House of Chains + Lost: doing same things

I keep finding common aspects between Lost and Malazan. These are two examples that surfaced recently.

I was reading an article by Jeff Jensen recapping the last episode of Lost when I came to this part:

Rest In Peace, Charles Widmore. The quick-tempered billionaire enemy of DesPen love — a pharmaceutical magnate with a penchant for prog-rock-inspired construction projects — joins a long list of Lost characters who get offed from the show with pitiless dispatch and leave behind a mess of unresolved questions. This season alone: Dogen, Lennon, Ilana. Before them: Faraday, Charlotte, Patchy. This is too much of a trend to not wonder if there’s a point being made here. Death comes suddenly. We all leave the world unresolved to various degrees. It’s all deep and meaningful… and yet even I felt a touch unsatisfied.

I read that and I was absolutely sure I had read it before somewhere else. I couldn’t remember where but the idea was exactly the same. So I started searching. At the beginning I thought it must have been something I read in House of Chains, so I started looking in the book but the more I searched and turn the pages the more the possibility seemed unlikely. There were similar ideas, but not exposed as clearly as I remembered. So I went looking for another article by Jeff Jensen I had read in February, I reread it again but found no trace of what I was looking for. Then I thought it must have been something in Infinite Jest, or an article about Foster Wallace. Nothing, yet I was absolutely sure I had read something before.

In the end the quest was successful and my first guess was indeed correct. It’s a quote from House of Chains:

The only journey that lay ahead of him was a short one, and he must walk it alone.
He was blind, but in this no more blind than anyone else. Death’s precipice, whether first
glimpsed from afar or discovered with the next step, was ever a surprise. A promise of
the sudden cessation of questions, yet there were no answers waiting beyond
. Cessation
would have to be enough. And so it must be for every mortal. Even as we hunger for
resolution. Or, even more delusional: redemption.

Now, after all this time, he was able to realize that every path eventually, inevitably
dwindled into a single line of footsteps
. There, leading to the very edge. Then… gone.
And so, he faced only what every mortal faced. The solitude of death, and oblivion’s final
gift that was indifference

As you can see, these two quotes are mirrors of each other. In Malazan the theme is explored fully and directly, but even Lost can be considered rather deliberate about it. The theme in common does exist.

The second examples comes instead from a recent (and long) interview with Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof, but I can’t quote it because it’s a video.

@ 6:20 they show a clip from the second season where Locke tries to convince Jack to “press the button”, the theme is the one of “faith”. In the follow-up video @ 1:50 Lindelof explains how what happened in that scene is then mirrored in this last season of the show, in the scene in which they are on the submarine and it’s this time Jack who tries to convince Sawyer not to pull the wires on the bomb, saying “nothing is going to happen”, taking Locke’s role, while Sawyer is this time the pragmatic one (and ends up not listening Jack and pulling the wires). The line being said is the same and after a silly joke they talk about how they play in the show with this sort of “echo” of scenes, dialogues and themes. That scene in the sub closes an ideal loop, and this kind of mechanic is at the foundation of how the show has been built.

All these ideas have been explained in the exact same way by Erikson. Take for example one of his recent blogs that I have quoted before:

In a general sense, I write elliptically. By that I mean I open sections with some detail I want to resonate throughout the entire section, and through the course of writing that section you can imagine me tapping that bell again and again. Until with the final few lines, I ring it one last time – sometimes hard, sometimes soft, depending on the effect I want, or feel is warranted.

While the narrative infers something linear, as in the advancement of time and a sequence of events, in fact the narrative loops back on itself again and again. And each time it returns, the timbre of that resonance has changed, sometimes subtly, sometimes fundamentally.

We can look further back (2003) and we’ll discover that this has been Erikson’s style from the very beginning. This is one old interview from Larry’s blog, probably one of the best ever:

Across the ten book series, within each novel, within each section, each chapter, each scene. I write in loops, starting with the small ones, which together make up bigger ones, and closing each loop is a matter of echoing whatever opened the scene/chapter/section etc. That’s my actual writing. I plan in the opposite direction. Insane, ain’t it?

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