In the upcoming “The Penalty for Holding,” the second novel in my series “The Games Men Play,” troubled star quarterback Quinn Novak attends Stanford, where he encounters swimming legend Dylan Roqué (one of the heroes of my first novel, “Water Music”) in the wildly popular seminar “The Literature of Rejection.”
The first semester of the course is about literary antiheroes with a disproportionate rage at rejection – Achilles in “The Iliad,” Lucifer in “Paradise Lost” and Heathcliff in “Wuthering Heights.” They are among the most attractive characters in literature but then, that’s the beauty of fiction. It isn’t real.
The second semester is about historical figures who share the same self-aggrandizement, including John Wilkes Booth, Adolf Hitler, Lee Harvey Oswald, Timothy McVeigh and Osama bin Laden.
To that roster we can now add co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who killed himself and 149 passengers and crew members aboard a Germanwings’ plane. Here’s a passage from Erica Goode’s April 7 New York Times’ piece about men – they are invariably men – like Lubitz that stopped me cold.
“The typical personality attribute in mass murderers is one of paranoid traits plus massive disgruntlement,” said Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist in New York who recently completed a study of 228 mass killers, many of whom also killed themselves.
“They want to die, but to bring many others down with them, whether co-workers, bosses, family members or just plain folk who are in the vicinity.”
The literature of rejection.
It begins intelligibly enough. Booth, for instance, hated Lincoln for bringing the South to heel. Hitler, a failed artist and candidate for the priesthood, never got over the Allies lording over Germany at the end of World War I. Oswald was a failed soldier and Communist. Timothy McVeigh hated the American government. Bin Laden, the child of a Saudi father and his Yemeni wife, was America’s guy (during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan) until he wasn’t.
We’ve all experienced disappointment. But we all don’t go crashing a plane into the French Alps.
For that, you need a truly monstrous ego.