- Braden Wortz
I have always loved fairytales and myths. Even as an adult, I have shelves of books on mythology and folklore. So, when I got the crazy idea to write a novel, I decided I wanted to create a truly American folktale. I wanted to write an American myth. Obviously this would be no simple task. I had to ask myself what makes America, ‘America’? Two centuries from now, what will we be remembered for?
After all, every influential nation is remembered for its influences. Often times those influences are based on political or military power; yet, every great nation is also remembered for its art. The Greeks are remembered for their philosophers. The Romans are remembered for the great Venetian Painters. The British are remembered for their poets and playwrights. What is America known for? Most simply, America is known for its vernacular music.
America is certainly a unique country, as it was founded by immigrants from various other nations. And, as America developed into a melting pot of various cultures, these cultures learned from one another. They adapted, transformed, reworked, and reinvented a new culture… an American culture. This is most clearly seen in the advent of American music. America’s vernacular music is its first and only original art form. Whether it’s jazz, blues, country western, rhythm and blues, rockabilly, rock and roll, pop, or even hip-hop… America’s vernacular music is a truly original contribution to the world.
Accordingly, the history of American vernacular music is at the center of my folktale. But, this isn’t just a myth about music, as America’s music is bigger than just the music itself. This book is also about immigrants. It’s about racial and cultural differences. It’s about sports, as America, like the Greeks and Romans, has always celebrated feats of physical performance and endurance. And, it’s also about religion.
Many might not know this, but the word ‘religion’ is Latin in origin, and its literal meaning is ‘re-ligament,’ i.e. re-join, re-tie, or bring together. Unfortunately, religion has often had the inverse effect of its desired goal, as many of the fiercest of wars and greatest of battles have been fought over religious differences. Nevertheless, the influence and importance of religion cannot be ignored, as so many of the first immigrants from England and Europe moved to American in search of religious freedoms. Then there are all those who didn’t come here on their own accord, such as the American slaves and their progeny. They too brought religion. And, regardless of their differences all people were, willingly or unwillingly, joined together with other, different people the moment they set foot on American soil.
With all that said, my book isn’t ‘preachy.’ It’s not a ‘weighty’ read. It was written so that it could be enjoyed by people of all ages, races, and religions. In my opinion, the best American novels are those that can be enjoyed by everyone. They can be read and enjoyed by adolescents or adults, white people or black people, the religious or the nonreligious. It is my hope that my book will have an equal appeal.
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Brad Wortz has degrees in both English Literature and Philosophical Aesthetics. He began his professional career teaching Religion & Worldview courses at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, MI. After leaving Cornerstone, Brad spent five years teaching Classical English Literature & World Cultural Studies in Philadelphia, PA and in Lake Worth, FL. Brad currently supervises an Adult Day Training Program, for adults with developmental disabilities, which provides services to disabled adults living in the region of Southern Florida. When he is not working, he enjoys painting, biking on Palm Beach, and collecting rare records.
Image: New York Harbor by Allison Sobolewski