The Orb

What is the meaning of the Orb, how does its meaning unfold as the novel proceeds, and what does its recurrence in the text mean? How might the Orb bring together time and space, temporality and planetarity, nonphysical and physical being, noumenal and phenomenal being? How might it signal “planetarity,” one of the 5 keywords in the front matter (but perhaps also the other keywords–rain, violence, etc.)?

Circles and orbs about in the text:

  • the 5 orbs/planets in the front matter (Rain, Signiconic, Violence, Planetarity, Custody), themselves semi-surrounding an AT&T-like planetary symbol
  • Raindrops throughout book
  • The orb sections themselves (especially “Tiny Storms,” 622ff)
  • the “orbs of time” that are the minutes of Xanther’s seizure, which lasted 5:32 (pp.242 ff).
  • The orbs at the chapter title pages for “Is Everything Ok?” (48), “Big Surprise” (114), “Dr. Potts” (179), “The Horrorsphere” (326), “Cinnamon” (437), “Litter” (455), “Tiny Storms” (622), “If Anything” (787)
  • the circles/orbs of speech on 444-445
  • the fact that this novel is “A circle round a stone production” (end matter)
  • Particularly puzzling: the “orbs” on Xanther’s phone, which include sayings by Hopi. Since this is on “Solosphere,” it is private: how is Hopi on her phone, in these text bubbles?  Is the phone another “channel” to other-worldly communication, like familiars and wizards?

Certainly this seems related even early in the text to the mystical and to famiiars, to the pre-Hispanic cultures of Central America, and to the horrorsphere broadly defined.

[spoiler]

We find out, of course, at the end of this volume that the orb is a computer of sorts, that Bobby had a hand in its creation, that Mefisto might be involved. But this doesn’t seem to exhaust the orb’s possibilities or its resonances, or resolve its relation to the Narcons and to other orbs in the text.

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About ajelias

Professor of English, University of Tennessee (Knoxville)

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