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Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 9 March, 2021 02:24PM
For me, looking in just now on this discussion, it seemed like everyone commenting on Irish Catholicism etc. was generally staying within bounds. Just a little goodwill injection could be called for. But maybe this topic should be allowed to run into the sand now -- ?

Having said that -- I do value good discussions of religion, etc. My oldest friend is far from me on such things, and I wish he felt like telling me more about his thoughts and experiences, but maybe he's said about all that he has to say. I know someone else who had difficult relations with parents (no beatings, etc., just a fair bit of tension), and she too is pretty much temperamentally pragmatic: doesn't have much interest in speculation about big questions, doesn't want to be around if people get into disputations about them. As I've come to realize over the years, I had rather nice parents, patient and, within bounds, tolerant, and I developed a Romantic approach to life, though, writing that, I see it as a big simplification. But it comes readily to me to see phenomena and experience as participating in greater wholes. I suspect Plato was a happy boy.

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: DrWho42 (IP Logged)
Date: 9 March, 2021 03:43PM
i started reading the outlaws

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 9 March, 2021 03:44PM
Quote:
DN:
I know someone else who had difficult relations with parents (no beatings, etc., just a fair bit of tension), and she too is pretty much temperamentally pragmatic: doesn't have much interest in speculation about big questions, doesn't want to be around if people get into disputations about them.

I'll weigh in here...

I have little interest in big questions such as "what is the purpose of life?" and "what was the cause, or act of will, that initiated the universe as we know it?". I long ago figured that I supposedly have 3 score and 10 years (I've exceeded that by 3 at this point) and all I have to do is find some way to lump thru this period as best I can, and the answer to either of those two questions is completely irrelevant to that goal.

My folks were fair and honest to me, they never even attempted to manipulate me, I now realize--it wasn't in them to do so--and all I had to do was to work on the family orange grove as soon as my dad thought I was old enough, which I was glad to do because it made me feel like I was contributing to the well-being of the family.

As I read over this, it sounds like the beginning of a volume that could be titled: "The Memoirs of Sancho Panza".

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 9 March, 2021 04:47PM
I wonder what's the role of books in our lives here. Obviously we're all readers, obviously reading is one of the things to which we devote the most of the time that is out our disposal, and I'll bet we all buy books.

I look back at myself and I realize that, from the time I was 12 or so, I had an unspoken, not-articulated feeling that books might just have what I need. What I "needed" then, over 50 years ago, was basically entertainment, but it was that kind of entertainment that may be said to evoke the sense of wonder. This included not just stories about adventures on other planets, but the idea of ancient, lost civilizations (especially Atlantis!).

Very, very soon I discovered the fascination of collateral reading (though I didn't encounter that term for a few years). I might have mentioned here my story about getting the skinny little paperback of William Ready's shoddy book Understanding Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. I didn't at all feel like I didn't understand LotR, but I wanted "conversation" about it because I loved it so. I don't know what I made of some of the material in this essay, but one thing that I seem to have noticed was the use of "Ibid." in one or more footnotes. I took "Ibid." to be the name of a magazine and went looking for it on the shelves where the magazines were stored at the public library. I don't think it even occurred to me to ask a librarian for help.

In 9th grade I read the Dell paperback of Howard's Bran Mak Morn, with its Frazetta cover that I pored over, and wanted to learn about the most ancient people of Britain, so I looked into that. I was fascinated by the bits of Latin in C. S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength and puzzled my English teacher by saying I wished I could learn Latin. Why? he wondered: It's a dead language. I admit I never tried to teach myself Latin.

Anyway, the time came when I'd browse shelves looking for religious and/or philosophical books in the college library. Through all these years and beyond, I felt that books -- some book -- might have just what I needed; nor do I recall having been much disappointed, though, many years later, when I had some money I could spend on books, I ordered from catalogues too many books that were over my head....

For almost ten years now I have been writing, occasionally, documents in which I record memories of book explorations. I have more pages about books than I have about people I knew. I have never been friendless, but there have been times when I had no friend who seemed to be on a wavelength close to mine -- but I always had books of my own or from the library that spoke to me.

