The Song of Jeremiah Gannon: Final Canto

Start with the first canto, here.
Then the second canto
and the third.

12.

The angel comes bloodied through the final door into the room where Jeremiah Gannon waits.

“Thou filthy angel,” Gannon says.

He peers at Link.

He hesitates. Then he scrubs at the stubble on his chin and laughs.

“You’re that man,” he says. “I hung you.”

“The Tree,” says Link, “must from time to time be watered with the blood of patriots.”

Gannon sniggles.

Then he twitches. He hunches his shoulders. He curls in on himself.

He leans in to his sandwich. He whispers to the numinous manifestation of the Lord. He says, “This is not a person. This is not a worthy. This is a creature that we should disdain.”

Link staggers under the weight of it.

“It’s his fault,” whispers Gannon. “If it weren’t for him, everything would be all right.”

And the face of Jesus in the sandwich has known nothing but the voice of Jeremiah Gannon for so many years; and it does not know any better.

To the face of Jesus in the sandwich, it seems that Jeremiah Gannon’s in the right.

From the west the torments of Hell slip into the room. Their tendrils lash out to capture the angel’s heart.

Link pours out the last of his warm Coke.

He seizes Hell in the Coke bottle. He scoops it up. He seals the lid.

Now he’s got Hell!

From the east the sea of silver comes slipping into the room.

Link pours all the torments of Hell out of his bottle. He scoops up the sea of silver in his bottle. He seals the lid.

Now he’s got unexamined ignorance!

The torments of Hell reach out for him again.

The angel looks from side to side with an expression of comic horror.

Then he leaps back and draws the hook shot and he fires it at the sandwich with the image of Jesus on its bread.

13.

“If only,” murmurs Jeremiah Gannon.

The weapon that brought the walls of Jericho tumbling down fails before Gannon’s power.

“If only you hadn’t shown me that final trump in the duel with Zatoichi,” Gannon says. “Then perhaps you might have won.”

“Oh,” Link says.

“Or if you’d had a second bottle,” Jeremiah Gannon admits.

Then he shrugs.

He turns away.

He doesn’t really care about the angel any more.

And Link pours the sea out from the bottle and reaches for the torments of Hell, but time is not his friend.

The sea of the unexamined ignorance, now freed, sweeps over Link the angel.

It pulls him into its grasp.

He fades away.

And the angel is in nothingness. He is in emptiness. He is in silence and in a place where there is nothing he may do and nothing he may say to change the opinion of Jesus or of Jeremiah Gannon regarding the angel’s worth.

He forgets his body.

He forgets his name.

He forgets that power in him that made bombs; and the iron shoes they hung him with; and the hook shot and the bottle and the hearts.

There is only the final questing impulse that watched a poodle drown and said, “I wonder why.”

It moves in him.

Curiosity, perhaps. Doubt. A sense in the unexamined things that there is something worth examining.

His hand plunges from nothingness and gleaming silver and his sword cuts the sandwich in two and sizzling the cheese sprays out and dripping green the mold and Jeremiah Gannon shrieks; and silver binds round half the sandwich and Hell around the other, and they gulp the halves of Jesus down.

Then he is gone.

And some suggest that by doing this Link saved the world. That there is a place of virtue and of quality that Gannon does not know, with people human in their hearts. That there are still the Gorons in their Oregon and the Kokiris in Kokomo Woods, and somewhere in some Heaven there is Link.

But this we do not know.

We know only of the fate of Jeremiah Gannon in his emptiness; for, turning from the writhing limbs of Hell he plunged into the sea.

And if he moves in a place of cities he does not see the cities. And if he moves in a place of the wild he does not see the wild. And there is no sandwich with him nor no hope.

There is only the silver that clings to his eyes, to his ears, and slips into his nose; and in that shining silver sea of blindness he lives on.

10 thoughts on “The Song of Jeremiah Gannon: Final Canto

  1. See, I’d feel self-conscious putting what might be the first post up here, especially since my comments usually range towards the “oh man, this was excellent!” sort of praise, but in this case I’ll risk it.

    Oh man, this was excellent!

  2. That was cool.

    The potential for allegorical or proverbial interpretation is dizzying though. So I’m going to stick with “That was cool.”

