“A man obsessed is a man possessed by a Demon.”
So starts Hubert Selby Jr’s novel ‘The Demon’ (1976), a particular favorite of mine in which one of its facets is in its comment on societal expectations/ideals versus the individual. The book doesn’t preach or make sweeping judgments, only presents a single anecdote in which the protagonist, Harry, mildly contorts his life to meet the suburban ideals of marriage, career, and family that while initially gratifying falls apart in a way that makes ‘Revolutionary Road’ look like ‘Goodnight Moon’. The beauty in Selby’s depiction of this downfall is that the rot does not happen from the outside-in—Harry genuinely loves all that he has and is in turn appreciated and loved back, his devotion duly rewarded—but rather the rot comes from the inside-out. Something deep in Harry rebels despite his good faith efforts at suppression. It is a much more dangerous slippery slope when our (inevitable) ruin comes from within; after all, there is no true conformity in real life, everyone walks a unique path. We are all anecdotes.
Only after I finished writing my flash fiction story ‘Beauty of the Outgoing Tide‘ was I reminded somewhat of ‘The Demon’. Of course, with an 800 word short story the parellel is fuzzy, but what compelled me to write it in the first place was the idea of an obsession with a positive ideal (beauty in this case), which leads to a festering from within. Again, there is no heavy-handed parable or sweeping generalization intended; there is nothing moral about beauty and our gravitation toward it. Beauty is not something to be feared or avoided. This is only an anecdote.
Please see the attached link to Flash Fiction Magazine (FlashFictionMagazine.com) where my story is published. This website offers a new story each day; old stories can still be accessed so if you are reading this after the 3/11/16 publication date, my story can be found in the archives on the main page.