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Lots of Love for Lost and a Little Secret about Episode 4

So, the highly-anticipated fourth season of Lost premieres tomorrow night, picking up where last season and its mind-blowing flash forward left off. And I for one can’t wait. (Especially for episode 4 . . . feel free to scroll to the bottom if you want to know why.)

I unabashedly love Lost, and over the past few years have encountered a ton of other literary people who feel the same way. Ranging from Amy Stolls at the National Endowment for the Arts to Nicole Rudick at Bookforum to Margarita Shalina at St. Mark’s, among many, many others. We shoot e-mails off the morning after each episode, speculating, pontificating, wishing the week would go by faster . . . It’s been said before (and more eloquently), but there’s something special about this show—it’s not the kind of program you watch and enjoy, it’s the kind of show you obsess over for days.

In my opinion, one of the reasons for this is the high literary content of the show. Not only does it unfold like an epic Victorian novel (with the winks, nudges, ambiguity, and paranoia of the most postmodern of works) with layer upon layer ripe for the analysis, but the writers incorporate literature and philosophy in ways that encourage dedicated viewers to read and learn about other works of art—works that end up adding significantly to the Lost viewing experience. (Like knowing who Mikhail Bakunin is, or John Locke, or Rousseau, or . . .)

Lost is one of the few shows on TV that operates within a much wider artistic context. It’s not completely self-contained in its one-hour bits, instead via the internet games (like the Lost Experience) and literary references (like The Third Policeman, Laughter in the Dark, Our Mutual Friend, The Turn of the Screw and many more) it is something so much more.

The books aspect is what really fascinates me, for obvious reasons. When a book appears on Lost—be it as part of the Others’ book club, being read by Sawyer, or on a bookshelf in the Swan—there’s a sort of cult validation of the book in question and a burning need (for me at least) to immediately read this book. These books are deliberately chosen, not to give away “secrets” or to “explain WTF is going on,” but to set a tone and to give the reader/viewer something else to contemplate.

In other words, I’m a fan of the show.

But seriously, books are important to Lost writers. In fact, Gregg Nations—writer and script coordinator—is going to be on a panel with me at BookExpo America in June talking about how Lost has created a readership for various books, etc.

More importantly—I know that was a really long-winded intro to my little secret—there are two fantastic books that are going to be in the fourth episode of the season (entitled “Eggtown” and airing February 21st): Philip K. Dick’s Valis and Adolfo Bioy Casares’s The Invention of Morel.

Not going to go into why I know this, but I do want to say that I’ve long held the belief that Morel (published by the wonderful New York Review Books) was the perfect book for Lost fans, and hopefully this will help expand its readership. (Same goes for Valis, which is also amazing, but since PKD has a bigger fan base, I’ll skip that for this post.)

If you’re not familiar with The Invention of Morel you really should pick up a copy. Borges was a fan of this nasty little book, and it was the inspiration for Robbe-Grillet’s Last Year in Marienbad. I don’t want to give away much, but it’s the story of a man on an island who is seeing some strange things . . . It even begins with the perfect Lost-like line: “Today, on this island, a miracle happened: summer came ahead of time” and includes mad scientists, different temporal dimensions . . .

I promise, fan of Lost or not, I can’t imagine anyone picking this up and not falling in love with this perfectly crafted book.

Oh, and watch Lost tomorrow. It’s on ABC.



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