1973 - The Deathbird

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1973 - The Deathbird

Postby Jan » Sun Jan 09, 2005 6:39 am

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"The Deathbird"

Please note: This thread is designed for discussion of the "The Deathbird", especially by people who have re-read it.

That said, this place is open for any kind of comment or question regarding the story, its themes...

Regarding those who were already familiar with the story, may I also suggest you say something about how it's "different" now, how it affects you differently, or if it's still the same story you remembered.
Last edited by Jan on Wed Apr 30, 2008 9:57 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Postby Jono » Sun Jan 09, 2005 2:01 pm

Ah, The Deathbird; one of my all time favorite Harlan stories! Now previously, I’ve read this more than twice or thrice, but it’s obviously been a long time, since the tape sealing the protective baggie has become one with the plastic!

...........................................................................................................

…Aside…This is the way I’m personally going to play:

I resolve to actually look up words or associations I don’t actually understand instead of relying on context for meaning (in this story: ‘diatomaceous’, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, ‘catafalque’, ‘shaverasse’, ‘rova’ and ‘empyema’).

I will admit what I still don’t understand (after trying to look it up in Webster’s, Oxford, and Canadian Oxford), in the hope that someone can help me out (tough for me, ‘cause I hate looking clueless!). In this story, while I suspect I understand through context ‘shaverasse’ and ‘rova’ (Yiddish terms?), I don’t find them listed. Additionally, in contrasting the Bosch with the Michelangelo, does Harlan mean that one picture has many people happily cavorting around contrasted with a portrait of only one despairing couple?

I will cite the edition I’m reading (for The Deathbird, Deathbird Stories, 1st Hardcover, Harper & Row, 1975), as Harlan does have preferred texts (for example, should it not be a semicolon instead of a coma between “occupy adjacent squares, cannot affect one another” (p. 302, 1st paragraph, line 4)).

...........................................................................................................

In re-reading this tale, I’m struck again by the visceral punch it packs. ‘Ahbhu’ still made me teary-eyed and in totality the story re-affirmed my belief in the importance of questioning established ‘truisms’. This story was seminal to my early teen evolution as a thinking being; and along with Moorcock’s ‘Behold the Man’ (and others that I’ve no doubt long forgotten), began my evolution into someone who wavers between agnosticism and outright atheism.

I personally think that this story is more that a simple rewrite of Genesis from the Snake’s point of view. I think that this is also a meditation on the true nature of love. Sort of a tribute to the code of Spiderman (‘With great power comes great responsibility) substituting ‘love’ for ‘power’ (e.g. ‘Don’t leave me with strangers’, ‘Use the needle’, etc.). If you truly love someone or something, you will accept the responsibility of making difficult decisions. I think Harlan has always been about accepting personal responsibility for your actions (see also ‘Croatoan’), and the fundamental importance of having personal ethics (‘I will go this far, and no farther’).

I may have more to say on this, after I talk to the beloved Catherine (if I can get her to actually read it); wife, mother, musician and Christian Scholar!

Great choice as the first to be discussed!

Luv to all,

jono

p.s. Also one of the reasons that ‘jono’ is in lower case!
Le plus ca change le plus ca le meme chose ...

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Postby Jan » Sun Jan 09, 2005 3:25 pm

