Friday, August 14, 2009

Against the Commonly-Held Belief

One thing I did pick up from Booker's sweep through many literatures is that the myth of American focus on self-reliance rather than the community is just false. Self-reliance as a key to adulthood is universal in literature. Americans, in fact, are more likely to put a sidekick along with the hero. The English take this a step further by putting a whole cast of characters into the adventure, from Robin Hood's band to Watership Down. So they can point fingers a bit, but not others.

Westerns are what folks usually point to when making this point about the American obsession with the lone here. But the same archetypal stories from The Odyssey onward were set wherever it was plausible there could be an adventure - in far lands, not at the corner store. The American West was the most plausible setting for adventures at the time. Now it's space. Europeans, especially the English, used the sea or Africa for the same purposes.

There will be more to follow on all this. Booker's writing certainly provoked thought, even when I disagreed.

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