TPAOL Question #30 - The Last Paragraph

by James Meek

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Charlene
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Unread postby Charlene » Sat Mar 03, 2007 11:01 am

Thank you Theresa & Rainbow Soul re the onion quote...but it's not the one I'm thinking of...I'm beginning to think it was Hunter quoting Sanburg but morphing it into one is his Hunterisms. It took me so long to get through Proud Highway (cause I kept reading other books while reading it), that it is probably in there somewhere.

Thanks DITHOT for the links.

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Mar 03, 2007 12:05 pm

Mutz does persuade the Reds commander to send the telegram with their offer to deliver Matula instead of killing him and Nekovar and he also persuades some others in the Czech Legion to go along with his plan to kill Matula. He doesn't start out as a very strong or persuasive person but he does have a few moments there at the end of the story.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Depputante » Sat Mar 03, 2007 7:18 pm

Bix wrote:Here it is (with apologies for typos):

They passed Develchen, the albino, moving north, away from the tracks, leading Omar through fetlock-deep snow. The shaman's body was lashed to the horse. Of all Mutz's persuasions, getting the Reds to part with the stallion for the albino had been the hardest. The horse wouldn't survive long. It didn't matter. Mutz was unsure exactly what the albino intended, but the shaman's burial would consist of the shaman being suspended from a tall larch in a cocoon of birch bark, and being left to swing. Was it that Omar, too, would be wrapped in bark and hung alongside the shaman? And that this would be the shaman's mount, the steed he'd craved, on which he would fly to the Upper World, outpacing reindeer and his own drunkenness? With his talismans singing in the astral wind, his three eyes aglow like forges, a drum in one hand, a bottle of moonshine in the other and the smoky froth of chewed mushroom on his gums, the spirit of Balashov's horse would carry the shaman where he wanted to go, by his will and against theirs, to laugh in the face of the gods.


Since I have some more time today, I'm going to take another attempt at this :hypnotic: paragraph. I'll take a more academic analytical approach.

Summarizing the paragraph:
This paragraph starts and ends talking about the Shaman's trip to the afterworld. So this must essentially be what it's about.

We also see Mutz fully cooperating with the albino, and doing what it takes for another person to be happy, even thought he has a different religion.
We see that Mutz, still not quite understanding, but asking questions about the shaman's final journey.

We 'see' the shaman in peace and in a place higher off the ground.

Questions I have about this paragraph:
1) Why end with Mutz and the Shaman?
2) Could the chapter mean acceptance of others' religions?
3) Do other paragraphs at the end just concentrate on one or two charachters, for specific meanings (like ambition/world) also?
4) Fetlock deep snow at the dying horse's ankles. Is that supposed to mean something?

I still don't like how the chapter bounces from:
1) the albino and Mutz cooperating , to
2) Mutz's questions , to
3) The shaman on the horse, to
4) shaman's trinkets, to
4) shaman in a higher world.
All in ONE paragraph! (feels like it ought to have been a chapter.)

Still confused. :-? It feels as though the author rushed and squeezed in the end because he only had one paragraph of space left. (Something any olde Joe might try.)
Perhaps we need to look beyond just that chapter and compare it to the paragraph before it?
I would have prefered the book to have ended, somewhere around when Sam (the primary charachter) finally took off down the tracks. Slowly fading out, and leaving enough silence for contemplation. But here we are left with silence for contemplating the subject. The secondary charachter's (shaman's) death.
“The scariest enemy is from within. Allowing yourself to be limited and conform to what you're expected to conform to.”~JD

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Unread postby suec » Sun Mar 04, 2007 9:05 am

It is a tremendously positive and uplifting paragraph, dealing with one man’s act of kindness for another, honouring and respecting his wishes. If we can create Paradise on earth, surely this is the way, rather than through conflict, destruction, or setting ourselves apart. It reminds me very much indeed of these last paragraphs, both of them stunning. When I have forgotten everything else about the books, I will remember these:

The Rum Diary
Voices rose and fell in the house next door and the raucous sound of a jukebox came from a bar down the street. Sounds of a San Juan night, drifting across the city through layers of humid air; sounds of life and movement, people getting ready and people giving up, the sound of hope and the sound of hanging on, and behind them all, the quiet, deadly ticking of a thousand hungry clocks, the lonely sound of time passing in the long Caribbean night.

