Monday, June 19, 2017

OF VICE AND MEN

       In 1926, Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" was published by Scribners under the masterful editorial guidance of Max Perkins.  Prior to publication, two editorial discussions were held by author and editor.  The first dealt with words and  phrases - Profanities which the editor felt might cause suppression of the book at the time.
       The second focused on the book's epigraph in which Hemingway wanted to juxtapose a comment of Gertrude Stein, referring to young artists of the day as the "lost generation " with a passage from Ecclesiastes containing the words:
One generation passeth and another generation
cometh; but the earth abideth forever. The sun  also riseth, and the sun goeth down, and resteth to the place where he arose.
Thus the genesis of the title was in the Old Testament, punctuating the author's theme of the relationship between the earth (abiding) and its people  (transient).
       Not unexpectedly, reactions to the book focused heavily on the editorial discussion.  Papa's word choice and characterizations were seen as scandalous-SALACIOUS even, vulgar  and a reflection of the values and judgment of their publisher.  Perkins bore the burden of response to this negative epistolary reaction.
       In one such justificational elaboration he shared an observation with the irate reader.  To wit, there were two common positions held with regard to books like this.  The first feels vice should never be presented in literature openly  as it is unpleasantly evil.  The second sees the open presentation of vice as valuable because it is evil and ugly and if known will be avoided but if concealed/ignored, it dons a "false glamour which is seductive."
       In a not so distant artistic presentation, a TV series, "The Sopranos", enjoyed a long and avid following.  Its depiction of the Italian Family Mob activities was graphic and violent and seemed to weave these qualities into the same cloth used to fabricate the characters that peopled the domestic families of its protagonists.  Perhaps a majority of one, this observer, an Italian New Yorker, found everything about this artistic gestalt  to be repulsive as well as inaccurate.  Different strokes?  One wonders with detached curiosity.
       Perhaps a decade has passed since the end of this weekly injection of unadulterated vice which, as  noted, was mainlined by a large and enthusiastic audience.  Time has not dulled my guttural, near violent opposition to its popularity.
       Currently, our nation-hood by hood-is all a-whisper about this  'vice scene 'on our very own streets  - in demonstrations where the sit-in has devolved into the 'smash-in'; in minor criminal behavior where the young shoplifter has placed guns and machetes into his sticky fingers; where the major crime scene now eliminates not one or five with direct or friendly fire and bullets but rather mows down a crowd of unfortunates happening in their wake; and most recently, we have the crudely hollow but loud roar of opposition to elected officials by many who at one time applauded "The Sopranos ".  This last phenomenon culminated in a "family-style" takeout hit of adult innocents on a baseball field where the victims were practicing for an upcoming charity fund-raiser.      
       The perp apparently stalked and skulked for months; vice concealed/ignored, seduced him in much the same way that legendary sirens seduced seamen.  And yet, to this observer, his may be the smallest brush stroke in this portrait of vice.  The mute acceptance, nay encouragement, of the hate-spewing, destructive, senseless, mean-spirited  cast of thousands of miscontents-turned- miscreants will flood the canvas with grease paint as the crowd-killing of a nation unfolds .
       Oh, for the days when vice was unpleasant and ugly and calling a fictional  character like Lady Brett a bitch in print threatened to suppress a book's publication.  "The Sun Also Rises" was banned in Boston.  The non-lady bitches in our congress speak at podia with amplification.

Later, Lorane. . . . .

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