Friday, October 5, 2012

Thoughts on Fallen

David Maine has written the majority of his fiction based on classic biblical episodes.  The last one I read was The Book of Samson, and there are a lot of similarities to be found in Fallen, and I'm going to take an unorthodox approach to explain the appeal.

Professional wrestling.  Yeah, so I'm making it ten times more difficult to explain David Maine by using this particular analogy, but it's what came to me as I was reading Fallen.

In professional wrestling, the object of creating a successful persona that fans will care about is exaggerating a personality so that it's clear and identifiable.  The paradox is that most wrestlers are giant meatheads, so attempting to imagine that they have anything approaching intelligent thought is the one thing most outside observers always have a problem grasping.  They think of wrestling as mindless, stupid entertainment.  Actually, the Bible today is not so different.  We've managed to so thoroughly deconstruct the object of religion that the Bible no longer means anything but a bunch of mindless, stupid stories supporting something that only simpletons could possibly appreciate.

So, professional wrestling.  Samson featured the biggest meathead in the Bible.  Not coincidentally perhaps, Maine begins Fallen with Cain's son, who is also a giant meathead.  But remarkably, the story delves into the mind of this meathead, via his father, the first murderer in recorded history, on his way to tracing all the odd developments of early mankind backward to the moment we lost the one thing we've been trying to figure out ever since: perfection.  From Cain we go inside the head of Abel, and then to Adam, and then to Eve.  We begin with the first murderer, and work our way to the first sinner.  You may find Eve to be thoroughly unredemptive, but Maine's genius is that he both allows that judgment and works his way into figuring out how she got that way.  That's the whole point.  It's her reactions, and the reactions of everyone else, that gets us to the point where even someone like Cain has been able to redeem himself.

Structured like Christopher Nolan's film Memento (in other words backward), these are characters will little to say to each other but great emotions.  It's not hard to see this unfold in a wrestling ring.  It's not hard at all.  Most writers prefer to make things much easier.  Then again, most writers don't tackle the tough subjects, the ones that matter to everyone.  A lot of the more literary types do write about miserable family experiences, but they don't get very far because they don't really know where they're going.  Maine gets around that by showing the end point first and then revealing how it happened, through the most extraordinary means possible.

It's a depressing read, but it's a little of what life must seem like to someone who doesn't experience it the way we do, always going forward.  It's structured in a way that fits the elusive fifth member of the narrative into the story without actually giving him a part (that would be God).  Adam is always saying to trust God.  Why?  Where's the plan?  It's Hell getting back to Heaven.  This is exactly how (and why).

A writer like David Maine is capable of using familiar elements in unfamiliar ways, and for those who aren't ready for such things (the copy I read was very quickly weeded out of a library), it's startling.  It takes time to process, too, much like the life it's attempting to explain.  Does it make anything easier?  Maybe more than other books, like a friend who knows what kind of life you've had, what kind of troubles.  Everyone has led this kind of life.  Most of them don't know it.

Best of the David Maine books I've read so far.

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