By now you all realize that the idea for my entire (forthcoming) book came out of two powerful lines in a powerful poem, If, by Rudyard Kipling. “My” lines are
… If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…
Well, it turns out that I’m not the only one getting book ideas from lines in that moving poem. Craig Mullaney, a pretty impressive young man, is just out with The Unforgiving Minute. (He’s with Penguin Press, the corporate sister of my publisher, Riverhead.) Here he is on the Daily Show, talking to Jon Stewart.
“His” lines from the poem, which made it into the title, are the final four:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And-which is more-you’ll be a Man, my son!
As Mullaney says, it’s a book
about growing up to be a man; starts at West Point when I was seventeen, ends when I sent my brother off to war.
I have not read it yet, so I can’t review it. (I’m swamped with books at the moment for a particular reason, which I’ll tell you about in the coming week or so.) But could we just, you know, have a moment for Kipling? He fell pretty far out of fashion in the past century. And yet: a sudden outbreak of young authors feeling so touched by his words that they conceive entire books. Not bad, Rudyard, not bad. Dare I say that whatever slump your reputation suffered in the previous century, it is fast turning out to have been an … impostor?