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 9 March, 2021 06:28PM
A very eloquent commentary on where books fit into the fabric of your life, Dale. It provokes similar lines of thought...

I'm pretty sure that to me habitual, compulsive reading--because in my case, that's what it is--acts like s sort of mechanical clutch between semi-conscious mental activity over which I seem to have no real control, and my wakeful hours.

This is to say that during periods of leisure (or unfulfilling work) without the engagement of reading, my mind begins to chew on itself, and this gets very uncomfortable. This has always been the case.

Watching film or engaging sports (boxing, for one; sometimes tennis) can work, too, but for shorter periods and not as well.

Drinking somewhat, too, can similarly offer brief relief, or sleeping, if I can manage it.

It can't be just junk that I read, however. It has to give me enough to chew on, or it only makes it worse. Fortunately, there are lots and lots of books out there, completely worthy, and so everything is OK.

But I'm not, and probably never have been, looking for answers in books (except for reference material--almanacs, and such), only *ideas* to play with, rearrange, evaluate. The ideas are like the parts in a sort of Erector Set, and I get to try to build stuff with them. If there aren't many parts in some books, then at least the parts, themselves, need to be shiny and well made, like a Campagnolo derailleur.

I recently finished Mencken's book on Nietzsche. It was filled with many shiny parts for me to play with.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 9 March, 2021 06:42PM
The young Colin Wilson was a kindred spirit in this regard. He can write infectiously about the excitement of discoveries in books. I was writing one of my autobiographical data dumps* recently, on English Romantic poetry, and I realized that it's probably true that the first such poet in whom I took an interest was William Blake, for the ridiculous reason that an "unconventional detective story" by Wilson, The Glass Cage, is about a serial killer who leaves quotations from Blake near the bodies of (some of) his victims. He is hunted down by a mild-mannered Blake scholar, Damon Reade. I reread the novel recently and cannot recommend it. It didn't even has as much Blake as I had thought it would. Nevertheless, the opening pages evoke that Wilson situation of reading as (sometimes) a high stakes activity. Feeling this way about reading may be more common in adolescence than well into adulthood but some readers keep much of that appetite for books, that sense I've mentioned that sometimes books have what you need, not just information or ideas to write down in a notebook, but an atmosphere better than that of the banalities e.g. of modern politics, social justice theory, and that stuff.

*Since, as the song has it, "Half my life's in books' written pages," it's probably worthwhile for me to set down accounts of -- for example, to pick an author everyone here reads -- my reading of Lovecraft back around 40-50 years ago. I find I can often date these things pretty closely. But I do write about people I've known too.

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 9 March, 2021 11:00PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> *Since, as the song has it, "Half my life's in
> books' written pages," it's probably worthwhile
> for me to set down accounts of -- for example, to
> pick an author everyone here reads -- my reading
> of Lovecraft back around 40-50 years ago. I find
> I can often date these things pretty closely.

Lovecraft was one of the first writers I was instinctively drawn to in my teens. Since then I have tried several other great writers, wanting to "educate" myself in supernatural and fantastic literature. Some of these are perhaps "finer" and more "subtle" prose artists than Lovecraft. Really? Should I have any respect whatsoever for the literary critics and journalists who eagerly defile Lovecraft, saying he was a bad writer, and for their politically compulsive motivations for doing so? Have these impostors tainted my mind with doubts? When all boils down, there always remains Lovecraft. Perhaps the greatest of all.

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 9 March, 2021 11:22PM
Knygatin, I’m not going to get into this in detail now, as I have other irons in the fire, etc.

I think you’re right about some critics being biased against Lovecraft’s fiction because of politics.

But I also think that genuine literary shortcomings can be pointed out, without rancor, in much of his work. Sometime soon maybe I’ll give an example from “The Colour Out of Space,” where there is perhaps just one lapse into the kind of error that was more common in his other stories.

