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Argument Over Literary Forms Turns Deadly in Russia

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YEKATERINBURG, Russia -- As we're wont to say in my family, y'all ain't gonna believe this: It seems a former school teacher in Russia's Sverdlosk district stabbed and killed his friend in a drunken argument over the superiority of poetry versus prose.

In case you've forgotten, it's been a scant four months since another Russian was shot and killed in a disagreement about Kant, as in you kant make this stuff up. Philosophy is serious business -- but literature?!

The only account I've seen so far is short on facts and long on speculation, but according to a statement from investigators:

"The literary dispute soon grew into a banal conflict, on the basis of which the 53-year-old admirer of poetry killed his opponent with the help of a knife."

From which we can conclude that the Russian constabulary is none too keen on poetry, prose or good writing of any stripe. I mean really - "banal?" Please. Here's how that should have been written:

"He struck with fury, sharp and steely

And the blood turned all congealy..."

Unless you happen to come down on the prose side of the equation, in which case you could go with something more Dashiell Hammetty, like,

"The problem with putting two and two together is sometimes you get four, and sometimes you get two more stupid opinions."

(That's too pithy, but Hammett would understand.)

So what are we to make of this latest installment of Russian esoterica vengeance? Could it be that booze and literature don't mix? Pshaw... Three words: Hunter S. F@#$ing Thompson. Want more? Here you go:

Raymond Chandler
O. Henry
Tennessee Williams
Dorothy Parker
Truman Capote
Dylan Thomas
Jack Kerouac
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hank Bukowski
Bill Faulkner
Jim Joyce
Papa Hemingway
Ed Poe

Need I go on? Literature and booze go together like cosplay and abstinence, logically and pretty much unavoidably. So far as we know, none of the staggering drunkards on the foregoing list ever took a life in a spat about wordcraft. And don't give me William S. Burroughs. Burroughs killed his common law wife by shooting her in the face, but they were playing William Tell at the time and whacked out on heroin. You can't blame that one on alcohol.

I think what we've got here is less of a booze problem and more of an arguing about "banal" topics problem. Russia's a big country and there's room enough in it for all sorts of disputes and I suspect what we're seeing here is just the beginning of a rash of deadly violence set to break out in the coming year as the Russian people grow increasingly fed up with being ruled by Dobby. Once safe topics will become more and more treacherous and cautious Russians will avoid discussion of quantum mechanics, Jedi masters, Jason Mewes and the later work of Don McLean.

As for me, I refuse to discuss literature in a bar. For that matter, I refuse to discuss literature in a lit class. There's no surer route to ruin than the road that runs through the written word. Woe be unto him who sojourns among the authors, for there dwell the hobgoblins of the mind that would seize upon the wayfarer with occult hand...

Well, you get the point.