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Allen Ginsberg‘s “Gay Succession” idea, which is completely ridiculous and/or sad and profound, depending on your mood when you read it (like just about everything Allen Ginsberg ever wrote), went like so:

Walt Whitman Slept with Edward Carpenter
Edward Carpenter Slept with Gavin Arthur
Gavin Arthur Slept with Dean Moriarty
Dean Moriarty Slept with Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg Slept with …

I was reminded of it when I read this Paris Review article yesterday, about a young writer who felt awkward around his literary hero, and embarrassed himself by being a little more demanding of The Great Man’s attention than he should have been. Turns out that it’s kind of, maybe, okay, though, because The Great Man, back when he himself was a young buck, was sort of rude and demanding one time to his own literary hero. And so on.

Norman Mailer, photographed by Carl Van Vechte...

Norman Mailer * Image via Wikipedia

While the author of this piece doesn’t invoke the idea of “Succession” directly, it is deeply embedded in the structure of the stories he tells:

The young Alex Gilvarry (the author of the article) was a self-possessed insecure dick to “D” (probably Don DeLillo, per the comments).

The young “D” was a self-possessed insecure dick to Norman Mailer.

The young Norman Mailer was a self-possessed insecure dick to Ernest Hemingway.

I’m pretty sure Hemingway, in turn, was probably a self-possessed etc. to someone, probably Sherwood Anderson, and/or Gertrude Stein, though that’s not in here. Come to think of it, Hemingway was probably a self-possessed, insecure dick to everybody.

Gilvarry’s tracing back these very mildly rude exchanges through the generations, just like Ginsberg’s little chain of fucksessions, creates exactly the same propitious outcome: a lineage of heroes, great men all, that leads, finally, surprise, surprise, back to the author of the lineage itself. Huzzah! He must be a Great Man, too!

Which isn’t to say that he isn’t. He very well might, like Ginsberg was, be.

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