Serpent Box - Beyond the Blurb Ė Whatís it About?

ďÖstorytelling has nothing whatsoever to do with logic. Logic is a limping stepchild of the true processes of the spirit. Itís an illusion. Itís a defective little parlor trick. Associations are the way we perceive. Electrical connections caused by the juxtapositions of experience. Thatís the way we are really built, and storytelling takes into account that truth.Ē David Milch

[Warning: If you have not yet read Serpent Box you may not wish to read this section as it deals with some of my own interpretations of the bookís meaning. Reading my thoughts beforehand may affect how the book touches you, or if it touches you at all. VLC]

You wrote a book?

I did.

Really? Whatís it about?

I pause before I answer this question. Iíve done this now a hundred times, but I pause, and I think. As if between the time it was last asked and the moment in which itís asked now, I may have come to a new understanding. As if I might have an epiphany during the pauses. I have, by now, developed a rote, cocktail-party reply to this polite question, but still, I am always hoping that something new might come out of my mouth. Something that was hidden. Something that, until the question was posed in that particular instant, might reveal itself as if summoned by a magic word or a certain number of repetitions. But it never comes. Here, to my best recollection, is what the book is aboutÖ

Whatís it about?

I donít know what itís about. Why do people ask me this? I suppose theyíre being polite. Theyíre making conversation. Whatís it about? Certain people. Certain places. A certain moment in time. Is that what they want? Do they really want to know what I think the book is about? I think they just want to hear the jacket blurb. They want a plot synopsis. But not a long one. Not anything too hard to follow. I know this because whenever I give them more they find a reason to drift away. If I tell you, will you drift away?

You wrote a book? Thatís wonderful. Whatís it about?

Serpent Box is about a ten year old boy who lives in rural Tennessee. Heís not an average boy. Heís gifted. He heals people and sees the future. He sees the dead and talks to God. But heís also cursed. He has physical deformities. Heís unsightly and walks with a limp. The year is 1946. The boy, whose name is Jacob Flint, is the son of a preacher, the kind of preacher who handles rattlesnakes. Youíve seen them before. Or maybe you havenít. They call them Holiness preachers, Sign Followers, because they believe in the signs of faith promised in the Book of Mark where Jesus tells his disciples And these signs shall follow those who believeÖ

Charles Flint is Jacobís father and he believes in these signs. They shall take up serpents, Jesus says. So Charles Flint takes up serpents. If they drink any deadly thing, they will not be harmed, Jesus says. And Charles Flint drinks strychnine and lye. And Jacob sees this. He lives among the Holiness people. His father keeps a roomful of bibles and poisonous snakes. He wants to be part of this, because this is a compelling message Ė believe in me and do wonders, defy death. This is a visceral faith. Itís a faith that invokes the Holy Spirit, which is Godís physical manifestation on earth. Godís physical manifestation. Physical. See. Hear. Touch. Proof of God. Proof of purpose. Proof of an afterlife. Meaning. Ritual. Love, and thus be loved. An alluring idea in a cruel and uncertain world. The book is about that.

You wrote a novel? Whatís it called?

Itís called Serpent Box, now. But when I began it was called The Serpent Box and the Poison Jar, a title which refers to two simple containers. A box and a jar. The first is meant to house a deadly snake. The second, a caustic acid - crude implements of an aberrant Christian faith. Crude containers for crude poisons. Venom and lye. These things can kill you, and things that can kill you must be contained. They must be kept apart from us, they must not be allowed to make contact with our flesh, which is also a crude container of sorts. Can we not also kill ourselves? Must we not, sometimes, be protected from our own natural inclinations? Are we not the serpent and the box? The book is about that.

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