That one was quite time-consuming to re-read. It’s difficult shifting from other sorts of literature to this and back. You have to force yourself to go slow, because you’re used to going faster; DEATHBIRD is not like other kinds of writing where you can pick up 60% and safely fill in the 40% by yourself that you didn’t register. Here you have to give your mind some time to digest. I did that, and I saw a wonderful movie. I was particularly impressed by the scope and how the language was adapted to that. You could have those parts of the bible, and for a moment there it seems like Ellison is inventing it, but no, it’s a citation. There’s not a big shift in tone there. Same goes for the Niezsche bit, which may be invented, but you’re not sure. If you think about it, it is definitely invented. The story is so big, we - everyday humans of the 21st century with ordinary lives - aren’t even a blip on the radar; the story doesn’t come down to us, we have to climb up to get it. Sure, there’s humanity, but it’s timeless. Everything we have here - the cars, the telephones - is unimportant in the greater scheme of things. Specially us. I was thoroughly impressed by the citations - there’s marvellous language in the bible translation used, and oh what splendid answers Zaratrustra gives. It’s stunning how Ellison integrates differents elements in a language tour de force, and makes it all hang together, despite the abruptness of it all, Harlan making the seams felt. There are those bits, too, where Ellison reassures us he hasn’t gone crazy, commenting on the story in original, funny ways, asking the reader exam questions and what not. Ellison is exerting force on the reader, moving you around, taking you places.
There’s a sentence like “he knew he had not erred, because he had loved”. Sounds so true, to me it means, let love be your guide. And it also means: Don’t always accept how you are judged by the world around you. After all, people are making their judgments based on principles that are less pure and quite more complicated than love. To a large degree, even in this day and age, we judge people by the standards supposedly established by god. On the other side we have the purity of love a dog gives, they’re the real gods, it’s their standards we should rather follow. I have seen four dogs go out of my life, always when I wasn’t there, and I always wished I’d have had a last moment with them like Harlan. Felt ike they’d have appreciated it. You cannot replace growing up with dogs. I think I have heard the same message from all of them that Harlan has heard, but I hadn’t stopped to think about it. They’re not the same as men, in important ways we can learn from.
This is also a big ecology story, as is easy to tell. To me that part didn’t work so well. I never felt it necessary to anthropomorphize the Earth, one can also get attached to things and take care of them. (Not that Ellison feels the need, it’s only a story.) That’s why I would answer the question what ecology is another word for with “enlightened self-interest”. I think that’s a teriffic response and wonder if Harlan made it up or took it from somewhere. I do know the feeling, that the planet lives, though, especially in the US you get it because of all the landscape. Plants also seem live, but that’s my mind doing tricks on me. Everything we grow attached to takes a shape all of its own in our heads.
I think I could say a lot more, but those are my major impressions.

Jono: There’s no semicolon in the other versions either; why would there be? It’s enumeration (if this is the correct word here). Remaining on the subject, the 13th verse from the bible has variations in typesetting. I don’t understand it either way, I just read on. There is also noticeably a coma absent at one place in the final sentence. All versions, surely intentional.

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Postby Micheal » Sun Jan 09, 2005 4:39 pm

I began this in the general route, wanting to simply point out Ellison's pontifications about religion and the opressions upon the nature of man by the forces of religion and soceital force, but the reading turning into far more than I'd thought there be. My life of late has taken on much more of the surface matter of this tale, and as a consequence the emotional undercurrents in The Deathbird seem to have a great pull upon my person.

Anaplastic Astrocytoma. I'm in remission now, thanks.

Within this 'wonderful' period of my life, I've experienced life more than at any time of my existence, at least from the perspective of having to really be emotionally pushed by circumstance. Not to belabour the point, but, in many ways it has made me much more aware of myself through the drama of mortality, something that Ellison hammers home in this story. A three-and-a-half ounce tumor; how easily it can become the fulcrum upon which life and death can be balanced.

Use the needle? It was honestly considered.

I was left to the slow panic that would at times envelop me as I realized how tired I was becoming, how hard it was to keep treading. Anger, pity, futility could easily take me, the seeming impotence of my effort only confirming my misery when I chose this route of acting out. I'll tell you, most of those in the water alongside me shared this, only coming to those small admissions rising from bouts of shared insomnia. Seeing my family, hearing their encouragement worn thin by the friction of perceived futility upon repetition, with me having no means to comfort them should even the worst occur.

Where was God? Where was the sense of purpose, justice, the professment of a plan that would at least explain how people suffer during times such as this? I wanted so many times to see the Supreme Being, if only to demand an answer.

I talked to the hospital chaplain, once. I told him of these feelings, how much I wanted simply to know why. At the utterance of a mumbled "Lord works in mysterious ways", or that classic "not for men to know", I started screaming at him. I told him how full of shit he was, how it was so easy to say such drivel when he wasn't hooked up to wires and IVs, how he or one of his loved ones weren't forced to look at their illness from the perspective of the toll being taken on their psyches reflected in the faces of their wardmates. I never saw or heard from him again. You might express disgust at my beration of a priest, but I was honest in my anger and bitterness, and I've always felt I had a right to it under the circumstances.

There's where the tale now strikes home. Beyond the polemic of religion, the silent acquiessence of humanity to death through some bogue assurance of an anachronistic faith, I find there to be a simple expression of anger and grief at the seeming futility of death and how it removes those things of love and hope and being from us. Ellison emotes as so many of us would be when confronted with death; a person simply trying to understand why those things of value are stolen from us and how the promises that are supposed to give us comfort in these times of such misery we get in trade are worthless. Then, when not given those answers, Harlan acts as all of us should, becoming as angry as possible in his assertions rather than accept the gutless pleasantries uttered to those who have lost or shall lose.

