stop there. Paul seems awfully like a caricature of a fundamentalist (although I'm willing to be proven wrong on that point), but Gaddis doesn't just take aim at Christianity—Billy's countercultural lifestyle is equally vapid. Even McCandless' supposed rationality doesn't suffice; it is a strangely defeated shell of a man who asks Elizabeth to leave with him at the novel's conclusion. This darkly satiric play (for it truly is closer to a play than any novel I've read) reminds us that the universe is marching toward catastrophe and that humanity is only speeding the process along. God is dead. Entropy is God. Long live entropy.