There’s this certain joy that readers know, and if you know it, you’ll probably nod when you read this, and if you don’t, it won’t much matter. It is the joy of catching a hidden allusion. And, like most things, the more hidden and obscure the allusion, the better it is. Reading “Sandman” was wonderful simply for the number of hidden and not-so-hidden references–at points it was like the comic book equivalent of those pictures where you find fifty zillion animals hidden in the dirt and possibly win a pony.
Stephen King, whatever flaws many of his books may have, is a great one for the references.
For example, when I read “Eyes of the Dragon” again last week, I got a brief chuckle from the fact that Flagg’s spellbook is none other than Lovecraft’s Necronomicon (unless, of course, Alhazred also wrote “The Mad Arab’s 101 Favorite Evil Spells” which I suppose is possible. Hmm, wonder what else he wrote. “Leng On Five Dollars A Day.” “My Life Among The Tcho-Tcho People.” Well, anyway.) But the Necronomicon, of course, is probably one of the most referenced books in horror, so it got only a brief “Heh.”
In the Dark Tower books, (which I started reading last week, and have been devouring at a rate that probably isn’t a good idea, since after the next one I’m stuck in the lurch with the other coupla million readers awaiting the rest) at one point they kill a giant mechanical bear, the model of which is “SHARDIK” and which makes one of the characters think of rabbits. This would be a nonsensical interlude if you hadn’t read Richard Adams’s (of Watership Down fame) book Shardik about–yep–a giant bear. So I got a slightly bigger kick outta that–that’s a fairly obscure reference. Also, I should note that this is the first joy having slogged through Shardik gave me–if you liked Watership Down, re-read it.
And then as I read on, just as we hit the climax of that part of the book, where a character is nearly eaten by a house, my eyes fall on the phrase “silver key” which had been used a dozen times up to then, but which finally accesses the archives from that summer I spent devouring everything Lovecraft ever wrote, and I sat up on the couch and yelped “HAH!” realizing that the entire story arc for the last hundred-plus pages has been a tribute to “The Silver Key” and “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” which were the continuation of the “Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath” all of it by Lovecraft and all of it featuring weird interdimensional doors to other regions and other worlds and hallucinatory dreams about said other regions and–well, it all dovetailed very nicely.
And because this allusion was buried in the plot and there was never a moment that, say, Randolph Carter popped in and waved to the reader, I got a particularly warm and fuzzy moment of ephiphany from it, all out of proportion to what one normally gets when reading about a small child being eaten by a house.
And that was good.
Also, because I feel you deserve SOMETHING for having read through the above bit of self-congratulations, there’s a new Digger up.