“It may have escaped your notice,” I say, “but me and rules don’t have what you’d call a happy history. Me and rules haven’t been known for wildly hitting it off, if you see what I mean.”
Great way to start off the second part, you have to agree. Yes, we all know Lucifer, that you are not very keen on rules. So our villian almost slips, but the angels make a comeback to warn him that he’s breaking the rules. That’s when he comes up with the gem above, but then he decides to toe the line and not do anything bad. (He’s about to commit a murder when he’s stopped in his tracks because he can’t really harm the person whose body he’s in). So he comes back and starts mulling and telling us his thoughts and feelings. Most of the book proceeds this way. Something happens and then Lucifer comes back and tells us his take on the situation. He digresses a lot. For some people that might be annoying because it takes away from the progression of the story, but to me these digressions are delicious. As I have said before, the object is not to hurtle in a straight path towards the end of the story but to take those winding scenic bypasses and delight in their beauty, though they might be completely unnecessary to the main plot.
So Lucifer digresses and starts to shed light on how he created money and made it the root cause of every evil.
“Wealth breeds boredom and boredom breeds vice; poverty breeds anger and anger breeds vice.”
So Lucifer said – “Humans and human needs lay hid in night.
I said: ‘Let money be!’ and all was light.”
But best of all were the following lines on the same subject:
“The key to evil? Freedom. The key to freedom? Money. For you, my darlings, freedom to do what you like is the discovery of how unlikable what you like to do makes you. Not that that stops you doing what you like, since you like doing what you like more than you like liking what you do.”
Mere air these words, but oh! so sensational. The play of words here is AWESOME! It took me a couple of times or reading and re-reading the lines to get the full gist of what Mr.Duncan wanted to convey and when I did get what he wanted to say, I had to do what I usually do, put down the book, mull over how well some people can convey such depth of meaning, wonder what is wrong with me that I can’t quite write like this and then come back to taking up the book a few hours later.
For the next few chapters Lucifer dwells on how he made man commit evil. He asks hard questions like what did he do wrong. His argument? It goes something like this:
“Is it pride to want a place of your own? Is it pride to want to be independent? Is it pride to want to do something in the universe? Is it pride to be want to be somebody? Is it pride to want to live with Dignity? Is it pride to get sick of KISSING AN OLD MAN”
You gotta hand it to him, he sure does make a valid argument, childish and unnecessarily churlish it might seem. I felt a shift in the book from around here. It’s like Lucifer wants you to know that he actually is a dear old thing and there is nothing wrong with what all he did. Till this point, I felt like he did not give excuses for who he was, but slowly he does seem to be getting ensnared into the trap that we all human beings share – the desire to get our point across, the desire to tell the world that ‘I am right and have a heart of gold’ even if we committed the most vile sin.
“The rich, the famous, the slim-and-gorgeous – they incite an envy so urgent that you can escape it only by translating it into pity. People who live like that never end up happy. Yes, you’re right. But neither do you.”
A case of sour grapes, eh?
So anyways, our dear friend gets a great idea to make a movie out of his manuscript and since Gunn already had connections in the Hollywood world, it soon takes off. While I am not very big into Hollywood and its machinations, I am sure it sure takes some time before a movie is approved to be made. Maybe it’s Lucifer’s influence but everyone loves the out of the world script and very soon the filming starts. The narrative got a bit boring here and I had to force myself to keep reading. I knew it was a matter of time before Lucifer would be back in full form and sure as hell, he was. (Excuse the pun!)
“Look closely the next time a pedophile comes via the media to the attention of his peers, look closely at the faces of the outraged mob. That’s where you will find me. Those pixelated tabloid stills of good mums and dads transformed by righteousness into grimacing beasts, bellowing for blood, teaching their children to hate first and ask questions later(or better still never), buoyed and inflated by the gobbled-up lie that they’re doing God’s work. This is pedophilia’s quality yield: the indignant mob bloodthirsty with decency, obscenely relieved of the burden of thought and yoke of argument. EVIL PERVERTS SHOULD BE TORTURED THEMSELVES. The bald leaders make me fizz with pride. You’ll have noticed, I dare say, a dearly purchased and bitter confidence, now that their loss has excused them their own ethical failings and moral mediocrity. They’ve suffered the tragedy of poor Tommy and are thus absolved of further responsibilities. It is required of them now only that they exists as mascots for the mob. Please do look and tell me, if you can, that there’s any greater evil than the transformation of individuals into the lurching, self-congratulatory mob?”
