Thursday, April 13, 2006

Hamlet's Mill and Blood Meridian

The following I am posting here especially for my sister and mister anchovy to read. It's an excerpt from a discussion at one of my online book clubs. It's just easier to post this here than make you two search around the site for McCarthy. Besides maybe some other poor bastard out there is obsessed, like me,with one of these books and might find this here ha ha.

I am a fan of both Blood Meridian and Hamlet's Mill, so much so they are both on my World Peace Reading List, heh heh, only a real jerk dreamer would make a world peace reading list. Anyways, guys, Ken in New York a participant at mcCarthy forum has always been an incredible writer and reader and he brings a lot of understanding of myths and images to his readings...he sums up Hamlet's Mill very nicely here, flaws and all...of course this is my shameless attempt to get my sister to finally read Hamlet's Mill!!! I have a link for the entire book here online, hint hint.

Candy Minx, etal.: Been away from the Forum, and in the time away, I finally read Hamlet's Mill, An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time, by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Deshend (1969)!

It's only been, what?, five years or so since Candy first recommended it to me in this Forum! I like it even better than I expected. Procrastinating had its justifications and benefits. I had some notions then, but I might have systematically imposed the conscripts of HM on BM, and that would have been detrimental to a personal understanding of BM. Five additional years of playing with "conspiracy theories" helped me figure out and think through some things and did much to reshape my reading of McCarthy, and reading HM now would be more meaningful.

And now that I've read it, how could I not have HM in mind if I should expand and rewrite the initial posts above? (I even think about what in HM I would rewrite, laughing out loud!, but is this so different from McCarthy's profusive margin notes on Lisa Randall's draft manuscript?) I did frequently have BM moments while reading HM. Nevertheless, unless the reader already suspected McCarthy's subversiveness in these ways, HM might not at all harken BM. Anyway, one should read HM for its own merits and on its own terms rather than for its possible applications to McCarthy.

The book begins with the tracing of Shakespeare's Hamlet story to its analogues and predecessors and possible roots. I had heard the Shakespeare story was based on an older story that was probably based on some actual historical events somewhere in Europe not unlike Denmark, but HM blows my preconceptions away by going much deeper into the search and taking the reader into wildly unexpected places. First, the authors show that the Hamlet story is quite universal, with counterparts in Finland, Iran, India, etc., implying that the story might be more allegorical than historical. If the authors had stopped at this point, I would have learned something about the background of the Hamlet story, but the fun is just beginning. The authors then show that the story is really about the earth's peculiar motion around the sun, i.e., the tilt of the earth's axis of rotation relative to the sun and the precession of the axis! To make this argument, the authors use comparative mythology, comparative philology, and astronomy! The authors use the example of Hamlet to introduce their thesis, which is that many mythologies of disparate ancient cultures are counterparts of one another and are in essence accounts of astronomy as experienced on earth.

I should now include the precession of the axis. I thought the tilt of the earth's axis would be sufficient, but the precession, measured by the same zodiac, provide additional myths that harken McCarthy. I thought perhaps ancient peoples did not have the "sophistication" to grasp this notion or to be aware of this motion, but the authors convince me otherwise. I should now include the Milky Way too. Some millennia ago, the Milky Way started in Taurus and ended in Scorpio on the ecliptic, hence, according to HM, Scorpio has the association with death, and the path along the Milky Way leading to Scorpio is a road for dead souls. This would be compatible with my placement of Holden and Chigurh in Scorpio, and harken the Epilogue of BM as well. Also, the precession of the axis shifted away from Taurus to Aries then to Pisces where we are currently. The sign being shifted away from is thought of as in decline, and this would be compatible with my placement of Bell in Taurus. Anyway, these are initial thoughts.

