Underneath the Lintel

Author: Glen Berger
Year: 2003
Genre: Theater

Martin Amis's The Information uses big truths to symbolize little stories: he makes his tale of midlife crisis seem larger and more significant by comparing it to the eventual explosion of the sun and heat death of the universe. (As a result, reading the book practically made me want to kill myself.) Underneath the Lintel takes just the opposite tack. As Berger explains in the afterword, what inspires his work is the necessity of remembering "three incontrovertible Facts ... the immensity of the universe, the incomprehensibly vast history of the Earth, and our inescapable mortality." To illustrate these truths, though, he takes a microcosmic view: a librarian checks in a book 113 years overdue, and follows its history until it takes on intimate personal significance for him.

The story becomes a meditation on how one small but important mistake can doom a person to eternal misery, and how a spirit of contrariness can animate an otherwise mearningless existence. Realizing that his search will likely remain inconclusive, the Librarian finds meaning in the search itself. He leaves the audience with two morals that are totally opposite, yet both true on a deeper level: "We're here because we're here because we're here because we're here," and yet, "there is joy, too, in that."

No comments: