The Top 100 Tales

In 2018 the folks at the Beeb (BBC) came out with the Top 100 Stories that have influenced the world.  “Good on ya!”  I love lists: by definition, they’re always controversial.  It’s true that scholars very seldom throw punches (I’d pay money to see that!) but normally a list such as this would generate more than a few white wine arguments over which book is where and why.  Unfortunately, this particular list does not fulfill that basic requirement because, even at first glance, it’s obviously total bullshit.

Yeah, yeah, yeah! All lists are subjective; however, there are some things in this world that are just dead wrong.  Let’s take an objective look at what the Beeb is trying to pawn off on us.

The Odyssey (#1) — No problem.  (You’ll probably get a fight from the Shakespearians, but they’re always pissed off about something.)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin (#2) — We can all agree on Simon Legree.  This book may very well have caused the American Civil War, which not only changed the social structure of Western civilization but also gave us the first glimpse of the military-industrial complex.
Frankenstein (#3) — This is where things start to get a little weird.  It’s true everybody knows who Frankenstein is — although most people get him confused with the monster.  But I’m pretty sure Frankenstein is not as big an influence on young lovers (anybody who ever lived) as Romeo and Juliet which doesn’t show up ’til #13.  And from there, everything just goes sideways.  According to the list, Beloved (#11) is a bigger influence on the world than Animal Farm (#18) and Ulysses (#17) — which no living person actually understands — is ahead of To Kill A Mocking Bird (#27).  Meanwhile On The Road (the universal anthem of rebellion) is nowhere to be found!

And what about the other sins of omission? — OMG!  There’s no The Great Gatsby, no Grapes of Wrath, no Fahrenheit 451, no Brave New World, nothing by Hemingway, nothing by Hardy and nothing by Kipling who sent two generations of imperial Brits out to change the world.  Paradise Lost and Le Morte D’Arthur are conspicuous by their absence, and where the hell is Dr. Seuss?

However, it’s not what’s missing from the list that’s burning my bacon: it’s a couple of titles that the Beeb included.

JK Rowlings’ Harry Potter series (#15) — Yes, we all read these books (or saw the movies.) Yes, we all thought Harry (and eventually Hermione) were hot; and yes, Quidditch is now the national sport of Nerdovia — but #15?  That’s ahead of Aesop’s Fables (#29) and Cinderella (#52.)  I don’t think so!  If nothing else, Aesop and Cindy have about a 1,000 year head start on that little wizard.  They were bedtime stories for millions and millions of children, long before Millennials decided that they were the only generation that mattered.  And besides, everybody knows Rowlings didn’t write seven Harry Potter books; she wrote two Harry Potter books — three and a half times.

But, my biggest bitch is The Handmaid’s Tale (#16).  WTF?  This little ditty is ahead of King Lear (#33), The Canterbury Tales (#58) and A Christmas Carol (#73)?  Basically, the BBC is telling us Margaret Atwood has a bigger influence on the world than William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer and Christmas!  Not bad for a book one reviewer called “paranoid poppycock.”  You want some serious grins?  Walk down any street in the English-speaking world and ask people if they’ve read the book — the book!  Chances are good you’ll get an overwhelming NO.  Why?  Because the vast majority of people who have even heard of The Handmaid’s Tale have only seen the TV series.  For the first 30 years of its existence (before Hulu pick up the option) The Handmaid’s Tale was about as influential as Pinocchio — probably less.  And here’s the kicker: the TV series isn’t even written by Margaret Atwood!  It’s written by Bruce Miller, whose last outing was The 100; Leila Gerstein, who wrote for Gossip Girl and a bunch of other people who don’t even have Wikipedia entries.  So much for spreading Margaret Atwood’s influence on the world around like marmalade on cold toast!

The bottom line is this list does serve one purpose, and one purpose only: it clearly confirms we’re living in the shallow end of intellectual history, dominated by cultural illiteracy.  Harry Potter, my ass!

