Dickens, Thurber, Andersen, London and Perseus
by Jay Dubya
Page 1 of 2
As far back as I can remember, my mind has always thought and
learned by association. My brain fancifully connects things like computer
terminals and bus terminals, Indian reservations with plane ticket
confirmations, and carpetbaggers with rug stealers. Donít ask me why, but I
think I get bored with ordinary human communications and then lapse into my
imaginary fantasyí association world, finding it much more fascinating than the
nightly news, soap operas and talking head yakety-yak cable tabloid shows.
Because my cerebrum delights in working by making bizarre
associations, whenever my mind thinks of Charles Dickens, the great English
author is filed and classified in a "mental cabinet" along with James Thurber,
Hans Christian Andersen, Jack London and the mythical ancient Greek hero,
Perseus. All of these personages had to overcome trials, tribulations and
adversity. They elevated themselves above grief and ridicule, stayed focused on
their goals and were not defeated by an abundance of criticism and rejection.
They were motivated by failure.
Charles Dickensí (1812-1970) father had great financial
difficulties. The boy had a rather miserable childhood, and the lad spent much
of his time in poorhouses and workhouses. Did poverty overwhelm Charles
Dickens? Was his negative environment to blame for an unproductive and
fruitless life? No it wasnít. Dickens retreated into his imaginary world and
incisively wrote about the need for social reform in what later became such
literary classics such as Oliver Twist and David Copperfield.
James Thurber (1894-1961) ranks as one of Americaís most
popular humorists. He is most renowned for his short story "The Secret Life of
Walter Mitty," a meek, absent-minded hen-peckedí character who suffers the
sharp-tongued ire of a dominant bossy wife. Thurberís stories and self-drawn
cartoons appeared for over thirty years in the New Yorker magazine.
James Thurber had been blinded in one eye in a childhood accident, and then he
lost vision in his other eye in later life. Despite those hardships, the author
still continued his storytelling pursuits and even appeared late in life as
himself in a popular Broadway play The Thurber Carnival.
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) was born in a small
fishing village in Denmark. (If a last name ends in sen, the person is
probably from Denmark; in son, probably from Sweden). At age fourteen
Andersen journeyed to Copenhagen to pursue either an acting or writing career.
He auditioned as an opera singer, was a humiliating failure and spent the next
three years anguishing in abject poverty. His first plays and novels received
little acclaim. Was Hans Christian Andersen defeated by rejection? If he had
been, poor Hans Christian would have remained in obscurity, his work
undiscovered, his reputation hiding in the giant anonymous void history calls
Jack London (1876-1916) has to be one of my favorite authors
in American literature. He certainly is a source of inspiration whenever I feel
depressed. London was born into grim poverty, had little formal education, and
was heading toward a criminal life. As a teenager he was an oyster pirate on
San Francisco Bay and spent several years roaming the city as a hobo. But Jack
London loved going to the library and reading books, so much so that he endured
what he had possibly hated most, formal education and became a "student of
life." London managed to finish high school and then eventually enrolled into
the University of California.
I admire men such as Charles Dickens, James Thurber, Hans Christian Andersen
and Jack London. I find inspiration in considering that each great author was
not overcome by formidable negative social and economicí environments. Each man
elevated himself above mediocrity through determination and tenacity. Failures
and handicaps made them tougher, more resilient. They didnít blame society for
the bad cards they had been dealt. These great authors were motivated at being
shunned by the literary establishment.Next Page
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Jay Dubya, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.