Ode to Gleeville - The Town
That Defied Literature

or, The Hamlet That Could Outdo "Hamlet"

or, The Story of Gleeville - A Story Without Conflict

Emmet Kelley

© Copyright 2021 by Emmet Kelley

Photo by Blake Wheeler at Unsplash.
                                         Photo by Blake Wheeler at Unsplash.

      QUOTES pertaining to “Gleeville Ode”__ 

     __The average man is a conformist, accepting  miseries and   disasters with  the  stoicism of a cow standing in the rain---Colin Wilson 

 __Habit rules  the  unreflecting   herd---William Wordsworth 

__Before you break out of prison, you must realize you’re locked up---anonymous 

__Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, except the citizenry of  Gleeville,  for whom desperation is as foreign as the German kruggerand---mission statement, Gleeville  Chamber of Commerce 

__Ignorance is bliss---Thomas Grey, “Ode to the Distant Prospect Eton  College”  



      In normal society, the yes-man is an object of disdain , if not  of ridicule  and  vilification,  from “the William Whyte organization man”  to the blindly loyal supporters of autocrats like Donald Trump. But in Gleeville,  a small town located somewhere in Middle America, the yes-man would fit right in and, indeed, even blossom. For in Gleeville,  there was the community-wide  agreement  of the  general   rule of law of “ agreeing not to disagree”.  Agreement was the underlying  motif  of the typical  Gleeville lifestyle, ruled by the IMPRIMATUR of “agreeing not to disagree”, making  Gleeville  the Panglossian  best of all possible worlds.  

          “Pleasantville”, the Reese Witherspoon  flick where two teen youngsters magically wind  up in an “Ozzie and Harriet”  TV show whose characters are all one-dimensional  black  and  white images, had nothing  on Gleeville,  populated by real-life persons who agreed on everything.  The last known conflict among  Gleeville’s  populace was so long ago that said disagreement  could  not  be   found in the town’s archives.  Disagreement on any and all issues was not in the genetic makeup or overall  temperament  of  Gleeville’s  residents.  Universal agreement on everything was the norm, disagreement had long   ago been   finally  fettered  in a well-preserved state of suspended animation by a mysterious energy eons ago. Thus  Gleeville’ s  townspeople  agreed not to disagree  on anything  thanks to this mystical unifying  force responsible for  this agreeable  ethos.  

        Since religion was a major source of clash throughout history, there were no churches in Gleeville; everyone was gleefully nondenominational.  Since politics were also a foundation for dispute and disarray, there were no elections in Gleeville.  As for the third greatest source of dispute and controversy, sexual matters, it was long ago decided community-wide  that such matters be handled in a totally agreeable way, so as to not intrude upon the realm of agreement of  Gleeville.   And  social  issues leading  to  anti-social  behaviors  and  acts were  forever foresworn.  Backing  up a little,  the  one concession to politics  was  the town  council, whose members rotated every year without being  elected, and all political issues were tidily resolved by  universal  consensus. The  town  council  of Gleeville  was nicknamed  the  Glee  Club, a tribute  to  the  harmony  and  team spirit  that  the  town council  helped perpetuate.    

       To maintain  said  harmony  and  tranquility  of  the  town,  Gleeville  naturally  cut  itself out  from the rest of humanity.   

      The town maintained itself via a self-sufficient economy based mostly on agriculture [or “agree-culture” as one town quipster gleefully referred to it];  what little commerce there was in the town were shops offering  self-made  goods  such as clothing, cosmetics, and notions;  manual repair/fix-it service shops for appliances;  and do-it-yourself activity, such as home  carpentry and home improvements,  homemade  crafts,  and  homeowner  modification  of  varying  styles and designs  of  their landscaping  and  beautification, all  without resort to outside media sources as Martha Stewart or “Home Improvement.”  Such modern staples as automobiles , TV sets, computers, DVD recordings, stereo sets, satellite  dishes, solar panels,  smartphones,  cell-phones,  and mass  manufactured  items, from  sewing  machines  to  hair dryers  to  Xerox  photocopiers  were nowhere  to be found in  Gleeville.    

       The few concessions to “modernity” were  necessary  items  such as washing  machines,  electric lighting, and  refrigerators [which were made permissible  for Gleeville   townsfolk  from their  20th   Century  Mennonite  ancestors who had adopted  them as God-given items] powered  by  locally  diesel-generated  electricity.  As one  outsider  journalist  [there  were no newspapers  in  Gleeville , to avoid  disagreeable  outworlder  bad  news] who briefly visited [since there were no hotels in Gleeville, he stayed in the town livery stable] and wrote for his underground paper  “The Astral Alternate Revue”: “Wow! Stepford  Ain’t  Got Nuttin’ on the Nut Town of  Gleeville”, with the subhead “The  bland  lead  the  bland, averageness is agreeable, progress is disagreeable”. These  mastheads  offered a perfect summing up of the phenomenon  known as Gleeville.   

