I read a post over at John C Wright’s blog on the subject of why old authors and their works are not considered by the majority of today’s readership. Here is an excerpt that I particularly like:
“… The moderns have been taught to hate and loath their own country, their ancestors, their parents, and been told everything written before the current day is racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, transcismophobic, and pure evil. These nutbags think that their own standard bearers of the Progressive movement, the founders of their genre, were not Progressives like themselves.
One need only hear sexual libertarian and radical egalitarian nut Bob Heinlein being excoriated as a member of the misogynist phallocratic patriarchy to realize how far off the edge of the world the lunatics have sailed the ship of fools.
This is not some lunatic fringe belief. It is lunacy, of course, but not fringe. It is mainstream. The core institutions and standard bearers of Science Fiction, the largest publishers, the most prestigious awards, our once-respected guild the SFWA, the oldest and most famous magazine: they all buy into the narrative and all support the narrative with a singleminded fury that is Bolshevik in its vehemence, patience, and pettiness.
Progressives hate the past and seek forever to blacken, demean, and obliterate it. Anyone reading the older books would see immediately that the modern works are only merely equal, not as innovative, and that the modern award-winning works are notably inferior.
The notion of progress is the notion that the past is bad and the present is better and the future will be better yet. If you read old books and find that they are either slightly better or remarkably better than modern offerings, you see a decline, not a progress, and the foundation of progressivism, is overthrown”
Thus, I am compelled to write some posts on authors which you should be reading.
Mr Wright’s domain is the world of science fiction and fantasy, so I will leave that genre up to him, (in other words, I cannot compete). I will target this from the perspective of what a young man should be reading. A young man in today’s world needs genuine guidance on how to be a man and even how to be an adult. Progressives will tell you that the role of a man has now changed, that men should be more feminine, a nasty paradox if ever I’ve heard one. The truth is that the role of a man has not changed at all. Present circumstances however, conspire against it. With that in mind, what better way to seek guidance than with a clear message from the past.
The Travis McGee series by John D MacDonald is a timely literary masterpiece that provides a road-map for young guys on what they should aspire to. Truth be told we cannot be Travis McGee, though plenty of us would want to. But we can take note of how he behaves, how he comports himself, how he reacts to women and his environment. A family friend introduced me to the series when I was in my late teens and I devoured them all, 21 books in total. Travis is a beach bum who lives on a house boat that he won in a poker game. He takes his retirement in installments, and when he’s running low on retirement funds he emerges from his lair and makes a score. If you’ve lost something and cannot retrieve it by any means, Travis will have a shot at the title while keeping half the value of what he retrieves for himself. As he says, half is better than nothing. I have reread every book in the series several times. With each rereading I discover something new, or I remind myself of a play that Travis made which I can directly relate to my own life. As I like to say when I find myself in difficult circumstances, what would Trav do?
There is a quote in the above link by a certain George Pelecanos that deserves attention, but not for good reasons:
“… The McGee books are early 60s timepieces (the hero’s Hefner-like, paternal attitude towards women) in the same way that Spillane’s books represent a certain kind of attitude (paranoid, racist, homophobic) from the 50s. Think of them on one hand as social records, and try not to judge them from the perspective of our more “enlightened” present …”
On the contrary, judge them very much from the perspective of our so-called more enlightened times. Travis is a real man, and what it takes to be one does not change. The road-map to become a man is the same, only now the map is full of false turns, half-truths, and deceptions. The series runs chronologically from the sixties to the mid-eighties, and along the way McGee battles with the events and circumstances of his times. Though not necessary I feel it best to read them in order. If you have never read these books before you have now discovered a treasure trove. For those in that position, I envy you.