Dogsh*t Without Tears

ebookcover

Finally available in paperback (or ebook) Dogsh*t Without Tears

You can order it from Amazon HERE

Weird title, huh?  Not really.  Dogsh*t Without Tears is the signature blog of this collection– a roll-your-eyes look at just how emotionally fragile we are in the 21st century and how our coping skills have gone to hell.  Plus, it’s one of the four most popular blogs I’ve ever written – go figure!  From there, it’s W.D. Fyfe — selected, collected and bound in a wander of words that the French would call flânerie: a stroll that doesn’t have an identifiable destination, but still has a vague purpose.  In this case, a loose chronicle of the teenage years of the 21st century — with all the drama and confusion that entails.

Dogsh*t Without Tears is a witty, irreverent and often ridiculously funny collection of blogs from the mind of W.D. Fyfe.  Nothing is sacred.  I have an opinion on everything from Time Travel and Trigger Warnings to Why I Hate Summer.  Enjoy such titles as Yes, We Have No Vaginas and The Power of “But.”  Find out why there is a War on Plaid and the historical significance of The Girl with the Anal Tattoo.  These byte-sized insights chronicle the teenage years of the 21st century from 2011 to 2019 with a bit of nostalgia thrown in — just because.  If you’ve ever asked yourself the question, who are the 5 People [I’ll] Meet in Hell this collection is for you.  If you’ve never asked yourself that question, Dogsh*t Without Tears is still an excellent Christmas, birthday, wedding, divorce or graduation gift.  Think about it!

Anyway, if you enjoy reading Dogsh*t Without Tears as much as I enjoyed writing it, we will become simpatico souls — and that’s a very rare commodity in the 21st century.

And please! PLEASE! PLEEEASE! leave a review.

Fiction (Jasper Conrad …)

This is a gateway drug to the fiction of WD Fyfe — an excerpt from “The Last Romance of Jasper Conrad.”

jasper conrad ...

The last sun tip was over, pulling all the long shadows away with it into the water.  They had walked up the hills above the sea, their own shadows gliding and sliding ahead of them.  Now they stood near the top, looking out, and there, at their feet strings of stars appeared in the frail blue water with trails of moving silver chasing them like ribbons.  First one, then more and more.

“It’s the fishing fleet,” he said softly.

And as she watched the boats, the real stars dotted into the sky above her, point bright, one and one.  Each light dipping its finger in the shivering water.  And slowly in the accumulating darkness, there was no horizon, no sea, no earth — and she was standing in the sky, surrounded by the heavens.

“Listen,” he said.

And there was music, carried faint along the warm evening breeze.

“It’s from the radios on the boats.  They’re bringing you tomorrow’s dinner.  Let me show you something.”

She didn’t move.

“There,” he said and turned her shoulders.

Down by the bay, lit by floodlights, the Roman ruins stood like great candles in the collecting night.  And as the solid white lights traveled up the hill, she could clearly see the ancient city, where it had stood.  It was real, like endless time, alive in front of her.  And she could just see him, dark outline and close to her — close enough, if she fell, tumbled into time and the sky — he could catch her.

“That’s where your friends are going to be,” he said, motioning to a glowing row of gauze colored tents, stuck in the tumbled columns.  And as if on cue, a set of huge headlights flashed out and cut lines high into the darkness.  The faint music from the boats swallowed whole by the diesel motors of the approaching bus.

“Oh,” she said and turned away.

As the noises died, he found a place in the clear night overlooking the bay.  Two broken shoulders of stone, smooth with time and picnics and half lit by the far-off nearest floodlights.  He spread the blanket and knelt over the basket.

“Bread, cheese, wine, olives and what i-i-s-s-s probably fish.  Not quite a drunken Bulgarian Luau, but we’ll get by.”

“What is this?” she asked, actually speaking directly for the first time since the night had come over them.

“Hmm, Ferguson’s idea of a picnic, I think.”

“No, not the food.  This.  Is this like — uh — something?”

He couldn’t see her face clearly, but her voice was urgent and her hands, white, were moving between them in the light.  She leaned forward.

“There isn’t like something going on, is there?  You wouldn’t do that to me?” she was shaking her head.

He understood, thought and decided.

“No,” he said completely.  She slipped back into the half-light.

