Saturday, August 07, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 185 (8/7) -- 3 Story by Matt Kindt

It's still a little early -- both in Matt Kindt's career and in my reading of his work -- to declare definitively that his stories have a tropism towards WWII and spies, but the evidence is beginning to pile up. Super Spy, obviously, was about spies in WWII, and Super Spy: The Lost Dossiers was a collection of odds and ends that didn't make it into the larger book. And then 2 Sisters was explicitly set in the same world -- or at least the same milieu -- as Super Spy, so of course it was connected.

But when a tri-partite story about the tallest man in the world -- an American named Craig Pressgang -- starts with his father fighting in WWII and features a prominent role for the CIA, one begins to wonder if Kindt can tear his attention away from spycraft and the hedgerows of 1940s France. They're background elements in 3 Story, just providing color to Pressgang's life, so perhaps Kindt is slowly weaning himself from them.

3 Story is told in three separate stories, by the three women closest to the "Giant Man" -- his mother, his wife, and his daughter. The first and the last are relatively short; 3 Story may be told in three stories, but one of them is clearly the ground floor, with a vestigial attic and basement. What all three women have in common is that they don't understand Pressgang -- but, then, nobody does, not even the reader. He's seen entirely from outside, and seems like one of those pleasant midwestern men, all surfaces and smiles and handshakes, except for the fact that he just keeps growing.

Pressgang is a mildly fantastic figure; he keeps growing beyond the limits of human anatomy, hitting nine feet tall in high school, plateauing at three stories tall as a grown man, but continuing to grow to treetop height as he gets older. Like Gene Wolfe's Baldanders, his growth continues unstoppably -- but, sadly, unlike Baldanders, Pressgang's growth doesn't keep him young. Instead it ages him, and irrevocably separates him from mankind, as his nerves get longer and longer and he can only hear ever louder noises. In the long central story, Pressgang's growth becomes a metaphor for his marriage to Jo, as his continually increasing height makes it harder and harder for them to even communicate. And Jo is the only one of the three women to have real communications with Pressgang at all; his mother tolerated him as the image of her dead husband until he grew too much, and his daughter's story only begins once Pressgang is much too large to connect with humanity at all.

Again, Pressgang himself is like a natural force, or some giant tree: he's there, and he's growing, and he occasionally has emotions, but he's mostly stoic and quiet, cut off from humanity even before he grows above them. Kindt's story is of a man gradually receding into the distance -- although, as Pressgang keeps growing, perhaps he's staying the same apparent size as he gets father and farther away. 3 Story is perhaps a bit too quiet for its own good; there are only a few incidents here, and they don't effect or change Pressgang much -- but maybe that's the point: that, as he grows past human size, nothing human can affect him anymore.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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