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 10 March, 2021 12:03AM
Quote:
DN:
But I also think that genuine literary shortcomings can be pointed out, without rancor, in much of his work. Sometime soon maybe I’ll give an example from “The Colour Out of Space,” where there is perhaps just one lapse into the kind of error that was more common in his other stories.

Dale, I'm eager to read about it.

Of course I've *read* that HPL has weaknesses as a writer, and to me, they may be considered artistic choices, and whether the effects evoked by these choices are agreeable to the reader, or not, dictates whether the reader finds HPL's writing excellent, adequate, flawed, or otherwise.

But so far as an "error", I'm interested, because I'm pretty forgiving of most flaws, being a marginal writer, myself.

Me, I've had no trouble engaging with HPL's stories and remaining engaged, even if his dialog is remarkably poor, in my opinion; but still I'll accept it. But here are some fairly well-known writers for whom I have difficulties either initially engaging, or remaining engaged:

Faulkner
Fitzgerald (like only the Pat Hobby stories)
James Ellroy
Clive Barker
Steven King
Henry James
James Joyce
Dickens
Pynchon

Of the above, it's difficult for me to find anything I really like. I've gone thru some by main force--Gatsby be is at least OK, and Barn Burning is very good, but...

I can usually lump thru most stuff; right now I'm reading one of the Jack Aubrey ("Master and Commander") sea novels by Patrick O'Brian, and when O'Brian is not on the topic of 19th C sailing or naval engagements, he's pretty awful.

I think that it gets down to whether I share an author's values or not: what they choose to attach importance to. E.g., Henry James is very interested in human interactions among civilized characters, and I'm not that interested in this, and why it is that I think Stephen Crane is much more engaging.

I mean, I really like Bartleby, so it's not just a thing about eras.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 10 March, 2021 11:03AM
OK -- I'm not up for a long discussion right now, though. I'm putting off some reading this morning that I told myself I'd attend to. But anyway:

Let's acknowledge that with favorite authors, part of our pleasure is likely to be the affection of long acquaintance. With people we've known and liked a long time, even their foibles can be part of the pleasure of their company. Uncle Ed will bring up his hobbyhorse about dredging the river rather than building higher dikes to control flooding, even though the Army Corps of Engineers studied the matter and showed the dikes to be more effective and less costly than dredging the river would be. But it's kind of endearing when we hear Uncle Ed get going on the river. In the same way, Lovecraft's faults may actually please us if, like so many of his admirers, we first read him as youngsters and have never stopped in half a century.

However, when we want to recommend Lovecraft to someone who hasn't read him, or even just if we should want to think clearly about him, we need to deal with this principle(s): Good reading is attentive to the words of the story; and insofar as the story is well-written, it will encourage, reward, justify attentive reading. Conversely, good reading should and will reveal flaws, if they are there.

Take Conan Doyle's "The Speckled Band" story. This is one of the most-beloved Sherlock Holmes stories, I've no doubt. Myself, I probably read it first at about the same time I first read Lovecraft, around age 14. I couldn't say how many times I have read it since. I always enjoy it.

Yet, attentive reading reveals some flaws, not of style but of plotting. You might remember that the story involves a wicked stepfather or uncle who wants to get the fortunes of Helen and Julia. They live with him in his deteriorating manor on an impoverished estate. His plot is that he will kill them, one after the other, by means of a snake he brought back from Asia. He has trained the snake to crawl through the ventilator connecting his room to that of one of the women, who has just become engaged to be married. The snake wraps itself around a bell-pull (for summoning servants) that no longer rings a bell, crawls onto the sleeping woman's pillow, bites her, then crawls back up the bell-pull. To ensure that the snake will reach the sleeping woman, the villain has bolted her bed to the floor -- it is positioned such that the bell-pull is close by.

Julia is killed in due course, managing only to say to her sister "'the speckled band!'" Helen can't imagine what has happened but, fearing for her life, goes to London to see Sherlock Holmes. She tells him that her stepfather now demands that she sleep in the chamber where her sister died. Holmes soon figures out what's going on.