The night was warm, like a shawl across her shoulders.  She could feel it tucked into her.  The music flickered, there and gone and again, melody low, recognizable pop tunes in unrecognizable languages, aroma sounds carried on the air.  She could taste the night on the glistening olives, black and invisible, and on the sharp cheese that he handed her directly from the knife.  And she heard his voice without the words, dark and full, deep like the wine.  Its whole taste on her tongue, blending with her, blending with the night, spreading through her with no before or after, like conscious sleep.

“Sometimes,” he said, “I come up here at night and just wait.”

“For what?  Wait for what?”

“The moon,” he said.

“Is there a moon?”

“There’s always a moon, Frances.”

“You know what I mean.  Here…now?”

“No, not tonight,” he said quietly.  “No sense waiting for it.”

They sat for a moment, and she tucked her feet underneath her.

“What are you waiting for, then?” she said.

“Don’t know.  How about you?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think I’m really waiting for anything.  Everything that’s going to happen to me is just going to happen.  It’s not like I want very much — a nice house, garden, children, someplace to do some good for people.  What everybody else wants, I suppose?”

She’d misunderstood the question, but he didn’t care because she was going to tell him what she wanted to tell him — either way.

“Okay, then, what do you want now?”

She shook her head in the darkness, unaware that he could barely see her.

“I don’t know.  I like the law.  I like research.  I like what I’m doing.  But it’s just.” She weighted her words, “I’m going to miss all kinds of things just because I don’t know what they are.”

She stuck her glass into the light between them, and he splashed more wine into it.

“People like me — women like me, don’t have very much – okay.  We look good, not just good like attractive, our lives look good, and they are.  But nobody ever thinks about us.” She laughed sadly, “We’re the ones who get missed.  Overlooked.  It’s like our whole lives are clean and correct and nobody ever gives us a second thought.  You know what I mean?”

He did, but he wasn’t about to tell her she was doomed, and that was okay, too, because she didn’t wait for him to answer.

“I’m going to be a good lawyer.  I’m going to be a good mom, wife, everything — whatever – a good — a good person.  And I’m willing to do that — all that stuff.  I just don’t want to end up with nothing.”

There were noises coming from below them, hard sounds that were stirring up the evening down there.  She felt them, felt annoyed by them, rushed by them.

“Just – just because I’m ordinary doesn’t mean I can’t have something.  I look around and I see my life and I know how it’s gonna go.  I can see it.  I’m gonna settle in and it’s gonna be so-o-o easy.  Career, children, grandchildren even, houses, cars — all that stuff — probably end up saving the whales or feeding the orphans or something like that, and sometimes I’ll even be able to convince myself that it’s all good enough.  But I’m gonna know it isn’t — secretly, I’m gonna know, and one day — one day — I’m gonna wake up and it’s gonna be too late.”

She paused, but there was no silence.  The music and the people noise from below was more now, larger, lapping up the slopes like rising water, impossible to ignore.

“The thing is – the thing is – I don’t even know what I’m looking for.”

She stopped again to swallow.

“But I’m missing it.  And now…”

She took a drink.

“Now.  Here’s this perfect night – we’re having this perfect night.  I’ve never had anything like this.” her voice trailed off so she could look into the darkness. “This is the most romantic thing that’s ever going to happen to me.”

He moved slightly so he could see her in the light.  She wasn’t looking at him, so he couldn’t really see her face.  But she saw him move and turned her head.  The light caught her eyes and they were shining in the dark, glistening with emotion.  She parted her lips and swallowed, aware of him.  Then, she lifted the wine glass and took a long drink.

“God!  I don’t know where all that came from.  You must think I’m just this total poor little rich bitch.  Way too much drama.  I’m not like that.  I’m really not.  It’s just the wine and…I didn’t mean to…”

“Don’t even think about saying you’re sorry.”

She laughed and sniffed and turned her face away from him.

“We’re going to have to go soon, aren’t we?” She said, waving vaguely at the night.

“Not really.  It depends on how sick you want to be when the horde gets back to the hotel.”

“I don’t really care,” she said, leaning back.

But she was quiet after that.  Embarrassed.  Aware that the mood was crumbling under the persistent pulsing music and the vague voices and scattered shrills of sound that crawled in the air around them.  They sat together for a while, feeling it die, and when it was impossible to deny that the night was gone, they left.