Friday, June 20, 2008

"The Third Policeman"
by Flann O'Brien

In the wake of the Season 4 Finale of LOST I've been searching for stuff to keep my mind occupied and off of what may happen in the final two seasons of my favorite show. Which basically means I've frantically been trying to come up with an explanation for the whole mystery of everything on that show.

Okay, it's not that dire. I can wait to find out, in fact, that's part of the fun. But, really, in the meantime, I need to keep myself occupied. Luckily, the show is so rich with references that there is no shortage of cool stuff to read and find fun references in the show.

The producers, among other things, have planted several well-chosen books throughout the episodes, and Damon Lindeloff, one of the creators of Lost, has stated that the one book that had the most influence on him in the writing process is The Third Policeman, which, he says, is because you find out at the end that the main character has been dead for the bulk of the novel.

He didn't give anything away, if anything, knowing that the main character was dead shed a little light on this confusing novel. But not much. The narrator and main character, unnamed throughout the novel, has killed a man in a botched robbery and when he goes back to collect the money, everything changes. Suddenly he finds himself in a two-dimensional police station facing mind-bending riddles by three bizarre and over-weight detectives. He discovers that he has a soul and that its name is Joe, that, in this world, people turn into bikes by way of the Atomic Theory, he can reach eternity, ask for anything he wants and it will appear (though he cannot take it with him), relates everything he sees to the fictional philosophy of a man named De Selby (whose work the main character has catalogued extensively, and is partially the reason for the murder), and that nothing is what it seems.

The back flap of The Third Policeman claims it as solidifying O'Brien as one of Ireland's great comic geniuses. I didn't laugh or find any of the situations of the novel funny, but they were extraordinary. If by comic they mean surreal and kafka-esque (yes! I used that word!), then they would be dead on.

There are a multitude of mind-bending puzzles in this novel, not the least of which involve the second policeman, who has invented several objects "too small to see" and boxes that make men crazy and things full of colors that can't be described by any words we have for colors. The novel is, if nothing else, full of imagination and vigor. That I liked.

As for fans of the show, you'll notice a few similarities, which I'll leave open if you want to read it (I don't want to give all the details away - plus, my wife hasn't seen past season 3 and I don't want to give anything away). I will say though that the influence for Jacob's character is quite clear, as is the ability for the Island to produce visions for each of its visitors.

And I've got a theory on Lost now too, one that I won't be disappointed with if it's true. Mark this one of the long list of Lost-inspired books to read. Among the next on my list are The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, Valis by Philip K. Dick, The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Watership Down by Adams, and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

All have cool covers.


Howling_Fantods said...

I bought this for the exact reasons you did when it made its first appearance on "Lost" way back in Season Two. And somewhere in the first 3rd of the book, I decided it was just a red herring placed by the producers. Plus, I didn't like the whole main-character-is-dead as far as what this implied for "Lost" (they're not in purgatory, dammit!). Anyway, the novel wasn't grabbing me, so I put it down to be picked up at a later date. But after reading your review, I think I need to give this another look.
I've since stopped trying to find a single unifying theory for "Lost," and as such, I've enjoyed the ride more. This book sounds interesting in an ancillary, inspired the events of "Lost," but not-really-giving-anything-away sort of way.

Sheridan Sawyer said...

well put, and, as such, agreed.

Miss Kubelik said...

Thank you for not spoiling anything for those of us still lost with Lost.