If you haven't read Andrew Smith's THE MARBURY LENS, you should probably check out of this post now. I'm going to spoil the hell out of it. You've been warned.
Last year, I was taken by Andrew Smith's THE MARBURY LENS. It was violent and raw and amazingly well written and it messed with my head. I devoured it in a short time and didn't let a lot sink in. I've been thinking about it lately and decided to read it for a second time, taking care to pay attention.
On my first go, I wasn't sure what Smith was getting at. Was Jack crazy? I had my own idea. I thought that Jack never actually escaped Freddie Horvath's place. That Marbury was an escape for Jack. I also thought that Ben and Griff and Con were all there in Freddie's with him.
The thing about book is that we bring our own meaning to them. I had a professor in college who was convinced that books only had one valid interpretation. Which I still think is a bullshit pretension by someone who assumes they're always going to be right. Even what the author believes becomes meaningless once the book is out in the world. There are layers of meaning to every book. A multitude of different ways to interpret them.
My interpretation of Marbury was different on my second read. Interpreting THE MARBURY LENS depends on one decision: Is Jack Whitmore a reliable narrator?
The first time around, I would have said no. But this time around, I'm not so sure. I think the fact that Jack questions his sanity, helps make the case that he is reliably reporting what he sees and believes. Not what's real, but what he believes is real.
Once I decided that Jack was reliable, I decided to also believe that Marbury was real. There are lots of little things that Jack talks about that made me believe that Marbury was a real place. The first being that he has no reason to lie. The second is when he talks about the worlds being like nesting dolls and himself being an arrow that transects all the different levels. Worlds within worlds within worlds. I'm a fan of quantum physics and the concept of multiple universes. So this was easy for me to buy into.
So if you believe that Jack is telling the truth, and Marbury is real, then the question becomes: Why does Jack keep returning?
Marybury is a land with no real night. It's hot, there are no girls, no family, little food or water. Bugs eat the dead, monsters torture you, rape you, and then eat you. It's not a beach resort. So why does Jack choose to leave his London vacation to constantly go to Marbury? He even states multiple times that he's like a junky. An addict.
I have two distinct thoughts on this:
One is that Jack is an addict. Jack goes back to Marbury for the high. Because Ben and Griff are there and they need him. He knows it's bad for him but he does it anyway. He's punishing himself. He thinks he deserves to lose everything he cares about. That he deserves to be in hell. I mean, if he were a good person, why would Freddie Horvath have chosen him? No, obviously Jack deserves what he's gotten. And Marbury, while an escape, is also his punishment.
Two is that everything in Marbury is black and white. There is Jack and Ben and Griff, and everyone else. You're either human or monster. The real world is full of phonies like Freddie Horvath. People who present one face to the world (a doctor) while secretly kidnapping and raping kids. The real world is a complicated, fucked up place. Marbury is hell, but at least the monsters have brands. They're easy to identify. So Jack keeps going there because the real world is too much for him to take. Is Henry Hewitt a bad guy? Does Nickie really love him? Is Con really his friend? These are questions that don't have easy answers in the real world, but in Marbury, they do.
There are things I have questions about. Was Henry Hewitt a ghost? I think he had to be at some point. He gave Jack the lens (just like Seth did with the two blue ones), Con couldn't see him when he followed Jack to the bar. However, we know he was alive and real at one point, because Con saw him in the pictures. So I think that at some point, he dies and becomes a ghost. If that's true, who killed him?
The other question I have is what the two blue lenses were. The ones that Seth leaves behind when the bugs eat him. Are they for Ben and Griff so that they can all get into Marbury or do they lead elsewhere? I think they lead to another layer. I'm open to thoughts though.
I'm also curious what you all think the connection between Marbury and the real world is. Why do Jack and Con get sick when they transition from one to the other? Why do they crave it when they don't return?
Lastly, is it possible that Jack both did and didn't escape Freddie Horvath? If we're talking about nesting dolls and a multiverse, is it possible that Jack did escape Freddie and didn't at the same time?
Okay, that's what I've got. I hope anyone who's read it will want to chat about it.