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h2. Screw history.
Gang of Virtue is a vaporware graphic novel I conceived during a reading of Simone Petrement’s biography of Simone Weil. Let’s see if I can do this “as best and as quick as I can,” to quote Sports Night.
* At several points during her life, Weil expressed a wish that she had multiple lives to lead, so that she could devote one to her parents, one to the theater (Weil wrote exactly 0.7 plays), etc. * She also had a long-standing admiration/crush for TE Lawrence, and once said that she thought it would be cool if he’d faked his death in order to adopt a fake identity (as he had in fact done twice before in attempts to enter military service without his notoriety). * And, of course, over and over again during the war, Weil burned to do something dangerous, but never quite succeeded; she joined an international commando unit in the Spanish Civil War and got an incapacitating wound while stepping into her own campfire; she was repeatedly turned down by the resistance for covert work, and her insane but weirdly beautiful front-line nurses project never got off the ground. * She also had brilliant and utterly unrealizable ideas for less dangerous programs of social and culture reform, including a decentralized, modular industrial production paradigm that would actually have been a really genius way to do things. * It was apparently rumored that she studied some form of asian martial art—an idea that seems utterly incomprehensible to anyone familiar with her infirmity and total lack of (physical) grace, but, hey, I’ll take what I’m given. * She also had a long-standing admiration for Cardinal de Retz, who began his career with a defense of conspiracy, and who himself engaged in many political intrigues—but always, so Weil thought, in the interest of good. * She habitually wore a cape * She had great nicknames, like “The Red Virgin,” and “The Categorical Imperative in Skirts”
What’s the obvious response to all this? Of course: Lawrence faked his death to take a leading role in a conspiracy of good-doing intellectuals trying to save the world, and then recruited Weil. Who, in her characteristic cape, and with her spurious martial arts training, and with her cool epithets, is practically an off-the-shelf super hero just waiting for her reference-happy graphic novel.
And there’s a certain defensibility in the leap from philosophers to superheroes; superheroes are supposed to be people of extraordinary abilities who are profoundly committed to the struggle between good and evil, and there has not been a person in the history of the world who fits that description better than Simone Weil.
She just never got to blow shit up.
Of course, Weil would never, ever, in a million years, approve of this sort of nonsense. She had very high standards in the realm of art, and virtually no tolerance for fantasy. (Other than her own wildly fanciful ideas.)
h2. Titles
* The Gang of Virtue (Conrad) * From Heart of Darkness, “Gang of Virtue” is used by the corrupt manager to describe Kurtz’s faction, who believed that colonialism could be a force for good, spreading the best of civilization. * Hypothetical Lives (Bachelard) * From Poetics of Reverie, a lovely book in which Bachelard describes the importance of the “irreality function.” * The Preposterous Committee (TH White) * From The Once and Future King, name of the conclave of animals who meet with Arthur toward the end of his life to survey the problem of man. * Strange Meeting (Owen) * I just like the poem. * The Gang’s All Here (Compendium)
h2. Possible Characters
h3. Mid-20C
* Simone Weil * “The Red Virgin” * Martial arts training? * Fought in Spanish Civil War * In Need for Roots, proposed decentralized, modular industrial production paradigm * Habitually wore a cape. Also a beret. Was actually blue, but all the photos are b&w, so let’s call it red. * TE Lawrence * WWI * Gay? * Masochist? * Tactician * Thesis on the role of the crusades in European military history * Rosa Luxembourg * Gun-slinger * SuperJew * Member of what Arendt calls a “Peer Group” of hyper-ethical Jewish emigres from Poland(right?) known for their integrity * Communist * CS Lewis * Big on the Christ. * Inkwells * Dorothy Sayers * Also big on the Christ * Also Inkwell-associated * TH White * Arthur-obsessed * Angsty * Sadist? But guilty about it. (Geese/Hunter ID issues) * Gay? * Frantz Fanon * *The post-colonial theorist * Doctor, psychoanalyst * Trained Algerian insurgents to resist torture * Great writer * Gaston Bachelard * Trained in physics * Postmaster * Lit-crit * Animus and Anima * Hilarious * Louis Althusser * Creepy * Killed his wife * Communist * Hannah Arendt * Pro-democracy, anti-totalitarianism * Universally annoying * Used to do Heidegger * Karl Jaspers * Accidental philosopher * Liberal Christian theologian * Question of German Guilt is freakin’ brilliant * Weil would have loved his “Axial Theory of History” * Martin Heidegger * Married into the Nazis * Clearly a jackass * Musil/The Man Without Qualities?
h3. 19thC-Early 20thC
* GK Chesterton * William James (and his brothers) * Wilky James and the other one whose name I can’t remember were strongly idealistic abolitionists; did not do well in the civil war; Menand tags them as the “real” subject of his “Robert Gould Shaw” speech. (Menand, The Metaphysical Club, p. 147) * WEB Du Bois * Everything’s better with WEB Du Bois. Better still if we could work his sci-fi story in. * John Brown * Nietzsche
h2. Other possible points in the genealogy of GoV
* Machiavelli * The Cathars * Weil was big on them * de Retz and Richeliu * de Sade
h2. Settings
* Pretty much any or all of WWII * Spanish Civil War * US Civil War * Cold War
h2. Other groups
* Freemasons—prominent in Spanish politics, including during the Civil War. Not all that important in reality, but we’re not in reality any more…
h2. Texts
* Have *
Simone Weil: A Life * Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War * Need * Seven Pillars of Wisdom
h2. Clippings

IF the red slayer think he slays,
Or if the slain think he is slain,
They know not well the subtle ways
I keep, and pass, and turn again.
Far or forgot to me is near; 5
Shadow and sunlight are the same;
The vanish’d gods to me appear;
And one to me are shame and fame.
They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly, I am the wings; 10
I am the doubter and the doubt,
And I the hymn the Brahmin sings.
The strong gods pine for my abode,
And pine in vain the sacred Seven;
But thou, meek lover of the good! 15
Find me, and turn thy back on heaven.
“Brahma,” Ralph Waldo Emerson