Orson Scott Card, editor,
Getting Lost:
Survival, Baggage & Starting Over
in J.J. Abrams' Lost

(Benbella, 2006)

Books that analyze pop culture are fun and insightful in that they often make us see connections between elements we are too close to see. Often those seers are outside of our culture, but more often than not they are people who have the ability to step outside of the trees to see the forest more clearly.

Such seers are certainly the folks to take a look at the strange, eerie, supernatural forest that is J.J. Abrams' Lost, a television show that is almost a cult to many people.

The basic premise of Lost is that some (emotionally, spiritually) lost folks are stranded on an island. That's pretty much all we're sure of. The rest is guesswork, and what guesswork it is! Because the locale, scientific workings and spiritual workings of the island are askew, Lost is a television series that is a mine for folks trying to dig up its psychic, emotional, creative and scientific roots. If there is any show on TV that needs a book telling readers what may be going on, it's Lost.

Getting Lost, edited by Orson Scott Card, is a collection of essays by writers who share their ideas about what the show might be about and why so many people are obsessed with it. These 16 essays, which includes Card's introduction exploring what makes a successful TV series, range in style and success. Some, like Adam-Troy Castro's very witty "The Same Damn Island," succeeds because of a fun but underlying metaphysical paranoia. G.O. Likesell's "Lost Connections" falls flat in its obviousness. Something more seems to be required than merely listing information found on the Internet.

For Charlie W. Starr, the key to Lost is the idea of surrender. For Leigh Adams Wright, Lost is about the spiritual fact that there is no such thing as coincidence. Barry Vacker thinks Lost calls forth our existential unease in the universe, while Robert Burke Richardson sees the unease as more theological than existential and Amy Berner sees it as an ongoing exercise in John Locke's philosophy. The most helpful essay for those who have never watched Lost or who merely wish to get up to speed on what's going on is Wayne Allen Sallee's "Who's Who & What's What for Everybody Who is Lost."

All the essays are examinations of possibilities. But the measure of a good cultural essay is not only how much fun it is or how clever the writer is but how good a job it does of convincing its reader. Joyce Millman's "Game Theory" is the essay that made me smile to myself and say "Aha! I feel this is true."

by Carole McDonnell
14 April 2007

Buy it from Amazon.com.