Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Inspiration of John Lennon

We had touched on the Beatles, so I thought I would return Hammett’s attention to the central figure of his novel. His words helped to validate my belief that John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café was cult fiction. What follows is the next portion of our interview.

Cat: John Lennon and the Beatles were obviously very important to you.

Hammett: Absolutely, and it goes beyond the music. The Beatles were catalysts for change. But Lennon, he was special, a more complex man than the others. Even in his eccentricities, such as the bed-ins, he was pushing against the status quo. He was challenging us all to think, and not just with his anti-war political activism.

Cat: How else did he challenge people in your opinion?

Hammett: He thought way outside the box. In some respects, he refused to acknowledge the box was even there. He fought a long battle with the feds over deportation, and just as with his anti-war protests, he asked us to rethink the very meaning of terms such as peace, citizenship, justice, authority, and individuality. With Yoko, he asked us to redefine art and aesthetics. In some ways, John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café is about realizing the impossible, about seeing what no one else can see. It's about redefinition. That’s what John Lennon was about.

William Hammett’s thoughts on John Lennon reminded me of how the novel’s themes were common to cult fiction. In John Lennon and the Mercy Street Café, basic assumptions of reality are challenged. The world is turned on its side and redefined. What is possible is not determined by an objective, rationalist viewpoint, but rather by intuition, a belief in hope and faith as the arbiters of what we call reality. As Hammett had put it, such a process not only entailed looking outside the box, but doing away with the box altogether. I couldn’t think of a single work of cult fiction that didn’t do exactly that.


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What Is Cult Fiction?
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Cult Fiction and Genre
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Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
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