Mangum's opus

By CARLY CARIOLI  |  March 7, 2008

During all of this Mangum hovers somewhere in the wings whispering words of gracious encouragement. He's consoling the Two-Headed Boy (after his girlfriend breaks the radio), who also seems to stand in for Mangum's bereaved friend -- "There is no reason to grieve." And on "Ghost," a girl in New York City -- who may or may not be a reincarnated angel -- jumps from "the top of a burning apartment building, 14 stories high," and Mangum is again spinning the story in her favor: "I know that she will live forever/All goes on and on and on/And she goes/And now she knows she'll never be afraid."

The liner notes refer to an overriding theme of "endless endless" -- "the belief that things seem to contain a white light within them that I see as eternal." Yet what ultimately gives In the Aeroplane its ghostly, déjà vu resonance isn't just lines like "All goes on and on and on." It's the way this cosmic give-and-take, Mangum's sense of the universal interconnectedness of things, permeates his characters and his stories. Sometimes (as in the Siamese twins and the Two-Headed Boy) they're actually connected at the hip. Sometimes he simply makes the connection explicit: "The only girl I ever loved/Was born with flowers in her eyes/But then they buried her alive one evening 1945/With just her sister at her side . . . Now she's a little boy in Spain/Playing pianos filled with flames." And sometimes the connections are more subtle, suggested by a repeated phrase or motif. In the middle section of "Oh, Comely" he seems to retell the same story a little differently: "I know they buried her body with others/Her sister and mother and five hundred families/And will she remember me 50 years later?"

"Everything's sorta interconnected, and everything is reliant on everything else to exist, and everyone is a part of that. And I just think that, I don't know, the way things are set up right now doesn't leave very much room for wonderment. So much of it is like driven to pay your bills and your rent and stuff, you know?" He pauses, and chuckles, still struggling to make himself clear. "I don't know. It gets hard to explain."

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