The Adventures of Mr Marigold
a novel by Michael Charles Tobias
Paperback and ebook editions
published by Zorba Press
828 pages, 2016
An Essay by Michael Giannelli, Ph.D.
Between Enlightenments: Odyssey of an Eccentric Sage
In a word, The Adventures of Mr Marigold is a masterpiece! I’ve never read anything like it, nor am I ever again likely to read something comparable! It’s not merely the best novel I’ve ever read, in a certain non-rational sense, I might say that it’s the only novel I’ve ever read because – for me at least – it redefined what a novel could be. My only speculation as to why it did not receive more critical acclaim is that, undoubtedly, its length, and its heavy pull of linguistic gravity, are daunting obstacles for any would-be, time-deprived, reviewer. Literary history will, however, likely reclaim its rightful merit.
The similarities to the timeless novel, Don Quixote, are obvious and have been well documented. But I think Mr Marigold goes beyond the Miguel de Cervantes classic. It’s both a rip-roaring, almost Tolkien-like, fictional adventure which fires the imagination on all cylinders, while simultaneously embedding a “textbook” of sorts, a subtext reference manual covering a multitude of disciplines – science, history, law, art, literature, etc. – all overflowing with factual information to an impressive degree of detail. This fiction/nonfiction synthesis is done seamlessly and ingeniously. Mr Marigold also challenges those who, like myself, think (thought) we possess a “superior” vocabulary.
Tobias’s inspired prose is nothing less than an avalanche of eloquence! Pick a page, any page. Pick a paragraph, any paragraph. No matter where one’s finger lands, there is no mistaking the hand of a true Master behind the printed words. To say the minimal, the author has an uncanny virtuosity with the English language, crafting commonly found words into totally unique, soaring combinations and memorable phrases.
While serious issues of animal rights, environmental stewardship, spiritual potentiality, and human brutality (to name but a few) frame all the action, throughout the book there runs an unmistakable and most mischievous mother lode of humor and crackling wit! Although played out upon an exalted literary landscape, Mr Marigold nevertheless celebrates the absurdity and unpredictability of life, much in the same frolicking manner as the rib-cracking skits from Monty Python’s Flying Circus! The author’s sophisticated sense of humor, combined with his remarkable command of language, make for a roller coaster ride of unprecedented merriment!
Mr Marigold, along with his faithful companions, Sannazaro and Rajibai, led me on adventures, and misadventures, of truly epic proportions. As absorbed as I always was, I rarely had any idea what new twist was awaiting me on the next page. Mr Marigold (“the Commander”) is a perfect vehicle for road testing our deepest hopes, yearnings, fantasies, and fears. Even when gifted with enormous wealth, he finds that his quixotic and benevolent intentions for the world and all its life are forever just out of reach, adrift at the always-receding-horizon of dreams. But this in no way detracts from the sacredness of his odyssey, nor coarsens the hallowed ground under his feet. Mr Marigold can never rightly be seen as a “failure.” His glory, such as it is, lies in his supreme aspirations and uncompromising effort, not in an all-illusive “final victory” of a Utopian society on Earth. As with the equally pure of heart Don Quixote himself, in the end, we come away recognizing that the wild and seemingly insane exploits of Mr Marigold are, in fact, more sane and rational than what passes for normality in the so-called “real” world. His walkabout is surely not in vain, and he beckons us to follow. I cannot help but speculate about the degree to which Mr Marigold is autobiographical. The Dr. Michael Tobias I know bears more than a passing resemblance to Mr Marigold.
We are dealing here with a historic novel of five major Parts, 201 Chapters, 828 pages, 625,000 words, and over a hundred principal characters! But the issue is not merely one of sheer size. The reading is enormously rich, at times complex, and thus can only be consumed in relatively small portions at a time. Having completed the book, my long-term literary companion, Mr Marigold, is gone. In a beguiling way, I now feel something like a very personal loss.
My deepest thanks go to Dr. Michael Tobias for the honor of his invitation to read this Magnum opus, his love letter to his cherished wife and inspirational muse, Jane Gray Morrison. I thought there was no room left for expanding my admiration of his work, but happily, I was wrong! I guess that knowing a genius, occasionally, does have its perks.
Dr. Michael A. Giannelli is a licensed CA psychologist (ret.), having received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. He has been active in numerous animal advocacy organizations, including: Science Advisor, The Fund for Animals; Founding Director, The National Coalition to Protect Our Pets; Founding Exec. Director, The Ark Trust, Inc., (presenter of the prestigious Genesis Awards; now hosted by The Humane Society of the United States); and Founding Manager, U.S. Operations, Jain Spirit magazine.