June 22nd, 2012

petroglyph turtle

The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World - Explain this to me?

This is the full text of a story that has won a Hugo award: 


It's not long (only nine pages) and it's poetic, violent and intriguing.

I don't get it.

I read it with my beloved Californian.  She and I both have English Literature degrees.  If there were secret literary techniques to be deciphered, I think we'd have figured it out.  I showed it to an older friend of mine who lived through the 60's.  If there were cultural references my Californian and I aren't getting, she'd have known them - but she didn't find any.  I've googled the crap out of it.  (Tons of people saying how mindblowingly awesome it is, how it's unexplainable, how one cannot talk about the story it just must be read.)  I've searched for it (unsuccessfully) among literary journals on jstore (which is just in general a massive piss off - as far as incomprehensible-but-pretty texts go, I'll take this over James Joyce any day).

I do not understand this story.  I see many things that it is doing.  I have googled and found all manner of commentary on how awesome it is.  But no one has explained it.  I am very, very tempted to start thinking the emperor has no clothes - but this story was written by Harlan Ellison.  He is a god.  The emperor has clothes.  I'm just not getting it.

And I normally *get* Ellison.  He's a genius.  He's mean.  He's harsh and brutal.  Reading him is often like being bathed in acid or walking on broken glass.  He pierces and resonates.  I respect him immensely.  I admire him as one of my writing gods. 

But I do not get this story. 

I get that it's a meditation on the nature of evil (or perhaps madness - he's implying that they are perhaps identical, and maybe love too).  I get that it has an experimental circular story structure like the spokes of a wheel (or perhaps recursion - and this may be the successful recursive story that I've been attempting to find so I can figure out how its done) and I am finding all manner of references:  Pandora, Prometheus, Satan, etc.  But I'm not getting the actual *point* of the story.

I know that I'm asking the forbidden here - to have someone explain art.  I get that its probably too ineffable to write out in plain language - ok fine but guide me through it then.  I do *not* get it.  I want to get it.  I want that dawning aaahhhhhh moment where everything clicks. 

WTF is this story saying?  What's the point?  What does it mean?  I'm open to suggestions and would love to hear anything anyone has to say about it.