5 Posthumous Gods of Literature; and, How to Become One

There have been many poets and authors who — for various reasons — never attracted a fandom while alive, but who came to be considered among the greats of literature in death. Here are a few examples whose stories I find particularly intriguing.



by Thomas Phillips, oil on canvas, 1807

5.) William Blake: Blake sold fewer than 30 copies of his poetic masterpiece Songs of Innocence and Experience while alive. He was known to rub people the wrong way and didn’t fit in to society well. He was widely considered insane, but at a minimum he was not much for falling in with societal norms. (He probably was insane, but cutting against the grain of societal expectations has historically often been mistaken for insanity.)  While he was a religious man (mystically inclined,) he’s also said to have been an early proponent of the free love movement. His views, which today might be called progressive, probably didn’t help him gain a following.



4.) Mikhail Bulgakov: Not only was Bulgakov’s brilliant novel, The Master & Margarita, banned during his lifetime, he had a number of his plays banned as well. What I found most intriguing about his story is that the ballsy author personally wrote Stalin and asked the dictator to allow him emigrate since the Soviet Union couldn’t find use for him as a writer. And he lived to tell about it (though he didn’t leave but did get a small job writing for a little theater.) Clearly, Stalin was a fan — even though the ruler wouldn’t let Bulgakov’s best work see the light of day.



3.) John Kennedy Toole: After accumulating rejections for his hilarious (and posthumously Pulitzer Prize-winning) novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, Toole committed suicide. After his death, Toole’s mother shopped the draft around and brow-beat Walker Percy into reading it, which ultimately resulted in it being published.



2.) Emily Dickinson: Fewer than 12 of Dickinson’s 1800+ poems were published during her lifetime. Dickinson is the quintessential hermitic artist. Not only wasn’t she out publicizing her work, she didn’t particularly care to see those who came to visit her.



1.) Franz Kafka: Kafka left his unpublished novels The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika, as well as other works in a trunk, and told his good friend Max Brod to burn it all. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon your definition of a good friend), Brod ignored the instruction and the works were posthumously published.



In brief summary, here are the five ways to become a posthumous god of literature:

5.) Be seen as a lunatic / weirdo.

4.) Live under an authoritarian regime.

3.) Handle rejection poorly, lack patience, and / or fail to get help.

2.) Don’t go outside.

1.) Wink at the end of the sentence when you tell your best friend to burn all your work.

A Conversation of Mutual Disenchantment

“I remember being born.”

“No. You don’t.”

“How would you know?”

“Well, let’s start from the assumption that you’re human…”

“I’d like to think so, but what are my options?”

“I don’t know. Humans don’t have that neural machinery at birth… So nothing from Earth remembers its birth.”

“And yet, I do.”

“Mightn’t you have cobbled together the scene from your mom’s stories, the family photo album, et cetera?”

“Nah! It’s too detailed. Feels too real.”

“I find your ignorance exhausting.”

“I find your certainty perplexing — not to mention irritating and slap-worthy.”

“Let’s agree to be mutually disenchanted.”

“Agreed.”

DAILY PHOTO: Gujarati Portraits

In Gujarat, I got a lot of request to pictures of people. As I can do no more than show them their pic on the back of my camera, I’ll place them here.

 

Mother & baby near Asarwa Lake

 

Near Hutheesing Jain Derasar

 

Near Hutheesing Jain Derasar

 

Near Hutheesing Jain Derasar

 

Near Delhi Darwaja

 

Near Delhi Darwaja

 

Near Asarwa Lake

 

Near Delhi Darwaja

 

Near Asarwa Lake

 

Idgah Road

 

Adalaj Vav banyan tree

 

Mughli Bibi’s Tomb

 

Mughli Bibi’s Tomb

 

Kids near Dandi Kuch Chowk

DAILY PHOTO: Scenes from a Fire Walk Festival

Taken on June 11, 2017 in Bangalore

 

 

Hanuman of the Sri Drowpathy Amman Temple

 

Devotees circumambulating the fire pit enclosure

5 People You Probably Didn’t Know Did Evil

This post was inspired in large part by a tidbit about whiskey heir James Jameson (#1, below) in a book that I’m reading called “Crossing the Heart of Africa” by Julian Smith. It may have also been influence by having recently seen the surprisingly awesome “Wonder Woman” film, in which a central theme is the notion that good and evil vie for each person’s soul. (Note: I say “surprisingly” only because the DC movie universe has mostly been floating stinkers in recent years.)