I can imagine Ellison's Olympia keys literally pounding, to paraphrase the writer, transferring the foot-pounds of his share of life's futility and its resulting fury into every key stroke. The exam questions extolled are as must for our gods to answer as us ourselves, to justify what they taken from him in his life, and challenge the reader to rethink how they perceive the role of religion and faith as comfort against true pain and suffering. The essay concerning the demise of his dog is the point of emphasis, the means to further bridge the gap from writer and audience, through an honest discussion of the inconsolable.

I'm rereading this from my "Essential Ellison", which also contains the essays "My Father", and "My Mother". I'm recalling Stash's moment with this mother upon her deathbed. I went back and read those, feeling they helped to further flesh out Ellison's tale for me. Where the essays tell of Harlan's love for those who endured him, I can't help but feel that The Deathbird speaks to the anger of their loss, the gross unfairness played out upon him.

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Postby P.A. Berman » Sun Jan 09, 2005 7:09 pm

I have a lot to say about this story, but first, an anecdote about how my association with M. Ellison began. I wanted to give a copy of the story to one of my students, but I wanted to be able to explicate as much of the story as I could if he asked me. I could not find the words "shiverasse" and "rova" anywhere, so I posted to the old black & yellow board to find out.

The man HimsElf responded, called me sedulous, and told me that shiverasse and rova were made-up words. Hope that helped.

I will re-read the story for the thousandth time tonight and have more to say, though I was hoping we could discuss the possibility of a gnostic theme, specifically the idea that God is an insane monster and this is a fallen world. This is an idea that came to me in the craptastic year of 2004, and I later found out that it wasn't an original line of thought at all-- the Gnostics and apparently Harlan had covered it already.

More later...

PAB
I don't know. I don't care. And it doesn't matter anyway. ~Jack Kerouac

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Postby P.A. Berman » Sun Jan 09, 2005 9:09 pm

Other note: "The Deathbird" is the story that got me hooked on Ellison in the first place because HE understood that certain kind of love a person can have for a true companion. I never fail to be moved by this story.
I used to read "Ahbhu" to my seniors during the short story unit, and I could barely get through it without crying, and I'm sure now it'll be even harder, based on recent experiences. Just fair warning...

I am planning to get a dog when I move into my new house, and I think I want to name him Ahbhu, in memoriam.

Anyone want to bite on the Gnostic thing?

PAB
I don't know. I don't care. And it doesn't matter anyway. ~Jack Kerouac

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Postby Barney Dannelke » Sun Jan 09, 2005 10:39 pm

I certainly agree with the idea that if there is a GOD he may be vindictive or insane. I'd say there is a fair amount of evidence. I'm not sure Harlan comes to this idea by way of the gnostics. If I had to hazard a guess I'd say he came to the expression of the idea via Twain. Particularly the book LETTERS FROM THE EARTH or perhaps a few of the essays in A PEN WARMED UP IN HELL, both of which came out only a few years before Harlan wrote THE DEATHBIRD.

But I don't have to guess or speculate since he'll see this and settle it if he likes.

It does make me want ask one question which I don't think I've ever seen Harlan answer. Has he ever read the Bible? Harlan knows I don't ask that with the sort of pre-judgement that some might. I'm just curious. P.K.Dick read the bible and I always thought it helped make him the type of disfunctional person he ended up as. Twain knew it forward and backwards so that he could use it to argue with his friends William Dean Howells and Reverend Twichell. I'm sure Harlan has used it as a reference tool but that's all I know. Harlan is very widely read and has a tendency to brush up on opposition thinking when possible so he may have simply for shutting down bible thumpers.

For myself I've only read perhaps half. Maybe less and would have a very hard time locating anything or even differentiating some Old and New Testament. I used to be better at it but that was 20 years ago.

PAB - Is what you're talking about in the "Gnostic Gospels"? I may have a copy around here I could look up if it would help.

- Barney

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Postby lonegungirl » Mon Jan 10, 2005 3:27 am

P.A. Berman wrote:The man HimsElf responded, called me sedulous, and told me that shiverasse and rova were made-up words. Hope that helped.


Phlblettt. I just tried to look up shiverasse and rova. No wonder the internet held nothing on them.

Just re-read it. It was more reminiscent of IHNMAIMS than I remembered, with the journey across a desolate wasteland, to defeat an omnipotent crazed dictator and cause the end of the world. Interesting how a similar framework can have such a different impact/message.

