I Like a Little Highbrow With My Low
I might have said this at some point before, but I was an English major in college. I don’t use that in my professional life anymore, but it still rears its head in some of my creative endeavors (i.e., the whole book thing). So if you ever see me getting pretentious and high-falutin’ with my low-down smut, the English degree is at fault. Take the Greek mythology for instance.
I try to insert at least one reference to Greek myth in every one of my stories. Not the hundos, mind you. I’m not that masochistic. But the longer stuff? The published works? Oh hell yeah. These days it happens almost without any planning. I realize a passage is in need of an apropos metaphor, and boom, there’s some allusion to Greek myth.
A few examples:
“She stood in the middle of the motel room like the Venus De Milo, ivory skin radiant in the low light of a single lamp.”— Body Count
“‘I doubt Atlanta and Melanion there,‘”’ he said, indicating the fish, ‘could have done anything to deserve that death stare, so it must have been me.’”— The Money Shot
“Hand-over-hand he pulled the cord up from the dark, wondering if this was just some Sisyphean task devised by one Miss Robinson to keep him busy while she escaped out the back door.”— Sticky Fingers
“‘Oh shoot — sorry Apollo!’ Eileen bent to stroke the orange tabby’s fur through one of the slits in the pet carrier, only to be rewarded with a spitting hiss.”— The Kitty That Got the Cream
Myth was one of my first loves in literature. For a nerdy kid hungry for tales of adventure and unspeakable monsters, it was riveting. Tales of great heroes like Jason, Hercules, and Perseus pitted against vile monsters like the Chimera, Hydra, or Medusa. Stories of bickering gods or doomed lovers. What wasn’t there to love?
Later, when I was an English Lit major, I realized just how important those myths are to all of Western literature. They underpin it all. We humans have been telling and retelling the same stories over and over again (in one form or another) for as long as we’ve had language to tell them with. Certain stories just resonate with us. They touch upon a hidden place inside of us that yearns for purpose and understanding in an existence that is largely unknowable.
So is it any wonder that we keep circling around to myth when given half a chance? They’re a shorthand for all the tales we have told or ever will tell. The originals. The foundation. The O.G.’s.
So yeah. I try tend to reference myth a lot. I like to put a little highbrow with the lowbrow in my smut. It’s my homage to what came before, also a connection — however tenuous — back to those original poets.
It’s also an attempt to put that English Lit degree to at least some good use. It’s got to have some value, right?