As part of our ongoing celebration of the magazine’s fiftieth year in print, this month’s Dog-Eared Page is a story previously published in The Sun.
The seed of a story is often a question. In The Bridge of San Luis Rey, the question on the mind of author Thornton Wilder, for which he invented five strangers falling to their deaths from an Andean rope bridge, was: “Is there a direction and meaning in lives beyond the individual’s own will?” After inheriting a bundle of letters from an advice columnist, many of which would be used verbatim in the novel Miss Lonelyhearts, Nathanael West grappled not only with the nature of human suffering but with what might actually be done about it. “The Blue Devils of Blue River Avenue” was born when my mother found a girl dazed and bleeding on our front lawn one misty morning. I was twelve years old, and it was the beginning for me of a philosophical exploration into the problem of evil, framed by a personal question: How was it that this girl had been found dazed and bleeding — and essentially destroyed — on that misty front lawn and not me?