Myths About Literature

images.jpgI recently read a piece in the New York Times Book Section  that had me shaking my head. The subject of Bookends was “Is the Writer’s Only Responsibility to His Art?” The direction of this inquiry seemed obviously focused on the artist’s approach to his or her art (in this case literature) but the responses to the question clearly  misinterpreted it to refer to the other responsibilities the artist might have, to his kids or to some moral code imposed by society or religion.

The quotation is from that drunken rascal William Faulkner (watch the film Barton Fink for a fun fictional representation of a Faulkner clone).

Perhaps here is an opportunity to recall Parker’s Myths of Literature:

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I Hunt Killers

killerIt’s a common narrative: the highly successful father teaches his son the skills and techniques used to become the future scion of the family business. Now, as the novel opens, the young man is still in High School, has a hemophilic friend, a black girlfriend, and is concerned that he too will follow his father who is currently in prison for having killed 124 people … Dad was one of the most notorious serial killers in history: a Super-Serial Killer.

Barry Lyga writes what is known as Young Adult fiction. Steeped in the world of comic books, Lyga has transferred the elements of plotting and characterization from the graphic world to his short stories and novels. His prose is not complex but as evidenced by his novel I Hunt Killers, his themes are not for children.

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High School Memories

On more than one occasion I have spoken of one of my High School friends who often showed up to school after a fun weekend with one or both of his fists in a cast … the old kind with lots of ersatz-concrete to enhance clumsiness and more than enough white-space to portray a favorite Rat Fink pose. I also have reflected on my friend’s stunning pachuco styling, especially some of the earliest bell-bottoms to appear on campus without requiring an enlistment in the Navy.

I didn’t follow my friend’s career after High School (shoot, I didn’t follow the over nine-hundred classmates I graduated with) but there are hints he was from a Navy family and may have taken service to his country as a career (besides, think of all the bar fights there are in those far-away exotic destinations). I don’t mean to denigrate my friend with the references to bar fights: to me it brings back a vivid image of his feistiness and vitality.

Sadly I received notification that my friend died last month. We were never that close but he is one of my best memories of growing up.