RE: RARA-AVIS: Willeford's The Black Mass of Brother Springer

From: Anthony Dauer (
Date: 31 Jan 2001

Don't know ... a fictional piece of writing is hardly evidence of a person's thoughts on a topic. It can be. Reminds me of a an article on literature and symbology that was in Harpers Magazine a few years ago and featured some comments from Amy Tan. In one of her stories she writes about a moon rising. During a convention a young lady caught her ear and went on to tell Ms. Tan about her dissertation based on her work and her analysis of how the moon rising reflected the empowerment a female or the female characters were striving for and slowly obtaining ... she went on and on about her dissertation built all around this symbology that Ms. Tan has used, etc.

Ms. Tan tells us she politely nodded as the young lady went on and then let us know in the article ... it was just a moon rising.

The interpretation of the symbology within that simple moon rising is still legit and may relate to Jung's concepts of a collective unconscious where Ms. Tan wrote unknowing of universal archetypical image that contains the meaning the young woman found in it. However, when it comes to using the words of an author as evidence that they believe such and such. I think we go to far at that point. Is Harris a cannibal and serial killer or support cannibalism and serial killers by writing about them? I should hope not. Was Jim Thompson a sociopath himself? Applying the words an author sews together to tell a story to a belief system will at times be correct ... there's no doubt in my mind for example that Andrew Vachss really doesn't like child abusers for example. But that's a proven fact based upon his life outside the jacket covers of his writing. Some of George Pelecanos's heroes are drunks and drug abusers ... are we supposed to assume that he believes in and supports heavy drinking and drug use? He can answer for himself in this case, but until he does I'll doubt it.

Could "The Black Mass of Brother Springer" be Willeford's view on religion or the religion he experienced? Sure ... but in the end does it even matter?

volente Deo,

Anthony Dauer Alexandria, Virginia

"... down these mean streets a man must go
 who is not himself mean, who is neither
 tarnished or afraid."

            --Raymond Chandler (1888-1959)


> -----Original Message-----
> Sent: Wednesday, January 31, 2001 6:34 PM
> Spoil.
> Springer, an accountant, writes and sells a novel. He quits his
> job to become a full-time writer and finds he cannot sell another
> word. Through the classifieds, he finds a monastery for sale
> which he thinks might make for a good story. After travelling
> there, he finds a lone retired sergeant who has wandered in
> himself and took control. The monastery it seems was an
> experiment in race relations with the purpose of training the
> clergy for a African American fundamentalist denomination.
> Springer becomes a man of the cloth with his own African American
> congregation. His writer ability allows him to craft moving
> sermons. His organizational skills help him arrange a
> segregation boycott. Springer's lust causes him to seduce and
> run off with his deacon's young wife. Throughout the story,
> Springer seems less a man of God than a man of necessity. His
> faith seemed non existent.
> In the end, Springer buys a Brooks Brother suit and throws away
> his preacher outfit into a trashcan on Madison Avenue.
> How do you think Willeford felt about organized religion?

# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 31 Jan 2001 EST