     Thus it was that  Gleeville,  via the  “Stepford Ain’t Got Nuttin’” article, became an object of interest to the not-so-distant [geographically if not intellectually] writer’s colony dubbed “Garp-By-The-Sea”, the 20 writers-in-residences  of  Garp-by-the-Sea, with their inquiring  minds  and  imposing  literary  credentials [3 Pulitzer awardees and several nominees,  PEN Foundation award winners, at least one McArthur  Fellows  Genius Grant  award winner, and  winners  of   numerous  other  stellar trophies] at first dismissed the Gleeville  article as bunk  and  that  Gleeville  was  nothing  more  than  “an unshining  city on a hill of beans”. But, as people   who subscribe to National  Enquirer can attest to, inquiring  minds want to know—in the case, not  only  wanted  to  know  first-hand  that  Gleeville  was  the  real McCoy, some sort of mini-utopia [or dystopia?] of  a community  in  total  harmony  via  mutual  consent of the populace, and, of  equal  importance,  could  Gleeville  be  captured  in  literature  as a legitimate  literary  subject?    

            So, to the playwright,  essayist,  novelist,  scenarist,  and  poetic  and  creative  nonfiction  practitioners  of  the writers’ colony  of Garp-by-the-Sea, the town of  Gleeville  represented a unique challenge.  How do you write a story, book,  play,  opera libretto,  theatrical  film, narrative  poem, et al,  about  Gleeville,  which lacked  the  main  ingredient  that  was  the foundational   motif  of  stories, books, plays, narrative  poetry and  creative  nonfiction__indeed, the  vast  scope  of literature—namely, the need for CONFLICT  in said story, book,  play,  opera,  narrative  poem,  creative nonfiction opus?   Gleeville  was  no  Peyton  Place or Naked  City or Athens or Carthage  or  Dodge  City or  Winesburg , Ohio—where  the  story  settings__the  cities, towns, villages, hamlets, tribal units, Potter’s Hogsmeades, etc.___overflowed with conflict, dissension, violence, rape, theft, molestation, riots, mobs, wars, duels [of both wits and weapons] et al, all that good stuff that was the stuff of true literature.   Gleevile  unnaturally  eschewed  that  main  literary  component,  that  of CONFLICT,  in  a preposterously  fantastic way  totally  foreign  to  the  Garp-by-the-Sea  denizens.  

       And, all  the  purist  Garp-by-the-Sea  residents  agreed, whoever  volunteered  to write a literary chronicle  of  Gleeville  would do so with absolute, unabashed  REALISM___and, not  resort  to any  of that deliberately plotless  abstract anti-literature/  theater  and literature  of  the  absurd/”Waiting  for Godot”/”The Zoo Story”/New Age garbage that had marred real-life  traditionalist  literature  for decades.  No absurdist  anti-literary   quasi-existensial   Becket/Pinter/Pirandello  tripe  along  the lines of  “Meuersault  waited  in  Gleeville  for nobody to appear, and nothing   happened , twice, or possibly three times, probably  because  the  little  goat-footed   Gleeville  balloon and baloney vendors  forgot  to whistle  far and wee.”  Egad! No, the purist literary members of  Garp-by-the-Sea__all  lovers  of Shakespeare,  Milton,  Hugo,  Shaw,  Poe,  Hawthorne,  Twain,  Lewis,  Hemingway,  Miller  {Arthur, not Henry} and  Wolfe  {both Thomas and Tom}, et al__  insisted in their throwing-down-gauntlet  challenge  that any literarily  bona fide  opus  about   Gleeville  should  have  that  most  necessary  of  tried  and  true  pure literary components,  CONFLICT.   

    It must, all insisted, exhibit  the crucial  element  of  CONFLICT____the  whole  long-venerated “man vs. man/man vs. the elements/man vs. himself” schtick, or else any literary effort  contrived  about  the allegedly  conflict-free  Gleeville  would be less literary, in class and taste,  than, say,  the  pulp drivel of  Wonder Woman meets Vampirella !  

