Clubfooted, 60-something Cal Tech grad Julius Marantz is pursued by both the "Central Intelligence Corporation" and a corporate coalition known as "GEKO" in this Kafkaesque near-future mashup from Estrin (Insect Dreams: The Half-Life of Gregor Samsa). Julius's crimes include having perfected a mechanism known as "the Doodad," which, among other things, polarizes the water molecules in living beings and is used to create rapture-like experiences among the multitudes of India. Julius cedes operating rights to the Doodad early on, and 200 pages of his kvetching reflections on his early life ensue. "Born to wear a pocket protector" and inspired by the exoticisms of Coney Island, Julius makes kid-genius forays into relativity; displays his mother's pickled appendix; and has his dog Yenta "bark mitzvahed." His parents' fatal air accident leaves him with a sense of irretrievability that inspires research in magnetic fields at Copenhagen's Niels Bohr Institute and Cal Tech. With the Doodad in corporate hands, the world stands on the brink, threatened by way of product testing. Estrin's fantastical conceit conceals a very conventional story at its core, and neither one gets sufficient treatment. Scattered throughout this fourth novel are amusements, moving laments and inventive imaginings, but the narrative flow remains polarized. (Nov.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Lamentations of Julius Marantzby Marc Estrin
Marc Estrin follows another of his strange protagonists through a world troubled by what it knows and by how it applies that knowledge.
From the first page, we are plunged into a global riot of paranoia, joy, and fear. But something is sadly familiar here, perhaps because we have been taught to
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Who would benefit if they really did bring The Rapture on?
Marc Estrin follows another of his strange protagonists through a world troubled by what it knows and by how it applies that knowledge.
From the first page, we are plunged into a global riot of paranoia, joy, and fear. But something is sadly familiar here, perhaps because we have been taught to anticipate a world in which people suddenly fly off the planet. It might be The Rapture. Or it might be some violation of the force of gravity. Whatever it is, it’s spreading madness, religious hysteria, and some truly formidable government powers.
The voice of these Lamentations is a sixty-something, club-footed scientist named Julius Marantz, an obsessive researcher who suffers both from forbidden knowledge and an insistent conscience. As his spirit and his heart begin to fail, Julius realizes what is lost to him: a childhood of possibility, the consolation of belief, and the undying optimism of a father who taught him the principles of physics on the roller-coaster and the parachute jump.
Partly a portrait of cynical politics and religious fervor, part scientific speculation and even a meditation on the glories of Coney Island, The Lamentations of Julius Marantz traces the rise and fall of science in a truly personal story that finally fairly ascends.
This latest from Estrin (Insect Dreams) is another hyper-intelligent satire, this time focusing on the Rapture and, perhaps more interestingly, Estrin's strange take on its possible results. Physicist Julius Marantz has created a device called a "Doodad," which produces a magnetic force that can suck people from Earth and into its atmosphere. Several government agencies want the Doodad for diabolical reasons, and Julius finds himself on the run when he rejects their plans. The book then dashes into a hodgepodge of unlikely circumstances involving cogitations on physics, religion, humanity's boundless frailties, and nostalgia for Coney Island. The only other character of note is Lydia, an old flame whom Julius hasn't seen in 30 years but with whom he still feels he has a cosmic connection. Many readers will need to take a second look at this book to feel that they have any kind of real grasp of what's going on, but it's likely Estrin is the only who truly does. Recommended for large fiction collections.
