My favorite authors are those
who write peanut-butter prose–
scenes, characters, lines
that stick to the roof of my mind,
images that last
long after the years have passed.
I hadn’t picked up the Bible since Confirmation class, but there I was searching for a passage in Samuel I, Chapter 18. This is the passage where Saul demanded the strangest dowry in world-history for his daughter Michal — 100 Philistine foreskins. David, proving his worth as a son-in-law, brought back 200. Naturally, he did it the easy way, by killing the Phillistines first. Earlier that day I had told my Shakespeare professor, in front of my fellow students, that the phrase “A pound of flesh” had been used to refer to those 200 foreskins, and I was intent on proving my statement, since all of them had laughed. My Bible wasn’t forthcoming with the needed proof, but I knew I had read it somewhere, and I couldn’t remember where.
It was months later, after the class had ended, looking at my bookshelf my eyes rested upon Joseph Heller’s “Autobiography” of King David, God Knows. I cringed instantly in recollection of my embarrassment as I picked up the book. I skimmed through and found the passage. Not having read of Shylock prior to reading Heller, I naturally had ascribed those words to the actual scripture.
Despite the graphic nature, I am somewhat surprised I had originally noticed the passage, as I normally skim through battle scenes. While I love Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, for example, I’ve only read half of it, really. Whenever anyone picks up a sword or axe, I skim forward looking for more appealing action. In all the fantasy I read I often find myself skimming for the sections I prefer. Too many authors of fantasy are SCA fanatics intent on recreating medieval battle scenes.
While I read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, I find the majority of these works like glasses of ice-water. Cold, and refreshing at the time, but forgotten almost instantly. There are exceptions. Daniel Keyes’ Flowers For Algernon, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide come to mind.
In my own creations I’d like to combine the fun and enjoyment I receive from genre fiction with the language of Tom Robbins, the politics of Victor Hugo and the humor of Joseph Heller. If I can accomplish this, I’ll be satisfied. (It doesn’t seem too much to ask, does it?)