I’m sure you’re wondering where this is headed, right from the start. I was thinking about this today, and I knew a blog was coming. Suddenly I realized I had a series of what seem to be disparate themes, which were about to come together to make this one up.
First, a recent update on things: I am the kind of person that when I like something, I tend to dive into it in an effort to discover more. When it comes to music I do this especially, but I also do it when it comes to reading material.
About three or four years ago, while writing “The Other Roads Club” trilogy, I decided that a certain character, Minoru had a very dark, eccentric way about him. I made him an Edgar Allan Poe devotee, right down to the way he dressed. He quoted Poe, read the writings and sometimes couched things in the way that Poe might well have done.
Later on, I felt Minoru needed to branch out. He was an acting type, so I had him go out for plays. But what would work for him? The answer? Oscar Wilde; I had him try out for some of that.
It seemed to fit, so I bought a collection of Wilde’s plays; I never acted in any of them, but I would love such an opportunity one day. His lampooning of British upper class twit society remains among the most clever.
P.G. Wodehouse, yet another; my sister loved his stuff, and it’s funny…I love Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie together, but reading the “Jeeves and Wooster” books is somehow more entertaining. Don’t know why, but that is how that is.
So my point? I immerse myself in the material I need to write my own stuff, and develop characters, storylines and all the other things I need. It also broadens my own, sorry to say narrow bloody horizons.
Next case in point to get us where we need to go: Sylvia Plath.
Recently the 50th anniversary of her suicide passed our way. I had known who Sylvia was, but I am not much of a reader or writer of poetry. Irony: not long ago, I stumbled across “The Bell Jar” in a used shop, and having not bought it, dispatched my friend Alice back to the shop to get it for me.
If you have not read this book, beware: it is dark, scary, hard to read, but enlightening. You go inside the tortured and yet brilliant mind of this woman. She was only 30 when she offed herself; her son would also in time do the same.
I’d read this book, and saw horrific parallels to my own mental issues. Plath even tried to kill herself in a way I envisioned, 20 years ago. How shocking is that?
Not long ago, I joined Google+, and made friends with a young lady named Trina, who has put up a page there called “Sylvia Plath Lives.” Only like four members, and Trina is surely into the lady’s writing more so than I.
I needed to research this more; I found something that really stunned me. The cult of personality that surrounded Plath, her writing, and her death.
Today I picked up “Ariel,” a restored version of which has been put out by Sylvia’s daughter, Frieda. Plath bore two children by the British poet Ted Hughes, who we would know as the creator of the brilliant “Iron Man.”
The relationship was good for both, and bad for Sylvia. It’s no secret Hughes cheated on her; Sylvia was jealous and suspicious, but in this case had a right to be pissed off. In the forward,
Frieda writes of the hopes her father had to make it up to her.
His handling of Plath’s writings after her death, and the US and UK versions of “Ariel” attracted great attention, and great ire.
“Look in my eyes/What do you see/The Cult of Personality…” -- Living Colour
Now the song is more about dictators and politicians, etc., but Plath attracted a rabid following. Plath may well have been one of the first truly feminist authors, but Frieda rightly is unhappy with the way her mother has been used.
Used, abused, whatever you like for adjectives and superlatives. Hughes was harshly criticized for changing “Ariel,” swapping out some poems for others, but it is a clear fact he had to be careful. The poem “Lesbos” was about two acquaintances who lived in England. The poem was not about lesbians, but it is a cutting and vicious three pages. Hughes I think was right to drop that one.
But Plath has been taken up, she was then, and still now by a fan base that believes she is some kind of perfect “Goddess” and that all she ever did was wonderful.
When in fact, she was like you and I, a flawed human being.
I do not criticize her, and I cannot judge her. I do not judge Hughes. And here is where I get to my argument:
We kill our Gods…and we do it at the threshold of pain.
I’m reminded of the t-shirt Axl Rose used to wear onstage in the early days of Guns ‘N Roses, the one of Jesus, and I think it said something about killing your idols. Very telling.
