What is literature? Archie and Veronica? Or only Heart of Darkness?

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

I promise this is my last excerpt from this book today.  But I just can't resist sharing this -- a story of two fifteen year old boys and their burgeoning friendship.  I'm only on page 20 and this is really drawing me in.


Aristotle is having a boring summer all on his own (he liked that phrase). He had a theory that "it was better to be bored by yourself than to be bored with someone else. I pretty much lived by that rule. Maybe that's why I didn't have any friends."


But then Dante showed up and offered to teach him to swim.  


"All that summer, we swam and read comics and read books and argued about them. Dante had all his father's old Superman comics. He loved them. He also liked Archie and Veronica. I hated that shit. 'It's not shit,' he said.

Me, I liked Batman, Spider-Man, and the Incredible Hulk.
'Way too dark,' Dante said.
'This from a guy who loves Conrad's Heart of Darkness.'
'That's different,' he said. 'Conrad wrote literature.'
I was always arguing the comic books were literature too. But literature was very serious business for a guy like Dante. I don't remember ever winning an argument with him. He was a better debater. He was a better reader. I read Conrad's book because of him. When I finished reading it, I told him I hated it. 'Except,' I said, 'it's true. The world is a dark place. Conrad's right about that.'
'Maybe your world, Ari, but not mine.' . . .  

. . . He told me I had a tragic vision of life. 'That's why you like Spider-Man.'
'I'm just more Mexican,' I said. 'Mexicans are a tragic people.'

'Maybe so,' he said.
'You are the optimistic American.'
'Is that an insult?'

'It might be,' I said.

We laughed. We always laughed."


(Aristotle lied about hating Heart of Darkness.  In fact, he loved it, and his Vietnam vet Dad had loved it too.  It sparked a conversation.)



(Page 20 of 359)


i am devouring this one.