Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The American Masters

The suicide of Hunter S. Thompson has brought up a lot of random spouting about literature, and the American Masters, in particular Hemingway, whom Thompson apparently idolized.

It's not surprising to me that Thompson killed himself, many speculating that it was after recieving bad news about his health (he spent much of last year in a wheel chair); Nor is it any surprise that he decided to shoot himself. Thompson was the type of firearms owner that makes the rest of us cringe; hundreds of guns, and no responsiblity. The man had a history of shooting TV's, pointing magnums at people to get a rise out of them, and shooting while drunk or high. Now his family has announced that they will be blasting his ashes out of a cannon over Aspen mountain.

I suppose you could say he died, and now will be disposed of, like he lived; With a Bang. Tasteless, sure, but so was HST, and he liked it that way.

More in the extended entry...

In have to say, I disagreed with Thompson about almost everything policitcally and socially, but for one thing: He absolutely despised the ignorant, stupid, and mediocre. Even in my disagreement, I loved some of the way he wrote. I still have copies of 'Hells Angels' and 'Fear and Loathing' running around. The man wrote some very funny, evocative stuff; but it was all at core, pretty shallow stuff, mostly nothing more than navel gazing (and drug fueld navel gazingat that).

But that brings me back to Hemingway. He's generally credited as being the greatest American writer, and to be honest, I think most of what he wrote was crap. Self indulgent, stylistically challenged, self aggrandizing, and repetitive.

Now Twain, there's a man who knew how to write, and didn't particularly care if anyone else agreed with that.

It seems to me that "the american masters" were so busy trying to be compared to the 18th and 19th century french, that they never wrote a damn thing worth reading. The more obscure, and avant garde their writing, the better the critics (and their friends)treated them.

I except Scotty Fitz from that because the man wrote like a guy who'd drunk away the best years of his life, and was now looking back in a combination of joy and regret.... which is pretty much what he was by the age of 29.

"One of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Besides, 'til the 50's most of the critics hated Fitzgerald. They were too busy giving blow jobs to William Faulkner, Henry Miller, Truman Capote, and Tennesee Williams.

No, I'll take Twain. He was a man who used simple language, and genuine wit, to write truly brilliant things, that were accessible to jsut about anyone...

And therein lies the rub. Literary people are almost all concerned about proving their subtelty and refinement. They want other literary people to believe they're smarter than the great unwashed. The more obscure the writer, and the more impenetrable the writing, the easier it is to conceal your absolute mundanity.

Sure, you may be smart, but appreciating Derrida doesnt make you sophisticated or intelligent, it makes you a self loathing idiot deperate to reassure yourself you're better than the guy laughing at 'friends'.