This paragraph to me represented, the highest level of thought process that Glenn Duncan forces his readers into. This is where everyone’s comfort zone is violated to some degree, but one has to sometimes suspend one’s way of thinking and try to think outside the norm. I am sure most of our reactions on coming to know about a huge atrocity being committed is akin to what is described above, though we may never admit to it. I can so easily picture the transformation of individuals into the lurching, lynching and self-congratulatory mob. This is what is happening right now. Maybe Glenn Duncan meant it as an exaggeration when he wrote these lines, but unfortunately they represent the society we live in today. Lucifer must be happy!
Mere air these words, but oh! so insightful. This book is full of insights like the above into the human psyche. The devil does take credit for it but the off hand matter in which these big transgressions are discussed is simply mind blowing. It’s like the author manages to hold you by the scruff of your neck, drag you out of your comfort zone and leaves you gasping for breath. Truly, you will be thinking while reading this book, thinking all the time. For some of us, this might be a book that is unreadable, but that is where it gets its charm from – the fact that it forces you to think, though it might be accomplishing that goal by hitting your head continously.
Lucifer comes up for yet another creative but nail-on-the-head description for another prevalent vice in our society.
“Wife batterers around the world will tell you: the primary effect of hitting your wife for the first time (assuming she doesn’t leave you immediately) is that it makes it much easier to hit her – harder – a second time. Then a third, then a fourth, and so on, until hitting’s nowhere near enough and you’ve got to start getting creative.”
Creepy, but unfortunately once again the truth!
From time to time Lucifer’s thoughts and actions are taken over by Declan Gunn, the body host. As is the norm, the narrative veers towards his mother. I was half expecting this, it seems to me that if we need to talk about emotion in a looser, then we need to talk about his relationship with his mother.
“He remembers her, that she had much to forgive him. Chiefly, that he never once thought of her as a person in her own right. Instead he measured her by her aesthetic near-misses and hair-raising mispronounciations – measured her solely in relation to himself. She knew. He knew she knew. Time after time his resolutions to rise about himself. Time after time his failure to honor it.”
I believe a good writer makes you think right in the wrong direction. By wrong direction I mean a direction where you have been afraid to turn towards all your life. A direction whose existence you deny even, but which is lurking just beneath the surface and you know it is there, though you chose to ignore it completely. Well, its your bad day today because Glenn Duncan makes you face that direction and shoves those thoughts up your brain – thoughts that you never entertained. As I have said before, the hallmark of good writing.
As the book nears the end, Lucifer starts to loosen up a little and the profoundness of his words becomes a little light. It was with almost a relief that I read the following:
“Sunrise was a vast magnanimous presence below the horizon, a furious benevolence with an inexhaustible wealth of heat. (Except of course it’s not inexhaustible. Except of course it’s burning itself out.)
Coming to this statement felt like I was going back to elementary school after attending graduate school. The narrative takes a turn towards treading softly as Lucifer’s time on earth hurtles towards the end. It is almost like the devil has a change of heart and starts to side with his humanisque side. He recognizes what is happening to him, but as he points out, the pull of the flesh is very attractive.
“The feeling that someone, somewhere (I know, I know, I know) was quietly, simply, without a concealed agenda, telling me that it was all right, that stillness would come, that peace is purchased in the currency of loss…”
Basically, humanizing the devil by giving it a human form. Game, Set, Match – God!
All in all it was a great book to read – just the kind of book one would want to read when trying to read out of the comfort zone. There were many places when my way of thinking and understanding the world was questioned and threatened. The book showed viewpoints that made sense once they were revealed. The language was rich and luxuriant throughout, the pace was lacking sometimes, there were parts of the book that made for some lethargic reading, sometimes the coherence would be lost, some parts that were meant to be read and re-read again but definitely a book that you should read, at least once, preferably twice. There are jewels strewn all over, but you need to get to them.