The Sixth Deadly Sin

Anger Transformation, image via Bidita Rahman

The Sixth Deadly Sin

Anger begins with folly and ends with repentance – Pythagoras

I’m no stranger to anger – I’m not proud of this – but I’ve poured beers over people’s heads, assaulted deaf heaven with bootless cries, smashed my brothers’ model of the human skeleton on a hardwood floor and shoved each individual bone beneath the door of his judiciously locked bedroom. 

Even though I was much, much younger than Will Smith when I committed these examples of Deadly Sin Number Six, I can relate to rashness, the fire in the veins that short-circuits the pauser reason, the anger-spawned and awful daring of a moment’s surrender, the explosion, the exhilaration, but also the subsequent miasma of guilt-ridden regret, which, if you’re like me, might suddenly rise to consciousness a half century later and make you cringe as you recall your lack of human decency.

At least, in my case, my acts of assholedom weren’t caught on camera, much less viewed by millions. It’s bad enough reliving grainy reruns in my memory. [1]  

Will Smith, on the other hand . . . 

At any rate, I find it much easier to forgive the slap than the subsequent speech, which I heard live, a shameful, weepy, entitled, excuse-ridden justification that quoted the Gospels as Smith claimed to aspire to be a “vessel of love.”

No, man, that was some Old Testament smiting shit you were throwing down. For your own good, embrace shame because it serves you right to suffer. Take a month off, read Crime and Punishment or the Brothers Karamazov.

Uh-oh, my prose is starting to rhyme, which means it’s time to shut the-you-know-what up.

Nighty night. Until next time, indulgent readers.


[1] I realize many of my fellow Lefties believe we shouldn’t be talking about Will Smith’s bitch-slapping Chris Rock when there’s more serious badness afoot: to wit, a coup sparked by a President and partly organized by a Supreme Court Justice’s whacko wife, who later cajoled the White House’s chief-of staff to overthrow the election, not to mention the Ukraine horrorshow, tactical nukes, WW3, etc. etc. 

But, hey, the Academy Award assault is interesting, worth contemplating, fun to talk about. I’m a big fan of Chris Rock, a fellow South Carolinian who has described our home state as “the dirt road not taken.” I didn’t dig his getting backhanded. Anyway, all existential angst and no schadenfreude makes Wesley/Rusty a dull [mannish] boy. Or, as the Underground Man puts it, “I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”

Whatchamacallit

. . . either for tragedy, comedy, 
history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, 
tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral . . . 

Polonius, Hamlet, 2.2

First, as cliché demands, the good news: my novel Today, Oh Boy has been accepted for publication, which, of course, delights me. Already my mind is running riot with unreasonable aspirations. No, I’m not dreaming of PEN awards or Pulitzers. We’re talking commercial fiction here, a narrative devoid of deeper meanings, a plot concocted to distract, not to enlighten. No, I’m not rehearsing acceptance speeches but wondering who is going to play the protagonist Rusty in the Hula Netflix TNT USA Network Apple TV adaptation. 

You know of any skinny redheaded sixteen-year-old actors with acne?

And now the potentially bad news. The publisher (who shall remain anonymous for now) has classified the novel as Young Adult. Here’s a quote from the acceptance letter:

“The characters fit nicely into their setting, embodying the south of the past and making the story stand out against a typical high school drama. The Board was keen to comment on the dynamic writing style and believes the story has the potential to excel within its genre.”

But the thing is, I wrote Today, Oh Boy for literate adults, not for tweens. Here’s a sentence from the novel describing one of the characters, AJ, who has cut school in the middle of the day and just finished smoking a joint with his dropout friend Will Waring:

“While Will has been daydreaming and tuning out his mother, Weeza has been quizzing AJ about his dismissal from school, essentially perp-walking his thoughts right out of lotus land into the dingy confines of a Raskolnikovian closet.”

Of course, I know whoever the editor might be will definitely ax “Raskolnikovian closet” because no tween or teen (or typical adult for that matter) has read Crime and Punishment and therefore won’t recognize the allusion to its agoraphobic protagonist pent up in his impoverished toilet stall of a rented room.  But, hey, I like the way it sounds.[1]Read it aloud: Rask-KOL-ni-KOV-ian closet.

And to add insult to injury, I don’t dig YA novels, have only read a handful because I taught 7th and 8th grades in my earlier teaching career. Although well-crafted, The House on Mango Street and The Giver aren’t up my alley. I’m not an admirer of To Kill a Mockingbird for that matter.

I’ll admit, though, that Today is difficult to classify. In one sense, it’s historical fiction because it takes place in a real place, Summerville, SC, in the year 1970, which in the Hula Netflix TNT USA Network Apple TV adaptation will require period clothing and vintage automobiles.

In another sense, it’s a souped-up Greek comedy sans chorus: it takes place in one day and essentially in one setting with continuous action.

It’s got a gruesome death, stolen goods, drug use, kung-fu fighting, and a highspeed chase.

So, what are we dealing with here? A historical-romance-Greek Comedy-Mystery-Action Adventure?

If it were up to me, and I was forced to ram into a sub-genre, I’d call it Pulp YA.

If I had self-published, I could have had full autonomy, but now my brainchild is under the authority of others. They say they’ll work with me, but the contract also makes it clear that they have the final say-so. Chances are Today, Oh Boywon’t be sporting the cover below when you buy it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or better yet, from your local independent bookstore.


[1] I did read the Classic Illustrated version of C&P when I was ten or so and didn’t enjoy it.

Misbehavior and Punishment

Detail from Viktor Semenovich Vilner - Embankment, Scenes from Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, 1971

Detail from Viktor Semenovich Vilner – Embankment, Scenes from Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, 1971

 

 

Sniggering little schoolboy, keep that up,

and I’m sending you

to detention

in Raskolnikov’s room.

 

Is that what you want?

 

Exile in

Rodion

Romanovich

Raskolnikov’s

Room?

 

A tiny cupboard of a room

about six steps in length.

 

Toxic urine-colored

paper peeling off its walls.

 

So low-pitched, the ceiling will

transform you into a hunchback.

 

One rickety chair.

 

A slack-springed

sofa for your bed,

chintz gone to rag,

a ratty overcoat for covers,

a balled-up terry cloth bathrobe

for your pillow.

 

Worse, a tattered copy of

Atlas Shrugged

on the bedside table

to be annotated.

 

Sniggering little schoolboy,

Is that want you want?

 

If not, cut it out.

 

Right now.

 

Thank you.