Think about it: Plath’s followers, many of them are so fanatical. Frieda writes she was accosted on a street by a man who was furious about a plaque being put up at the home in London where Frieda was born, where Plath lived happily with the family, and did some of her greatest work.
He was frothing about how it should be at the place where she killed herself. Never mind that
Plath was only there a few weeks; everyone thought she should die there.
Frieda’s response…she already has a headstone, we don’t need another.
Oh, and the defacement of Plath’s headstone by these rampaging assholes? Talk about respect for the dead! Talk about respect for the resting place of the one you supposedly revere!
All because they think Ted fucked things up with “Ariel,” and drove Sylvia to suicide. That’s simplistic I know…but these people are even more simplistic than that!
So what else am I talking about here?
Next disparate thread: because I live in Pennsylvania, I’ll shift gears for something a bit closer
to home. Yes, I’m going there.
JOE PATERNO AND PENN STATE.
I really hoped I could avoid talking about this again. I tried to keep my mouth shut about the ongoing drama, one year after his death, and the fact that the Universe According to Joe still acts like he’s alive, walking around, and an omnipotent “God-Head” to the Blue and White.
I am really no longer upset with Paterno himself. He is gone, a legendary coaching career tarnished by one big mistake. I’m sure he committed a few others, too, but the one decision he made to shut up about Jerry Sandusky and what he was doing in order to protect the almighty football Program at Penn State.
The bleating continues to this day: let’s work backwards. The university itself continues to grudgingly shoulder its self-created cross of martyrdom over those terrible sanctions, that $60 million, piss drop in the bucket fine, and oh, so sad, no bowl games and no bowl game money.
The Nittany Lions did pretty damned well this past season; no one expected them to win eight games. I covered two of those games at Beaver Stadium. The fans showed up, smeared in blue and white, the nubile young (and not so young), both male and female bared their bodies and everything else in their passion for the university, the Program, and you know who.
But you know what? Not many sellouts…sure, 97,000 for example? That’s one hell of a crowd; but Beaver Stadium after its latest refit can hold 108,000 easily.
What’s that tell you? Cracks. They’re there.
Now…we can go a long ways down and fire off any number of people who still believe that Joe-Pa was wronged. He was a scapegoat, they whine and howl! It’s a conspiracy, they scream to the heavens! The NCAA is out to get us, they shrilly proclaim.
The late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, he who saw conspiracies against his team by the NFL every place he looked would shake his head in disbelief.
So…let’s go right to the family, because they can’t let it go.
I do not have an issue with Joe’s widow. Sue Paterno strikes me as a lady of dignity, and she’s only doing what any partner/wife/etc. would do; she’s defending her late husband. I think she was right out of the loop; it’s clear to me Joe was not gonna tell her anything about Sandusky or what was going down.
Joe’s sons on the other hand, really bug me. It would seem they spearhead the drive to trash the Freeh Report in an effort to try and prove that Louis Freeh overstepped his bounds, and that the NCAA went all out to destroy their daddy and ruin the program, blah blah blah.
Well…let’s take a look at certain aspects of why they might really be doing this.
When you’ve got a guy like Paterno who is essentially the most powerful man on the state university’s campus, you know what you get? Perks. Lots and lots of nice little bonuses, not just for the man, but for the family.
Hell, when Sandusky retired in ’99, he was given loads of them, even though everyone already suspected of just why he suddenly was leaving. A hall pass to go anywhere he wanted, an office, use of facilities, discounts on tuition for him an all the family.
Transpose to the Paterno family: now one son, Jay was an assistant coach so he too was an employee. He was dumped along with the rest of the staff.
The Paternos began to make demands of the university in the wake of Joe’s passing. They wanted goodies, all the goodies that Joe saw they got, and now…get ready for it…without in so many words…DECIDED THEY WERE ENTITLED TO THEM.
Stuff like…use of a private jet!
