The Cardiff Giant, set in Cooperstown, New York, has up its novelistic sleeve Puck’s profound declaration, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Jess Freeman, investigative reporter, arrives on the scene to look into the weird disappearance from the Farmers’ Museum of a huge human figure. He had been unearthed in the late nineteenth century near Cardiff, New York. Jess confronts locals and outsiders who all have a theory, including that the giant has been reanimated and is lurching throughout the community. They are enmeshed in self-punishing belief systems such as alien abduction, astrology, kabbalistic numerology, New Age rebirthing, and religious dogmas reduced to literal absurdities. The fast-paced action centers around episodes where they pay a sorry price for their beliefs. But skeptics don’t fare much better, susceptible as they are to mental disorders that show the faculty of reason is fragile indeed. These characters group and regroup, with romance always on their minds, and finally come to recognitions at once surprising and moving.
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The Cardiff Giant follows an investigative reporter searching for the missing Cardiff Giant where he wades through some wild theories to get to the truth. What was the inspiration for the setup to this riveting story?
The plot was conceived in a eureka moment when I visited the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown. The sculpture of the Cardiff Giant is so crude (quite unlike Marcia Scanlon’s projective cover design) that it seemed preposterous to me that so many people, including the scientific community of Boston, could have fallen for the hoax—that it was an ancient human fossil. This set me to thinking about human gullibility in general, certainly a key enigma for our time. The fictional circumstance came to me right then and there, as I peered at the homely Giant laid out in a shallow pit: what if this large piece of gypsum were to disappear? Would people, with their various belief systems in place, jump to conclusions, especially that the Giant has been reanimated and is roving the community? In short, yes.
Jess Freeman is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
Jess Freeman, the investigative reporter, occupies the middle between his gullible new acquaintances and Thor Ohnstad, the relentless skeptic. In the beginning he wishes to set aside his own humdrum skepticism for the greater excitement of belief in something exotic or paranormal. Three encounters with the thudding Giant suffice to make him, if only in some measure, a believer also, hopefully setting aside his investigative objectivity. The novel takes an added and, I hope, deeper twist when it is revealed that Thor Ohnstad, hardly an exemplar of the Enlightenment, is psychologically deranged. The novel avoids any simple conclusion that the faculty of reason can always prevail against passionate and misguided commitments. Jess Freeman, himself for a time deranged by sexual jealousy, comes to recognize in Thor Ohnstand his unnerving double.
I felt like this novel was high in social commentary. What were some themes you wanted to explore in this book?
Yes, there are key themes of social import that I explore in THE CARDIFF GIANT. The novel ends when a redneck marries a transsexual! The theme of sexual identity is high on the list, but beyond this is human identity itself. The important characters (there are only seven) define themselves in terms of their ideological commitments. The New Age believer in prior lives, for example, knows herself to be one-fourth Native American and is attempting to become one-hundred percent. The believer in kabbalistic numerology is attempting to expunge her one-half non-Jewish parentage, an odious father, and become wholly Jewish. In the end, these characters settle for the identity they already have and put aside their stretchers. E.g. The believer in kabbalistic numerology reverts to mainstream cultural Judaism. But the phantasmagoric ending unsettles any easy fallback that everyone, including Jack Thrasher himself, has settled into a comfortable, recognizable world.
This book is part of The Enigma Quartet. What can readers expect in the next book?
The four novels of THE ENIGMA QUARTET are described in full on my website, from which I draw a bit here. I’ll say something about all four. (The first chapter of the novel set in Cyprus is found in the back matter of my Giant and is an overture to the novel as a whole.) They do not have recurring characters or plot strands but are united in how characterization relates to plot structure and in recurring themes. THE CARDIFF GIANT satirizes human gullibility. THE GREAT CYPRUS THINK TANK satirizes utopian ideals. OUT OF WEDLOCK satirizes the nature versus nurture controversy, centering on human identity. And THE WOMAN IN GREEN satirizes key aspects of American history. Whatever these shifts in emphasis, human identity is the largest thematic connection. And in each I launch a small cast of singular humans confronted with puzzles or enigmas who set out to resolve them. They suffer entanglements within the ranks and external threats but ultimately prevail in their quests through buoyancy, pluck, and affection. THE ENIGMA QUARTET is a testimony to human resolve and intelligence, despite a large dose of counterevidence. As Malachy McCourt writes of THE CARDIFF GIANT, “this fierce, upbeat novel is a timely restorative in a dark season.” I’d like to think this true of all four.
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The Cardiff Giant is a hilarious novel first novel, in a series of four, that is set in Cooperstown, New York in 2003. Written by Larry Lockridge, the short novel is narrated by Jack, an investigative journalist dispatched to Cooperstown to investigate the disappearance of the Cardiff Giant.
Lockridge gives an informative and entertaining description of the Cooperstown setting. In some detail he describes the physical appearance of the town and the many tourist attractions such as the Baseball Hall of Fame. There is also a breakdown of the town’s cultural diversity and a brief history on how it came to exist. This sets the scene well for the rest of the story and hints at some of the action to follow.
Intense and complicated characters are an integral part of the novel. Jack is open minded investigative journalist and is prepared to find paranormal experiences in his mission to discover the secret of the missing Cardiff Giant. He soon finds himself in a town with an interesting community that includes such diverse characters as Tarbox the town sheriff (and pig farmer) sisters Sheila, a set designer, and Esther, a psychotherapist, Thor Ohnstad, head of the local Chamber of Commerce (and inn keeper). Each character has their own motivations and unique voice, including beliefs in alien abduction, rebirthing, astrology, psychokinesis and kabbalistic numerology. Jack, the main character, even becomes entangled with the characters and their beliefs. Their belief systems often compete with other’s beliefs, which Lockridge brings alive with intense and occasionally absurd dialogue between the characters.
The story is organized into three parts, with numerous chapters in each. Despite the numerous characters, themes and romantic twists and turns, the story is well structured. It is very easy to follow and flows well.
Despite the outlandish characters and sometimes wild situations, author Larry Lockridge manages to cleverly couple this with some serious themes of love, jealousy, envy and pursuit of self-identity. These themes are obvious at the start of the novel and are cleverly carried through right until the end of the novel.
I highly recommend The Cardiff Giant. Author Larry Lockridge’s writing appealed to my sense of humor, but I also enjoyed the deeper underlying themes of the novel. The Cardiff Giant also gives the reader an opportunity to examine their own belief system, and self-identity – if one feels the need to read the book for more than just entertainment value. This is a satirical psychological thriller unlike any other book I’ve read recently.
Pages: 164 | ISBN: 1771804246
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