This latest from Estrin (Insect Dreams) is another hyper-intelligent satire, this time focusing on the Rapture and, perhaps more interestingly, Estrin's strange take on its possible results. Physicist Julius Marantz has created a device called a "Doodad," which produces a magnetic force that can suck people from Earth and into its atmosphere. Several government agencies want the Doodad for diabolical reasons, and Julius finds himself on the run when he rejects their plans. The book then dashes into a hodgepodge of unlikely circumstances involving cogitations on physics, religion, humanity's boundless frailties, and nostalgia for Coney Island. The only other character of note is Lydia, an old flame whom Julius hasn't seen in 30 years but with whom he still feels he has a cosmic connection. Many readers will need to take a second look at this book to feel that they have any kind of real grasp of what's going on, but it's likely Estrin is the only one who truly does. Recommended for large fiction collections. Library Journal
Clubfooted, 60-something Cal Tech grad Julius Marantz is pursued by both the “Central Intelligence Corporation” and a corporate coalition known as “GEKO” in this Kafkaesque near-future mashup from Estrin (Insect Dreams: The Half-Life of Gregor Samsa). Julius's crimes include having perfected a mechanism known as “the Doodad,” which, among other things, polarizes the water molecules in living beings and is used to create rapture-like experiences among the multitudes of India. Julius cedes operating rights to the Doodad early on, and 200 pages of his kvetching reflections on his early life ensue. “Born to wear a pocket protector” and inspired by the exoticisms of Coney Island, Julius makes kid-genius forays into relativity; displays his mother's pickled appendix; and has his dog Yenta “bark mitzvahed.” His parents' fatal air accident leaves him with a sense of irretrievability that inspires research in magnetic fields at Copenhagen's Niels Bohr Institute and Cal Tech. With the Doodad in corporate hands, the world stands on the brink, threatened by way of product testing. Estrin's fantastical conceit conceals a very conventional story at its core, and neither one gets sufficient treatment. Scattered throughout this fourth novel are amusements, moving laments and inventive imaginings, but the narrative flow remains polarized. (Nov.) Publisher’s Weekly
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Read an ExcerptThe Lamentations of Julius Marantz
By Marc Estrin Unbridled Books Copyright © 2007 Marc Estrin
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Chapter One At the Movies
How lonely sits the city that was full of people. How like a widow has she become. She that was a princess among the cities has become a vassal. -LAMENTATIONS 1:1
19 June 2003
The lights dimmed in Mini-Salle 7, the smallest and most hidden picture palace, deep in the warrens of Dodecaplex Two. Similarly had lights dimmed fifty years to the day before, dimmed that day at Ossining, New York, dimmed for Ethel Rosenberg as her husband was transmuted by an electric device not thirty yards away, and her own transformation beckoned.
House to half; house out. In the stepped dimming of the light, this day another Julius, a furtive Julius, a Julius on the lam, inspected the tiny chamber with its safely four, safely teenaged others. Though fifty years had passed, this other Julius, one Julius Marantz, was also scheduled for transfiguration-and for similar reasons.
WELCOME TO THIS EVENINGS FEATURE PRESENTATION
Glitzy, shoddy graphics on screen, shocking to the dark-adapted eye.
SMOKING OF ANY KIND IS PROHIBITED IN THIS THEATER
Three French maids in scanty, leggy dresses shake fingers No No No as a smoking cartoon biblical prophet pokes in from behind to baricroon, "Except of course, for the Gold."
Maid One offers him a pack; Maid Two a light Maid Three sidles herself up against his ashes and sackcloth. "High, but cool," she says as the others swoon in agreement.
"You can tell by the smell." Jeremiah says.
Julius Marantz settled in for an urgent interlude of safety. He had to catch his breath, gather his wits. Outside, sirens sang in trio and quartet, and Central Intelligence Corporation cars were everywhere, searching, no doubt, for him. His disguise was good. False white beard, filthy hippy clothes. Was it too late to consider cross-dressing? Jeremiah and his maids were floating up off screen. High, after all, was high.
BECAUSE THIS FILM IS ONLY SEVENTY MINUTES LONG, WE WILL HAVE OUR INTERMISSION RIGHT NOW. IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY, WE INVITE YOU TO CHECK OUT THE REFRESHMENT STAND IN THE LOBBY, WHERE YOU WILL FIND MANY DELICIOUS DRINKS AND SNACKS, INCLUDING THE U.S.'S OWN NATURAL FLAKES[TM]. AND DON'T FORGET TO "GO FOR THE GOLD[TM][R]"!
