(posted by Evan)
I’ve been thinking about the green text a lot, obviously. But now there is a(n) (updated) thread for that topic alone. But it reminded me of the green light from the phosphor lamps. Then, there is silver. The City-State of Texas is The City of Silver (Silver City, Texas); see the map on pg. 62. There was mention of the silver buttons that adorned the uniforms of … I’m not sure what it all means but I think there is something there. Youth and Old Age, perhaps?
All of the cities are named after metals. I just as vaguely connect this with alchemy, through the old adage about the search for the sorcerer’s stone, a cheap route to manufacture gold. There is no city of gold, ask Coronado. Alchemy holds a strong place in the novel, in the Auspices in particular. I’ve been waiting to see what all this obsession with bloodline was about, and at this point there have been some big reveals. Aunt Anne, an Auspice, guides Joseph Gray on the bloodlines of his daughter’s future husbands. So, then I started searching a bit on alchemy. And looky here:
There were a few differences from source to source - but you can see some major similarities with the names and symbols of city-states on the map of the Republics of National Alliance on p. 62. Note the symbols for the alliance is Earth in the alphabet below. Also, note that the symbols for Fire and Water, which when combined make steam, space vehicle propelling steam, when combined look like the singles units in the map of the Republic of Texas on p. 32-33. Also, I really think we should read Lizzy’s book rec about maps next.
Speaking of speaking in code, there are words that the inhabitants of the City-State speak in sign-language. Like the green text, scrutinizing which words they choose to speak silently seems to me important, or at least, fun to ponder.
'Follow' is interesting, because if you ask someone to follow you then you intend to reveal something to them. A revelation is like an uncarbon'd letter to the government from which nothing should be kept. 'Quiet' is similar. 'Morning' and 'Goodbye' don't seem like the kind of things you need to keep from recorders, but I can understand it one sense. If you don't allow the recorders to pick up on distinct beginnings and endings to conversations, then it is harder to be sure they have everything.
I bring this wild conspiracy up because the book sometimes drops you in the middle of a chapter of the Sister's Gray and when the story rest so heavily on family bloodline and connects 200 years of events and consequences, it seems our author likes stories without beginnings or endings. So this brings me back to the time-warp aspects of this book. If the McMarrow was reading The Sisters Gray when he was shot, hence the hole through the pages of the photocopied book, then he was reading a book before it was written. If the City-State is the book that was written in 1843, then the future isn't real or she predicted it, like an Auspice would.
The separate narratives of Henry Bartle, Eliza’s handwritten notes, and the City-State which is in third- person but relays the thoughts and feelings of Zeke, are too coherent for me not to discard my previous think that one of them could be ‘real’ while another is a ‘work of fiction’. The same goes for the Letters of Zaddock and The Sisters Gray.
What's with the green text?
(p. 24) I could not feel. I was bright blank inside.
Madison astutely noted that the green M's resemble bats as well as the thread Zeke used to conceal the unopened envelope inside his grandfather's shirt. The seemingly random number of them used at a given time to seems to me to suggest a meaning as well. Andy had an idea about how this whole thing was part of the same 'thread', which I also think is interesting.
Which brings me back to my question: What is with the the green text?
Websleuth Andy did some searching and didn't find any solid discussion of this. Bookclub, you will be the first. Bottoms up!
Update: More green text discovered and added to the quote box (hat-tip: Speed-reader Andy). As I mentioned in the comments, there is a list on page 191. That says "Flag> TEXT FOUND IN DUST." It has lines with typed numbers on the side that so far correspond exactly to the page numbers of the green text quotes in the quote box, and all the lines are blank except for the top one: 24__________ ... where the first quote I COULD NOT FEEL. I WAS BRIGHT BLANK INSIDE. is written in pencil. The handwriting matches Eliza's; it is stamped by Z. Thomas. Recall, that Eliza is a good falsifier.
The last one, "(p. 207) Those who came before us are lost to us now." is preceded by "Zeke though of his grandfather. He wrote in the dirt at his feet. M " That seems consistent with these being messages found in the dust as the list says, but not all are consistent with that. The second one, "(p. 44) The truth of nothingness, that is despair." comes right after a description about how Zeke's grandfather's bookcase was well kept and dusted. So, I dunno.
Update 2: On p. 280, we have an extraordinary example of the green text. Why extraordinary you say? Because it occurs in the caption to The Drawings of Zaddock Thomas. That’s why. All others occurred in The City-State.
Also, it’s a sonnet.
Posted by Madison
I like any book that forces the reader to look at the form and function of a text, to analyze prose in a different way. I don’t know who remembers reading “The People of Paper” by Salvador Plascencia (early book club days), but Bats of the Republic reminds me a little of that because the pages must be tangible to really understand the book. As a librarian, I’m an advocate of literacy in ANY way: I always tell patrons that audiobooks and ebooks are not cheating! But there’s something magical about a hidden DO NOT OPEN letter halfway through the book that just can’t be achieved on audible.
