If you thought Odysseus had it bad, taking years to win his way back to Ithaca after the Greek triumph in the Trojan War, at least he eventually found his way to fond reunion with his wife, son, and small island kingdom. The rest of the Homecoming tales about the heroes’ return to Greece tend to be less cheery. Odysseus had a woman named Penelope waiting for him. Agamemnon had a woman named Clytemnestra.
The poor son of a bitch, as F. Scott Fitzgerald has the only mourner at Jay Gatsby’s wake declare. The poor son a bitch, as Dorothy Parker repeated at Fitzgerald’s own funeral. One of the things both their stories prove is that the cost of being an artist at that high a pitch is more than anyone in their right mind would pay.
At any given time, a few dozen large ideas are rampaging through culture, like wild bulls through the pampas. As Max Weber saw when he tried to analyze the cultural movements that created the Modern Age, sometimes, despite their differences, the feral ideas combine into herds and all begin to run in the same direction—out of no fully intelligible necessity.
Leo Durocher once boasted that he never lied to Branch Rickey, the stern, churchgoing president of the Brooklyn Dodgers—but that wasn’t out of respect. He always told Rickey the truth, Durocher explained, because he figured that “Mr. Rickey never asked a question he didn’t already know the answer to.”