This was written by my good friend Drew Morgan.
Well, this week we spent most of our time watching complicated personal interactions among the Atreides household and company. We seem to finally be starting to fade from inside to outside, to transition from control to chaos, to feather from exercise into execution. If you will permit me one of my odd metaphors, the household that has formed Paul into the (presumably) future ruler of Arrakis is like a womb–he has been protected and formed by Caladan, the Duke Leto, the Lady Jessica, and their chosen assistants–and the tenuous Atreides household on Arrakis is the birth canal to his destiny.
I made a sculpture last week, as a present for my brother. It is a ~250 lb, 3 ft concrete cross, with faceted sides; at risk of sounding proud, I think it is a beautiful design. I precisely cut 23 irregular quadrilaterals from plywood and attached them together with duct tape and spray foam, creating a form to hold the oatmeal-like wet concrete. When I poured it in the top, across the rebar built into the interior, I was nervous that the untested form would split open and waste my efforts all over my garage floor, but it held. I let it be for 24 hours while it hardened until it could support itself.
You may be wondering why I tell this story; maybe you see that I am about to compare Paul to my sculpture. But the point of my story is the part where I destroyed the wooden form on Christmas Eve. I used a utility knife to slice quickly through the tape and foam down the length of the mold, and piece-by-piece I pried off the wooden facets and tossed them into a pile on the floor. After I was done, I found my hands resting on something more than I had bargained for. Not only did I see the angles and proportions of my design, but I was presented with a wonderfully accurate, though pocketed and sandy, reproduction of wood grains and ribbed strips of tape.
This is why I think Mr. Herbert has written the first portion of Dune for us: so that as we begin to enjoy the main body of his epic storyline, we are not watching only the explicitly blocked-out, major facets of Paul’s character unfold upon Arrakis, exciting and enjoyable though they are. We are instead poised to watch the life of a fully textured and detailed man, formed with detailed imprints of his good and courageous father, his deep and sensitive mother, his quirky and wise teachers, the succulent household of his upbringing–all of which we know well and have now enjoyed with him.
I have not read this book before, so I could be entirely mistaken about the meaning of this first part, but I am (as you can see by my writing this) betting that I’m right. I don’t know exactly where the story is going, but I am morbidly excited to see how the good Duke follows his path to his end. I can’t wait to find out how well the desparate Dr. Yueh’s is able to execute his madly-outlined plans, and what possibly-unhappy destiny the Lady Jessica has in store for her. I am anxious to see what strange (tragic?) role the blue-eyed Piter has to play, and what will become of the disgustingly evil Barron Harkonnen. Even further, I can’t wait to find out about our mysterious almost-narrator and foreshadower Princess Irulan; how is she connected to the story?
We’ll be finishing book one this week (at page 200 or so), so I’m sure some of our questions will be answered. But many will not, and new loose ends and tensions will certainly appear. But that’s what it is to be human, right? We don’t get to see the world at once; we must watch it slowly ravel together. Enjoy your reading, and may you welcome the new year with Joy as it begins to take its course.