Of course the whole idea is preposterous if we actually pay attention to plausibility. It is doubtful that the snake would be trainable. It is doubtful that the snake could be trained to crawl back and forth along a bell-pull. It is unlikely that the women would not question why there is a bell-pull that doesn't ring a bell (& in any event there are no servants). It is unlikely that the snake, crawling onto the pillow, would not waken the sleeping woman. (One can just imagine her waking up and demanding of her stepfather what's with letting his exotic reptiles crawl around the house.) It's unlikely that the snake would casually bite the sleeper then speedily crawl back up the bell-pull. It's doubtful that the women would not notice that the bed was bolted to the floor and would not wonder whatnearth that happened for. And so on.

But one is carried along by the story and hardly asks such questions.

I think examination of various HPL stories will show similar plotting problems involving narrators who recall conversations, the words of documents, etc. clearly but didn't add up the clues. Again, we go along with the story, but it's as if Lovecraft is counting on us not reading attentively enough to stumble over such problems. It may well be that he himself didn't perceive some of them. He focused on building a mood of "adventurous expectancy" such as Conan Doyle conjures in "Speckled Band." Lovecraft's place in literature is with such enjoyable authors.

In contrast, an author such as, say, Hawthorne, writes in such a way that, if we read attentively, our reading experience is enriched with meaning, depth, perception of human concerns, etc.

Now, as to style: I think people too often write as if "Lovecraft's style" was basically unchanging throughout his career. I think there's more variety than that suggests.

"The Colour Out of Space" is, I would say, his masterpiece. In about 70 paragraphs, he presents a conception weird enough, and he also -- note well -- deftly evokes both "cosmic strangeness" and pathos. The dreadful things that happen to the victims ... just happen to them; they are sufferers, but what they suffer comes not because they fooled around with the Necronomicon or something; they just happened to be there, where the object landed. The narrative moves along, developing a masterful sense of inevitability, its effects measured out with skill. And the prose is skillful. The "blasted heath" subtly suggests classic literature but is completely functional in terms of the story, too.

Now there is just one passage where Lovecraft erred.

----For the terror had not faded with the silhouette, and in a fearsome instant of deeper darkness the watchers saw wriggling at that treetop height a thousand tiny points of faint and unhallowed radiance, tipping each bough like the fire of St. Elmo or the flames that came down on the apostles’ heads at Pentecost. It was a monstrous constellation of unnatural light, like a glutted swarm of corpse-fed fireflies dancing hellish sarabands over an accursed marsh; and its colour was that same nameless intrusion which Ammi had come to recognise and dread.----

That simile is like an intrusion of the old Lovecraft: "like a glutted swarm of corpse-fed fireflies dancing hellish sarabands over an accursed marsh."

Lovecraft's task here was to evoke the intense weirdness of what is now seen. But it's a blunder to stop the attentive reader in his tracks with a simile that is of competitive weirdness. The simile actually works to deflate the weirdness of the thing it's supposedly there to serve. It is a distraction. It wasn't enough for Lovecraft to say that the tiny points of light were liked fireflies moving. He has to let his pen run away with him.

Nobody pays close attention to the writing there. If they did, they might wonder about the intrusion of a narrator who evidently expects readers to know not just what fireflies in motion look like -- as many would -- but what fireflies that have been eating a dead body look like. Do fireflies eat meat? What does it mean to say that they appear to be "glutted," i.e. they have eaten till they are full or even overeaten? They dance a saraband -- so they are full of meat but they dance a lively dance? It's a hellish dance -- so the damned dance? The dancing is going on over a marsh? Fine, fireflies might appear over a swamp. But this one has to have a curse on it.

You see my point? I believe this is called "overegging the pudding." It's a real error of taste, for Lovecraft to stick this simile right smack dab in the section of his story that's supposed to crown the strangeness of the... what was it again? Oh, right, the points of light, et cetera.