House lights on. Damn! thought Julius, visible again. The four teenagers passed him, scuffing their largeness up the aisle. One picked and flicked a booger at the dirty old man while his buddies guffawed. "Santa Claus!" they taunted brilliantly.
Should I go out there? Julius wondered. Will it be suspicious to stay in here? Will the ushers be in to check refreshment receipts? Pascal's Wager. Not worth the consequences of a bad guess.
Julius limped up the aisle, practicing his crippled senior-citizen walk. At the stand he ordered up a Tub o' Pops[TM], in an arcane accent, and made his way back into the theater, careful not to spill the voluminous, olestrated popcorn suspended, crouton-like, in Diet-Pop[TM] Last to leave, first to return, he sat back down. The four teenagers marched in, laden with comestibles, just as the lights dimmed again. Though he had been only four years old at the time of Sing-Sing's dimming, he flashed, even now, on that event. Mommy and Daddy would not explain why they were crying.
House to half, house out. From the pentaphonic speakers: "Please rise and join in our national anthem." Drumroll. On the screen, Old Glory, version 52.6, flapping grandiloquently under a cross of David. The text on the stale "YOUR LOGO HERE," Julius knew to be fraudulent. No way his logo-had he a logo-could make it onto Old Glory's white stripes. Those six spaces were available only to Fortune 500 companies, in the order of net income. And the image wasn't even up-to-date, tot three days earlier, version 52.7 had appeared, with the top-two corporations switching places and the predicted supremacy of the Bank of Christ's logo.
A small animated hand-Michelangelo's Hand of God-pointed at the words as they scrolled along the bottom of the screen. So as not to attract attention, Julius stood and croaked along with his acned colleagues all the way to the final lines:
O'er the La-and of the Frceeeeee (breathe) To our Home ... in the ... Skies!
Above the flag appeared the dawning sun, which, in an amazing display of computer animation, morphed from red disk through each current flag logo, streaming from one to another in proper colors, into a glorious archangel who, opening his purple robe (like a cheap stripper, Julius thought), showed blazoned upon his chest in flaming letters
AND NOW, FOR OUR FEATURE PRESENTATION ...
Julius settled back for seventy minutes of he knew not what-but what did it matter? It was dark, he was unobserved and enveloped in the haze of Gold smoke from up front, he could pull down his mental ear flaps, shut his eyes....
But wait! What was that up there, seen through the slit of his vision? The title of said Feature Presentation, typing out on screen in ancient Courier, with phony typewriter clacks, such as hadn't been heard since long before Microsoft became Macrosoft:
THE DAMNABLE LIFE AND DESERVÈD DEATH OF JULIUS MARANTZ, SCIENTIST
A subway car, the IND, the very car he'd been in yesterday. He recognized the sequence of ads above the seat he'd finally obtained. "BEFORE THE END, COME BACK TO BUD," and "WHEN THE LORD CALLS, WILL YOUR LINE BE BUSY?-FIBERCELLULARS[TM]. USED IN THE OVAL OFFICE." A voice over the scene:
THE MAN SHOWN HERE IS REAL AND KNOWN TO BE DANGEROUS. HE MAY EVEN NOW BE SEATED AMONG YOU. IF YOU SEE THIS MAN, CONTACT YOUR NEAREST CIC ATTENDANT OR CALL 1-888-TREASON. THANK YOU.
"The man" was shown in great detail: it was yesterday's Julius, clean-shaven, skin hennaed reddish-brown, seated in yesterday's jerking subway car, in old Levis and tie-dyed Grateful Dead T-shirt, carrying the "Smart People for Central Intelligence" plastic bag he used for his costume changes the one with the smiley face wearing glasses, just like the one now at his feet.
Feigning uncontrollable hiccups through the lobby he was out of that theater in a flash, out onto the mean streets, the scorching sidewalks of New York. Would that this light would dim as well.
Chapter Two GEKO
27 January 2001
Julius," the Vice-President had said, "we want you to give us the rights to your machine."
"GEKO," said the priest.
"Geheimniskoalition," the Vice-President translated.
