The Gray House, Week 7

The drawing of Sphinx as Grasshopper crying found here.

Week 7 finds me without a lot of time to write the post. My narration may not be very complete, but I have both read and listened, and listened more than once, so I hope to be familiar with the things you all want to discuss in the comments.

I’m going to a retreat this Thursday to Saturday, so you are going to see this post on Wednesday. I don’t know if I’ll be able to read your comments or comment those three days. But I warn you, at one point or another, I’m going to stop by and unload all the thoughts and questions and theories I have about this week’s readings. And those are many!, lol.

The section for this week was this,

Week 7 (pp. 446-521)
Sphinx: The Longest Night
BOOK 3: The Abandoned Nests
Sphinx
Sphinx

Sphinx The Longest Night

This is just 3 pages. Back at the dorm, Tabaqui is recounting the LN, what’s happened so far. Smoker too is relating when he was a cat. Black is mad at Smoker for disobeying Blind, for leaving the room, and for going to Vulture’s tent to guzzle who knows what. Now we know, or Black says, that Vulture has been eating anything but dope for the last hundred years.

Ginger goes to their dorm. Sphinx consoles her. She wants to know what’s happened to Red.

Book 3. The Abandoned Nests.
We have new designations:

  • Went over completely (Noble, Blind, Shuffle -The Magician, or Crookshank, Corpse, and Sleepy)
  • Moved to the other side (sleepers), (Humpback, Tubby, Angel, Butterfly, Beauty, Elephant, Ficus, Shrub, Zebra, Dawdler, Owl, Triton, Flipper, Crybaby, Piddler)
  • Went into the outsides (Sphinx, Smoker, Lizard, Dodo, Dearest, Viking, Microbe, Sumac, Porcupine, Carrion, Ringer, Whitebelly, Tiny, Greenery, Crook, Rabbit, Splutter, Hastewaste, Gin, Professor, Straw, Sticks, Bricks, Biter, Gyps, Hamster, Kit)
  • Left with the bus (Lary, Horse, Bubble, Red, Hybrid, Monkey, Termite, Black, Gnome, Woolly, Zit, Genepool, Rickshaw, Bagman
  • Left before fairy tale night, (Squib, Laurus, Dealwithit, Headlight, Ears, Nutter, Booger, Cupcake, Sniffle
  • Moved to another loop, (Tabaqui, Vulture)
  • Unknown, (Alexander)

I have some ideas about the different groups, what the designations may mean. We can discuss it at the comments.

Sphinx 1 gives us the ‘second’ half, or the rest of the LN’s events, but it opens with Sphinx outside, looking at some writings on the trunk of a tree:

Remember L.N. and never lose hope.

I am a tree. When I am cut down, make a fire with my branches.

Ralph has a revealing conversation with Sphinx, or Sphinx with Ralph. They are talking about the 3 that attacked Red. Ralph says their parents have called, they want to leave the House. Ralph asks what Sphinx thinks, what is it they fear?, What are they trying to run from?, but Sphinx doesn’t know. He says something interesting,

“I don’t think it’s a question of fear. They’re being squeezed out. The First is good at that. And not only the First…”Sphinx also gives Ralph the name of one more, Smoker. Ralph is prompting Sphinx for information. Sphinx doesn’t want to answer, but he does. Ralph asks if he is a Jumper. Sphinx says he is, but a bad jumper, -that’s why he doesn’t jump. However, in the chapter after this, we see him getting better at this jump thing. He tells Ralph he too is a jumper.

Sphinx tells Ralph about the first time he jumped. This is why I cannot say jumping is simply overdosing. Sphinx tells Ralph he jumped when he was six, at the graduation he was at. He relates that jump as going into a different time. It happened when he was facing a puddle of blood, the mob jostling  him from behind, forcing him to step further in that puddle. He remembers his socks soaked in blood. He passed out, went to another time or place, and when he woke up, quote, “after six years by my time and a month for everyone else, I saw a strange creature in the mirror. (This is my interpretation. I think this is when he was at the Sepulcher.)

Mermaid appears. She and Sphinx are a couple. There’s so much to discuss in this part, and in this whole chapter. We learn that Noble and Ginger are also a couple, albeit a troubled one. Thanks to Mermaid’s love for stories, Sphinx will tell her all the rest of things that happened during that L.N. It was maybe two, as Blind called it. That night started with Butterfly hiding at that stool, and the attack on Red.

Blind had quite a trip. He was found near Red, interrogated and punched in the stomach by Ralph, and he almost say bye to this world in his row with Black. And all this while having had a dinner consisting of , at least rats! Whether he is on drugs or not, the Blind of the LN, is a Senseless One. Sphinx had to tell him that his feet were bleeding at the end of week 6’s readings.

Blind and Black’s fight was mortal. It was supposed to end with one of them dying. Blind has been infallible in one to one encounters, but this time, Black had the upper hand for quite a while. Blind dodged what would have been a fatal punch, and after Sphinx harangues him, he bounces back, and hits Black like a maniac. Both are pretty hurt, but Blind seems happy and sleeps calmly, which is very eerie to witness. Black is happy to have the marks of involvement, and to have survived this attack. Later on we are told that both were sent to the cage. I’d say it’s safe to assume the cage is where they discipline those who have been into fights. It’s isolation time. After those two wreck the place in search for cigarettes that someone in the pack claimed to have hid there, they also come up with an unusual arrangement. Blind proposes Black to become the sixth’s leader, replacing Pompey. He accepts.

The chapters in which Ralph shows up, I felt that I was given more straightforward information, I started to understand why Black and Sphinx don’t get along, and also some of the dynamics of the House.

I think there was an important paragraph on page 474:

She gently pushes away, and I again see that she “remembers everything” in the gaps of her vest.

“I’m thinking how the same story comes completely differently depending on who’s telling it. And for all that, none of you is really lying.”

“Because whoever’s telling the story creates the story. No single story can describe reality exactly the way it was. I told you that I personally prefer Tabaqui’s version.”

There’s quite more on this too, a mention to Mermaid’s Gray Mouse Complex. Mermaid thinks she is uninteresting, all because she doesn’t have Ginger’s flamboyant personality. Mermaid also briefs Sphinx in the fact that Black, specially since he became the leader of the sixth, is copying Sphinx’s style. Sphinx had not noticed, but it makes sense to him nonetheless.

When they go back inside, Jackal (Tabaqui) is busy with his new ‘radio’ system, or whatever all those colorful cables hanging are. He is talking and connecting people at the House, with others outside?

Sphinx and Mermaid also meet with another couple, a very disturbing one, Blind and Rat. Blind is full of scratches in his chest, Rat’s nails are bloody. Sphinx is not happy about this relationship.

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Needle found here.

They head downstairs where they are late for Shark’s address to the House denizens. This part has a lot of information to help us, and many things will make us speculate even more. He is revealing the results of their mandatory testing. Apparently is a disaster, so much that the teachers won’t even bother staying for a second examination. The counselors will. They always do.  Only a few of them barely pass the minimum to be able to pursue the next studies (college.) Shark calls them imbeciles. The names of the few passing ones are these: a few in the first (less than Sphinx expected), only one in the second, Squib, nobody from the third, and Zimmerman (Smoker) from the fourth. Sphinx whispers, “one way or another, somehow we do rid ourselves of them.”

