Ok, I just had to write a post on my all-time favorite book. I often say that Battlestar Galactica is my favorite anything ever, but it’s hard to top books. And Jitterbug Perfume is one of the reasons why. It’s my Post Modern Bible. I guess that would make Jitterbug Perfume my favorite anything ever. Sorry Battlestar Galactica. Here’s what I find so fascinating about it:
You’ve got two characters condemned to death by their cultures.
Alobar: a king who finds a white hair on his head. In his culture, a king must be young and virile. So when the king shows the first sign of age, he is excecuted so that a younger, more capable king may rule the land.
Kudra: Her husband is dead. In her cutlure a man’s possessions must be burned at his death. Since a wife is considered a posession, Kudra is set to be burned soon after her husband’s death.
So here are these two doomed characters, consumed by a pressing fear of death. But although everything they know tells them they are going to die, that they are supposed to die, they decide that they don’t want to. So they don’t. They run off and join some monks, learn the power of meditation, and come up with several routines such as fasting, taking hot baths, etc., which they perform regularaly. But the point is: death was always a choice. By deciding not to die, they have unlocked the secret of the Universe.
Meanwhile, Pan, yes the god, is dying as people stop believeing in him (This was way before American Gods). So there’s this weird dynamic of people believing anything is possible, and yet not believing in god, or at least not Pagan gods such as Pan.
What I find fascinating about this novel is this idea that, if you truly believe something and decide that it’s true, it is true. You can conquer insurmountable odds. Even though billions and billions of people have been dying for millenia, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Human imagination and belief is strong enough to sustain the gods for millenia, but the moment doubt and cynicism start creeping into our minds, even the gods begin to crumble.