The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 7 review

I’m currently reviewing chapters of War of the Encyclopaedists by Gavin Kovite and Christopher Robinson. As a Dune novel it’s pretty awful. Like, I’m pretty disappointed by the result but admire their attempt. They’re young yet so I’m looking forward to their second Dune novel.

Table of Contents located here.

Chapter 7 is another Montauk Chapter, also another short one.

Montauk is flipping through his graphic novel collection while listening to Marvin Gaye reflecting on how he’s sold his possessions including Hermione. Interesting point about Hermione is that she’s a daughter of Menelaus who was kind of a big part of the Iliad, which is a prequel to the Odyssey, which has NOTHING to do with this story.

I don’t really buy that Montauk is a big graphic novel collector, but I could be wrong. Like, I can’t see a graphic novel nerd really disdaining video game nerds, but then again it’s possible.

Earlier that morning, the spine on his Moleskine had cracked and the pages started falling out. Mani had offered to make him a journal, and though he’d refused at first, she explained that she enjoyed bookbinding and collage and would probably be making one anyway just for the fun of it, and plus, he could take it with him to Iraq.

There’s some symbolism to Montauk’s journal falling apart, I would think. His old life is falling away from him, one could make some kind of metaphor about a creature that sheds its skin. Somehow.

But as his life is falling apart, falling away, who is there to help him usher in a new life? One not super hipster (Moleskine) but something one could say is “real”, a sincere product from a “real” artist. One could see it as a transition from Montauk’s old life as a hipster to a genuine person.

Also Montauk is specified as reading Watchmen. It’s a deconstruction of superhero comics and considered a pretty influential comic published back in 1986. It’s a real tome of a graphic novel too. It’s a grim realistic look at a world traditionally idealized and hopeful. I suppose you could read that as Montauk reflecting on the realities of war as opposed to the nostalgic World War 2 movie version.

Montauk gets Mani some tea because he’s used to fetching things for her. Honestly, I think it’s because she’s not actually there.

Mani finished guiding the scissors around an image of a bicycle and held it up for his inspection.

“What do you think? Too sentimental?”

“No,” Montauk said. “I like it.”

The authors really beat us over the head that Montauk loves his bicycle. I guess it makes sense that he would be open for carrying over a piece of that into his new life, though it would seem to reflect on the “softness” that Montauk feels he must shed himself of. But I guess bicycles aren’t necessarily seen as effete. Still, there’s a lot of bicycles and Montauk and I wonder why that is, considering I think the bicycle incidents really drop off as the book progresses. I suspect it’s about the balance required to ride a bike, and Montauk is all about, at this point, being a person of two worlds.

They end up watching Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Which is a movie that’s all about the power of story-telling.

Which is also kind of The Odyssey.

Which is totally not a theme with Montauk.

Oh, but if it were? Guys, I could read so much into this.

Anyway, Baron Montauksen continues.

The city was under attack and to save it, he set off in a hot-air balloon woven from ladies’ knickers. In search of his heroic friends, he visited the moon, the center of the earth, the belly of a whale.

It’s funny that Baron Montauksen’s story is about a man going away from his friends, yet still a city under attack. Like, he can’t save this city under attack because in reality, Baron Montauksen isn’t the superhero from stories.

But for every astonishing sequence, there was a boring interlude.

Right? Right?! I wanted to love that movie but there are some serious lulls. This is just true.

Mani is sleepily getting all horizontal on Baron Montauksen so this great line is dropped.

Montauk felt the kind of intellectual dizziness he got when thinking about logic paradoxes, a dizziness that complemented his incipient erection.

I actually think this is an important line getting to one of the core themes of the novel. Baron Montauksen is a cerebral man, a man who prides himself and sees himself as an intellectual, and yet in truth, or the greater “realer” truth, is that he’s a flesh and blood being with an erection. Which, as anyone who watches anime knows, is terrifying.

Perhaps it was that this evening – watching the film, Mani slowly sliding closer to him – had become its own incredible story, a story all the more arresting because he could never tell it to Corderoy.

I mean, sure, you can never tell Corderoy because you’re scamming his girl or because you and Corderoy can never confront your love for each other. It’s like 50/50 for me right now.

I just tried a substitution for the following part (bolded parts are mine):

The credits rolled to a loud fanfare and Hal awoke. He leaned back slowly. Montauk looked directly at him, then leaned in and kissed himHe rose slightly (erection-wise), adding pressure to the soft brush of his lips, and they sampled the private tastes of each other’s mouths.

Montauk pulled back. “I’m sorry,” he said.

“Don’t be.”

“Are you going to kiss me again?”

Montauk had fallen to half-staff. The anticipation, the richness of the possibility they’d been craving for weeks, was collapsing in the wake of that kiss. “I don’t know,” he said.

It’s probably reaching but I’m starting to think their relationship isn’t so much about homosexuality but having trouble processing the ambiguity of their love for each other.

The two are like at this super sexy crossroads but Baron Montauksen is all like:

“I just like what we have,” he said. “That’s all.”

“Me too.”

Like they love each other but not necessarily in a romantic way, but that’s such a no-man’s land for these millennial dudes.

Then Baron Montauksen proposes to the ghostly incarnation of his love for his best friend. Because he’s really into defrauding the government, I guess. But then again, deception is a big part of that novel The Odyssey so if there was some hypothetical tie to the The Odyssey, I suppose you could just loop it into that.

Also it would involve lying to his friend, Corderoy, which is something that I think Baron Montauksen gets off on, so he’s down with that. Even though I think he’s actually marrying Corderoy, or kind of wants to marry Corderoy, or isn’t sure if he wants to marry Corderoy, which would be an affront to 2004 military and to his friend, so obviously don’t ask, don’t tell.

Mani considered his face as if it were a room-sized Rothko.

Just an interesting detail to me that Mani thinks in terms of painters.

Mani’s conflicted about taking money from a person she’s not in a sexual relationship with. Seriously, that’s what she says.

It was a weirdly romantic gesture, especially since it seemed pretty clear that they weren’t headed toward a sexual relationship.


Maybe it was the perfect fertilizer for a strong friendship. She didn’t have one of those right now. Not anyone close, really close.

Mani doesn’t have any close friends. That’s pretty bizarre until you remember that Montauk was thinking about Hal in the terms:

His best friend? Perhaps not anymore.

We learn that Baron Montauksen isn’t sure if his closest friend is his friend anymore then immediately after we find out that Mani doesn’t have any close friends because Mani is a psychic projection of the two men and so naturally reflects their state of being in some ways.

Because really, why doesn’t Mani have friends? Why would Mani love Corderoy? Mysteries of the ages.

Also, a fake marriage is a perfect fertilizer for a strong friendship.

I mean, you can’t see me rolling my eyes (and I didn’t roll my eyes) but pretend I just rolled my eyes.

Then Mani accepts and Baron Montauksen says some stuff about marriage and how he can’t tell his mother because it would be confusing that he’s marrying a Tyler Durden.

The end.

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