But not all of us (I still am though. Oh god, am I a limp-wristed nancy boy). Here are five 20th-century poets and fiction writers who should make us all ashamed of our testicles and how little we have proven ourselves worthy of them.
|These are the men who would have written Roosevelt's odes.|
(Also, Col. Rondon, to the right there? Pretty much a Native American version of Roosevelt)
#5: Antoine Saint-Exupery
|Fighter pilots are badass, right?|
But St.-Exupery has credentials galore as a certified ubermensch--even though he was French. You know how in The Little Prince our narrator begins the story in a plane crash in the Sahara? That's true. Antoine was a lifelong pilot and airplane enthusiast, and at one point he crashed in the largest desert on earth, sustained himself with a handful of fruit and a bottle of wine (but of course!), and hitched his way out with a wandering trader on the back of a camel.
|I surrender my respect to this man.|
Coincidentally, I was in Paris last winter and happened to, without looking on it, stumble upon Saint-Exupery's memorial plaque (no body was ever found). It seems unlikely that I could just accidentally find it, but, well, it's in the Pantheon, the burial hall of French Heroes. Like Mme. Curie. And the leaders of the French Resistance. And Joan of Arc.
|"Cette machine tue des Fascistes."|
#4: D.H. Lawrence
|"Bloody 'ell, there's another protester out there. And I just got the blood out of my beard."|
Lawrence grew up in pretty much the most badass location of the Western world short of, say, the horrifying parts of Scotland (that'd be where Ian Banks is from)--a bleak, continually-depressed, Northern coal-mining town. His father was (of course) a coal miner, making the young Lawrence's life like a version of Billy Elliot with sodomy and modernism instead of ballet.
|"Nay, nay! Fuck's only what you do! But cunt's a lot more than that; 'tis thee!"|
Also, can I make a final comment about the gay affair thing? Now, I don't think that in any way having gay sex makes someone less of a man--I think Rob Halford and Freddy Mercury proved that pretty conclusively. What I do think, though, is that when you describe your "perfect love" as being a teenage affair with a Northern coal-miner and state that your homosexual tendencies are a result of your greatness...well, it seems like the only thing I can take from that is that Lawrence was just too much of a man to have sex with a woman without destroying her.
|"He was never gay...Larry used to say 'fuckin' females is for poofs.'"|
Jesus, I love Layer Cake.
#3: Yukio Mishima
|This might be a good time to mention that "badass" doesn't necessarily translate to "sane" or "admirable."|
|Close, if The RZA had been nominated for the Nobel Prize 3 times.|
In 1975, his small army took the defense minister of Japan hostage in his office and called for rebuilding the Japanese army, throwing off American Imperialism, and re-embracing the honor of ancient Japan. When this failed (because the whole samurai thing wasn't exactly a hip concept in the 70's, and also because of Hiroshima), he ended his life in the only possible way that would make sense: straight-up seppuku, complete with decapitation.
There are a lot of people (me included) who think the politics were incidental to the event--that Mishima's obsession with self-destruction had come full circle and he was trying to die with dignity. Whether he was crazy and quasi-fascist or crazy and suicidal, though, we can all agree few artists have burned that hard and exploded that loud, and there's something to be said for that.
|I'm not sure if he's an artist or a Street Fighter character.|
#2: Ernest Hemingway
Wrote about bull-fighting, hunting, fishing, World War I, shooting, fighting, and drinking, and wrote about them because he practiced all of them in profusion. Was a veteran of the French theater of WWI. Second only to Teddy Roosevelt in his love of going to Africa and shooting literally everything. Decided to essentially give American fiction ball-enhancement surgery and didn't use adjectives because they were for girls. Had a long-standing feud with William Faulkner, a man with a gigantic stockpile of guns, horses, and whiskey.
|Yes, he was 5'4" and a momma's boy, but he was definitely classier than Ernest.|
When Hemingway's wife spent a fortune on installing a swimming pool (which they couldn't put water in) while he was off, I think covering the Spanish Civil War or something, his response was to go to his favorite bar, take one of their urinals out of the wall (the building was condemned), throw it into the lawn, and scream that it was a swimming pool for his cats and she'd better keep her goddamned hands off it. If you go to his house it's still there. She put tiles on it to make it look classy.
When he killed himself, he did it with a shotgun to the head. He used both barrels. Presumably because he knew it would take both.
Most Badass Book: Honestly, just pick up any of them. Hemingway was not a man who dealt in restraint. The Sun Also Rises is, of course, incredible, but almost any work of his that's based on parts of his own life will be dripping with testosterone.
#1: William T. Vollmann
Vollmann got his start when he went over and reported on the Afghanistan War. Now, I know what you're thinking-- "come on, they let frickin' Sarah Palin go visit Afghanistan if she wants, that's not badass." You're wrong, but that's really my fault. I should have been more specific. I meant the Soviet war in Afghanistan. In 1982 he illegally hopped the border from Pakistan, lived with a local arms smuggler, traveled with a Mujaheddin cell while they fought Soviet soldiers, and toured war zones, mass graves, and bomb craters. He was 23.
|Significantly less of a nerd, now that we know that.|
- Khun Sa, a Burmese warlord known as the "Opium King," who was almost totally responsible for about 90% of the heroin in Australia and America (the first American to do so).
- A general of the Khmer Rouge, in a Khmer base in the Cambodian jungles.
- The leader of the New York Guardian Angels vigilante organization.
- Taliban officials in 2001 Afghanistan.
- High-ranking Yakuza members, including the second-in-command of the Sumiyoshi-kai, the second-largest family.
|I will bet you like twenty bucks that field is either a mass grave or full of heroin.|
And then he essentially stole her. He smuggled her out at night, got her past the armed guards, hid her in his car past police patrols, who had been told he kidnapped her, and paid for her enrollment in a school for girls who have survived abuse.
|He's like a combination of David Foster Wallace and Daredevil.|
Most Badass Book: For his fiction, it's his first novel, You Bright And Risen Angels, a Burroughs-meets-Pynchon style narrative of the war between insects, electricity, and the establishment of Industrial Power in America. There's a scene where a Kindergarten teacher executes "counter-revolutionaries and VERY BAD MEN!" with an uzi in front of her class. For his nonfiction, it's volumes V and VI of Rising Up and Rising Down, which chronicle his travels through the world in search of answers to why we keep hurting each other.