Blind is nearby Sphinx, Sphinx notices something hanging from his neck, and Blind tells him that it is an engagement ring. He and Rat are engaged. When he puts that ring inside his shirt, he takes it out again. Sphinx remarks it may have been scratching his wounds. This is new, since before we got information about Blind being the Senseless one.

There’s so much to say about what’s left of this chapter and next, but I have to finish this now, and schedule the post. This scene reminded me so much of Madame Bovary’s scene where the Prefect is talking to the town’s crowd that has gathered for the event, (like Shark addressing all the people in the House), and Rodolphe proclaiming Emma his love, (some of our characters having conversations in the crowd, or Mariam describing what’s going on with those hearing Shark, or not, (almost all the Rats are plugged to their walk-mans.)

blind sphinx

Drawing of Blind with Sphinx’s shadow found here

At one point the crowd shouts, “The only good cripple is a dead cripple!” There’s a mysterious exchange between Black and Sphinx about what’s going to happen to Smoker. Sphinx says his parents will take him. Black insinuates that he feels as if he has betrayed him, Sphinx thinks he has, Black says, ‘how?’, and Sphinx says that by failing to change him.

I’m just going to mention the next two events that close this chapter. One is the conversation between Black and Sphinx, with Humpback present, when they talk about the time when they were young, and Sphinx was Elk’s favorite. For Sphinx, he was being bullied, for Black, it was a time of jealousy, he wanted to be Sphinx, to have Elk’s attention.

The other event was the dorm, with Ginger, Sphinx, Smoker, Humpback and Tabaqui, and then with Tubby. First, we see the mix of hatred and attraction Smoker feels for Ginger, who he sees as a wild and unfeminine girl who has moved to their quarters and walks half naked, etc. What bothers Smoker, Sphinx thinks, it’s that Ginger doesn’t care about him, he is invisible to her. Smoker is an outsider. Ginger carries Tubby outside the dorm, Sphinx follows her, they three go to a mysterious place where there’s a real fire! There they two talk while Tubby plays, about their roles, their childhood, the fire nights with the Seniors and they, as young ones, trying to sneak and be there.

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Drawing of Sphinx and Mermaid found here

Sphinx 2, is a different chapter. Here we go back to the question, is this happening in a surreal or alternate reality, or in Sphinx’s head? And like someone said (I think it was Katie), does it really matter? Yuri has told us that Mariam always leaves this open to both possibilities, the realistic, or the otherwordly (that’s my favorite word for GH). If you have read or ever read García Márquez, his is a blend or an invasion of the magic into reality as we know it, or a expansion of reality to reach to the supernatural. He works more with the religion/miracle idea. Mariam’s ambiguity is, in my opinion, placed in the medical/drugs field, and her other worldly elements, the Faun inhabited Forest,  the ghosts, the Great Hairy, the haunting and hunters presence, the river, etc, could be an enchanted extension of the House, and alternative reality Narnia style, or a reality in people’s heads. Those people could very well be in back to life experiences of having been in comma, or brought back to life, and those can be their experiences, as those recalled by people who had a heart failure.

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Catwoman found here

This chapter has two main events. Sphinx and Noble race to the attic room to see what wins, arms or legs, and Tabaqui is the referee. When they climb, (Sphinx first), he finds that a girl they call Chimera is already there. Noble climbs and between both of them, they interrogate her. Sphinx is adamant to know what she was doing there. Chimera followed a dream she had that told her to go there and wait for a senior she has been meeting in other occasions ever since she saw him wanting to jump and commit suicide. Chimera doesn’t want to tell Sphinx his name. She is afraid. Sphinx gets down (with Humpback’s help to him and Noble), and they both go to see Blind. Blind doesn’t want to talk. That silence helps Sphinx figure out that it must have been Alexander. He faces Alexander, who says that he was going to kill himself because his fear killed Wolf. But he tells Sphinx that Wolf was really bad. And then he says that Sphinx can do whatever he wants with him now, like ask him to leave. Sphinx forgives him.

The second event is more difficult for me to explain. Somehow, Noble, Sphinx, and Black are in a room when Sphinx is offered some of the sixth beverages, after which he starts to feel he is the room, Noble’s crutches, everyone, everything, and he is in a place not in the House, not outside either, he is in a ‘jump’, and the rest are with him, but they tell him it’s his jump. They take to an asphalt road, and to a psychedelic canteen, where strange beings mingle,  some of ghostly appearance, and some of our known characters are there too, Blind, and Alexander crying, asking Sphinx to forgive him. Tabaqui is there too. Noble is outside, looking like someone who is been sentenced to death. The last paragraph, I’m going to quote:

There we go, the need for expression has driven them to the ceiling, it’s only a matter of time before ceilings start looking like walls with all the writings and drawings, and whoever would want to read them would need a stepladder, so we’re going to have an infestation of stepladders in the House.

I sit in silence and think about all of this.

Sphinx, I do that too, I think about all of this a lot!

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Drawing of Vulture found here.

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57 comments on “The Gray House, Week 7

  1. I’m not sure I can take these pictures! On the one hand, they are very, very good, but on the other, I feel like I am looking at a car wreck.

    What’s really odd, though, is how close they look to my imagination. That never happens!

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      • I think that is a great credit to Mariam’s descriptive powers. I’ve felt similarly with many of the portraits I’ve seen. Though I did not envision Vulture anything like the above drawing – he’s always been a little fuzzy for me. I like this rendering of him.

        Have a wonderful time away, Silvia! Can’t wait to hear everything that is buzzing around in your brain. I feel like I’m barely keeping up these days which means that I still have a lot of thinking to do about these chapters before I start talking.

        Here’s a question that has been bugging me for some time, but I keep forgetting to ask you all. I’m confused about graduation. The assumption would be that there is a yearly graduation, yes? That every year those who turn 18 would complete their schooling and leave the house. Yet it seems like there hasn’t been a graduation since the Skull era. And now I’m trying to search my book to piece it together so that I understand the timeline, and I’m getting even more confused and turned around. Ralph asks Sphinx if he remembers much of the last graduation – that was when Elk was killed – Sphinx and his pack were young and locked into the biology lab. Was it 13 years ago? Or was 13 years when Ralph first came to the House? In any case, Sphinx was a child – actually I think he was nine? In Ralph’s first chapter, he was talking about Elk’s naivete regarding the residents, and he said that the graduation of the “window tormentors” hadn’t taught him anything, “even though the days before their exit the House had been saturated with sticky horror.” Originally, I thought that these were the students of the Skull/Moor days, but now I’m wondering if they were a group before Skull and Moor because apparently they killed, but they didn’t kill Elk because Ralph says that Elk didn’t learn from this graduation. (This is all on p 224-5). “The next batch was still too little to fight reality seriously. Then it turned out that they were just as good at it as their predecessors, maybe even better.” Until now, I thought these were Blind’s group, but it’s this group that kills Elk, so this must be Skull and Moor’s group. Why does Blind have the knife that killed Elk? Did he participate in it? He was missing on the night the others were locked in. And then Ralph left at the end of the previous year (six months before he came back) because he saw the way the current group were changing their environment. Now he’s back for the last few months before their graduation. Am I more confused than I need to be? Help!

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  2. I don’t know, but I have the impression that graduation happens every six years. I haven’t figured out why, or how that would work.

