Considering the Flitcraft Parable

Natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy make me crazy. Watching people line up again for food, water, gasoline, and clothing practically convinces me that I should run out and start hoarding provisions in a bunker. They really do. I was convinced on Tuesday that I should call a tree service and have them remove every single tree in our yard — so that none of them would ever destroy my house.

I know I’m an insecure guy. I know that’s part of my make-up. What if this editor doesn’t like my story? What if they do? (They must not be any good!) And on and on.

But the recent conversation with my dad — who announced after his recent brush with electrical failure during Hurricane Sandy — that he and mom were moving to California got me thinking of the Flitcraft Parable.

If you don’t know the reference, you ought to pick up a copy of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. (Or just read the excerpt here.) Hammett was a pretty tight writer, but in that book he goes into one of his longest digressions from the plot, ever.

He has his detective Sam Spade tell the story of a man who narrowly escaped death and resolved to change his life. (I don’t want to go into the details and spoil it for you. The video above tells you some of it.) But as soon as the man changes his life, something profound happens that speaks to our capacity for human resilience and a bunch of other stuff no one has properly figured out yet. They’re still trying. There are tons of lit professors who make a living trying to tell people what the story of Flitcraft means.

I see myself, my dad and a whole slew of people in Flitcraft. Maybe you will too.