all the king’s men: the beef steak & the slaughterhouse

two words: one coin

You know this story. It plays out regularly, every four or six years or so. Politics.

Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All The King’s Men re-enacts the ancient and brutal clash of ethics inherent in all power struggles and with all the usual suspects – this time in the impoverished south in 1930’s USA.

Cue the populist, the oligarchs and a bitter bloody end.

The central character, Willie Stark, a self-proclaimed hick who wants to be president, and the wealthy land-owners (former slave-owners) and oil barons with tenuous grip on the status quo, each believe themselves entitled to govern the resource-rich state of Louisiana. The ‘oligarchs’, inflated with lofty idealism and old-power, and upstart Willie, endowed with the ‘will and need’ of his fellow “rednecks, suckers and hicks,” p.142 engage in a feud ripe with hypocrisy and doom: Idealism is propped up on selective amnesia and complacency, and Willie relies heavily on coercion and intimidation. But both sides bear an absolute moral right. Both wear blinders,

…like someone who just love beef steak but just can’t bear to go down to a slaughterhouse because there are some bad rough men down there who aren’t animal lovers p.385

which is psychic observation, as at this very moment in our own slaughterhouse ‘abattoir’ wars, idealism is still brother to dirty deed. They are inextricable, and the clash as innate as sibling rivalry. Idealism and action are equal parts of the same thing, each vital to the others existence. As are outrage and obstinate ignorance.

This is observed  by All The King’s Men narrator Jack Burden, the apathetic student of History who straddles both sides – son to a wealthy land owner but employee to Willie Stark. He plays the role of inert nexus. Plagued by a paralysis of fear and lack of conviction, he inadvertently affects the destiny of each character in the novel.

For all the world is one piece… it doesn’t matter whether you meant to brush the web of things. p.283

Jackie Burden learns in the end what he would have learned finishing a thesis he abandoned: that there are always ‘historical costs’ p.593 ricocheting through time and space beyond our action or inaction.

Consequence is a bitch and never pretty.

I really enjoyed reading All The King’s Men, but I wish it was shorter than its near 700 pages, as it easily could’ve been if Warren chopped out all the repetition, the narrator’s intrusive musings and the hysterics from the women. But it was a really great read, with its hazy and bourbon-soaked southern drawl, charming parochial wit and Sugar-Boy’s “b-b-b-bastards.”

Adding to the relish of this novel is that Willie Stark is based on real-life populist Huey Long, nicknamed ‘The Kingfish’, which is more pertinent to the title than the Humpty-Dumpty nursery rhyme.

Willie Stark’s assassin is also based on real life Dr. Carl Weiss. Fun fact.

There are two film adaptations. The first in 1949 won 3 Academy Awards,

and the 2006 film isn’t as terrible as everyone says.

It’s a fairly faithful adaptation, a bit top-heavy in the casting and mangled at the end, but it is beautifully beautifully shot and retains Warren’s best and most memorable lines verbatim.

Bonus Fun Fact: What do Barack Obama and Willie Stark have in common? Both are intent on beating the odds, and both can snatch a fly from mid-air, like Keisuke Miyagi.

hypocrites-bob marley
everyone choose sides-the wrens

the list revision

female author: check. non-'american' author: check.

After emerging curiosity and biases, along with the realization that I’m cheating myself with so many re-reads, I’ve revised The List:

  1. Four re-reads have been replaced,
  2. I’m reading a (different) Philip Roth after Callil quit over his 2011 Man Booker win,
  3. I’m tossing Naipaul because he’s a bigoted ass-wipe -Jean Rhys has the Caribbean covered and I’ve reached my limit with his bullshit,
  4. The List has been de-Yank-ified -although with Nabokov classed as ‘American’ and Rhys as ‘English’, national status isn’t terribly meaningful- and
  5. As many female authors as possible, from a severely restricted ‘Top 100‘, have been added.

it’s been a while…

When it’s winter and nighttime in this great southern land, it’s summer and daytime up north, which means this fiendin’ sista gets no sleep – I’m nightly on the tube, high as a kite on sports. By day, with bleeding eyes and chilblained fingers, I groan through the perfunctory.

Welcome to zombie-land, you’re stuck on this fun ride for three months solid!

I’m not about to feign regret. It will happen again next year, and 2012 will be disgusting since it’s an Olympic year. Like I said, it’s the way daddy made me.

But wait, I recall musical digressions too.

Reggae/Dancehall is meant for sticky summer nights, if only for the batty riders and dry-humping. But Gyptian, my beautiful Jamaican brother, braved our Melbourne cold and so did I. He was beautiful. His stage presence and voice were incredible. Granted, there was no band, just some dude mixing riddims which shits me no end, but did I mention Gyptian is beautiful and brotha can sing?

The night was further blighted by a police incident. ‘Nuf said.

Wherever you are, nothing beats local talent and Karnivool is phenomenal. Ian Kenny is a weedy bespectacled musical god. I happily destroyed myself in an albeit lame pit – I know, I’m as weak as pus – but my hoarseness and aching neck paid tribute to those Perth boys. I close on them with Fade and testament to just how hard these fuckers work.

Oscar+Martin, a joyful answer to Friendly Fires and Sparkadia, and down-the-road local boys from Two Bright Lakes, was also a treat. I was nearly the tallest, a novelty, and definitely the oldest, sadly not a novelty, at this gig. The best bit by far was the kid taking puffs off his inhaler before dipping into a killer hip-hop skit. And those drums, man I loves me some drums! Here they are in video…

Finally, I mourn the passing of a legend.

On July 23, 2011, Amy Winehouse died. She was love too raw, too exposed. She numbed the hurt of love to death. I rend my shirt for the one who gave pieces of her soul in prescient lyrics and infallible tones unceasingly, and am ashamed that I have nothing but endless tears to give back…

If my man was fighting
Some unholy war
I would be behind him
Straight shook up beside him
With strength he didn’t know
It’s you I’m fighting for
He can’t lose with me in tow
I refuse to let him go
At his side and drunk on pride
We wait for the blow
We put it in writing
But we are writing for
Just us on kitchen floor
Justice done presiding
My stomach standing still like you reading my will
Still stands in spite of what his scars say
And I’ll battle til this bitter finale
Just me, my dignity and this guitar case
Yeah, my man is fighting some unholy war
I will stand beside you
And who you dying for?
B, I would have died too. I’d like to
If my man was fighting
Some unholy war…

You died and became immortal, Amy Winehouse. And I grieve.

Oh, and I ploughed through some heavies, On The Road, The Grapes of Wrath and All The King’s Men included. I have new thoughts on the blog, and will be changing The List accordingly.

So begins my battle – nearly dried out, newly rested and clutching sketchy drafts – to reclaim the second half of fiftytwoin52….

less than one week til i go cold turkey…

le tour de france, 2011

While on my Northern-Hemisphere-Summer-of-Sports fix, which is sadly and thankfully about to end with LeTour, I’ve been reading and tweeting. Check out the tweets here.

Beginning to miss my blog dearly, however, expect me to be off the wagon again in September when the US Open  begins in NYC, but only for two weeks as opposed to three months. It’z da way it iz…

freudian shits

you said your bother...

I just noticed ‘solomom’, fuck knows how long it’s been there. Funny, since that’s all I’ve been for two weeks solid – the padawan and princess are on holiday. Every thought has to be rushed at peril of interruption. Mommy, can I have _____? Mommy, _____said/did _____! Mommy, can you play with me? Must wrap this up now. The squinkies and clone troopers are…