This title came from another Google search. I couldn't have said it better myself.
I'm reading my review copy of Rick Bragg's The Prince of Frogtown. It's out in paperback today. I saw that at Amazon, after I'd already started thinking about crafting this post. I went there to double-check the title. Ironic, considering my reaction to it is so deeply visceral. I came here to write it out – hoping it would make me feel a little better.
I'm in the middle of existential angst. I'll just warn you now. And I'm understating facts.
Abandon hope all ye who read further.
Didn't I warn you?
Anyway. Rick Bragg's prose - and there's no way to say this without sounding cliched, though I wish there were – takes my breath away. It's so beautiful it's heartbreaking. Powerful. Ethereal. Achingly brilliant.You pick.
No one should have the right to write that well. I resent him for that.
His people are my people. White trash - what middle class southerners used to refer to as "crackers," but now I don't know what they call them. Maybe it's still white trash. What I do know is their blood runs through me, but if I could get rid of them by draining every last drop out of me I would. With pleasure.
They lived in houses with dirt floors – red, powdered clay that coated everything - and tin roofs. Surviving from paycheck to paycheck, with enough money for food but not always enough for the urchins to have shoes. Or clothes that hadn't been handed down three generations. They got drunk on payday and beat each other to a pulp. Someone bailed them out, or they were kicked out. They went home to beat their wives, rape their children - or whoever was handy – before passing out until the next work day.
Dregs of humanity.
This is my lineage, and Bragg's as well. They crawled out of Appalachia on their bellies, migrated to Alabama, some on to Mississippi - scratching out a living, minus the raw determination to want better. Sometimes they stayed with their families, sometimes not. When they did stay their families often wished they hadn't - that they'd have been sucked into the machinery at the cotton gin, kicked in the head by a mule, thrown out the windshield of a car.
Bragg's father left. Mine stayed.
Reading Bragg's writing sucks the life out of me, but that gorgeous prose … It's just like you'd imagine an angel would write, if there were angels. And if they could hold pens. Or maybe God would give them laptops, if the condensation from the clouds wouldn't make them slip from their hands and drop to earth, clonking innocents on the head. Would insurance pay if you got a concussion due to a careless angel? You could claim an act of God – like a flood, an earthquake, or a burning bush.
Would God have a PC or a Mac? A Mac, of course! God. Adam. Eve. Apple. There are no computer viruses in heaven. No worms in their Apples.
Ignorance and poverty don't always equal evil. But those who are? They're black to the core - completely lacking a soul. Their last exhale on this earth smells like brimstone. Satan's hands are on their ankles before their bodies grow cold - his grin maniacal, smoke curling through razor-sharp teeth. Under their Sunday best are the scratch marks on their legs, dead skin under Satan's nails already burnt to a crisp.
This is what passes for solace when you come from depravity.
Existential angst. Don't say I didn't warn you. But I do feel better. And a little Faulknerian. Minus the whiskey on my breath. Just don't forget: you get what you pay for. And what you paid for were free stories of divine intervention. And free stories you shall have. The intervention part? We'll see.
"The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then.”
– William Faulkner