Mark Z. Danielewski’s “House of Leaves” and “S: Ship of Theseus” by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst are other examples of books like these. Also, here’s an article someone wrote with TEN books that “break the prose mold” (see Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore on this list) if you're interested in reading more with this format.
Zeke is in line to be Khrysalis, demonstrative of chrysalis, meaning 1. a transitional state or 2. insect pupa, especially that of a butterfly or moth.
Zadock refers to his witchy aunt Anne reading his tea leaves, “She and all her Sisters share the oracular gifts of the Auspex, for better or worse it is hard to say” (p. 53). The word auspex means: omens derived from the observation of birds. She seems to have something similar to Bran Stark's raven eye. It’s also worth noting the mimicry of names between the family charts: Zadock Thomas vs Zeke Thomas, Elswyth vs Eliza, Bartholomew Buell vs Henry Bartle, Louisa vs Leeya.
On p. 59 McMarrow is reading a book during battle and a musket ball pierces right through the book, saving his life. Was this book "The Sisters Gray"? The one Henry Bartle checks out in his daughter's name to get her attention? Eliza writes "It has a hole in it" when writing her letter to Leeya (p. 75).
Books like these are works of art and every bit of the page seems important. I think the little green M M M ‘s on each page are representative of bats. They also mimic the green zigzag pattern on Zeke’s shirt where he sewed the envelope inside of a hidden pocket (p. 67). I’m not far enough along to make any good predictions but I’m loving the story so far! Happy reading!
(Posted by Evan)
This book was a little disorienting at first, as I was distracted by all the different media settings when browsing the book. Also, it starts with a family tree diagram and a map before starting a sub-novel called The City-State (CS) which only gets two pages in before it is interrupted by a news clipping (that is very irritatingly chopped in half from top-to-bottom, presenting only the top half, and also the third column cannot be read due to the crease between the pages of the actual book), a news clipping which in retrospect I realized is part of the Henry Bartle correspondence which is sort of a sub-novel of its own (HB). CS contains some cool illustrative interruptions in its own right, and lastly (well not lastly but three is enough for the moment), there are inserts of The Letters of Zadock Thomas (Letters).
The Historian Bartle (Eliza’s father) constructs the history of the Thomas bloodline, in part by Zadock’s letters. I’m no scholar. But I occasionally read history blogs (via realclearhistory mostly) and less often history books (sigh), and it is commonplace that letters of important people will be used as sources to reconstruct accounts of events or at least present their thinking on the important thing they did. No one writes letters anymore.
I’ve written a small number of letters in my life. They were are well received. I fear we may be losing more than we know in getting away from letter writing. I dare say the author agrees with me, if I sense a bit of frustration in the Bartle’s statement’s about Joseph Gray:
(p. 79) “I have cobbled together a brief biography from society publications. Business was his main sphere of influence, and through his ventures are well documented, little can be gleaned from numbers and ledgers. He kept no diary and wrote few letters.”
The dystopian future is very 1984 with overarching government control of everything, with a particular interest in controlling all information. The phonotubes and watchtower essentially act like telescreens. A difference is that Big Brother was in the business of distributing propaganda and then editing that propaganda to make history accurately reflect the present (propaganda); the Vault and the phonotubes are presented as factual recording and documentation of everything. I suppose we are pretty close to the latter - in the present and in reality - with our data collectors that we willing pay for and pump data into. Though I think it would be naïve to say that there isn’t some kind of falsification going on. I again turn to Bartle:
(p. 34) “I thought there were principles. Rules to govern which facts should endure and which should dissolve into dust. But now I see my criteria were arbitrary. I chose objects or moments, and they became real. I draw worlds from crumbling stacks of paper, and they are given meaning by my careful attention. The designs of the Historian become history’s lessons.”
There are some paragraphs of noticeably poetic prose that stand out to me. When I read them, I wonder if these few sentences were the beginning of the book. A moment of inspiration or two jotted down on paper, and the whole motivation for a book springing out of a desire to create a space where those words belong. Here are two examples -
HB (p. 35) “The past is like a tree in the darkest night, filled with black birds barely seen. Truths that flutter, escaping the edges of peripheral vision. First, they are birds lost against a dark sky, then they are simply leaves, blown about by an animating wind. The longer I looked, the more difficult it was to see.”
Letters (p. 53) “We are born and live the full thread the fates have trimmed for us and then we are gone, absorbed into the great darkened sky of the past and forgotten completely. Some men have legacies. Stars that remain bright. But how to become such a man?... I would be content to be even a small star in the vast and churning night, an asterisk in the history of man.
About the Author: The one in the back of the book is more fun. This is from zachdodson.com
Lots of pictures of all the cool stuff he does with the books there, including the one I inserted above.
Zach Dodson is a designer particularly interested in visual narrative. He has designed books for many independent presses, most notably featherproof books, which he founded in Chicago in 2005. Contact him about freelance book design projects by putting “@gmail.com” after his name.
Actual maps of Texas in 1843 according to DuckDuckGo.
A little bit more below the fold, but **SPOILER ALERT** if you haven't made it a little past p. 81.