The Boy in the High Castle—Chapter Five
The Grasshopper Lies Heavy
“The wind blows over the lake and
stirs the surface of the water. Thus
visible effects of the invisible manifest
themselves.”—Hexagram 61: Chung Fu—
Inner Truth I Ching
Why did the Oracle choose to write a novel through the intermediary of Spencer Abendsen? And why this novel? Why this subject rather than some other?
Spencer had no answer to that question. Nor, for that matter, did his father or Philip K. Dick.
Knock, knock—who’s there? Juliana Frick hadn’t driven all the way from San Francisco and Denver—just to find out that it had actually been Hawthorne Abendsen who’d collaborated with the Oracle on the novel. She knew that already—the Oracle had told her.
She’d been driving her sleek but retro-looking 1950 Studebaker—the one with the pointy front and pointy back—through the Rocky Mountains. Suddenly she’d pulled over to the side of the deserted road. She reached into the glove compartment and pulled out the two worn black volumes of the Wilhelm/Baynes edition. Then and there, with the car engine running, she’d tossed the three ancient coins.
“What does it mean? Why am I doing here? Tell me what to do—or should I do nothing?”
She got Hexagram 42—“Increase”—with moving lines that transformed it into Hexagram 43—“Breakthrough.”
“One must resolutely make the matter known
At the court of the king.
It must be answered truthfully. Danger.”
It frightened her—it’s easy to imagine her biting her lips, knowing it was one of those usefully equivocal replies the I Ching sometimes makes. The kind that can go either way—except in this case there was only one way or the highway.
Juliana put the Studebaker in gear—and took off. She drove on to Cheyenne—knowing that Abendsen the reclusive author to The Grasshopper Lies Heavy was there. Supposedly known by the sobriquet of “The Man in the High Castle.”
She ended up, though, in a Cheyenne suburb—surrounded by bourgeois ticky-tacky look-alike suburban development homes. In front a single-story stucco bungalow with a nice lawn and a Suzuki motorcycle parked in the long driveway.
She’d been shadowed by a dark black Mercedes since reaching Cheyenne—she knew she was being followed. She tried to mind-meld with the driver and his companion—something was there but yet nothing was there. It was as if they weren’t human—but how could that be possible? Even Nazi thugs are flesh and blood—just like everybody else. She shrugged—heading to the door.
Up the flagstone path to the front steps, Julia could hear a party on the patio going on. Not a big one—but there was one going on. Hawthorne and his wife didn’t seem any different than the guests—typical weekend chit-chat cocktails and entertainment.
Juliana was determined to find out what the story was behind the novel—what was going on in The Grasshopper and why. As soon as she met Hawthorne—she realized he wasn’t the author of the text. Nor was he the one who’d collaborated with the Oracle—resulting in the published book.
But this was awhile after she met Spencer at the door—it was then she realized the kid had written the novel. Surely not—just a boy? She thought at first she’d somehow read his mind wrong. It stunned her at first—then came introductions at the party, schmoozing with Hawthorne’s wife and the guests. Most of them were writers too—some of them journalists and others college professors. All of them had read The Grasshopper—thinking Hawthorne had written the alternate history novel.
But how could a 16-year-old adolescent youth write The Grasshopper Lies Heavy? It kept running through her mind—making her want to leave the guests and get back to Spencer. How could the Oracle have used the boy to write such a book—the setting, the characters, the plot, all those thousands of choices that went into authoring a novel, telling such a mind-boggling story?
Had Spencer done it all on his own—or did he consult the I Ching with each chapter as he went along? And how did he move along with the storyline—not knowing where it was taking him? Like a mystery writer who waits until the last chapter before figuring out who the murderer is? Who’s it going to be and dealing with questions about characters and motives?
How did a naïve high school kid even know about the I Ching—getting three Chinese coins together, a piece of paper and a ballpoint to draw the hexagram? How did Spencer end up with the two black volumes from the Bollingen Foundation and the Princeton Press? How did he learn how to do it—clear his mind, toss the coins and run with it? Most adults weren’t into that sort of thing—consulting with a 5,000 year old muse?
