Will There Be Tartars?

images.jpgThis is the only Classics Illustrated title that I remember owning. I’m sure there were others but even comic books often dissolve in the mist of time. The funny thing is I vividly remember the scene where Michael Strogoff is blinded by the super-heated Tartar knife passed before his eyes. I didn’t know you could do that. I also didn’t know what a Tartar was and even today I’m not totally sure.

I also remember thinking “Strogoff” was a weird name, especially when linked with a great name like “Michael.”

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Language Jingoism

VerneIt’s a tired old observation I often make to the unthinking princes (and princesses) of literature, especially those Americans who judge all literature outside of America and England as being somehow inferior and easily dismissed.

Now I run across a passage in The Sixth Extinction (Elizabeth Kolbert) that makes me question the author’s credentials (for writing, not for extinctions). She has been discussing the animals that have gone extinct in recent years and when focusing on the Great Auk, she recounts a visit to the last known home  of the Auks, a small island off Iceland:

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What do we do with JCO?

Joyce Carol Oates is one of the more prolific writers in the world but despite her academic credentials and prestigious placement at Princeton, is she really an author that will withstand the rigors of time and changes in public (let alone academic) opinion?

Is it possible that the amount of quality writing is somehow a finite commodity and no matter how hard they might try, authors generally cannot exceed their threshold? Let’s look at a few prolific authors and test that hypothesis. Here is my list, although you might want to consider other writers too:

  • Georges Simenon
  • Honoré de Balzac
  • Alexander Dumas
  • Stephen King
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Joyce Carol Oates.

Right off the top I see we can eliminate two authors, not because they disprove the conjecture, but because consideration of their works doesn’t require great thought or effort. First, Edgar Rice Burroughs and his ilk probably never approached the threshold of greatness, but rather should be measured on a different scale, one involving fun. Stephen King, however, is possibly a candidate for consideration but it is immediately obvious that he has never dipped a sentence in the pool of good writing so we can hardly expect to find anything worth saving, let alone reading, in his works.

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