I just now came down out of my rooftop hammock where I was alternating between rereading some vintage ’70s Heinlein and thinking about the nature of my last post – Was it complete? Was it honest? Did it really capture what I wanted to say? – when a parallel thought percolated into my consciousness.

“Leave a little.” That was one of the many personal little philosophies from a favorite literary character of mine, Jonathon Hemlock, written in two wonderful novels, also from the ’70s: The Loo Sanction and The Eiger Sanction, both by Trevanian.

Hemlock somewhere in one of those novels said something to the effect of “[always] Leave a little. Leave a party before it became boring. Leave the table before you became satiated. Set your wineglass aside before the wine loses its flavor (and drinking becomes habitual).”

That notion of ‘leave a little’ has stuck with me all these years. Trevanian purposely constructed the character to be discordant with the rapacious gluttony (not to mention stupidity) of modern culture. Hemlock – like the poison he was named for – was bitter, unforgiving, and uncompromising.

It is ironic that while ‘leave a little’ might resonate with today’s vegan, eco-minded, earth first, low-carbon footprint crowd; the rest of him would certainly be vilified.

Hemlock in the conventional sense was not a very friendly guy. He didn’t suffer posers and eschewed everyone who didn’t have some redeemable quality which pretty much excluded just about everyone. He went so far as to say, “Nice is how you pay your way into the party if you don’t have the guts to be tough or the brains to be brilliant.” An attitude which pretty much leaves most everyone of us out in the cold.

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Trevanian at some point hadn’t read Balthazar Gracian’s 17th century treatise on wisdom where in one passage he said,”The sage should be self-sufficient. He that was all in all to himself carried all within him when he carried himself. If a universal friend can represent to us Rome and the rest of the world, let a man be his own universal friend then he is in a position to live alone. Whom could such a man want if there is no clearer intellect or finer taste than his own? He would then depend upon himself alone, which is the highest happiness. He that can live alone resembles the brute beast in nothing.”

PS – The only other literary character that comes to mind that was created in the same purposeful and deliberately disagreeable fashion would be Brett Easton Ellis’s character, Patrick Bateman. Okay, okay. In 1955 there was J.P. Donleavy’s ‘The Ginger Man’ with his exquisitely created scoundrel, Sebastian Dangerfield but Ellis took Bateman’s character and went way (way) further when he made him into the ‘American Psycho’; a spoiled narcissistic investment banker who preyed on homeless people and women. The novel of the same name is unquestionably the finest piece of black comedy published in the 20th century. (Ouch. Did I just dare step on someone’s painted toenails?)