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Biblical Overtones

Whatever the purpose, there appear to be many biblical references throughout Eric’s confession to Jen (see insert between pages 202-203) about what really happened in the circumstances that surrounded the death of his uncle Zeke. Here are the ones I noticed, in no particular order…

Eric Husch’s real name is revealed: Nicodemus John Husch.

In the Gospel of John, the Pharisee Nicodemus comes to Jesus under cover of darkness to try to grasp just who Jesus really is. It is here, in John 3, that Jesus says to Nicodemus..

No one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 

Compare this to an early quote from “S.” (p5)…

This is what happens, of course: men get lost, men vanish, men are erased and reborn.

Note that Eric’s letter appears immediately following S.‘s plunge into the sea from the cave at the end of Down, and Out and his startling discovery that his ship is somehow born again and waiting for him.

Eric’s uncle’s name is Ezekiel

Ezekiel is a book in the Old Testament. Many compare the “born again” passage in John 3 to this passage in Ezekiel 36. In addition, T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land (mentioned in the margins by Jen on p158) references Ezekiel 2:7 on line 20 according to Eliot himself (see notes on the poem). Ezekiel 2:7 states…

You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.

Eric’s Dad loved Zeke in a “shepherd/lost-sheep kind of way.”

The New Testament is replete with references to Jesus as the Good Shepherd and those he seeks as “lost sheep.” In one New Testament parable, a shepherd has 100 sheep. He notices one day that 1 is missing, so he leaves the 99 while he searches for the one lost sheep. When he finds the lost sheep, he puts it on his shoulders and celebrates as he carries it back to the other 99.

Compare this to the fact that Zeke gave Eric $100 to get home. Eric purchases two Straka books (Coriolis and The Night Palisades) from the “50-cent bin.” $100 to get home. $1 spent on Straka books.

Eric later uses the word “lost” repeatedly to describe himself.

  • Lost in Straka
  • Lost in books
  • Lost in school

Eric overtly rebels against his parents’ religious views

He recognizes the hypocrisy of his parents’ unforgiveness and failure to provide unconditional love when he needs it the most. Near the end of his letter, he scratches out the word “fundamentally,” alluding to his rejection of Christian fundamentalism.

Other Allusions

The Titanic

Zeke lets Eric off the boat in Astoria, named after John Jacob Astor (a manufacturer of musical instruments and patron of the arts). His great-grandson, John Jacob Astor IV, was the richest man on the Titanic and perished when it sank.

Parmenides of Elea (who taught Zeno)

Eric ends is letter with this…


“What is” was the subject of a poem called One Nature by Parmenides…

Parmenides stated that there are two ways of inquiry: that it is, on the one side, and that it is not on the other side. He said that the latter argument is never feasible because nothing can not be:

Compare this to what Filomena Caldeira said (Fn2, p71)…

Had Straka lived to review my final revisions of this translation, he likely would have quarreled with my choice to use oblivion here. His original phrasing translates directly as not-being, which I find nonsensical. How can one fail to be? If one is, one is.

Parmenides’ relationship to Zeno, who could be the source for The Tortugan Journals and The Archer’s Tales, is intriguing.