“Chaos resolves into a pattern if viewed from the right distance.”
The Book of Rhino
I recently read The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk. About halfway through, I decided that Captain Queeg and Donald Trump were remarkably similar in their behavior. I wondered how Herman Wouk could so accurately paint a portrait of the current president. Did he somehow get on board a time machine and travel to 2016? A more realistic possibility is that Wouk met or knew of someone like Donald Trump and used him for the character of Captain Queeg; perhaps Queegs and Trumps pop up in every generation.
(Note to self: If that is the case, then I think our current ship of state will make it to safe harbor.)
The Caine Mutiny won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1952. I wonder what the members of the Pulitzer committee saw in the novel. Did one or two of them encounter their own versions of Captain Queeg and so awarded Wouk for his accurate depiction of American life? It’s possible. After all, the novels that achieve greatness are not about people we don’t know but about people that we do.
Novelists who write about their own time periods reveal the culture of their world in a way that history books do not. For example, one of the fascinating aspects of The Age of Innocence and Bonfire of the Vanities is the culture they both reveal about New York City and its society. It runs like a connecting thread through the transient tastes in style, language, and status. Even though the novels are set roughly one hundred years apart, Edith Wharton and Tom Wolfe knew the same types of people.
The fictional works of authors who write contemporary novels bridge the gap in time for later generations of readers, enabling them to trace patterns in human behavior. These books are “wrinkles in time.” It’s no wonder that all my favorite authors are dead! In their novels, I can travel through time—not as a voyeur who is merely nosy about the past—but as an Observer and a mathematician who is always searching for patterns. Patterns help me make sense of real world phenomena, including human relationships. In a world of reactive effects, patterns help me see causes. Novels of the past smooth out the wrinkles of the present.
Daily Post WOTD:Wrinkle