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John Benditt in conversation with Nancy Pearl - University Bookstore Wednesday, February 25th, 7:00pm
Some Rich White Male Writers You May Have Missed
1) The work of great writers who just so happen to be not white or male or privileged end up being excluded.
2) There are so many celebrated white male writers to choose from that occasionally a few of the more obscure ones can slip through the cracks and be forgotten.
Today, I would like to address this second injustice.
As a white male writer who enjoys more privilege than he knows what to do with, I think it is important to single out a few of the lesser known rich white male writers in order to prevent them from becoming lost in the pale, elbow-patched blob that serves as the curriculum for our nation’s schools. Without further ado, here are three such writers:
Nunthrow came from humble beginnings. His family was only well-off while everyone else in his neighborhood was obscenely rich. In an interview, he once confessed that on his 16th birthday he received a single sports car while most of his friends already had two that they would put into neutral and wear like roller-skates. However, Nunthrow managed to triumph in the face adversity. He eventually received a full ride to Yale where he was immediately popular due to his dry wit as well as his role in helping the Whiffenpoofs cover up a murder.
Shortly after graduating he published a semi-autobiographical novel titled The Off-Brand Yacht. Critics were enthralled by Nunthrow’s gritty, unflinching depictions of life in the lower upper class. He went on to publish dozens of other books, each grittier and more semi-autobiographical than the last.
Nunthrow was a literary sensation, and yet he did not let success change him. He began to enjoy the hyper-decadent lifestyle he had always dreamed of as a boy while staring out his bedroom window at his neighbors’ sex blimps. Following the publication of his fourth novel, he achieved the world record for most zoo animals and snuff films at a single orgy. However, he decided to settle down after he almost died of autoerotic asphyxiation at his own 30th birthday party, an incident which shook him to the core. He quickly married, had two children, and then almost died several more times from autoerotic asphyxiation before eventually dying of autoerotic asphyxiation.
It is common knowledge that the closed nature of high society can lead to some occasional, light inbreeding. So it should come as no surprise that Ebenezer Scaldweather’s parents were first cousins. It was also later discovered by the family’s physician that Ebenezer’s father was actually just a pug dog wearing a bowler hat.
As a result of this close breeding, Ebenezer suffered from a multitude of chronic ailments. He frequently had to be hospitalized on account of his explosive nosebleeds as well as his sudden bouts of bigotry that would leave him bedridden for days. Nevertheless, he still managed to go on to become one of the richest and whitest writers to have ever lived.
His interests weren’t always literary. He began his professional life as a brash, young real estate mogul. In his mid-twenties he conducted a series of escalating land deals which resulted in him briefly being recognized as the sovereign Emperor of Connecticut before he eventually sold the state back to President Eisenhower at a profit.
However, his poor health forced him to retire at a relatively young age. After moving to the Hamptons and marrying several of his nurses, he began writing in his spare time. He eventually published a 3,000 page fantasy novel titled The White Wand, which depicted the adventures of a sexually powerful wizard named Ebenezer II along with his loyal dog Priapus as they waged an eternal war against the evil Queen Nosex. While some criticized the book as being an overblown work of misogynistic self-indulgence, others cited those exact same qualities in order to praise it as a perfect example of the great American novel.
Scaldweather followed up The White Wand with twelve more Ebenezer II books, the most popular of which were The Codpiece Encounters and The Crystal Spanking. The series remained popular throughout his career until, at the ripe age of 96, he succumbed to his lifelong battle with bigotry. He suffered a series of major slur-strokes and died quietly in his home.
William Makepeace Thackeray
While few of his books are read today, if you visit the London suburb of Chiswick, you can still see the enormous fortress where William Makepeace Thackeray wrote such once-beloved works as Vanity Fair and The History of Henry Esmond. Literary scholars are free to tour the fortress as they please, though locals tend to avoid its empty halls and high towers as many still believe the place to be haunted on account of Thackeray’s alleged Satan worship.
This belief that Thackeray was a Satan worshipper is an unfortunate piece of folklore that couldn’t be further from the truth. Thackeray was actually a devotee of a specific demon named Valefar, who is often depicted as a lion with the head of a donkey. However, even his innocent worship of Valefar managed to inspire many baseless rumors surrounding his personal life, like that he ate children or that he only left his fortress while wearing a suit made out of live vampire bats.
In truth, he was a lovely man who always wanted to give back to his community. At the height of his career he founded a free school for local children called, WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY’S ACADEMY FOR DELICIOUS BABIES. It was a place where students were encouraged to gather, socialize, and roll around in powdered sugar.
The story of Thackeray wearing a suit of live bats whenever he left his fortress is similarly absurd. Mostly, Thackeray preferred to wander about in the nude. His suit of live bats was worn strictly on formal occasions. Other times the empty suit could be seen walking through Chiswick on its own as it performed various errands on Thackeray’s behalf.
Unfortunately, the public’s misconceptions of Thackeray’s life have even begun to affect his literary legacy. Some scholars have suggested that he did not actually write the books that have been attributed to him, but that he summoned them up from the pits of hell by appeasing Valefar with countless hours of chanting and scream dancing. And even though Thackeray himself affirms this theory in the epitaph that he wrote for his own tomb, it does nothing to change the fact that he was still, even if only in name, an incredibly privileged white male writer.
Those are three writers whose work I really do hope you will take the time to get to know. In case you would like to discover more wealthy white male writers on your own, here are a few quick tips:
-Go to your public library and pick up any book
-Do web searches combining random first and last names
-Attend an accredited university
But before you get overwhelmed by all the possibilities, take a deep breath and remember that YOU ARE READING AN OVERPRIVILEGED WHITE MALE WRITER AT THIS VERY MOMENT! Not only that, but it is an overprivileged white male writer you have most likely never heard of. Or rather, an overprivileged white male writer of whom you have most likely never heard. I know the latter is correct because of all the prescriptive grammar I was forced to learn down in the privilege mines… But I digress.
The point I am trying to make is that I myself know how it feels to be lost in the thronging crowd of men whose easy lives and absurd amounts of free time has made it almost impossible for them not to write a book. I know how it feels for a man to miss out on opportunities because he has already been given so many other opportunities that now his calendar is full. I know how it feels to be mistaken for another incredibly successful writer on account of the fact that our incredible success levels are so similar. That is why I am calling on you, dear readers, to continue praising and canonizing as many writers like me as you can. After all, when I am swinging lewdly above my deathbed, I for one do not want to be haunted by the nagging doubt that I may have died of autoerotic asphyxiation in vain.
Seth Fried’s short stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Tin House, One Story, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Kenyon Review, The Missouri Review, and Vice, and have been anthologized in The Better of McSweeney’s, Volume 2 and The Pushcart Prize XXXV: The Best of the Small Presses. His debut short story collection, The Great Frustration, was published by Soft Skull Press.
Images created by Julia Mehoke.