Michaeline: Talking About Topicality

Lydia E. Pinkham, "iconic concocter" according to Wikipedia.

A product, a song, a celebrity can convey setting, character, theme and more. Or it can date a story.

The other day, I was fact-checking some of my favorite quotes for  Michille’s post when I ran across this very interesting quote by James Thurber:

When I wrote ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,’  I had a scene in which Mitty got between Hemingway and an opponent in a Stork Club brawl. Helen [his wife] said it had to come out, that there should be nothing topical in the story. Well, you know how it is when your wife is right. You grouse around the house for a week, and then you follow her advice.

And my gut instinct was, “Yes, that’s right. If you want to write classic literature, don’t include references that are going to fade with time.”

But then I got to thinking. First of all, Hemingway hasn’t faded with time. And, there will always be celebrity clubs where gossip-fodder-type fights break out. Did Thurber do the right thing to cut it? Or was “topicality” just an excuse to excise a scene that didn’t feel quite right? I suppose we’ll never know. Continue reading