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  3. Oh my. Those drawings are haunting. I’m caught up I think to this week and working on next weeks…I feel like the sense of place and people is clearer, although I’m still confused on so much, but it seems to me the fog of the beginning of this book is clearer and the focus is narrowing. I have some things written down, but I’ve been able to read a bit faster since I’m not as totally lost. Silvia, really like your narration.

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  4. I absolutely don’t understand the designations at the beginning of the chapter! LOL! 😉 I’m still trying to figure out those from the last time we saw those…beginning of book 2? I’m still actually pretty confused about a lot, but what I do know is that I care about the inhabitants of the House VERY much. I care what happens to them.

    I thought it was interesting that Ralph called the fellow counselors his pack. That really jumped out to me.

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    • I am not sure I understand the designations. I was thinking that, maybe, went over completely means dies, and the obvious leaving in the bus or left before Fairy Tale Night.

      I too care for these people. I know that Ralph wants to take care of his kids. Ralph’s chapters, -though they may contain unbelievable things, they seem to be more coherent. I guess he is a grown up, and his view of all this is from a grown up point of view (even if Sphinx says he too is a jumper). But week 8 (I know we are discussing week 7), was again another section when one feels we are back into a ‘rational’ world, or a place where we can find explanations to our questions, only to get deeper into the other reality Yuri told us about, which is the most confusing one, the one I’m still trying to place alongside with reality as we know it.

      My thoughts up to this week’s section are these:

      Grasshopper was the juniors at the time of the last graduation. They locked the young ones, and to me, it looks as if there was a massacre of sorts, a strange night, we don’t know who was present, and what precipitated the events, but we know that there was blood. Blood that Grasshopper saw, and that took him to the Sepulcher. There, quite at the beginning of the book, we knew he was expecting prosthetic arms, but I remember he said he thought he’d never leave the place. In this section, he tells us he woke up looking old, he became Sphinx, and he went back to the House.

      So, there’s the girls (and I hope you don’t mind I tell you they don’t have the same rules than the boys, they don’t have graduations, they stay in their section), and the boys. In the boys, there’s some who have spent almost all their life in the House. Graduation happens every six years, so at 6, at 12, and at 18. The graduation at 6, I don’t thing the young ones are supposed to witness it. The graduation at 12, it’s probably the one that Ancient says you are able to witness, one graduation and your own. And the graduation at 18 would be your own.

      Was Grasshopper 12 when he saw that puddle of blood, or 6?

      The Skull/Moor was the graduation when the pack was little, and Elk was alive?, or Skull/Moor graduation? (Which Katie points out that it could not have been, though).

      The girls are totally present into the boy’s lives. My question is this, from that address that Shark made to the students, the remarks that some made about the students that were crippled? If there’s any students who don’t want to leave the House, could they stay? What about those who want to leave?, do you think they are in danger revealing those thoughts? (If the parents can take them, they will, but what if the parents do not want to take them?, why are some students being squeezed out?, is that a way of saying they’d be killed?

      Is there someone behind Blind?, if the last graduation had lots of blood, it’s not possible that Blind did all that killing -but I have no idea when I say all that killing if there was killing or what? (We’ve seen the 2nd with razors. Why does the House have those students we know are misguided, lost, suffering, but immersed in drugs, violence -and killing-, dangerous intimate relations with girls, mental and physical problems? And why are they so free to live according to their rules?

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      • In the Ralph chapter at the beginning of book two he describes the sequence: the 18-year-olds are graduating, the 12-year-olds are watching it, then over the summer they discuss it and return to the House as the new seniors, and while they’re away, fresh 6-year-olds are being admitted. Counselors naturally spend most of their time with those little ones, at least at first, and the now-seniors “never forgive them their betrayal”.
        It looks like the graduation of Skull-Moor seniors “left a blood-soaked void” so scary that no one had thought to have another admission over that summer (as not many parents would want to leave their children in a place like that), and the House was temporarily left with no juniors – which probably led to the decision to close it altogether after “our seniors” graduate.
        I always thought that there were many casualties during that fight, not just Elk; the warring gangs really went at it, and with the “Law of Choice” in effect the results were, as Sphinx said, predictable. Lary mentions that “Moor had 40 hooked on Choice, so not many survived”.

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      • I see. That helps. So this is why we never hear about young children in the House now. I knew that there was a casualty heavy war between Skull and Moor, but I hadn’t even thought that it coincided with graduation. Could it be that Elk was merely caught in the crossfire while trying to help, rather than purposely “sacrificed?”

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      • I never even wondered why there are no younglings in the House! Thanks for explaining the timeline, Yuri. That does help.

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  5. Where did Sphinx go? Are those jumps a world of his imagination, a world they share, but in their minds?, or what is that place not in the House but part of the House? Where is that alternate reality, in a different time, a different place, both different time and place, or in their minds? Is that a near death experience more than one of them experience?

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    • Wow, so much to respond to! I have wanted to get over here so badly, but I just haven’t had the time or the brain energy – plus school planning is starting to take over my mind. I’m exhausted right now, but I will try to spend some time responding tomorrow morning when I am fresh. I will try to say a few things now, then I need to go on a walk or something to wake up!

      I know we keep making remarks like this, but I love how easy it is to interpret things on either a supernatural or rational level. Because when I saw the designation “went over completely” my first thought, of course, is that they jumped permanently to the underside – especially when I see who is in this category: Blind (one with the House, spends much time in the underside already), Noble (he seems to be addicted to jumping – or at least, he really likes it)…the other three we don’t know as much about, though it seems like Shuffle spends a fair amount of time there. When he fished up Red’s sleeping bag, it seemed as though that was a regular activity for him. There are two who moved to another loop: Tabaqui and Vulture. They both have an intimate connection to the House. I remember writing on the wall at one point that said something about going to the next loop. I don’t know what that means. Could it have something to do with time? I don’t know much about time loops, and I haven’t thought about it until this moment, but does this book contain time loops? I need to think about this….Moved to the other side (the sleepers) – my first thought here was death, but I don’t know – coma? There are quit a few of them….The other designations seem to be more easily explainable, as you said. It’s interesting that Sphinx goes to the Outsides. There is so much tension between him and Blind now. I wonder if there is going to be a big (and possibly dangerous) falling out before all is said and done.

      Until your thoughts, Silvia, I’ve not stopped to wonder if others, beside Elk, died at the last graduation. I assumed the blood was all his, but it is possible that there were others. It is very interesting what happened to Grasshopper here. The horror seems to have set off something in him that sent him to the sepulcher. It makes sense if he was overcome and fainted. But what caused him to stay for a month and not remember a thing. While in the Sepulcher, he contracted – or perhaps the doctors discovered – an unknown virus. Strange. This is what caused him to lose his hair. Was he in a coma that whole month? Was he subdued with drugs? Something happened that caused his reality to shift to the Underside, where he spent six years – he came of age there. (So I think he was 12 when Elk died). This must be when he met the steel teethed man. I wonder what happened to him there. It was traumatic, I think. When he told, much earlier in the story, about being in the man’s van, it reminded me of a book I read last year, A Little Life, that was absolutely horrific – about the life of a man who had been abandoned and abused as a child. (I won’t go on, and I’m going off on a tangent, but it conjured memories of that story and creeped me out).When Grasshopper came back to himself, he was actually shocked because he looked so young, not old. He grew up in the Underside (whether it is real or in his mind). He lived for six years, and yet when he woke in the Sepulcher, he was still a child. I thought his narration was very moving. “I realized that I was going to have to start my life all over again. And cried. Because I was tired, not because I had no hair.” That was heartbreaking to me.

