Bewildering Stories discusses...
Daedalus and Others
with Denise O’Hagan
[Denise] It will take me a little while, but I am reading through your Fourth Quarterly Review with great pleasure.
I fully appreciate why Danko Antolovic’s My Name is Daedalus attains the status of most controversial, and I am thoroughly enjoying it! He writes with his customary aplomb and is not afraid of delving deep into this mythical character and relishing his despicable or immoral aspects along with the more straightforwardly self-serving ones.
His use of the first person is courageous and clever, as it gives us a double insight into his interpretation of Daedalus. I find my natural shrinking from some of his actions tempered by the intelligence of the writing — or Daedalus himself. We should hate him, but we find it hard to do so.
There is no easy reaction to this lengthy and well thought-out work – the reader is challenged every inch of the way. I love it! Huge congratulations to the author!
Happy new year to you and all in the wonderfully named Order of the Hot Potato!
[Don Webb] Thank you, Denise! You make an important point: all readers will find their limits somewhere. And those limits will differ from one reader to the next. When writing challenges our limits in some way, we may learn something.
My Name Is Daedalus brings on stage a tragic figure who is sometimes hard to like. Daedalus is calculating and adept at rationalizing his actions, but how does he feel about them?
His first murder, that of Talos, is impulsive. His second, of Minos, is carefully planned. Meanwhile, as an extraordinary engineer, he constructs a ludicrous wooden cow that enables Poseidon’s bull to commit what amounts to the rape of Pasiphaé.
Then he designs and builds the Labyrinth as a prison for the Minotaur and as a monument to Minos’ paranoia. He desperately tries to save his son, Icarus, in a storm at sea. But Daedalus’ true progeny are the daughters of Camicus. Like Daedalus himself, they represent the scientific mind of the early philosophers of ancient Greece.
But consider Daedalus’ social and historical context. How else could he survive in such a primitive and violent world? He doesn’t like it — or, possibly, himself — any more than we do. But he understands with remarkable clarity why he does what he does. At the end, does he emerge sadder but wiser? Perhaps sadder, but as wise as when he began. Can readers say the same?
Another character type is even more difficult to portray: the passive hero. Such characters are typically more done by than doing; they are spectators in their own lives. Such a character can be found, arguably, in Tim Miller’s “The Spoons of Jupiter.” The main character is acutely sensitive to others but does not have Daedalus’ insight into his own motivations. When he is offered a new point of view, can he accept it? Can the readers do something similar?
Sometimes readers have limits of style. A famous example is cited in one of our Classic Rejection Notices: “My dear fellow, I may be dead from the neck up, but rack my brains as I may, I can’t see why a chap should need 30 pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.” — (for Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past).
If that critic had read only the first page, he might have noticed that it is loaded with action verbs. The bedtime setting is Proust’s semi-humorous “reader hook” that announces the novel’s theme of memory and can propel the readers into an adventure spanning several volumes and more than a million words.
What limits do I have? Coherence, for one. I tend to go by the rule that accidents and coincidences happen in real life but not in literature. Effects have causes and vice-versa. If anything is worth mentioning, there’s a reason for it. But not everybody sees things that way. I’m always hoping I can learn something.
[Denise] Thank you. Glad my thoughts strike a chord! Love that classic quote from Proust’s ‘rejecter’!
Interesting that point about the limits within each of us or that we impose within ourselves. I think some readers may read to have their moral framework confirmed; others lay themselves open to be challenged or changed by the experience.
Danko’s work is an invitation of the latter order and, indeed, we find ourselves growing in ‘forgivingness’ of the anti-hero, thanks to the style of writing which functions as Daedalus’ thinking also. It is hard to not be intrigued by someone who thinks so clearly.
[Don W.] Very interesting, Denise! French has a proverb for the forgiving you describe: Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner — “To understand all is to forgive all.” But only God can do that, for comprendre also means “to comprehend” and “to comprise” or “to include.” As human beings, we can at least be aware of our limitations.
Daedalus does not fall “beyond the pale.” His story is sad; his impulsive murder of Talos is evil by any standard, and he pays for his crime virtually by the loss of his own son, Icarus. But Daedalus remains rational and accessible: he is no psychopath; he isn’t a serial killer or a narcissistic tyrant, heedless of all he harms.
As for the rest, what else can he do? Lay down his tools? That would go against his very nature, and Minos wouln’t allow it anyway. Flee from Crete? He does that! And his flight is futile; Minos pursues him and ultimately threatens Daedalus’ protector, Camicus.
In the end, Daedalus resembles his own technology. Both he and it require wisdom to avoid self-destruction.