Julius surveyed the wrinkled faces dotting the Office of Counter-terrorism Operations, xanthotic raisins in a high-tech scone.
"I'm sorry. Shall we go round the circle and do introductions?" The Vice-President was always polite.
"Daryl Plunk, Korea desk, Birthright Foundation."
"General Plunk is part-time DOD, retired."
"Carolyn Worthington, Earth Friends." She looked the very model of the upright Quaker she was.
"You're next," the VP urged.
"Oh, Julius Marantz."
"Middlebury College, um Physics Department."
"Edgar X. Thornbottom, Society of Jesus. World Council of Churches. Call me Thorn."
"Thorn." Julius nodded.
"As in crown of."
Julius said, "Um."
"Morton Plumpe, Thompson Kline and Plumpe."
"Our K Street representation." GEKO nodded collectively at the vice-presidential savoir faire. "And this is Cosma McMoon, our court stenographer."
Julius was wary. "Is this a court?"
"A court of appeal, you might say," the Vice-President clarified. "We're appealing to you to consider what's best for your country."
"And for the world," Ms. Worthington added.
"And for you," said Thorn. This last was offered as spiritual direction, not threat.
"We want you to give us the rights to ... you know," the Vice-President repeated.
"Why don't you just take it? You have ..."
"Julius, this is America. We don't just ..."
"The overriding question is one of intellectual property rights," Advocate Plumpe advised. "Don't you agree?"
Julius had been led through the serpentine corridors of the Executive Office Building, down, down, down, and around to the once-domain of Ollie and Fawn, following conduits from State, Defense, and Intelligence to the Situation Room beyond all situations, the external Executive brain.
As they walked past a mock-horror-film poster touting The Return of Al Gore, not visible, of course, to blindfolded Julius, the Vice-President, his elbow in hand, had reflected on the general condition:
"It's not just you, Julius. We are all of us blinded-by this world. We have lost our expectancy, our sense of clairvoyance, and night advances swiftly upon us." It was sound bites such as this that gave the country confidence in the man a heartbeat away Beepers beeped buzzers, and locks fell away. Julius was seated in a chair and his blindfold removed. His eyes adjusted quickly to the opulent dimness of a room packed with panels, winking at him like a Hydra-headed trollop.
"Julius, all of us here realize that we're living in tough times. Don't you agree?" The Vice-President placed a confidential hand on his shoulder. "Don't you?"
Julius gave a noncommittal grunt.
"And people are yearning for something different, an era of peace, love, and unity. But their world is empty, Julius. It's a world of memorials without memory. Ours is a time of brainless arrogance in which our cosmic tragedy is repackaged as entertainment."
"What has the Doodad got to do with all this?" its inventor asked.
"Nothing. And everything," the Vice-President said.
Thorn stepped up to bat.
"Julius, you are a religious man. You know we must strive to remake, by our own God-given powers, the world that our Father has made for us out of nothing and given us as our workshop."
"You see the Doodad as remaking the world?"
"More like transforming it, Julius. Just look around. It's survival of the sleaziest, wouldn't you say? Hedonism 'R' Us. Good God, six of the seven deadly sins are now virtues! Greed, avarice, and envy have become the keys to advancement. Gluttony; luxury; and pride are emblems of success. OK, sloth we don't value-yet-but we're on the wax. Never has there been so little feeling of the Sacred as a genuine power.
"God blesses and serves America. But where is the demand that Americans first of all serve God, or make any real sacrifice? Look at the garbage piling up in the streets. It's God's metaphor. He's trying to get our attention."
There was a pregnant pause. The others nodded, as if the conclusion were obvious.
"And you can help Him."
"I can help God?"
"He needs your help."
"I'm just a physicist, Mr. Thorn."
"To call heaven's rich unfathomable mines (Mines, which support archangels in their state) Our own! To rise in science, as in bliss, Initiate in the secrets of the skies! Edward Young," said Edgar X. Thornbottom.
"What he means," the Vice-President explained, "is that we no longer live in the times of Galileo and Giordano Bruno. Religions no longer suppress revolt: they have long since become integrated into technological society."
