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Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2002 14:54:26 -0800
From: Michael Andre-Driussi 
Subject: Re: (urth) FLF: Quadrumvirate

Roy wrote:
>There is a great deal of humor in FLF, as in CASTLEVIEW, but what is to be
>made of the last line of the book? That line is particularly disconcerting,
>given its antecedent in chapter 17. Sandy Duck had asked Serpentina to make
>a prediction: "what event of great importance to America do you foresee
>within the next ten years?" After the ritual with the mirror, the witch said
>she "summoned the spirits of the unborn to reveal the future", which was:
>    "The greatest event of the coming decade will be the quadrumvirate. Four
>leaders, unknown today, shall unite to take political, financial, artistic,
>and judicial power. They shall create a revolution of thought. Many who are
>now rulers shall be imprisoned or exiled. Many who are now powerless shall
>rise to places of great authority. The rich shall be made poor, and the poor
>rich. Old crimes, long concealed, shall be made public, and their
>perpetrators given to the people as to a pride of lions. The four shall be
>hated and idolized, but their rule will not end within the period specified
>by my prediction. That is all I was told."
>After Barnes and his son enter the kitchen to see the transformed Stubb and
>Candy, the witch, unseen, announces his arrival from the parlor and says:
>"The quadrumvirate is complete."
>That choice of word can hardly be coincidental in the book's last line. The
>four boarders and four powers. With a time machine.

Right, there is a lot packed into that tiny epilogue.

1.  The nature of the house: what year is it in that final kitchen?  If it
is 1982, then Ben Free has not died yet!  Talk about complicated
time-travel paradoxes.  (Or is it really so complicated, given that we know
that Free's doctrine is to "go along" and repeat history?)

2.  The nature of the world of that house.  Candy is wearing a shimmering
dress, what's that all about?  I remember 16 years ago one reader who was
online was really bugged by that dress -- it seemed to signify something,
but what was it?  At one level it certainly reminds me of the Arthurian
Lady of the Lake.  But with time-travel involved, that is, a sfnal
explanation for everything (even supernatural events become "psionic" or
whathaveyou), then it seems as though the trio has been travelling through
time and "fixing" things, just as the General had travelled past the 1950s
to get tape recorders and other off-the-shelf wonders from later decades.
OTOH, the trio might be limited in what they can accomplish in short time:
as I understand it, the trio opted for the gizmo door on High Country and
Ozzie elected to go back by the B-17, in order to find his son and then try
to find their way together through the gizmo door on the ground.  Has it
been a week, a month, or just a few days?  In any case, while Candy's
slimness might be due to simple amphetemines , Stubb's increased height
is presumably more than inner-shoe lifters could provide . . . other than
the results of being alloyed (which might cover everything by itself),
maybe they have additional genetic therapy?

3.  But is that final house really part of the mundane world, or is it
"Oz," a bubble universe separate from the mundane world as Oz is separate
from Kansas?  That is, at the end of the first Oz book, the heroine Dorothy
gets to go home, the semi-hero/semi-villain Oz is last seen in a balloon in
the sky (like Free/Whitten in High Country) and the four helper-heroes each
get one of the four subject-kingdoms of Oz (I'm simplifying a bit, but bear
with), forming a sort of quadrumvirate.  This quadrumvirate is a good thing
for the land of Oz (simplifying, but bear with), since each individual
recognized that he was lacking something and has been made complete.  Being
the lords of the Land of Oz is different than being the Gang of Four.  (But
I agree the possibility that the four are remaking the external world is a
fairly strong one.)

4.  Another side of FLF, it seems to me, is something like "A Midsummer
Night's Dream," where there are two couples who go through various
permutations until they find the right combination.  (Hmmm, there is also
the transformation angle!)  Of the four, Ozzie Barnes (as wizard Oz) and
the witch (as Glinda/Wicked) seem like the "upstairs" characters, the
Shakespearean nobles, where Candy and Stubbs seem like the "downstairs"
characters (hmmm, is Candy like "Falstaff" aside from her enormous size?).
From the beginning, Stubbs wants to be with Candy; Ozzie wants to be with
the witch; Ozzie has sex with Candy and they do not become a couple (as if
to prove the point that they are not the right couple).  So the
"homecoming" in the end is a bringing together of the four characters in
their correct couples and new harmony.

5.  In what sense is the original Oz an externalization?  That is,
Dorothy's friends are perhaps aspects of her own internal self that have
been made literal and separate from herself.  Might be shakey for Oz, but
seems fitting for FLF in the reading that Free becomes the house and the
four living inside of the house become, in some sense or another, not the
maggots of a corpse (as the witch says of the notion) but the humors of a
living body: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile.

It is easy for me to see Candy as sluggish "phlegm," and maybe the witch as
melancholic "black bile" for her wardrobe.  Ozzie, in addition to being Oz
and Popeye, is a satyr, and it is not far from that to sanguinary "blood,"
leaving choleric "yellow bile" to detective Stubbs.

Time to point out that Free is looking for a better world that he =doesn't=
find in the Old Frontier: he, too, is looking for something, but it seems
to be something more than just bringing "little house on the prairie"
values into the inner city (i.e., bringing the best of the frontier life
back to homestead the urban jungle).  With this in mind, it seems as though
his quest is completed by having the four living in his house, which has
become him (to a greater or lesser degree).



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