1981 - Grail

The SPIDER Symposion: in-depth discussion of specific Ellison stories and works.

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Steve Evil
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Postby Steve Evil » Sun Mar 13, 2005 2:23 pm

P.A. Berman wrote:It is strongly implied that Siri has become Surgat's plaything, esp. sexually.

Possibly, but not necessarily. I can see where lonegun is comming from. That thing the demon is fucking in his second appearence isn't necessarily Siri. Just another demonic thing, of which I am sure there are many in hell. Or perhaps it was a necrophiliac moment, which I strongly suspected 'cause the "partner" doesn't seem to do anything. . .

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Postby P.A. Berman » Sun Mar 13, 2005 5:03 pm

I dunno, Steve. Surgat leaves something on the couch when it takes Siri, something that doesn't look human anymore. Then we get this bit, "The demon had not been dining this time. It had been indulging in whatever passed for fornication among demons. Its love-partner was still attached. Whatever it was, it wasn't human. (A momentary thought shrieked through Chris' skull. Might it ever have been human; and might it have been...? He slammed the lid on the thought.)"

Then, "The love-partner moaned and gave a spastic twitch. Chris would not think of it."

The above really makes me think that Siri was Surgat's slave in Hell. Probably got more than she bargained for in the deal.

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Postby BrianSiano » Sun Mar 13, 2005 6:57 pm

Whether it was or it wasn't-- and since it's never stated, only implied, we could go back and forth on this forever unless Harlan states otherwise. But the scenes adds a horrific dimension to the quest for True Love, and indicates the stakes with which Chris is playing in order to find it.

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Postby P.A. Berman » Mon Mar 14, 2005 8:04 am

No one was planning to go back and forth on it forever, Brian, and I doubt Harlan would nail it down either way. It's supposed to be implied. However, Steve said the sex partner of Surgat was dead, but she wasn't, and Caperton certainly suspected that it was Siri. That's enough to make my case that the stakes for Siri were quite high, and at least Chris believe that she was willing to make a huge personal sacrifice for him.



Postby John » Sun May 08, 2005 6:48 pm

Hi... finally shlepped over here from the Breakfast Nook.. glad to see yo all.
For me, Grail is the scariest of stories. Period. Just shows to go ya- we each have our personal terrors.
His comments in this thread are to date, the only balm to that terror... thanks Mr. E.

be well,

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Postby DVG » Tue Oct 25, 2005 2:51 pm

An absolutely beautiful story.

I always pictured the looking into the grail as consisting of a series of the women's faces which then merged, degree by degree, into one "face" that consisted of some part of each--in other words, "true love" is a composite of our own experiences and perceptions of love in all its forms.

That is why the protagonist never saw the "face" before--he had never considered each experience of love in turn before.

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Postby Jan » Fri Aug 28, 2009 7:49 am

GRAIL (1981) - A dying woman sets her husband on a quest for the True Love that she wasn't.

I had read the story at the time but didn't remember it well enough to talk about it. Since then I've heard Harlan speak highly of it twice and wanted to re-read it. It's another quest/obsession story in the vein of "Adrift Just Off The Islets of Langerhans" with the subject being a different one - love. The question is, can true love be had? Harlan patterns the hero's search after that for the Holy Grail, and while doing so makes us aware of the time and effort the main character puts into the project; Harlan was apparently thinking of people (like himself at the time) who are unable to find or settle on a partner. The losses generated by an obsessive search for perhaps unobtainable things tend to outweigh the possible gain.

I can see the effort that went into "Grail" on a level of craft, but the concept and idea including the philosophical level leave me a bit cold. One of the main problems for me, once more, is that the main character is a flatly-characterized fool, lacking common wisdom, whose obvious, stretched-out journey to an ironic and not very unexpected anticlimax I don't particularly enjoy following. Not even the odd properties of True Love, the object, can elicit common human reactions from him. Instead of being able to identify with him, at the most one can identify with his wish. And in that regard, the story carries the burden of rolling towards its message without intensifying our curiosity or clarifiying the issue much. Harlan may give a proper answer to the questions he asks, but the whole matter seems secondary to real questions and problems. By True Love, I got the impression, both he and his characters meant primarily the perfect mate, and, consequently, there's little exploration of love itself. The rich literature about love that's out there makes the story look too much like a superficial late-20th century take on pseudo-issues, as well-written as it is. Whether one can find true love or not depends on one's definition of it and what we bring to it. The whole idea of going around the world looking for the perfect mate seems like something only a fool would do and someone who must be the problematic half of any partnership.

There are some rather good scenes in the middle when Harlan lets the monster in; not his very best monster but it certainly makes the story come alive for a few pages here and there. Other than that, at its best "Grail" brings back fond memories of "Count the Clock" and "Adrift" which covered some of the same territory in more exciting, fresher ways. They had the vitality "Grail" lacks. The pentagrams from "Runesmith" also reappear, and the Asian settings are mostly wasted. The whole dying-in-his-arms-and-telling-him-her-secret scene felt clichéd. There was nothing here that felt fresh.

The point that the promise of perfection is false or misleading is a good one to make, and is a clear one, but the ending still manages to confuse with the images of women which appear in the cup and which, particuarly if you compare the first and the last image, have no common denominator. It's also hard to follow the jumping-to-conclusions that characterizes the remaining paragraphs. It takes a fool to consider himself, with certainty, on the downhill side of life just because no woman among billions can quite meet his desires. And is he really sure that the last woman shown is not a contemporary of his? What was the finest moment? The moment he held the Grail? The times with Siri?

Harlan first decribed the idea for the story in an essay several years earlier (I think it's in An Edge in My Voice). He also mentioned having done a lot of research for the story; it required months of work. :| :| :oops:

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Postby swp » Tue Mar 16, 2010 10:52 am

very good essay. very good indeed.

I always thought that the flaws you mention are what makes this a perfect story-line for television. While the ending is already written, all of the ways and means of getting there can provide for endless fun. Low-cost to produce, relatively, except for the scenes with the demons.

Just imagine the opening sequence: inside a hospital delivery room, mom in screaming in agony as she pushes for the hundredth time, and out comes the main character. flash over to mom smiling down on him. match-cut to .. looking inside a pool of misty water (which is revealed to be the grail in the end of the series) where we see mom's face. match-cut via dissolve to your 1st grade teacher. match-cut via dissolve to your first crush. and on and on and on with pretty face after pretty face until the word GRAIL wavers into focus in bold italic white letters using something like Lucida Calligraphy (look it up) script. [cut to commercial. gotta pay the bills after all.]

and Harlan can do the voice overs. oh! oh! oh! and he can be the old guy in the bed for the final sequence, since they will shoot that first to get it out of the way.

now if only I can win that $200 million lottery to make this happen...

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Re: 1981 - Grail

Postby FrankChurch » Thu Mar 18, 2010 10:04 am

Harlan is already the old man in the bed.

It could be on HBO or Showtime. I don't want this censored. Grail has a sweet spot, but the Demon stuff has to be nasty. Amen.

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