by Victor Kline
The role of the artist is not often talked about these days. But I fear there is a subliminal idea of what it is, which has slowly permeated our western culture since the turn of the twentieth century. The original ‘permeators’, as far as I can tell, were that morbid trio of northern European playwrights Ibsen, Chekhov and Strindberg. These happy campers shared the view that life was pointless and hopeless and that it was their job to draw this cheery fact to the attention of lesser minds, who may have suffered from the delusion that life had a point, or who were foolish enough to imagine there was some hope.
In theatre at least, that viewpoint persisted up to the ‘Angry Young Men’ of the British stage of the 1950s. Only now there was a subtle change. The idea had become not exactly that things were totally hopeless, but rather that they were pretty damn bad, and it was the author’s duty to draw this to the attention of an apathetic world, so that those who held the reins of power would say: “Aha, thank you angry young playwright for alerting us to the fact that there is social inequality. We’ll now rush off and legislate that away.”
Of course the holders of the reins of power, in reality, remained unmoved. But the playwright didn’t care. He had done his duty, and now could go down the pub for a beer with his mates and tell them all what an activist he was.
In the world of novel writing there was a greater variety. People wrote romances and bodice rippers and science fiction and all manner of escapism. But if ‘serious fiction’ be their intention, then of course they had to embrace the hopelessness of the snowbound trio, or the preachy ‘fix this’ of the angry young men.
It never occurred to anyone to think it may just be the real duty of an author to go beyond the winging and offer a solution. Well I guess I have always thought that if you can’t offer a solution, don’t bother. In the modern world we all know very well, from the 24 hour news cycle, just how bad things can get. So just re-affirming, in literary form, how bad things can get, adds little of value to the mix. Give the politicians and social workers and medicos a bit of a blueprint to work from. Use your contemplative time to offer ideas to those too busy to contemplate.
That was the attitude I brought to the writing of The Story of the Good American. I wanted to show how things just might get fixed. But I didn’t want to lock myself away in the British Museum, there to invent theories that took no account of human nature. I wanted to write about something I knew could happen, that I knew was happening.
I chose the amazing work being done by people like Bill and Melinda Gates, whose aim is nothing short of the total abolition of world poverty and disease. But they are no theorists. They are getting out there and making it happen. Their method has its genesis in a simple mind shift. Instead of making the business of business the centre of their world, they have the business of philanthropy at the centre, and their ‘normal’ business becomes a feeder for that. Their shareholders support them because any temporary loss of income will be more than compensated for by the huge extra market they are creating. The destruction of poverty and disease means the creation of a whole new world of consumers for their products.
Then they are also in the business of enlisting other billionaires to their way of thinking. At this stage they have commitments from one-third of the world’s 200 richest individuals. Even that is enough cash to get the job done, and it will get done.
My characters are not Bill and Melinda Gates. They are fictional, exciting characters who find themselves caught up in all sorts of adventure and romance. It is a novel after all. I wanted to write something that was fun to read, that put the emphasis back on old-fashioned storytelling and empathetic characters. But the Gatesian thread is there for anyone who wants to pick it up.
Lastly, and most importantly, I wanted to give the average person like myself a bit of a blueprint too, for how we can fit into this new era which is dawning. How we can shrug off the despair that all the angry young men have been laying on our shoulders for a century, and joyfully do our bit. But if you want to know how that all works, you’ll have to read the book.
Victor Kline started his working life as Sydney’s youngest barrister. He worked as a Federal prosecutor in Sydney and later as a defence counsel in the Northern Territory in its Wild West days. He has been a playwright, theatre director and actor Off-Broadway and in various parts of Australia. He is the author of the novel Rough Justice and the bestselling memoir The House at Anzac Parade, as well as several produced plays. His most recent novel is The Story of the Good American. As well as New York and Central Australia, Victor has lived and worked in London, Paris, the South of France and New Guinea. He currently lives back in Sydney with wife Katharine and a little grey cat called Spud. www.victorkline.com
A hobo, a billionaire and the woman they both love. An unusual prescription. Some remarkable cures.
Joe Starling was Pete A. Vanderveer’s right hand man. But one day Joe just up and left the billionaire. He left New York City too. Turned up years later in his home town of Sydney Australia, shining shoes in the Pitt Street Mall. What happened in between, to Joe and Pete and to the woman they both loved, was very likely to change the world. The book is available in various formats from http://www.amazon.com/Story-Good-American-Victor-Kline/dp/0947245065/ref=sr_1_6_