Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Egyptologist: Final Report

The Egyptologist turned out to be a good book, not quite delivering on its early promise, but definitely a rewarding read: fun and thought-provoking. At the very least, you'll learn tons about the sate of the art of archaeology in 1922.

The tedium in the second half, which I reported in my most recent post here, was relieved toward the end, when events finally began to break, a new character's perspective was added to the story (via yet more letters), and, of course, I finally found out who was who, and who done what.

"Who was who?" was really the more interesting question. The blurbs on the back of the book, by such luminaries as Gary Shteyngart and XXX, all call attention to the themes of immortality and fame in the book -- the most obvious topics Phillips was exploring, with everyone from pharoahs to academics to small-fry private eyes vying to burn their names indelibly into the pages of time. Indeed, Phillips has a very sure hand when painting people's vanities. Funny stuff.

But I was more intrigued by Phillips' games with the notion of identity. No one is who they seem to be, even after you think you've figured out who they really are. More interesting yet is who they think they are, and what they do because of it. The stories we tell ourselves about our lives, as any narrative-oriented therapist will tell you, motivate or justify our actions, and help us make sense of our past. When that capacity runs out of control, feeding and being fed purely by ego, how far out of joint are the results likely to be? Lives get their circuits crossed, and much disaster -- or hilarity, depending on how mordant your sense of humor is -- ensues.

3 comments:

El Cabrero said...

Hey Thinkulous--writolous!

Thinkulous said...

Cabrero,

Thanks so much for the prod! I've been just a little tied up in minor things like, oh, moving to a new house and getting married this past week -- but I should be back on-line in the next few days. I look forward to posting again!

But it's sure nice to be in demand!

El Cabrero said...

Well, I guess those are acceptable excuses. Congratulations!