Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Man Who Fell To Earth - Bowie and Tevis

On AM we cover the history of music and rate great LPs and singles utilizing the AM rubric. Yesterday we analyzed how the rubric works, and how it doesn't. The fact that it is still subjective is fine by me in that the rubric's inadequacies are a catalyst for conversation. The goal of the website is also to discuss movies and novels, something we don't do enough. During our isolation, I have read a myriad of books from Lost Horizon to The Once and Future King with a bevy of my favorite Science Fiction: Stranger in a Strange Land, Childhood's End, Foundation (series), and now Walter Tevis's The Man Who Fell to Earth, which I picked up at the same time I got Bowie's Station to Station. The cover to the LP is a still from the Nicholas Roeg film.

There are no ray guns fired or space battles waged in this poignant novel. There is an unconventional spaceship, yes, but it is incapacitated after it deposits its passenger on earth. That passenger is an alien from a dying planet named Anthea and he's looking for sanctuary - a place for the remnants of his people. His name on earth is T.J. Newton and he is referred to as Tommy, a name that adds the colloquialism and a sense of casual reality to Tommy's story. 

Here is a quiet novel, engaged with the dissolution of a human being not of earth by its influence and his alienation. He is an outcast and his loneliness and despair are deeply felt. The novel is a wise indictment, a rumination on the world that we live in, how we choose to live in it, and the people that take it for granted. Tevis' novel only gets smaller and quieter toward the end... and then it winks out. Tevis looked upon the novel as his autobiography.

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