 

I should note that when I started researching, there were an astounding number of candidates for the slots on this list, and so you may have a favorite example that didn’t make the list (please feel free to comment on any prime examples that I missed below.) As for criteria, I tried to avoid including people who just said horrifying things, who acted in an irresponsible or nit-witted manner that didn’t rise to the level of evil, or who were forced to make “lesser of two evil” decisions during time of war or national emergency.

 

I also didn’t have the time or energy to get into the he-said-she-said of politicians, because in America ideological types accuse people from the other party all manner of evil, constantly. So I didn’t wade into whether George W Bush personally flew the planes into the Trade Center towers via drone-style cockpit override technology, or whether Barack Obama had all nuclear spent fuel jettisoned onto the Arctic Circle to manufacture a climate change crisis. (Note: neither of those is a real thing, please don’t quote.) But, beyond that, I tried to pick candidates that would come as a surprise, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone that a politician did evil. (Frankly, people would be more surprised if they didn’t.)

 

5.) Chuck Berry: He had secret tapes made of women doing their business in the toilets at his restaurant. I don’t want to be moralistic and get into people’s kinky proclivities with this list, but this breach of trust rises above and beyond.

 

4.) Alexander Graham Bell was a dick to deaf people. The inventor of the telephone advocated for eugenics, and, specifically, trying to breed the deaf out of existence. Sure, if you invent the phone, the people who can’t use it might not be your favorites, but trying to eliminate them… that’s just cold.

 

3.) Mohandas K. Gandhi: I said I wouldn’t pick on purely verbal hideous acts, of which Gandhi had a number from suggesting rape victims were responsible to supporting honor killings to racial slurs against Africans (quite a shocker for someone battling British racism so vehemently.) As far as actions, sleeping nude with his under-aged great-granddaughter is pretty vile behavior. It’s said that he was trying to challenge his celibacy, but you don’t need to bring kids into whatever oddities you need to prove to yourself. 

 

2.) Che Guevara: He had countless people executed without trials or due process. I included him because I assume that not all among the vast number of people who wear his face on their t-shirts are aware of this dimension of his character. Certainly, he was no worse than Lavrentiy Beria (Stalin’s Secret Police Chief), but I’m unaware of any idolization of Beria.

 

1.) James Jameson: The whiskey magnate bought an 11-year old girl so he could sketch her being victimized by cannibals in Africa. 

DAILY PHOTO: Konyak Warriors of Hungpoi

The Chief; Taken on April 27, 2017 at the Hungpoi Village in Nagaland, India

 

Nagaland is a fascinating place. Back in the days before colonialism and proselytizing missionaries, the tribes practiced headhunting. The Chief’s wife would tattoo the face of any warrior who returned from battle with the head of a fallen enemy. Hence, you see the blue tint to these men’s faces. Hungpoi, which is a short drive from Mon, has one of the highest concentrations of those who lived during this time, but they are a disappearing breed.

 

I was fascinated to discover how many features of their tribal experience echoed what one reads about in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart.” That book is considered to be one of the quintessential novels of the African experience, but it seems that these Asian tribes shared many features. Their hyper-masculine societies morphed as Christian missionaries came in, backed by the might of colonial powers, and converted the population. Internecine killing–accidental or purposeful–was punished by a seven-year period of exile. Shaming was used as punishment much more than is possible in our–to use Desmond Morris’s term– super-tribes.

 

Some of these elder warriors wear necklaces showing the number of heads that they collected in warfare. This is in contrast with other elements of ornamentation which, according to one of these men, were more about attracting a mate.

 

 

 

 

DAILY PHOTO: Random [but Colorful] Group Photo, Savandurga

Taken in March of 2015 at Savandurga

 

Occasionally, I get asked to snap a picture of people I don’t know. Usually this happens in off-the-beaten path locales. In this case, it was Savandurga, a hill in the countryside between Bangalore and Mysore that’s a popular day trek destination.

POEM: Invisible They

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Is there a they?

Or is they us?

On the same old day,

riding a different bus?

 

Tilting heads at the same places.

Different route, same blank faces.

Electrified through the same lines.

Picking fruit amid the same mines.

 

Is there a them

amid your dreams

deep in the REM

the field of screams?

 

No. There you are each shadow monster.

The bright and the dark, indivisibly you.

You may wish to be not the mobster,

but you can’t ever cleave yourself in two.

 

Maybe “they” are an illusion.

A genetic glitch now passe.

A wanton act of collusion

to create an invisible they.