So, you think you’re a pretty tough guy. Yes, you think you are some hot shit, watching Boondock Saints for the 13th time, starting small fights at small bars to wow the large breasted girl you’re hoping to screw. Very impressive. There are, however, people who are tougher than you. I know this is hard to believe. You are strong and handsome! But you must trust me when I tell you that it is true; there are people who are tougher than you and they are called “Writers.” Let’s take a cursory at a few of these fellows.
Ernest Hemingway cut his teeth watching Italians get blown up in the First World War. He enlisted as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross before America officially entered the fray, and then moved to Paris after the wars end. He once suffered a massive concussion when the skylight above the toilet he was using collapsed on his head, but he managed to refrain from dying long enough to hunt tigers in Africa, live in Cuba, become very drunk with the finest of bullfighters Madrid had to offer, and make his way through a string of women that would cause Don Juan’s pecker to droop. Towards the end, Hemingway lost his mind. He blew his brains out with a shotgun on July 2nd, 1961.
Recommended book – A Farwell to Arms
Because there hasn’t been a movie based on one of his books, you may not have heard of Roberto Bolano. However, even though Michael Bay hasn’t found a way to turn Bolano’s hallucinogenic stories into a two-hour homage to Gerard Butler’s biceps, it doesn’t mean that he isn’t tougher than you. He is tougher than you, even though he’s dead. Born in Chile in 1953, Bolano became a poet and radical activist in his younger, wild-oat-sowing years. He was known for bursting into readings without warning and causing great confusion among the participants and audience. During this time he was arrested for being a suspected terrorist and thrown into one of those cozy South American jails you hear so much about. When he was in his early forties, he discovered his failing liver wouldn’t hold out much longer, so he decided to stop dicking around with poetry and do something that would make him some real money: write fiction. He died in 2003.
Recommended book – The Savage Detectives
Not long after William S. Burroughs graduated from Harvard, he became a thug in New York City. He sold drugs and stolen weapons, and occasionally would mug somebody in the subway at gunpoint. When he’d mellowed out a little, he and his wife bought a 99 acre farm in Texas and proceeded to grow as much marijuana as possible. This might have been the happy way Burroughs sustained his life had it not been for a moment of grandiosity brought on by severe drunkenness and a challenge to his marksmanship by his wife. A glass was placed on her head, and Burroughs took aim and shot her in the face. After prison, he wandered around for a long time, living in Mexico, London, and Tangier. Towards the winter of his life, he became involved in the Rock and Roll movement, was called the “godfather of Punk,” and made art by placing paint cans in front of a canvas and shooting them to bits with a shotgun.
Recommended book – Naked Lunch
Perhaps the least known personality on this list is William T. Vollmann. The only writer here who hasn’t yet died, Vollmann dropped out of his doctoral program so that he could work a shit job and save up enough money to travel to Afganistan in 1982 and live with the Mujahideen. His reason for doing this is summed up in the subtitle for his first book, An Afghanistan Picture Show, or, How I Saved the World. Saving the world seems to be Vollmann’s primary goal in life as he rescues whores in Thailand, dodges snipers in Sarajevo, and hops trains around the Pacific Northwest. And if all of this wasn’t enough, the man publishes both fiction and non fiction that is long, dense, and meticulously researched. I believe I would put the composition of a 3,298 page book on the history of human violence in the category of “tough.” Tougher than anything you’ve ever done.
Recommended book – The Atlas
We’ll close with the practically mythical figure of Jack London. A precursor to the boys above, London is the maybe the toughest of the whole lot. In 1893, then in his late teens, he left his hometown of Oakland, and signed on as a deckhand on a ship bound for Japan. When, a few months later, he returned to the states, he became a hobo. For several years he hopped trains, ran away from cops, slept in barns, and, when his luck was down, in jail cells. In his book The Road, London credits his need to lie in order beg enough food to live as the best creative writing class he ever took. Eventually he stopped riding trains and sailing across the world and went to high school. He decided that panning for gold would be a worthy career choice, and left Alaska’s Klondike region only after the scurvy caused him to loose his front teeth and suffer agonizing pain in his hip and legs. When publishing companies and magazines began buying his work, he settled down some, but he was still tougher than you.
Recommended book – The Road