This book, as more erudite nerds than I have already articulated dozens of times, is powerful for a number of reasons. One aspect that keeps it in my...moreThis book, as more erudite nerds than I have already articulated dozens of times, is powerful for a number of reasons. One aspect that keeps it in my mind years after reading it can be summed up, mostly, in two quotes...
"Thus I fled, ridiculous hairy creature torn apart by poetry—crawling, whimpering, streaming tears, across the world like a two-headed beast, like mixed-up lamb and kid at the tail of a baffled, indifferent ewe—and I gnashed my teeth and clutched the sides of my head as if to heal the split, but I couldn’t."
...and, even more so, this second...
"I had become something, as if born again. I had hung between possibilities before, between the cold truths I knew and the heart-sucking conjuring tricks of the Shaper; now that was passed: I was Grendel, Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings! But also, as never before, I was alone."
And that beautiful, terrifying aspect is this... Life is surely a chaotic landscape of ideas: mechanical, brutal, chaotic. Yet, there is beauty and (even for the cynical) hope, lift, and yearning.
How we choose to interpret that condition into some sort of response and outlook is to some degree a choice, and lifegivesyoulemonsmakelemonade, etc. etc., the happy, successful, beautiful people choose to accentuate the positive.
But, in these two quotes, I think, resonates the intoxicating allure of the duality of that condition. In our moments of loneliness, solipticism, doubt and grime (or, frankly, realism), we are often more kin with the other, the monster. What's more, without a convincing sense of society (from close friends, likeminded peers, support networks, etc.), this debate itself is divorced or hidden away from our presentable, shareable selves.
Rare is the chance given to acknowledge this duality, and the allure of its darker side. (Though, I suppose we're afforded just the slightest, clumsiest of tastes of it when we sometimes act out, take a bit more than we ought of this vice or that, indulge in a cruel word, etc.)
So, while human wreckage is often made by embracing the void, what "Grendel" reminds me of is that the bittersweet beauty, romance, and drama of this essential choice (how we see the world, how we define ourselves in relation to violent opposition and daily humiliations) is often casualty of those healthy choices we make to survive.
....I also think "poor grendel has had an accident, so might you all" is an incredibly poetic way of saying "oh fuck it." (less)