Friday, March 4, 2016

Jonathan — the Last Name

“Jonathan’s family name was in the Domesday Book. The name meant Dweller by Low Water. They had been a marsh peopole, farming for their master and hunting birds in the reeds in what was now the county of Hampshire in England.” (p. 276)

I continued the search that we began last night, futilely, with smart phones and library WiFi. I have fared no better today with my high-powered iMac and fiber-optic connection. How coy of Ryman, to never mention our hero’s last name but to hint at it in the one passage above! The paragraph in which it appears begins “There was a great weight of things that had been lost.”

Anyway, my futile little search—not just for the name but why it should not be named!—prompts me to notice what none of us had a chance to observe the other night: how well the search/research in old libraries and registries is depicted in the last part “Oz Circle”. Even if the final “Reality Check” and “Acknowledgments” hadn’t called it to our attention, the life of research was vividly brought before us.

And that leads me to speculate that it’s no accident we never learn Jonathan’s last name or that “Mrs. Langrishe” makes her one and only appearance on page 357. The historical record—the original sources—is always fragmentary, no matter how gratifyingly complete it may sometimes seem. Things drift off, are named or unnamed, are not spelled out or detailed to no apparent purpose. And our book, even if fantasy, is similarly “incomplete.” “A heritage is something that was nevers yours, and which has been destroyed.” (p. 356)

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