While the main emphasis seems to be on the idea of the mad/malevolent God, and the PR-victimized Snake, I have to wonder about the race that judged him competent to have custody of the Earth. If they are so scrupulously honorable, and their judgement impeccable, then are they to be considered God? They certainly work in mysterious and unquestionable ways.

What would you also consider to be the "spark" that makes Stack different from all his fellow men? His capacity to love/take responsibility for those he loves? Or his ability to retain his identity in the onslaught of divine wrath?

Fascinating story, as always.

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Postby sjarrett » Mon Jan 10, 2005 11:01 am

My introduction to Gnostic thought, and still my favorite thumbnail sketch of its precepts, is to be found in chapter 6 of Philip Dick's Valis. Since my first reading of Valis some years ago, Gnosticism has become an important element in the ongoing process of sorting out how I feel about matters of spirit. And yes, I did draw an almost immediate parallel between the ideas Dick was playing with and "The Deathbird," with which I was already familiar.

Over time, my perspective on "The Deathbird" has evolved. I suppose I originally thought of it as little more than a very ingenious smartass retort to fundamentalist Christians. As I have returned to it over the years, however, I have found more than that, as one always does when returning to a significant work of art. First, I discovered Valis, and, through Valis, Gnosticism. Then I discovered the work of Joseph Campbell, and his emphasis on metaphor, by way of mythology. Campbell's central point, it seems to me, was that an understanding of the nature of metaphor is the key that unlocks all other spiritual understanding. It is vital that we understand in a deep way -- that we know in our bones -- that we are talking about transcendental matters and that the transcendental, by definition, cannot be captured in words. If it could, it would not be transcendental, because it would not transcend words. The best we can do, then, is to make use of metaphor which, while it can't capture the transcendental, can at least indicate it. We can't reach beyond the veil, but we can point to something beyond it, and that's what metaphor does. Therein lies the power of myth, says Campbell. All of which made a lot of sense to me, and still does. Campbell further cautioned that the metaphors of one historic era may not -- probably will not -- serve this important purpose for another era. He said that it was primarily up to the artists to fashion a new mythology, constructed out of new metaphors, to point to the same eternal transcendant truths.

Armed with these conceptual tools, I returned to "The Deathbird," and found there one of the new myths that Campbell had been calling for. Indeed, the conceptual underpinning of Deathbird Stories as a whole seemed founded on that conceit. (I recall wondering whether Ellison had been reading Campbell or whether he had come to a similar conclusion independently.) Moreover, I found a metaphoric meditation on the Gnostic ideas that had increasingly captured my imagination, but with an interesting twist. Woven into the Gnosticism was an undercurrent of what has come to be known as the "Gaia Hypothesis," the notion that the Earth can be thought of as a living entity. Clearly, there was a great deal more going on in this story than a simple raspberry aimed in the general direction of fundamentalist Christianity.

I should add, by the way, that I don't think that it is necessary for this story to have been specifically inspired by Gnostic thought. One can get to that metaphoric framework, it seems to me, by other routes, Mark Twain being one.

Coming back to it for this re-reading, the thing that jumped out at me was the name, Nathan Stack. I had always liked the name, but it was only on this reading that it occurred to me why: it makes a clever reference to the many incarnations of the character, one stacked on top of another. I couldn't help thinking of the line from Moby Dick, "I feel deadly faint, bowed, and humped, as though I were Adam, staggering beneath the piled centuries since Paradise." Piled centures, stacked centuries, the thought is the same.

Those are my intial thoughts on returning to this remarkable story. I look forward to seeing how the discussion progresses.

Steve J.

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Postby David Loftus » Mon Jan 10, 2005 11:58 am

I'm very pleased that this exercise (to read and discuss Ellison stories communally) was launched, and am impressed with the results so far.

I'm a little pressed for time this week, so I'm not sure I'll be able to get around to rereading the story, let alone commenting in depth, so for the moment, I'll offer the discussion I posted in my review of the entire collection of _Deathbird Stories_ on Webderland proper a number of years ago. Go here:

http://harlanellison.com/review/deathbird.htm

and scroll to the bottom.

If I do find time, maybe I'll even critique my own comments there as well as the story. My opinions and perceptions might have evolved further since then.

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Postby JohnG » Mon Jan 10, 2005 3:48 pm

This is a fun exercise; like several folks here for me it's a chance to revisit a story I hadn't read in years and look at it with maybe twenty years more life experience, and then see what other folks take from it, too. Already there are some great insights here.

