It is not often one is granted insight into the mind of one’s parent through the medium of literature. But so it was that I came to understand Mumsie’s tendencies to overindulge in aspects of culture most regard as less desirable – sex and booze.
It was last summer and I had gone into her ‘retiring room’ to see if she had, yet again, absconded with my iPad as I had a hankering to take it and compose bucolic pastoral poetry whilst sitting in the garden. I needed something to provide the quintessential inspirational imagery so lacking in our squalid backyard, whilst I committed the consequential flow of rhyming commentary, contemporaneously to paper with pen.
Instead, I wound up reclining in the garden reading with interest a volume I had found poking out from under her favourite chair. It even reminded me of Mummy in appearance being much handled, rather fat and dog-eared. Surprisingly it had a Biblical quotation for its title, not something I would normally associate with my mater. There were also many self-revelatory notes in my mother’s long-lost youthful hand, highlighting passages or underlining phrases.
I later learned it is also a science-fiction classic.
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
There is much written nowadays about supernatural beings like vampires and angels and this book falls neatly in that category.
In this book, the angel called Michael Smith comes to earth from Mars. He is fabulously wealthy and naturally has magical powers. He lives in a commune where everyone runs around naked and has sex with everyone else and they eat dead people. He is eventually killed and comes back as a ghost to explain that he is going to take over the world with a new super-race, by evolving his followers. In the end, it turns out he was really an archangel.
I found the story by turns cloying, disgusting, strangely sensual, often all three together and always puzzling.
Three stars for the intriguing footnotes and marginal commentary from my maternal parent.