Thanks to Ellen for inviting me to post in advance of the launch party (Tuesday, June 15th @ 7:00 p.m.) for Captivity.
Captivity is historical fiction, but something about Maggie Fox’s story has always felt contemporary to me, and I think it’s the underlying idea of connection.
When Maggie and her sisters began communicating with spirits, coaching them to rap on the walls in code, the U.S. was in a frenzy of economic and territorial expansion. Samuel Morse’s telegraph, an obscure electrical force, seemed to suggest that the living might as easily master a “spirit telegraph,” a direct line to the dead. Antebellum Americans, like their Victorian counterparts, had seen their religious faith and ideas about the afterlife undermined by science. They were rational, progressive, and uneasy — ripe for trends like mesmerism and the attractions of the occult. The Fox sisters allowed many to trust again in the continuity of life. The movement the family inspired ultimately claimed more than a million followers.
I can’t help thinking that we’re in a place not unlike where the Victorians found themselves at the height of spiritualism. We’re devoted to advancement, in thrall to technology, and just as they seized on the diversions of table tilting, spirit writing, and ectoplasm — the mechanics of communication — we sustain perpetual connection through many and beloved gadgets.
I don’t know about you, but no matter how wired I am, no matter how often I’m texted or friended or have my blog comments commented upon, I don’t necessarily feel any closer to getting it right, to crossing the chasm to other people.
And so the means becomes the end.
But as the spiritualists might say… there is no end.
Who’s to stop us trying?
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