Thursday, June 24, 2010

What's a best friend for?

American author Ambrose Bierce (The Devil's Dictionary) was born on this day in 1842.

"Bierce would bury his best friend with a sigh of relief, and express satisfaction that he was done with him." -- Jack London.

They got on a Jack London spree and over the course of a month or two read just about everything London ever wrote. Cutterback brought a copy of John Barleycorn to the pool on Saturday afternoon and read Sully some passages he’d marked.
“’This is the hour of John Barleycorn's subtlest power…this is the hour of the white logic, when he knows that he may know only the laws of things--the meaning of things never….All this is soul-sickness, life-sickness. It is the penalty the imaginative man must pay for his friendship with John Barleycorn...He looks upon life and all its affairs with the jaundiced eye of a pessimistic German philosopher. He sees through all illusions…Good is bad, truth is a cheat, and life is a joke. From his calm-mad heights, with the certitude of a god, he beholds all life as evil. Wife, children, friends--in the clear, white light of his logic they are exposed as frauds and shams. He sees through them, and all that he sees is their frailty, their meagreness, their sordidness, their pitifulness. No longer do they fool him. They are miserable little egotisms, like all the other little humans…’
“Hee hee hee. I love that. Miserable little egotisms. At least my egotism’s big, right, pal?”
“Monumental,” Sully said.
“’They are without freedom. They are puppets of chance. So is he. He realizes that. But there is one difference. He sees; he knows. And he knows his one freedom: he may anticipate the day of his death. All of which is not good for a man who is made to live and love and be loved. Yet suicide, quick or slow, a sudden spill or a gradual oozing away through the years, is the price John Barleycorn exacts. No friend of his ever escapes making the just, due payment.’
“He was thirty-seven when he wrote that. He made his due payment three years later.” Cutterback took a drink and grinned, but his lips were quivering, Sully saw, and he seemed about to tear up.
“Well, he got his wish,” Sully said. “He said he’d rather be ashes than dust
.” -- Chapter 32, The Misforgotten.

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