There’s more than one reason why my pen name is an amalgamation of the names of a couple of dead writers. Put simply, dead writers do it better…in most cases anyway. OK, I’ll explain: in our totalitarian, viciously-contemporary anti-culture, living writers simply can’t tell the truth, not the whole sad bag-of-kittens truth anyway–not if they want to stay employed, earn enough to feed the strays, and maybe even enough to treat themselves to a lap dance now and then.
But before you go and assume that these are mere bitter words spewed out after sucking sour grapes, allow me to elaborate. Under my “real” name, I’ve won second place in two university writing contests, earned an advanced English degree, and a bunch of literary mags (print and online) have picked up my stories and poems over the years, a few of them are even deemed “prestigious” by those who like to deem things. Not exactly the best creds, but not the worst either.
So why am I complaining? It’s because I’ve learned the hard way that to tell the truth and stay employed, a writer today has to use a pen name. Blame it on “PC’ culture or the insanely-delusional and pablum-preferring masses; but whatever the ultimate causes, the effect is clear: IF you write the truth about people or yourself today, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up experiencing the plight of homeless cats first hand.
The masses of people have always been delusional, vicious, and hypocritical; but at least sometimes they allowed their writers and social critics to tell the truth, if only because subconsciously they wanted to hear the truth. In the 19th Century, Fyodor Dostoyevsky may have been put in front of a firing squad, but he was reprieved at the last minute by the Tsar. And his fellow Russians loved him in his own lifetime for revealing their collective hypocrisy, insanity, and occasional flashes of humanity.
In the 20th Century, Charles Bukowski may have been put in front of the post office employee review board for his brutally honest “underground” newspaper columns, but in the end they let him keep his slave job. And now the poetry and fiction sections of every good book store hold his many titles, to the undying horror and envy of most MFA instructor-authors, and to the credit of his fearless publisher John Martin and the free market.
Anyway, most writers today suck for the same reason that Seinfeld said that comedy is being killed by political correctness: those who tell it like it is these days are all-too-often marginalized and/or castigated. It’s an extreme expression of kill-the-messenger syndrome. After all, it’s easier to kill a messenger than to deal with the ugliness of unvarnished reality.
But I’m not killed so easily. Believe me, many have tried, in one way or another. So I think I’ll just keep telling it like it is and how I think it ought to be. And if truth can be likened to a bag of unwanted kittens that many would like to see drowned, I think I’ll just untie that bag and let those kittens run free.