Writers have a complicated relationship with death.
They’re obsessed with it.
For some, this obsession leads to a gruesome manifestation carried out by their own hand…
Virginia Woolf put stones in her pockets and walked into a lake.
Ernest Hemingway kissed a sawed-off shotgun.
Hunter S. Thompson wrote a note ending in the words “ Relax — this won’t hurt a bit “ before shooting himself in the skull.
While John Steinbeck was able to escape this manifestation, he was no exception to this obsession surrounding his own mortality.
In Travels with Charley, he writes (rants, almost) of dying mightily rather than prolonging one’s death…
*John Steinbeck is typing now *
“For I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I’ve lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment. I did not want to surrender fierceness for a small gain in yardage. My wife married a man; I saw no reason why she should inherit a baby. I knew that ten or twelve thousand miles driving a truck, along and unattended, over every kind of road, would be hard work, but to me it represented the antidote for the poison of the professional sick man. And in my own life I am not willing to trade quality for quantity. If this projected journey should prove too much then it was time to go anyway. I see too many men delay their exits with a sickly, slow reluctance to leave the stage. It’s bad theater as well as bad living.”
It’s bad theater as well as bad living.
While like Ernest Hemingway, Steinbeck certainly had some very male chauvinistic beliefs that shined through in this writing, it’s difficult not to find the venom and tenacity in his words intoxicating
Most especially those last two lines…
“I see too many men delay their exits with a sickly, slow reluctance to leave the stage. It’s bad theater as well as bad living.”
Like so many writers who obsessively write about the inevitable day they will leave the stage, there is more to glean than how one should best shake hands with the grim reaper.
In these heart-stopping passages, we can learn infinitely of the moments before this introduction; in these passages, we can learn how to live.
But, I digress.
By Cole Schafer.
You gotta check this out — Sticky Notes is my email list reserved strictly for entrepreneurs and creatives looking to sell like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year.
Originally published at https://www.honeycopy.com on September 23, 2020.