1975 -- Hair of Harold Roux

a) Hair of Harold Roux – Thomas Williams


If the word is sacred, and it is — what else is? — fiction occupies the inner temple. It alone may reveal a universe; all other voices merely inform.

The above, from Thomas Williams’s NBA Acceptance Speech, conveys a belief that is central to his novel, though explored there with less confidence. The central character in The Hair of Harold Roux is a novelist who is writing a novel-within-a-novel; from the opening paragraph, this is a determined attempt to preserve himself and the trashed temple of his world:

Aaron Benham sits at his desk hearing the wrong voices. The human race he has been doomed to celebrate seems to be trying to prove to him that nothing is worthwhile, nothing at all. He sits in his small study surrounded by the interesting, haphazard fragments of the business of his life—books, stacks of old galley proofs, knives, pencils, pens, dictionaries, shelves of old and new quarterly magazines, catalogs, incunabula. A wooden filing cabinet is filled to its drawer tops with stacks of paper, letters and manuscript pages as if each drawer were a bushelbasket. His one firm label in this area seems to be “miscellaneous.” And yet it is his work to seek meaning and order.

b) Dog Soldiers – Stone

The Vietnam setting of Dog Soldiers is based on Robert Stone’s brief time there as a war journalist; some of the characters and the California setting are inspired by Stone’s connection to Ken Kesey and the Merry Prankster milieu — the hippies in the novel devolved to heroin addicts, the counterculture as strung out as Neal Cassady on the Mexican train tracks. But Stone says that, at least structurally, the book had other influences:

When I started doing Dog Soldiers, I vaguely had the Ramayana in my mind, which must sound totally blasphemous to Hindus. I soon cast off from it, but the Ramayana is about the theft of Rama’s bride by a demigod. At the center of the story is the pursuit of the demigod and the bride by Rama through all these world’s that are peopled by monkeys and elephants and strange beings and creatures. I vaguely have that kind of form in mind—Dog Soldiers is, of course, full of great battles and ends in a great battle. I got into that—the sort of shopworn thriller form—as a kind of irreverent echo of the epic.

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What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.


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