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William Wharton dies at 82

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Monday, Nov 3, 2008

William Wharton, author of Birdy, Dad, and A Midnight Clear died in hospital this week following an infection. Despite the success of Birdy, about a young man so obsessed with canaries he thinks he is one, Whartom resisted literary celebrity. Instead, he kept a low profile, dividing his time writing and painting, mostly in France.


From the Los Angeles Times obituary:


“One of the reasons I don’t want to live the life of a writer is I don’t want writers’ problems. Not thinking of myself as a writer gives me the freedom to be one. I’m not a wordsmith. I just basically look into my head and see the image and look for words.”


Read a revealing interview with Wharton here, in which he opens up up about his life, his politics, his art, and what he really thought of the film version of Birdy. It’s a brilliant piece, smart and hugely engrossing. You’ll come away wishing Adam Chmielewski got the chance to talk to all your favourite writers. From the interview:


Adam Chmielewski: You often say or imply in your novels that when faced with an all to frequent choice: fight or flight, we should rather flee. Interestingly, you suggested a flight—a flight into phantasy, into creative work. It is very much against our Nietzschean culture of power, winning, will to power, domination. Is it not that engaging into phantasy is a way of turning one’s back on reality, an escapism? 


William Wharton: I am not saying—take a flight into phantasy, I am saying, rather, phantasy in itself is a power. There is a little difference there. Albert Camus said—cherish your illusion, that is all you get. That is anti-Kafkaesque message, it is also anti-Nietzschean one. Camus gave a truly humanistic, livable, respect-yourself version of the human ideal. So I would not use the word “escape” here. Cherish your illusions as a way of coping with the irresolvable problems regarding which you are becoming panically or hysterically convinced that you have either to flee or fight. There is an another way: just to stay who you are, and have the confidence in your own capacity to deal with the problems. You do not have to fight or flee. You can create, create the situation.



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