25 Women to Read Before You Die

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Author Archive: "Samuel Sattin"

The Sadness of Stooges

What is it that impels the phenomenon of the sidekick? In the comic book world in particular, since the 1950s mostly, when the United States was wrestling with communism and moral decadence as the '60s prepared to explode, every superhero had to have a tagalong, a smaller version of his or herself (though mostly his self) that was snappy with one liners, innocent, jejune, and ready to follow the leader. Of course on the surface, the reason behind boy wonder's entrance into mainstream comics culture isn't too complex. Sidekicks are a mainstay in literature, from Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to Samwise Gamgee and Frodo. Batman and Robin are only a modern reiteration of one of the oldest storytelling traditions on the planet. I assume that even major Babylonian gods had their personal number twos, naïve fall guys to take the blame when a volcano engulfed a small village or a virgin fell down a well.

One might argue that creating a sidekick is an attempt to bring a reader's deepest desires to the forefront. When it comes to comic books, anyway, I can assure you ...

Where Is Henry Crag?

My first attempt at writing a novel was done from a small, damp-walled apartment I was renting in Santiago, Chile, during the election of Michelle Bachelet. The country was abuzz with the prospect of electing its first female prime minister, a sensation that was hampered only briefly by a spat with Peru over maritime borders and occasional tirades by my alcoholic flatmate as he stumbled nightly across the living room floor in tears.

I'd come to the conclusion by that point in my life — the ripe old age of 23, it might be said — that I was going to make a serious go at becoming a novelist. I was abroad, anyway, and fashionably so, attempting to, like many who don't have something original to say but would like to, use my travels as a substitute for good content. The books I read and cherished over the years appeared so close to me, so easy to touch. Like most idiots, I saw the mountain from far away and said to myself, It doesn't look so high. I could get to the peak in 24 hours. But by the ...

Nanny of the Corn

Fear was my gateway to becoming interested in stories.

My nanny growing up, a Scottish expat named Jackie with a fox pelt of red hair and a manic Rottweiler named Jack o' Lantern, dragged me through my formative years kicking and screaming whenever my parents were away.

She was a good nanny. A damned good nanny. As protective and wily as she was crass and off the cuff, not to mention willing to take care of two American children whose parents couldn't seem to do it on their own.

Every wicked edge of Jackie's demeanor was somehow mitigated by measured bits of wisdom and control. Her dog, for example, while a drooling psychotic, was contained by a series of terrifying commands, all of which instructed the beast to maim and/or kill, but only when she sanctioned it so. She was kind of like Ygritte on Game of Thrones, in retrospect, or the female version of that guy from The Beastmaster, and she seemed to view childhood as preparation for the hellish pain of adulthood as opposed to a precious time of innocence .

One night, on a particularly long stint of ...

Slayer of Krakens

A critical feature of League of Somebodies is the prevalence of outlandish tests of manhood, feats of intellectual and physical strength that hinder the main character, Lenard Sikophsky, and his future son, Nemo, as they strive to realize their potential. This potential, it should be said, infects their natures with a thoughtful brand of banality. There's something very "Sisyphus" about a hero's quest, anyway. Especially in a lazy story arc where the central goal is the attainment of physical strength.

As a child, I was a victim of precisely such a structure. When your father is a James Gandolfini-gaited Silverback at the head of his band with a chip on his shoulder and a dwindling hairline, you quickly learn what it is the average man views as top-notch. Stand up for yourself; learn to fight for what you want; don't give up; never take no for an answer. From what I observed growing up, it seemed as if most men viewed courage much in the way pyromaniacs do crates of dynamite. A person who exercises his passions in a dangerous fashion is considered brave, you see. But ...

Raised by Superman

Despite modern sensitivities, experience tells me most sons are still birthed solely to be thrown into a lifelong cage fight with their fathers.

Blame it on nature if you will, this exercise in testosterone management, this cruel Darwinian doctrine impelling one generation of angry, imperfect males to give birth to another generation of angrier, even more imperfect males. Considering Oedipal tradition, I happen to believe all this happens to keep the entire globe from going up in flames on a biweekly basis. My father in particular — largely by fault of the modern day Sparta referred to by most Americans as Massachusetts — was never able to integrate his bellicose New England credos* into suburban Colorado, where he and my mother had decided to make their home. But me, on the other hand, that was another story. I was fair game. Even though I never competed in sports, the man had named me after a Patriots Running Back. For all that is sacred, I didn't stand a chance.

In a land of conservative, happily Protestant plebes that stretched on as such until the late '90s, few prairie dwellers ...

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