Germany and Japan had won the war—in this world. But Germany and Japan had lost the war—in the novel’s troubling other timeline world. The so-called mysterious Nebenwelt. It was disconcerting to even think about it—time being out of joint that way. Who would’ve ever thought of writing a novel about it—two alternate WWII worlds existing simultaneously?
Where did Spencer come up with such a weird idea? What had he been smoking? What justified the ending of his fantasy novel—the way it did. The Grasshopper Lies Heavy—without any decent closure or happy ending? Didn’t he accidentally leave out a chapter—novels are supposed to have endings, climaxes, resolutions to problems aren’t they?
It dawned on Juliana that Spencer didn’t seem to be worried about any of that. If he was writing anything—it was just a lark, a fabrication of some retro world without a hero. Unless he thought he was the hero—but he didn’t act like one. It was more like a game he was playing—waiting until the end of the game to see who’d win.
But then everybody knew that already—Germany and Japan had won the war. Right? Hmm? Juliana had been counting on finding something out—that’s why she’d driven all the way to Cheyenne. But what had she find out? That there was no Man in the High Castle—Hawthorne Abendsen hadn’t written the book. Spencer Abendsen had written it—and his father had hidden that fact from everybody. At least from the Nazis—while the Japanese seemed to be in on the façade. The Japanese even published it.
The I Ching had left Juliana with an exasperating problem—the more she thought about it the more perplexed and confused she got. “Danger” had come up on her radar-screen—just like it did in the Studebaker when she consulted the Book. Had she stumbled onto something—some kind of hidden groundwork she’d been made privy to. Who was this tall goodlooking adolescent in front of her—who was this Spencer Abendsen?
For one thing he was a latent telepath—something she expected Hawthorne to be. The Zen koan about wind blowing over the lake had been true—the visible effects of the invisible were manifesting themselves all around Spencer. It didn’t seem to bother him that Miami was discorporating and diffuse—phasing in & out of existence. Did he know it was happening?
Surely, he had to know—if he’d written The Grasshopper he’d have to know. Wasn’t he the Little Grasshopper? Wasn’t the novel just a fairy tale he’d written about himself? And yet, there was some kind of “Babel-17” meta-language happening. It was like an English-German-Japanese black hole—they were literally translating and invading each other at the same time.
Spencer wasn’t authoring the Miami force-field zoid effect—anymore than he’d authored The Grasshopper. The Grasshopper had writing itself through the I Ching—like a self-contained schizoid personality reinforced by some kind of self-hypnosis. Most people were so enthralled by it—they were blinded by it. Both in the Lebenswelt and in the real world—language had a way of piggybacking the real and the reverse-real simultaneously.
Schiz-configurations were constantly struggling to force their dominance over the Other—semantically imprinting the minds of the mutual invaders with the inconceivable, i.e., that sooner or later one world would win over the other—and one world would collapse like a death star supernova into the other.
It was like The Grasshopper was tuning inside-out—oscillating, pre-capturing and experiencing itself in two worlds. “Babel-17” had been analyzed earlier—as a language without the “I” making its technical mastery an exact duplicate of looking the other way. Schizy espionage agents—that’s how languages sometimes interacted. Like automatic writing from the land of the dead—cryptography compensating for various ambiguities.
Both the Nebenwelt and this world were totalitarian states—parallel universes that seemed like chimeras to each other. Totalitarian states were good at it—rewriting history, foisting their own apocryphal versions on the world. In this case, two totalitarian worlds were doing the same thing—exercising what Saint Thomas Aquinas denied was possible. The ability to alter the past—and influence the future.
