And great, gray feathers—slowly—moved beneath his underfoot!
He saw It!
Side to side.
He sees It!
On the Great Water, while he watched—the great, gray body of a monstrous bird! coasted forward, off the Water-top!
"Great Bird!—It Is!"
The wings were, suddenly, unplanted for the shores. Its feet were—Loudly!—Sucked! Up! Up from the helpless, ugly mud beneath Its taloned feet. And Its head was pointing, soundless—off the Water! Out to landless Sea—It seemed to Say!
A great, broad prow of spines! With an enormous, sky-blue eyes! A masthead-knob of grizzly flesh, as red as fire, was nested at the shifting bow of This!—the Greatest Ship of Flight!
The Incident, Quandra Loka, Chapter 8 The Mummery Book
On one level, The Mummery Book is a spiritual biography, a journey through and beyond the series of failed scripts that govern human life.
On another level, it is an immense, self-refuting statement that illuminates and confounds the various strategies and formulas human beings use to console themselves while struggling with the threat and bewilderment of born existence.
At every turn, Raymond Darling, the pilgrim hero of The Mummery Book, encounters "the mummery" — the organized insanity of the social and cultural collective of mankind, the absurd and false rituals that lead only to self-division and suffering:
"And everything of humankind all-showed itself to be a nonsense—of the senseless Wars of mind!"
But The Mummery Book is also an Everyman's journey that presents archetypal experiences as metanarratives by which human beings organize their lives.
In that sense, The Mummery Book, begun in the waning days of literary modernism, anticipates the standpoint of twenty-first-century postmodernism: a Lyotardian "incredulity toward meta-narratives," the grand philosophical systems or ideologies that privilege a particular set of meanings by which society is organized.
Part of postmodern intellectual strategy consists of exercising a hermeneutics of suspicion to demystify the myths that such narratives contain; the purpose of this strategy is to expose the mechanisms of control the narratives exercise over human beings through their totalizing visions.
That is precisely what The Mummery Book does. It is a comprehensive criticism of cultural master-narratives, deconstructing every patterned strategy of living by showing it to be a "Vast Store of Bondage" doomed to personal and social failure and unable to satisfy the deep urge to happiness of the human heart.
The Mummery Book, however, does not merely explode the bottom-line cultural myths on which society is based.
In the twenty-first century — a century that looks back on the failure of twentieth-century ideologies and their social and political manifestations — one of the widely accepted answers to the postmodern condition is a retreat into perspectivism, the undermining of metanarratives by aggressive doubt, in which every partial and reduced point of view can be accepted as a minor "truth" by those who have felt betrayed by the failure of "Truth" itself.
By denying any larger meaning to the world or its representations, it is hoped that one can avoid the larger false narratives and somehow be comfortable with so-called "mini-narratives" — local versions that do not deny or affirm anything greater than oneself, but simply allow one to go about one's daily concerns, downscaled to a humble level of reality, the world of one's neighborhood, culture, or similarly restricted circle of enclosed forms.
But The Mummery Book reveals such an existence to be as illusory as the reliance on metanarratives. The Mummery Book holds up life itself, as it is usually lived, to be the ultimate false narrative, one inherently debunked by the presence of change and death, no matter the scope of interpretive strategies placed upon it.