When I was in my late teens, too socially and emotionally maladjusted for college, I began to self-educate (medicate?) myself with literature, primarily, with some philosophy and science courses as more of a palate cleanser. Perhaps I would have been better served focusing on the sorbet, as I saw it at the time, but I was clutching at great ideas. It started with a poetry phase of Pound, Conrad Aiken, T.S. Elliot and Whitman, which led to a Twain tangent, then a Russian and Middle European phase of Hesse, Kafka, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. (1)
It was my custom to find an author and read all of his work chronologically to see both the progression of his thought and of his technique. My sister had come for a visit and we began to talk about what we were reading at the time, both of us having come to the end of the line with our respective authors. She had just finished with Ayn Rand, offering as exchange, and I had just finished my Russian phase. I offered “War and Peace” which I was using to hold open my bedroom door. (2) (3) (4) My sister had already read “War and Peace” so I gave her “The Idiot” by Dostoevsky for “The Fountianhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”.(5) Not since the invention of prostitution has there been such a dichotomous exchange. (6)
Divergent subject matter aside, Dostoevsky and Rand both sought to create archetypes to support their particular philosophies. The odd thing was, when I was reading both of those authors, I saw myself in both of those archetypes perfectly. Was that good writing, lack of self knowledge, or wishful thinking? I suspect it is the third option.
There has been some chatter about my blogging being unrealistic, or to a certain extent at odds with everyday experience, and I often refer to it as surreal (containing the real and an idealized reality). I do not, however, consider it beside the point. There are times and subjects that lend themselves gracefully to metaphor and through that metaphor allow for a deeper examination in the inherent comparison.
The success of the archetype in art tells me that inside each person a part of their soul responds to the heroic aspect of that character, that we all want to be noble, sure of ourselves, clean from the complications of the world. A prominent person recently stated that there is evil in the world tracing it back to Cain. I agree with the statement but disagree with the premise, that evil is a natural state of man rather a learned state from the world. Cain turned against Abel out of jealousy not because he was born evil and missing that misses the point entirely. The answer to “Am I my brother’s keeper ?” is supposed to be yes. Certainly there are some born psychopaths, genetically predisposed to violence, but far more are sociopathic in origin, products of their environment. Still even far greater is the number that wish to be clean of the life they have had to live and to reconnect to the hero inside them. That is both the success and the metaphor of the archetype.
(1) The principle advantage of my Russian phase is when I watch “Love and Death” I get all the jokes. All artists have high -water marks and that was Woody Allen’s. Early in the Diane Keaton era, “Love and Death” has all the do-anything-for-a-laugh slapstick without the urban posing that makes the later work seem so dated now. I’m sure Diane Keaton was a load to be around (we smell our own) but the quality of their collaboration can not be denied. The consensus is that “Annie Hall” was their best but the reality of the setting doesn’t succeed, doesn’t endure as “L&D” does. Artistically, reality isn’t all it’s represented to be. Work that endures can not be entirely dependant on the time it is written for reference but must tie in to the continuum of art. Consensus is usually established at the presentation of the art and then slowly evolves over time usually getting it right over years. “Annie Hall” is the best my God-given ass.
(2) For the single fellas: a woman sees Tolstoy as your doorstop, you are so in. Thank me later.
(3) A digression for the rest of you: That saying about the infinite number of monkeys with one typing “War and Peace”(that’s supposed to make you marvel at the possibilities of the infinite) I always reacted to with almost all are not typing it but all are typing door stops. I’m a “uniter”, don’t you see?
(4) The last digression I promise: I’m currently using “Wealth of Nations” as my doorstop. I find the invisible hand illustration on every page hilarious but it takes special glasses to see it, like they used in “National Treasure.” Ladies?
(5) In retrospect Tolstoy for Rand would have been artistic and ironic: Tolstoy focused on the monkeys not typing his work while Rand was obsessed with that one monkey that was. She neglected to realize he was a monkey, however.
(6) There is some discussion as to whether the correct translation of the title is “The Idiot” or “The Saint”. I suppose it would be difficult to change that particular horse amid stream. I feel a Roger Moore digression coming on so I must stop.