Monday, February 15, 2010
Strong and Tough vs. Brutal and Violent
One of my favorite American novelists from the second half of the twentieth century is James Jones. A great writer about men in combat and in situations of danger. Not so good when it comes to women and more mundane times. Although, I guess the latter criticism isn't completely fair since a lot of From Here to Eternity is about the day to day life of the pre-war Army and there is nothing but mundane in a peace time garrison army. The point for this thought game is that Jones was a man who knew what strong was and what brutal was and knew that they were not the same thing.
I've been thinking about one of his lesser works, which is I think called Go To The Widowmaker. Not, (as I remember it and it has been a long time since I read it) one of his better books, but one part, I remember from the book involves a character, a writer. This character has gone back to this writer's colony where he had spent time crafting his first novel, to try to get some help with his new novel. He is trying to make his main character strong and tough, but all that he is able to do is make him more brutal and violent. He knows this is not what he is trying for and he can't get the character to show this strength, just the brutality. The other people at the writer's colony didn't see or understand the problem and can't help with it. Well that is a minor sub-plot, if I remember correctly. But Jones is interested in this issue and recognizes the difference. Oh well, I guess it is only a plot in a novel after all.
On the other hand our current conservative leaders and commentators and tough men like Chaney, Emanual, Bush, Obama and a host of others. They think they are being strong and tough, and all they are, are brutal and violent. And there doesn't seem to be anyone in a position importance to point out the problem or to show a way to correct it.