Intertwining High Culture and Low Culture

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Nowadays, as we Americans pretend to live in a society without social classes, or elide the boundaries with a mythical construct called the “middle class” (to which most feel they belong,) the general rule is that works of art also should blur lines between so-called “high” and “low,” or “popular,” culture.  Shakespeare himself was an exemplar of the technique, underlaying tales of court intrigues with groundling humor.

I wanted the beginning of Clotho’s Loom to pay homage to Hamlet, a drama I admire very much.  Especially as William Wyrd visits the Veteran’s Cemetery, seeking a resolution to his dilemma of being impressed back into military service–almost paralyzed with indecision.  Unlike Shakespeare’s play, though, no articulated voice rises to direct him.  I felt departing from the Bard’s supernaturalist mode here would set the realist tone of my novel.  Will is not fundamentally unlike most of us: we struggle with difficult decisions amid the legacies of our fathers, often to find the codes they lived by outworn or useless in our modern world. Or, at least, only hard experience teaches how to adapt them.

However, as the novel acclimates itself more and more to a Romantic mode, I freely stole–here “pay homage” and even “borrow” ring hollow to me–from sources readily recognizable to 20th-Century media consumers.  Poems and song lyrics were a major store of inspiration.  Alongside the cribbing of a few phrases from T.S. Eliot, for example, I based a major scene on these lines from the Blue Oyster Cult classic, Astronomy:  “Four doors at the Four Winds Bar / Two doors locked and windows barred / One door’s meant to take you in / The other one just mirrors it.”  As Will wandered through the desert, a vast wide open space, I needed to draw him for awhile into a place of entrapment, where his choices felt so limited that he might never escape–like a roach motel for human beings.

Rather than changing the name of the saloon to avoid any potential lawsuit, I rather hoped that readers would recognize and enjoy the allusion, and that the band itself would feel complimented if it knew.  Or, failing that, the construct was so well conceived by its originators, that it could only strengthen the seams of my patchwork quilt of a narrative–even if the theft were never discovered.

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