I think I know where PAB is going with the Gnostic angle, but I try to look at the simpler solution first and the Twain dedication at the end of the story is for me a starting point. Back when I first read "The Deathbird", late 70s or thereabouts I remember hearing a quote attributed to Twain to the extent of if there is a God, given the state of the world then he is a malign thug. That seemed apropos of the story back when I first read it. I do think I've found a better quote on the subject, but that can wait for a moment. Even a cursory look at a Twain site the other night (http://www.twainquotes.com/God.html) reminded me that Twain wasn't be being nasty or merely dismissive; he's more likely disappointed in the ways things have turned out, that man falls so short of what is possible, that so much of the ability to be good and do good is thrown away, by choice as much as by nature. It'll be interesting to read HE's comments on this line of thought, as I am no Twain scholar.

When you see a summary of "The Deathbird" it'll often say it's the story of Genesis as told from the Serpent's point of view, and that's true enough. In rereading it, and the test questions, I have to ask myself, what is the Serpent's purpose, and why are certain verses omitted, specifically verse 5--here in the King James I have it reads "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
Nathan Stack is or was--and here's the art of it--the first man, born perfect, free of sin, the only man not born of woman but of the Earth itself. Whether the Stack of the story actually *is* Adam, or not, and it's likely he is, we all are descended from the original man and woman born of the Earth who invoked the wrath of God and started the chain of worldly human misery based on one original sin, which was disobeying the God of the old Testament. In many Christian interpretations Adam and Eve were perfect, free from misery etc., at least until they were booted, and we children are imperfect due to that original sin and born to a life of misery unless we love God more than ourselves.

Yet when Adam and Eve eat of the tree, why aren't they "like God", since they now know of good and evil? Is this the Spark the Snake speaks of? Lonegungirl mentions the spark is love, and taking responsibility for those he loves, which is a neat interpretation and supportable in the story, but can't you also read the story as the spark is that which allows Stack to destroy the Mad One? Is the spark the understanding that with the knowledge of good and evil, we know love but also misery, we know choice but also consequence, we know now that every beginning must have an ending rather than an eternity, in a way the perfect ones in the Garden could not? Maybe we *are* just like(not *as*, but *like*, and there's a difference) God, and he's prone to misery and bad choices, too, which we see when the curtain is pulled back.

I'm rambling like a freshman on his first caffeine jitters, so here's the other Twain quote I mentioned, which I feel speaks to the heart of the story:
"...The one that I want to keep out of the reach of is the caricature of him which one finds in the Bible. We (that one and I) could never respect each other, never get along together. I have met his superior a hundred times-- in fact I amount to that myself." (Got that from the Twain quote page mentioned above)

There's more here: the story makes special mention that the serpent's name isn't capitalized, but it's more than that. The serpent isn't given a name at all in the King James Genesis creation chapters, and in fact the Man, who was allowed to name every other beast in the world, isn't called Adam until he's getting the heave ho himself. The Serpent is named in "The Deathbird", and the naming is important: after God named him Adam only humans, conscious man, named things, and each and every human has their own name.

If the Serpent isn't named in Genesis, there must be a reason, and it's found in section 24 of the story: it's when Stack realizes he, a man, the first man, always was more powerful than that which he worshipped. It's a realization he was brought to by Snake, and it's only after that epiphany he asks Snake what was the name denied to him before, Dira, and Stack finally understands it. The name of the Lord was denied to the early Hebrews, mentioned only in certain restricted settings, and in the story God has no name either. But the Serpent does, finally; in telling his name he bonds with Stack in a way that the Mad One cannot, like those societies that believe if you know a person's true name you have power over them so keep the true name hidden. (It just occurred to me that this is still true; think of the use of screen names!)

And I have to ask, if "God" is dog spelled backwards, then Dira=Arid? Anything there? Steve J has got me thinking about the naming with his insight into "Stack". Naming is an act of choice, and of putting the world into some form of order, an act of intelligent thought.

I don't know how to explain the ending, "that he loved and done no wrong", other than to think that he had not been wrong in choosing Eve (by eating of the tree and becoming aware) over God; or no wrong in releasing his mother from the world of pain a hundred times over, and then one last time with mother earth, out of love for what they had been....? It's a great line as written, because if there was a comma in there it would have a very different interpretation, wouldn't it?