It was a privilege all victors enjoyed—the Nazis and Japanese in one world and the Neo-cons and Bolsheviks in the other. Trotsky who? The Russian Revolution never happened—according to the Nazi history books. Nor was Stalin or Sputnik ever a part of the Space Encyclopedia—mapping out the interstellar domain of Fourth Reich astronautic history. Nothing was left on either side of the Zeitvernichtung divide—to compromise those in power. The Gulag Archipelago was cancelled out on one side—by the concentration camps on the other side.
It was like having Hanna Arendt—on both sides of the River Styx. In Origins of Totalitarianism, she describes how the czarist secret police reportedly mapped out intricate circles within circles—of political dissidents, their friends & families, their political allies and enemies. Keeping track of them—the criss-cross relationships in ever-widening charts of contamination. The same with the Gestapo—spying on everybody based on the principle of universal contamination. Only to be erased and disappeared—silently and anonymously in Nacht und Nebel.
Crematoria smokestacks on one side of the Zeitvernichtung—Communist witch-hunts and blacklists on the other. Control on either side of the time-curtain—covered-up by man’s instinctual not wanting to know.
But what about The Grasshopper is heavy—how many people had read it? Even if it were banned—at the Dalton, Borders, Barnes & Noble bookstores? Who was pushing the outlawed samizdat editions of The Grasshopper—was this young kid Spencer Abendsen actually the specular author?
Spencer relaxed in the den with Juliana—they were leisurely mind-reading each other. He was smoking a Rising Sun cigarette—surely that isn’t what gave him his psi-abilities? Maybe it eroticized his adolescent hormones a little bit—making him want her.
But wait a second—she had to pull herself away. She could feel herself being pulled in his direction—the kid had a heart free of prejudice and was completely open to the truth. Whatever that was—was it the allure and charms of Hexagram Meng “Youthful Folly”?
“It is not I who seek the young fool;
the young fool seeks me.
At the first oracle, I inform him.
If he asks two or three times, it is importunity.
If he importunes, I give him no information.
Okay, okay, she thought to herself. I get it.
So Juliana had seen and heard everything there was to be said. She typed “The End” on her version of the storyline—there wasn’t anything else for her to do. She’d answered her question about The Grasshopper Lies Heavy—by talking with the real author of the text. It wasn’t a mystery anymore—there wasn’t anything else she could do.
Danger was beginning to synch around the kid—there wasn’t anything Juliana could do about that either. Sooner or later the Miami news would hit FOX-News and the major newspapers. The total blackout of Paraguay would have to come out too—airline traffic and business channels could only be neutralized and faked for so long. Juliana wanted to be back in San Francisco if she could—when all that happened though. How soon would the news break?
Juliana didn’t know what to expect from Spencer or The Grasshopper or the I Ching anymore—who knows what he was planning or what was being planned for him. There was nothing she could do anyway—Spencer didn’t seem to be worried. He enjoyed the Rising Sun—sprawled out in the couch with his eyes closed. He wanted to make love with her—but something told her she had to go. The thugs in the Mercedes were waiting outside—something was coming down. She couldn’t protect Spencer—he’d have to protect himself.
If it was true that he indeed was the author of The Grasshopper, then surely he was in the flow of things. It was a surprise to find it out—but in a way it pleased her. He was indeed full of Meng—youthful folly. Perhaps that’s why TPTB weren’t worried about the novel—it was just the figment of a stupid kid’s imagination. Nothing more—nothing less.
But it took more than youthful folly—to author The Grasshopper. There was something else about Spencer too—the novel wasn’t finished. It was that open-endedness—that seemed to keep everybody on their toes. It was like he was still writing it—that it had been published too soon, too prematurely. But somehow she knew the Abendsen family would be able to handle themselves. After all they’d got themselves into this predicament—by the father lying about his son. Surely he did it for a reason. Hawthorne hadn’t done it for a Hugo—that’s for sure.
Juliana saw an eleventh printing July 1974 edition of the smaller tighter yellow-cloth I Ching edition reset in new format with a preface by Hellmut Wilhelm—sitting there on the coffee table next the wall of Big Screens as she left. It reassured her—for some reason.