No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Sunday, May 30, 2010

2010/47: Rude Mechanicals -- Kage Baker

It would never be exactly as Reinhardt dreamt. nothing could. How lucky mortals are, thought Lewis, that they never live long enough to learn it. (p.23)
California, 1934: Max Reinhardt is staging a spectacular production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Literature Specialist Lewis (an immortal cyborg, for those unfamiliar with the Company) has been charged to retrieve Reinhardt's prompt-book for 'some billionaire up in 2342'. Meanwhile, Joseph -- who is even older, even wilier and considerably more prone to the ridiculous -- is on a quest of his own, to recover a priceless gem that's been unearthed by Reinhardt's workmen and is being passed around as an amusing piece of costume jewellery.

This novella (114 pages) is a light-hearted caper, with car chases, lewd movies, all-night parties and a number of famous or soon-to-be-famous names (Mickey Rooney, Harold Lloyd) making fools of themselves. It's very much in the spirit of Shakespeare's frivolous comedy -- albeit with dark undertones, for Lewis frequently despairs of mortals and Joseph's world-weariness can't always be hidden beneath his (mostly metaphorical) jester's mask. Great fun, a delightful sense of place and time, and a bittersweet joy to read following the author's recent, untimely death.
"...Travel light, Lewis, and keep your mind on the job."
"And carry only memories?" said Lewis.
"Not if you can help it," Joseph replied. "They weigh more than ten years' worth of National Geographic Magazine, sometimes. (p.38)

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