Sunday, March 26, 2017

GIFTS, POWERS, LIVES, WORLDS, SECRETS (Fourth Mansions Chapter 3)

Here's a basic outline of the chapter, focusing on shifts in setting:

0. Epigraph - Don't drop it!
1. "A section of town that he had always been a little frightened of."
    History/Biography, Psychic Geography, Larkers
2. "The house of the address was a tipsy four-storied frame building"
    Interloper and Interrogators
3. "The return way is open even when the senders are unaware."
    Brain-weave interlude
    Bertigrew Bagley
5. "through dark streets...into the night door of his own newspaper building."

0. Chapter 3 opens with a Michael Fountain quote from something called the Second Trefoil Lectures. Michael Fountain is still a mysterious character at this point and nothing in Chapter 3 will give us any more information about him.

This quote lays out one of the major ideas of the novel, that "our group soul" is ready to advance: "We come to the verge, to the mansions of the fourth height, in a moving moment of dizzy expectation and extreme danger, up under a new Heaven with a new Earth in our hands."

Later, Bagley will reflect that "There've been a hundred points where mankind was frustrated from real clarification and grace."

One of the questions of the novel is whether or not this point will be another point of frustration.

1. After the breeziness of all of the dialogue in Chapter 2, we get a hard stop. Suddenly, the present action stops and we are given an extended peek into Freddy Foley's childhood. This childhood is concretely expressed through physical aspects of environment. We are given a brief tour of one part of Freddy's psychic geography and a look at a series of items and people that populate that geography.

If one of the themes of the book is Freddy growing up and finding his face, then this little bit of Chapter 3 provides a picture of Freddy as child. He was/is a fearful boy in a very rough part of town. There is hell to avoid. There is the gift of life, all unearned and unasked for. There are railroad tracks connecting this part of town to the possibility of elsewhere.

And there are the Larkers.

2a. Freddy follows his note to a house for a meeting. Before the meeting, he comes across Leo Joe Larker.

Leo Joe Larker is a fascinating character and I think important. I can't quite figure him out. He does return later in the novel in an important role. I'm not quite sure what to do with his shifting racial identity and shifting appearance. I have suspicions, but I'm not sure that I can put it all together. Maybe at the end of this re-read, I'll have it all figured out. Maybe.

Some info:

"Leo Joe.....who was the oldest of the Larkers and four years older than Freddy....said, moveover, that they could work magic, and that he himself had raised a man from the dead."

Leo Joe says:
"I'm an interloper."
"I'm putting in first claim on you."
"I have an override on all threats to you."

I think that we have to take Leo Joe at his word. He is an interloper. He interlopes. Lafferty uses the word 'interloper' again later in the chapter in a pejorative sense, but here I think he means it as a positive description.

There is a hint later in the chapter that Leo Joe is possibly a part of the extended complex network of the Congregation of Patricks, which consists of "Exarchs, Crolls, Autocrats, Larkers, Aloysii, Patriarchs, and so on up to the Emperor himself."

(Here's an aside not about Leo Joe. It's said by Bagley that the office of emperor has been vacant for more than a thousand years. Any guesses on who was the last emperor?)

2b. "He pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with the three men."

This section is pretty straightforward. Some thugs try to intimidate Freddy and threaten to replace him. The section accomplishes the purpose of establishing that there is a real threat to Freddy's life and that there are real people actively covering up some business of people being replaced by other people.

3. As Freddy leaves this meeting, he gets brain signals from Miguel, a character that we've yet only seen in these veiled brain-weave moments. This section does give us a clear description of the openness of the brain-weave, that Freddy is receiving information that he wasn't meant to be receiving.

"The authors of the brain-weave believe that they have transmitted somehow through polarized one-way glass; but it is two-way. The return way is open even when the senders are unaware, and all those who have been touched by the weave are themselves somehow in touch, even when the weavers or Harvesters are asleep."

There's also a bit here about Letitia Bauer and deformed monkey babies, a "rambling-in-waste-places delirium."

4. Bertigrew Bagley.

One gets the sense that Lafferty loved Bagley. There's certainly a lot of Lafferty in Bagley.

On Overlark and the "old crippling persuasion" and the cost of challenging it.
"Once you get your hands onto the thing you will learn a little of its nature. You'll feel the rot of it, the leprosy that will not be stamped out. And you'll see that its face is always respectability. But if you follow up to the end you will not be respectable yourself."