"What do you mean 'revolt'?"
"Re-voltare. As in teshuvah, Hebrew for turning." Thorn's explication of text.
"Oh. I thought you meant I was revolting-um, rebelling."
"No, no. Why would I say that?" Thornbottom continued. "I just meant in our materialist age of Kali Yuga, now drawing to a close, people want-need-the magic and security of something that's beyond them, something greater, something more, something guided, perhaps, by advanced beings, angels maybe, or emissaries from an extraterrestrial civilization. There needs to be a mass ascension to new realms of consciousness."
"And that's where you come in-or rather, your Doodad does," the Vice-President clarified.
"Is this some sort of search for ET?"
"No, Julius, for mass ascension."
A whiff of burning sulfur. Yet from those flames no light, but rather darkness visible.
"You want to use the Doodad for mass ascension?"
"Look," said Carolyn Worthington, "the population is exploding, and there is a huge ozone hole. Do you see how those fit together?"
"Find a hole and fill it?"
"You mean you want to fill the ozone hole with excess population?"
A group silence of affirmation.
"Some of us do," said Ms. Worthington.
"You want me to use the Doodad to shoot people up to fill the ozone hole? Live people?"
"Protein molecules absorb the ultraviolet," General Plunk informed him.
"Wouldn't the people get a little ... sunburned?"
"By the time they need SPF 40, they'll have expired."
"And after they are burned to a crisp?"
"The molecular cloud will do nicely," the General informed him. "Or so I'm told."
The whiff had grown from smell to stench. Four humans stared at Julius. Another stared at her stenographic screen. Julius's breathing was shallow and fast.
"I see," he said.
"You'll surely agree there's a population problem." Plumpe asserted.
"Population pollution problem," Carolyn added.
His nodding continued.
"Well, then?" the Vice-President asked.
There was a long pause in the room. Julius looked around.
"Who is to choose the victims?"
"Mortals," said Thornbottom. "We are all mortal. Some must watch, while some must sleep...."
"GEKO will make the selections," General Plunk explained. "Naturally, those selections will be weighted against America's enemies. I assume you'd have no objection to that?"
Julius was silent.
"Enemies both foreign and domestic."
"Julius," Thornbottom advised, "this cannot be an easy life. We all have a tough time keeping our minds open and deep, keeping our sense of beauty, our ability to sec it in places remote and strange; we have a tough time keeping open the many intricate paths in a great open, windy world; but this, as I see it, is the human condition; and in this condition we can help, because we can love one another. We must free our souls from the everyday, and open them to the influxus mentium superiorum."
"Let me see if I understand this," Julius said. "You want to use the Doodad to lift your enemies up into the sky."
"Our enemies, Julius."
"Um, our enemies."
"And to turn people to God," the Vice-President added. "which would make for a better world. Don't you agree?"
"Why will this turn people to God?"
His interlocutor was truly astonished. "Julius, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand that this is the Rapture. Long-awaited, long-expected great reward. Who will get the credit? God."
"But that would be a lie-a hoax!"
Plumpe shook his head. "None of the higher religions include lying among the mortal sins. There is no simple commandment: Thou shalt not lie."
The Vice-President stood up from his chair and began pacing the room, his hands clasped, Beethoven-like, behind him.
"Whatever may be meant by moral landscape, Julius, at the moment, the best of our natures is drowning in the worst. Have you noticed how many people are simply nuts? This simple action will inject moral ballast to right the listing ship."
"To stabilize the world."
"To ease the population."
"To harmonize with friends."
"This is not a question of old teachings in new forms but of total reformation in light of present experience."
Excerpted from The Lamentations of Julius Marantz by Marc Estrin Copyright © 2007 by Marc Estrin . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Marc Estrin is a writer, cellist, and activist living in Burlington, Vermont. He is the author of seven novels, The Annotated Nose, Insect Dreams: The Half Life of Gregor Samsa, The Education of Arnold Hitler, Golem Song, The Lamentations of Julius Marantz and most recently The Good Doctor Gullotin.
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