• Moira

A Great Literary Afterlife

If there is an afterlife, do you think the people there can watch us here, now? If I called upon the ghost of, say, Mary Shelley or Shakespeare, do you think they could hear me? Do you think that they hear the silent prayers--Dear the ghost of [insert poet/author/agent of literary stress here], please let me remember literally anything right now, please and thank you--filling high school classrooms during timed essays and come looking?


Shakespeare's just chilling, thoroughly enjoying slang and making endless innuendoes.

Imagine Shakespeare floating just over your shoulder, looking down on your penned half-ideas and panicked mark-outs. He probably floats around a little, tsk-ing to no one in particular, saying things like, "If Iago was a bird, he'd be a vulture, not a macaw," and "That... that is most certainly not what you think it is," and "Dear God, boy, how dare you describe my work as 'highbrow'! It is dick jokes and euphemisms, all! Intelligent, yes. Highbrow! Imagine!"

I bet Shakespeare would be very impressed with the way the English language has evolved to accommodate even more euphemisms. "Cake By The Ocean" is literally just euphemisms. There's nothing there that's said outright.


Then there's Mary Shelley, who is yelling at Percy to "Come and look! For the love of--stop snogging Byron for two minutes and look what those clever people have done with my genre!"

"You can't call it 'your genre,'" Percy tells her.

She shushes him, because that is ridiculous. "I invented it, didn't I?" she always replies. They've had this conversation more than once, because now that Mary's the more famous one, it's Percy's turn to be jealous.

Of course, because Percy was the more famous one in their lifetimes, he's looking around at all those little high schoolers calling on his ghost for wisdom and an understanding of one man's early nineteenth century pretentiousness. They do not say the latter. He knows what he did. He marches around, ranting about "these children" and "their complete lack of understanding of nuance and figurative language."

"Mary," he says, "these children! Of course I was talking about a man! Do they have no understanding of nuance and figurative language?" Then he pauses, thinks, and mutters, "Though, I am rather proud of all these lovers they seem to be collecting...

out in the open, too..."

Mary is not paying attention. She's reading something only a Romantic-era goth woman with a morbid and morally-skewed personality (or, you know, a young adult nowadays) would love. She catches the last part, though, and shakes her head. Looking over at Byron, who is a good boyfriend and was listening to Percy, she asks, "What kind of idiot would love this mess?"

One thing I can say for Percy: he had good taste. This man is pretty.

"Our kind of idiot," Byron sighs.

Mary nods and goes back to her book.

This is the average Tuesday night.


*Note: This post makes the grand assumption that these ghosts paid attention to the English language as it changed and evolved their own lexicon accordingly.

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