      I want to talk much more about the Underside scenes in these chapters. Tomorrow.

      Oh, before I go: This is rather obvious, but I will say it anyway because I find it an interesting progression: In the first book, it seemed that, besides Ginger, there were no girls in the House. In the second book, the girls are introduced into the boys’ living space. In the third book, many of our main characters have entered into romantic relationships. And I think it’s funny that while Tabaqui doesn’t have a girlfriend (he seemed to have a crush on Mermaid in the last book), he is busy facilitating others’ relationships through his crazy jumble of wires.

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      • Yes, Katie, I also don’t tire of the same comment, how easy it is to go from rational, to supernatural, to encompassing both. The thing with the story being according to the one telling is very interesting. I believe this is deliberate, the ambiguity, because I tried a simple investigation, and there’s a disease that causes you to be bold, and to age and look how Sphinx looks. (But I think it’s a genetic disorder, not a virus, but he may have been found to be carrying a virus too. What I mean it’s that there could be a medical explanation). And then the supernatural explanation of Grasshopper jumping, -and not wanting to jump.

        I also thought about the “went over completely” as becoming completely insane. My thought process is always trying to find explanations (and I’m comfortable not finding them, but I tend to lucubrate about them). The reason why we have these different stories, or points of view, it’s because maybe (only maybe), when Sphinx talks, or Blind talks, we are listening to the mind of people who are not ‘well’, or ‘normal’.

        Sphinx told Ralph that he was a ‘jumper’ too. May that mean that he is also a ‘casual user of alcohol/drugs?’ I think there’s a mix of mental problems, drug problems, and a parallel reality that is starting to develop -the undersides-, but I don’t think that so far I’ve been given clues to know what to do with this supernatural reality.

        Your quote from the fight between Blind and Black, reminded me of the Matrix. Sphinx has been with Blind since they were very little. Black was going crazy, or faking it, and that’s what precipitated Blind’s attack, right? Something inside me tells me that Blind has a mental problem, -or he has a supernatural bond with the House-, and whoever does want to leave the house, or become a leader by dethroning him, he is determined to kill.

        What if there’s a forest that surrounds the House, and a river too, and Blind has his crazy imaginary world there?

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      • Oh, yes, I can see that – went over completely as going insane. It could go hand in hand with choosing to live forever in the underside. They aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

        It was intriguing when Sphinx told Ralph that he is also a jumper. I hope we hear more about that. We know that Vulture gave him a joint and he didn’t reject it. If there is a connection between the underside and drug/alcohol ingestion, then that could be an explanation, but I don’t know. Smoking a joint is a far cry from hallucinations. Although we don’t know what Ralph has or hasn’t ingested. Do you remember when Ralph first came back, he had a brief vision of Pompey’s death while visiting the sixth. It’s on p240. It wasn’t a jump, but he was seeing some details of that night in his mind.

        What, do you think, caused Black to go crazy – or pretend to? I think it was a show, but I’m not sure of his motivations. And why did that lead to the fight between him and Blind? Blind certainly seems to be controlling the happenings of the House to a large degree. Is he just an agent of the House or does he have autonomy?

        I do continue to wonder if there is an outside area to which some of these residents go. Blind returns from his wanderings with physical evidence of being in the forest, so there is a very real element to the forest, but I have no idea if the forest is a location in the real world. We know that at one point, Blind and Vulture were in a classroom that morphed into the forest. My brain is being really stubborn, insisting on thinking in layers. I just can’t seem to get away from this idea that the underside inhabits the same space as the real world and that it’s more than in their minds. Sorry. I just can’t let it go. I’m having a hard time thinking creatively about it because I can’t help seeing it as super-imposed. I think I will be relieved when I’ve finished – although I don’t know if I will receive more clarity as to what and where the underside truly is.

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    • Silvia said: Where did Sphinx go? Are those jumps a world of his imagination, a world they share, but in their minds?, or what is that place not in the House but part of the House? Where is that alternate reality, in a different time, a different place, both different time and place, or in their minds? Is that a near death experience more than one of them experience?

      I don’t have answers to these questions, but they are big questions in my mind too. The best way I can think of it is that the underside is layered right on top of the real world. When someone is in the underside, they are within the House, but it’s on a plane that the other inhabitants can’t see. I think that’s what we get with Blind’s fight with Black. Time is such a key, but I haven’t wrapped my mind around it yet.

      Another question I will add is, was Sphinx telling Ralph the truth when he said that he never jumped again after his first experience? It seemed clear that he was deciding to just tell it like it is, and I believed him. And then, in the very next chapter, here he is jumping. Would he not have jumped except that he consumed the hound alcohol? It seems the first experience when he was dissolving into the environment was not jumping. Or do you think it was? He refers to it as a Game (capital G). Is this one of his games that he developed in childhood? It is a smooth transition from Sphinx’s first experience to them getting to the underside. Sphinx says it’s Noble’s jump. Sphinx doesn’t like jumping. Why has he decided to go? Is he just not thinking clearly after that stuff he drank? Or has something else changed his mind – a recent experience or conversation?

      I want to say more about your questions, but my kids keep fighting and I think I need to take them out to a park or something. Our basement (school and playroom) and their bedroom are both under construction and they have nowhere to be in our house right now. They are going stir crazy. Mosquitoes have gotten bad in our yard, so they don’t want to stay outside. Sigh. Anyway, I need to give up on trying to write more now and help them.

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      • I realize we never found out what happened between Alexander, Wolf, and Sphinx. In that jump, Noble was about to ‘die’, -that’s what Sphinx saw, and Alexander was asking Sphinx to forgive him.

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      • I am 100% with you, Katie, it’s superimposed, yes. I do remember a lot of this scenes where the House fades into the Forest. I’m stubborn in seeing a connection with things happening in combination with drinks and concoctions, but they also appear as magic potions, and not all of the people have them when this undersides events happen, as far as I know. When Ralph saw the clock and his watch not moving, he was not drunk or stunned, it doesn’t look like it. There’s some of them who go into this world (voluntarily or involuntarily, what they write on the walls and they call jumpers and striders), and the rest of them don’t go there.

        And, where is Rat the girl?

        I am almost finished, I have a few more pages, but I do not see closure to our many questions. However, the last few chapters seem to be explanatory ones, so I know I’ll get more clarification, but even if my myriad of questions don’t get resolved, I’m going to be relief. (Since the tension that has been accumulating from these last weeks before ‘graduation’, is driving me -like them at the House, insane too!)

        I still believe this has to do with their knowledge (or lack of it), of what’s going to happen to them at graduation, or after graduation.

