These panels tell the story of Ajax, as related in the Iliad and by Sophocles. I’d originally intended to treat the story without embellishment but just couldn’t allow poor Ajax to fall on his own sword at the end. Homer’s world is populated with people driven by mad and almost childlike uncontrollable passions. They did not reflect deeply on their actions. When I think social media has just about driven me bonkers and start lamenting modern times, I need only consider the senseless, sensation-drunk world of the Iliad and Odyssey to realize that every age on record has been frantically moving toward self-destruction.
The New Yorker made headlines this month by publishing “new” work by F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Thank You for the Light” had been rejected by the magazine in 1936 when Fitzgerald first submitted it, but editorial judgments—like love, pain, and kitchen knives—have a way of dulling over time.
“We’re afraid that this Fitzgerald story is altogether out of the question,” read the original note spurning the story. “It seems to us so curious and so unlike the kind of thing we associate with him, and really too fantastic.”
Resubmitted by Fitzgerald’s grandchildren, “Thank You for the Light” was, at least by Fitzgerald’s own standards, ready for publication. Its condition differs greatly from his final work, tentatively titled The Love of the Last Tycoon but published as The Last Tycoon in 1941. Fitzgerald died of a heart attack before he could finish the novel, so what went to press was a version of his incomplete draft, notes, and outlines pieced together by the literary critic Edmund Wilson. In his preface to the novel, Wilson wrote, “It has been possible to supplement this unfinished draft with an outline of the rest of the story as Fitzgerald intended to develop it.”
Going through my childhood desk recently I cleaned out years of weird detritus (novelty bar mitzvah magnets, Nickelodeon magazines, packets of incense cones) and came upon a copy of The Highland Fling, my high school newspaper. I opened the paper and scanned the newsworthy items of a typical suburban high school, circa spring 2001: various sports victories, a pointless Q&A with a sophomore, the possibility of a new town pool. Then I came to the reason I’d saved this particular paper: in its pages I had reviewed the Dave Matthews Band album Everyday.
That’s exciting, I thought. Let’s read what is sure to be some wonderful and delightfully precocious writing.
Or the other possibility.
Reading the review I cringed. There was light to moderate trembling. Maybe even perspiration.
As Catalogued by M. Lemoel on May 20, 1880, Twelve Days after the Writer’s Death.
It was one of our first tours back in the summer of 1999. We had been on the road for a month when we pulled into Lawrence, Kansas. The show at the Replay Lounge was sparsely attended, and we spent most of the night dumping quarters into tired, malfunctioning versions of Pole Position, Joust, Tempest, and Dig Dug. At the bar, we heard a rumor about a woman in Kansas City who raised alligators in her home.
The next morning we drove into Kansas City to eat Gates BBQ and look for the house. We were pointed in a general direction, but no one in town could verify this place actually existed. We found ourselves in a lonely part of town right at the edge of the city’s border. After two blocks of knocking on doors, we were ready to call it quits, and then an elderly woman in her seventies opened the door. We introduced ourselves as alligator enthusiasts and asked if she knew anything about the legend of Alligator Woman. “Know her? I am her.” She had a bright smile like a former actor. Her teeth were perfect. No stains, gaps, or cracks in those real teeth. She pushed aside a pile of chicken wire and welcomed us into the dark rooms. I can’t even tell you how good it was.
Excerpted from Who Farted Wrong? Illustrated Weight Loss for the Mind, by permission of Write Bloody Publishing.
In Hartford overnight for reasons that would take too long to explain, my wife and I visited the Wadsworth Atheneum, the city’s art museum, where she had interned a number of years before. Hartford is one of those midsize American cities, like Cincinnati or Worcester, dominated by Chris Ware cityscapes.
The Atheneum is a small, good museum and interesting in that way that Hartford is interesting: on a comparatively small stage the choices are more evident, the collections more particular. Things that would be pushed into the storeroom at another museum are given fascinating pride of place. What is less well known is not so consistently edged out by what is too well known.
We walked past the museum’s two Balthuses into a room full of photos of men in headdresses, dusty streets, namelessly Middle Eastern scenes. A man fiddling with a bomb. Something was off, however: there was too much unfinished plywood and the people staring into the camera were clearly … what?
We slowed down, read wall text. This woman is a Marine lance corporal.