Thursday, 3 January 2008

Excerpt from Stephen King's "Song of Susannah"

It's probably somewhere between illegal and immoral for me to post this, but if someone has a problem with it that can message me and I'll remove it.

Anyway, I don't think this'll spoil the plot for anyone. It's a partial explanation of the history/mythology King created for The Dark Tower series (and by association all of his work, it seems to me), by a character named Mia to another named Susannah. However, if you do wish to not read it in fear of spoiling the book, I understand. I've paraphrased in some places to focus specifically on what I want to examine.

"How many Beams do there be, Susannah of New York?"
"Six," Susannah said. ...
"Six, aye. And when the Beams were created out of that greater Discordia, the soup of creation some (including the Manni) call the Over and some call the Prim, what made them?"
"I don't know," Susannah said. "Was it God, do you think?"
"Perhaps there is a God, but the Beams rose from the Prim on the airs of magic, Susannah, the true magic that which passed long ago. Was it God that made magic, or was it magic that made God? I know not. ... But once upon a time all was Discordia and from it, strong and all crossing at a single unifying point, came the six beams. There was magic to hold them steady for eternity, but when the magic left from all there is but the Dark Tower, which some have called Can Calyx, the Hall of Resumption, men have despaired. When the Age of Magic passed, the Age of Machines came."
"North Central Positronics," Susannah murmured. "Dipolar computers. Slow-trans engines." She paused. "Blaine the Mono. But not in our world."
"No? Do you say your world is except? What about the sign in the hotel lobby?"...
...When she'd said Not in our world, of course she had been thinking of 1964--the world of black-and-white television, absurdly bulky room-sized computers, and Alabama cops more than willing to sic the dogs on black marchers for voting rights. Things had changed greatly in the intervening thrity-five years.The Eurasian desk clerk's combination TV and typewriter, for instance--how did Susannah know that wasn't a dipolar computer run by some form of slow-trans engine? She did not.
"Go on," she told Mia.
Mia shrugged. "You doom yourselves, Susannah. You seem positively bent on it, and the root is always the same: your faith fails you, and you replace it with rational thought. But there is no love in thought, nothing that lasts in deduction. only death in rationalism."
"The magic went away. Maerlyn retired to his cave in one world, the sword of Eld gave way to the pistols of the gunslinger in another, and the magic went away. And across the arc of years, great alchemists, great scientists, and great--what?--technicians, I think? Great men of thought, anyway, that's what I mean, great men of deduction--these came together and created the machines which ran the Beams. They were great machines but they were mortal machines. They replaced magic with machines, do ya kennit, and now the machines are failing. In some worlds, great plagues have decimated whole populations."
"The Crimson King's Breakers are only hurrying along a process that's already in train. The machines are going mad. You've seen this for yourself. The men believed there would always be more men like them to make more machines. None of them foresaw what's happened. This...this universal exhaustion."
"The world has moved on."
"Aye, lady. It has. And left no one to replace the machines which hold up the last magic in creation, for the Prim has receded long since. The magic is gone and the machines are failing. Soon enough the Dark Tower will fall. Perhaps there will be time for one splendid moment of universal rational thought before darkness rules forever. Wouldn't that be nice?"

I want to draw attention to the notion of rational materialism, etc., in this piece. Think about how it's represented: temporary, flawed, inferior--a poor replacement for magic. Further, what are the reprecussions of this replacement?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While reading the dark tower series, I was also struck by this particular excerpt. I wrote down the lines "there is no love in thought, nothing that lasts in deduction. only death in rationalism." on a piece of scrap paper that must now be buried somewhere in my room. As I recall, lines such as the one previously stated consumed my unfocused mind throughout the year I spent reading the Dark Tower series. I do not regret the endeavor.
I believe the tower represents the human soul and the weakening beams are its prevailing strength in modern society. That is to say, in modern society materialism and the pursuit of success as individuals have led to a hollow and fractured human community where suffering is ignored by those with the ability to end it. People are defined as lesser according to the wealth they possess, and all are willing to sacrifice another to succeed themselves. The comforts of technological advancements have allowed humans to isolate themselves and lose faith in virtue for virtue's sake.
to some extent, of course

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