WHO THE FUCK NEEDS A PRIVATE JET IF YOU DO NOT WORK FOR THE BIG U. ANYMORE?
And of course they still wanted a luxury box, this that and the other.
I’m sorry…but you know, that really was unseemly. What made these spoiled brat kids in adult bodies think they were entitled to any fucking thing?
This is an example of how you Kill Your Gods. Yet another; fun, isn’t it?
I think Joe himself would be appalled that his grown-up family would try and hold up the university for stuff that really does not matter.
What exactly do they have to gain? Joe made great money for a lot of years; they don’t need it.
Two adult sons, free of the scandal in terms of having involvement should be able (you’d think) to get on with their lives. Jay should be able to coach again; it would be unfair to hold the mistake of the father against the son.
Scott…I don’t really know what he does. He ran for Congress back in like ’02, and I interviewed him a couple of times. Nice guy, really; but he was a political novice running on the “Who’s My Daddy?” ticket. Tim Holden ate him for lunch that Election Day.
I think the family doth protest too much. Their “independent” review of the Freeh Report was a paid-for whitewash that would have made the creative writing team of World Wrestling Entertainment cringe. ESPN must have been holding its collective nose when they aired a full report of that.
Again my point: we make “Gods” of people, and we really must not do that. Look at what happens; we make people, human beings out to be something spectacular. When they fail, either we feel duped, or we cling to the cult aspects of what we thought they were, and convince ourselves they still are.
An old and dear friend has more than once said: “I don’t go back.” Her statement is about returning to the past; past relationships, and other matters that no longer apply to her life.
We live in the past. We revel in it, and pretend it’s still happening. I suppose that is why I do not suffer fools for the past well. I do not have the patience for people who continue to re-live things that happened years and years ago like they were yesterday.
It’s been very difficult for me to get rid of my past, and I acknowledge this. I have spent a long time trying to rid myself of shame, of guilt, of self-hatred for things I did and did not do. I write of this in a number of my stories, and I find characters that seek a way out of that past.
We do indeed cling to that past, don’t we? Look at the ongoing examination of Sylvia Plath. Her work is indeed timeless, brilliant, cutting, and edgy for her time. She was a woman out of her time, that’s my feeling.
But was she a “Goddess?” No.
Joe Paterno…what was he? A very successful football coach? A leader of young men, a teacher, a guy who tried to do his best? Largely, yes. I do think that.
I also have said that a man’s life such as his should not be remembered for one mistake. That I believe; yet at the same time, why was there such an act as he put on? Why did he have to do it?
Why could he not at the end ‘fess up and say, “I screwed up. I’m sorry.”
I can’t answer that.
Last part of this: look at the madness of organized religion. I’ve blogged about it here before, and I’d refer you back to the “Samhain, and the Death of Anything Meaningful” blog for more on this subject.
I do not disrespect those who believe. If it works, then good. But look at how mad we have gone. Most religions to me are the same thing, only we feel the need to destroy any interpretation but that which is the one we believe.
Everything else must be destroyed. Isn’t that it?
Today, radical Islamists rape the ancient sites of Mali the same way radical Christians blazed bloody paths through Europe and the Americas. The entire native population of Cuba, one example, no longer exists.
Is this what Jesus called for? Did the prophet Mohammed really call for this? What “God” demands this kind of tribute?
To me it is more human demands to serve a human purpose, not a spiritual one.
The two names are examples…and they were HUMAN. Look at others, such as Buddha and Lao Tzu; they were HUMAN. They did not require such things nor demand them.
Just another method of how we Kill Our Gods.
I have only read the foreword of “Ariel,” and skimmed “Lesbos” to get an idea of it. I will read that once I’m finished here. I think for me, I need to read more of her work, to expand my own horizon, and maybe get a bit more truth about myself.
I don’t know if any of this makes sense; this is all one draft, one stream of thought and consciousness. I wonder what you will find, as I wonder what I’ll find in “Ariel.”