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online journal of literary culture publishing fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, verse, essays, articles, book reviews, criticism, and all things of a literary nature.Inside: Our Chuck Palahniuk extravaganza! turtleneck.net Summer '01 features an interview with Chuck and a review of his new novel Choke. Only at turtleneck.net, your source for Chuck Palahniuk and Choke.


-S 45 degrees 36 minutes...
-Letter to junior high friend (part I)
-Afternoon Treat
-A Song for the Discontented

-Waiting for the Barbarians

-Chuck Palahniuk Interview
-starwars game

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-Joshua Messer
- Keith Jason Wikle
-Karl Erickson
-Chris Switzer


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Saramago and Tolkien: The New Mythologies
by Keith Jason Wikle


          As usual with all books, I look for comparisons. Metaphor being the tool of poetry, the connection between one idea and another throwing the mind into a state of uncertainty where it is forced to draw links between word and world that did not previously exist. I have made infamous comparisons that some think either silly, or downright wrong. The connection between O.J. Simpson and Faulkner’s book Light in August
being one of my best examples. Replace O. J. for Joe Christmas in that book and reread it, I think you’ll find I’m not a complete nut. Or how about comparing Timothy McVeigh to Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab, more obtuse, but it works.
          I struggled for some plausible allegory between Jose Saramago’s Blindness and the world we live in. Certainly a number of cheap and easy solutions provided themselves. Blindness is a novel about an epidemic white blindness that sweeps through an unnamed city in an unnamed country, where unnamed characters are quarantined indefinitely against their will. This blindness could be compared to the AIDS issue, or any number of the violent, ethnically driven conflicts of either the early twentieth century or the early 90’s in the Balkans, Africa, or Asia. I say that these allegories are cheap and easy, not because they are unworthy of commentary, but because they are specific events caused by larger issues. This is not meant in any way to belittle the suffering due to any of these serious social problems: war, ethnic intolerance, or the discrimination endured by those infected with HIV. These larger issues are not specific to place, ethnic group, language, religion, or sexual preference, but are part and parcel, a unilateral piece, of the human experience. I wondered if this book defied allegory in the way that J. R. R. Tolkien insisted his epic, The Lord of the Rings, sat apart from the conflicts he witnessed first hand in World War I, or World War II. Endless speculation ran for years as to whether or not Tolkien intended the One Ring to symbolize the atomic bomb or some other force of mass destruction made by humans. For Tolkien’s side of the argument, I see his problem with readers, critics, and scholars purporting that The Lord of the Rings had anything to do with those specific instances of human evil, mainly because it detracts from the larger ideas that seem to comprise the essence and spirit of Tolkien’s chimerical world: myth and fantasy. Tolkien quickly witnessed the pastoral England he grew up in changing, growing into an industrialized world. This post-industrial world is one without magic, fantasy, or myth.
          Joseph Campbell, noted scholar and author of The Power of Myth and Hero with a Thousand Faces, describes contemporary society as being bereft of rituals and symbols. Rituals and symbols, according to Campbell, stem from myth and give structure to our daily lives. He depicts our culture in the throngs of chaos and anarchy because we are without myth. Both Campbell and Roland Barthes credit popular, or mass culture (namely popular film), with the ability to create myths and heroes. Myth as defined by these two possesses vague boundaries and little specific rules. Campbell defines myth as, “the search for meaning, or the search for experiencing life and meaning.” Myth is more carefully outlined and described through the terms of stories or narratives. Stories, which we all tell, narrate some part of cultural experience that moves from disparate stories into a structured symbology. These symbols serve as narrative units in our everyday life - defining how we interact with one another within the same culture and also part of what we share with foreign cultures that define us as unique. Campbell’s lofty description of the far reaching capability of myth touches on this phenomenon, “It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening, through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation.” Tolkien gifted his readers with a world rife with symbology and structure, rules and order, and an easily identifiable foe to vanquish. His books, whether defying contemporary allegory or defining it, are the very foundation of myth. The Lord of the Rings, for better or worse, can be used as a cultural common ground of communication and understanding, where its symbols are readily understood and relayed among the readers, giving meaning to current issues problems through its worldview.




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