From Ray to Herman …


The Witch House in Beverly Hills

Many of the top selling bestsellers today are by women. Whether in the young adult fantasy areas like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter brand, or Stephenie Meyer’s vampire romance genre in the Twilight novels or Suzanne Collins’ mixture of fantasy and science fiction in the Hunger Game franchise.

Or novels written by older women aimed particularly for the older women’s market. These are often mostly literary books, aimed at the top intelligentsia of readers. And for the most part they have a heavy internalness, about them. Like modern Virginia Woolf’s talking to internal voices more than those in the outside world. Books like Gone Girl that play themselves mostly inside the mind of a psychotic woman. Or books like The Woman in the Attic or Girl on the Train. Interestingly, all based on an unreliable narrator. Unreliable because there are two or more competing narrators in all these works. In ways, they are continuations in fictional form of the Seth Speaks books in that all lead characters, all heroines of the novels, seem bound within a power not external but internal. It is a power that none of them can escape from.

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Of all the grand bestselling writers out there today, Suzanne Collins is closest to a person I grew up with in the LA of the 50s – Ray Bradbury. Collins admits that Ray had a great influence on her writing. It certainly shows in Hunger Games where one can sense Bradbury’s spirit hovering over the project like a great protective drone. Like Bradbury, she captures the exhilaration of the feeling before a great voyage that will change one’s life.

Like Bradbury’s first remembered voyage into summer. The young boy in the opening pages of Bradbury’s 1957 Dandelion Wine seems much like the young girl in Hunger Games facing a grand adventure. Collins makes Bradbury’s style and characters and writing available to a new generation it seems to me. The same beautiful love for the fantasy genre mixed with the science fiction genre is there in Collins in so much the same way it was first there in the stories of ray Bradbury.

The three recent popular novels Gone Girl, The Woman in the Attic and Girl on the Train aimed at older women (or the 30s and up group) have lost the adventure of story and simply report to us from the relentless battle zone. A place they do not want to be yet can’t extract themselves from. Their mission seems to just report from the battle area they are in with their demons. In all of this stress from contemporary life they employ different voices to tell their story. They employ multiple perspectives to arrive at the real story or truth in the middle of everything. Much like Faulkner’s The Sound & Fury, we hear the story from different narrators and must make some type of choice.

We do not hear the story from a reliable outside narrator like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby. Rather we hear the story from unreliable parts of one’s overall ego that have taken over the telling of the story.

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Yet our world seems willing to test listening to the stories of unreliable narrators for a period of time until it decides how modern perception will be ordered anew. Meanwhile, authors like Suzanne Collins reach back to the 50s and to that great fantasy and science fiction author Ray Bradbury. The success of Collins is related to symbols and symbolism in many ways. Unlike the internal trend in the three bestselling novels above, being told from an internal perspective of a woman, Collins tells an old fashioned English adventure story worthy of H. Rider Haggard’s She or the fantasy of Ray Bradbury.

And Collins tells her story by using a female heroine that has the masculine need to live outside the internal in life. The combination of combining grand male and female symbols in her story sets The Hunger Games apart from the stories of our generation that will be remembered and have some modicum of influence on our spinning ball in the heavens.

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Perhaps all the literary battles in our time might eventually come down to a stand-off between various narrative techniques rather than content within the technique. Another offshoot of McLuhan’s famous statement that the “Medium is the message.” The message of literary within our post, post-period of literature. The real battle is who is “privileged” to tell the stories.

In all of this, a hundred year old novelist living in Palm Springs, perhaps the greatest and oldest living novelist. Herman Wouk. Author of Winds of War and Caine Mutiny that won the Pulitzer.

His last novel The Lawgiver is about the making of a big Hollywood movie based on the life of Moses. Hollywood has contacted one of the most famous novelists still living to be a consultant in their movie about the life of Moses. It is not told by one narrator but rather by is a collection of ephemera such as voice messages and text messages. Hotel notes. Emails. FaceBook Posts. Letters from film studios in Hollywood. Texts from a billionaire in Australia. A wild young woman hired to write the screenplay. It is the story told in all of this ephemera that circulates around the employment of the world’s oldest famous novelist, Herman Wouk, living in Palm Springs and contacted by the film people, to create a work as a consultant on their film Moses. It just so happens, the great novelist has Moses on his mind as his final grand project. Before the film company contacted him he had started work on his book on Moses.

Of all the new ideas for narrators, it seems our oldest grand novelist suggests the best way forward. Our modern story, the hundred year old Wouk reminds us, might not be told by one person but rather will need a type of literary DJ mixing up a number of sources of information into the biography of the for the key character of the story. The hero or heroine. The author might best serve his or her purpose in the new world  of creativity by mixing that out there rather than creating it in the first place. Just an idea proposed by the brilliant and visionary voice of Wouk in The Lawgiver.

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