Let’s see: a novel about a shy fountain pen repairman called Parsifal who lives at a time when the earth is at war with the sky and returns to the forest primeval to search for his long-lost favorite cup. Sound familiar?
The Parsifal legend tells the story of a naive boy whose mother kept him isolated from the world. Parsifal eventually leaves home after having met some knights in the woods, naively does bad things to some people and as a Knight of the Round Table discovers the Castle of the Grail. There he finds the Fisher King (who is his uncle), suffering from a wound that does not heal, but is kept alive by the forces of the Grail. Parsifal does not ask him the critical question “why is he suffering” and because of this lack of concern for the suffering of another, Parsifal wakes to find himself alone in the castle. Later Parsifal learns of his fault and starts a long, adventure-filled quest to rediscover the Grail castle. A long suffering but mature Parsifal is finally called back to the castle, poses the vital question to the Fisher King, thus saving him and his court, and becomes the king of the Grail.
So Jim Krusoe is obviously adapting the Parsifal narrative to this novel titled, appropriately, Parsifal. But what are all the car parts and bathroom fixtures falling from the sky? I always wonder how far the author of a work such as this intended the comparison to be made. Who is Joe? What are the spiked pits? What are the jelly donuts? Who is Misty? What is the Happy Bunny? Birds? Blind people? Health bars? The scar? Double-Entry Bookkeeping? Librarians?
I would have written—”Where’s Stuart Gilbert when you need him?”—but Jim Krusoe is no James Joyce. I think I have a copy of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s thirteenth century epic poem, Parzival around here: that might help.
I found this passage in the novel interesting: is Krusoe making fun of finding significance in his text?
Parsifal passed dejected willow trees, encountered a clump of bushes that hung their fuzzy heads in shame, strolled by a stand of agoraphobic alders, looked out over a small pond covered with a layer of hallucinated scum, climbed a low, repressed hill, kicked up a troubled patch of moss, passed beneath an anxious sycamore, a bulimic waterfall, an obsessive nest of wasps, a panicked porcupine, more than one repressed log, a paranoidal swamp, a narcissistic . . . well . . . narcissus, walked beneath a passive-aggressive set of overhanging branches, over an enabling path, through several patches of toxic poison oak, near a manic maple, and beneath a neurotic nuthatch fixated on something on a distant branch.
Was there a message here?
For much the same reason, I wonder if Krusoe was really serious when he delved into the realm of phallic and other sexual images with the passage on fountain pens that began: “A pen is …”.
In the end I recommend reading all about Sir Percival (Parsifal/Parzival) in Chrétien de Troyes, the Mabinogion, Eshenback’s epic, Wagner’s opera, and if there is still time, read Parsifal by Jim Krusoe for light entertainment. Finally, as an insight into a retelling of the story of Parsifal, consider watching the movie The Natural again.