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      • Do you mean the jump to the diner? What I understand is that in the underside they appear not as they are, but as they believe themselves to be. Thus, Alexander appears as this horrific mangled angel with infested wounds. On page 517 Sphinx says, “The rules of the Game are not the same for everyone. Black (like Conan the Barbarian) is the way he wants himself to be. Noble (clad in disgusting rags that come apart at the seams every time he moves) is the way he feels himself to be.” I think Alexander also appears as he feels himself to be. Noble can’t handle seeing Alexander like that. That’s why he flees and when Sphinx finds him outside the canteen after the jump, that is why he had the “look of someone just condemned to death.” I think Noble feels sick to his soul because of being exposed to Alexander’s self-hatred. Alexander cannot accept grace. He can’t believe that forgiveness is truly available to him. “There is no blame on you,” Sphinx says, yet Alexander won’t trust his words. It’s so tragic. Grace is extended and he can’t believe it is freely given. He is damning himself to this hell of an existence. It’s interesting that Blind does not undergo an appearance change in this diner scene. “Sightless One sits across from us. He looks exactly the way he always does, no image changes for him. Maybe a little more transparent, that’s all.”

        Maybe this wasn’t what you were getting at, but I did think it was such a powerful scene.

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      • Magic potions. I like that. Do you mean to say you are almost done with the entire book? Wow. I have not started the next chapters yet. I’m taking the kids to the beach tomorrow, so I hope I have lots of reading time. This book is so big and goes in so many directions, that I am really struggling to reign in my thoughts and follow certain lines to a conclusion – or at least hypothesis.

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  6. Silvia quoted Mermaid on how stories come out differently depending on the story teller. It seems to be a clear statement of a central theme in the novel. And I love how the structure of the book itself relates this theme. Earlier, when she is begging Sphinx to tell about the LN, he objects, saying she’s heard it a thousand times already. And she says, “Ginger is Ginger, and you are you. I’m not asking you for a retelling of Tabaqui’s songs and poems. But if you’re uncomfortable with this, don’t say anything at all, of course.” We all have our own story to tell. We all see through eyes uniquely ours. Even when our stories overlap, they are different because they reflect our distinct way of seeing. We all bring something different to the table and our contributions are therefore valuable…..I find it interesting that she tells Sphinx, Ginger is Ginger, and you are you. He could say that exact thing to her, couldn’t he? You are you, Mermaid, and you are wonderful and special the way you are – We need you; not another Ginger.

    A few weeks ago we were talking about Shakespeare – about life being a stage and people the players. During their conversation, Sphinx says, “Hey. You didn’t doze off, by any chance, great lover of stories? I’ve been full of sound and fury especially for you, you know…” This is a reference to MacBeth’s “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” soliloquy in which he concludes “It (life) is a tale
    told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Sphinx makes this remark lightheartedly, but what is he trying to say? Is he insinuating that the story he’s telling, the story she asked to hear is meaningless? Is he making a larger point about life in general? Am I reading too much into the text? It is directly after this that she talks about how the person who tells the story creates the story. She seems to be countering him – life isn’t meaningless, but we are responsible for creating meaning and meaning is relative to the storyteller.

    One other thing about Mermaid: is she so insecure because she thinks Sphinx only loves her because of her Sorcery? She thinks she only won him because she cast a spell?

    Changing subjects, wasn’t Blind’s “dance of death” eerie and disturbing? And perfectly written. (p469) I’m going to type it out because, as I read it again, I think it is super important:

    “There is an exceedingly beautiful and fascinating quality about it, which I’ve observed dozens of times and never could figure out where it came from. It’s that leap into a different world, a world without pain, without blindness, where he stretches time, making each second last an eternity, where everything is just a game, even though it’s the kind of game where he could flay someone alive or turn him inside out with a flick of a finger. I know that for a fact even though I’ve never seen him actually do it. I feel the scent of madness on him in those moments, too pronounced not to scare me half to death. In that strange world of his he turns into something that is not human, something that creeps closer, slinks away, flies on rustling wings, spits poison, seeps through the floor. And it laughs. It’s the only game Blind knows how to play with someone else. Black has no hope of catching him. Black has been left on this side. His time is too slow.”

    When Blind does this, he’s moving into the Underside. Yes? And yet he is still present and active in the real world. Time moves so much faster in the Underside. Somehow this gives him the ability to beat Black up in a rather supernatural way. Right? It’s like he takes the time advantage from the underside (and the fact that he has sight there) and he moves in and out of the two realms of existence. This is why it doesn’t appear that Blind is even touching Black, and yet Black is being jerked everywhere and smeared across the floor. “He’s playing. Having fun. Except it’s too creepy to be funny. He doesn’t even seem to touch Black, and at the same time smears him across the floor, from the door to the window. Everything is covered in Black. In his teeth, in his skin. Laughter glints from under Blind’s hair.”

    Sphinx admires a kind of beauty in Blind’s movements. He has seen this so many times that he knows it well. It is a part of reality with Blind. Yet, Sphinx acknowledges above all, the menacing and disturbing nature of this dance. It is a game to Blind – he’s playing with a person’s life yet it’s just a game. When Sphinx says he knows Blind could turn someone inside out with the flick of a finger, even though he’s never seen him do it, does he mean that Blind has done it but it’s not observable because of the way he moves in and out of time, or does he mean he has the power to do it, but he’s never gone that far? Blind has such an underdeveloped conscience and no sense of appropriate social interaction. I’m diagnosing him with reactive attachment disorder. It makes sense, right? As far as we can tell, he’s an orphan. In his first years of life he likely endured neglect and didn’t make a connection to anyone until Elk, which happened after his first few years of life. He doesn’t know how to play. He is distant and doesn’t connect emotionally. He has formed an attachment with the House instead of a caregiver. I viewed a list of symptoms and one of the items is eating strange things. Plaster anyone? Anyway…There is no doubt that Blind is psychologically disturbed, to the point of making Sphinx fearful.

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    • Yes, Blind is psychologically disturbed, but I think that’s gone too far, much more than Sphinx thought. Another question is this, that first graduation, (or second?), when Elk was killed, if it was the Senior’s turn, what were Blind and Grasshopper doing there?

      Back to the flyers, they are those who leave the House and come back, and tell those in the House how the Outside is. Why did the second (was it the second?), do away with windows? Did some escape or ‘jumped’ during graduation, or during Fairy Tale Night, or LN?

      Noble’s jump. That’s true, Sphinx took the Hound’s liquor. These supernatural or undersides experiences, and the time stopping, etc., happen when some of them drink. Another possibility. If many of them drink to oblivion, and things happen in a haze, wouldn’t they all have ‘different stories’ the next morning? But also based on the same happenings?

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    • I hate to say it, but at some point in this section I started to believe that Blind is a psychopath.
      http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/sociopath-psychopath-difference#1
      This grieves me, because I have always always like Blind. I guess I thought of him as the strong and silent leader, willing to carry the pain of his people on his own shoulders, and therefore set apart from them.

      (1) “a world without pain…” — Which BTW, is why I think he’s in a sado-masochistic relationship. The only way he can have feelings the way a normal person would is when he is in physical pain.

      (2) “…everything is just a game, even though it’s the kind of game where he could flay someone alive or turn him inside out with a flick of a finger…” — No empathy, no concience, no concept of another person having the right to be treated in a certain way. Psychopaths see life as a game and people as chess pieces to be moved, dominated, and used at will. I have read serial killers talking about their murder sprees as a game, and the more difficult it is, the better they like the challenge. In non-violent terms, certain business executives talk about destroying other people in the business world as a game, and they don’t care if they destroy lives and families in the process.

      (3) “In that strange world of his he turns into something that is not human… And it laughs. It’s the only game Blind knows how to play with someone else.” — I think the game Blind is playing is to be the sole dominating leader of the House. My own question is why. Does he just want to dominate, be top dog? Or does he truly believe that the only way to prevent another bloodbath is to have one unified House?

