‘Lost’ lesson: A man can look sexy reading a book
The end of “Lost” this Sunday will be a blow to reading second only to the end of Oprah’s TV book club. No drama in television history has been as literary as “Lost,” with heroic conman Sawyer proving that a man can look sexy reading a book.
As Liesl Bradner recently noted in an L.A. Times entertainment blog, books have been a prominent feature since Season One, when Sawyer was seen reading Watership Down, Richard Adams’ novel about a band of rabbits forced to find a new home.
More than 70 books have been referenced, in one way or the other, in the six seasons of “Lost,” which ends on Sunday with a two and a-half hour finale. A nearly complete list of “Lost” books is at the Lostopedia.
Given the twisty nature of the show (a sci-fi/fantasy/adventure/soap opera hybrid), obsessive fans have mined every book seen on “Lost’ for clues to what the heck is going on. And of course on a drama with characters named Rousseau, Richard Alpert, John Locke, Faraday, Hume, C.S. Lewis, Mikhail Bakunin, Hawking, Jeremy Bentham — every smallest detail has symbolic and-or narrative significance.
Co-creator, executive producer and writer Damon Lindelof says: “We pick the books with a great deal of meticulous thought and specificity and talk about what the thematic implications of picking a certain book are, why we’re using it in the scene and what we want the audience to deduce from that choice.”
Literature is referenced indirectly, too. A good example can be found at Squidoo, which has an excellent page on “Lost” lit: Henry Gale, the alias bad guy Ben gives when first captured by the heroes, is the name of Dorothy’s uncle in The Wizard of Oz. Ben, as Henry, claims he arrived on the island in a hot-air balloon, which is the way the Wizard departs Oz, and it’s also the way Jules Verne’s heroes arrive in The Mysterious Island, another book mentioned prominently on the show.
Most of featured books provide clues to the show’s themes, as in Season Three, says James Brush, a Texas English teacher and founder of “The ‘Lost’ Book Club.”
“Each season had a book that has for me really resonated,” Brush said. “In Season 3 it was Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. Charlie was going to die and Desmond knew it. He was stuck in this loop of trying to get out of the current situation yet making it worse.”
I have to say it’s a joy to see a man reading by choice and with pleasure on a TV show. No less than Oprah Winfrey has noted Sawyer’s love of reading, with a cool slideshow, “Get ‘Lost’ in Sawyer’s Bookshelf” at O.com. Sawyer’s reading is impressively eclectic, including, among others: Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men ; The Invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares; and A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle.
It’s with gratification I can report that I’ve read a fair number of the “Lost” books, though by no means all. As a casual fan of the show, I’ve preferred to let the books and their associations enhance the general geek pleasure of the experience. I’m not interested in looking for spoilers in the show’s books.
But if you do want spoilers, investigate what Bush says is the thematic touchstone for the so-far perplexing storyline of Season Six: Salman Rushdie’s children’s fantasy, Haroun and the Sea of Stories. “If this season follows this model, one of two realities will cease to exist once one is defeated,” said Brush.
Whatever the outcome for the show’s characters, “Lost” is soon history. Let’s give its creators credit for making books seem cool and fun and important. Any chance another show might pick up the reading theme? Nah, probably not.