Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Theoharides on Spring, Captain America and Literature

It's Wednesday, my Puddlers, and I hope you are enjoying the terrific spring weather. I myself am looking forward to the summer, which means drinking insanely cold beer, going to the beach, being tan and generally seeming open for adventure—basically the idea of things being simpler that will ultimately fade by August after the accumulation of serial-killer heat and I'll look forward to "things beginning again" in September, much like Nick Carraway (soon to be played by Toby Maguire) once did.

But, we can't take these still cool May evenings for granted, especially with that serial killer heat looming in June. So please go out and enjoy the May evenings. Eat at a picnic table at a French restaurant, drink a Monte Carlo or some other rye drink that you've never had before and be sure to watch the trailer for the upcoming Puddles of Myself movie.

Also, since its Wednesday, you can read Alex Theoharides as he muses on spring, literature and comic book heroes.

Theoharides On Spring, Captain America, and Literature

Alex Theoharides

(channeling my inner Dick Vitale)

That’s right, it’s the trifecta baby!

Spring has finally come to Minneapolis and with the arrival of the magnolia blossoms and the hyacinths and the people waking from their winter doldrums, my fortitude to write has slipped, my words sucked away from me, replaced by my desire to sit on the benches by Lake Harriet, staring out at the sailboats as they float in endless circles around a golden buoy, getting nowhere.

All I want to do is sit on my bench, thinking of nothing, doing nothing, writing nothing.

“Nothing, you say?”

“Yes, this post will be about nothing.”

“Excellent, nothing sounds better than the something you usually bring.”

Indeed it does, which is why what I would like to do during my sojourn into nothingness is introduce you to a little game I play in my head on days like this. Namely, if you could be any super hero, who would you be and why. Except, I’ll replace you with famous writers. And instead of asking the writers for their own though, I’ll just assign them random slots and hope the alleged shoe (I swear it was a sock) fits.

Today, I’ll start with one hero, the Captain himself.

Mr. Steve Rogers was born a sickly child, who always wanted to be a hero, but was too weak to fight in WWII. Instead, he volunteered to take a secret serum, which turned him into the fighting machine known as Captain America, and along with Nick Fury and his trusty sidekick Bucky, he set about destroying the Axis powers. In the post war years, he was left for dead, frozen in ice, as the public’s desire for super heroes faded. Of course, we all know what happened next. Yes, school children, that’s right, it’s the Cold War. The Cap’n was promptly unfrozen, and he became one of the founding members of the greatest crime fighting, world-saving gang known to mankind—The Avengers.

With no further ado, I give you …

The Captain America Contenders

Rules: The writers must be American (#BIRTHERS!). They must have no supernatural tendencies (Including but not limited to: magical realism, fantasy, creationist myths, or general Poe-isms). They must have either fought in a war or written about war. They must be frank and honest, almost to the point of simplicity. Finally, they must look great in red, white and blue leotards!

3. Tim O’Brien. He’s close but not quite good enough to be given a shield by FDR made out of vibranium, an metal found only on the planet of Wakanda. (Yes, I stole the previous tidbit from Wikipedia. And yes, I’m aware this takes away the dork cred I was so hopeful to establish in this post.)  O’Brien’s most famous novel, The Things They Carried, is one of the best accounts of the Vietnam War, peaking with his description of the inner struggle he had over whether or not to dodge the draft. However, O’Brien’s other work, including the often lauded Going After Cacciato, falls flat for me. Plus, the Captain never would have even thought about dodging the draft.

2. Joseph Heller. Catch-22 is the greatest war book ever written by an American, and Goddammit, I don’t care what my old English Professor Dr. Boyers (#namedrop!) says, it’s a whole lot more fun to read then Tolstoy’s War and Peace, which I feel obliged to call the greatest war book ever written, period. However, unlike Heller’s masterpiece, Captain America is rarely funny. And, in many ways, he’s kind of an idiot. (But he’s our idiot.) Frankly, I like Heller too much to place him at the top of this group. It also would have helped if all his follow up attempts to Catch-22 hadn’t completely bombed. The Captain came back from the dead, better than ever. Joseph Heller? Not so much.

1. Ernest Hemingway. The journalist’s journalist. The guy’s guy. The earnest bastard who made me dream when I was a 16 year old with a pen and a moleskin notebook of travelling to Spain to cover the civil war and watch bull fights and sleep with the local women until I realized A) there’s no longer a civil war in Spain and hasn’t been for some time, B) Bull fights are really just about little men in funny hats throwing spears at pissed off bulls, and C) Spanish women would have about as much interest in sleeping with me as they would in sleeping with a blade of grass or a bullfrog. I’m no longer a Hemingway devote, although I do respect and admire his work, particularly his short stories and, in my opinion, his greatest novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls. However, he fits the Captain America bill perfectly: A strong, powerful writer, who uses simple language to convey his belief in the deep-rooted goodness of man, and in the ability of love to conquer war. He never would have dodged the draft. For God’s sake, he sometimes fought just for the hell of it. And yes, he would look smashing in Captain America’s leotard.

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