Saturday, May 21, 2011


Well guys and gals, it's here. Are y'all feelin' it yet? The Rapture. A thought crosses my mind as I wait - "I hope that God is as kind a judge as American Idol's J-Lo and Steven Tyler, then whatever my list of sins and indiscretions, he'll declare me "beautiful - you gave me goosebumps!"

Today seems a timely date on which to post about a good book I read recently. It deals with what might follow any Rapture-related purge.

I'm a picky reader, didn't used to be when younger, but these days if I don't immediately feel some kind of resonance with the author, his writing style, the storyline, where the story is set, or some other element - I can't be bothered. Life's too short!

I don't recall what led me to seek out Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart first published in 1949. Someone, somewhere online, must have mentioned it and perked my curiosity. I found a used paperback copy at e-bay, it had me by page three!

It's a post apocalyptic novel, written in the mid-20th century and presents the reader with a rather different perspective from books of the same genre written more recently. The novel is said to have been the inspiration for Stephen King's The Stand. I haven't read The Stand, but have seen DVDs of the TV miniseries. I much prefer the style and general flavour of Earth Abides.

I'll not go into detail about the beautifully written storyline in case others might be curious and decide to read it for themselves. It's the drawing of fine detail, issues other novelists deem too minor, which separates this novel from others in the same genre. I knew only this much before reading the novel: it's set in California, Berkeley area, mid-20th century. A worldwide epidemic (pandemic in 21st century jargon) of some kind has swept across the USA leaving the country practically devoid of human life. A university student, William Isherwood, known to the reader as Ish throughout the novel, is in the mountains, recovering from days in a stupor, having been bitten by a rattlesnake. He staggers out of a cave into the sunlight and begins his hike back to the city where he lives with his parents, unaware of what he will find........ (That's all I knew about the novel before reading it).

The draw to post apocalytic stories has always been strong for me. Dystopian novels such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 though fascinating are downright depressing. Post apocalyptic takes us past that, and through challenging hard times, but with a distinctly cleansed feeling about scenarios described. An original British TV series from the mid 1970s, Survivors, written by Terry Nation, had some of the best, detailed, post-apocalyptic storylines I know of. Earth Abides has a similar "feel" to Survivors; I'd be surprised if Terry Nation, as well as Stephen King hadn't drawn inspiration from George R. Stewart's novel.

Post apocalyptic novels, with their rather odd magnetism, must rely greatly upon the personality, and experience of their authors as to the general direction in which the plot develops, and how the novel eventually draws to a close. I've read novels in this genre with extremely depressing - though inevitable - endings. And some with endings left wide open for readers to supply their own conclusions. Then there are some which end with an eternally obtuse optimism. I'm not giving away into which category Earth Abides falls....others might see it differently from me anyway.

There's a passing mention of astrology in Earth Abides - page 294 -
The stars in their courses! No, he did not believe in astrology, and yet the shifting of the stars showed that the solar system too, was changing, and that the earth itself was becoming a more or less habitable place for man. Thus, at some profounder depth of reality, astrology might be right, and the changes in the sky could be taken as symbol of all the grinding wheel of circumstance. The stars in their courses! What was man, little man, to withstand them?
George R. Stewart was born in Sewickley, Pennsylvania on 31 May 1895, he died in August 1980. He was educated at Princeton, received his Ph.D. in English literature from Columbia in 1922, and joined the English faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1924. He was a sociologist, toponymist, founding member of the American Name Society, and author of more than twenty books.

A 12 noon chart has to suffice as no time of birth is available. Ascending sign isn't correct and Moon's degree isn't reliable, but Moon would have been in Virgo whatever his time of birth.

Sun in Gemini, Moon in Virgo = excellent astro-credentials for a writer. Sun in Gemini with Pluto and Neptune conjoining it adds creativity (Neptune) and a touch of darkness (Pluto).

A cluster of his other most personal planets in Cancer brings undeniable sensitivity and a certain softness of approach into this writer's emotional toolbox - readers of Earth Abides will recognise this sensitivity at once.

Saturn and Uranus, the old and the new were both in Scorpio as Stewart was born. Saturn trines Mercury/Jupiter in Cancer; Uranus trines Mars/Venus in Cancer. Symbolically there could hardly be a better astrological configuration for Earth Abides. The old ways, the new ways, linking and blending. This author was writing exactly to this strengths when he wrote this book - no wonder, then, that it has become a classic of its genre.


Gian Paul said...

End of the world - did not happen, not even for poor woman Anne Sinclair, wife of French all - important (almost future president?), sex addict and very bad behaved VIP.

I am placing this comment because all this business about "last judgement, end of the world etc." This is, I think to be taken not in terms of the visible, real world, but psychologically. Same for the "Arc of Noah" (accepted by christians,jews and muslims alike).

Explain: Mme Anne S. was born on July 15, 1948. Her Neptune, natal placement is at 10 degr. 27 Libra. Saturn is there now, almost. In retrograde motion, which means that the millions she put up to get her hubby out of jail (for now at least) may be lost for good. And she won't ever be "First lady of France" neither.

If she (or some of her now activated US legal advisors, probably quite a few) come accross this comment, they will hate me.

But astrology is truly "SANS FRONTIERES"!

Wisewebwoman said...

I think Armageddon has already happened and very few noticed. We are winding down.
Very interesting book recommendation, T. Must locate.
I liked "the Road" but am aware not many did.

Twilight said...

Gian Paul ~~ Allegory? Yes, could well be!

Oh dear - all of that DSK stuff went right over my head, GP. These tales of politicians' indiscretions are becoming so commonplace. We almost expect them nowadays - and I've stopped reading about them. Maybe these events are all part of the slow run up (or run down?) to the real apocalypse, or at least the fall of the west as we know it, which would amount to much the same thing.

Your astro observations are intersting though.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ We could well be on the slippery slope ! Something, some unexpected event, might stop us, make us look around and notice what's happening, and prevent us from careering right down to the bottom.
But maybe not.

I saw The Road - yes, not bad - not one of my favourite post-apocalyptic tales, but I'll take any that come along.

Yes, do get your hands on a copy of Earth Abides - paperbacks are plentiful. I went back to look for a hardcover version after I enjoyed the book so much, but hardbacks of this one are expensive. Probably hasn't been published again in hardcover since the original in 1949.