Melville as a secular member of the lit canon— but why is Steinbeck there? Maybe he limns that part of the heavenly godhead devoted to melodramatic, dramatic gestures. When you want party scenes, go to Fitz. When you want machismo, Hemway. Perversion—Celine, Cocteau, de Sade, Burroughs, etc. And when you want dramatic gesture, go for Steinbeck: “Of Mice,” and “Grapes” but also “Red Pony,” “Pearl,” other works? Someone—”Cavalier & Clay” author on Colbert last week—said Hemingway’s prose voice seems more modern to us than Fitz’s does–so what? So H. may have been more influential—eh?
But these fictions that nobody reads except in school—what is the value in reading them? Perhaps they limn out/describe-while-creating-a-space-for—like how “Hearts of Darkness” creates a character who embodies evil/madness (or a certain type/subset thereof ), someone we didn’t have a cultural touchstone of before. But our cultural touchstones, if you watch cable news, are suburban killers—Jodi Arias, for example, or Amanda Knox in Italy—but those are stupid. Why do we care about them? I don’t—but the cable networks must think somebody cares. Those people are also icons/emblems/symbols of some larger idea? Some idea that may be banal—the woman who kills her boyfriend—but—(or the one who maybe killed her baby—this from Fla. a couple years ago)—but for some reason, these types resonate—but why do they resonate? Because they somehow embody a deeper (if simple) idea—those who cross the taboo lines and pay the price—the old folktale mentality.
[From Monday, 27 Janvier 2014, Journal 191, page 82-3]