Since the Chapter 10 cipher was solved, the curious case of XBTUP arose. If you aren’t already familiar, XBTUP is the sequence of letters you get using the EOTVOS wheel when dialing in Calais, France from Fn6 in Chapter 10 (p431). And yet, those letters don’t seem to fit in the cipher. In fact, the letters we should get to complete the cipher are LONOE. This, for me, led to a Eureka Moment that led to the discovery of the hiding place of FXC in Maraú, Brazil. A user named Tonzi discovered this before I did, using XBTUP to create a beautiful map of multiple locations it could refer to until it led him to FXC.
FXC comments in Fn6 that the 1912 massacre at the Bouchard factory in Calais was the event that shaped Straka’s literary career. In the margins next to Fn6 in Chapter 10, Jen comments It all goes back to Calais. X Marks the Spot. XBTUP.
Since that time, XBTUP has stuck in my head to mean X marks the spot. I’ve tried to find a language that, when translated, would mean “X marks the spot” and have, as an acronym, XBTUP. I haven’t found such a thing, but my intuition keeps leading me there.
The symbol must mean something; his intuition must have a basis
With XBTUP on the brain as X marks the spot, I wandered over to a blog post about an evening with Doug Dorst at a bookstore in Austin. It’s a short post about him doing a book signing, but then at the end there is something curious. The author of “S” tells us about other books that he likes. Dorst “jotted down a few of his favorite books for us…”
- Far Tortuga by Peter Mathiessen
- Pastoralia by George Saunders
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Underworld by Don DeLillo
- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Immediately my mind seizes on the first letter of each book title, which gives us (in my chosen order) FBTUP.
Have I gone mad? Or is Dorst leaving us a little clue? Yes, you will point out, The F in Far Tortuga is not X. Ah, yes, but that’s because X Marks the Spot.
I believe there is a clue here that points to Far Tortuga as something worth digging into. I read enough about the book and enough excerpts of the book to realize it is more than just a casual, thematic reference (as I think the other books are). Consider this…
- Far Tortuga brings us back to the “fictitious pirate” Covarrubias and his Tortugan Journals (ix, 64, 210, 266, 410, 416), and references to treasure maps (X marks the spot!). The book takes place in the same region of the Caribbean as Covarrubias was rumored to have sailed.
- Far Tortuga was, according to the author, an experiment in negative space, or white space. The print layout of the book has a tremendous amount of negative space
- The dialect in the dialogue is often hard to understand, as it is with Maelstrom on our favorite ship.
- The book leans toward the mystical side of life, as does JJ Abrams heavily in LOST and S.
- Though I can’t reveal what just yet, I found more evidence to support one of my growing theories of the over-arching story of S in looking at Far Tortuga and the other works of Peter Mathiessen. (See It’s Been a Hard Day’s Night for more). In my own mad assembly of the puzzle pieces, they seem to be coming together as a cohesive whole.
Take a look at the blog post about Dorst and decide for yourself. If you have other ideas about what he might be telling us with his “favorite books,” I would love to hear your thoughts.