Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Modern Novelist as Sage

McInerney, a sage for the 1980s cocaine generation

Ferguson is burning.

Heads belonging to Western journalists are being cut off by the evil ISIS half a world away.

President Barack Hussein Obama is releasing Islamic Radical detainees from Gitmo because he feels politically obligated to do so.

Illegal aliens are pouring into the US while millions have been legalized at the stroke of a pen, not because its in the best interest of the country, but because politics rule the day.

Antisemitism is on the rise globally.

Race relations in the US have eroded and rotted over the past decade. 

School shootings are so commonplace we are unaffected by them.

Overpopulation threatens the world food bank.

Ebola ravages West Africa.

Political correctness has moved in, and kicked the truth out on its ass.

Russia is on the move.

Iran will soon have the Bomb...

Zandri pens his novels and stories, and worries that the world he creates is entirely separate from a physical world that is growing and morphing faster than a weed on steroids. In a word, he retreats, looks away from the ugly picture. He is not writing anything that describes the world to itself. Years ago the novelist was considered a sage. The words he and she wrote, although fiction, bore a certain truth that were a direct reflection of the time they lived in. The novelist/philosopher did not retreat from the world then, but instead, challenged it.

Steinbeck, making sense of his world
Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath and spoke for millions of impoverished workers suffering amidst the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.

Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises and a new generation of young men learned to say what they mean and mean what they say. But for the first time, men realized the power women truly have over them, and that all love must end tragically.

Later on, Mailer would write Why Are We in Vietnam?, a frantic Alaskan hunting novel that spoke as loud and powerfully as the shots that would soon be fired by the rifles on the Ohio State Campus. Mailer, the genius of metaphor.

In the 1980s we had Jay McInerny writing about the Bolivian Marching Powder in Bright Lights, Big City and suddenly, a generation strung out on Brooks Brothers, Manhattan apartments they couldn't afford, and cocaine, were now the modern romantic equivalent of Fitzgerald's Jazz Age decadence.

Zandri realizes how simplistic and even vague his examples are. In fact, he might even be lacking in a certain degree of accuracy. But the point, he feels, is transparent enough. Who are the sages of his generation? The novelists who fictionalize but who also tell the truth, or a version of the truth anyway, that puts things into some kind of order, or framework that can be better understood?

Fitz, doing what he loved even more than booze

Perhaps Zandri is doing that himself, without consciously doing it. Maybe he isn't retreating after all. Maybe in writing about a failed script writer obsessed with the blonde, blue-eyed woman who just moved in next door and who will manipulate him into killing her cop husband, he is expressing a deep-seated loneliness and isolation that isn't yet entirely realized. The loneliness is surly evident in the smartphones that occupy the two bed-stands in his master bedroom. Smartphones that, upon waking, will be the first thing touched, fondled, eyed, paid attention to, loved, lusted after ...

Add, human beings are becoming robots to the above-stated list... 

Zandri is reaching for something here, but he's not quite sure what exactly. For certain, the ambiguity is evident in the writing of this essay. News Flash! Lennon comes to mind suddenly. John Lennon wrote and sang about the world so eloquently and alarmingly in his 1970 classic, Isolation. "We're afraid to be alone..."

Not to flirt with cliche here, but the world has been spinning out of control ever since the serpent sweet talked Eve and she, in turn, got Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Our own demise is upon us. So Zandri chooses the only sensible option. He retreats into a world entirely his own, and he writes about it. He chooses isolation as the only sane option. But then, that isolation is a direct reflection of the times we live and die in. Therein lies the irony. 



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