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      • These are such good points, Sarah. I think that your argument really holds water, at least from my current perspective. I’m not finished with the book yet. As for your last questions, I think it might be a third thing. The things you mentioned may play into the situation too, but ultimately, I think Blind must follow certain rules prescribed by the House. Whether these are real or superstitions, I don’t know for sure. Blind is still a mystery to me. I think I need to get to the end of the book before I can really assess his motives.

        Interesting thoughts about Blind in the canteen. So Blind sees himself as he truly is, unlike the rest of the residents. No need to hide himself? And yet he’s also been referred to as a changeling….But I think that is a slightly different aspect of the appearances in the underside.

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    • Which is also why I think Blind appears as himself in the Crazy Canteen. He has no guilt, so no twisted self-perception there, and he doesn’t care how others see him, so no need to appear as something other than what he is.

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  7. And good catch, the ‘sound and fury’, (I didn’t remember it was in Macbeth, but it made me think of Faulkner’s title, who most likely got it from Macbeth)

    I kept thinking about another book, (I found your comment on that book you shared with us very interesting, though), but it wasn’t this week, it’s week 8, and it’s simply someone ‘living’ on a tree, like Calvino’s The Baron in the Trees (book I started a few months ago, and quit, but which I plan to read), but it was just the fact of someone who wants to escape his reality, and isolates himself in a tree.

    I understand now why some have compared this book to Tartt’s, and I think it’s to her Secret History (in it, there’s also a sort of Dionysian ritual, something that’s happening among the group of students, and that’ll end up in a tragedy.

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  8. Why does Noble walk now? With crutches, but still. How has he gained the use of his legs? Did he have a procedure done when he was on the Outsides?

    Ooh, I also want to talk about Chimera, but I don’t have time now. What do you all think of her? In mythology, sighting a Chimera is a bad omen. Do you think Sphinx’s meeting her foreshadows trouble?

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    • I think it has to do with his love for Ginger; he wants to appear not as helpless to her. I guess he always could use the crutches; he’s much more agile on wheels and crawling, but he probably thinks that the crutches give a more dignified impression.
      (in the Outsides he was in a mental institution)

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  9. The dinner. Yes, I got what you just wrote. I remember now the first chapters in which Noble is telling Smoker about his reflection in the mirror. That was it. He couldn’t stand Alexander’s view of himself. He doesn’t forgive himself for (killing Wolf?, something else?) And Blind is Blind, ha!

    I also was surprised to see Noble with crutches. I almost mentioned Chimera in my last comment. Chimera was upset to see them both. But she wasn’t uncomfortable with Noble as she was with Sphinx. She was hiding that from Sphinx, (that she had been meeting with Alexander who was suicidal). What do you make about Sphinx and Noble dressed up in Black’s clothes? And the way both have to get at Chimera to exact the information they wanted.

    Something else I’m considering it’s that Noble and those in his jump have certain ‘hallucinations’ or true experiences after ingesting those drinks, but Smoker’s hallucination was different? (Or does he see himself as a kitten in the undersides?)

    That is haunting me, why doesn’t Alexander forgive himself? Sphinx seems to be sincere in his ‘forgiving him’, but the problem is that Alexander saw in Wolf a bad person, and Sphinx may not have seen that. Do you all think that Sphinx problem is Blind? Maybe he feels responsible for Blind, as Blind for him. Elf bound them, but Blind did not precisely want to take care of Sphinx, and Sphinx may be by Blind’s side, but now he may be questioning this, since Blind is taking things too far. Initially, Blind’s attitude was one of ‘let’s terrorize them, instead of letting them terrorize us’, and I understood that. I was rooting for him when he didn’t cry, and that spooked the pack. But then we come to these children as seniors, and I don’t understand Blind’s behavior anymore. Sphinx is still by his side. Wolf wanted to plot with Alexander (dishonestly, taking advantage of a secret, or manipulating co-dependent Alexander), and use him to get rid of Blind. Now, do Blind or Sphinx at this point know that of Alexander, and of Wolf? I don’t think so. Alexander was suicidal, that tells me he was keeping this to himself.

    Yes, Katie, this book is so big, and many sub-universes were open to our view, that I’m not sure they’d be closed. I’m truly going to be waiting (and I don’t mind how long I have to wait, as long as I know it’ll be available), for those extra pages with more on these people. (Maybe Yuri has been quiet because he is on vacation, or he may be working on those pages, ha ha ha!) I know he wants to do so, and that’ll be our treat when done.

    Enjoy your time off tomorrow. (And yes, as in finishing it. I just cannot keep this suspense anymore.)

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    • There are so many comments and questions that get lost in the shuffle. I read this post a few days ago, but I didn’t have time to respond.

      It is an intriguing question – why is Smoker’s experience so different than the others’, His does seem more like a straight up hallucination whereas the scene in the diner, for instance, seems more like an alternate reality where the characters still have autonomy. I wonder if there are two (or more?) different things happening. Maybe Smoker’s experience was completely brought on by the drug he ingested and doesn’t have to do with the underside. When Tabaqui gave us a list of all the things he loves, one of the things he said is that he loves to leave false trails. This idea of misdirection has stuck in the back of my mind. It makes me wonder how many false trails we may have followed in the course of trying to understand this book. It makes me wonder if there are different types of strange experiences that easily get tangled up into the same thing.

      Oh, Alexander. I want to adopt him and love him and help him flourish. He is heartbreaking. I think the key to his inability to forgive himself is the words of his grandfather that open his Scarlet Dragon chapter: “You sin, you pay.” If that is what he heard through his childhood, and if his true self wasn’t good enough and had to be twisted into a false image, then it’s not surprising that he is unable to break free from the chains of what he believes to be his transgressions.

      You’re right, Elk did bind Sphinx and Blind to each other. So the question is, how does that play out now? Elk is dead, and yet, it seems that they continue to be connected in a deep way, and it doesn’t necessarily seem that it is of their choosing. I don’t know.

      Wolf is a figure that I still don’t understand. He seems a pivotal character, but I can’t work out what he really means.

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      • I didn’t remember this,
        When Tabaqui gave us a list of all the things he loves, one of the things he said is that he loves to leave false trails.
        Very interesting. I think I may be confusing some events as a consequence of following false trails.
        Smoker doesn’t see, doesn’t get inside those games. Are they games? Sometimes I’m so confused. I do believe there’s a forest surrounding the House. I think it’s true they have some trees, leaves, etc. Vulture was torturing a cat, and Lame (was it lame?) hurt him as he was hurting the cat. Ever since, his leg was damaged, right, and Max was looking at that from the dorm, and writing things on the wall by his bunk bed.
        I’m turning things in my head, but I’d probably have to go to the book and look at the beginning with the knowledge from the end.
        Wolf. I also don’t understand what happened with Wolf. What he was doing with Sphinx, if they were physically tied, why Wolf wanted to get rid of Blind, and what’s Alexander’s secret that he was going to use for his purpose. And Alexander truly feels responsible for Wolf’s death (he wanted it, so, is that as when we sin by thinking or desiring someone’s death?)
        My mind works on the literal realm. I do appreciate and love the poetic, but my mind tends to explain or find explanation in the known world (unless I get a direct indication to suspend my belief). So far, with TGH, I am not finding a clear clue to take one side, -realism, or another, but I always see a mix of both. And with the change of narrators, I’m not sure if when I hear Blind, for example, I hear the voice of a strange psychopath, one who believes that his twisted view of reality is a noble one. My mind is going crazy between trying to have compassion for a little blind boy whose ‘god’ (Elk) was killed (at the graduation), who was told to help Sphinx, who was bullied to the point of insanity, and the person he chose to become, inhuman, without a conscience, a very depraved individual living a nightmare as if he were a most wonderful dream. (Remember how peacefully he slept after killing Pompey, that was plain creepy, and very wrong.)
        Somehow, it’s as if the House is creating this collective psychosis. Have you all thought about it?
        And as I was saying, my rational mind tells me that yes, there’s drugs, there’s fights, there’s some mentally unbalanced individuals.
        Was Blind jealous of Wolf?
        I’m starting to think that, as Sphinx told Mermaid, reality or the truth changes as those who tell it change it. They all see things differently, understand things differently. It’s possible I’ll never get the unilateral answer to the House riddle I’ve unconsciously been waiting for, I’m thinking I’ll always get several possible explanations and narratives depending who you listen to.
        Even Ralph, when he has that surreal encounter, is under that strange wine the guard (former principal) gives him.
        They told Smoker not to leave the room. He went to Vulture’s tent. There’s admissions of substances being taken. Those similar hallucinations can be explained this way. If some of them grow up feeding on Fairy Tale Nights, legends, those writings, songs, etc, when they take drugs, it won’t be strange they all feed those legends, and talk about similar things, etc. The canteen. What if they are getting stunned together, and talking, etc, then, it’ll somehow be a collective hallucination. But Smoker doesn’t have that type of hallucination because he is just on his own.
        I also think about Blind. I think blind people have very rich and vivid inner lives. Blind’s coping ways may have contributed to his psychopath ways. He can hear or smell people before they are there. He didn’t have dreams before the House. At the House he started having dreams, and I think it’s because he absorb the collective nightmares or paranoia (those nightmares of the juniors being locked up, the craziness around them, the fears, maybe even those substance trips of some of them, etc). Humpback’s cry was one of a person bullied, not physically, but mentally.
        I think Blind went from defending himself and Sphinx from the bullying done by those who were asked by Elk to take care of them, to psychological manipulation. But in Blind’s eyes, he is the one who sustains the House. I think Blind wants them to live in the House forever.

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  10. Remember when I said that Blind killed Pompey’s on Sphinx’s request (maybe unspoken?)

    Sphinx started the sissy pox pack, didn’t he? Smoker came to them assigned by Shark. Just because he wore red sneakers and smoked? Tabaqui-Stinker came to them. He didn’t want to be in his pack. Magician also went to them (he was a newbie, and he was being bullied too, so he joined them, but after the time when they were little, Magician is never at their dorm). Noble did not grow up with them, yet they all seem to like him with them. And Alexander is accepted by Tabaqui, I’d say, but Sphinx also allows him among them. Now they allow these 2 girls, Ginger and Mermaid, in their dorm, because, I believe, they were friends from childhood. Remember that Ginger went to their dorm drawn by Blind, but Rat makes her default to Noble.

    I was asking where is Rat in week 8’s readings, sorry! (Now you know there’s no Rat girl to be seen in next week’s section).

    I’m trying to recap and see if we can get clues from previous chapters.

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    • Hmm, yes, their dorm does seem a refuge of sorts. Like it collects people who don’t fit somewhere else? Maybe?

      What’s the connection you see between this and killing Pompey? Not sure I’m following. Or were those separate thoughts? I’m not putting the pieces together about why Blind might have been killing for Sphinx. How might Sphinx be involved? I should go reread all that…I also don’t remember if we are given information about when Pompey came to the House. I can’t believe I haven’t thought to ask that. Or maybe I knew, once, and have since forgotten. Was he there when they were little, and if so, what was his name?

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      • Katie, I apologize. That’s sort of a wrong connection, or a loose wire I’ve had with Pompey-Blind-Sphinx, ha ha ha. It’s coming from my failing to understand Blind-Sphinx relationship, that’s all. My thing is this, they all see Blind killing, yet why is it they seem to be OK with it? Or, are they OK? Blind and Sphinx’s relationship I cannot quite understand. Blind is physically capable, but, isn’t Sphinx the one who controls Blind’s actions somehow, or not even?

        I have finished the book yet I need to process weeks 8, 9, and 10 with you all, or I don’t know how to understand what I have read at.all. If I don’t talk about the book, I’m totally lost.

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      • Even though we’ve made sense of so many things, I find myself continuing to get turned around and confused! I have been trying to come to some conclusions regarding Blind and Sphinx’s relationship. Early on, we are told that Sphinx is Blind’s eyes. I guess I’ve always thought of him as Blind’s right hand man – indispensable, but a definite subordinate. (This brings me to something else hat I have just started thinking about and am not ready to lay out there: if eyes are the windows of the soul, what implication does that have for characters in this book? I want to explore this when I have time, and if it is an interesting question to anyone else, we should pool our ideas and observations from the text).

        When I posted a minute ago, I found this paragraph that got me thinking about Blind and Sphinx’s relationship – and also more about eyes: “There isn’t anything ever in Blind’s empty eyes, there aren’t any corridors or closed doors in his words, but I can read the answer to my question in the solid wall he’s built in front of me. And that answer causes me pain.” (512)

        Sphinx is pained by the way Blind closes himself off, even from him, presumably his closest “friend.” Does Blind even consider Sphinx his friend? Is he capable of the emotions required for relationship? What answer does he read in Blind’s silence and unwillingness to talk – and why won’t Blind talk about Alexander? He doesn’t seem the kind of guy who would care about respecting someone’s privacy in this regard. Does he? I don’t think that’s why he refuses. Is the answer that causes Sphinx pain that Blind doesn’t love him? That Blind has no use for Sphinx beyond some utilitarian purpose? Is there anything behind Blind’s empty eyes – behind the wall he has created? He’s walled up his eyes so that no one can get to his soul, or does he even have a soul to get to? Friendship requires an opening of oneself; and it is the privilege of gaining access to the corridors of another’s mind and soul. Blind doesn’t give Sphinx that access.

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      • Blind, first and foremost, feels himself responsible for everyone who’s living in the House, and for making sure that the House remains benevolent to them. Everything else comes second, even friendship – and even friendship such as he feels towards Sphinx (in week 8, in Blind’s talk with Humpback, we’ll get a feeling of just how big that is – after suffering through what for him seems like a torturous punishment meted by the House for disobeying one of its unwritten rules, Blind says that he’s ready to disobey it again “for just one person”, that person being Sphinx). Blind is keeping Alexander’s secret to protect him – even though he already sees that the secret is mostly out, he still doesn’t want to be the one to break the order of things.
        And Sphinx cringes at what he perceives as “I’m just a personification of the House” from Blind; I’m about a third of the way through translating the “alternative ending”, and that would be discussed openly there.

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      • I see. I have such a hard time trusting Blind. He’s mysterious and, at times, rather sinister. I know that he is deeply connected to the House, but I’ve yet to truly understand his motivations. What you say gives me more perspective. I can’t wait to get to the part you’re referring to in week 8!