[Not McCarthy, but ... just for the gumption, this paragraph is an example of where I would rewrite HM! In the Introduction, the authors mention the significance of the number 108, but do not explain. In the text, there are several opportunities to discuss this significance, yet the authors sometimes fail to even note the 108. The reader could put two and two together, literally, and work out all the factors and some of the multiples of 108. So, when the authors bring up the 60x60x60 dimensions of the ark without mentioning 108, the reader would know that 6x6x6=216=2x108. Okay, when the authors mention the significance of 432,000 to the Rigveda, they do mention 108, as 432=4x108. This one is especially hidden: when the authors discuss the regular pentagon, or the regular dodecahedron whose faces are regular pentagons, the reader would have to figure that since the triangle has 180 degrees, so the pentagon composed of three triangles has 3x180=540 degrees, and so each angle of the regular pentagon has 1/5 of 540 degrees, which is equal to 108 degrees! This is not so obvious, is it? And this is not common knowledge, is it? Are the authors unaware of the 108 association, or do they expect the reader to do the math right there and then? And then there is the typo that does a disservice as well: 108 = "9x13" should instead read "9x12". 9x13 is not equal to 108 but to 117, that "117" thing, laughing out loud!]

Anyway, Candy, as you can see, I too could go on and on about HM, but let me stop myself here. It is a work that calls for another reading. It is the second book I've read which quotes Paul Valery in the introduction and contains XXIII chapters followed by an Epilogue; and, the last chapter ends with images of singing and dancing, clashing doors, death, fire-sticks, above and below, juridical power, and a great circle from pole to pole. Maybe these are signs of a highly entertaining book!

The Usual Suspects: Man/Bull/Lion/Eagle Candy Minx 4/13/2006
I don't know if you can believe this Ken, but I had tears in my eyes reading your post. I thank Adam Starr for turning me on to this book via Secrets of the Incas...he kept telling us about here.

Now, I am relieved to hear you made it throught he book, and aren't laughing at me. I think you are the only person who has read this that I know.

Way back in the day, I discovered kabalah, yeah long before Demi and Madonna...and I had also studied Sansrit and many Indian and Native factions of belief...through kabalah I got into Frances Yates. She often wrote about how something else was going Shakespeare and Bruno and "alchemy". I don't think she ever knew what it was but she knew where to look. In numbers, in memory, in myth.

Since I used to read the Rig Veda and try to memorize it (ha ha I was such a cute little meditator when I was a kid) I noticed some kind of pattern, numbers. And I always knew that the birth of a king or a hero was aligned with stars and celestial activity. Like many people I mistook this for supernatural behaviour. When of course the supernatural and material are always the same thing ha ha silly rabbit.

So...when I read Secrets of The Incas, and then Hamlets Mill, well it was a lifetimes search come true. It was a sense of relief. Of course, i didn't realize at the time it would just add to the ridicule and teasing from friends and disregard from others ha ha." Candys Conspiracys".."Candy the windbag" ha ha...

You are absolutely correct that there are problems with Hamlets Mill.

I too have thought about "re-writing" it. Same as Secrets of the Incas.

There is a fair bit written about the troubles with Hamlets Mill. One of the authours was terminally ill I have read. And their idea to write it as if it were a myth and fugue is wise yet...difficult for those who haven't the dedication to read such a wandering thesis. Yes, they made some sad mistakes and forgot to cross reference themselves in HM...but it is often thought of as a book that you live through rather than expect academic tradition in presentation or style. It's a problem.

Another delightful, profound book is A Story Sharp as a Knife by Robert Bringhurst. he is a master of typography (he wrote the bible) and he translated
  • HAIDA!!!
  • myths. I don't expect anyone here to know what those are...they are classic stories told in a group of people on the west coast where I grew up. They too were a part of my childhood, Haida and Rig Veda, what a trickster, fate can be! Some other
  • Haida Art

  • Bringhurst translates these classic Haida myths and stories and it is magic to see how they carry riffs of Hans Christen Andersen and Grimms, some Strong Boy story...hey a kayak could go around the world could go around the world 50,000 years ago too. All stories are one story. A book is made of other books. And could the easy internet help us recover our real
  • dialogue
  • of myths?

    Down with farming!

    heh heh....

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