  3. Allegorical or proverbial interpretation is a bit less for this final canto, I think; most of the action happened earlier. But:

    1. The shortened Thomas Jefferson remark about the tree being watered with the blood of patriots firmly identifies Link as American; if he’s a terrorist, he’s a patriotic American one. In a reflection of the essentially nonviolent quality of Hitherby solutions — something I appreciate — note that the original quote is “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots *and tyrants*” (my emphasis).

    2. That Coke bottle. It’s odd, in a sequence directed at American ignorance, that a symbol of advertising like Coke would have this role. Coke bottles, though, have become “antiques”; for instance, there’s a sequence in Alan Moore’s _Watchmen_ in which a reactionary vigilante muses about the non-production of old-style coke bottles as a symbol of the decline and decadence of America. Perhaps it could work as something about how even the parts of America that people “want to get back to” are just prior eras like our own, sentimentalized through the passage of time, or perhaps as an explicit _Watchmen_ reference.

    3. I like my prior interpretation of Link as the guilt figure of contemporary U.S. liberalism. At the end, there’s not really a direct conflict between him and Gannon. He’s fighting the torments of Hell (i.e. the threat of the Christian Hell as mobilized by conservative religion) and the tide of the unexamined ignorance (which is how liberals often imagine the religious right and their nativist, anti-gay, anti-evolution, anti-environment etc. prejudices). He succeeds, at least partially, by destroying a false conception of Jesus, which removes Gannon’s power over others; Gannon is left to harm only himself with his inability to see any of the riches of the world and of other people. In short, he’s a representation of what liberals feel they should be doing, if only they would, or could. They are always accused in contemporary America of being terrorist-lovers; this is a kind of extended musing on what kind of terrorist might really be the embodiment of liberal belief.

    In keeping with that, Link’s essential quality, the one that remains when all else goes away, is:

    “Curiosity, perhaps. Doubt. A sense in the unexamined things that there is something worth examining.”

    One reason that Link is a sort of guilt-figure, and not merely a wish-fulfillment, is that there is always some doubt about whether these qualities really can prevail. In keeping with internalized conservative propaganda, they can seem rather … bloodless. There is always the temptation to give up on doubt and fight more strenuously, but the liberal generally associates that with the same rejection of the other as worthless nonhumanity that they are fighting against. So they dither. Again as before, there’s a reason, I think, why this series appeared around MLK day. A lot of _Letter From Birmingham Jail_ was about these themes.

  4. This was great. I’m not usually so fond of the heavily allegorical stuff, but this had Link. And a hookshot. Hookshots make everything better.

  5. The coke bottle may also be a “The Gods Must Be Crazy” reference, in which a single bottle causes such great trouble that one man quests to throw it off the edge of the world…

    Good movie.

  6. I wish I had played more Zelda, because I’m unclear what is allegory to real life and what is a direct allusion to the games.

    Now, what confuses and intrigues me most is the “hanging” reference. Is Link an angel in the ’spirit of the departed’ sense? One of his first actions is to save a man hung on a tree. Is this him, in a literal or metaphorical sense?

    It makes me think of trees– Odin’s sacrifice of himself for himself, to gain knowledge.

    It makes me think of trees–The Hanged Man of the gallows symbolizing suspension in a moment an inaction. Here, Gannon binds his opponents (Link) with chains of ignorance hangs them from a tree, ultimately leading to Link’s redemption through enlightenment.

    It makes me think of trees– Christ hanged from the cross and of Jefferson’s tree, through which the world and community are redeemed, respectively.

    Together these form three thematic pillars of the Canto — a Triforce, if you will.

    We suffer, and are thereby reborn, but suffering does not redeem– curiosity does. Suffering serves a purpose in freeing us from our state of suspension in ignorance, and prompting growth through inquisitiveness. In so rescuing ourselves, we in turn redeem the world.

    Meh. Probably not.

    I’m not clear if analysis like RPuchalsky’s and my own here can in any way reflect the actual intent process used in creating this. I’m not sure it’s possible to create work of this character while controlling the meaning that consciously. There are elements of it there, yes, and we can see Link as Odin/Christ/Jefferson or the noble-terrorist incarnation of liberal guilt– but I’m a little more skeptical that that’s what Rebecca had in mind when sitting down and creating this. I worry about over-interpreting the more allegorical Hitherby.