        Blind has a lot of power in the House – would we even say that he is an extension of the House? An agent, at least. So, he doesn’t have autonomy. The House is more or less requiring him to act and refrain from acting in various situations. Would this be true?

        Something that has been in the back of my mind for several weeks now is whether the book is, on one level, a commentary on religion. I’ve noted so many attitudes of determinism along the way. I consider determinism to be a skewed understanding of a sovereign God. The House has been described as a god. The House accepts or rejects, seemingly at its own whim. There are rules and laws that need to be followed to appease the House. Considering what Yuri just said about Blind, his role sounds like that of a priest. I don’t have my book with me right now, so I will have to flesh this out more when I can revisit some of the pages I have marked. I might be off the mark, but I’d like to follow this thought and see where it leads.

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    • Oh snap. I was hoping that it would be getting clearer the closer we get to the end.
      I’m always ready to give my understanding of what went on, minding the spoilers, of course, so don’t hesitate to ask.

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  11. Ever since Ralph’s chapter, I dreaded what was coming; it felt so ominous. I was almost as afraid of graduation—whatever that is—as the students. I couldn’t help wondering what these boys would be able to do once outside of the house, in the so-called real world. At first I thought they were doomed, that they would be utterly incapable of life outside. Then I thought about Tabaqui. What couldn’t he do? He is so creative! And funny. I could see him being a very popular writer. But what society is he going out into? Is it one that will tolerate his disability? Is it one that will allow him to be who he is? Is it one that will appreciate his genius? What is waiting for all of them? It seems odd that none of them look forward to the idea of leaving the house—where is the excitement, the anticipation for the next season of life? Even for the adults. Is the dread the adults experience due to the graduation ceremony itself, or due to what will happen to these children afterward? It seems unlikely the adults are much worried about what will happen to the students afterward. In what I thought was a scene, the principal berates the students for failing the tests, calling them imbeciles and numbskulls. (How’s that for a pep speech)? I don’t think Shark cares at all what happens to them, except as far as it affects his own reputation.

    Which brings me to one thing that I’m not sure anyone mentioned, and that is how funny this book is in places. The banter between Tabaqui and Sphinx and Noble is so witty and funny. It’s also got its very sad parts, but there is a lot of humor.

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    • Yes, Sherry, the humor!, such a satire, the scene with Shark. It has an underlying sense of humor they use, specially Tabaqui, always between exaggerating and laughing about things, and Smoker doesn’t share that level of playing with the language and thus laughing about a bleak reality.

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    • That chapter instilled dread in me too. I feel such trepidation about what might happen before graduation and who might get hurt – or worse.

      And oh yes, it is so funny sometimes. I loved this week when Sphinx described Tabaqui as a human display case. And of course Tabaqui’s scene with the wires and hosting some kind of, I don’t know, like a radio match making service or something, right? Whatever he was doing, the antics were humorous.

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  12. Ah, I see you’ve found Angel T’s drawings (Grasshopper, Needle and Catwoman). He/she (we don’t know for sure) is both prolific, drawing even minor characters and scenes that no one else thinks to draw, and at the same time fanatically canonical, with every little detail exactly as described in the text. It was a disappointment when we were preparing the special (illustrated) edition (in Russian), since we couldn’t contact him/her for the permission (or rather, we did contact a person claiming to be his/her representative who said that he/she is in deep depression and is closed to the world at the moment).

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    • Angel T’s drawings are my favorite ones. So sad they have not made it to that new edition. I can see how they are true to the text. I think the Grasshopper drawing is a masterpiece.

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  13. A brief comment about Blind: he is the only person I don’t like. I can sympathize with him to some degree, but I don’t like him. And I think that one thing that illustrates his character is that the other boys have sweet relationships with the girls, but Blind’s relationships with girls are very different.

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    • Yes. Sherry, he is sinister to me too. (I liked the Blind that was 6 years old. I still thought he could grow up to be different. There was something in his relationship with Grasshopper and Elk I respected. But once I saw the grown up Blind, that changed.)

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  14. I started reading Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar last night, and was startled to read the beginning scene where citizens are mourning the murder of Pompey. My mind is playing with that connection now.

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  15. I think Mariam keeps the book open to both interpretations. When Sphinx asks Ralph, or asserts, ‘you are a jumper too’, that means he takes drugs?
    The fact about the watches, and time. Again, I have no idea of how the mind of someone on drugs works, but I believe they loose track of time. We can explain from the supernatural, or from the natural world. We can say that there’s a day when time stops, or when time stretches (the fight between Blind and Black), or we can go the other way and say that when some are under the influence of drugs, time is lived or perceived very differently, as if it stops. And some of them may break the watches (even clocks) deliberately, that’ll explain the fact that the guard/principal keeps finding broken watches, or watches and clocks that don’t work.
    I can only remember my friend’s experience with LSD. She took those pills only on weekends, for 6 or 9 months at the most. She only stopped because of one night when she lost track of time, and because the flip of the dealer/acquaintance, who totally went bananas one night, and even got admitted to a psychiatric institution. Remember when Black goes ‘crazy’. Sphinx thinks he is acting, -and he may very well have been acting-, but whether he was acting or not, he was copying others who had been like that before. I think some of them are losing it.

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    • I just have to say how very glad I am to be reading this with the rest of you. You definitely keep me more grounded. I can’t imagine how different my reading would be without all the conversations with you all. I t would be very different! Silvia, you help temper my perspective and remind me that there are a lot of logical explanation for things – though we’ve all admitted that the book can’t be explained purely one way or the other. I still gravitate so much to the dreamy and strange, so it is wonderful to have others who can help me be more balanced. 🙃😘

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  16. One of the verses says this,

    And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the tune
    Then the piper will lead us to reason
    And a new day will dawn for those who stand long
    And the forests will echo with laughter

    There’s the piper, and the forest

    Does flying mean leaving?, or killing oneself? (If it’s the Stairway to Heaven, it’s that a way of saying suicide?) Alexander on the roof would have killed himself. The birds, with Vulture as the leader, are the ones with the beverages that make others fly, right? At the same time, Vulture is a bird of pray, and his pack is described as halfway between living and death (are they all mentally ill, or physically ill, medicated to the point of almost a vegetative life?)

    The counselors, Shark, and Godmother don’t fear the third. Is that because those in the third are like sedated patients. (But once I remember Vulture said they couldn’t hear anything but Elephant’s violence?, it was that opening of a week, with Vulture describing his pack, and that three fingered man selling him that key for his ear).

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    • Silvia, would you mind to copy and paste this over to the week 8 discussion? We’ve been going back and forth between these weeks so much that it gets confusing! It would help me keep the various discussions more organized in my mind!

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      • Sorry I messed up the comments. Do you mean the last one? (I am going to do that now).

        You say I ground you, but I think you are the one who finds all these supernatural elements and connections. I too am very, very glad to be able to discuss the book. I would be driving myself crazy if I could not.

        I’m very excited about week 10’s post next week, I want to hear Yuri’s take on the end of the book, and, of course, your take too, Katie, and Sherry’s, Sarah’s, and everyone else as they continue reading and showing up at the different posts.

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      • Oh, yes. Thank you. I wanted to talk more about that song and I can focus better when the conversation is all in one place! I guess I could have just copied it over in my own post, now that I think about it! I really hope I can finish the book this weekend. There’s so much momentum now.

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