Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sour Grapes And The Literary Machine

And Joyce was a poor sick fucker who probably died with his balls somewhere up around his navel. None of that for me, thanks. 
Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway, Letter to Lionel Olay, February 16,1962, p. 320

Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature is something that an avid reader and /or aspiring writer must have. It is a huge 1236 page monster of a book! Bet you can't read just one entry! The bright white coated clay paper and the clean design and typography are things that warm the Oracle of Ottawa's little literary heart,  the sheer heft of the thing brings total peace to any one with even a hint of a literary bent. At first glance and dive in it seems that everybody is here. But alas, no.

Gonzo but not forgotten!

The first expectation of missing entry was that of the great Canadian writers such as Margaret Atwood, and Timothy Findley, but much to my surprise they were included and with very flattering entries indeed. Then I thought I would get jiggy and looked up Joseph Hall and much to my surprise the good bishop got a full and respectful entry! Well! Nothing is perfect, so on to the entry of Harold Robbins, and was totally shocked that selling 750 million books does not get you remembered! If you have ever read A Stone For Danny Fisher
you start to wonder, if this isn't it, what is the Great American Novel! I read this work on the lower deck of a warship many, many years ago and it has always stayed in my memory. It dealt with as far as I can recollect, what is the American Dream? Why is it so easily obtainable by some and continues to be a cruel mirage to so many? That question is one that will keep you up at night or make you a novelist, both, that I have up to this point successfully avoided...
The Fox and the Grapes, Caxton 1448

Another shocking missed entry is that of Karl Marx! I mean what do you have to do to get into an encyclopedia? I mean is thing done by a jury or what? You mean to tell me that Capital and the Manifesto, the greatest political pamphlet of all time, is not considered literature? What is up with that? The Cold War ended decades ago, the Penguin Encyclopedia of English Literature had no problem finding Karl a couple of points of space... Geez!
Hunter S. Thompson

But alas Dear Reader it all gets even more shocking! And especially if you are an American! The great Doctor, Hunter Stockton Thompson is no where to found! On Wikipedia he gets over 130,000 hits a month! And yet there are five other minor Thompson's included! But yet, and this is real salt in the wound, Tom Wolfe, who by the way, gets less than 20,000 hits a month on Wikipedia, has a nice respectful entry! Now we all know that he coined the term New Journalism, but it would not even be remembered today if it wasn't for that book by Hunter about running amok in Las Vegas all those years ago, and yet that book is still in print and stocked at my local book retailer in Canada! Try to find a novel by Tom Wolfe!

But, sala...To obsess on the twist and perversity of history and the endings of the American Dream is not conducive to a long, rich, full life. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly to the past." 

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