  7. Well, the point isn’t to reflect the actual intent, it’s to create an interpretation. Most people have given up on fidelity to authorial intent as being the most important part of interpretation — it’s difficult to know what authorial intention is (sometimes even for the author), and it’s not clear why what the author thought they were writing necessarily makes a better interpretation of the text for someone else. That’s not to say that fidelity to the *text* isn’t important — an interpretation that misrepresents the text is, at least, sloppy, though I often end up writing that way here because of time constraints.

    In any case, you can’t damage the original by writing about it. We write Audience comments that are really pretty similar, I think; they couldn’t exist without the Hitherby model, they are primarily creative rather than deductive, they embody particular ways of looking at the source texts. In some ways, writing an interpretation of Link as avatar of liberal guilt isn’t that different from writing an Audience fic that does the same thing.

    And sometimes an interpretation comes up with something you can use, even if you don’t want to use all of it. I had seen the Jesus, Odin, and Jefferson references without putting the three trees together into the Triforce as you did. If I were rewriting an interpretation from scratch, I’d certainly use that, whether Rebecca posted to say that she had no such idea in mind or not. (Of course, on the principle that the more you know about a text the better, it would still be interesting to me to find out whether Rebecca did have it in mind. It just wouldn’t override its potential interpretive value.)

  8. In some ways, writing an interpretation of Link as avatar of liberal guilt isn’t that different from writing an Audience fic that does the same thing.

    This is an interesting observation, and one I hadn’t picked up on.

    Well, the point isn’t to reflect the actual intent, it’s to create an interpretation. Most people have given up on fidelity to authorial intent as being the most important part of interpretation

    This is true, but a certain point I fear it just becomes a Rorschach test, rather than a real reflection of the text. Sometimes I’m interested in structure and subjective, interpretive meaning– what it looks like to me; however, in this particular forum, I’m often interested in intent. I’m as interested in the thought process behind the stories, in what Rebecca is trying to express, as I am in the shape of the text itself.

  9. It’s possible for an author to write an appendix to each work, specifying exactly what they meant. But authors very rarely do so. A Rorschach test doesn’t seem the best comparison, because a text has more definitive characteristics than a Rorschach blot, but one apt part of the comparison is that a Rorschach blot is productive. You hold one up and someone tells you what they see. The interactivity of Hitherby is part of the form as we experience it; I think that it would have a very different feel as a printed, static collection of short-short stories.

    I’ve heard quite a lot of (mostly amateur) poetry read. Some people like to give a sort of introduction to each one, explaining what sparked it or what it’s about. I can see why they do it — it’s difficult to track a poem that’s being spoken that wasn’t designed to be “spoken word”; you can’t go back or linger as you can when reading. Still, I thought for a long time that this was sort of a cop out, that a poem should explain itself or not at all, and that if someone wanted to find an “incorrect” explanation, you should let them. I’m not as much into that now — now I tend to think that anything an author says about a work becomes a sort of unofficial addition to it, and it’s problematic with poetry only because most lyric poetry is written in a style that really does encourage a wider range of possible meaning.

  10. The interactivity of Hitherby is part of the form as we experience it; I think that it would have a very different feel as a printed, static collection of short-short stories.

    Oh, very much so– in addition to the interactivity, it represents an argument, a thesis (or at least meditations upon a theme) unfurling itself over a long span of experiential time. I think that’s one of the reasons intent is as interesting to me as content. To slightly oversimplify: in art we can concern ourself with what is said; in communication with what is trying to be said. This medium feels like both.

    now I tend to think that anything an author says about a work becomes a sort of unofficial addition to it,

    I think I can agree with that, though revision, expansion and clarification can, at best, enjoy a sort of deuterocanonical status. There are times when something appears to be expressed that an author did not wish, yet the work has escaped the author’s power to control. To wit: Greedo shot first!

    and it’s problematic with poetry only because most lyric poetry is written in a style that really does encourage a wider range of possible meaning.

    Apropos of nothing, this reminds me of T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland which is usually presented with the authorial annotations and practically begs the widest possible range of interpretations.

Leave a Reply