Now "Colour" is unusually free, as I recall, for a Lovecraft story, from such blemishes. Other stories, if I'm not mistaken, are all too likely to indulge in such things, in which the author is perhaps impressing himself more than his readers.

Lovecraft fans may enjoy such things because they like Lovecraft, but I'm saying that if they are honest with themselves they will probably be able to see that this is defective writing.

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 10 March, 2021 11:46AM
Excellent and thought-provoking points, Dale.

I feel sure that we could have a hell of a discussion on matters of style and taste, and especially this point you have raised re Colour Out of Space, and this is to be filed under "suspension of disbelief" and/or "narrative focus" and "creation of mood".

If you are able and want to, when you have time I'd like to kick it around a bit. Let me know and I'll start going into it some--not so much TO argue for/against as bring up ideas in the mechanics of creating a narrative.

This is why I come to ED. Good stuff!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 10 March, 2021 12:15PM
It's fine with me if you and others want to discuss these things, of course, even if I don't have much to say right now. By the way, I would amend something I said, thus:

"In most cases, Lovecraft's place in literature is with such enjoyable authors [as Arthur Conan Doyle]; we may read them as youngsters and return to them throughout our lives, enjoying them every time, although our adult readings might not really add much to what we have experienced earlier."

I had in mind here Lovecraft's fiction in general. That is, I think much of it is like (most of) the Conan Doyle stories. Some of it is below that level. "The Colour Out of Space" may well be above the level attained by any of the Sherlock Holmes stories. It really is HPL's masterpiece, doing well what he's known for (conjuring weirdness) and, for once, evoking too a kind of Classical pathos. I don't want to overstate, but when I think of the pathos of what happens to those poor victims, I think of Greek tragedy. I don't mean that the story is on the level of Oedipus Rex, but honestly I do think of the Sophocles play. This dreadful thing comes "from the stars," and the victims are thus singled out to become themselves "portents," people who have been set apart for suffering by fate. Well, it's not a perfect parallel, but I'm not going to delve into "Colour" and Oedipus now. Anyone who's read both the story and the play lately -- go ahead, for all of me!

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 10 March, 2021 12:25PM
Reading HPL repeatedly, I'm there for two things: creation of effective mood; and to see just *how* (by what technique) he achieves effectiveness.

There is just a little more where one considers his cosmology of the mythos--that in the 4 billion years of the planet, multiple significant ad sophisticate events/epochs have come a nd gone and were total erased in tectonic activity.

That's *fun*, but as they say: "It ain't much...".

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 10 March, 2021 04:24PM
Re: HPL and Sophocles. (I kept thinking about this topic despite having said I wouldn't get into a discussion now.) Anyone can write a story in which bad things happen to people. What made me think of Sophocles in connection with "Colour"?

This might not make sense to anyone else, but I think there's a sense that the victims in each case are made "holy." If I remember rightly, Rudolf Otto, in The Idea of the Holy, argues that the eventual association of "holiness" and goodness was an achievement of Judaism and Christianity, but "holiness" can exist apart from goodness. It has to do with a sense of awe. That which provokes awe is different from the commonplace, the quotidian, etc. In Oedipus Rex (to give the Greek play its common Latin title), a man is set apart by fate for a horrible experience; it is prophesied that he will kill his father and marry his mother, violating two of the most basic laws of human life. And he does these things, as it transpires, not because he is a bad man, but because of the adults' horror of such a prophecy when Oedipus was born -- they wanted to prevent such terrible things from happening. But they happen and the land is stricken.

Somewhat similarly, in Lovecraft's story, an appalling fate overcomes the victims (and "victim" had originally a connotation of the sacred, btw). And here too the land is stricken.*

And so the Lovecraft story, as I read and experience it, is not simply a weird story about how "shit happens." It really does evoke some sense of so-called primitive awe (I might prefer "perennial" to "primitive"). Lovecraft is tapping into something rather more disturbing than the ghoulish figures of the pulp horror story -- though he didn't realize it, I imagine.

