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Medieval in LA: A Fiction by Jim Paul

  • Author: Jim Paul
  • Book title: Medieval in LA: A Fiction
  • Category: Literature & Fiction
  • Subcategory: United States
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; First Edition edition (May 1, 1996)
  • Pages: 228
  • ISBN: 1887178155
  • ISBN13: 978-1887178150
  • Rating: 4.7
  • Votes: 978
  • Other formats: rtf lrf azw mbr

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Medieval in LA: A Fiction - Jim Paul
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The narrator uses his weekend trip to Las Angeles to reflect on Newton's concept of absolute time, meditations of Leviticus, George Berkeley's theories about the existence of matter, and more

3 Reviews
This little book is a gem. Subtitled 'A Fiction', it isn't clear what is really fictionalized. Nothing actually happens here. The narrator, someone named Jim - like the author - leaves San Francisco - where the author lives - to visit friends in L.A. for the weekend. They see an art show, go to dinner, to a Hollywood party, sleep, have breakfast and then go to the beach. That is the sole action, but these prosaic occurances provide the pretext for the author's internal ruminations about the Age of Faith's transition into the Age of Reason. Jim sees himself as still a Medieval man (Jim Paul is described on the book jacket as a 'poet and medievalist')and his internal dialogue becomes a kalidescopic montage of events and arguments about what the modern world is and isn't, and his place in it. Berkeley, Hume, Augustine, William of Ockham, Gallileo, Bertolt Brecht, John Cage, MTV, modern cinema, the Bible, pop music, Chaos Theory, Newton, and numerous anecdotes from his personal expeience and that of his friends and those he meets, are all woven together into a minor but thoroughly satisfying meditation about human intention and life's meaning.
An entertaining notion presented in the book is the concept of the 'suckhole . . . a stupid accident that winds up altering the future you had in mind.' I will add this to the Cosmic Joker as an explanatory principle to use as needed.
On the whole, this book is a very pleasant and fun way to spend an afternoon, and provides enough grains of thought for the mind to grind on for days more.
Jim Paul's seemingly autobiographical story of a self-proclaimed medieval man on a visit to L.A. is highly personable. "Jim" tells the story of his trip, the sights and sounds of his weekend and back stories about his friends, in loving detail. Woven into the stories and details are comparisons of post-modern art and ideas to the medieval worldview, lightened with good humor and a certain humility to both the Middle Ages and the modern world. No academic bore, this man.
However, there are some missed opportunities. The premise is not very strong because "Jim's" feelings about being "a medieval man" are not explored in much personal depth.
Also, a visit to a John Cage exhibit fizzles when the author fails to compare the medieval beliefs about fate with John Cage's fascination with "chance operations." Instead, the chapter hinges mostly on jokes about no one understanding the art.
This pleasant and readable novel ends without any sense of dramatic arc: there is no substantial change in the author's behavior, or his perception of the modern world or the Middle Ages. The reflections of Los Angeles are those of a visitor, not a native. No one else in the story is affected by these ruminations (and occasional tangents). The result is kind of like a witty slide show of someone's vacation, and at other times there is a very lonely sense of a brain churning away in isolation while his friends are tasting the wine and feeling the sand between their toes.
This is the second book I've tried to read from Jim Paul. The first, Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon, I couldn't finish because it was too self-indulgent. Same problem here.

While the topic is a great idea, contrasting a medieval mental perspective with the realities of the modern world, and based on an excellent book, Passion of the Western Mind, Paul's execution falls almost entirely flat. There is far too much LA and Jim Paul and hardly any explicit medieval. What medieval contemplation is explicit is done with a not too subtle sneer. I gave up after reading three pages on the difference between two types of sunglasses Paul owns. I understood his belabored point about perspective but Mr. Paul seems far too interested in himself to take anything else seriously.
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