Authors with genuinely red-toothed experience have fascinating insights into the way the world really works to draw on. But where are they?
Writers, by and large, are a boring lot – even more so now that so many are employed by the state (or states in the case of the US) to teach middle-class youth how to tell imaginary stories in prose. Yes, yes, the academy is a fascinating subject and you can't have enough tales about college politics or balding, paunchy middle-aged lecturers lusting after young girls. But even so, something elemental has been lost: a connection to the blood and piss and fecal slime of life.
Take killing for instance. For millennia, humans have taken great delight in slaughtering each other. Indeed, in some cultures, a man was (is) not a man until he had (has) shed another's blood. Read a modern literary novel about killing however, and you'll get a lot of angst-ridden waffle ripping off other, older books – an imaginative projection of the postmodern self onto earlier, more openly violent times. Naturally this waffle will be written by somebody with little or no experience of violence, who probably earns a crust teaching middle-class children how to tell imaginary stories in prose.
Of course, I am not suggesting that authors should kill just so they can know what it feels like. Killing is bad. But given that we live in an extremely violent world, a world indeed that is predicated upon violence, where even tiny little insects spend a lot of time fighting, I have been wondering recently about authors who have direct experience of killing. Who are they, and what can they tell us?
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