Back to the Gnostic question, in the story man is deceived and led into misery by a false(or perhaps merely incomplete) god, and this is very much in tune with the much of the Gnostic things I've seen--in fact, for those interested, this page: http://www.gnosis.org/gnintro.htm , supports PAB's posts and actually dovetails with a big part of TD.
Where it may fall away, however, is within the context of the story there's a level, possibly two or three, of less than perfectly godly beings at or above the level of the Mad One; Dira's people, the Judges (and this being HE I was reminded of Jiminy Crickets!), and then perhaps something that created all three, though it's not seen. They have the power of creation, apparently, and they don't interfere or demand worship, but they do create physical things, not a metaphysical or an illusory world, and to me it's not clear whether or not the chains of mortal existence wouldn't be just as heavy--pain, death, pollution, etc--if they were directly involved. To me, the god’s false promise was worship me and be relieved of the responsibilities of consciousness—the pain, the knowledge of loss, of death, of making choices.
In fact, it occurs to me that when Man worshipped God above all else he wasn't cognizant of pain or death until the Serpent enters the scene--Stack didn't even remember Lillith being taken from him until after he met Dira. Who or what brought the Deathbird, anyway? Is Dira merely sleeping at the end of the story or is he as dead as the planet? Do real gods die?

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Twain on God for John G.

Postby Barney Dannelke » Mon Jan 10, 2005 4:55 pm

I love the 2nd Twain quote you offered. You are primed and ready to read Twains DIARY OF ADAM and DIARY OF EVE. They're in print as a single volume but were written years apart.

You should know that Twain did most of his theolgical writing - with the exception of his attack on Christian Science and Mary Baker Eddy [sp?] - after he had outlived both parents, his older and younger brother and his own son Samuel. Even then, it's somewhat reserved. But after losing his wife Livy and two of his three daughters it gets personal and really, who the hell can blame him. The last 10 years are like a horror show.

What is amazing to me is how much writing he got done and how he sometimes dove in and wrote immediately after these body blows. It's like the Fitzgerald line "the cost was high." In Twain's case almost unimaginably so - and yet I think that stuff is going to hang in there for at least another 100 years.

- Barney

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Postby Jan » Mon Jan 10, 2005 6:47 pm

jono: I don't see why your name is uncapitalized because of the story. Isn't the story saying the opposite, that you can capitalize it?

Barney: The bible is an interesting book to study, so you can bet Ellison has read parts of it. I once started Asimov's Guide to the Bible, and I imagine Harlan has that. In it you can find out about how the Bible is composed of different elements, and you can read that there weren't any apples in Eden.

JohnG: You made me wonder if one of my impressions was wrong. The Man born of the Earth concept fits so well with the Mother Earth concept which I chalked up to the ecological subtext. What I imagined, however, was that the Adam and Eve story was made up mostly by the Mad One, and that in reality by the time he came to Earth there were already many people, not just two. The question whether the author uses the expulsion from Paradise as a historical fact, or merely as an analogy, remains open for me now. I kind of thought, it stands for something else, the particulars of which are just not important. He's Adam, but Adam never had the exact things happening to him that are described in the Bible. If so, if the story of A&E is recognized as fictitious by the narrator, evolution must have taken place and man is not born of the Earth, and Earth only the mother of Adam in the sense of providing the chemical sustances that led to life.

The other thing that remains open is the significance of the Deathbird. It's the title, and I don't know why. It's not a character, it's something else.

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Postby Eric Martin » Mon Jan 10, 2005 7:34 pm

I read The Deathbird a century ago, in a paperback that I shamefully lost almost a century ago. Looking around the Internet, it seems to be singularly unavailable...The Essential Ellison is off-market until April (according to Amazon), and Fictionwise doesn't have it for download. Webderland offers the 35-year Retro, but if I was going to buy a best-of collection (and I usually don't, I prefer original collections), I'd rather have the 50-year one.

So if anyone has a line on where one can get the story, other than through used books or the library (our public library has little Ellison), let me know here! The Deathbird...that's the collection with the gargoyles raping and killing city dwellers, isn't it?

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Postby Jan » Mon Jan 10, 2005 8:40 pm

I think I can answer my own question re the Deathbird, now that I've given it some thought. It strikes me how th bird seems to symbolize peace. Yet its name is death. It is therefore the death that releases. Death is neither to be desired, nor feared. If you are truly loved and respected, peace is there for you when at last - owing to some unfortunate turn of fate - you need it. As it was in the case of Ahbhu, the mother, and the Earth. Since the Deathbird is in the title, I submit that this story is most basically about euthanasia. I think we all had that same thought while we were reading, but dismissed it, because there is more.


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