        Thus it  was  that  five  or  six  of  the  more sporting writers-in-residence  of  Garp-by –the-Sea made a bet that  one of them would make the Mount Everest-monumental  challenge  to write a traditionalist literary  narrative  about  Gleeville  that  had   CONFLICT in it.  The one that took the bet  was none  other than Sir Buckminster  Marlowe  Greystoke  Hornblower, a larger than life figure in the world of letters who rivaled Hemingway and B. Behan  and  O. Wilde combined, in both  flamboyance  and  literary  flair__as  playwright,  poet,  novelist,  opera librettist,  scenarist  and  satirist  [his wrought- with- conflict  satirical  books “Machiavelli, Mussolini, and (Joe) McCarthy___All  People  Who  Kneaded People” and “My  Good  Ole  Pal  God__Neither  Copilot  nor a Codependent  To  Me  Is  He” are  still  talked  of].   

         Yes, the  Garp-by-the-Sea  colony  writers-in-residence  concurred [and  for  these dissonant  literary fellows, concurrence on anything  was  almost  as rare as disagreement  in  Gleeville]  their colleague  Buckminster  Marlowe   Greystoke  Hornblower was  just  the  man  to  unearth  CONFLICT  in  Gleeville  and capture it in a nonabstract,  legitimate  and  conventional  literary  work [be it book,  play,  film script, narrative  poem, creative nonfiction piece,  or even a conflict-driven  agitprop/satire/social   criticism  piece, such as  the “Machiavelli, Mussolini, [Joe] McCarthy” ode which was still talked of]. So one fine Friday the 13, the intrepid  Buckminster  Marlowe   Greystoke  Hornblower  set  out  on  foot to  Gleeville, with  only  on  a knapsack of  clothes  on  his  back  and,  symbolically, 13 dollars  in his pocket, for  the  great  adventure  of  writing  a literary  piece  exposing  and  delineating   CONFLICT  in  Gleeville.    

      Nothing  was  heard  from  Buckminster  Marlow  Greystoke  Hornblower  for a few days.  Then nothing  for a week, two weeks, finally a month. The writers-in-residence  of  Garp-by-the-Sea  began  to fret, then worry, and  finally  despair about  Buckminster  Marlowe  Greystoke  Hornblower’s  fate. What if, as one  sci-fi/fantasist writer-member surmised: “The residents  of  Gleeville  had undergone a hostile metamorphosis  triggered by the intrusion of lofty, loud, unlovely  Buckminster  Marlowe  Greystoke Hornblower__who  could bring out the hostility in anybody __ into their mini-lopolis?  And had reached uncharacteristic   agreement  to, egad, kill him?  A total  180 degree turnaround of   attitude maladjustment, an emergence of Gleeville’s  deep  dark  side  catalyzed by  the  anti-Gleevillean  persona of  Hornblower?    

         At an emergency  meeting of  the  Garp-by-the-Sea clique,  it was decided  that  the  disappearance of  Hornblower  begged  for  investigation. “Pass the hat and I’ll go find  out  what’s happened  to  him,” declared  the  above-mentioned  sci-fi/fantasy   writer, Isaac  Gernsback  Tillinghast,  author  of  such acclaimed, If blatantly commercial,  works as “Ancient Astro-alien Theorist Beal Z.  Buzz vs. the  Martian Mummy” and “An Astro-Buzz Anthology:  Sci-Fi  Stories That  Frightened  Even Stephen  King”  are  still  talked  of.  Adventure hummed in his soul, and he was  also  the  only  true  friend of the bombastic, boisterous  Buckminster  Marlowe  Greystoke  Hornblower  (“Hey, he’s an s.o.b., but he’s OUR s.o.b.”) in the Garp-by-the-Sea  colony. 

       So, with a few dollars and a talismanic  silver dollar piece  in hand  [fantasy writers are great believers in talismans for luck] and a bookbag  containing  his  favorite  books—all written by himself—on his shoulder, Isaac Gernsback  Tiillinghast  set off  for  Gleeville.    

          Arriving  in  Gleeville  about a day later, Isaac Hugo Tillinghast  was  fascinated  by the  1920ish folk-American look and aura of the town, with all the homespun realism  of an artless but heart-filled  Rockwell painting,  that  might be described as “bucolic-idyllic”.  The buildings in the town, all one-story in height and painted with all sorts of colors,  possessed an old-timey  flavor  that  pleased  the  senses  and charmed the spirit.  People  tipped  their hats  or waved in friendly  fashion  to him;   one  older  couple  even bowed  from the waist in warm  welcome.  He buttonholed  one  of them, a boy walking  a bicycle  down  the  street___dotted  with the delightfully  quaint  little  shops and trading  places  that might  be  termed “Grandma Mosaic”__ and asked “Do you know where I can find  Sir Buckminster  Marlowe  Greystoke  Hornblower?”  and  the boy pointed down the street: “He’s at the library.”  Isaac  Gernsback  Tillinghast  headed  on out , figuring  the  library  would  be a natural  place  for  a man of letters like  Hornblower.   

