Thursday, June 28, 2007

The third of three books

With Theft, by Peter Carey, being the first, and Last Evenings on Earth, by Roberto Bolaño, being the second, and the connections between the lot of them, the nature of art or reality, being tenuous.

The third: The Helmet of Horror, by Victor Pelevin.

I'm... inadequate. Simply inadequate. To describe, let alone to explain.

I have been dying to read this book. I can't believe it took me as long as it did to get around to doing so, but here we are (and the paperback release is just around the corner).

I read Homo Zapiens some years back. About a copywriter for an ad agency in a newly consumerist Russia. Being somewhat familiar with both the workings of ad agencies and of newly consumerist Eastern European countries, and on the basis of some glowing review I read, I hunted down a copy. It didn't quite live up to expectations — it lived up to something else entirely. Imagine Hunter S Thompson dealing with Russian mobsters. I believe I fell into a coma (vodka-induced?) about two-thirds of the way through, so I don't know how it ends.

So, The Helmet. For starters, it's part of Canongate's Myths series. Author, title, premise: cool. I'm unable to formulate, to put into words, to... See, there's the Minotaur. Well, no. Not at first. There's a chatroom, with 8 (I think) distinct participants, probably. With archetypal usernames, and personalities to match. Although, the point is raised that there's no way to know who produces the text on the screen, particularly since there's evidence that they are being censored as they type. And they're all being held captive, it is assumed, in the same labyrinth; although, the point is raised that there's no way to confirm where any of them are, that the parts they see are indeed parts of the same whole. There are assumptions and betrayals.

So Ariadne starts a thread, about a dream she had, featuring the Minotaur, and some dwarves. And maybe the Minotaur's wearing a helmet, or maybe he is the helmet, or maybe we're all wearing the helmet. There's a really interesting discussion about programming videogames — "External technologies affect what we see; internal technologies affect what we think." Maybe life itself is the labyrinth. There's a cathedral with mysterious inscriptions; some mirrors. And it seems the helmet of horror is located within one of its own parts. The Minotaur's a kind of god, only he doesn't exist. Maybe.

I'm really at a loss. I don't know what to say. Mostly I just wanted an excuse to post this photo of Victor Pelevin. I think he'd be really interesting, in a creepy kind of way, at a party. Damn, I miss those sorts of parties.

Excerpt.
Review (with links to many other reviews).
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