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Is 'Lost' a literal enigma?

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Literary references have been sprinkled throughout the mysteries of Lost: In an episode last season, the character Sawyer was reading Watership Down by Richard Adams, the story of rabbits searching for a safe place in a threatening world. At another point, he read Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, about time travel.

Look for another literary reference -- and possibly another clue to the island's secret -- on tonight's Lost (ABC, 9 ET/PT).

At one point, someone will pick up a copy of the novel The Third Policeman by the late Irish writer Flann O'Brien. The cover will be seen for about a second, ABC confirms.

It will be featured at a "key moment" in the show, Craig Wright, who co-wrote the episode with Javier Grillo-Marxuach, told the Chicago Tribune. Wright also said anyone familiar with the book will "have a lot more ammunition" in dissecting Lost plotlines.

Following the bread-crumb trail of clues in Lost has become a passionate pastime, fueled further by a new season that has taken viewers down the hatch. In's Literary Mysticism area, fans already are analyzing The Third Policeman.

So could this be a Rosetta stone for Lost?

Neither ABC nor the scriptwriters would comment on Policeman or its relation to the plot. But Amy Bauer, a music professor at the University of California-Irvine who helps organize the flood of postings on, doesn't think so.

A clue such as Policeman is "offered a bit tongue-in-cheek," she says. "O'Brien was a brilliant comic writer, and his absurd take on the world may be a nod to the fans who connect every item in every scene to some overriding scheme."

In The Third Policeman, the narrator is a man who assists in a money-motivated killing. While trying to retrieve the stashed bounty, he passes into a strange world, meeting bicycles, policemen and a band of one-legged men.

Reviewers' reactions varied widely, calling the novel "warped," "silly," "baffling," "inventive" and "frightening."

Its surreal exploration of time, death and existence might be reflective of what's happening on Lost, says Chad Post of publisher Dalkey Archive Press, which is part of Illinois State University.

Speculation on The Third Policeman's cameo already has boosted sales. After the Tribune article appeared, Dalkey sold 8,000 copies in two days, says Post.

O'Brien, a pseudonym for Brian O'Nolan, finished writing the book in 1940, but it wasn't published until 1967, a year after his death. In two reissue printings during the past six years, the book sold 15,000 copies.

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