Are you the jealous type?

By J.L. Koszarek
Words and Ideas

January 14, 2015

Happy New Year! The holidays are always such a wonder-filled whirlwind of love and activity, but I have to admit that I am relieved they are over. I finally have a little more time now to concentrate on work. That is, get caught up so I can look to the rest of 2015 and manage my time according to my goals. I’m sure Thad David, my collaborator and his team at Recon Jack Media are glad to hear it.

A Recon Jack Media Tweet last week got me to thinking about the elements that make up a good dystopian novel and come to find out, I’ve been missing a big one.

It’s difficult to find the time to sit down and read instead of write lately, but I came across a great review by Diane Johnson of Peter Toohey’s book, Jealousy and Valerie Trierweiler’s memoir called Thank You for This Moment in the January 8th edition of The New York Review of Books. The title of Johnson’s review is Who Is Not Guilty of This Vice?

The title grabbed me. The words “Guilty” and “Vice” always grab me. It’s just my nature. I had to read the article a couple of times before I could be completely honest with myself about feeling jealous at times and I had to read it again to begin to explore how I manage those feelings. It’s pretty powerful stuff and in the literary world, jealousy is at the center of it.

Johnson begins her article telling us that “Love makes the world go round, says the poet, while the cynic says it’s money; and Peter Toohey, professor of classics at the University of Calgary, constructs an entertaining argument for jealousy . . .” The things that make you say, hmmm, not to mention make you want to buy Toohey’s book.

This also made me think about jealousy in my own literary works. In retrospect, it is almost nonexistent. For this, I apologize and, I suppose like anything, ya live and ya learn, or maybe I’ve just become more confident and honest about addressing scary feelings like jealousy in my own life, therefore, more comfortable expressing it on the page.

Johnson explores, through her review of Toohey’s work, the poignancy of jealousy in classic literature from the great Greek works, to the Bible on to Shakespeare all the way to the present, which brings her to the review of Trierweiler’s memoir, within which Trierweiler is apparently very honest and open about her jealous feelings concerning Francios Hollande and his ex. From what Johnson writes, it seems to me that Trierweiler (Hollande’s latest ex) experiences extreme jealousy. This is just my opinion based on what someone else has written about her memoirs, though. I’ll have to read it for myself, but at any rate, Johnson illustrates well how jealousy in the literary world has been the catalyst for epic tales of war and destruction and terrible personal suffering.

Divide Then Conquer provides the unique opportunity to illustrate feelings of jealousy and envy as a centerpiece for character motivation and plot enrichment. My aim is to explore Toohey’s idea of the validity of envy as a positive energy that propels people to higher heights; jealousy as an evolutionary necessity for humans to thrive rather than the all-consuming evil we have come to recognize. Is it possible to channel this powerful emotion toward positive ends? In the apocalyptic world, maybe Jealousy is necessary for survival. Maybe jealousy is, indeed, our undoing.

Divide Then Conquer is a story about people who are sometimes greedy and power hungry; people who fall from lofty social and political heights while lonely disenfranchised people suddenly find themselves in the middle of the human mission to survive. The physicality of the zombie apocalypse it is easily explained, but what goes on in the minds and hearts of those who fall; how about those who rise? Jealousy and envy are very present because without it, the struggle to find a new way could not take place, but what does it mean? How will the new world be considering the prevalence of the “guilty vice” we call jealousy in the struggle to survive?

Are you the jealous type?

J.L. Koszarek
Pass Christian, MS