My Older Legacy Literary Blog

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Great Derelicts in Literature

My pseudo-blog revisited: Here are some interesting tidbits.

Malcolm Lowry had to drink out of a urinal pot while housed in a Mexican jail. Kerouac was considered Dementia Praecox (schizophrenic). In his later years he was a shut in that watched Beverly Hillbillies episodes with a bottle of whiskey next to his lazyboy chair.  Truman Capote would check himself into a sanitarium after he would finish a novel or screenplay. Philosopher/Math genius John Stuart Mill kept his waste in little jars, sealed. Why am I writing this?I guess I am fighting at not being “writer besotted”. That is, namedropping authors, being too fascinated with author’s eccentricities than one should. How they dealt with life as it came at them.

The anomaly has always fascinated me: Nobel laureates for Literature (Hemingway, Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O'Neill, a non-Laureate named Scott Fitzgerald for starters -- all extreme alcoholics) who got the dry heaves when they went without alcohol for more than 48 hours. Faulkner desperately lining his coatpockets with bottles during Prohibition when he lived in a little apartment in the French Quarter in New Orleans and wondering how he could last without always have a bottle of whiskey lying around. Jim Thompson used to go to a flophouse in New York City across from his publisher’s building and for a few months fuel himself on alcohol and cigarettes and then when he finished the novel in question, fall into a great delirium of depression. 

It smacks of romanticism in literature, almost as if Thompson was in a paradise of depression, the way I’ve heard it. Mostly when writers who drank a good bit before there was Prozac and when the first crude tranquilizers weren’t even around until the 1920’s from what I’ve heard, their form of medication was liquor.Why is any of this interesting to me, personally? Because there is this relationship between some writers who were almost literally bums, that is, living a squalid lifestyle, some of them constantly roaring drunk, and their output, which some of it was and is considered great. 

Louisiana, especially around New Orleans, is a fat, drunken state. It is know for the expression "Laissez le Bon Temps Roule'" Let the Good Times Roll.  The Mardi Gras is here.  We've had more crooked politicians than a banana republic. Our state law is still based on the Napoleonic Code.  And I've met some strange people in this place.  I’ve been to a bar in Sun, Louisiana where a lot of the biker patrons were packing heat. Most amusing gentlemen. I’ve been to a place in Mississippi where if you found a dead raccoon in the road you could trade it in for a pint of whiskey in the Bottoms of Franklin County.I’ve worked as a laborer during college summers at refineries like the massive Exxon refinery where literally half the plant was drunk or stoned. So I wrote about it in my novel SKIMMING THE GUMBO NUCLEAR and tried to insert every apocryphal myth and legend about Louisiana culture within it. I've had a guy come after me with a knife once. I've met maniacal offshore roustabouts in Lafayette who spent their entire month's pay in one night, buying drinks for crowds of people. 

I guess all I really care about is, how could some of these authors, considered social misfits, derelicts, ended up turning out very interesting books. Why were the good citizens and bigshot businessmen of Cross Plains, Texas ragging Two-Gun Bob Howard about getting a real job instead of writing when he was making more money then most of them, bankers and businessmen alike. Maybe it does not matter. I’m sure there were just as many authors who turned out great fiction and did not get into wild insane adventures. Maybe it really doesn’t matter, just the actual prose itself on its own.But if the prose was already considered good writing on its own then why not find out about the author as well.

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