Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Art and Wisdom of the Story: When Our Literary Heroes Let Us Down

 Photo by JoAnne Rawls

This Writer at Sixty-Six: We age, we go gray, we accumulate huge volumes of small wisdoms. But do they do us any good?

With age sometimes comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes all by itself.

We've all known people like that, people of great age who you would expect to be living in the glow of the great wisdoms of the life. But instead, as you interact with them, you realize with some dismay that they really missed something along the way. Out pops a racial slur or an angry epithet and you know they just didn't get it.

I have always seen writers as the holders and dispensers of the great wisdoms of life. Give me a Joseph Conrad or a Anton Chekov,  a Faulkner, or a Hemingway, or a Shakespeare over a teacher, a priest, a physician, or even a Buddhist monk any day. 

This in spite of the day, many years ago, that with some ruefulness, I discovered that while my literary heroes might possess a fine personal library of wisdom, they very often did not manage to live by it. Hemingway is a pretty good example of how the lovely and profound lessons in his prose did not translate into a lovely and profound life for the writer. He was famously drunk, famously emotionally brutal those those he loved, famously jealous of other writers, and in the end, morbidly paranoid.

How can this be? How can those who see, those who understand, those who get it so deeply that they can express it in brilliantly woven verbal tapestries be in the end just like the rest of us? Where is the disconnect? I think the answer may be that writers don't see any deeper than non-writers, that the school teacher or the nurse can learn and live by the great wisdoms, but lack the ability, the talent, the gift of the telling, the art of the story.

What wisdom there is in this observation, I'm not sure, but here's what one writer, Gertrude Stein said:

There ain't no answer. There ain't gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That's the answer.

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