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Life After Death

August 26, 2020 at 9:01 am
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Even the greatest of minds may disagree about what to do with those who came before us, fallible fellows all.

The Bard of Avon put the truth in the mouth of Mark Antony.   That was the way the world worked in the late Roman Republic when JULIUS CAESAR was set, that was the way the world worked in Elizabethan England when the play was written, and that, alas, is the way the world seems to work now, despite the passage of centuries.  Shakespeare was a pretty smart fellow.   He told it like it is.

Gandhi was an idealist.   The world he imagined, dreamed of, and worked to create was a better world than Shakespeare’s; a gentler, kinder, more loving world, a peaceful and non-violent world.   We are not there yet.   We are a long way off, I fear, centuries off.   But Gandhi moved us toward it.   Before a better world can be created, it must first be dreamed.

Dwelling where I am now, deep in the heart of Westeros, I find myself surrounded by my characters, the children of my mind and heart and soul.   They are real to me, as I write them, and I struggle to make them real to my readers as well.   All of them are flawed, from the best to the worst.  They do heroic things, they do selfish things.   Some are strong and some are weak, some smart and some stupid.  The smartest may do stupid things.  The bravest may have moments when their courage fails.   Great harms may be done from the noblest motives, great good from motives vile and venal.   Life is like that, and art should reflect that, if it is to remain true.   Ours is a world of contradiction and unintended consequences.

Boromir is my favorite member of the Fellowship.   The tragic hero.   Shakespeare’s Brutus speaks to me as well (more so than the real one); the noblest Roman of them all, whose nobility — and gullibility — lead him to commit a vile crime.   Captain Ahab, Wolf Larsen, Gatsby, Falstaff and Hotspur and Prince Hal (those plays are full of flawed characters, each with his own failings), Ebeneezer Scrooge and Sydney Carton, Gully Foyle, Roger’s Sam, Dr. Doom and Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Moreau, Morbius of Altair IV, Huckleberry Finn, Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain (but not Sir Galahad, so perfect, so empty) and Guinevere and Arthur and even Mordred, that little shit.. oh, the list is long.   And when my reading turns to history, biography, memoirs, my response is much the same.

I am not blind to the flaws of those who went before us, and I recognize the truth of Mark Antony’s words.   But Gandhi’s words are nobler, and those are the words I choose to live by… to treasure the memory of the good they did.

Our world needs more empathy, less anger.




Current Mood: melancholy melancholy

I’m Number 48!

October 25, 2018 at 4:12 pm
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The Great American Read is over, and the final standings were revealed on PBS in the season finale.

A GAME OF THRONES (well, A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, more precisely) finished 48th.   Pretty cool.   I was in the top 50, anyway, and I edged out the FOUNDATION series and WAR AND PEACE.   Not half bad.   But really, just being on the list at all was amazing.  I mean, being included among in America’s top one hundred favorite novels out of… well, out of all the novels ever written, actually… that’s not too shabby.

Just to be in this company was enormously gratifying.  Though, like everyone else, I could have quibbled over some of the selections.  (I mean, Ayn Rand?  Really?  C’mon.  And while Mark Twain certainly deserved to be on the list, I am baffled as to why they would choose to represent him with TOM SAWYER rather than HUCKLEBERRY FINN.   Charles Dickens is a must, of course, and GREAT EXPECTATIONS is well regarded, but I would have gone with A TALE OF TWO CITIES myself.  And if they had nominated A CHRISTMAS CAROL, beloved as it is, Dickens might have finished in the top five.   I was thrilled to see so much SF and fantasy on the list, but troubled by the omission of some of our genre’s classics.   Where was H.G. Wells?  Surely THE TIME MACHINE or WAR OF THE WORLDS belonged on the ballot.   And Heinlein… if you are going to include SF at all, you have to include RAH, imnsho.  That being said, SF and fantasy came out better than some other genres.   There were a couple mystery novels contending, but no Chandler, no Hammett.   Well, I could go on and on… and you guys will no doubt have opinions as well.   All in all, I think it was a very good list, but by no means a definitive one).

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD won, and led from pillar to post, it was announced.   And my friend Diana Gabaldon finished second with her OUTLANDER series, a truly wonderful accomplishment.  Congratulations to Diana, and kudos to her fans.

LORD OF THE RINGS, which I endorsed in the season premiere, came in fifth.  Yay Tolkien!  Yay fantasy!

Millions of people voted… and more importantly, millions of people READ, and were exposed to books they might elsewise never have encountered.   This was a wonderful idea, and I hope PBS does it again in a few years… maybe with a different hundred books.   There are so so many great books out there, and anything that promotes reading and literature is to be commended.

A tip of the hat to everyone who voted.  Even if you didn’t vote for me.

Comments allowed… but ONLY on the Great American Read, literature, reading, and all that good stuff.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative