Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday Sermonette: Father Bukowski Speaks of Soulless Writers Who Would Move Our Souls

For the record, Bukowski actually admired Camus to a degree. But Bukowski’s dissatisfaction with this aspect of Camus’ writing reminds me of how I feel reading writers like John Updike (once huge, now dead and well on his way to becoming forgotten) and Joyce Carol Oates. Their authorial voices all too often sound like those of extraterrestrial scientists trying to make sense of human civilization, and not quite getting it.

Not to get too Miniver Cheevy about this, but it’s even worse today, as literary writing is entirely the province of an elite caste of upper middle class people, with all their spendy, upper middle class hoops to jump and merit badges to acquire, like attendance at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, MFA programs at Ivy League or (at least) second-tier colleges, internships at Big Corporate Blogs, etc. 

These people who would touch our hearts and move us to tears don’t even see people like you and me as people. How could they? While they chat in the coffee shop in between classes, the rest of us have to go to work. 

At least Albert Camus had an interesting life, having risked it as part of the French Resistance during the German occupation in the ealy 1940s. If he didn’t scream while he burned, it might be because keeping his emotions in check was necessary for his survival. I’m not a Camus scholar, so I wouldn’t know. 

Of course, we’re all painfully aware of how today’s little hothouse flowers scream without burning, going into supernovas of outrage over opinions they disagree with on Twitter. This is the madness of the crowd at this point in the early 21st century, and there is little sense in seething over it. Our part, as always, is to do the best we can with what we have for as long as it lasts. If we do it well enough, we’ll find our audiences. 

And as for the striver-caste ciphers who don’t see people like us, I don’t see them, either. There’s too much else to write about here at Ground Zero where the real people live, suffer, and work. The more I think about it, the prouder I am that I write zombie action novels. Even that milieu has more flavor of reality to it than the latest Sad Rich Kid Is Sad story.

Let them have their exclusive, deluxe ball pit to play in. As one of Bukowski’s favorite poets put it:

Let boys want pleasure, and men
Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame,
And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.

And now the lesson is yours.