The kind of “life” my art will never imitate

An horrific crime has lately topped the newscasts and provided front page fodder for countless papers. Two male teens, one 14, the other 17, approached a mother walking her 13-month old son in a stroller and demanded that she give them money. She declined. In response, the older of the two teens pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the child in the stroller. “You want me to kill your baby?” he asked.

A Glynn County Sheriff's Deputy directs 17 year-old De Marquise Elkins out of the courtroom in the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. after Elkin's first appearance hearing in Magistrate Court Monday, March 25, 2013. Elkins and a 14 year-old were arrested Friday, March 23 and charged by warrant in the shooting death of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago. (AP Photo/The Brunswick News/Bobby Haven)

A Glynn County Sheriff’s Deputy directs 17 year-old De Marquise Elkins out of the courtroom in the Glynn County Courthouse in Brunswick, Ga. after Elkin’s first appearance hearing in Magistrate Court Monday, March 25, 2013. Elkins and a 14 year-old were arrested Friday, March 23 and charged by warrant in the shooting death of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago. (AP Photo/The Brunswick News/Bobby Haven)

The suddenly terrified mother explained that she had no money, and so the teen shot the toddler in the face, killing him instantly. The gunmen fired at the mother, too, but only wounded her. The perpetrators fled but were apprehended within hours.

Try as I might, I’m unable to think of a fictional scenario involving a crime like this that I could write. It amounts to an exercise in utter futility, as I have far too much respect for readers. I would never foist such inexplicably evil, mindless lunacy on anyone. Such a crime is simply too senseless and reprehensible.

My bad guys (and gals) have histories. There are reasons why they’re corrupt. They feel justified in whatever they do, regardless of how strongly the rest of the world condemns it. In every case, however, the reader knows the “why” behind the crime. They would rarely agree with the logic used, but they would admit some level of understanding.

When it comes to the murder of that child, there can be no such understanding. There can be no justification; there can only be torment, anguish and outrage.

A reader wouldn’t buy a fictional version of such a crime, nor would any reputable editor or agent. And yet, I imagine it will only be a short while before something very like this shows up in a book or a short story. I hope not, but I admit to a growing cynicism when it comes to the modern world. Still, I have great respect for my art, and that of my fellow writers, so I pray that none of us allows this sort of horror ever to be reflected in our work.

This is not the kind of life which art should ever imitate.

–JL

 

 

About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
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2 Responses to The kind of “life” my art will never imitate

  1. manangbok says:

    ” Two male teens, one 14, the other 17, approached a mother walking her 13-month old son in a stroller ” Everybody has a backstory. These two male teens were probably abused as children. We do not want to justify what they did to the mother and her child; but these boys have their own stories to tell. Writing their story is not about imitating their crime. Their story is about how victims become monsters — which is actually a story as old as time itself 😦

    • joshlangston says:

      You make an excellent point. Still, it’s not the sort of story I’d ever care to tell. Others certainly may, and I wish them well, but it’s highly unlikely I’ll read what they come up with.

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