"I do not see everything in black or white. I see most things in the four or five central colors or forces. In the middle, of course, is that malodorous worm whom we call common man. He is mud-colored. And around him are the four sorts of creatures who assail him while they claim to love him, but mine is the only sort that actually loves him."

"Foley, a supreme word of contempt is 'flatlander.' Somehow there is the belief that people in the Dark Ages believed that the world was flat. They didn't. But it is the contemptuous ones of today who have made a really flat world that is the sad answer to everything. What is wrong with the world and why is it not worth living in? It's flat, that's what."

It is in this section of the chapter that Bagley gives us a breakdown of the parties involved in the growing conflict.

"Of the four sorts of creatures that surround the Castle are the Pythons, the Toads, the Badgers, and the Unfledged Falcons."

"Some of it's from the beautiful things of a lady named Teresa Cepeda, born a little after Columbus died. He only discovered continents; she discovered the Castle itself."

Malodorous Worms - Freddy Foley, the commonality of mankind
"You are one of the malodorous worms, Foley, the commonality of mankind, the simplicity. Me, I'm a badger."

Pythons - Jim Bauer and the Harvesters
"the brain-weavers, the Harvesters, they belong to the pythons....pythons are prophetic."

Toads - Carmody Overlark and the other revenants.
"The revenants are the toads." "The returners really do have the jewel, and it may be the jewel of knowledge."

Badgers - Bertigrew Bagley and the Congregation of Patricks
"the badgers... Ours is the real; but even if I should tell you all about it you would regard us as a network of lodges or curious societies or comical conventions. Can you not see that it is your apparent government and world that is these things? Foley, there are alternate worlds going on all the time, depending only on the vision. There is a double reflection. I do not accept yours, and sure would not accept mine. But I say that mine is alive and that its more favorable time-track may still be selected." "Have you heard of Christendom still living?"

Unfledged Falcons - Miguel and "probably a hundred such movements starting right now"
"The unfledged falcon appears more reptilian than the reptiles. But sometimes it grows, it is fledged, it flies. At its best, to me, it is only mediocre: it was the Crusades; it was the Ottonian Empire (an interloper); it is the firm but doltish authority. At its worst it is the fascist thing." "A young man has been torched with this fever....His name comes to me as Miguel."

5. The chapter ends with a chase scene, Freddy running back into town and safety, avoiding the pursuit of men following him with presumed murderous intent.

"Freddy might be a simpleton but he was an agile simpleton. They did not have him that night."

"But somebody was after Freddy Foley and they weren't kidding."


  1. Eventually, all of them will be after him of course, and if you think they aren't kidding now, wait'll you see how much they aren't kidding by the last chapter. "Why such a thing, why such a thing?"

  2. The Empire, the Carolingian or first iteration of the Holy Roman Empire, which was founded by Charlemagne on Christmas Day of the year 800, came to an end with the death of the last Carolingian Emperor, Charles the Fat (not to be confused with his uncle, Charles the Bald) in January 888. So, by the time Fourth Mansions is published in 1969, the office of Emperor has been vacant for more than a thousand years.

    1. I had never made the connection with the Carolingian Empire and the Patricks, but of course it fits!

    2. The key for me regarding the identity of the emperor and his long-lost empire was this passage:

      "At its best, to me, it is only mediocre: it was the Crusades; it was the Ottonian Empire (an interloper); it is firm but doltish authority. At its worst it is the fascist thing. But it is fledged only as a reaction: I see a present example of it."

      The Ottonian dynasty were the direct successors of the Carolingians in areas that were formerly part of the empire, and as such they could be seen as an "interloper." Never underestimate Lafferty's knowledge of history, and the subtlety with which he introduces it into his fiction.

  3. This chapter gives us the key to the book. Bagley's explanation of the four primary forces or animals is the core of the story. Freddy's ultimate journey is (like Papa Garamask in "Frog on the Mountain") to evolve into the first true adult human being by assimilating and mastering all four animals.

    A lot of key lines here:
    “All his life, people would be giving valuable things to Fred Foley unasked: gifts, powers, lives, worlds, secrets.”
    The pythons in the persons of the Harvesters have already given him the power to see with all parts of him. The others...Well, lets watch and see.

    “Foley passed his hand before his eyes. There wasn’t anything there. It had been as though a strand of gossamer or spider-silk had touched him. Those things aren’t very thick. It would take a lot of them to entangle a man. It was an old spider-silk, though, and it dangled out of a web of old memories.”
    Watch these spider silks. It does take a lot of them to entangle a man, and the spider is at work through the length of the book.