Shantaram
For this is what we do. Put one foot forward and then the other. Lift our eyes to the snarl and smile of the word once more. Think. Act. Feel. Add our little consequence to the tides of good and evil that flood and drain the world. Drag our shadowed crosses into the hope of another night. Push our brave hearts into the promise of a new day. With love: the passionate search for a truth other than our own. With longing: the pure ineffable yearning to be saved. For as long as fate keeps waiting, we live on. God help us. God forgive us. We live on.


This is what Mutz is doing: thinking, acting, feeling; adding his little consequence to the tides. This is the man who didn’t act against the war crime, who carried out Matula’s order with regard to the shaman – to his shame. This is where he makes amends for that. He has learnt and grown. It is wonderful. This is the man who isn’t religious, who doesn’t understand his own religion, let alone somebody else’s. We are told this earlier in the novel; that Mutz had tried to read the Bible, Old and New Testaments, and had struggled with them. Now he doesn’t need to understand: not with his head, anyway. He lists the trappings of the shaman, and accepts with his heart, the rites of that religion for him.


The pure ineffable longing to be saved: this is probably what lies at the heart of Mutz’s act. Atonement and redemption.
The references to fate and the Gods: the characters are caught up in something much bigger than themselves: war and revolution. But there is still free will and the potential, and the responsibility, to do the right thing.

All three closing paragraphs move from the individual to the universal and the reflective. Just as there are the ticking clocks in TRD, here we have the blanket of snow, and the shaman’s final journey, with those references to the rites of passage for him. Death is not far away in this book. But neither is what lies beyond and these are things that we all have to face. I really like that Meek ends with that, and I think he uses the shaman as a metaphor for it, with his human frailty and all. I also like that the Reds gave the horse. It is a bit hard to believe, arguably, but is a lovely contrast with how the shaman was treated while alive in the camp. perhaps it stands for the fact that people don't really change themselves, or not for very long, as it must be contrary to what the Reds should be doing with the horse.
"Luck... inspiration... both only really happen to you when you empty your heart of ambition, purpose, and plan; when you give yourself, completely, to the golden, fate-filled moment."

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Unread postby Depputante » Sun Mar 04, 2007 3:16 pm

Right on , suec! Finally makes sense when you compare it to other endings, and really get the big picture. (Wish the writing flowed as good as Rum Diary or Shantaram.)

suec wrote:It is a tremendously positive and uplifting paragraph, dealing with one man’s act of kindness for another, honouring and respecting his wishes. If we can create Paradise on earth, surely this is the way, rather than through conflict, destruction, or setting ourselves apart. It reminds me very much indeed of these last paragraphs, both of them stunning. When I have forgotten everything else about the books, I will remember these:

The Rum Diary
Voices rose and fell in the house next door and the raucous sound of a jukebox came from a bar down the street. Sounds of a San Juan night, drifting across the city through layers of humid air; sounds of life and movement, people getting ready and people giving up, the sound of hope and the sound of hanging on, and behind them all, the quiet, deadly ticking of a thousand hungry clocks, the lonely sound of time passing in the long Caribbean night.

Shantaram
For this is what we do. Put one foot forward and then the other. Lift our eyes to the snarl and smile of the word once more. Think. Act. Feel. Add our little consequence to the tides of good and evil that flood and drain the world. Drag our shadowed crosses into the hope of another night. Push our brave hearts into the promise of a new day. With love: the passionate search for a truth other than our own. With longing: the pure ineffable yearning to be saved. For as long as fate keeps waiting, we live on. God help us. God forgive us. We live on.


