Friday, December 23, 2011

Dead Ends

I know he was a controversial guy and everything, but I really got a kick out of reading Christopher Hitchens and I'm sad he's gone. One thing I found really fascinating in reading all the articles and obits printed immediately after his passing was the sheer volume and pace at which he wrote. One obituarian (let's pretend that's a word) said that after she found out he was terminally ill last year, she was so bummed about it for a few days afterward that she didn't really get much work done. Meanwhile, Hitchens himself cranked out something like 8 essays in that time. Apparently he wrote them on the fly, as if he were typing out a lecture he was giving, and rarely edited thereafter. I digress, mostly, from used books (though we occasionally have Hitchens down here) but thinking about a divisive figure like Hitchens dying made me wonder what kind of monument would fit a guy like him. Maybe it would be a nice prefab/modernist writin' shack, or a concave black marble void. Either way it should be, funny, classy, maybe a bit annoying, but definitely a testament to wisdom and work-ethic.

Graves of celebrities can often be tourist destinations, and just last week we aquired a funky book with a cover illustrated by Edward Gorey (an eccentric artist whose monument left to the world was a house-museum left to his cats) entitled Dead Ends: An Irreverent Guide to the Graves of the Famous, which has an alphabetical catalogue of the graves of famous and infamous people. It's definitely irreverent, but morbidly fascinating. And if you're like me, a little weird and still interested in what I'm writing about ... you should check out the most recent issue of The Horn Book, a magazine that writes features about and reviews children's books. Local kid's author Jack Gantos wrote an article (beautifully illustrated by local illustrator José-Luis Olivares) about what he hopes his own mausoleum would look like, and how he imagines a cemetery paying homage to the canon of children's books. Check out a sample of the illustrations here. Maybe this is a lot of what literature is about; how will we be remembered? What mark will we leave? When our lives fade away, all we have to leave behind are our stories and maybe that's what drives people to write them down. Or maybe it's the fat paychecks.

No comments: