Thursday, July 04, 2013

Wit and Wisdom from Brother Odd

Reflections on Brother Odd, third in the series of novels by Dean Koontz.  Kindle edition.

Third in Dean Koontz's series, fourth that I've read,  Brother Odd takes place in a monastery where monks work and worship.  A few hundred yards away stands an abbey where nuns care for severely handicapped children.  Rather than review the novel, which others have done so well, I'll list prose gems, interesting for their phrasing, their insights, or both.

Looking out the window from his unlit guestroom, Odd does not have the interference of his own reflection in the glass, and he observes that a monastery gives you "fewer opportunities than you might have elsewhere to see the world as it is, instead of through the shadow that you cast upon it"  (Kindle location 82-87).  

Odd Thomas on insomnia:  "Some nights, it seems my brain is someone else's TV, and they won't stop channel surfing" (location 703).

The winds of a blizzard shift direction, and Odd's description is fun, while foreshadowing danger in the storm: "Such schizophrenic wind threw spun-whipped flakes in stinging sheets, in funnels, in icy lashes, a spectacle some poet once called 'the frolic architecture of snow,' but in this instance, there was a lot less frolic than fusillade, wind booming as loud as mortar fire and the snow like shrapnel" (location 1579-84).

When Mother Superior tells Odd of a rescue plan that would involve some big-wheeled vehicles, his go-to metaphor relates.  He tells us, "I regretted having to let the air out of her plan after she'd evidently spent some time inflating it" (location 1925).   That's playful writing, a pleasure to read.

Jacob, a taciturn young man with deformities and disabilities, obsessively draws pictures of his mother.  Odd watches:  "With lead he shaded love into the woman's eyes.  ...Jacob created her from memory, as he made real on paper what was in his mind and what was evidently lost to him except by the grace of his art" (2096).

Odd sees dead people, but also one ghost dog Boo. Koontz interrupts a tense chapter with Boo's rolling over to expose his belly, paws in the air.  Odd reflects: 
Receiving such an invitation, only the hard-hearted and the uselessly busy can refuse.  All that is wanted is affection, while what is offered is everything, symbolized in the defenseless posture of the exposed tummy.

Dogs invite us not only to share their joy but also to live in the moment, where we are neither proceeding from nor moving toward, where the enchantment of the past and future cannot distract us, where a freedom from practical desire and a cessation of our usual ceaseless action allow us to recognize the truth of our existence, the reality of our world and purpose -- if we dare" (2865-70).

Finally, a first:  I've enjoyed these stories, which keep pretty evenly balanced between enchanting me and grossing me out.   But a simple gesture by the retarded boy Jacob brought tears:
"Sorry about your girl."
"Thank you, Jake."
"I know what you don't know," he said.
"What is that?"
"I know what she saw in you," he said, and he leaned his head on my shoulder. 
Good stories go better with vivid description, better still with interesting characters, and best of all with insight.

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