Canticle for Leibowitz
The past week has been a weird one. You would think I have something prepared for all of this but that would have been yesterday. Nope, I am a bit behind. So, this means I am working on this the day I post it and I really don’t have much of anything prepared.
So, I guess I am going to talk for a minute or two about what I am reading right now. (yeah, I haven’t finished it yet so won’t go too deep into it). A Canticle for Leibowitz (Bantam Books, 1960 or so depending on the print run) by Walter M. Miller, Jr. Based on the cover script it went to over 3/4 million copies in print. And now I feel like a hipster when I say you probably never heard of it. So much of what has been written in the past disappears into obscurity.
I am sure you already realize that, but the thought bubble actually has some correlation to the story itself. See, the basic premise of the story is a post nuclear landscape. There are monks who are doing the hard work of preserving as much of the written histories as they can, by doing what monks have done in the past; they are hand copying manuscripts, books, and notes to ensure that the knowledge isn’t lost. And it doesn’t matter if they even know or understand the information. The important part is that they save it for a future generation that will understand it again.
The book is broken down into three novellas. Each of them has a distinct atmosphere and structure to the others. Basically, as you read you can feel the changes between the different sections in how the words interact. Personally, I like the experience, even as it takes a bit to adjust to the changes.
But that doesn’t really connect us with the original thoughts…
We must return to the thought of how ephemeral our written works can be due to time and changes within society. And the handwritten document that led to the Saint-hood of Leibowitz. (from the back of the book) The document read: pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels – bring home for Emma.
I haven’t run across this note within the pages yet. Instead, I have seen other mundane snap shots in time for the Saint that have caused turmoil in the reawakening of humanity. Of course, there are more important documents that were penned by his hands, but these tend to be the ones that stick out simply because they are something that can be grasped and understood.
The more interesting thing to take note of are the legends that are spoken throughout of the Saint. The things he was supposed to have done at the rebirth of humanity. (and again, I haven’t gotten to the end of the book yet so I can’t say more than I have already experienced.) We as readers can liken this a bit to the legends of someone like Shakespeare. Without actually haven’t lived in that time, we don’t really know what his world was. We have no way of knowing what Leibowitz world could be. All we have is bits and pieces, formulations and conjectures. We may never know what the truth could be.
Maybe it is the conjecture that allows certain things to endure, while others slip into obscurity. We may never know, but can you imagine that one day a note you left for a loved one, or maybe a poem that you spent all of a few minutes to jot down, could be something that shapes the society to come after your passing? Somethings may be better left untold.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.