Hell

images-1.jpgYou may have noticed that I read a lot of literature from Asia, especially Japanese literature. I still have a lot of classic and well thought of titles to go but sometimes I simply select a title solely based on the perceived nationality of the author, whether I know the author or not. Luckily I have seldom been disappointed. So if the author is Japanese, I read the book. One hitch to this technique is that too often nowadays a unfamiliar title turns out to be a Manga and although I have several digital versions of Manga, I’m just not into following a graphic story: Watchman was bad enough.

One type of Japanese literature I do find exciting is the sometimes weird and often scary Japanese mysteries and thrillers. I suppose when you add to a spooky story the elements of a strong tradition of Japanese ghost stories and the somewhat unfamiliar background of Japan and Japanese customs, you get a little magnifying effect and the thrill becomes a real tingler.

There have been a number of classic and contemporary treatments of Hell: Dante is obvious, Barbusse, Palahniuk, and my recent read Hell by Yasutaka Tsutsui.

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If You Are Religious, You Can Break the Law?

“Every magistrate has the right to recuse from performing all
lawful marriages under this Chapter based on sincerely held
religious objection.” — New North Carolina Law

MarxIt should be emphasized that this recusal is for “lawful marriages,” which makes religious beliefs sufficient to allow the law to be ignored in North Carolina. Furthermore, since it would have been blatantly unconstitutional to specify that this law is targeted at gay marriages, it leaves the door open to refuse to perform any kind of marriage that ruffles your religious feathers: Muslim marriages, Jewish marriages, interracial marriages, etc.

On the other hand, if there is such a thing as a progressive magistrate left in North Carolina who is, perhaps, Jewish, then that magistrate can righteously refuse to perform a lawful marriage between two consenting Christians.

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Are you there, Satan? It’s me, Madison.

No, it’s not fair, but what makes earth feel like Hell is our expectation that it should feel like Heaven. Earth is earth. Dead is dead. You’ll find out for yourself soon enough. It won’t help the situation for you to get all upset.

That’s a quotation from yet another questionable novel from Chuck Palahniuk, Damned. I know it’s not fair to take a quote from a character (even a dead character) and ascribe it directly to the author, so ignore the citation and just consider the sentiment. Dead is dead and then you putrefy and feed the worms.

But in Palahniuk’s novel, it seems that dead is not dead since the young heroine goes to Hell which she had always envisioned as being much like The Breakfast Club is this a common image?). In a variation, the little dead girl makes the story a little more clear:

What makes the earth feel like Hell is our expectation that it ought to feel like Heaven. Earth is earth. Hell is Hell. Now stop with the whining and caterwauling.

And even further on, Maddie again modifies her original statement:

No, it’s not fair, but what makes life feel like Hell is our expectation that it should last forever. Life is short. Dead is forever. You’ll find out for yourself soon enough. It won’t help the situation for you to get all upset.

Palahniuk apparently loves these kind of tropes, pithy little pronouncements each with a slight rhetorical twist. I can see how they might begin to irk the reader but they work well in this novel. I cannot say that Damned is a really good novel but I will say that Damned is a really good entertainment. Here Palahniuk’s skewed vision of a reality which accepts elements of fiction a if they were real (and all tied up in a real fictional work).

The story, quickly, is of a privileged daughter of Hollywood who ends up in Hell and, although the popcorn balls are all stale and demons periodically suck the flesh from your bones, it’s not half bad and considering the presence of so many well-known celebrities and the often whimsical violations that earned them an eternity of damnation, it might be preferable to Heaven … which Maddie concludes must be exceedingly boring.

I haven’t had good luck with the last few Palahniuk novels but this one is certainly better than watching television.