This is what Mutz is doing: thinking, acting, feeling; adding his little consequence to the tides. This is the man who didn’t act against the war crime, who carried out Matula’s order with regard to the shaman – to his shame. This is where he makes amends for that. He has learnt and grown. It is wonderful. This is the man who isn’t religious, who doesn’t understand his own religion, let alone somebody else’s. We are told this earlier in the novel; that Mutz had tried to read the Bible, Old and New Testaments, and had struggled with them. Now he doesn’t need to understand: not with his head, anyway. He lists the trappings of the shaman, and accepts with his heart, the rites of that religion for him.


The pure ineffable longing to be saved: this is probably what lies at the heart of Mutz’s act. Atonement and redemption.
The references to fate and the Gods: the characters are caught up in something much bigger than themselves: war and revolution. But there is still free will and the potential, and the responsibility, to do the right thing.

All three closing paragraphs move from the individual to the universal and the reflective. Just as there are the ticking clocks in TRD, here we have the blanket of snow, and the shaman’s final journey, with those references to the rites of passage for him. Death is not far away in this book. But neither is what lies beyond and these are things that we all have to face. I really like that Meek ends with that, and I think he uses the shaman as a metaphor for it, with his human frailty and all. I also like that the Reds gave the horse. It is a bit hard to believe, arguably, but is a lovely contrast with how the shaman was treated while alive in the camp. perhaps it stands for the fact that people don't really change themselves, or not for very long, as it must be contrary to what the Reds should be doing with the horse.
“The scariest enemy is from within. Allowing yourself to be limited and conform to what you're expected to conform to.”~JD

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Unread postby nebraska » Sun Mar 04, 2007 7:43 pm

I think the ending is about peace, about the things that truly matter in the end. All the powerstruggles and conflict through out the story, in the end none of that really matters. "The only thing that matters is the ending, it's the most important part of the story." When we come to the end of life, the peaceful final resting place, the love of a friend, the fulfillment of our personal beliefs, that is what will matter, not politics or goverment or lust or betrayal.....but the peace of going to the other side as we each believe it to be. Somehow the horse being given up to be part of this final journey added importance and validity to that meaning. (And maybe the horse really was dying and was of no real consequence to the Reds anyway).

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Mar 04, 2007 10:08 pm

suec wrote: It is a tremendously positive and uplifting paragraph, dealing with one man’s act of kindness for another, honouring and respecting his wishes. If we can create Paradise on earth, surely this is the way, rather than through conflict, destruction, or setting ourselves apart.


nebraska wrote: I think the ending is about peace, about the things that truly matter in the end. All the powerstruggles and conflict through out the story, in the end none of that really matters. "The only thing that matters is the ending, it's the most important part of the story." When we come to the end of life, the peaceful final resting place, the love of a friend, the fulfillment of our personal beliefs, that is what will matter, not politics or goverment or lust or betrayal.....but the peace of going to the other side as we each believe it to be. Somehow the horse being given up to be part of this final journey added importance and validity to that meaning. (And maybe the horse really was dying and was of no real consequence to the Reds anyway).


I'm also reminded of Mutz's decision that if he survived his probable execution he would try to put the relationship of Anna and Balashov back together again. He seems to be the tailor here at the end, trying to sew up the loose pieces and put things right where he can, creating peace. You all have come up with some good comparisons with other books. :cool:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Liz
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Mar 04, 2007 11:13 pm

DITHOT, I like the way you put that.

Suec, I love those two ending paragraphs from Shantaram and TRD.

Nebraska, I have to say that the ending did give me a feeling of peace.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby Linda Lee » Mon Mar 05, 2007 1:06 am

Nebraska, well said. You've completed the picture for me.
Serenity is not freedom from the storm but peace within the storm. ~ Unknown


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