         The  library  shared  the  main street’s characteristic quaintness, no surprise:  Ah, but  the big surprise was seeing  Buckminster  Marlowe  Greystoke  Hornblower  behind  the main  counter, checking out  books for  the  local  inhabitants  lined  up  there.  He saw Isaac  Gernsback  Tillinghast  and  gave  him  the  standard  Gleevillean  wave  of  friendly  greeting. “Come on over, neighbor  Tillinghast!”  Isaac  Gernsback  Tiilinghast  went  over  behind  the  counter, shaking  Buckminster  Marlowe   Greystoke  Hornblower’s  hand, saying  “Long  time no see—uh, neighbor  Hornblower.”  

      “And what a  wonderful  long  time it’s been, neighbor,” Hornblower  said. ”I’m now a resident of Gleeville!  It’s a fabulous place,  everybody  here agrees so. No crime, fights, riots, violence, disruptions, divorces, not  even  a friendly  argument  anywhere.  I’ve adapted  to  Gleeville  for the very reason I first came—to  find  no  CONFLICT,  but, after being  here,  I’ve  chosen NOT  to  try to remodel it in a  book  or play!  I’ve  outgrown  the  wear-and-tear  of  endless  digging  up and  even  more the endless  exploring, analyzing,  disseminating  and exploiting  the   CONFLICT  of the creative writing process, for mere literary and reputational gain.  And  the  conflicts  with  editors  who  want to rewrite my books, conflicts  with  the critics who  shred  years of my work in one vitriolic  column,  conflicts  with  the  public  who clash over the merits of my works.  

      I’m LIBERATED,  free of  the  Neanderthal  need for CONFLICT!  As soon as I came here, I  was  made   town  librarian.  Next month it’s my  turn to be on the Glee Club, er, town council.   

      “And guess what, I’m  finally  getting  married! After years of conflict-laden affairs with uppity  pseudo-sophisticated  fem-nazi  prima donna  women of the literary  set, I’ve found the perfect ‘in sync’ girl for me! Just a minute—“ he  turned backward and said in a gentle voice instead of  the standard  old  Hornblower  bellow ,”Daisy, please come here, would you, dear.”  

        From the inner office of the library  appeared  the  called-upon  Daisy, who  was possessed of what might  be  termed a rustic-natural beauty  like  that of  Ellie  Mae  Clampett.  “Daisy, this is an old pre-Gleeville  buddy  of  mine, Isaac.”  Daisy  bowed  politely.  Said  Hornblower  of  his  “trophy-wife-to-be”, “Daisy  here  is  the  prettiest  girl in  Gleeville.”   

      Yes, everyone in Gleeville  agrees  wholeheartedly  that I am  the  prettiest  girl in  Gleeville,”  Daisy said matter-of-factly, then returned primly  to her inner office library  duties.  

      “So, go back to  the Garp-by-the-Sea  gang  and  tell  the colonists  I’ve finally  found my niche.  Forget  Hemingway’s  ‘grace under pressure’—look  where  that  got  him, a fatal  shotgun head wound. It’s ‘grace without pressure’ here in Gleeville.”  He  shook  Isaac  Gernsback  Tillinghast’s  hand,  saying  “Best of luck, old  friend.”   

      As  he  left  Gleeville,  Isaac  Gernsback  Tillinghast   felt a  brief  but  powerful  inner  tug,  an epiphany-like  change  of  heart, of  going  back  and  finding  an Eden-like  conflict-free niche of his own, as had Hornblower, in  Gleeville.  But the cold  steely intellect  conditioned  in him  by  years  of  competitive  working  and striving  in  modern  competitive  society  just barely  reigned  supreme  over  the  incandescent  sentiment  and  serendipity  about  Gleeville  welling  up within  him.    

      Ironically, it  was  this  inner  clash  between  rational,  dispassionate  reason and  sentimental  fantasizing  that  gave  him  the  idea  for his mulled-over  book  on  Gleeville.  He  already  had  the  title  of  the  book  in mind,  one  that  captured  the  essence  of  his epiphany-like  experience.  It went simply :  “Gleeville__   The Town, To  Either  Live In  or Leave From, Which  Presented Me  With  My  Life’s ULTIMATE  CONFLICT .

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