There's something like this in Hodgson's best story, "The Voice in the Night." There's a stricken land -- the island isolated in the North Pacific on which the fungus grows. Two shipwreck victims at last consume the fungus and progressively lose their human appearance while remaining fully human, suffering their withdrawal from the community of man. I think it's a pretty great story and one of the ones I would advance to show the legitimacy of the genre of weird horror if I were trying to convince someone thereof. I think, though, that Hodgson's story is less Classical than Lovecraft's. The two victims remain, in a sense, too easy to identify with to be like Oedipus. They are like victims of some progressive and incurable disease. But with Oedipus and the victims in "Colour," you have sufferers who are made "holy" by their fates. I don't think "Voice" is better or worse than "Colour" but that they are not really doing the same thing even though they have interesting similarities.

I realize that the three stories have "stricken lands" but the strickenness is from different causes.

[a]In Sophocles, the land (Thebes) is stricken because of the sins of patricide and incest.
[b]In Lovecraft, the land is stricken from space and the strickenness reaches out to the people who live there.
[c]In Hodgson, the land was stricken with the fungus presumably long before the two castaways arrived.

These are differences that do matter.

Arthur Machen mentions Oedipus here:

[www.youtube.com]

Now I really am gonna leave this alone for a while.

*The Arthurian legends tap into something like this. I might not remember exactly right, but there's a Maimed King, and one of the knights meets him and fails to ask what happened; and so -- here again, the land is stricken.

There's an outstanding evocation of the idea of the "holy" I've been discussing in C. S. Lewis's "myth retold," Till We Have Faces. The story's narrator, living perhaps 300 BC, describes the rather ugly temple of Ungit, a mother-goddess, with sacred prostitutes, prescribed cultic rites, a big stone on which blood must be shed, etc. For this narrator, all this is "holy" -- the priest smells "holy," etc. These things are set apart and awe hovers around them.



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 10 Mar 21 | 04:47PM by Dale Nelson.

Re: The Super thread of literature, art, music, life, and the universe in general
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 10 March, 2021 05:47PM
A very compelling post, Dale.

Do you suppose any of these tropes have anything like the same weight in non-western traditions--say Chinese, African? Any non-Abrahamic moral traditions?

I've always wondered if the stuff I learned in Lit classes had much application beyond its role of furthering the Classical/Medieval/Renaissance moral traditions. This is fine, but what is possibly post-modernism's greatest popular attraction--and by this I mean there are lots of people in west who have post-modern sensibilities (disbelief in the Supreme, upending ideas of roles and hierarchy, etc.) without having ever heard of post-modernism--is that it creates a disconnect from these tropes.

My guess is that post-modernism, as a reaction to the well-documented, widely disseminated violence of 20th C wars, is perhaps something like the Reformation, and remnants of traditional values will reassert themselves in a sort of "Counter-Post Modernism", maybe.

But my reason for mentioning this is because for the most part I don't relate well to some of these tropes, and not in reaction to their traditionalism, but because they can tend to celebrate lack of agency and passivity, as in the Christian tradition.

So the difference between a doomed protagonist like Oedipus and the backwoods family in Colour, is the revelation that nobility and power are no protection from fate, whereas for the Gardner family, who are clearly mundane, and hence their story lacks the shocking revelation that power/position are not insulation from terrible tragedy, it's simply like living at Love Canal.

Here's a curveball as regards how I tend to approach traditional western tropes, especially influenced by Christian ideals: I very often associate not with a worthy protagonist, but with their nemesis. And "why" is because the worthy can be passive and long-suffering--and to my mind, impotent, while their adversary is often aggressive, ambitious, and active. They have agency, where the protagonists do not.

So I can recall first reading Milton's Paradise Lost, and immediately finding Satan easy to empathize with, as portrayed. Agency, willingness to struggle, to not accept the fate handed down from authority.

It makes it hard for me to care about the Gardners of the world when I encounter them in literature.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. But give a man a boat,
a case of beer, and a few sticks of dynamite..." -- Sawfish

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